Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Special New Year’s Card

Holiday card pasted in my grandmother Edna’s scrapbook, 1900.

Who are the new suffragists today?

Women throughout the world who are struggling for recognition, participation in the political process –and freedom in general– they are the new suffragists. Someone to be acknowledged in this area is Ida Lichter, a psychiatrist who lives in Sydney, Australia. Her recent book, Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression, is a carefully researched and illuminating account of what Ida calls “the new suffragists” of today. I highly recommend it.

In a recent email exchange, Ida and I discussed the link between the U.S. suffrage movement and the “new suffragists.” Ida said: “Although there are different campaigns for equal rights in a variety of Muslim countries, I was struck by the passion, courage and determination of many women reformers to achieve equality with men by focusing on the injustice of discriminatory laws. They utilize scholarly exegesis to unmask the egalitarianism they believe to be inherent in the Koran but expunged by a patriarchal, tribal reading. Like the suffragists, they aim to achieve enfranchisement and equal rights, and many women, particularly in Iran, have taken part in well-organized peaceful protests and a One Million Signatures Campaign, risking injury, arrest and detention. They also want an end to the infantilization and idealization that characterized misogyny in the West for centuries and is still prevalent in many Muslim societies. In their quest, they embrace a historic revision of the patriarchy and a new definition of Muslim women by women.”

Ida is on Twitter and I’ve been following her recent posts so that our rich history and tradition can be linked to those struggling in the world today. It’s possible to offer much-needed support inspired by the “Spirit of 1776.”

Why Did The Story About Votes for Women Get Lost?

Check out this three-minute podcast that’s a selection from an interview with performer Gerri Gribi in the “Votes for Women Salon” series. She believes that history is taught in the context of war, not movements for peaceful nonviolent social change, which is one reason why the story of the 19th amendment hasn’t been given its due. The suffrage movement was the fulfillment of the promise of 1776 where the country’s founders declared that all men were created equal. Women wanted to be part of the political process, and they banded together to win the vote.

Find out more about Gerri Gribi online. Stay tuned for other points of view about why the story of the 19th amendment has been lost. What do you think?

A Special Suffrage Christmas Tree!

My grandmother Edna May Buckman was born Christmas day in 1882, the daughter of Charles Harper Buckman and May Phipps Begley.   I found a 1910 article about a Christmas suffrage tree and holiday party that shows how the holiday festivities were tied to the suffrage organizing in New York City and it’s precisely the kind of event Edna and daughter Serena would have enjoyed. The children attending the 1910 suffrage holiday party walked away with candy wrapped in suffrage colors and a Votes for Women button.

Did the Suffragettes Sing When They Marched In Parades?

You bet they did, says performer Gerri Gribi. Listen to a two-minute segment of a longer audio interview with Gerri where she discusses the role of music in suffrage activism. Gerri performs suffrage songs for audiences across the country during special programs and celebrations highlighting the suffrage movement and other occasions related to women’s social and musical history. Songs were important in parades. At special teas and receptions it wasn’t uncommon to have a woman performer either sing or play a musical instrument.

The Film “Mary Poppins” and History

Sister Suffragette scene from film "Mary Poppins"

The song “Sister Suffragette” in a clip from the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins represents an introduction to women’s history for many. It has been used in lesson plans, as well as to refer to the English suffrage movement. It’s worth revisiting the scene through YouTube: “Sister Suffragete Sing Along,” the written lyrics, or a more sober clip of news commentary such as “Who were the suffragettes?”

My Mother Would Be 90 years Old This Year

My mother –Wilma Buckman Kearns– was born within a week of that historic day in November 1920 when ALL American women voted for the first time. Wilma’s mother, Edna Buckman Kearns, was a New York State suffragist who had spent more than a decade of her life, working full time on Votes for Women. And instead of being able to fulfill the hopes and dreams of the suffragists, my own mother would face the Crash of 1929, the Great Depression, World War II, and raising children during the 1950s and 1960s. It was a difficult time to be a strong independent woman. It took me years to fully appreciate the strong shoulders on which I stand. Wilma played a key role in preserving her mother’s suffrage campaign wagon.  She passed away in November of 1997.

