When we last left Mary Church Terrell, it was 1898, she was 34 years old, standing on a stage and receiving thunderous applause after having given a speech entitled, The Progress of Colored Women to an audience at the National American Women Sufferage Association. (You can read her speech here, at blackpast.org.) (more…)
We continue our series of Presidential candidates with Belva Lockwood, the woman who many regard as the first “legitimate” female nominee for the office. You be the judge; certainly, her age and employment history are a contrast to Victoria Woodhull, (covered here), whose earlier campaign, in 1872, was tainted by scandal (and marred by not meeting the age requirement of 35).
Belva Bennett Lockwood was born in 1830 on a farm in upstate NY. She paid for and arranged her own education, but family pressure drove her to marriage rather than college.
Being widowed at 22 changed the course of her life; teaching, college, law school, and finally the groundbreaking milestone of being the first woman to argue cases before the Supreme Court.
Then, in 1884, Belva Lockwood ran as the Equal Rights party’s candidate for President. She was no fool; the Presidency was a long shot, but the impact on society would be undeniable. She took the inevitable backlash in stride, saying that being featured in a political cartoon was an accomplishment in itself.
A halfhearted attempt at the office in 1888 ended her quest for elected office, but her reputation was such that several Presidents, many educational institutions, and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee all relied on her advice.
Belva’s example had been an inspiration for women to move into a sphere that had been denied them. (A convention of female lawyers she chaired in 1893 had over 200 attendees.)
Belva Lockwood died in 1917, having forged a path of education, advocacy, and determination for generations to follow.
When asked if there would ever be a woman President, Belva said:
If a woman demonstrates that she is fitted to be president, she will someday occupy the White House. It will be entirely on her own merits, however. No movement will place her there simply because she is a woman. It will come if she proves herself fit for the position.
Listen to the audio for her life in detail!
Here are the books Beckett recommended:
The closing song is “Keep on the Path” by The Mystery Body.
Victoria Woodhull crafted a life for herself from pretty raw materials. She traveled from an abusive childhood to a very aristocratic end but the life in the middle? Ah, that is the part were she was a woman ahead of her time.
Victoria California Claflin was born on September 23, 1838 to Reuben Buckman (Buck) and Roxanne (Annie) in the very sweet town of Homer, Ohio. Buck was an abusive scoundrel, Annie a mentally unstable religious zealot and Victoria’s childhood of abuse, poverty and lack of much of an education became even more of a struggle when the fine townsfolk of Homer shoo’d the Claflins away.
To support the family, Buck taught Victoria and her sister, Tennessee, a valuable life skill by putting them in front of audiences all over the Midwest as spiritual healers, clairvoyants, fortune tellers, sellers of magical elixirs…and we can only speculate what else. Even Victoria’s marriage at 15 to the dashing and charming Canning Woodhull wasn’t an escape–he was a womanizer, addict and all around crappy husband. After their son was born a year later the family moved several times, Victoria took a series of jobs to help them survive while her husband did as little as possible even while he was delivering their second child (it’s a gross story) (oh, yeah, we tell it.)
Escape from this life came in the form of one Colonel James Blood. He believed like she did, saw the world the way she did and, most importantly, made her happy.
When Victoria and crew including her sister, Tennie, moved to New York they began by earning money the way they always had, but since they were able to tell fortunes (or read people), they must have known that Cornelius Vanderbilt would come into their lives, right? Known that with his mentoring (is that what the kids are calling it these days?) Tennie and Victoria would make quite a bit in the stock market. But if they had known what would happen after Victoria got involved with the suffrage movement do you think they would have stayed? Maybe, but Victoria wasn’t a very conventional suffragist (Victoria wasn’t a conventional anything), and while the suffragists were talking about the best way to bring equal rights to women, Victoria was living that life.
Victoria, deep in thought about…we have no idea
Victoria and Tennie were the first two female stockbrokers in New York, Victoria was the first woman to speak before a congressional committee, they began a newspaper, Victoria started a speaking career and, oh yeah, she announced her candidacy for president.
Like we said, not very conventional. Her platform, to our ears, sounds the opposite of radical: women’s rights, equal rights for equal pay, aid to the poor, and legislation to help women who were trapped in marriages by a society that failed to see the way they were treated. Okay, so “Free Love” sounds to our ears what it did to the Victorians, but all Vicky wanted was to get government out of her bedroom.
