Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lady Godiva: The Naked Truth

Lady Godiva
by Adam van NoortHerbert
A detail (inset) of this 1586 painting may
show Leofric checking his wife’s
progress. Later viewers may
have taken him for Peeping Tom.
STAGGERING beneath the yoke of oppressive taxes, the medieval residents of Coventry, England, pleaded in vain for relief. Ironically, deliverance would come from the wife of the very lord who scorned their pleas. Lady Godiva repeatedly urged her husband, Leofric, to lessen the people’s tax burden, and time and again he refused. Yet she persisted, and one day in exasperation he told her he would lower taxes when she rode a horse, naked, through the streets of the town at midday. When she took him at his word and set out on her famous ride, the highborn Lady Godiva became an instant heroine to the common people of Coventry.

A fascinating piece of history. But as it happens, most medieval scholars agree the ride never took place. Professor of English and American literature and language Daniel Donoghue examines the origins and cultural significance of the myth in Lady Godiva: A Literary History of the Legend (Blackwell), and offers insights into how that myth has evolved over the centuries. “The story,” he notes, “was based on the life of Godifu, a real woman who lived in Coventry in the latter part of the eleventh century and was married to one of the most powerful men in England."

Contemporary historians did not consider Godifu particularly noteworthy; what little was written about her at the time mentioned her merely as the wife of a famous man. But Donoghue points out that “two centuries after her death, chroniclers in the Benedictine abbey of St. Albans inserted a fully developed narrative into their Latin histories” and the legend of Lady Godiva was born. “Nobody knows quite why the legend was invented and attached to her name,” he says, “but it does seem to function as a kind of myth of origin for the town of Coventry. At the end, Count Leofric seals the agreement about taxes with his own seal."

One of the myth’s most interesting subplots involves the role of “Peeping Tom,” who doesn’t even appear in the story until the seventeenth century. According to legend, the people of Coventry, as a gesture of respect and appreciation for Lady Godiva’s actions on their behalf, stayed indoors behind shuttered windows to preserve her modesty as she passed. Everyone, that is, except Tom, whose lustful curiosity compelled him to gaze at her and who was then, according to various versions of the legend, struck either blind or dead in punishment.

“Over time, Tom would become the scapegoat and bear the symbolic guilt for people’s desire to look at this naked woman,” says Donoghue. Tom would also become a compelling figure for artists and authors. In A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-27), Daniel Defoe visited Coventry and spoke of “the poor fellow that peep’d out of the window to see her…looking out of a Garret in the High Street of the City.” Tennyson’s “Godiva” was a poem that, more than any other literary or historical work of its time, created a standard—and highly romanticized—version of the legend for the Victorian era. In the poem, Tom was blinded: “…but his eyes, before they had their will,/Were shrivell’d into darkness in his head,/And dropt before him. So the Powers, who wait/On noble deeds, cancell’d a sense misused;/And she, that knew not, pass’d…."

Given the sexual tension that the appearance of Tom creates between the observer and the observed, the prurient and the chaste, the punished and the rewarded, Donoghue writes, “Their pairing anticipates Sigmund Freud’s clinical definitions of scopophilia and exhibitionism in terms of one another so well that he almost seems to have Peeping Tom in mind for the former and Lady Godiva for the latter. Only in recent years has Peeping Tom become extricated from the Godiva legend to the extent that it is possible to mention one without calling to mind the other.”

The Godiva myth is filled with contradictions. The lady is obedient to her husband, yet boldly challenges his position on taxes. She rides naked through the streets of the city, yet remains chaste. She is a member of the ruling class who nonetheless sympathizes with the plight of ordinary people. Like other myths, this one offers ways to resolve—symbolically, at least—such conflicting social and sexual dynamics. Myths have also traditionally done what Donoghue describes as the “cultural work” of passing down history, tradition, and shared values. Now movies and television have essentially taken over that role from written and spoken tales. “One reason I decided to write this book was that the legend is dying out,” says Donoghue. “ Our children know about Godiva Chocolates, and they may have a visual image of a naked woman on a horse, but really know nothing about the story.”

By Charles Coe
July-August 2003 
Found at

Monday, June 23, 2014

Penelope Barker (1728-1796)

"We, the aforesaid Lady's will not promote ye wear of any manufacturer from England until such time that all acts which tend to enslave our Native country shall be repealed." ~Penelope Barker

 Penelope Barker is famous for hosting the Edenton Tea Party in Edenton, North Carolina, to protest unfair British taxes in 1774.

Born in North Carolina in 1728, she married John Hodgson at a young age. By age nineteen, she was widowed with two children of her own and raised three more from her husband’s previous marriage. She remarried a wealthy planter named James Craven. He died when she was twenty-seven years old and, as he had no other heirs, she inherited all of his estate and became the richest woman in North Carolina. She remarried again to Thomas Barker, who frequently traveled to England on business. While he was away, she managed their estates. She also bore three more children. 

Tired of the British taxing the colonists while not letting them have a say in the government (“taxation without representation”), Penelope wrote a public statement in which she endorsed a boycott of tea and other British products, such as cloth. Ten months after the famous Boston Tea Party organized by men, Barker led a “Tea Party” on October 25, 1774, in the Edenton Home of Elizabeth King. She and 50 other women signed the protest statement. At the meeting, Penelope said:

“Maybe it has only been men who have protested the king up to now. That only means we women have taken too long to let our voices be heard. We are signing our names to a document, not hiding ourselves behind costumes like the men in Boston did at their tea party. The British will know who we are.”

Part of the declaration stated, “We, the aforesaid Ladys will not promote ye wear of any manufacturer from England until such time that all acts which tend to enslave our Native country shall be repealed."

A British cartoon satirizing the
Edenton Tea Party Participants
Penelope sent the proclamation to a London newspaper, confident the women’s stance would cause a stir in England. British journalists and cartoonists depicted the women in a negative light, as bad mothers and loose women, and did not take them seriously. However, the Patriots in America praised the women for their stance. Women all over the colonies followed Penelope's lead and began boycotting British goods. She died in 1796.

Signers of the Declaration: 

Abagail Charlton, Mary Blount, 
F. Johnstone,
Elizabeth Creacy, Margaret Cathcart,
Elizabeth Patterson, Anne Johnstone, Jane Wellwood,
Margaret Pearson, Mary Woolard, Penelope Dawson,
Sarah Beasley, Jean Blair, Susannah Vail,
Grace Clayton, Elizabeth Vail, Frances Hall,
Elizabeth Vail, Mary Jones, Mary Creacy,
Anne Hall, Mary Creacy, Rebecca Bondfield,
Ruth Benbury, Sarah Littlejohn, Sarah Howcott,
Penelope Barker, Sarah Hoskins, Elizabeth P. Ormond,
Mary Littledle, M. Payne, Sarah Valentine,
Elizabeth Johnston, Elizabeth Crickett, Mary Bonner,
Elizabeth Green, Lydia Bonner, Mary Ramsay,
Sarah Howe, Anne Horniblow, Lydia Bennet,
Mary Hunter, Marion Wells, Tresia Cunningham,
Anne Anderson, Elizabeth Roberts, Sarah Mathews,
Elizabeth Roberts, Anne Haughton, Elizabeth Roberts, Elizabeth Beasly

Boston Coffee Party

In this excerpt from a 1777 letter, Abigail Adams describes for her husband, John Adams, how a group of women nearly rioted when they learned that a merchant tried to profit from the scarcity of goods during the trade embargo with England. Passive resistance became increasingly effective as the women colonists enacted boycotts of British goods.

Although tea was a very popular beverage in the colonies, as in England, America changed from a tea-drinking to a coffee-drinking nation in opposition to the tax on it. Women of the Revolutionary era refused to serve tea to their families or friends, usually substituting coffee, imported with no assistance or tax from England.