What Was a Popular and Amusing Suffrage Song?

Do you have three minutes free to listen? A three-minute selection from an interview with performer Gerri Gribi highlights a song that could have you singing along within minutes. It sums up some of the arguments Votes for Women advocates had thrown at them. If you have a little more time, check in with the longer interview on the “Votes for Women Salon” series. And take a look at Gerri’s web site. It has free mp3 downloads, words to suffrage songs, and many links to resources.

What if They Held a Parade and No one Showed Up?

This “Sixty-Second History Lesson” highlights how suffragist Alice Paul took up the challenge of organizing a Votes for Women parade in 1913 in the nation’s capitol. It was a delicate, and some would say an impossible task–to organize a successful parade as the city geared up for the inauguration of a U.S. president, Woodrow Wilson.

Alice’s intention was, not only for the parade to be politically effective, but for it to be an art form. Paul’s intention was described in a letter to a friend:  “Therefore, while we want, of course, marchers, above all things, we are endeavoring to make the procession a particularly beautiful one, so that it will be noteworthy on account of its beauty even if we are not able to make it so on account of its numbers.” The beauty and art of the parade were set into motion, but as it turned out – the city and its inhabitants weren’t in the mood to respond in quite the way Alice Paul had imagined.

Partnership Requires “Whole People”

The performer Gerri Gribi tells the story behind the song “Whole People” that goes to the heart of what’s needed if we’re going to heal the earth. Gerri’s the featured interview in the “Votes for Women Salon” audio series. It’s worth sitting down and listening to the 40 minutes of the entire interview with Gerri Gribi.

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An “unprecedented moment”

Relationships between men and women have been getting a lot of play. At a TED conference in Washington this week, the speakers lined up to present a wide range of points of view. Conference speaker Hannah Rosin noted that the present time is “an unprecedented moment when the power dynamics between men and women are shifting.” Women constitute the majority of the work force and they dominate the professions of medicine, the law and accounting, she said. The entire CNN article has a lineup of surprising perspectives worth checking out.

More Holiday Gift Ideas

The shop at the National Women’s Hall of Fame is loaded with gift ideas for the girls and women in your life. Take a look at books, bookmarks, puzzles, buttons, calendars, card games, t-shirts, postcards, baby items and DVDs. Also, you can head over to ebay and type in Votes for Women. Original postcards are reasonably priced and there’s a lot of stuff for collectors who won’t be able to resist some of the offerings.

Yanking Your Vote Away With a Smile. . .

This isn’t a skit on Comedy Central. Judson Phillips isn’t joking when he proposes that only property owners should be able to vote in U.S. elections. The Tea Party founder has been floating this trial balloon recently to see if the idea will sink or swim. It sounds more like a temper tantrum than a serious proposal. Yes –a temper tantrum where Phillips is shaking his fist and stomping his feet because the population is becoming increasingly diverse and all sorts of people are becoming empowered, especially at the polls.

Come to think of it, a healthy proportion of the people on my holiday card list this year would  be turned away on election day under Phillips’ plan. This would include highly-mobile professionals, renters, city dwellers, women, the young, students, the retired and those downsizing in the current recession for any number of reasons. Apparently the idea of redefining voting rights has juice among those who either have no idea of the great sacrifice that was involved with the major civil rights struggles of the 20th century (of which woman’s suffrage was significant), or they simply couldn’t care less because of their personal and political agendas.

“strong, courageous, capable young women will take our place…”

Susan B. Anthony: “We little dreamed when we began this contest, optimistic with the hope and buoyancy of youth, that half a century later we would be compelled to leave the finish of the battle to another generation of women. But our hearts are filled with joy to know that they enter upon this task equipped with a college education, with business experience, with the fully admitted right to speak in public –all of which were denied to women fifty years ago. They have practically but one point to gain –the suffrage; we had all. These strong, courageous, capable young women will take our place and complete our work. There is an army of them where we were but a handful.”