Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Poem: "Votes for Women"

This poem would have made a great vaudeville skit!

“Votes for Women”
“Wha’s all that noise?” The captain asked
The mate stood by, a-grinnin;
“It’s female women, sir,” he said,
“They’re shoutin’ ‘Votes for Women.’”

“A curse upon them mate” said he,
And sent his wheel a-spinnin,
“Whoever  heard of such a thing
As givin’ votes to women?”


“Go down there,” he commanded,
“An’ clear the bloomin’ cabin.
We’ll ‘ave no blarsted meeting here,
Or cries of ‘Votes for Women.’”

When mate returned he was a sight,
Skirts covered the underpinnin’,
While on his back he wore a sign:
“We’re After Votes for Women.”


The captain quailed before the gaze
Of fifty angry women,
Then quickly dove into the sea,
Where they say he’s still a-swimmin’

Now the moral is, be not too gay
When “knockin”  “Votes for Women,”
For a woman’s wrath is not a thing
At which you should be grinning.

Image result for antique illustration woman sailor



Saturday, November 16, 2019

Suffrage Quilting #2

There is a variation to quilting that we refer to now as a tied quilt; in the past they were often referred to these as comforts or comfortables.  Here is one from my collection:

Around here, women often used pieces of wool or felt to make a fabric button that would inhibit the thread from wearing the quilt down too much.  I don't know if this was done to stabilize quilts in other parts of the country.  The end result is a very heavy and very thick quilt.  

Suffragists didn't just talk about helping society.  They put their money--and often their needles--to achieve the goals.  Here is a touching article  I thought you might appreciate.



Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Night of Terror


November 14, 1917: The Night of Terror

“Never would I recover from this wound, this ugly knowledge I had gained of what men were capable in their treatment of each other.  It was one thing to be writing about these things, to have the theoretical knowledge of sweatshops and injustice and hunger, but it was quite another to experience it in one’s own flesh.”  --Dorothy Day, one of the Silent Sentinels brutalized during the Night of Terror.

Nina Allender's illustration from The Suffragist Newspaper,
November 1917

One hundred and two years ago, 33 women were sent to the Occoquan Workhouse.  They had been charged with obstructing traffic but the real crime was that they were protesting peacefully outside The White House.

  Since January, a steady stream of women had been picketing the White House.  At first they were a novelty to Washingtonians, even featured on tourist tours.  
January 1917


But after the United States entered World War 1, the “Silent Sentinels” were perceived as unpatriotic.  They were clearly an embarrassment to Woodrow Wilson.  By summer they were being arrested for  picketing and often sent to Occoquan Workhouse. 

Deprived of their natural rights—including the right to see their lawyer, mail correspondence, or buy anything for themselves in the prison store, the women considered themselves political prisoners.  By November 14, 1917 the press was already speculating about the health of Alice Paul who had been arrested in October and was on a hunger strike with Rose Winslow and who would soon be joined by Kate Heffelfinger.

The women were made to wait in the warden’s office and not immediately processed into their cells.  When the Superintendant Whittaker (the warden) did come in, he brought along a group of thugs who beat and tortured the women; all accounts that I read stated Superintendant Whittaker directed the whole attack.  

All of the women were sent to the men’s prisons where they had no privacy available to them.  But the beatings and the torture were even worse.
Another illustration by Nina Allender

I saw Dorothy Day brought in.  She is a frail girl.  The two men handling her were twisting her arms above her head.  Then suddenly they lifted her up and banged her down over the arm of an iron bench—twice.  As they ran past me, she was lying there with her arms out, and we heard one of the men yell “The----suffrager!  My mother ain’t no suffrager.  I’ll put you through ----" reported Mrs. Mary Nolan the oldest suffragist of the group at age 73.
Dorothy Day in 1916, she would later co-found the Catholic Worker Movement

Mary Nolan

Once in her room, Mrs. Nolan reported that “Mrs. (Dora) Lewis, doubled over and handled like a sack of something, was literally thrown in.  Her head struck the iron bed.  We thought she was dead.  She didn’t move.  Alice Cosu who was also in the cell was so upset that she had a heart attack and was denied medical assistance.

