Susan B. Anthony and St. Paul

img617Carolyn Cowles Richards turned ten years old today, Nov. 21st, in 1852 and decided to start her diary. Here’s an excerpt from the forthcoming second edition of “Girls: A History of Growing Up Female in America” about the day Susan B. Anthony came to Canandaigua, NY, the small village where Carolyn and her siblings lived with their grandparents: “Over her grandmother’s objections, Caroline and her friends went to Susan B. Anthony’s lecture, where they signed a pledge “to do all in our power to bring about that glad day when equal rights should be the law in the land.”  Rebuking Caroline for embracing equality, her grandmother said “she guess Susan B. Anthony had forgotten that St. Paul said the women should keep silence.”
“No, she didn’t,” Caroline replied, “for she spoke particularly about St. Paul and said if he had lived in these times. . . . he would have been as anxious to have the women at the head of government as she was.”

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Susan B. Anthony

In writing Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World, I was struck by their use of war language, also used by their co-workers and supporters. For example, here is a description of fifty-year-old Susan B. Anthony from The Heart and Home, in “Photographs of Our Agitators”: image20She is the Bismarck; she plans the campaigns, provides the munitions of war, organizes the raw recruits, sets the squadrons in the field. Indeed, in presence of a timid lieutenant, she sometimes heads the charge; but she is most effective as the directing generalissimo. Miss Anthony is a quick, bright, nervous, alert woman of fifty or so—not at all inclined to embonpoint—sharp-eyed, even behind her spectacles. She presides over the treasury, she cuts the Gordian knots, and when the uncontrollables get by the ears at the conventions, she is the one who straightway drags them asunder and turns chaos to order again. In every dilemma, she is unanimously summoned. As a speaker, she is angular and rigid, but trenchant, incisive, cutting through to the heart of whatever topic she touches. The photo is of SBA at the age of fifty.

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The Shirelles

Wow!  Last night Elizabeth Cady Stanton was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, a gala I attended with ECS’s great great granddaughter Coline Jenkins. Although thrilled that ECS was honored, I have to admit I was a bit star struck to meet two of the Shirelles, who were also inducted.  Originators of the Girl Group Sound, first all girl group of the Rock and Roll Era to score a number one record (yup, you got it–”Will You Still love Me Tomorrow”) etc., I wrote about the Shirelles in “Girls: A History of Growing Up Female in America.” Dionne Warwick introduced them & sang her own version of that song. The two surviving members with me are Shirley Alston Reeves and Beverly Lee. photo 1(p.s. for you Bruce Springsteen fans, he was the “surprise” who introduced another inductee Brian Williams.)

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton: The Whole Story

Imagine that you were born in 1815. Now, you would be 199 years old. So would Elizabeth Cady Stanton who really was born in 1815, on Nov. 12th.  She had bright blue eyes and brown curly hair that eventually became the whitest of white curly hair.  She had two younger and two older sisters and an older brother.

5513251Her brother died when she was eleven years old. His death devastated her father who had had high hopes for his son. Hoping to console her father, Elizabeth set out to prove that he could have high hopes for her too. That he would recognize, she later wrote, “the equality of the daughter with the son.” She had to prove that because her father, like many people throughout history, believed that a girl was weaker than a boy, that she did not need much education, that her future was marriage to a man who would legally be the boss of the family. If she spoke out in public, people would be shocked. She would not have rights we take for granted, including the right to vote.

Elizabeth never did convince her father; no matter her accomplishment he would just kiss her on the forehead and sadly say, “Ah, you should have been a boy!” And she did become a wife and the mother of seven children.  But that is not her whole story.

In July of 1848, Elizabeth initiated a groundbreaking women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, “to discuss the social, civil, and religious conditions and rights of women,” a very controversial idea. Supporters were ridiculed and reviled.   But Elizabeth kept fighting for women’s equality.

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Water Wall with the Declaration of Sentiments by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, NY.

A persuasive orator she lectured widely.  Frederick Douglass, the former slave and famous abolitionist, recalled that she thoroughly convinced him “of the wisdom & truth of the then new gospel of woman’s rights.” A prolific author, she wrote the “Declaration of Sentiments,” an iconic document that still moves people. A charismatic leader, she inspired people, including Susan B. Anthony, her trusted friend and coworker. Shortly before Elizabeth Cady Stanton died in 1902, Susan wrote: “It is fifty-one years since we first met and we have been busy through every one of them, stirring up the world to recognized the rights of women.” So, to Elizabeth Cady Stanton–Happy 199th Birthday!

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I Voted

Very cool:  I just came in from planting bulbs and found this email from Rebecca Lubetkin: “This one is for all of the women voters!
In the last 36 hours, Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Mt. Hope Cemetery has been visited by people adorning it with “I Voted” stickers.”1382940_10152894850697502_671643673109531219_n

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“I Have Been & Gone & Done It!!”

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This bust of Susan B. Anthony sits in the Ontario County Courthouse, Canandaigua, New York, where her trial was held.

“I Have Been & Gone & Done It!!” Susan B. Anthony exuberantly wrote to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her co-fighter and long-time friend in the struggle for women’s rights.  What had she done that warranted all those capital letters and two exclamation points?

