On the eve Hillary Rodham Clinton’s acceptance speech, I’m thinking about and thanking all the pioneering women I’ve written about over the years. I’m also thinking about landmarks in D.C. that could inspire and sustain HRC. Here two: The Department of Labor Building named for Frances Perkins. first woman in a presidential cabinet, and the memorial to Mary McLeod Bethune, presidential advisor and director of the National Youth Administration of Negro Affairs. The several display inside the building to Perkins include a plaque that reads: This building is dedicated to the memory of Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, 1933-1945, whose legacy of social action enhances the lives of all American workers in wartime and peace. In depression and recovery she articulated the hopes and dreams of working people and worked untiringly to make those hopes and dreams a reality through the force of her moral courage, intellect, and will. She brought sweeping changes to our national laws and practices and forever improved our society. The memorial to Mary McLeod Bethune, among my favorite landmarks to women, features a statue located in Lincoln Park, East Capitol Street, S.E. Inscribed around the base are words from “My Last Will and Testament,” her classic article published in “Ebony Magazine”: I leave you love . . . I leave you hope . . . . I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another . . . I leave you respect for the uses of power . . . .”
FYI: Landmarks to the first two women candidates for President of the United States. I wrote about Victoria Woodhull in my book “Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World.” Her run-in with SBA re her candidacy is on pp. 148-149. Her dramatic encounter with ECS in London is on p. 173. The marker, located in Homer, Ohio, reads: “Because of her unrelenting advocacy of woman’s suffrage, Victoria Woodhull was nominated to run for president by the “Equal Rights” party in 1872. Her life was a continual campaign to fight for woman’s suffrage, civil rights, and child labor reform laws. In 1879, Victoria married John Martin and lived her remaining years in British Society. She died in England in 1927.”
Belva Lockwood was the first woman to run an actual campaign and to receive votes. I’m writing about her in my current project. Her marker is located in Royalton, New York. It reads: “Near this spot stood the log cabin birthplace of Belva A. Bennett 1830-1912. As Belva Lockwood she became the first woman to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court. She was also the first woman to run for the office of President of the United States in 1884 and 1888.”
FYI: Talking with my son David this morning, who is in Florida with his family and leaving for Haiti tomorrow, about the historic nomination of Hillary Clinton last night, I asked what, if anything, he had said to Quinn and Balan, his and Nickie’s almost 2 1/2 year old twins. Given that David is a history professor, I figured he would have said something. And he did: “I said that Quinn can have another image of a powerful woman other than Elsa and I told Balan that it is important to learn how to accept women in positions of authority and leadership.” The image if from several weeks ago when I brought them containers of their favorite melons.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1887: “If all the heroic deeds of women recorded in history and our daily journals . . . have not yet convinced our opponents that women are possessed of the superior fighting quarter . . . . Of one thing they may be assured, that the next generation will not argue the question of woman’s rights with the infinite patience we have had for half a century.”
I just watched the roll call at the Democratic National Convention, making Hillary Clinton the Democratic Party’s official candidate for President of the United States. The picture is of 102-year-old Jerry Emmett, an honorary member of the Arizona delegation, who announced 51 delegates for Hillary Clinton. Based on her age, you know that Jerry Emmett was born before women won the right to vote in America! She remembers seeing her mother vote for the first time. When South Dakota pushed Hillary over the top, I couldn’t help commenting to Linda: “Oh, my, South Dakota, the state, where a woman suffrage referendum was defeated five times: 1890, with Susan B. Anthony campaigning there; 1898; 1910; 1914; 1816) before passing one in 1918, two years before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Oregon also defeated a woman suffrage referendum five times: 1884, 1900, 1906, 1908, 1910, before victory in 1912. None of women’s achievements, especially in politics – have been won without a struggle. Personally I am deeply grateful to Hillary Clinton for having the guts to persevere! I celebrate her unwavering commitment, her stellar accomplishments, and her inspiring keep-on-keeping-on spirit!
Watching the line-up of impressive women speakers last night, I was reminded of an newspaper article I had read earlier in the day about the first international gathering of women with a sub-headline: “Prominent Women who will Speak During the Week. The event was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in 1888 to celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the first women’s rights convention and to energize and connect activists, women who had been “emancipated” from “traditions that required her to keep silent.” These sketches of ECS and SBA and nine other women illustrated the article (Evening Star, Washington, D.C., March 24, 1888)
In 1888 a miniscule number of American women had the right to vote. Opponents of woman suffrage repeatedly argued that women didn’t want the vote. The popular journalist Grace Greenwood, was curious – “Would women vote if they could? She found that 12 would, 10 would not, 8 reluctantly would out of a sense of duty. Greenwood, the pseudonym of Sara Jane Clarke, advocated for abolition, women’s rights, and fair pay for writers. She would vote, she wrote, ” to make up for my long political disability.” Mary Livermore responded: “Would I vote? Bless your heart, I do vote, every year, as by the laws of Massachusetts I am allowed to vote for school committee. It is but a crumb from the loaf, the whole of which belongs to me. Nevertheless, I bravely deposit my beggarly and semi pauperized vote, and then, like Oliver Twist, reach up my hand for ‘more.’” I scanned and cropped the image from the article published in the Fort Worth Daily Gazette, Oct. 28, 1888, p. 12. When women finally won the right to vote in 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt said: “The vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guarantee of your liberty . . . .Prize it!”
In 1993, driving to attend the dedication of the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights National Park, I was so excited to see a prominent historical marker honoring women that I pulled over, got out of the car, and took a picture. (All admittedly risky move on the New York State Thruway!) The other photo from my collection honors Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s insistence on including a resolution regarding woman suffrage. (Her husband threatened to leave town if she proposed it. She did. He split.) The text reads: “On this spot stood the Wesleyan Chapel/where the First Woman’s Rights Convention/in the World’s history was held/July 19 and 20 – 1848./Elizabeth Cady Stanton/moved this resolution/which was seconded by Frederick Douglass/’That it is the duty of the Women/of this country to secure to themselves/their sacred right/to the elective franchise.'” This plaque was dedicated in 1908, at a 60th anniversary event organized by ECS’s daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch, who continued her mother’s fight for the vote..
One of my first pilgrimages to a historic women’s landmark was to the statue of Anne Marbury Hutchinson, located in front of the State House in Boston. Today – July 20 – is the 425th anniversary of her birth. A midwife and “spiritual advisor,” Hutchinson challenged the patriarchy of Boston. Condemned for her “very voluble tongue, more bold than a man,” she was tried, convicted and banished. The plaque heralds her as a “COURAGEOUS EXPONENT OF CIVIL LIBERTY AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE.” Today, a group, including her descendants, is leaving Providence, RI, on a five-day, three state tour of sites to Hutchinson, including New York, where she and several of her children were killed in an Indian raid. One child, Susanna was captured and later traded to family members in RI, is represented in the statue. The Hutchinson River Parkway and river in New York City are named for her. Anne Hutchinson, I think, is a sorely needed role model in today’s America.
Just reading about Alice Paul’s use of visual rhetoric in women’s fight for the vote. Then checking the news I bumped into an article about “Everything She Says Means Everything,” an art installation project of 100 Nude Women protesting at the Republican Convention on 7/17/2016. Amazing!