So many errors occurred between announcing her candidacy to election day 1872 that even a skilled politician today wouldn’t have been able to overcome them including an arrest right before election day that sent both Victoria and Tennie into jail.
She didn’t stand a chance. But she knew that going in her candidacy was symbolic and after it was all over, after Victoria moved on to a life of downright upstanding citizenry in England. The US was 48 years away from women voting, 144 years from the first woman nominee from a major party, and is STILL trying to legislate love but by thinking far ahead of her time, but in 1872, Victoria Woodhull wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and even that was ahead of its time.
Time Travel with The History Chicks
The grand mama of Victoria sites (well, the great, great, great step-granddaughter of them anyway) head over to Victoria-Woodhull. com, Victoria Woodhull Spirit to Run the White House has Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly archives, Victoria Woodhull Presidential Library and enough reading to keep you busy for a very long time from a distant relation of Victoria’s.
Whaaa? The 19th Amendment didn’t give all women the right to vote? Well, it did, sorta, but states moved quickly to take that right away from native Americans and women (and men in some cases) of color. Here is a really great (read:eye opening) timeline of Voting Rights History in the United States.
Speaking of eye opening: Literacy rates in Early America are probably higher than you thought.
Quick review of female US presidential candidates if you don’t want to read a whole book (below.)
Information about the Fox Sisters (and a lot of other creepy stuff, it’s the website of the American Ghost Society.)
Eugenics, Anthony Comstock and Victoria Woodhull. Light reading. No, not really, but more in-depth intel about those obscenity charges that kept her in jail on voting day.
When you are in Wichita, Kansas check out Old Cowtown (place Beckett talked about), they do have a very impressive list of events. The Steampunk Expo that started at Old Cowtown has moved on to a different venue, it’s in November and you can learn more about it here, Emerald City Steampunk Expo. (Thanks for that heads-up, Robert!)
An in-depth look at the colorful history of the Ludlow Street Jail in New York from Atlas Obscura, and an article from The Bowery Boys about notorious Boss Tweed’s time (and end of time) in the jail and a bit about Great Jones street.
The documentary narrated by Kate Capshaw with Gloria Steinam commentary:An upcoming documentary about Victoria, The Coming Woman, is in editing, it’s a labor of love project so follow along with the Rau Sisters to it’s completion.
And, finally, how Beckett saw the Claflin kids (please don’t let that be cussing subtitles in some language we don’t know):
Before there were suffragists to march and fight for the vote, there was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Before she teamed up with another superhero for women’s rights, Elizabeth was a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mother. Then, one warm summer day in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York she stood up, gave her first public speech and helped to start a movement.
Elizabeth Cady was born in November 12, 1815 in Johnstown, NY. She was the eighth of eleven children of Daniel- a lawyer and judge- and Margaret Cady. All but one of their sons died in infancy and Daniel’s hope rested on his surviving son, Eleazar. That hope was crushed when he, too died at the age of 20. Elizabeth, then 11, couldn’t understand why she couldn’t fulfill the hopes of her father who said to her, “I wish you were a boy.”
She tried- she rode horseback and tried to do “boy” activites. She studied hard and excelled academically but there was one thing that she couldn’t control and it was the one thing that held her back: her gender. Once she exhausted the educational options that she had, Elizabeth became involved in the Abolitionist and Temperance movements and began down a pretty traditional path when she married Henry B. Stanton.
Well, sort of traditional- except that she and Henry, a Reformer working to abolish slavery, took the word, “obey” out of the traditional vows, and their first voyage after marriage was to London for a World Anti-Slavery Convention. How’s that for a honeymoon? Of course, there is a lot more to the story (A LOT- we tell you this every time, you have to listen to the podcast to get all the juicy bits)- but while in London Elizabeth’s eyes were opened to several things. The one that impacts this tale, is the way that women were treated- even delegates at the convention who were female were not allowed to participate in any more than an observational role. She also met some rock stars in the human rights arena but during her time not participating in the proceedings, she and Lucretia Mott- a Quaker preacher who was very active in the anti-slavery movement- formed a friendship that would have a significant impact on Elizabeth’s life in a few years.
But first Elizabeth lived the married life of the wife of a lawyer in Boston. She had three children in short order and set up housekeeping in the city. She enjoyed her life a great deal- hello!- she was hobnobbing with the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. But all good things must end and the family moved to Seneca Falls, NY (upstate, to the left- about halfway between Albany and Buffalo). In this new phase of her life she wasn’t as content as she had been in the city. She kept having babies (seven in total), but lacked the staff , support and outside interests that she had in Boston. Henry traveled a great deal as an anti-slavery lawyer and politician- and Elizabeth got caught up in the drudgery of small town life.