She had voted at a time in America when women were denied the right to vote, except in the Territories of Wyoming and Utah.  The year was 1872.  Accompanied by her three sisters and a small band of women, Susan B. Anthony arrived at the polling place in Rochester, New York.  A bonnet-wearing, sharp-witted woman with keen grey eyes, she wielded a copy of the U.S. Constitution and announced that the newly passed Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments gave all citizens the right to vote. And, she declared, women were citizens!  Although reluctant, the inspectors accepted their ballots.

The fact that the nationally known Susan B. Anthony had voted got a lot of attention.  Newspapers covered the story.  Lawyers, judges, politicians, preachers, and ordinary people voiced their opinion, most of it negative. Clearly the country was not ready for women voters.  So, perhaps in an attempt to squelch her and send a message to other women, Susan B. Anthony was arrested thirteen days later. The charge against her was voting without “the legal right to vote” because she was “a person of the female sex.”

Her trial lasted for two days in June of 1873.  It was a sham.  Judge Ward Hunt, an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, was in Susan’s words, “a small-brained, pale-faced, prim-looking man.”  He refused to allow her to testify because she was “not a competent witness.”  He preempted the jurors’ role by ordering them to “find a verdict of guilty.”  Before sentencing her, Judge Hunt, asked if she had “anything to say.”

“Yes, your honor,” she said, rising to her feet. “I have many things to say. . . .”  Six times Judge Hunt tried to silence her.  Finally she stopped and Hunt pronounced her sentence—“a fine of one hundred dollars,” a fine she never paid.

In 1920, fourteen years after Susan B. Anthony died, women finally won the right to vote with passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.  A leader of that victory, Carrie Chapman Catt, proclaimed: That vote has been costlyPrize it! 


PictureAuthor Penny Colman is standing next to a replica of the ballot box which the city of Rochester, NY has placed in the exact location of the barbershop where Susan B. Anthony voted.

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A plaque and sign lead visitors to Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester.

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Picture To find out more about America’s first female voter read Penny Colman’s new book about Anthony’s friendship with Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  The pair fueled and sustained the nineteenth-century fight for women’s rights. To find more information please visit Penny’s website www.pennycolman.com

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Emily Dickinson & Helen Hunt Jackson: Another Famous Friendship

Helen of Troy will die, but Helen of Colorado, never.  You’ve probably heard of Helen of Troy, labeled in Greek mythology as the most beautiful woman in the world.  But who, you’re most likely wondering is  “Helen of Colorado?”   I wondered the same thing when I read that quote by the poet Emily Dickinson about her friend Helen Hunt Jackson, who lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

A popular poet, fiction writer and essayist, Helen Hunt Jackson was a prominent and indomitably outspoken advocate of the rights of Native American people.  She produced a barrage of words: letters, speeches, articles, essays and two important books,  A Century of Dishonor,  a searing critique of the U.S. government’s policies, and Ramona, a romance about a mixed race woman and her Indian husband that she hoped would change bigoted attitudes.  (Ramona was adapted for several Hollywood movies.   Since 1923, it has been performed as a pageant at the Ramona Bowl in Hemet, California.)

Born two months apart in Amherst, Massachusetts, Helen (b0rn first) and Emily were childhood friends.  A mutual friend reconnected them when they were in their late 30s.  By then Helen’s two children and her husband had died and she had turned to writing to fill the void, as well as to support herself.  Emily, who was living in her childhood home, had disengaged from social activities and focused on her poems, making clean copies of earlier poems and produced many more new ones. (Hundreds of poems in 40 handsewn booklets were discovered after she died!)  Sending letters back and forth they rekindled their friendship.  On two occasions in the 1870s, Helen visited the reclusive Emily.

They were different in so many ways.  In appearance, except for the same middle-of-the-head part in their hair,  Helen was full bodied with plump checks and Emily was a thin-faced, wisp of a woman.  A critically acclaimed poet, Helen was  nationally known. Emily was an unknown, as almost all of her poems were published after she died. While Helen was trying to change policies and attitudes with her words, Emily was keeping hers private, a fact that exasperated Helen.   “It is cruel and wrong,” she fumed in a letter, for Emily to deprive people of her unique poems: “I do not think we have a right to withhold from the world a word or a thought any more than a deed, which might help a single soul.”

Yes, they were as different but their friendship endured, sustained by a shared passion, a passion for words, for writing.

Helen Hunt Jackson died in 1885.  A year later so did Emily Dickinson.

The first link is to a marvelous website, “lit2go” where you can read and listen to the works of many authors. The second is to for Emily Dickinson’s material.

http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go

http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/authors/165/emily-dickinson/

 

 

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Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt was born today–Oct. 11th–in 1884. I’ve photographed many landmarks to ER, including this plaque at The Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, NJ, marking 1/18/36  the night she stayed there with FDR. Her words at the top read:   There is no more liberating, no more exhilarating experience than to determine one’s position, state it bravely and then act boldly. Action creates its own courage, and courage is as contagious as fear.ER:TreatHotel

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Sojourner Truth

Today–October 4th–in 2002 a statue was erected honoring Sojourner Truth in Florence, Massachusetts, a village near Northampton. It is one of my favorite statues.SojournerTruthFlorencebest

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Hard Hatted Woman

Cool trailer for “Hard Hatted Woman,” a documentary in progress about women in the trades.  In the mid-90s I regularly gave talks for women who were training for hard hat jobs in New York City at Nontraditional Employment for Women. Their headquarters–a Civil War Era firehouse–was where the publisher held the book party for my book Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II.  In another life, I can imagine being a hard hatted woman. The link is to a kickstarter campaign https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1774810154/hard-hatted-woman

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