July 31 [1777]

"I have nothing new to entertain you with, unless it is an account of a New Set of Mobility which have lately taken the Lead in B[osto]n. You must know that there is a great Scarcity of Sugar and Coffe, articles which the Female part of the State are very loth to give up, especially whilst they consider the Scarcity occasiond by the merchants having secreted a large Quantity. There has been much rout and Noise in the Town for several weeks. Some Stores had been opend by a number of people and the Coffe and Sugar carried into the Market and dealt out by pounds. It was rumourd that an eminent, wealthy, stingy Merchant (who is a Batchelor) had a Hogshead of Coffe in his Store which he refused to sell to the committee under 6 shillings per pound. A Number of Females some say a hundred, some say more assembled with a cart and trucks, marchd down to the Ware House and demanded the keys, which he refused to deliver, upon which one of them seazd him by his Neck and tossd him into the cart. Upon his finding no Quarter he deliverd the keys, when they tipd up the cart and dischargd him, then opend the Warehouse, Hoisted out the Coffe themselves, put it into the trucks and drove off. It was reported that he had a Spanking among them, but this I believe was not true. A large concourse of Men stood amazd silent Spectators of the whole transaction."

Source: Adams, Charles Francis, ed. Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams During the Revolution (1876). Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1970.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mary Dyer (c. 1611-1660)

"Nay, I came to keep bloodguiltiness from you, desireing you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law made against the innocent servants of the Lord. Nay, man, I am not now to repent." ~Mary Dyer's last words

Mary (Marie) Barrett was was born c. 1611. She married William Dyer, a fishmonger, milliner and Puritan, in London on 27 Oct 1633. She gave birth to eight children, two of whom died in infancy.

In late 1634 or early 1635, the Dyers emigrated to Massachusetts, where William took the Oath of a Freeman. They were admitted to the Boston Church on 13 Dec 1635. In 1637, they became open supporters of Anne Hutchinson during the antinomian heresy period.

Mary gave birth on 11 Oct 1637, to a deformed stillborn baby, who was buried privately. After Hutchinson was tried and the Hutchinsons and Dyers banished from Massachusetts in January 1637, the authorities learned of the "monstrous birth", and Governor John Winthrop had the baby's corpse exhumed in March 1638, before a large crowd. He described it thus:

"It was of ordinary bigness; it had a face, but no head, and the ears stood upon the shoulders and were like an ape's; it had no forehead, but over the eyes four horns, hard and sharp; two of them were above one inch long, the other two shorter; the eyes standing out, and the mouth also; the nose hooked upward; all over the breast and back full of sharp pricks and scales, like a thornback [i.e., a skate or ray], the navel and all the belly, with the distinction of the sex, were where the back should be, and the back and hips before, where the belly should have been; behind, between the shoulders, it had two mouths, and in each of them a piece of red flesh sticking out; it had arms and legs as other children; but, instead of toes, it had on each foot three claws, like a young fowl, with sharp talons."

Winthrop sent descriptions to numerous correspondents, and accounts were published in England in 1642 and 1644. The deformed birth was considered evidence of the heresies and errors of antinomianism.

In 1638, the Dyers were banished from the colony, and followed Hutchinson to Rhode Island. On the advice of Roger Williams, the group moved to Portsmouth, where William Dyer signed the Portsmouth Compact in March 1638 along with 18 other men. The Dyers ultimately settled in Newport, where by 1640, William had acquired 87 acres of land. He flourished in Rhode Island, serving as Secretary for the towns of Portsmouth and Newport from 1640 to 1647, General Recorder, and ultimately Attorney General from 1650 to 1653.

Mary was dissatisfied with Rhode Island life, and traveled alone to England in 1650, where she joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) after hearing the preaching of its founder, George Fox. She eventually became a Quaker preacher in her own right.

William briefly joined her but returned alone to Rhode Island in 1652; Mary remained in England another five years. Her 1657 return to New England was ill-timed; John Endicott had succeeded Winthrop as Governor in 1649, and was far more intolerant of religious dissension. When Mary's ship landed in Boston, she was immediately arrested. Her husband secured her release nearly three months later, on account of his prominent social status in Rhode Island, on the condition that William "give his honor" that Mary would never return to Massachusetts.

Mary continued to travel in New England to preach Quakerism, and was arrested in 1658 and expelled from New Haven, CT for preaching "inner light" and the notion that women and men stood on equal ground in church worship and organization. After her release, she illegally returned to Massachusetts to visit two imprisoned English Quakers, William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson. When she traveled to Massachusetts a third time with a group of Quakers to publicly defy the law, she was arrested and sentenced to death. After a short trial, two other Quakers were hanged, but Dyer was spared at the last minute because her son interceded on her behalf against her wishes.

She was forced to return to Rhode Island, and traveled to Long Island, NY, to preach, but her conscience led her to return to Massachusetts in April 1660 to "desire the repeal of that wicked [anti-Quaker] law against God's people and offer up her life there." Despite her husband's and family's pleas, she refused to repent, and was again convicted and sentenced to death on June 1.

The next day, as she was escorted to the gallows by Captain John Evered of the Boston military company, Evered said to her "...that she had, previously been found guilty of the same charge, and been banished, that she now had one last chance to repent and be banished again." Dyer refused and was then hanged.

After her death a member of the General Court, Humphrey Atherton, is reputed to have said, "She did hang as a flag for others to take example by." 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643)

"One may preach a covenant of grace more clearly than another... But when they preach a covenant of works for salvation, that is not the truth." ~Anne Hutchinson

Anne Marbury Hutchinson, daughter of Anglican minister Francis Marbury, was baptized 20 Jul 1591 in Alford, Lincolnshire, England. She lived in London as a young adult and married there an old friend from home, William Hutchinson. The couple moved back to Alford, where they began following the dynamic preacher named John Cotton in the nearby major port of Boston, Lincolnshire.

After Cotton was compelled to emigrate in 1633, the Hutchinsons followed a year later with their 11 children, and soon became well established in the growing settlement of Boston where William built a house directly across the street from the renowned and respected three-time governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop.

Forthcoming with her personal religious understandings, Anne was soon holding meetings in her home to discuss John Cotton's sermons. Soon the meetings were attracting up to 60 people -- men and women. For a woman to engage theological discussions posed a subtle challenge to the patriarchy that governed the Bay Colony. From across the street, John Winthrop characterized Hutchinson as "a woman of haughty and fierce carriage, of a nimble wit and active spirit, and a very voluble tongue, more bold than a man."

She gave Winthrop ample reason to worry. In the fall of 1636, Anne accused Puritan ministers of making salvation dependent on an individual's good works rather than on divine grace, which was contrary to Puritan teaching. The ministers denied this charge, arguing that good works are evidence of conversion and salvation, not the grounds of salvation. They argued that they were therefore not teaching a Covenant of Works.

Anne persisted, arguing that assurance of salvation came from a mystical experience of grace, "an inward conviction of the coming of the Spirit." She believed that by teaching that good works were evidence of true conversion and salvation, ministers were still preaching a Covenant of Works rather than a Covenant of Grace. She went further, claiming that God had communicated to her by direct revelations and declaring that she was capable of interpreting the Scriptures on her own.

Her charges constituted a frontal attack on the spiritual authority of both the church and society. For Puritans, the ultimate source of authority was the Bible as it was interpreted by duly authorized ministers. Anne's claim that she possessed the authority to interpret the Bible challenged this basic principle. Even more galling was her claim that she received immediate revelations from God. Her challenge to official doctrine threatened to tear the Massachusetts Bay Colony apart.

In November 1637, Anne was brought before the General Court, the colony's principal governing body, on charges of sedition. Winthrop questioned her closely, but she eluded his grasp. The court adjourned.

