Desperately Seeking Susan B. Anthony: The Search is On

This article has been cross-posted from The New Agenda.

Hello from the great state of New York, city of Rochester! We’re here in search of Susan B. Anthony, and hope to find her at her homestead later today. We’ll report on that and Seneca Falls on Friday. My apologies for being out of touch so long, but we’ve had some glitches accessing wifi outside of my iPhone. Here’s what we’ve been up to before today.

Amelia at Paulsdale

We visited Paulsdale, Alice Paul’s house at Mount Laurel, NJ on Saturday. We had stopped at a hotel in Mt. Washington, NJ the night before and found ourselves surrounded by loads of families decked out in Valley Forge gear after having seen the sights there. It was a festive atmosphere and I couldn’t wait for the next day to see Paulsdale. Seeing all the folks so hyped about history really whet our appetites for it. As we pulled into the driveway on that crisp morning and saw the placard with her picture on it, I admit I started to tear up. It was an emotional moment stepping onto those grounds, knowing the story, and being able to share it with Lily and Amelia.

Thing is, the place was deserted. No one was there at 11:00 on a Saturday. I realized my mistake later after re-checking the website—tours had to be scheduled. I was pretty surprised. Here was the female equivalent of Abraham Lincoln, and no one seemed to care, save the folks who run the place. That was the first eye-opener of this trip. There aren’t any Paulsdales in the Midwest where we live, and while there are plenty of women’s historical sites to see, they don’t get a lot of traffic. I don’t know why I thought it would be different here.

Nevertheless we attended the grounds and peeked in windows while I told the girls why Alice Paul was important. They were most impressed with the force feedings and Night of Terror, of course. I told them how Alice Paul had used Paulsdale as a planning headquarters, how she had scads of women up to help plan and foment the revolution that Abigail Adams had promised 150 years earlier. I asked my young charges if they could picture it, the women moving about the gorgeous wrap-around porch or trailing their skirts along the grass, engaged in such meaningful conversations. We stood in the yard and let our imaginations run away with us. I think they could see it once I prompted them.

Boston the next day was the same mixture of disappointment and profound reverence. We arrived in Boston and located Beacon Hill, but then had I left my travel binder with info on the Women’s Heritage Trail and The Boston Women’s Memorial in it in the car. We knew the trail started at the State House, so we made our way the block and half to that, where we saw the statues of Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson at either end. If you don’t the stories of these two amazing women who gave their lives in pursuit of religious freedom, I encourage you to look them up.  It is amazing that Massachusetts has acknowledged how badly they wronged these two women, and offered a mea culpa in the form of bronze statues.

From there we made our way to Boston Commons in search of a visitor center. As we walked we asked several people if they knew where the Women’s Heritage Trail was or the Boston Women’s Memorial. Without exception people were surprised to hear it existed, and no one knew where it was, even locals. At the visitor center a half a dozen employees were working the front desk, and only one of them even knew of the Boston Women’s Memorial and where it was. This whole aspect of the day was the most disappointing for me, for I had assumed that these monuments had been erected because the general public cared and appreciated the contributions of women.

Lily contemplates the Boston Women's Memorial

We left our disappointment in the park and struck out for Commonwealth Avenue, which we learned was an entire avenue of monuments, all men save the Boston Women’s Memorial, which was almost at the end. We traveled the five or six blocks and examined the monuments to the great men of Boston on our way. I was delighted when we finally arrived to see the statues of Phillis Wheatley, Abigail Adams, and Lucy Stone. I walked to each of the statues telling the girls the women’s stories. Other walkers stopped to listen in, and that was the most delightful thing. People cared if they could understand, that much was obvious. Afterwards we sat on a bench and people-watched while we talked. Here I had a revelation of my own, which I shared with the girls. Continue reading

Desperately Seeking Susan B. Anthony Summer Tour

My passion is women’s history, as most regular readers know. Over years of pro-woman activism, I have found nothing that touches the heart and fuels the imaginations of young women quite like learning their own history does. Women of every generation might disagree about what the exact issues facing us are, and how we might address them, but nearly every one of them is surprised to learn the that stories exist that were denied them as they labored through lectures on the American Revolution or the Civil War, etc.

Knowing this history is important enough, but there is something to be said for seeing a spot on which history was made, or to visit the graveside of some long-dead heroine to whom we may owe so much. I once had occasion to visit Seneca Falls and see Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house, in which she bore most of her children. As I meandered my way on the narrow road from her house to the still-quaint main thoroughfare, upon which the remains of Wesley Chapel sat off in the distance, I felt I was able to understand in some way the incredibly small world Stanton inhabited and the magnificent change she wrought within it. That was some 12 years ago.

Now I’m ready for more and I’m ready to share it. So, for the next eleven days my daughter (Lily*), her best friend (Amelia*), and I will be exploring the upper east coast in search of women’s history. We’ll be searching for more than Susan B. Anthony, of course. And we’re going to take you lovely readers with us as much as we can. I’m hoping that these two young women will learn something and be inspired, and that readers will too. This kind is so important to take not only for the educational value to my charges, but also because so many of these sites are self-funded, or rely on state grants. Raising awareness in that regard is paramount.

To give you a brief run-down of our tour: We’re going to start at The Alice Paul Institute, then travel to Boston to check out The Boston Women’s Memorial and the Women’s Heritage Trail, as well as visit some monuments in the hometowns of Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. From there we’ll go see Susan B. Anthony’s house in Rochester before heading down to Seneca Falls. In and around Seneca Falls there’s a lot to see with the Jane Hunt house and Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, which resides in her former home. After that we’ll head down to New York City, where we’ll visit with TNA founder and President, Amy Siskind. She’s going to show us Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Historic Site located in her former home. We’ll wrap it up on July 4th in Philadelphia.

