Monthly Archives: July 2013

New York State suffrage leader Harriet May Mills was at 108 Madison Avenue in NYC on July 1, 1913 to see off the “Spirit of 1776″ wagon

HarrietMayMillsOne hundred years ago, the hardy band of suffrage activists were still busy traveling throughout Long Island. It’s difficult to know exactly how many people saw them off from the NYS Woman Suffrage Association at 108 Madison Avenue on July 1st, even though newspaper reports said the event stressed the capacity of the meeting room at the state headquarters while the horse and the “Spirit of 1776″ horse-drawn wagon waited outside to take Edna Kearns, Serena Kearns, and Irene Davison on a month-long campaign.

State suffrage association president Harriet May Mills orchestrated the presentation ceremony. She may not be the best-known suffrage leader in the state, but she was a hard worker and dedicated. Here’s a little that I’ve gathered to fill out Harriet’s life and career: Harriet May Mills House. LINK. Rivalry over state suffrage politics.  #1. #2. Harriet May Mills, editor of suffrage news. #1. #2. The Freethought Trail. #1. #2. Harriet May Mills biography. #1.  The parents of Harriet May Mills. #1. #2. Harriet May Mills grave.  #1. #2. 1913 Brooklyn suffrage parade. #1. #2. Letter to NY Times. #1. #2. Harriet May Mills news photo.  #1.  #2. 1910 lobbying in Albany for suffrage.  #1.  Suffrage debate.  #1. #2. 1911 lobby day at the state capitol. #1.  State suffrage association incorporation. #1.  A woman ahead of her time.  #1. #2.

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The”Spirit of 1776″ suffrage wagon travels on: a suffrage centennial

One hundred years ago, all through the month of July 1913, the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage wagon traveled for freedom throughout Long Island (NY). A quick overview of what happened during this suffrage centennial observance in 2013 can be seen through videos, special postings, and the story of the resolution that passed both houses of the New York State Legislature on June 18, 2013 designating July 1, 2012 the “Spirit of 1776″ Wagon Day in NYS. It’s a suffrage centennial celebration that brings the story home to us today.

Video about legislative resolution for the “Spirit of 1776″ resolution. Video about the 165th anniversary year for the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848.

About Edna Kearns: her life and her travels with the “Spirit of 1776.” About the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage wagon. Ode to the Wagon video. About Suffrage Wagon News Channel. The archives, so you can catch up on what you missed. Audio highlights. The Suffrage Wagon media room. Edna Kearns’ family members chime in. Visit Seneca Falls, NY. Other news items that are special for this suffrage centennial celebration. Find out about Votes for Women 2020.

Follow Suffrage Wagon News Channel for news, views, events, suffrage centennials, and more. Image: The “Spirit of 1776″ on exhibit for six months at the state Capitol in Albany, NY during 2012.

Coming soon: the Suffrage Wagon Cooking School.

Mystery with a side of history: Seneca Falls Inheritance

by Tara Bloyd

Seneca Falls InheritanceSeneca Falls Inheritance, by Miriam Grace Monfredo (Berkley Prime Crime; published 1994)

For once I’m not reviewing a children’s book – what fun!  This light mystery-with-a-side-of-history takes place in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, at the start of the women’s rights movement in the United States.  Glynis Tryon, the town librarian, is the perfect protagonist to introduce readers to social issues, historical details, and real-life characters (including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass).  And oh yeah, there’s a few murders thrown in for the fun of it.  This wasn’t the absolute best mystery I’ve ever read, but it was quite enjoyable. I definitely recommend reading Seneca Falls Inheritance if you’re looking for a diverting story and gentle introduction to the suffrage movement.

Thirty-year-old Glynis Tryon has chosen to remain unwed, largely because of the many difficulties inherent in marriage in the mid-nineteenth century.  Monfredo writes that “The choices were limited: marriage and dependence, or Oberlin College and freedom.  There were no confusing alternatives.  Women did one or the other.  They usually got married.  Simple.”  Simple though the choice may have been, Glynis doesn’t live without regrets.  She just can’t see any other way.  Through her observations and experiences we see how little power women had to change circumstances ranging from abuse to alcoholic husbands to poverty.   We realize how common – and legal – domestic violence was, and also recognize the existence of racism and other social issues.  The frequent death of women from self-induced abortions – more even than from childbirth – and the existence of “no reliable method to avoid pregnancy, no safe way to abort one” is mentioned, as is the controversy about using anesthesia during labor.  (Women, after all, are meant to suffer in labor.)

Historical characters mingle with fictional ones throughout the book, giving the book extra verisimilitude and adding interest as well.  In a discussion Glynis has with Elizabeth Cady Stanton about a meeting to discuss women’s rights (the meeting that was to become the Seneca Falls Convention), the following conversation takes place:

Elizabeth Stanton sat back against the chair and sighed.  “We’ve talked of this before,” she said, “and I know you feel women’s suffrage is the ultimate goal, as I do.  But most women I’ve talked with are afraid asking for the vote is an extreme position.”

“I know that without the vote we will forever be asking!” Glynis said.  She got to her feet and went to the window.  The abolitionists were justifiably questioning why human beings should be enslaved, denied legal rights, because of their color.  Why couldn’t it also be asked: should human beings be denied legal rights because of their gender?  Weren’t women without those rights also in a sense enslaved?  Her opinion of male beneficence was not so high she couldn’t see that.

 “In my mind,” Glynis said, returning to her desk, “the vote should be the first and only goal now, otherwise it will take years of pleading and petitioning to achieve the others.[…]”

 “But you are one of the few who feel that way,” Elizabeth said, “at least at this time.  Which is why it is so important to bring women together.  For discussion and planning.  And education.  Next month,” she went on, “Lucretia Mott – she’s a Quaker minister, you know, an abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights – will be with mutual friends in Waterloo.  I hope to see her and suggest the idea of a meeting.  With her help, I think we can do it.”

Monfredo makes it clear in this conversation and elsewhere that asking for the vote is a truly radical idea, one which many women oppose because they think it’s simply too audacious.  As hard as that is to imagine now, it was reality in 1848.  Elizabeth Stanton talks about her husband’s dislike of her interest in women’s rights, as he believes she is abandoning the abolition cause; she angrily discusses the fact that women were instrumental in the early years of the fight for abolition but are being discouraged from taking part in public debate.  Glynis thinks to herself “Won’t it be interesting […] when the men who believe women fit only for the drudge work of male campaigns learn those same women have been honing their skills for a battle of their own.”

Besides occasionally considering the tea party that sparked the social revolution, the period before the Convention is generally disregarded; I particularly appreciate that this book encompasses the issues and mindsets during that oft-overlooked timeframe.  I also love the many historical details.  The description of a dinner eaten at the local fancy hotel is beyond interesting; not only was I driven to learn what the word “kickshaw” meant (a fancy but insubstantial cooked dish), but I also reacquainted myself with the wide variety of dishes served in such a situation: “The roast course arrived: an immense silver platter of carved spring chicken, ham, crisp golden-brown canvasback duck, green goose, and sirloin of beef trimmed with parsley.  This was accompanied by mashed potatoes, asparagus, green beans, and parsnips.”  Bear in mind that that’s just one part of the meal!

The historical notes in the back of the book are fascinating.  I was quite intrigued by the Cult of Single Blessedness.   Monfredo writes that “As developed from 1810 through 1860, the main principles of the single blessedess philosophy were to encourage the single life as a socially and personally valuable state, and to inspire the search for eternal happiness through the acceptance of a higher calling than marriage.” Here’s a bit of information about the Cult of Single Blessedness if you, like me, want to learn more.

You may notice that I haven’t discussed the mystery.  That’s because, to me, it seemed incidental to the rest of the story.  The historical vignettes, the interactions between characters, the buildup to the Convention and description of what happened at it (including the fact that the door to the Methodist church where the Convention was held was locked and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s nephew had to be lifted through a window so he could open the door from the inside) – all those interested me much more than the whodunit part.  That’s not to say that the mystery aspects were poorly written, just that I found them the least compelling part of the book!

Seneca Falls Inheritance is a fun book, a good read, and a gentle introduction to the suffrage movement in the mid-1800s.  Like the best novels, it teaches without being didactic and it leaves you wanting more.  I look forward to reading the rest of Miriam Grace Monfredo’s works.++

Did you see the video about the Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls? It’s from Suffrage Wagon News Channel.

Spirit of 1776: Part II by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Women's 4th of JulyThe continuing story of the suffragists’ protest at the nation’s 1876 celebration of the Declaration of Independence, held in Philadelphia. This year is the 165th anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention. Let’s celebrate!

by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Among the most enjoyable experiences at our headquarters were the frequent visits of our beloved Lucretia Mott, who used to come from her country home bringing us eggs, cold chicken, and fine Oolong tea. As she had presented us with a little black teapot that, like Mercury’s mysterious pitcher of milk, filled itself for
every coming guest, we often improvised luncheons with a few friends. At parting, Lucretia always made a contribution to our depleted treasury.

Here we had many prolonged discussions as to the part we should take on the Fourth of July in the public celebration. We thought it would be fitting for us to read our Declaration of Rights immediately after that of the Fathers was read, as an impeachment of them and their male descendants for their injustice and oppression. Ours contained as many counts, and quite as important, as those against King George in 1776. Accordingly, we applied to the authorities to allow us seats on the platform and a place in the program of the public celebration, which was to be held in the historic old Independence Hall. As General Hawley
was in charge of the arrangements for the day, I wrote to him as follows:

143 1 Chestnut Street, July 1, 1876.
General Hawley.

Honored Sir, — As President of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, I am authorized to ask you for tickets to the platform, at Independence Hall, for the celebration on the Fourth of July. We should like to have seats for at least one representative woman from each State. We also ask your permission to read our Declaration of Rights immediately after the reading of the Declaration of Independence of the Fathers is finished. Although these are small favors to ask as representatives of one-half of the nation, yet we shall be under great obligations to you if granted.

Respectfully Yours, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

To this, I received the following reply: U. S. C. C. Headquarters, July 2.

Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Dear Madam, — I send you, with pleasure, half a dozen cards of invitation. As the platform is already crowded, it is impossible to reserve the number of seats you desire. I regret to say it is also impossible for us to make any change in the programme at this late hour. We are crowded for time to carry out what is already proposed.

Yours Very Respectfully, Joseph R. Hawley,President, U. S. C. C.

Image: Puck magazine cover, Library of Congress. For regular updates on suffrage news notes and the continuing campaign centennial coverage of Long Island organizing for Votes for Women, see Suffrage Wagon News Channel. Part III and final selection of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s report from Philadelphia coming soon.

July 2013 has its own Suffrage Wagon News Notes

NewsNotesJuly2013In both the US and UK, there’s considerable activism by those who’ve had enough of the last hurrah devoted to keeping women in their place. This is what happens when social systems transition, such as what we’re witnessing now. Women can grin and bear it, or stand up to be counted. One example is the banknote campaign underway in the UK, where the likeness of only one woman, Quaker and prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (other than royalty), has appeared on a bank note. Now Fry is being replaced by Churchill, and this has more than annoyed women. The protest went viral. This article about the 30,000 signatures gathered by motivated activists is worth looking at, and it stands squarely on the shoulders of the English suffragettes.

New book on Long Island’s movement: #1. Special feature coming soon.

This year’s birthday celebration for suffragist and human rights activist Ida B. Wells will take place July 12-14, 2013 in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Contact the museum for more information: idabwells@bellsouth.net. Video: “Ode to the ‘Spirit of 1776′ ” suffrage wagon. Video: “Spirit of 1776″ Wagon Day from Votes for Women 2020 which organized the 2013 legislative resolution and a press conference on June 19, 2013 in Albany.

News notes from all over:  “Lady Liberty: A Counter-Narrative.” #1. Second season for UK sit com about the suffrage movement. #1. #2. Star suffrage quilt. #1. #2. Illinois suffrage centennial. #1. #2. The Norway suffrage centennial. #1. #2. Opening of old suffrage safe sparks interest from around the nation and world. #1. #2. Coverage about US Supreme Court decision and erosion of voting rights. #1. #2. Plan for events associated with anniversary of Seneca Falls convention in July and Women’s Equality Day in August 2013. #1.  One billion rising for justice observance set for 2014. #1. #2.  Afghan women voters. #1. #2. Vote for wagon resolution. #1. #2. Clean tourism in NYS. #1. #2. 

Suffrage Wagon has been tweeting since 2010. Blogging about the suffrage movement and the “Spirit of 1776″ wagon since 2009.

Suffrage Bookshelf and a review by Tara Bloyd

Women's suffrage bookPeople at the Center of Women’s Suffrage, by Deborah Kops, Blackbirch Press: 2004

by Tara Bloyd

Rather than covering the suffrage movement as a whole, except for an overview at the beginning, this book gives short profiles of fifteen women important in the struggle.  I appreciated that instead of starting with the Elizabeth Cady Stanton/Susan B Anthony/Lucretia Mott era, the work begins much earlier: it includes information about Margaret Brent (“First American Woman to Demand the Right to Vote,” in the 1600s) and Mary Wollstonecraft (“Her Writing Inspired Early Suffragist Leaders”).  I’d never read about Margaret Brent in a children’s book about the quest for the vote, so I particularly appreciated seeing her here.