The following day she changed her position and freely acknowledged that God spoke to her directly. This claim constituted blasphemy. Now the court had grounds to punish her. The assembly voted and handed down its judgment: banishment.

Anne and William found refuge in Roger Williams' colony in Providence, RI to which they were followed by thirty-five families. Then she went to the shores of Long Island, where Indians who had been defrauded of their land thought she was one of their enemies; they killed her and her family.

Twenty years later, the one person back in Massachusetts Bay who had spoken up for her during her trial, Mary Dyer, was hanged by the government of the colony, along with two other Quakers, for "rebellion, sedition and presumptuous obtruding themselves."

Anne's experience speaks to a persistent question: What is the source of religious authority? Is it the individual or the community? Who decides? How much dissent can a religious community tolerate? What are the limits, if any?

(Ref. (See also the Antinomian Controversy.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Grimké Sisters

Angelina & Sarah Grimké
"Women ought to feel a peculiar sympathy in the colored man's wrong, for, like him, she has been accused of mental inferiority, and denied the privileges of a liberal education." ~Angelina Grimké

The Grimké sisters, Sarah Moore Grimké (1792–1873) and Angelina Emily Grimké (1805–1879), were 19th-century Southern American Quakers, educators and writers who were early advocates of abolitionism and women's rights.

Judge John Faucheraud Grimké, the father of the Grimké sisters, was a strong advocate of slavery and of the subordination of women. A wealthy planter who held hundreds of slaves, Grimké fathered 14 children with his wife. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Sarah noted that at age five, after she saw a slave being whipped, she tried to board a steamer to a place where there was no slavery. Later, in violation of the law, she taught her personal slave to read. She had wanted to become a lawyer, following in her father's footsteps, and studied constantly until her parents learned she intended to go to college with her brother Thomas; subsequently they forbade her to study her brother's books or any language. After her studies were ended, Sarah begged her parents to allow her to become Angelina's godmother. She became part mother and part sister to her much younger sibling, and the two sisters had a close relationship all their lives.

Throughout their lives, they traveled throughout the North, lecturing about their first hand experiences with slavery on their family's plantation. Among the first American women to act publicly in social reform movements, they received abuse and ridicule for their abolitionist activity. They both realized that women would have to create a safe space in the public arena to be effective reformers and became early activists in the women's rights movement.

Click  HERE to read more about the Grimké sisters.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lucretia Mott (1793-1880)

"The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source." ~Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Coffin, daughter of Thomas Coffin and Anna Folger, was born on 3 Jan 1793 in Nantucket, MA. She became a teacher at the Nine Partners Quaker Boarding School after her graduation there. Her interest in women's rights began when she discovered that male teachers at the school were paid three times as much as the female staff. After her family moved to Philadelphia, she and James Mott (another teacher at Nine Partners) followed. They married on 10 Apr 1811.

Like many Quakers, Lucretia considered slavery to be evil. Inspired in part by minister Elias Hicks, she and other Quakers refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar and other slavery-produced goods. In 1821 she became a Quaker minister and, with her husband's support, she traveled extensively. Her sermons emphasized the Quaker inward light, or the presence of the Divine within every individual. Her sermons also included her free produce and anti-slavery sentiments. In 1830, her husband helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society. By then an experienced minister and abolitionist, Lucretia was the only woman to speak at the organizational meeting in Philadelphia. She tested the language of the society's Constitution and bolstered support when many delegates were precarious. Days after the conclusion of the convention, at the urging of other delegates, she and other white and black women founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Integrated from its founding, the organization opposed both slavery and racism, and developed close ties to Philadelphia's Black community. Lucretia herself often preached at Black parishes. Around this time, her sister-in-law, Abigail Lydia Mott, and brother-in-law, Lindley Murray Moore were helping to found the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society.

Amidst social persecution by abolition opponents and pain from dyspepsia, Lucretia continued her work for the abolitionist cause. She managed their household budget to extend hospitality to guests, including fugitive slaves, and donated to charities. She was praised for her ability to maintain her household while contributing to the cause. In the words of one editor, "She is proof that it is possible for a woman to widen her sphere without deserting it." Lucretia and other female abolitionists also organized fairs to raise awareness and revenue, providing much of the funding for the anti-slavery movement.

Women's participation in the anti-slavery movement threatened societal norms. Many members of the abolitionist movement opposed public activities by women, especially public speaking. At the Congregational Church General Assembly, delegates agreed on a pastoral letter warning women that lecturing directly defied St. Paul's instruction for women to keep quiet in church.(1Timothy 2:12) Other people opposed women's speaking to mixed crowds of men and women, which they called "promiscuous." Others were uncertain about what was proper, as the rising popularity of the Grimké sisters and other women speakers attracted support for abolition.

Lucretia attended all three national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women (1837, 1838, 1839). During the 1838 convention in Philadelphia, a mob destroyed Pennsylvania Hall, a newly opened meeting place built by abolitionists. Lucretia and the white and black women delegates linked arms to exit the building safely through the crowd. Afterward, the mob targeted her home and Black institutions and neighborhoods in Philadelphia. As a friend redirected the mob, she waited in her parlor, willing to face her violent opponents.

In June 1840, Lucretia attended the General Anti-Slavery Convention, better known as the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, in London, England. In spite of her status as one of six women delegates, before the conference began, the men voted to exclude the American women from participating, and the female delegates were required to sit in a segregated area. Anti-Slavery leaders didn't want the women's rights issue to become associated with the cause of ending slavery worldwide and dilute the focus on abolition. In addition, the social mores of the time generally prohibited women's participation in public political life. Several of the American men attending the convention, including William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, protested the women's exclusion. Garrison, Nathaniel P. Rogers, William Adams, and African American activist Charles Lenox Remond sat with the women in the segregated area.

Activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her husband attended the convention while on their honeymoon. Stanton admired Mott, and the two women became friends and allies. One Irish reporter deemed her the "Lioness of the Convention". She was among the women included in the commemorative painting of the convention, which also featured female British activists: Elizabeth Pease, Mary Anne Rawson, Anne Knight, Elizabeth Tredgold and Mary Clarkson.

Encouraged by active debates in England and Scotland, Lucretia also returned with new energy for the anti-slavery cause in the United States. She continued an active public lecture schedule, with destinations including the major Northern cities of New York and Boston, as well as travel over several weeks to slave-owning states, with speeches in Baltimore and cities in Virginia. She arranged to meet with slave owners to discuss the morality of slavery. In the District of Columbia, she timed her lecture to coincide with the return of Congress from Christmas recess; more than 40 Congressmen attended. She had a personal audience with President John Tyler who, impressed with her speech, said, "I would like to hand Mr. Calhoun over to you", referring to the senator and abolition opponent.

Lucretia and Stanton became well acquainted at the World's Anti-Slavery Convention. Stanton later recalled that they first discussed the possibility of a women's rights convention in London.

In 1848 Lucretia and Elizabeth Stanton organized a women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, NY. Stanton noted the Seneca Falls Convention was the first public women's rights meeting in the United States. Her resolution that it was "the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves the sacred right to the elective franchise" was passed despite Lucretia's opposition. Lucretia viewed politics as corrupted by slavery and moral compromises, but she soon signed the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments after concluding that women's "right to the elective franchise however, is the same, and should be yielded to her, whether she exercises that right or not." Over the next few decades, women's suffrage became the focus of the women's rights movement. While Stanton is usually credited as the leader of that effort, it was Mott's mentoring of Stanton and their work together that inspired the event. Lucretia's sister, Martha Coffin Wright, also helped organize the convention and signed the declaration.

