Monday, October 24, 2005

Some women

Julia is doing very well in her first women's studies class. I thought of this fact on seeing a link to the review in Mother Jones noted below. The review highlights the lives of the revolutionary Americans who fought for elementary constitutional rights throughout the 19th century. They were most various and distinctly individual, disciplined in their commitment but not conformist.

The book's author, Jean Baker, got her undergraduate degree at Goucher and now has an endowed chair in its history department. She's also author of Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography and The Stevensons of Illinois: A Biography of an American Family.

I found the two images I reproduce below on the LC web site. Both from 1919, the first is a piece of anti-suffrage propaganda: sheet music for a song connecting patriotism with the traditional homemaking role of wives. I wonder whether the Bagaduce music library, where Ernie volunteers, has this item.

The second image, another kind of propaganda, shows Alice Paul marking progress in passage of the right-to-vote amendment. I like the informality of this photo and the way it captures the individuality of the women pictured. I've quoted some information about Alice Paul from the Mother Jones review, below.

"Wifey is a Real Suffragette", Chicago: Delmar Music Company, 1919

National Woman's Party activists watch Alice Paul sew a star onto the NWP Ratification Flag, representing another state's ratification of the 19th Amendment - also 1919

Here is a link to the Mother Jones review and some extracts:

When Sisterhood Was Powerful, a review of
Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists By Jean H. Baker. Hill and Wang. $25
Diane E. Dees
October 12 , 2005


Reading Jean H. Baker's Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists, makes the reader wonder how any of the five profiled women, working independently and together from the mid-1840s to 1920, managed to go on from year to year.

Baker successfully weaves the suffragists' colorful personal lives with their often harrowing political experiences.

Alice Paul of New Jersey, author of the Equal Rights Amendment and founder of the National Woman's Party, who—born in 1885—emerged as a leader after the other four had died. Baker's task of revealing the suffragists' personal lives becomes somewhat difficult in this case, for Paul apparently had no personal relationships of any kind, but was totally dedicated to scholarship and feminism. Inspired by the Pankhursts in England, Paul was thrown repeatedly into a fetid prison and brutally force-fed because she publicly defied President Woodrow Wilson's refusal to support suffrage. To make matters worse, she also actively exposed Wilson's hypocrisy: He told the nation that he worked for a "new organization of society," yet he turned his back on the suffrage movement. He told the suffragists that he had to follow the Democratic Party platform, yet he repeatedly reversed it when he wanted to. Paul and her followers stood outside the White House on several occasions and heckled the president, whom Paul nicknamed "Kaiser Wilson." Paul was shunned by the NAWSA because of her public feud with Wilson, yet there is no doubt that, without her continuous protests, the Nineteenth Amendment would not have been ratified in 1920.

Lucy Stone, in her typically frank manner, said: "I care less and less which triumphs—freedom or slavery. In either case all the women of the land are yet subjects ruled over by the white male population."

[It was] Lucy Stone, who, at the age of sixty-two, having fought for the right to vote in local elections, gave up that right in an election in Massachusetts because the commissioners illegally insisted she use the name of her husband.

Frances Willard, who as the head of Evanston Ladies College of Northwestern, was America's first female college president, became famous as the president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, founded in 1873 and still in existence. Willard was also a feminist, and campaigned for suffrage because of women's lack of "home protection" from abusive men. Though her narrow concerns did not appeal to more radical feminists like Cady Stanton, she was nevertheless able to recruit three hundred thousand women to her cause, and her labor drew the admiration of Susan B. Anthony.

Willard's personal life was especially interesting. She had the heartbreaking experience of falling love with a woman who instead chose to marry Willard's brother. Willard later became deeply involved with another woman, and later, another, and spent the rest of her life living with both of them, making even this seemingly more conventional feminist a sexual iconoclast.

Anthony, for her part, never married, and held her marrying sisters in disdain, not only because caring for a husband and children took away time and energy she thought should be devoted to the suffrage movement, but because, according to the law, wives were quite explicitly the property of their husbands.

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