One day, her old friend Lucretia Mott came to town and Elizabeth was invited for tea with her. Shortly after this the women present had created, advertised and were holding the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls (if this story is new to you, THIS is one of the historical turning points that President Obama was referencing in his 2013 inaugural speech). In front of an audience of about 300 people who had packed into the Wesleyan Chapel Elizabeth wrote and delivered her first public speech ever, the Declaration of Sentiments based on Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. The points outlined in the speech were designed to create laws that protected women and put women on equal footing legally with men. And the biggie? The right to vote.
From where we are sitting suffrage for women seems like a no-brainer, but in this time it was fairly scandalous. Women at the time were not considered intelligent enough to sit on a jury, let alone own property, have a legal say in the welfare of their own children, or help to decide the government of their own country. 100 people signed the Declaration that day, mostly women but some men- vowing to do what they could to create change. Elizabeth, however, was torn. She was becoming rather famous for her speech but she felt strong devotion and loyalty to her family. How could she help the cause when her primary responsibilities required her to stay home?
Enter one Susan B. Anthony. The two met one day and not only was a friendship formed- but a partnership. Elizabeth could write the words, and Susan- who was single and not tied to family obligations- could travel to deliver them. Elizabeth would later say, “I forged the thunderbolt, she fired it.”
For the next 50 years the two would work together on the cause of women’s rights.
It wasn’t easy, and they would often disagree. For instance, at one point Susan thought that the sole mission should be to get women the vote, while Elizabeth thought more broadly to religious and legal freedoms. But work together they did. For the most part, Susan did the leg work and Elizabeth did the brain work. But often Susan would travel to Elizabeth’s home and help out with domestic chores so that new speeches could be written.
During that time they put in years of hard work, devotion, standing up for what they thought was right all with a goal of women’s suffrage in their minds and actions. It’s a long story and we go into some detail during the podcast, but it is filled with success and failure; determination and drive; support and alienation from those who they encountered; work for not only women’s suffrage but temperance and abolition, too. Elizabeth did it all while raising her family without much help from her traveling husband.
As the two women slowed down, just a bit- they got together to document the tale of the work done thus far in a book that would take years to write- The History of Women’s Sufferage. Susan managed to vote in an election, although she was famously arrested, charged and fined $100 for her attempt. Elizabeth spoke throughout Europe and caused quite a ruckus when she re-wrote the Bible into The Women’s Bible offering counter-discussions for time honored interpretation of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. She also wrote her memoirs, Eighty Years and More. Together they wrote a document and got it into the rights hands to be presented to Congress. This little document, very short, but very important, would be presented in every session for the next 45 years.
On October 26,1902, Elizabeth was 86 years old and living in New York City with her daughter. She was losing her eyesight and in constant need of physical assistance. She asked for assistance to stand, took in the view for several minutes, then was instructed by her family to sit she lay down and took a nap. That day she died in her sleep.
Susan would carry on the fight for the next four years, dying in 1906.
In 1920 the document that they had prepared was finally ratified and became the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote.
TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS
Companion podcast! Beckett reads the Declaration of Sentiments in a companion podcast. CLICK HERE .
Museum! If you happen to be near Seneca Falls, NY, you have to (have to…must, really!) visit the Women’s Rights National Historic Park. There are four properties including Elizabeth’s house and the Wesleyan Chapel where the first Women’s Rights Convention was held.
If you are interested in reading some of the works of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, try The Papers Project or the National Archives Teaching with Documents site. A History of Women’s Suffrage and The Women’s Bible are in the public domain and can be read through Project Gutenberg.
One of the organizations that Elizabeth helped to found and was the first president, The National American Women’s Suffrage Association morphed after the 19th Amendment into the League of Women Voters and is still an active organization today.
Movies- we recommend this one Ken Burn’s documentary that is streaming on Amazon (Or get it from your library), Not For Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
And finally, Elizabeth is in this book- but so are many others, but it’s just a great read (and if you have anyone else attributed to this quote than the author of this book on your Pinterest boards- go change it now!)
Susan here. I stand corrected. The dance that my kids learn in physical education not history class in middle school is the Cotton Eyed Joe. Not necessarily a Missouri dance but one that originated in the south prior to the Civil War with probable slave origins. I still think it’s wonderful that a folk dance is taught, and remembered in this day and age. Take that Cupid Shuffle and we’ll see where you are in 150+ years.