Lucretia Coffin Mott died on 11 Nov 1880 in Chellenham, PA.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Carrie Nation (1846-1911)

"You have put me in here a cub, but I will come out roaring like a lion, and I will make all hell howl!" ~Carrie Nation

Carrie Amelia Moore was an American woman who was a radical member of the temperance movement, which opposed alcohol before the advent of Prohibition. She is particularly noteworthy for attacking the property of alcohol-serving establishments (most often taverns) with a hatchet.

The daughter of slave owners George Nation and Mary Campbell Moore, Carrie was born on 25 Nov 1846 in Garrard County, KY. She married Dr. Charles Gloyd, a young physician (and by all accounts a severe alcoholic) on 21 Nov 1867. They separated shortly before the birth of their daughter, Charlien, on 27 Sep 1868. After Gloyd died less than a year later of alcoholism, Carrie developed a very passionate attitude against alcohol.

She remarried to David A. Nation in 1874. He became involved in the Jaybird-Woodpecker War and, as a result, was forced to move north to Medicine Lodge, KS where Carrie began her temperance work. She started a local branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and campaigned for the enforcement of Kansas' ban on the sales of liquor. Her methods escalated from simple protests to serenading saloon patrons with hymns accompanied by a hand organ, to greeting bartenders with pointed remarks such as, "Good morning, destroyer of men's souls."

Dissatisfied with the results of her efforts, Nation began to pray to God for direction. On June 5, 1900, she felt she received her answer in the form of a heavenly vision. As she described it:

The next morning I was awakened by a voice which seemed to me speaking in my heart, these words, "GO TO KIOWA," and my hands were lifted and thrown down and the words, "I'LL STAND BY YOU." The words, "Go to Kiowa," were spoken in a murmuring, musical tone, low and soft, but "I'll stand by you," was very clear, positive and emphatic. I was impressed with a great inspiration, the interpretation was very plain, it was this: "Take something in your hands, and throw at these places in Kiowa and smash them."

Responding to the revelation, she gathered several rocks – "smashers", she called them – and proceeded to Dobson's Saloon on June 7. Announcing "Men, I have come to save you from a drunkard's fate", she began to destroy the saloon's stock with her cache of rocks. After she similarly destroyed two other saloons in Kiowa, a tornado hit eastern Kansas, which she took as divine approval of her actions.

Carrie continued her destructive ways in Kansas, her fame spreading through her growing arrest record. After she led a raid in Wichita her husband joked that she should use a hatchet next time for maximum damage. Nation replied, "That is the most sensible thing you have said since I married you." Not surprisingly, the couple divorced in 1901, not having had any children.

Alone or accompanied by hymn-singing women she would march into a bar, and sing and pray while smashing bar fixtures and stock with a hatchet. Her actions often did not include other people, just herself. Between 1900 and 1910, she was arrested some 30 times for "hatchetations", as she came to call them. She paid her jail fines from lecture-tour fees and sales of souvenir hatchets. In April 1901 Nation came to Kansas City, Missouri, a city known for its wide opposition to the temperance movement, and smashed liquor in various downtown bars on 12th Street . She was arrested, hauled into court and fined $500 ($13,400 in 2011 dollars), although the judge suspended the fine so long as Nation never returned to Kansas City.

Carrie's anti-alcohol activities became widely known, with the slogan "All Nations Welcome But Carrie" becoming a bar-room staple. She published The Smasher's Mail, a biweekly newsletter, and The Hatchet, a newspaper. Later in life she exploited her name by appearing in vaudeville in the U.S. and music halls in Great Britain. A proud woman more given to sermonizing than entertaining, she sometimes found these poor venues for her proselytizing. One of the number of pre-World War I acts that "failed to click" with foreign audiences, Carrie was struck by an egg thrown by an audience member during one 1909 music hall lecture at the Canterbury Theatre of Varieties. Indignantly, "The Anti-Souse Queen" ripped up her contract and returned to the United States. Seeking profits elsewhere, she also sold photographs of herself, collected lecture fees, and marketed miniature souvenir hatchets.

Suspicious that President William McKinley was a secret drinker, Carrie applauded his 1901 assassination because drinkers "got what they deserved".

Near the end of her life Nation moved to Eureka Springs, AR, where she founded the home known as Hatchet Hall. Ill in mind and body, she collapsed during a speech in a Eureka Springs park and was taken to a hospital in Leavenworth, KS where she died on 9 Jun 1911.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1837-1930)

"You don't need to vote to raise hell." ~Mary Harris Jones

Typically clad in a black dress, her face framed by a lace collar and black hat, the barely five-foot tall Mother Jones was a fearless fighter for workers’ rights—once labeled "the most dangerous woman in America" by a U.S. district attorney. Mary Harris "Mother" Jones rose to prominence as a fiery orator and fearless organizer for the Mine Workers during the first two decades of the 20th century. Her voice had great carrying power. Her energy and passion inspired men half her age into action and compelled their wives and daughters to join in the struggle. If that didn’t work, she would embarrass men to action. "I have been in jail more than once and I expect to go again. If you are too cowardly to fight, I will fight," she told them.

Mother Jones' organizing methods were unique for her time. She welcomed African American workers and involved women and children in strikes. She organized miners’ wives into teams armed with mops and brooms to guard the mines against scabs. She staged parades with children carrying signs that read, "We Want to Go to School and Not to the Mines."

Mother Jones' organizing methods were unique for her time. She welcomed African American workers and involved women and children in strikes. She organized miners’ wives into teams armed with mops and brooms to guard the mines against scabs. She staged parades with children carrying signs that read, "We Want to Go to School and Not to the Mines."

Early Years 

Born Mary Harris in Cork County, Ireland, the woman who would become Mother Jones immigrated to North America with her family as a child to escape the Irish famine. She spent her early years in Canada and trained to be a dressmaker and teacher. Historians are uncertain about her year of birth and mark it anywhere between 1830 and 1844.

In her early 20s, she moved to Chicago, where she worked as a dressmaker, and then to Memphis, Tenn., where she met and married George Jones, a skilled iron molder and staunch unionist. The couple had four children when tragedy struck: A yellow fever epidemic in 1867, which killed hundreds of people, took the lives of Mary’s husband and all four children.

Mary moved back to Chicago and returned to commercial dressmaking. She opened her own shop, patronized by some of the wealthiest women in town. According to one account of her life, Mary’s interest in the union movement grew when she sewed for wealthy Chicago families. "I would look out of the plate glass windows and see the poor, shivering wretches, jobless and hungry, walking alongside the frozen lake front," she said. "The tropical contrast of their condition with that of the tropical comfort of the people for whom I sewed was painful to me. My employers seemed neither to notice nor to care."

Tragedy struck Mary again when she lost everything in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. After the fire, Mary began to travel across the country. The nation was undergoing dramatic change, and industrialization was changing the nature of work. She moved from town to town in support of workers’ struggles. In Kansas City, she did advance work for a group of unemployed men who marched on Washington, D.C. to demand jobs. In Birmingham, Ala., she helped black and white miners during a nationwide coal strike. Mary organized a massive show of support for Eugene Debs, the leader of the American Railway Union, after he served a six-month prison sentence for defying a court order not to disrupt railroad traffic in support of striking Pullman workers.

A Mother to Millions of Working Men and Women 

In June 1897, after Mary addressed the railway union convention, she began to be referred to as "Mother" by the men of the union. The name stuck. That summer, when the 9,000-member Mine Workers called a nationwide strike of bituminous (soft coal) miners and tens of thousands of miners laid down their tools, Mary arrived in Pittsburgh to assist them. She became "Mother Jones" to millions of working men and women across the country for her efforts on behalf of the miners.

Mother Jones was so effective the Mine Workers sent her into the coalfields to sign up miners with the union. She agitated in the anthracite fields of eastern Pennsylvania, the company towns of West Virginia and the harsh coal camps of Colorado. Nearly anywhere coal miners, textile workers or steelworkers were fighting to organize a union, Mother Jones was there.

