Saturday, August 31, 2019

Bread and Roses: Celebrating Labor Day Weekend, 2019

An interesting collaboration was the National Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) formed in 1903.  It joined working women and affluent women (often referred by the press as the "mink brigade") to abolish poor sweatshop conditions and support women's union.  This group helped create the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.  It also supported the American Federation of Labor towards a pro-suffrage position and recognition of the plight of women workers.

The WTUL supported women's suffrage and often in their magazine, Life and Labor, they published articles about enfranchisement.  Women's suffrage was viewed by this group as a critical way of gaining laws and regulations to protect workers.  Rose Schneiderman was a critical force in suffrage for working women.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire underlined the differences in labor and the mink brigade.  The best analogy I can give you is a comment that was made to me a few decades ago in Russia.  I was admiring the little gardens outside of Moscow and remarked that I loved gardening.  My friend made a comment that I never forgot:  "You garden for pleasure," she said.  "We grow vegetables for survival." 

So too during one memorial after the fire when labor leader, Rose Schneiderman emphasized the plight of  workers vs. the mink brigade.  The mink brigade felt the solution was a fire prevention bureau.  Working women felt there was a need for class solidarity of the workers.  You can read Schneiderman's moving comments here.

Schneiderman gave a critical speech in Indiana in 1912 and used the phrase "Bread and Roses" for the labor movement.  It became a rallying cry for the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike in Massachusetts.  Schneiderman said:

What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist--the right to life as the rich woman has the right to life, and the sun and music and art.  You have nothing that the humblest worker has not a right to have also.  The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.  Help you women of privilege, give her the ballot to fight with.

Another poem with the name "Bread and Roses" by James Oppenhiem was written a year before and became a favorite.  You can read it here.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a member of the WTUL and was so generous to the group that they nicknamed her their "fairy godmother".

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Antis #3: The Treacherous Trap

Yesterday I reported about how cordial the Antis and Suffragists were at the Allentown Fair.  Only a year later, an incident occurred that showed the conniving of some Antis.

1915 was a huge year for Pennsylvania suffragists.  Along with New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts, a referendum for woman's suffrage had been scheduled.  All that was needed in Pennsylvania was for (male) voters to support the referendum in November.  There was a huge push by suffragists that year to gain the support of men.  

During the late l9th and early 20th century, working women and labor groups aligned themselves with women's suffrage.  David Williams was a labor leader in the Lehigh Valley.  A leader in the famous 1910 Bethlehem Steel Strike, he was also a socialist and a supporter of women's suffrage.  At the time of this event, he was also running for Allentown School Director.

And then this happened:

The front page headline was scandalous enough to ruin any aspiring politician's future.   A warrant had been made out for Williams after a complaint by a Mr. Borton who said Williams was in an illicit relationship with his wife.  Williams had been caught red handed in the woman's room. 

 And if all that wasn't enough, Mrs. Borton was a suffragist working in Allentown.  Her behaviour seemed to illustrate every Antis suspician about corrupt women in the suffrage movement. Oh the Scandal!  

But as the story unfolded during the next few weeks, a seemingly simple end to Mr. Williams' career and the suffragists' cause turned out to be an elaborate plot of treachery:  

Suffragists weighed in on the despicable action:

A month later, three men and the two women detectives were charged for conspiracy and criminal libel--including Mr. Borton.  And as it turned out, Mr. Borton was not married to the woman in the room.  I know the libel complaint was settled out of court but the conspiracy charge dragged on for years and it seemed to disappear after the U.S. entered World War 1.

Image result for anti suffragists ostrich

I am sure you are wondering what happened to poor David Williams.  A man's reputation was EVERYTHING and a scandal like this could have destroyed his future.

Mr. Williams did overcome the scandal.  He had an illustrious career despite the conspiracy and was named Director of the Industrial Relations for the state by Governor Pinchot in 1925.  His career continued and in 1931, he was hired to work in the U.S. Department of Labor and held other various positions as a labor leader.

Despite the fact that the Antis reputation had been tarnished by this episode, the Antis scandal did not help the cause of suffrage.  Pennsylvania women did NOT gain the right to vote in the 1915 referundum.  The eastern part of the state voted firmly against suffrage. 

I know that some of you will find that surprising. Philadelphia saloon keepers and brewery owners had waged their own war on suffrage fearing that women voting would leave to prohibition--which of course it eventually did.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Antis #2

Today is the first day of the Great Allentown Fair!  

I used to regularly attend the fair until I had an allergic reaction to the straw/hay that tends to be around the animals and other areas.  I still like to collect artifacts from the fair and have some nice pieces like these shams:

 The shams earned Second Premium:

Early in the 19th century, socialites organized into two camps: those who supported women's suffrage and of course, the Antis.  Back then, organizations were set up booths at local fairs to gather support for their cause.  For at least one year, the Antis and the Suffragists seemed to arrive at a detente.

All seemed right with the between the two groups.  Or was it?  Things would change the following year and I'll write about that tomorrow. 
Have a good day!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Batik Winner

Diann is the winner of the Batik drawing!  Congratulations!  Please email me your address at

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Anti-Suffragists #1

In the late 19th century as women's suffrage began to get popular another group emerged as well:   the Anti-suffragists.  Often referred to as the Antis, this group was comprised of both women and men who opposed women's suffrage.  The Antis opposed all women's suffrage and warned of all kinds of disasters.

 Home life would surely suffer:


Corruption of women:
Image result for anti-suffragist when women vote

Children will suffer!

