“I Have Been & Gone & Done It!!”


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.


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


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

Posted in Women's History | Leave a comment

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.





Posted in Women's History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Women's History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Women's History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Women's History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Maria Mitchell Discovers Comet, October 1, 1847


In front of Maria Mitchell’s home with the director.

A strong-faced woman with her hair arranged in sausage curls, Maria Mitchell was a groundbreaking astronomer.  Today on October 1 in 1847 on the roof of her home in Nantucket, Massachusetts,  twenty-nine-year old Maria discovered a comet.  Here is a link to a wonderful write-up http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=284   Last year I went mariamitchellgravesmallto Nantucket and had a fascinating tour of her home. Mitchell_Maria_desk


Posted in Women's History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Meet Penny Colman

Tonight I was organizing files on my computer (long overdue task!!) and discovered Meet Penny Colman, a 2011 6-minute video filmed and edited by Vicki Cobb, president of iNK  (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) Think Tank, a web site with resources galore for readers and teachers of nonfiction literature. Watching myself three years later is a bit embarrassing but still an accurate glimpse of “where I write.”



Posted in Musings | Leave a comment


Delicious juicy peaches at our local Farmers’ Market this year!!  Wait, I told Linda as she was about to cover this peach and pecan pie that we made for dinner with a friend tonight, I’ve got to take a picture.  The rest of the menu is: grilled salmon; corn on the corn; a vegetable medley; and raisin, nut pumpernickel bread–all from a Farmers’ Market, long may they stay in business!!! peaches

Posted in Musings | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What Have I Been Up To?

Quick update via a question and answer format to fill in the gap between my 2/15  and 9/3 posts, although I did post on August 26th, Women’s Equality Day:

Have you been speaking?

Penny:  Yes–13 illustrated programs between then and now in various venues and on different topics–”Celebrating Women,”  Adventurous Women: Eight True Stories About Women Who Made a Difference, and  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World.  In March, I was delighted to give the keynote speech at an event honoring World War II women who had served in the military and the workforce (co-sponsored by Bergen County, NJ and the League of Women Voters).  The link to my 18-minute keynote speech and slide show is on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb54q_Be5Uw&feature=youtu.be
The photos are: Barbara Ward Christianson, Marine; Beverly Rosenstein, WAC (Army); and Dorothy Dempsey, SPAR (Coast Guard), who is shown receiving a medal and commendation from Kathleen Donovan, the County Executive.Marinesmall

WACsmallSPARsmall(My Fall calendar is posted on my website with my talks on Rosie the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front in World War II to Corpses, Coffins and Crypts: A History of Burial, and Thanksgiving: The True Story). http://pennycolman.com/speaking-engagements/calendar/

Have you been writing?

Penny: Yes! I am about finished with Listen!: Wise Words from Our Foremothers.  I am wrapping up revising and updating a new edition of my 2000 bestselling book Girls: A History of Growing Up Female in America.  My book, The Truth About How Women Got the Vote, is underway.  If you want to receive email updates about these projects, including when they’ll be available, please contact me at pennycolman@gmail.com

Did you have fun?

Penny: Yes, from 19 days in Alaska, which include a visit with my sister Cam and her husband Rich, to lots of grandmothering. Photos are: me and Linda at the Mendehall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, me and Linda at Girls on the Run event with 10-year-old Sophie, her daddy Jon and Uncle Steve;  me on Mothers’ Day with 3-month-old Quinn and Balan: Quinn and Balan at the Jersey Shore for the first time & not quite sure what to make of it, 8/25/14. plmendensmallS,J,S,P,LgirlsQ:B:PmotherdaysmallQuinnshoresmallBalanshoresmall

Posted in Relationships and Connections | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


Lucky and happy me! I had two birthday celebrations this year with all three of my sons and their families, including 10-year-old Sophie & 6-month-old Balan and Quinn! First the weekend with my brother Kip (his b-day is two days before mine) and family at Bemus Point, NY, on Lake Chautauqua, then last night at home in Englewood, NJ. Photos: our excursion to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy in Jamestown, NY (l-r front row: Aunt Joyce with Balan, Penny, Nickie with Quinn, Linda, Sophie; back row: David (over Nickie’s shoulder), Steve, Ursula (over Linda’s shoulder), Jon, Katrin).  Me and Kip on 8/30 opening the box of once-read thriller that Linda and I passed on to him; me with Quinn and Sophie on 9/2 familylucyabout to blow out candles on a rapidly melting ice cream cake.P&KCandles

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , | Leave a comment