As always music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at music.mevio.com
Ida B. Wells- born a slave, educated in a post-Civil War south and left to care for her family at an early age. She grew to become a teacher, a writer, a crusader, a suffragist, a wife and mother. A woman of strength and character who dared to speak up and challenge those who desired to oppress others , even when her own safety was at risk.
How could we not talk about a woman like this?
Ida was born on July 16, 1862, the first of eight children to Jim and Lizzy Wells in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her father was the son of a plantation owner and one of his slaves; her mother a slave. As always, please know that we go into so much more detail in the podcast- the early life story of Ida’s parents is really remarkable, but what they did at the end of the Civil War is even more so.
Jim, a skilled and trained carpenter and Lizzy a highly sought after cook, put down roots and took advantage of the post war opportunities that were presented to them. Ida and her siblings were all sent to school, all raised to be hardworking, respectable and full of faith.
It was a wonderful story of pulling themselves up and being role models for their children, until a Yellow Fever epidemic hit when Ida was 16. The illness took the life of both of her parents as well as that of a young brother. She stepped up and assumed the role as head of the family. She lied about her age to get a teaching job, enlisted the help of some extended family members and did what a lot of female head of families do now: she made it work.
After a few years, Ida couldn’t take the stress and pressures of the lifestyle. At this point, her siblings were getting older and some could support themselves. She had a physically handicapped sister that required live-in assistance and was sent to an aunt’s home to live. Ida took her two youngest sisters and moved to the big city of Memphis, Tennessee to live with another aunt.
With some of the responsibility off of her, Ida took another teaching job and breathed, just a little. She enjoyed all that the city had to offer and lived the life of a young woman interested in the arts, learning, and making new friends.
But it didn’t take very long for her to realize that she had more to do than attend concerts. One day,while commuting via train, she was asked to leave the Ladies’ Car for another, less comfortable one. Ida had purchased a first class ticket, as she always did, and ignored the wishes of the conductor for her to leave her first class seat- as she always did when this happened.
Only this time, the conductor didn’t ignore her and physically tried to move her. Kicking and biting and fighting back, this tiny woman stood her ground. And got kicked off the train for her efforts.
The ensuing court battle was only the beginning of the life as a political activist for Ida Wells. When she became dismayed at the inferior conditions of the school system that she worked in, she spoke up. She began writing in church newspapers about the racial disparity in the Memphis schools. And ultimately lost her job because of it. But she wasn’t done crusading for what was right.
Ida had heard about lynching, of course she had. This was the post Civil War south, but like a lot of people, she had assumed that the vigilante “justice” that was carried out was justified. Until it happened to people that she knew. Good people.
Enraged, she began to write for (and eventually ended up being a part owner of) a newspaper called The Memphis Free Speech and Headlight (later shortened to Free Speech).
This type of career- held by a woman, a black women in a racially charged South- made Ida a target. She eventually was forced to flee Memphis and landed in Chicago.
This is the part where we get to talk about her love, attorney Ferdinand Barnett who is particularly suited to sharing his life with this strong, determined, unshy woman. We talk about her life as a wife and mother, and her never ending and far reaching efforts to end lynching.
Her life continued to be one of championing causes and we do cover all that in the podcast. But in addition to her anti-lynching crusade she was a suffragist, and a founder of many organizations including the NAACP. She even staged an unsuccessful run for the Illinois State Senate!
Although the organizations that she helped found began to turn their backs on her, Ida Wells-Barnett worked hard until just prior to her death at age 68 in 1931.
Ida’s family maintains a website in her honor. Find out more information about her life, get directions and information about the Ida Wells Museum in Holly Springs, click links to the Ida B.Wells Foundation and buy a t-shirt. Yes, a t-shirt. Oh, or a mug.
Books! Here are the ones that we recommend:
Here is a link to Project Guttenberg. It’s an online resource of free ebooks. This link should take you to the available Ida B.Wells publications. For *sing it* freeeeeee!
Want to peek at her Chicago house? A peek is all you can get, it’s a private residence, but that didn’t stop the National Park Service from making a page about her and the house. We love nps.gov.
You know what else we love? A good PBS American Experience and here is a very good one about the Reconstruction period.
As always, music comes courtesty of Music Alley. Visit them at music.mevio.com