Marching in Trinidad, Colorado, ca. 1910
She was banished from more towns and was held incommunicado in more jails in more states than any other union leader of the time. In 1912, she was even charged with a capital offense by a military tribunal in West Virginia and held under house arrest for weeks until popular outrage and national attention forced the governor to release her.

Mother Jones was deeply affected by the "machine-gun massacre" in Ludlow, Colo., when National Guardsmen raided a tent colony of striking miners and their families, killing 20 people—mostly women and children. She traveled across the country, telling the story, and testified before the U.S. Congress.

In addition to miners, Mother Jones also was very concerned about child workers. During a silk strike in Philadelphia, 100,000 workers—including 16,000 children—left their jobs over a demand that their workweek be cut from 60 to 55 hours. To attract attention to the cause of abolishing child labor, in 1903, she led a children’s march of 100 children from the textile mills of Philadelphia to New York City "to show the New York millionaires our grievances." She led the children all the way to President Theodore Roosevelt’s Long Island home.

In her 80s, Mother Jones settled down near Washington, D.C., in 1921 but continued to travel across the country. In 1924, although unable to hold a pen between her fingers, she made her last strike appearance in Chicago in support of striking dressmakers, hundreds of whom were arrested and black-listed during their ill-fated four month-long struggle. She died in Silver Spring, Md., possibly at age 100, and was buried in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Ill.

(Found at Aflcio-org.)

Friday, January 31, 2014


Timeline of the Women's Rights Movement

Timeline of the Women's Rights Movement in the U.S.
  • 1777 ~ The original 13 states pass laws that prohibit women from voting. Abigail Smith Adams, wife of President John Adams, writes that women "will not hold ourselves bound by any laws which we have no voice."
  • 1826 ~ The first public high schools for girls open in New York and Boston. The American Journal of Education wrote that the school should give "women such an education as shall make them fit wives for well educated men, and enable them to exert a salutary influence upon the rising generation."
  • 1833 ~ Oberlin College is founded in Ohio and becomes the first college to admit women and African Americans. The Oberlin Collegiate Institute held as one of its primary objectives: "the elevation of the female character, bringing within the reach of the misjudge and neglected sex, all the instructive privileges which hitherto have unreasonably distinguished the leading sex from theirs." While women took courses with men, they pursued diplomas from the Ladies Course. Three women graduated in 1841.
  • 1837 ~ Mary Lyon establishes Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, the first college for women.
  • 1848 ~ The world's first women's rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, NY, July 19-20. After 2 days of discussion and debate, 68 women and 32 men sign a Declaration of Sentiments, which outlines grievances and sets the agenda for the women's rights movement. A set of 12 resolutions is adopted calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.
  • 1849 ~ Elizabeth Smith Miller appears on the streets of Seneca Falls, NY,in "turkish trousers," soon to be known as "bloomers."
  • 1849 ~ Amelia Jenks Bloomer publishes and edits Lily, the first prominent women's rights newspaper.
  • 1849 ~ Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S. from Geneva College in New York. For the first time, women are permitted to practice medicine legally.
  • 1850 ~ Quaker physicians establish the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, PA to give women a chance to learn medicine. The first women graduated under police guard.
  • 1850 ~ The first National Women's Rights Convention takes place in Worcester, MA, attracting more than 1,000 participants. National conventions are held yearly (except for 1857) through 1860.
  • 1855 ~ Lucy Stone becomes first woman on record to keep her own name after marriage, setting a trend among women who are consequently known as "Lucy Stoners."
  • 1855 ~ The University of Iowa becomes the first state school to admit women.
  • 1855 ~ In Missouri v. Celia, a Black slave is declared property without right to defense against a master's act of rape.
  • 1859 ~ American Medical Association announces opposition to abortion. In 1860, Connecticut is the first state to prohibit all abortions, both before and after quickening.
  • 1859 ~ The birth rate continues its downward spiral as reliable condoms become available. By the late 1900s, women will raise an average of only two or three children.
  • 1860 ~ Of 2,225,086 Black women, 1,971,135 are held in slavery. In San Francisco, about 85% of Chinese women are essentially enslaved as prostitutes.
  • 1866 ~ The 14th Amendment is passed by Congress (ratified by the states in 1868), the first time "citizens" and "voters" are defined as "male" in the Constitution.
  • 1866 ~ The American Equal Rights Association is founded, the first organization in the U.S. to advocate women's suffrage.
  • 1868 ~ The National Labor Union supports equal pay for equal work.
  • 1868 ~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony begin publishing The Revolution, an important women's movement periodical.
  • 1869 (May) ~ Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association. The primary goal of the organization is to achieve voting rights for women by means of a Congressional amendment to the Constitution.
  • 1869 (Nov) ~ Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association. This group focuses exclusively on gaining voting rights for women through amendments to individual state constitutions.
  • 1869 (Dec. 10) ~ The territory of Wyoming passes the first women's suffrage law. The following year, women begin serving on juries in the territory.
  • 1870 ~ Iowa is the first state to admit a woman to the bar: Arabella Mansfield.
  • 1870 ~ The 15th Amendment receives final ratification. By its text, women are not specifically excluded from the vote. During the next two years, approximately 150 women will attempt to vote in almost a dozen different jurisdictions from Delaware to California.
  • 1872 ~ Through the efforts of lawyer Belva Lockwood, Congress passes a law to give women federal employees equal pay for equal work.
  • 1872 ~ Charlotte E. Ray, a Howard University law school graduate, becomes first African-American woman admitted to the U.S. bar.
  • 1872 ~ Susan B. Anthony casts her first vote in an attempt to test whether the 14th Amendment would be interpreted broadly to guarantee women the right to vote. She was tried in June 17-18, 1873 in Canandaigua, NY and found guilty of "unlawful voting."
  • 1873 ~ Bradwell v. Illinois: Supreme Court affirms that states can restrict women from the practice of any profession to uphold the law of the Creator.
  • 1873 ~ Congress passes the Comstock Law, defining contraceptive information as "obscene material."
  • 1874 (Oct 15) ~ Virginia Minor applies to register to vote in Missouri. The registrar, Reese Happersett, turned down the application, because the Missouri state constitution read: "Every male citizen of the United States shall be entitled to vote." Mrs. Minor sued in Missouri state court, claiming her rights were violated on the basis of the 14th Amendment. She argues that the 14th Amendment’s privileges and immunities clause must be interpreted to guarantee her a right to vote. However the Supreme Court rules that while women are "persons" under the 14th Amendment that they are a special category of "non-voting" citizens and that states remain free to grant or deny women the right to vote.
  • 1877 ~ Helen Magill is the first woman to receive a Ph.D. at a U.S. school, a doctorate in Greek from Boston University.
  • 1878 ~ The Susan B. Anthony Amendment, to grant women the vote, is first introduced in the U.S. Congress.
  • 1884 ~ Belva Lockwood, presidential candidate of the National Equal Rights Party, is the first woman to receive votes in a presidential election (approx. 4,000 in six states).
  • 1887 ~ For the first and only time in this century, the U.S. Senate votes on woman suffrage. It loses, 34 to 16. Twenty-five Senators do not bother to participate.
  • 1890 ~ After several years of negotiations, the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Now the women's movement main organization, NAWSA works to obtain voting rights for women.
State Presidents and Officers
National American Woman Suffrage Assoc. (1892)

