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!
According to the subheadline in today’s “The Record,” former NJ governor Thomas Kean “says he may not vote.” Not voting is an unthinkable act for me, regardless of the choices. In 1883 Elizabeth Cady Stanton was on board a ship bound for America, “sitting on the deck hour after hour” pondering women’s pursuit of suffrage. “In seeking political power,” she wondered, do women really need the vote, or can they assert influence in other ways. Her answer: “No! no! the right of suffrage is no shadow, but a substantial entity that the citizen can seize and hold for his own protection and his country’s welfare . . .Through influence, like the pure white light, is all-pervading, yet it is oft-times obscured with passing clouds and nights of darkness; like the sun’s rays, it may be healthy, genial, inspiring, though sometimes too direct for comfort, too oblique for warmth, too scattered for any given purpose. But as the prism by dividing the rays of light reveals to us the brilliant coloring of the atmosphere, and as the burning-glass by concentrating them in a focus intensifies their heat, so does the right of suffrage reveal the beauty and power of individual sovereignty in the great drama of nation life, while on a vital measure of public interest it combines the many voices of the people in a grand chorus of protest or applause.” (“Reminiscences by E.C.S., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. III, p. 953.
Today – July 11 – in 1761, a young girl arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, on board a slave ship, Phillis. She was bought by John Wheatley, a white merchant, whose daughter would teach the girl, named Phillis Wheatley, English, Latin, and Greek. In 2003 I went to the dedication of the Boston Women’s Memorial by Meredith Bergman, comprised of three statues: Phillis Wheatley, Lucy Stone, and Abigail Adams. I took many photographs at that event, including these in my collection of the statue representing Phillis Wheatley. The inscription reads: “Born in West Africa and sold as a slave/from the ship Phillis in Colonial Boston/She was a literary prodigy whose 1773 volume/Poems on Various Subjects Religions/and Moral was the first book published/by an African writer in America.”