Men will have to care for their children
(oh the horror!):
Image result for suffragist anti this ain't no mans job

The images were often violent towards women and ironically illustrated why women needed the vote:
Image result for suffragist anti peace at last Image result for suffrage and what I would do with suffragists

The rhetoric of the Antis was equally disturbing.  Five years before the first Silent Sentinel was arrested,  a Philadelphia Anti-Suffragist made front page headlines:

Per Mrs. Cassatt:

Well there you have it.  The end of the civilization as we know it.
One of the best responses to this kind of rhetoric occurred in the late 19th century when the Antis were organizing:
We'll be talking about the Antis again but for today, just remember this is the last day to compete for the batik giveaway.  I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Suffrage & Sewing Circles #1

I found a number of suffrage sewing groups that you might find of interest.  Some of the articles were very small and just mentioned in passing that "sewing at suffrage headquarters was resumed today.  Daily sessions will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. " (New York, 1918 and it is possible women were making things for the war effort--as in World War 1).  A pre-war article from Brooklyn simply stated that the "Oceanside Suffrage Sewing Circle meets at Columbia Engine House." 

Here is a group I found in my hometown of Allentown PA in 1917:


Local readers of this blog may be intrigued as well as why the society was called the "Amoskeag Sewing Society."  I wonder as well!

Amoskeag was a textile mill in New Hampshire and Amoskeag also made machinery.  A variety of sources indicated that Amoskeag made sewing machines.  It's difficult to find an actual old sewing machine brand with Amoskeag on it but I know that at least one of their sewing machines (for shoe makers) featured a name called McKay.   I know a number of women who are fans of the Featherweight and are in groups that celebrate the machine.  Perhaps these women were fans of an Amoskeag sewing machine?  

The factory boasted a textile club which gave a variety of lessons and apparently had many members but I'm skeptical that impacted the young women in Allentown PA.

My bet is on the thing that all sewing folk love:  fabric.

 Amokseag is most known for textile factories.  During our By the Chimney No More program, we discuss fabric choices during the early twentieth century.  Gingham fabrics were very popular and apparently Amoskeag ginghams were desirable in our town:

Add for Leh's Department Store above and below, note Amoskeag gingham

Chambray was also a favored fabric during this time period and was also one of the textiles that Amoskeag produced:

A variety of Amoskeag fabric was sold locally including flannels, seersuckers, and chambrays:

Maybe the women in this sewing circle had a preference to Amoskeag fabric?

I even wondered if the women worked in a textile factory which used Amoskeag machinery but that seems unlikely.  Edna and Florence Fry were well-to-do women; their father owned a large furniture store in town.

Whatever the reason, the young women of this group were interested in suffrage and willing to publicize the cause.

Remember the batik giveaway contest is going until Saturday (see previous post).

Have a great day!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Trip Around the World & Batik Giveaway!

I've been asked "where was women's suffrage granted first in the world?"  It's a tricky answer.  Some places granted women the right to vote conditionally for example, the woman had to be a land owner or a widow, and there were always special stipulations on their vote. A woman might only be able to vote in local or school elections and yet not legally be able to run for office.  Other areas, including some states here in the U. S. briefly granted women the right to vote and then rescinded enfranchisement shortly afterwards. 
New Zealand Suffragist Mary Ann Mueller (1820-1901).

New Zealand is generally regarded as the first independent colony to provide universal suffrage in 1893; however it waould be another 26 years before women there could run for office.  New Zealand remains a front runner in women's equality.  Women there have the smallest gender gap in wages--at 5.6%  Here in the United States, the pay gap is 20%  and is behind Rwanda, Cuba, Phillippines, and Jamaica.

Not too far away in Cooks Islands, women were also granted the right to vote in the same year.  Coincidentally, it was the same year that Colorado granted women enfranchisment; the territory of Wyoming had already granted women the right to vote in 1869.

In Australia, women were given the vote in 1902.  Like the United States, some states in Australia passed suffrage before that date.

Cover of  "The Maid's Journal"  
Finland's suffrage movement had deep roots in the women's labor movement.

Finland (at this point part of the Russian Empire and called the Duchy of Finland) is generally recognized as the first European region to grant women's suffrage and allow women to also stand for office in 1906.  
A year later, 13 women were elected to parliament.

Close up images of South American Arpilleras.

In 1911, the first woman to vote in South America was Julieta Lanteri.

Lanteri was a physician, a social reformer, and woman's activist.  She actually voted for the legislature in Buenos Aires--mostly due to an error in the written constitution that did not stipulate gender.  Although she won this victory, universal suffrage for women was not enacted in Argentina until 1947.  
Carolina Beatriz Angelo was also a physician.
A similar situation occurred in Portugal the same year.  The law was rewritten after Carolina Beatriz Angelo voted.

Line Luplau (foreground) and Danish suffragists

In 1915, Denmark and Iceland (Iceland was part of Denmark at that time) granted women the right to vote.  Many countries followed during the next few years including the United States in 1920.  Countries that allowed women to vote before the U.S. included Russia, Afghanistan, Armenia, Belgium, Hungary,  and Southern Rhodesia.

Image result for canadian suffragist
Our sisters in Canada were like Australia and the United States in that certain provinces had suffrage until the last hold-out, Quebec, passed suffrage in 1940.

Nellie McClung, Canadian suffragist

Beth's birthday was this past Thursday and to celebrate we are giving away ONE DOZEN batik fat quarters in her favorite color, blue.  

To enter the giveaway, you must be a follower of the blog AND we would like you to comment as part of our "Trip Around the World" theme, tell us a bit about your location.  You have until next Saturday, August 24 to comment.  The lucky winner will be announced on Monday, August 26. 

Good luck!