The Presidents of the NAWSA were:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1890-1892
Susan B. Anthony, 1892-1900
Carrie Chapman Catt, 1900-1904
Anna Howard Shaw, 1904-1915
Carrie Chapman Catt, 1915-1947
Caroline McCormick Slade, 1947-1951
  • 1893 ~ Colorado is the first state to adopt an amendment granting women the right to vote. Utah and Idaho follow suite in 1896; Washington State in 1910; California in 1911; Oregon, Kansas and Arizona in 1912; Alaska and Illinois in 1913; Montana and Nevada in 1914; New York in 1917; Michigan, South Dakota and Oklahoma in 1918.
  • 1896 ~ The National Association of Colored Women is formed, bringing together more than 100 Black women's clubs. leaders in the Black women's club movement include Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Church Terrell and Anita Julia Cooper.
  • 1899 ~ National Consumers League is formed with Florence Kelley as its president. The League organizes women to use their power as consumers to push for better working conditions and protective laws for women workers.
  • 1900 ~ Two-thirds of divorce cases are initiated by the wife; a century earlier, most women lacked the right to sue and were hopelessly locked into bad marriages.
  • 1903 ~ Based on a similar organization in Britain, the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) is founded at the convention of the American Federation of Labor in Boston, when it became clear that American labor had no intention of organizing America's women into trade unions.The goals of the WTUL are to secure better occupational conditions and improved wages for women as well as to encourage women to join the labor movement. Local branches are quickly established in Boston, Chicago and New York.
  • 1909 ~ Women garment workers strike in New York for better wages and working conditions in the Uprising of the 20,000. Over 300 shops eventually sign union contracts.
  • 1912 ~ Juliette Gordon Low founds first American group of Girl Guides, in Atlanta, GA. Later renamed the Girl Scouts of the USA, the organization brings girls into the outdoors, encourages their self-reliance and resourcefulness and prepares them for varied roles as adult women.
  • 1913 ~ Alice Paul and Lucy Burns form the Congressional Union to work toward the passage of a federal amendment to give women the vote. It later is renamed the National Women's Party. Members picket the White House and engage in other forms of civil disobedience, drawing public attention to the suffrage cause.
  • 1914 ~ Margaret Sanger calls for legalization of contraceptives in her feminist publication, The Woman Rebel, which the Post Office bans from the mails.
  • 1916 ~ Margaret Sanger opens the first U.S. birth control clinic in Brooklyn, NY. Although the clinic is shut down 10 days later and Sanger is arrested, she eventually wins support through the courts and opens another clinic in New York City in 1923.
  • 1917 ~ During WWI women move into many jobs working in heavy industry in mining, chemical manufacturing, automobile and railway plants. They also run street cars, conduct trains, direct traffic and deliver mail.
  • 1917 ~ Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
  • 1919 ~ The federal woman suffrage amendment, originally written by Susan B. Anthony and introduced in Congress in 1878, is passed by the House of Representatives (304 to 89). The Senate passes it with just two votes to spare (56 to 25). It is then sent to the states for ratification. 
  • 1920 ~ The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor is formed to collect information about women in the workforce and safeguard good working conditions for women.
  • 1920 (Aug 26) ~ The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, is signed into law by the Secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby.
  • 1921 ~ Margaret Sanger organizes the American Birth Control League, which becomes Federation of Planned Parenthood in 1942.
  • 1923 ~ Supreme Court strikes down a 1918 minimum-wage law for District of Columbia women because, with the vote, women are considered equal to men. This ruling cancels all state minimum wage laws.
  • 1933 ~ Frances Perkins, the first woman in a Presidential cabinet, serves as Secretary of Labor during the entire Roosevelt presidency.
  • 1936 ~ The federal law prohibiting the dissemination of contraceptive information through the mail is modified, and birth control information is no longer classified as obscene. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second District renders an historic decision in U.S. v. One Package and asserts the rights of the physician in the legitimate use of contraceptives and eradicated the restrictions prohibiting the importation, sale or carriage by mail of contraceptive materials and information for medical purposes.
  • 1941 ~ A massive government and industry media campaign persuades women to take jobs during the war. Almost 7 million women respond, 2 million as industrial "Rosie the Riveters" and 400,000 join the military.
  • 1945 ~ Women industrial workers begin to lose their jobs in large numbers to returning service men, although surveys show 80% want to continue working.
  • 1957 ~ The number of women and men voting is approximately equal for the first time.
  • 1960 ~ The Food and Drug Administration approves birth control pills.
  • 1960 ~ Women now earn only 60 cents for every dollar earned by men, a decline since 1955. Women of color earn only 42 cents.
  • 1961 ~ President John Kennedy establishes the President's Commission on the Status of Women to explore issues relating to women and to make proposals in such areas as employment policy, education, and federal Social Security and tax laws relating to women. Kennedy appointed Eleanor Roosevelt, former U.S. delegate to the United Nations and widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to chair the commission The report issued by the Commission in 1963 documents substantial discrimination against women in the workplace and makes specific recommendations for improvement, including fair hiring practices, paid maternity leave, and affordable child care.
  • 1963 ~ The Equal Pay Act, proposed 20 years earlier, establishes equal pay for men and women performing the same job duties. It does not cover domestics, agricultural workers, executives, administrators or professionals.
  • 1963 ~ Betty Friedan's best-seller, The Feminine Mystique, detailed the "problem that has no name." Five million copies are sold by 1970, laying the groundwork for the modern feminist movement.
  • 1964 ~ Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars employment discrimination by private employers, employment agencies and unions based on race, sex and other grounds. To investigate complaints and enforce penalties, it establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which receives 50,000 complaints of gender discrimination in its first five years.
  • 1966 ~ National Organization for Women (NOW) is formed by a group of feminists including Betty Friedan while attending the Third National Conference of Commissions on the Status of Women. It becomes the largest women's rights group in the United States, and begins working to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations.
  • 1967 ~ Executive Order 11375 (amending Executive Order 11246) expands President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors must take active measures to ensure that women as well as minorities enjoy the same educational and employment opportunities as white males.
  • 1968 ~ New York Radical Women garner media attention to the women's movement when they protest the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.
  • 1968 ~ The first national women's liberation conference is held in Chicago.
  • 1968 ~ The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) is founded.
  • 1968 ~ National Welfare Rights Organization is formed by activists such as Johnnie Tillmon and Etta Horm. They have 22,000 members by 1969, but are unable to survive as an organization past 1975.
  • 1968 ~ Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) is first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
  • 1970 ~ Women's wages fall to 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Although non-white women earn even less, the gap is closing between white women and women of color.
  • 1970 ~ The Equal Rights Amendment is reintroduced into Congress.
  • 1972 ~ Congress sends the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution to the states for ratification. Originally drafted by Alice Paul in 1923, the amendment reads: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." Congress places a seven year deadline on the ratification process, and although the deadline extends until 1982, the amendment does not receive enough state ratifications. It is still not part of the U.S. Constitution.
  • 1972 ~ Title IX of the Education Amendments bans sex discrimination in schools. It states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." As a result of Title IX, the enrollment of women in athletics programs and professional schools increases dramatically.
  • 1973 ~ The first battered women's shelters open in the U.S., in Tucson, AZ and St. Paul, MN.
  • 1973 ~ In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court establishes a woman's right to abortion, effectively canceling the anti-abortion laws of 46 states.
  • 1974 ~ MANA, the Mexican-American Women's National Association, organizes as feminist activist organization. By 1990, MANA chapters operate in 16 states; members in 36.
  • 1974 ~ Hundreds of colleges are offering women's studies courses. Additionally, 230 women's centers on college campuses provide support services for women students.
  • 1975 ~ The first women's bank opens, in New York City.
  • 1978 ~ The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amends the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and bans employment discrimination against pregnant women. Under the Act, a woman cannot be fired or denied a job or a promotion because she is or may become pregnant, nor can she be forced to take a pregnancy leave if she is willing and able to work.
  • 1981 ~ At the request of women's organizations, President Carter proclaims the first "National Women's History Week," incorporating March 8, International Women's Day.
  • 1981 ~ Sandra Day O'Connor is the first woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1993, she is joined by Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
  • 1984 ~ Geraldine Ferraro is the first woman vice-presidential candidate of a major political party (Democratic Party).

