Remembering Fannie Lou Hamer, fearless civil rights and anti-poverty
activist, who died today – March 14th – in 1977. Her iconic words – “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired” – are on her gravestone. One of the first women I wrote about, I was – still am – inspired by listening to recordings of her singing and speaking. Her voice “made them brave” said activists who shared the struggle with her. “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free,” said Fannie Lou Hamer. The image of the statue representing Fannie Lou Hamer is in Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial Garden, Ruleville, MI. It’s on my list of places to visit.
Remembering Fannie Lou Hamer, fearless civil rights and anti-poverty
“There’s no end to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Florence Luscomb, passionate suffragist and social reformer and among the first women graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with architecture degree.
“There are flowers in our woods!” Linda exclaimed as she went out the back door this morning. Got my shoes, my camera and out I went–snowdrops! One of my favorite childhood memories is my mother’s ritual of looking for the first signs of Spring – the emergence of snowdrops!
Today-March 8th – is International Women’s Day, a day of world-wide events to celebrate social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. IWD dates back to 1908 and a march by thousands of women workers. That same year Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance meeting in Amsterdam, declared: “We oppose a common enemy whose name is not man, but conservatism. Its weapons are the same in all lands – tradition, prejudice and selfishness. We too have a common weapon – an appeal to justice and fair play.” The day was named in 1909 and widely celebrated by 1911, the year of the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City that killed 146 girls and women.
Doing research & just discovered this quote by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, better known today for her short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” but for my purposes more important is her suffrage activism, highly influential book “Women and Economics,” and suffrage poetry. Here’s the quote, still relevant today, I think: “To swallow and follow, whether old doctrines or new propaganda, is a weakness still dominating the human mind.”
Mary McLeod Bethune: Educator, Civil Rights Activist, Presidential Advisor; Park and Plaque, Mayesville, SC; Statue, Lincoln Park and House, 1318 Vermont St. NE Washington, D.C.; House & Street, Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, FL; Nannie Burroughs: Educator, Businesswoman, Religious Leader; Street Name, exit off Rte. 295 and School, 601 50th St. NE, Washington, DC Septima Poinsette Clark: Civil Rights Activist, Teacher; Monument, end of Calhoun St., Charleston, SC Ella Fitzgerald: Jazz Singer, “First Lady of Song”; Statue, main entrance, Amtrak/Metro-North Railroad Station, Yonkers, NY Clara Hale: Humanitarian; House, Sculpture, 154 W. 122 St, New York, NY Fannie Lou Hamer: Civil Rights Activist, Poor People’s Advocate; Statue and Memorial Garden, Ruleville, MI Barbara Jordan: Lawyer, Civil Rights Activist, Politician; Statues, University of Texas, and Airport, Street Name, Schools, Austin, TX; Bust, Chapman University, Orange, CA Daisy E. Lampkin: Civil Rights Activist; Marker, 2519 E. Webster Av, Pittsburgh, PA Sojourner Truth: Orator, Abolitionist, Women’s Rights Advocate; Statue, Florence, MA; Statue and Historic Marker, Battle Creek, MI; Statue, Esopus, NY; Marker, Courthouse, Kingston, NY; Bust, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. Harriet Tubman, Abolitionist, Scout, Spy, Nurse; Statue, 122nd St and Frederick Douglass Blvd., New York, NY; Statue, Boston, MA; Statue, Ypsilanti, MI; Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, Maryland; Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, Cayuga County, NY; Plaque, City Hall, Auburn, NY Madam C. J. Walker, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Museum & Theater, Indianapolis, IN, Historic Marker, Irvington On Hudson, NY; Maggie Walker: Businesswoman, First Woman Banker, Historic Site and Museum, 600 N 2nd St., Richmond, Viriginia Phillis Wheatley, Poet; Statue, Commonwealth Ave. between Gloucester St. and Fairfield, Boston, MA; Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Composer & Pianist, Marker, 328 Lincoln Ave., Pittsburgh, PA
Re women’s fight to participate in the political arena, e.g., winning the right to vote: Today, 2/16, in 1904, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to hear testimony in support of a 16th Amendment, enfranchising women. Referring to the first congressional hearing granted in 1869, Susan B. Anthony said: “Of all those who spoke here then I am the only one living today and I shall not be able to come much longer.” Then one by one, she introduced the esteemed activists, including a woman from Australia, where women had already won the vote, who said: “It seems very odd to me to come to America to speak on self-government.” In closing, SBA pointed out that she had “appealed to committees of seventeen Congresses.” She urged that this one would make a favorable report. Not surprisingly the committee didn’t even bother to issue a report. Congress would pass three more amendments (income tax, direct election of senators, prohibition) before approving the 19th: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The image is a 1905 cartoon of SBA’s response to former President Grover Cleveland’s anti-woman suffrage article, published in the “Ladies Home Journal,” depicted rolled up under SBA’s arm.
Today, the 15th of February, I’m wishing Happy Birthday to Susan B. Anthony who was born on that date in 1820, almost two hundred years ago. With her erect posture, dark-brown hair, steely eyes, a bump on the bridge of her thin, arched nose, and a fearless personality, Susan B. Anthony was a formidable fighter for equality and justice. As a lecturer against slavery, she was encountered hostile crowds (once a maraudering mob burned an effigy of her). As a co-leader, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, of the movement for women’s rights, she was ridiculed, reviled, scorned and snubbed. In the early days, she later recalled, it felt like “the whole world was against” them. Mobs of hissing, hooting, bellowing hostile spectators would disrupt women’s rights conventions. Politician, preachers, reporters, and a vociferous assortment of foes hurled slurs, and false claims. Very few people were wishing Susan B. Anthony a Happy Birthday on February 15th.
But over the years people started changing their minds about Susan B. Anthony. For her fiftieth birthday, hundreds of admirers attended a festive celebration, despite a torrential rainstorm, and honored her with gifts, speeches and poems. Even more people attended her seventieth birthday party. Gifts were piled high. Seventy pink carnations were presented to her. Toasts were made. Telegrams, cablegrams, and letters were read. A huge crowd celebrated her on her eightieth birthday. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote a witty poem with lines describing their speaking tours: “From sleigh, ox-carts, and mayhap coaches./Besieged with beetles, bugs, and roaches:/All this for the emancipation/Of the brave women of our Nation.” Eighty children, one by one, laid a single red rose on her lap.
Susan B. Anthony’s last birthday celebration, her eighty-sixth, was held in 1906. Addressing the gathering, she declared that in the on-going fight for women’s right to vote—“failure is impossible.” Those now iconic words—“Failure is impossible”—were the last ones spoken by the esteemed Susan B. Anthony in public. She died at her home in Rochester, New York on March 13, 1906. Today Susan B. Anthony’s birthday, February 15, is an official state holiday in California, Florida, Wisconsin, New York, and in West Virginia, where it is celebrated on Election Day in even years. Efforts to make it a national holiday have failed in the U.S. Congress, but many people support the idea, including me. How about you?
Happy Birthday, Susan B. Anthony!
The price of buying Valentine cards for grandchildren and each other prompted me to wonder: Who turned expressing love with cards into a big business? Credit goes to Esther Howland, known as the “Mother of the American Valentine.” On this day in 1849 in Worcester, MA, Esther Howland sold the first American-made valentines that she created, inspired by an elegant one made in England that a friend had sent her. Creating cards that sold from five cents to fifty dollars, Howland created the New England Valentine Company. The picture is one of her creations.