Dora Lewis upon her release from prison

Alice Cosu

Lucy Burns, the co-founder of the National Woman’s Party was shackled with her arms above her for calling a roll call to see if all the women were present or if something worse had happened to them.  She was also threatened with a straightjacket and gag.
Lucy Burns

When a male doctor did come to see the women later, the women asked for a female doctor and refused to undress in front of him.  Per Lucy Burn’s notes, they “were dragged through halls by force, our clothing removed by force and we were examined…

Most of the women went on hunger strikes.  You can read about the Night of Terror all over the internet.  I wanted you to hear first-hand accounts from the book , Jailed For Freedom  written by Doris Stevens and published in 1920.  It’s free to read on google books. 


But here’s the thing—the women never gave in.  And many of them went right back to the picket line once they were released.  The absolute tenacity of these women was commented on by a government doctor at the workhouse:
Thank you Silent Sentinels.
You are not forgotten.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Happy Birthday Elizabteh Cady Stanton!

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Cady Stanton!
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (holding her daughter Harriet)
1815-1902

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the great leaders of the suffrage movement through the 19th century.  An abolitionist, she was one of the five women who organized the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.

Elizabeth advocated not only for women's suffrage but for women's property rights, custody rights, employment, and temperance.


In 1851 she met Susan B. Anthony and the two became the dynamic duo of suffrage.  Elizabeth often wrote Anthony's speeches, especially after Elizabeth's seven children took up more of her time.  She had a keen intellect and much of her legal knowledge came from being around her father, Judge Daniel Cady, who allowed her to read his law books.

Elizabeth was the first woman to run for Congress in 1866.  She received 24 votes.

She along with Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote a three volume work called History of Women's Suffrage.  

One of her most popular speeches that she gave frequently was called Our Girls.  She gave this speech and variations of it throughout the 1880s.  It has a motherly tone.  Beautifully written, it relayed to young women--and their parents--that women needed an education and the ability to choose their own destiny.  It is notable that both of her daughters finished college and became suffragists  Here is an excerpt; the "they" are girls/young women:  

They have awakened to the fact that they belong to a subject, degraded, ostracized class: that to fulfill their man appointed sphere, they can have no individual character, no life purpose, personal freedom, aim or ambition. They are simply to revolve round some man, to live only for him, in him, with him, to be fed, clothed, housed, guided and controlled by him, to-day by Father or Brother, tomorrow by Husband or Son, no matter how wise or mature, they are never to know the freedom and dignity that one secures in self-dependence and self support. Girls feel all this, though they may never utter it, far more keenly than kind Fathers imagine.

You can read the whole speech here.  

Susan B. Anthony wrote after death, "she forged the lightning bolts" that Anthony fired in her speeches.  Four years later, Susan B. would pass as well.

Ken Burns did a great documentary on the dynamic duo.  It's called "Not for Ourselves Alone:  The story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony" and if you can catch it next year, I suggest you do!

Have a great day!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The League of Women Voters

Today marks the end of our election week special on the blog.


Two groups of suffragists with very different tactics contributed to the passing of the 19th Amendment.  The National Woman's Party (NWP) lobbied for a federal amendment and was headed by Alice Paul.  The other was group was the the National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) an older, more established (and conservative in tactics) organization.  Headed by Carrie Chapman Catt, the NAWSA favored a state by state approach to achieve women's right to vote and was the largest group of suffragists in the country.

After suffrage had been established, the groups disbanded but still differed in their approach to women's rights.  In 1923, Alice Paul drafted the Equal Rights Amendment.  Carrie Chapman Catt had already created her choice to help women, the League of Women Voters.
Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947)

The League of Women Voters was established even before the 19th Amendment was passed and came out of the NAWSA.  Founded February 14, 1920 it was meant to create not only assistance to the new voters of this country but had a wider platform similar to the broader goals of suffrage.  These goals included child labor laws, literacy, equal opportunity for women and a minimum wage.  One of the first victories of this group was the passing of the Sheppard-Towner Act in 1921 which provided federal support for mothers and children; it was the first federal social security act (it expired in 1929).
One of the questions I always ask when I am studying a part of suffrage history is how did this impact women of color?  

