Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15, 1820, so Happy Birthday to Susan B! “I wonder,” she once wrote to a young women, “if when I am under the sod–or cremated and floating in the air–I shall have to stir you and others up. How can you not be all on fire?” She is 32 years old in the image, which is from a daguerreotype.
A Peter Seeger story: Wow! I exclaimed when I read Robert Shlasko’s letter to the editor in today’s “New York Times.” A student at Brooklyn College in 1950, Shlasko attended a rehearsal led by Pete Seeger, who died this week. While rehearsing the song he had recently written, “If I had a Hammer,” with the phrase in the chorus “between all of my brothers,” a woman asked–”What about women?” The male chorus members, including Shlasko, groaned. Pete Seeger, however, said she had a point and added “and my sisters,” a lyric I’ve always taken for granted. With Shlasko’s story, however, it takes on special meaning– a woman speaking up & a man making a change. Linda and I were at the 90th birthday gala celebration for Pete Seeger at Madison Square Garden, a event I’ll always remember.
“My idea is that the American man gives over to the woman all the things he is profoundly disinterested in, and keeps business and politics to himself.” Alice Hamilton made that observation when she was in her sixties, after a career in the male worlds of factories, laboratories, and as the first woman professor at Harvard University. One of the amazing women I wrote about in “Adventurous Women: Eight True Stories About Women Who Made a Difference,” Hamilton was a pioneering scientist who exposed disease-causing toxic substances, including lead, TNT, and benzene. The photo is of her at age ninety. “Life is interesting,” she wrote when she was eighty-eight. “I should hate to leave it and not know what will happen next. Maybe we can sit on a cloud and watch.”
Merry Christmas! Elizabeth Cady Stanton recalled in her “Reminiscences” what she and her sisters would find in their stockings that “were pinned on a broomstick, laid across two chairs in front of our fireplace . . . .a little paper of candy, one of raisins, another of nuts, a red apple, an “olie-koek,” and a bright silver quarter of a dollar in the toe.” Although, she confessed, since she was often “guilty of any erratic performances during the year,” her stocking “often” only held a stick! At our house today we’ll be celebrating with gifts–no sticks!–food, games, music, walks, conversations, checking our urban backyard for wildlife (5 deer & 3 turkeys yesterday): Elizabeth wrote that they “would take a drive over the snow-clad hills and valleys in a long red lumber sleigh. All the children it could hold made the forests echo with their songs and laughter.”
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, Jingle prejudice away . . . .A “Sing-In” was held by the National Organization for Women in San Francisco on 12/19/1968 to protest two newspapers that continued to run two columns–”male” & “female” for “help wanted” ads, despite the EEOC’s ruling against that practice. Here are their revised lyrics for “Jingle bells”: “Jingle bells, jingle bell,/Jingle prejudice away/Oh, what fun it would be to find/A de-sex-egrated job today./ Plowing through the ads,/In the paper classified/Searching for a job/How our souls are tried!/ Male and female headings/Just do not satisfy/If we can do the job/Why not let us try?/Why must we be constricted/To any kind of role/When we have all the talent/To fill any help wanted goal?/ If we can do the job/Just give us half a chance/Ability does not depend/ On who is ‘wearing pants.’”
Thanks to David Dismore for this wonderful story!
I am super excited that tomorrow night Linda and I are going to a performance of “The Mother of Us All,” an opera (premiered in 1947) by Gertrude Stein (text) and Virgil Thomson (music) drawn from the life of Susan B. Anthony. The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theatre is performing it, and the conductor, Steven Osgood says, “We are fighting the same fights today as Susan B. once did. Change a couple of nouns and you are very much in 2013.” The image of SBA is the steel engraving in vol 1 of “History of Woman Suffrage.”
Today–Dec. 10th–in 1869 legislators in the territory of Wyoming passed a bill granting women the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony was in the gallery of the U. S. House of Representatives during the debate about whether or not to admit the Territory of Wyoming into the Union as a state with woman suffrage in its constitution. Here is an excerpt from my book: “Representative Joseph Washington from Tennessee was ‘unalterably opposed’ because woman suffrage would ‘only end in unsexing and degrading the womanhood of America.’ After haggling for three days, the representatives voted, and Susan finally had the ‘inexpressible pleasure’ of seeing the prosuffrage representative prevail. Next was the fight in the Senate. Senator John Reagan of Texas warned that woman suffrage in Wyoming would ‘make men of women.’ George Vest of Missouri declared it ‘a calamity . . . an absolute crime.’ Nonsense, replied the Wyoming legislators, who unequivocally declared in a telegram that they would ‘remain out of the Union a hundred years rather than come in without woman suffrage.’ That tipped the balance, and a majority of senators voted to admit Wyoming with woman suffrage intact.”
I recently wrote about visiting the museum in the Dominican Republic dedicated to the Mirabal sisters, fighters in the resistance against the dictator Trujillo. I saved a 200 peso with this powerful portrait of them–Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa. Certainly U.S. bills could use female faces! Who would you like to see depicted? (Note: Martha Washington and Pocahontas briefly appeared on a U.S. bill in the 1800s.)
Thanksgiving has a godmother–Sarah Josepha Hale, an influential 19th century magazine editor who warranted her own chapter in my book, “Thanksgiving: The True Story”. Her 40-year campaign culminated in President Lincoln resuming the practice of declaring a national day of Thanksgiving, which was finally made official by an act of Congress in 1941. In my chapter, “Many Meanings, I quote Hale’s meaning: “All its associations are of the best kind. It reunites families and friends. It awakens kindly and generous sentiments. It promotes peace and good-will among our mixed populations.” Thanksgiving, I know, like all holidays, can be complicated, e.g., over the years Linda and I have experienced a house full of people to just the two of us(we freely cooked without regard to anyone else’s preferences). The historic marker is in Newport, NH. What are your meanings? I’d love to hear from you–
Tomorrow–Nov. 25th, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, designated by the United Nations in 1999 in commemoration of the Mirabal sisters: Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa who were murdered on Nov. 25, 1960 because of their bold and fearless opposition to Rafael Trujillo, brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic (1930-1961). Just a few days ago, Linda and I visited friends in the Dominican Republic, who arranged a 10-hour road trip for us to visit the Casa Museo Hermanas Mirabal, a profound experience. The museum, in what was the sisters’ home at the time of their murder, was created by their surviving sister, Dede, to honor her sisters, who were known as las Mariposas, “the butterflies,” in the resistance movement. We viewed personal items, including a wedding dress, embroidery, teacup collection, and artifacts of their murder such as shoes, handbags, and the heartbreaking display–the long braid of hair that Dede cut from Maria Teresa’s head in the morgue. The sisters were survived by their husbands, (one of whom was later killed for his political activism), six young children (Minerva’s daughter is currently a congresswoman), and their mother. Linda took this picture of me looking at busts of Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa.