Feb 242010
 

“make the puddings and carry the baby while I ply the pen”
(What she said to unmarried, non-mom and best gal pal Susan B. Anthony)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815-1902

Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815-1902

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, super smart, greatly gifted and tremendously talented, was raised with privilege, education, and the knowledge that she would NEVER be treated equally because of her gender.  Her father was a judge, a congressman, an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court –  and – a sexist.  One of five girls born into a wealthy connected New York family, her mother Margaret suffered through eleven pregnancies and bore five sons, four of whom died in childhood.  Elizabeth began to understand the subordinate role of girls and women when her twenty-year-old brother Eleazer died suddenly at the age of twenty.  The apple of her father’s eye, he was the only surviving son and only one to legally inherit the family fortune (women could not own property and anything they had legally went to their husbands).   Her grief – stricken father told her “I wish you were a boy” to which she replied, “I will try to be all that my brother was”.  And try she did, to get her father to say, “Well, a girl is as good as a boy”. Instead, he said, “Ah, you should have been a boy”. Surrounded by law, she learned early on its power.  One story has young, determined, naïve Elizabeth planning to take a scissor and cut the unfair laws out of her father’s law books after witnessing a procession of “weeping women” coming to her home desperate and destitute begging Judge Cady for help, but being unprotected by the laws. Her father explained the legal process involved in changing laws, and the seed was planted that grew into the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls. She refused to have the word “obey” in her marriage vows, and just added her husband’s name to hers setting that trend.  She spent her life being discriminated against for being a woman and fought – many times alone – first for abolition and then tirelessly for the right to vote for  “all citizens” – not just male citizens – introducing the concept of gender bias to the legal world and splitting the women’s movement into two factions; one who were willing to wait their turn to vote and one who were not.  She would not.  She never stopped fighting for property rights, divorce reform, equal education, fair pay, labor laws, daycare, legal identity and a professional life.  Her partner in all of this was Susan B. Anthony, who would come over and take on some of the domestic drudgery so Elizabeth could write the fabulous speeches that Anthony would give. The two of ‘em really shook things up, trailblazing though the eighteen hundreds.  “Marriage”, said Elizabeth, was the “transfer of power from one master to another”.  She had her seventh child at the age of forty-three and at the tender age of eighty-three, her groundbreaking and controversial book “The Woman’s Bible” was published, accusing religion of keeping woman down and describing the Bible as an historical rather than sacred document.  After her brother’s death she thought, “the chief thing to be done in order to equal boys was to be learned and courageous”.   Was she ever…..  an ultimate role model and the architect of the Women’s Movement.

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Feb 242010
 

“…women suffer taxation, and yet have no representation, which is not only unjust to one half of the adult population, but is contrary to our theory of government.”

Lucy Stone 1818-1893

Lucy Stone  1818-1893

I’m A Lucy Stoner.  Are you?

She was the first gal to get hitched and keep her own name. From then on, any gal that kept her maiden name was known as a Lucy Stoner. And she waited until she was thirty-seven years old before she even took the plunge with Henry Brown Blackwell, whose sister Elizabeth Blackwell, was America’s first female doctor. Lucy was also the first gal in America to get arrested for civil disobedience – for refusing to pay her property tax unless she was allowed to vote. The “morning star” of the women’s movement, Lucy was the eighth of nine kids and the story goes that her mother milked eight cows the night before she gave birth to Lucy. Luckily, they had a farm, and Lucy had lots and lots of farm chores, including  making nine pairs of shoes a day.  Imagine.  Like many of her suffragist sisters, Lucy saw her mother slaving away and DID imagine – a different, better life. But no matter how hard she worked she still could not get her father to pay for her to go to college.  “What is the child crazy?” he asked. When he died, he left all of his property and money to his sons and $200 each to his daughters.  What a guy!  Well, it took her nine years to save for college but she did it and in 1843 at the age of twenty-five she entered Oberlin – which was the ONLY college open to the gals. She was the first female in the state of Massachusetts to get a college degree. Oh – and she founded and edited the Woman’s Journal – a weekly suffragist newspaper she started with her dear hubby.

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Feb 242010
 

Another great gal goes to jail.  Her crime?  Educating black girls.

Prudence Crandall 1803-1890

Prudence Crandall  1803-1890

A lucky educated Quaker teacher who wanted to share the gift of schooling, dear Prudence opened a private school for girls; The Canterbury Female Boarding School in 1831, in Connecticut. It was a gutsy move.  Historically, education was denied to females, as they were considered intellectually inferior with tiny brains (and an oversized pelvis – there were actual drawings by medical doctors!) and belonged in their “domestic sphere”.  The school had a great reputation and enjoyed success – until dear Prudence admitted twenty-year old Sarah Harris, an African American girl who wanted to become a teacher.  Well!  The town of Canterbury went ballistic, with many white parents withdrawing their daughters and basically closed the school down.  Undaunted dear Prudence re-opened but this time just for “young ladies and little misses of color”.  She had the support of many nationally prominent abolitionists, including famed William Lloyd Garrison and the entire Anti-Slavery Society, but that did not stop the citizens of Connecticut from showering the school with mud, eggs and stones, and ultimately passing “The Black Law” prohibiting black students from attending school in their fair state.  Poor Prudence was attacked by a mob, arrested twice and even had her home partially destroyed.  Who could blame her for leaving town?  She moved with her hubby to Illinois where she continued advocating for women’s rights. The state of Connecticut tried to make it up to her by sending her $400 a year until her death in 1890. Today you can visit the Prudence Crandall Museum, a National Historic Landmark, observe Prudence Crandall Day and in 1995 she was declared Connecticut’s State Heroine.

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