The author, Deborah Kops, does a very good job of including interesting details in her coverage; for instance, she writes of Carrie Chapman Catt that “By 1890, she was so passionate about the cause that her second husband, George William Catt, had to agree she could work for women’s suffrage four months out of the year before she would marry him.”  However, there were also a few notable omissions.  For instance, Lucy Stone’s marriage isn’t mentioned in her profile.  This saddens me because I think it’s an excellent example of people refusing to be bound by convention and instead creating their own, more equal, relationship.  Perhaps instead of including a picture of Oberlin College, the biography could have been a touch more comprehensive.  (I may be biased, though, as a proud “Lucy Stoner” … she was the first recorded American woman to not take her husband’s name upon marriage, saying “A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers.”)

Many of the images included are rarely seen in works of this type; for instance, Sojourner Truth is shown, with her knitting, in a color painting instead of the more common black-and-white photograph seen elsewhere in which she looks quite stern.  (And why, I wonder, do authors so rarely explain why people tend to look stern and serious in those early photographs, and why they’re all black-and-white instead of color images?  I’d think it would be both important and interesting for readers to know a bit about how photography worked in the early years!)  There’s a beautiful picture of women celebrating passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, photos from various stages of Jeanette Rankin’s life, etc.  I appreciated the book’s layout and visual appeal.  That said, more than half of the book’s space was taken up by images … I would have appreciated more text, but that’s probably the English major in me!

I definitely recommend People at the Center of Women’s Suffrage for any readers who are drawn toward learning more about individual people instead of reading about the movement as a whole. Reading about the experiences of specific women who were involved can be very compelling, and the women profiled provide a nice overview – we learn about Francis Willard, Anna Howard Shaw, Harriot Stanton Blach, Alva Belmont, and several others.  If the biographies are somewhat sparse, that’s a fault of the format rather than the author.

Unlike several of the other books I’ve profiled, People at the Center of Women’s Suffrage is still available (though Amazon warns that it could take 2-3 weeks for delivery); I’d encourage anyone creating a library of suffrage works for kids to seriously contemplate including this work. Book ordering information.

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July 4th grill and a holiday story from 137 years ago: Suffrage Centennial Special

Image: Library of CongressIt’s a mulit-tasking feat to run from the computer to the back yard to greet friends and at the same time finish this Fourth of July posting. Tomorrow it’s old news that 137 years ago on July 4th, suffrage activists traveled to Philadelphia to be part of the nation’s celebration of the Declaration of Independence. It was too good of an opportunity to make the point that the American Revolution was far from finished as far as women were concerned. They asked permission to be part of the program and were refused. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote about the holiday in vivid detail in her memoir. This is Part I read by Suffrage Wagon’s own reader, Amelia Bowen, who says this is one of her favorite readings. I’m turning up the volume as I’m counting out paper plates, cups, tableware, and napkins on their way to the picnic table. Part II: coming soon! Happy 4th of July!

Here’s the link to the six-minute reading in Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s own words.

The summer issue of the Suffrage Wagon quarterly newsletter is out. If you haven’t read it, here’s your chance. This Suffrage Wagon blog has limited options. For full features, visit our Suffrage Wagon full platform and follow us from there. See link.

Hurrah! July 1st is the “Spirit of 1776″ Wagon Day in NYS

The "Spirit of 1776" suffrage wagon

One hundred years ago the “Spirit of 1776″ suffrage wagon left Manhattan for an intensive month campaigning on Long Island.

Today, July 1, 2013, is the “Spirit of 1776″ Wagon Day in New York State because both houses of the state legislature passed resolutions on June 18, 2013 recognizing the wagon’s centennial. This doesn’t happen every day. Just to add a little juice to the announcement, there were two articles about this day and its significance.

Here’s an article from Women’s eNews. PDF. And another from the Legislative Gazette in Albany, New York. PDF  Votes for Women 2020.

And a NEW VIDEO announcing the publication and distribution of the summer issue of the Suffrage Wagon quarterly newsletter. Here’s the Suffrage Wagon quarterly newsletter summer issue in the event you’re not on the list.

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