We’ll also be twittering (follow me at annabellep) and on the Peacocks and Lilies Youtube channel. We hope you’ll be inspired to plan a trip yourself, or to research women’s history sites in your area. Don’t forget to share with others what you find.

*Not their real names

Sunday Sundries: Homesteading Edition

Thanks to a generous reader contribution, we have been able to secure a video camera I found on clearance for the Excellent Women’s History Adventure of 2010. Thanks Syd! I’ve been trying to learn how to use it and edit video. I interviewed Lily about the trip and what she thought the goals of feminism will be in the future. Here’s what she had to say. I kept the beginning for humor. Hope you enjoy. We’ll be posting plenty of video on P&L’s Youtube channel. We leave June 25th. 12 days and counting!

Since I mostly gave up television except for Netflix (commercial-free t.v. Yay!), I’ve had a lot of time to read, and one of the myriad selections drawing my interests can be found online. It is the homesteading story of one Evelyn Pruitt Stewart, covering the years from 1909 to 1913. It is an amazing story written by a poor, desperate woman who had always faced difficult circumstances. One of six children, orphaned as a young teen, she went to work on the railroad as soon as her parents died. She was married by the time she was 19, a mother at the age of 20. Her first husband died when her daughter, Jerrine, was still an infant, and she worked odd jobs to support her small family until someone told her of homesteading opportunities in Utah. In her Letters of a Woman Homesteader, Stewart tells of her adventures with her young daughter in Utah, where she did secure a parcel of land and built a home, among so many other things. In it, she includes entirely radical notions such as this:

When I read of the hard times among the Denver poor, I feel like urging them every one to get out and file on land. I am very enthusiastic about women homesteading. It really requires less strength and labor to raise plenty to satisfy a large family than it does to go out to wash, with the added satisfaction of knowing that their job will not be lost to them if they care to keep it. Even if improving the place does go slowly, it is that much done to stay done. Whatever is raised is the homesteader’s own, and there is no house-rent to pay. This year Jerrine cut and dropped enough potatoes to raise a ton of fine potatoes. She wanted to try, so we let her, and you will remember that she is but six years old. We had a man to break the ground and cover the potatoes for her and the man irrigated them once. That was all that was done until digging time, when they were ploughed out and Jerrine picked them up. Any woman strong enough to go out by the day could have done every bit of the work and put in two or three times that much, and it would have been so much more pleasant than to work so hard in the city and then be on starvation rations in the winter.

To me, homesteading is the solution of all poverty’s problems…

Read more at the link. It’s an amazing story told in a really personable manner about and by a real women from American history. There’s more to read on the primary text page of this site academic dedicated to women of the west.

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Inactions have Consequences: Why Feminism is Ripe for a Takeover (and How You Can Help)

2006 was supposed to be the year of Democratic women, but it didn’t work out that way. Despite a slew of female candidates hand-picked by Speaker Pelosi, Democrats couldn’t manage to elect them in a year that otherwise saw Democrats sweep power and gain majorities in the House and Senate. The much-lauded Democratic Wave of 2006 ultimately was a wave of men.

Then came 2008, and Hillary Clinton was a primary presidential candidate. Despite earning the highest number of actual votes, Clinton lost because the party apparatus hijacked the delegate system in Florida and Michigan, rigging the primary season in favor of their preferred candidate. Meanwhile, some of the left’s most revered pundits piled on, and encouraged open hatred of her in their readership, all the while coyly claiming it wasn’t sexism that drove them to it. Maybe it wasn’t, but the net result was a campaign season that can be summed up in one of the slogans that emerged from it: bros before hoes.

Two election cycles in a row Democrats had the chance to show Americans they really were the party for women. Twice they declined.

It’s exactly details like this that give voice to the lie that the Democratic Party is the party for women. Even on abortion, the rhetoric is merely a tool of coercion. Democrats squandered every opportunity to pass the ERA, helped orchestrate the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas debacle, cut off poor families’ access to financial security without increasing opportunity, and more recently threw women under the bus in the mammoth health care bill. This strategy of abandoning women is finally working against them, leaving quite an opening for women of the right to lay claim to some of that constituency. We saw the first fruits of their labor on Tuesday, and I must say it’s pretty impressive.

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Meg Whitman and The Money Trap

As the California Republican primary race for governor draws to a close, much is being made of Meg Whitman’s largely self-financed campaign. Funny, I don’t recall such a fuss or such attention to detail when male candidates have done it. Remember Republicans Steve Forbes and Mitt Romney? What about Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City? Democrats may have made a little noise about their self-financing, but I don’t recall any articles written detailing what hotels they stayed at or the “white glove service” of chartered airplanes they used.

Democrats don’t have much to say when one of their own guys does it. Interestingly enough, you won’t find many such articles about Minnesota Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton, who spent $12 million pursuing the Senate seat he won in 2000, and is running a largely self-financed campaign this year. His story is certainly not dominating the media headlines like Whitman’s. You may not remember Rahm Emanuel’s $450,000 loan to his own campaign in 2002, probably because it did not make the news, though it was reported at the end of this article about Barack Obama, six years after the fact.

You are probably also not reading about billionaire Jeff Greene, Democratic Senate candidate from Florida, or Rick Scott, a Republican who is running for Governor of the same state and has already contributed millions of dollars to his own campaign. Both intend to do a lot more self-financing of their campaigns. These stories are covered only in local media, and without the hint of the judgment that invariably infuses articles about Whitman’s wealth.

So why is Meg Whitman’s story a big deal? Some will say it’s because the race is in California, or because her contributions set a record, but I contend it’s because she’s a woman. I contend this because I have watched for the last two years as political women and their wealth have continued to pop up in media stories that are designed to denigrate them. Continue reading