One Woman One Vote ~ VIDEO

Friday, January 24, 2014

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

"Oh, if I could but live another century and see the fruition of all the work for women! There is so much yet to be done." ~Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) is perhaps the most widely known suffragist of her generation and has become an icon of the woman’s suffrage movement. She traveled the country to give speeches, circulate petitions and organize local women’s rights organizations.

Susan was born in Adams, MA. After the Anthony family moved to Rochester, NY in 1845, they became active in the antislavery movement. Antislavery Quakers met at their farm almost every Sunday, where they were sometimes joined by Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Later two of Anthony's brothers, Daniel and Merritt, were anti-slavery activists in the Kansas territory.

In 1848 Susan was working as a teacher in Canajoharie, NY and became involved with the teacher’s union when she discovered that male teachers had a monthly salary of $10.00, while the female teachers earned $2.50 a month. Her parents and sister Marry attended the 1848 Rochester Woman’s Rights Convention held August 2.

Anthony’s experience with the teacher’s union, temperance and antislavery reforms and Quaker upbringing, laid fertile ground for a career in women’s rights reform to grow. The career would begin with an introduction to Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

On a street corner in Seneca Falls in 1851, Amelia Bloomer introduced Susan to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and later Stanton recalled the moment: “There she stood with her good earnest face and genial smile, dressed in gray silk, hat and all the same color, relieved with pale blue ribbons, the perfection of neatness and sobriety. I liked her thoroughly, and why I did not at once invite her home with me to dinner, I do not know.”

Meeting Elizabeth Cady Stanton was probably the beginning of her interest in women’s rights, but it is Lucy Stone’s speech at the 1852 Syracuse Convention that is credited for convincing Susan to join the women’s rights movement.

In 1853 Susan campaigned for women's property rights in New York State, speaking at meetings, collecting signatures for petitions and lobbying the state legislature. She circulated petitions for married women's property rights and woman suffrage. She addressed the National Women’s Rights Convention in 1854 and urged more petition campaigns. In 1854 she wrote to Matilda Joslyn Gage that “I know slavery is the all-absorbing question of the day, still we must push forward this great central question, which underlies all others.”

By 1856 she became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, arranging meetings, making speeches, putting up posters and distributing leaflets. She encountered hostile mobs, armed threats and things thrown at her. She was hung in effigy, and in Syracuse her image was dragged through the streets.

At the 1856 National Women’s Rights Convention, Susan served on the business committee and spoke on the necessity of the dissemination of printed matter on women’s rights. She named The Lily and The Woman’s Advocate, and said they had some documents for sale on the platform.

Stanton and Anthony founded the American Equal Rights Association and in 1868 became editors of its newspaper, The Revolution. The masthead of the newspaper proudly displayed their motto, “Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”

By 1869 Stanton, Anthony and others formed the National Woman Suffrage Association and focused their efforts on a federal woman’s suffrage amendment. In an effort to challenge suffrage, Susan and her three sisters voted in the 1872 Presidential election. She was arrested and put on trial in the Ontario Courthouse, Canandaigua, NY. The judge instructed the jury to find her guilty without any deliberations, and imposed a $100 fine. When she refused to pay a $100 fine and court costs, the judge did not sentence her to prison time, which ended her chance of an appeal. An appeal would have allowed the suffrage movement to take the question of women’s voting rights to the Supreme Court, but it was not to be.

From 1881 to 1885, Anthony joined Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage in writing the History of Woman Suffrage. As a final tribute to Susan B. Anthony, the Nineteenth Amendment was named the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. It was ratified in 1920.

Click HERE for more information.

The 19th Amendment

Governor Edwin P. Morrow signing the Anthony Amendment.
Kentucky was the 24th state to ratify on 6 Jan 1920.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Annie Besant (1847-1933)

"Better remain silent, better not even think, if you are not prepared to act." ~Annie Besant

Annie Morris, the daughter of William Wood and Emily Morris, was born in 1847 in London, Enland. Her father, a doctor, died when she was only five years old. Without any savings, Annie's mother found work looking after boarders at Harrow School. Mrs. Wood was unable to care for Annie and persuaded a friend, Ellen Marryat, who lived in Charmouth in Dorset, to take responsibility for her upbringing.

In 1866 Annie met the Rev. Frank Besant. Although only 19, she agreed to marry the young clergyman in Hastings on 21 Dec 1867. By the time she was 23 Annie had two children and was deeply unhappy because her independent spirit clashed with the traditional views of her husband. She also began to question her religious beliefs. When Annie refused to attend communion, Frank Besant ordered her to leave the family home after which a legal separation was arranged. Their son Digby stayed with Frank and daughter Mabel went to live with Annie in London.

After leaving her husband Annie completely rejected Christianity, and in 1874 joined the Secular Society. She soon developed a close relationship with Charles Bradlaugh, editor of the radical National Reformer and leader of the secular movement in Britain. Bradlaugh gave Annie a job working for the National Reformer and during the next few years wrote many articles on issues such as marriage and women's rights.

Annie also developed a reputation as an outstanding public speaker. The Irish journalist, T. P. O'Connor wrote: " What a beautiful and attractive and irresistible creature she was then, with her slight but full and well-shaped figure, her dark hair, her finely chiselled features… with that short upper lip that seemed always in a pout". Beatrice Webb claimed that she was the "only woman I have ever known who is a real orator, who has the gift of public persuasion."

Tom Mann agreed: "The first time I heard Mrs. Besant was in Birmingham, about 1875. The only women speakers I had heard before this were of mediocre quality. Mrs. Besant transfixed me; her superb control of voice, her whole-souled devotion to the cause she was advocating, her love of the down-trodden, and her appeal on behalf of a sound education for all children, created such an impression upon me, that I quietly, but firmly, created such an impression upon me, that I quietly, but firmly, resolved that I would ascertain more correctly the why and wherefore of her creed."

In 1877 Annie and Charles Bradlaugh decided to publish The Fruits of Philosophy by Charles Knowlton, a book that advocated birth control. Annie and Bradlaugh were charged with publishing material that was "likely to deprave or corrupt those whose minds are open to immoral influences". In court they argued that "we think it more moral to prevent conception of children than, after they are born, to murder them by want of food, air and clothing." Besant and Bradlaugh were both found guilty of publishing an "obscene libel" and sentenced to six months in prison. At the Court of Appeal the sentence was quashed.

After the court-case Annie wrote and published her own book advocating birth control entitled The Laws of Population. The idea of a woman advocating birth-control received wide-publicity. Newspapers like The Times accused her of writing "an indecent, lewd, filthy, bawdy and obscene book". Rev. Besant used the publicity of the case to persuade the courts that he, rather than Annie, should have custody of their daughter Mabel.

In 1880 Charles Bradlaugh was elected MP for Northampton, but as he was not a Christian he refused to take the oath, and was expelled from the House of Commons. As well as working with Bradlaugh, Annie also became friends with socialists such as Walter Crane, Edward Aveling and George Bernard Shaw. This upset Bradlaugh, who regarded socialism as a disruptive foreign doctrine.

After joining the Social Democratic Federation, Annie started her own campaigning newspaper called The Link. Like Catherine Booth of the Salvation Army, Annie was concerned about the health of young women workers at the Bryant & May match factory. On 23 Jun 1888, Annie published an article White Slavery in London where she drew attention to the dangers of phosphorus fumes and complained about the low wages paid to the women who worked at Bryant & May.

Three women who provided information for Annie's article were sacked. Annie responded by helping the women at Bryant & May to form a Matchgirls Union. After a three week strike, the company was forced to make significant concessions including the re-employment the three victimized women.