After women participated in their first voting election there were multiple reports on how African American women in the south were not allowed to vote.  My answer was found actually on the League of Women Voters' website.  I appreciate that they did not choose to relay a revisionist perspective of their own history.

Chris Carson and Virginia Kase wrote in 2018:  

Last week, Brent Staples of the New York Times published an op-ed titled, How the Suffrage Movement Betrayed Black Women. The League of Women Voters was not mentioned in the piece, but we should have been.

You can read the piece here.


Saturday, November 9, 2019

Ellen Martin Day!

Today is Ellen Martin Day!


Ellen Martin (1847-1917)

Some of you are shy about commenting on the blog but I am enjoying your emails and questions.  On Thursday I actually got a letter!  Barb S. wanted to share the story of women voting in her hometown of Lombard, Illinois!  

Lombard, is a suburb outside of Chicago, Illinois and in 1891, Ellen Martin entered the general store where voting was held and demanded that she be allowed to vote.  She became the first woman to vote in Illinois.  



Ellen Martin was born in New York in 1847, attended college in New York and graduated with a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1875;  a year later she was admitted to the bar in Illinois.  She along with Mary F. Perry had a small law firm in Chicago.  The women commuted from Lombard where they rented rooms to work in the city.



Many sources have pointed out the main challenge that women lawyers faced.  Because they did not have full rights to citizenship and could not vote, they could practice some law but were never really recognized as true lawyers.

On April 6, 1891, Ellen marched into the general store and demanded to vote.  According to one newspaper:

Ellen was prepared for the confrontation:


The last sentence of the description below might be my favorite:


After Ellen had voted, she told 14 women from the town she had done so and they too went to cast their ballot.


The women made headlines not only in Illinois but throughout the midwest:


Ellen and "The Ladies of Lombard" ignited change in their society.  By fall, women were granted the right to vote in school elections.  


Additional but still limited voting rights were enacted in 1913.

By 1919, Legislators were set to vote on the 19th Amendment.  They had hoped to be the first state to radify the amendment (a heartening decision) and joined with Wisconsin and Michigan in approving the amendment on June 10, 1919.  One slight problem with the language of the bill meant they had to repeat the vote a week later.  

Ellen A. Martin has been celebrated in Illinois for her courageous actions.  I found two times that she was honored in Congress.  In 2001 and again in 2019,  Senator Dick Durbin recounted the story of Ellen's tenacity and honored the contributions of women.  In 2001, he wrote:

Ellen Martin refused to be held down by the social and political mores of the day.  She had the courage to challenge and conquer the barriers that attempted to restrict her.  And for her efforts, she won a small but important victory.

In Lombard, Illinois,  April 6 is celebrated as Ellen Martin Day!

Thanks Barb for sharing this wonderful story with us!






Friday, November 8, 2019

"I cannot vote, but I can be voted for."

Belva Ann Lockwood (1830-1917)

On Monday, I wrote about Victoria Woodhull running for president; she is part of our story.  There is some debate as to whether or not she was the first woman to run for office or not.  Technically Woodhull could not become president--she didn't meet the constitutional requirement of being 35 years or older to be president or vice-president.  

Enter Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood.  Belva's life story would make a great movie.  She was born in New York state to a farming couple; widowed twice, she entered college as an adult, fought to enter law school and fought again for the right to try cases before the Supreme Court.  This woman was a force to be reckoned with and I think many of us would find her life story inspiring.

There were times that her presence as a woman lawyer offended the trying judge that she was literally removed from the courtroom.



She was the first woman to try a case before the Supreme Court.

She fought for equal franchise for African Americans and fought alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for woman's suffrage.

She fought for Native American rights and won a five million dollar settlement from the federal government in 1906.

She believed in world peace and co-edited The Peacemaker journal.


In 1884 and again in 1888, she ran for President as the candidate for the National Equal Rights Party.  It's been written that she received over 4,000 votes.  She said at the time, "I cannot vote, but I can be voted for."

A great book on all of Belva's accomplishments is Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President by Jill Nogren (with a forword written by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg!).  I think you will enjoy it greatly.