Annie also join the socialist group, the Fabian Society, and in 1889 contributed to the influencial book, Fabian Essays. As well as Besant, the book included articles by George Bernard Shaw, Sydney Webb, Sydney Olivier, Graham Wallas, William Clarke and Hubert Bland. Edited by Shaw, the book sold 27,000 copies in two years.

In 1889 Annie was elected to the London School Board. After heading the poll with a 15,000 majority over the next candidate, she argued that she had been given a mandate for large-scale reform of local schools. Some of her many achievements included a program of free meals for undernourished children and free medical examinations for all those in elementary schools.

In the 1890s Annie became a supporter of Theosophy, a religious movement founded by Helena Blavatsky in 1875. Theosophy was based on Hindu ideas of karma and reincarnation with nirvana as the eventual aim. She went to live in India but remained interested in the subject of women's rights. She continued to write letters to British newspapers arguing the case for women's suffrage and in 1911 was one of the main speakers at an important NUWSS rally in London.

While in India, Annie joined the struggle for Indian Home Rule, and during the First World War was interned by the British authorities. She died in India on 20 Sep 1933.

Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894)

"As soon as it became known that I was wearing the new dress, letters came pouring in upon me by the hundreds from women all over the country making inquiries about the dress and asking for patterns—showing how ready and anxious women were to throw off the burden of long, heavy skirts." ~Amelia Bloomer

Amelia Jenks was born on 27 May 1818 in Homer, NY. At the age of 22 she married attorney Dexter Bloomer, who encouraged her to write for his New York newspaper, the Seneca Falls County Courier.

In 1848, Amelia attended the Seneca Falls Convention, an influential women's rights convention in the U.S. The following year, she began editing the first newspaper for women, The Lily. It was published biweekly from 1849 until 1853. The newspaper began as a temperance journal, but came to have broad mix of contents ranging from recipes to moralist tracts, particularly when influenced by temperance activist and suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Amelia felt that because women lecturers were considered unseemly, writing was the best way for women to work for reform. Originally, The Lily was to be for “home distribution” among members of the Seneca Falls Ladies Temperance Society, which had formed in 1848, and eventually had a circulation of over 4,000. The paper encountered several obstacles early on, and the Society’s enthusiasm died out. Bloomer felt a commitment to publish and assumed full responsibility for editing and publishing the paper. Originally, the title page had the legend “Published by a committee of ladies.” But after 1850 – only Bloomer’s name appeared on the masthead. This newspaper was a model for later periodicals focused on women's suffrage.

Amelia described her experience as the first woman to own, operate and edit a news vehicle for women:

"It was a needed instrument to spread abroad the truth of a new gospel to woman, and I could not withhold my hand to stay the work I had begun. I saw not the end from the beginning and dreamed where to my propositions to society would lead me."

In her publication, she promoted a change in dress standards for women that would be less restrictive in regular activities:

"The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness; and, while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance."

In 1851, New England temperance activist Elizabeth Smith Miller (aka Libby Miller) adopted what she considered a more rational costume: loose trousers gathered at the ankles, like women's trousers worn in the Middle East and Central Asia, topped by a short dress or skirt and vest. The costume was worn publicly by actress Fanny Kemble. Miller displayed her new clothing to Stanton, her cousin, who found it sensible and becoming, and adopted it immediately. In this garb Stanton visited Bloomer, who began to wear the costume and promote it enthusiastically in her magazine. Articles on the clothing trend were picked up in the New York Tribune. More women wore the fashion which was promptly dubbed "The Bloomer Costume" or "Bloomers". However, the bloomers were subjected to ceaseless ridicule in the press and harassment on the street. Amelia herself dropped the fashion in 1859, saying that a new invention, the crinoline, was a sufficient reform that she could return to conventional dress.

Amelia remained a suffrage pioneer and writer throughout her life, writing for a wide array of periodicals. Although she was far less famous than some other suffragettes, she made many significant contributions to the women’s movement — particularly concerning dress reform and the temperance movement. She led suffrage campaigns in Nebraska and Iowa, and served as president of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association from 1871 until 1873.

Amelia died on 30 Dec 1894 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge (1872-1920)

Madeline "Madge" McDowell Breckinridge was a leader of the women's suffrage movement and one of Kentucky's leading progressive reformers.

She was born in Woodlake, KY on 20 May 1872 and grew up in Ashland at the Henry Clay Estate, a farm established by her great-grandfather, 19th century statesman Henry Clay. Her mother was Henry Clay, Jr.'s daughter, Anne Clay, and her father was Maj. Henry Clay McDowell (a namesake of Henry Clay), who served during the American Civil War on the Union side.
She was educated in Lexington, KY, at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, CT and at State College (now the University of Kentucky) intermittently between 1890-1894. In 1898 Madeline married Desha Breckinridge, the editor of the Lexington Herald and a brother of the pioneering social worker Sophonisba Breckinridge. The Breckinridges together used the newspaper's editorial pages to promote political and social causes of the Progressive Era, especially programs for the poor, child welfare and for women's rights.

The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed shortly before she died. She was able to vote only once in her life, in the November 1920 presidential election, before suffering a stroke and dying on Thanksgiving day, 25 Nov 1920.

Lucy Burns (1879-1966)

Lucy Burns was a versatile and pivotal figure within the National Woman's Party. With distinctive flame-red hair that matched her personality and convictions, she was often characterized as a charmer and a firebrand–and the crucial support behind her friend Alice Paul's higher-profile leadership.

Born to an Irish Catholic family in Brooklyn, NY on 28 Jul 1879, Lucy was a brilliant student of language and linguistics. She studied at Vassar College and Yale University in the United States and at the University of Berlin in Germany (1906-8). While a student at Oxford College in Cambridge, England, she witnessed the militancy of the British suffrage movement.

She set her academic goals aside and in 1909 became an activist with Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). She perfected the art of street speaking, was arrested repeatedly, and was imprisoned four times. From 1910 to 1912 she worked as a suffrage organizer in Scotland.

Lucy met Alice Paul in a London police station after both were arrested during a suffrage demonstration outside Parliament. Their alliance was powerful and long-lasting. Returning to the United States (Paul in 1910, Burns in 1912), the two women worked first with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) as leaders of its Congressional Committee. In April 1913 they founded the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU), which evolved into the NWP. Burns organized campaigns in the West (1914, 1916), served as NWP legislative chairman in Washington, D.C., and, beginning in April 1914, edited the organization's weekly journal, The Suffragist.

She was a driving force behind the picketing of President Woodrow Wilson's administration in Washington, DC, beginning in January 1917. Six months later, she and Dora Lewis–targeting the attention of visiting Russian envoys–attracted controversy by prominently displaying a banner outside the White House declaring that America was not a free democracy as long as women were denied the vote. When Lucy participated in a similar action with Katharine Morey later the same month, they were arrested for obstructing traffic. The banners displeased President Wilson and escalated the administration's response to the picketing.

At Occoquan
Lucy was arrested and imprisoned six times. Declaring that suffragists were political prisoners, she was among those in the Occoquan Workhouse who instigated hunger strikes in October 1917 and were subsequently placed in solitary confinement. Jailed again when protesting the treatment of the imprisoned Alice Paul, she joined Paul and others in another round of Occoquan hunger strikes. She was in Occoquan for what became known as the “Night of Terror” on 15 Nov 1917, during which she was beaten and her arms were handcuffed above her head in her cell. Particularly brutal force-feeding soon followed. After her release, she commenced nationwide speaking tours. Unlike Paul, who remained active in the NWP until her death, Lucy retired from public campaigns with the success of the 19th Amendment. She spent the rest of her life working with the Catholic Church and died on 22 Dec 1966 in Brooklyn, NY.

An expanded biography can be found HERE.