Last month was Black History Month in the U.S. and Canada (the UK also celebrates it, but in October). This month is National Women's History Month. Here are 19 Fearless Women who are worthy of noting and remembering every March AND February:
Miss Jane Addams of Chicago Mrs. Ida Wells-Barnett of Chicago
Mrs. Harriet Stanton Blatch of New York Miss Kate Claghorn of New York
Miss Mary E. Dreier of Brooklyn Mrs. Florence Kelley of New York
Miss Helen Marot of New York Miss Mary E. McDowell of Chicago
Miss Lenora O'Reilly of New York Miss Mary W. Ovington of New York
Dr. Jane Robbins of New York Miss Helen Stokes of New York
Mrs. Mary Church Terrell of Washington, DC Mrs. Henry Villard of New York
Miss Lillian D. Wald of New York Mrs. Rodman Wharton of Philadelphia
President Mary E. Wooley, Mt. Holyoke College Miss Susan P. Wharton of Philadelphia
Mrs. Anna Carpenter Garlin Spencer of New York
So who are these 19 women and why do I use the antiquated Miss and Mrs. distinctions throughout? Well, that was the formal convention back in 1909 when these brave and principled women stepped up and joined "The Call."
|Fannie Garrison Villard -- "Mrs. Henry Villard"|
(1844 - 1928)
Daughter of publisher and noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison
|Jane Addams (1860 - 1935)|
First American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
Mary Church Terrell (1863 - 1954)
Daughter of slaves she was one of the first African-American
women to earn a college degree
1909 was a time in America when women still did not have full voting rights. It was a place where Jim Crow laws were rampant throughout many states in the country and where the civil rights of black Americans were violated in horrible ways with very little official intervention. Black Americans were beaten, tortured and lynched for the most minor of infractions and often for no reason other than being non-white. Just five to seven years later, white mobs in largely Southern states lynched 126 black Americans. It was not an easy time to be a progressive who defended and worked for the civil rights of Americans who happened to be other than male or other than white. As the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln approached on February 12, 1909, it was not a time when there were many profiles in courage involving the political and civil equality of Americans who happened to be other than male or other than white. And yet in early 1909 the nineteen women named above joined with forty-one men to do a remarkable thing. They signed a manifesto that came to be known later as "The Call."
Oswald Garrison Villard wrote what he titled a "Call for the Lincoln Emancipation Conference in 1909." Sixty well-known Americans (black and white) -- including the nineteen women named above -- signed Mr. Villard's manifesto. The manifesto stated truthfully and plainly the lack of progress in America since the time of Lincoln. It stated in part . . .
If Mr. Lincoln could revisit this country he would be disheartened by the nation's failure . . . He would learn that on January 1st 1909, Georgia had rounded out a new oligarchy by disenfranchising the negro after the manner of all the other Southern states. He would learn that the Supreme Court of the United States, designed to be a bulwark of American liberties, had failed to meet several opportunities to pass squarely upon this disenfranchisement of millions by laws avowedly discriminatory and openly enforced in such manner that white men may vote and black men be without a vote in their government; he would discover, there, that taxation without representation is the lot of millions of wealth-producing American citizens, in whose hands rests the economic progress and welfare of an entire section of the country. He would learn that the Supreme Court, according to the official statement of its own judges in the Berea College case, has laid down the principle that if an individual State chooses it may "make it a crime for white and colored persons to frequent the same market place at the same time, or appear in an assemblage of citizens convened to consider questions of a public or political nature in which all citizens, without regard to race, are equally interested." . . . He would see the black men and women, for whose freedom a hundred thousand of soldiers gave their lives, sit apart in trains, in which they pay first-class for third-class service, in railway stations and in places of entertainment, while State after State declines to do its elementary duty in preparing the negro through education for the best exercise of citizenship. * * * Added to this, the spread of lawless attacks upon the negro, North, South and West -- even in Springfield made famous by Lincoln -- often accompanied by revolting brutalities, sparing neither sex, nor age nor youth, could not but shock the author of the sentiment that "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." Silence under these conditions means tacit approval.
The nineteen women named above -- who themselves still lacked the right to vote -- were joined by forty-one men and they did not remain silent. They put out The Call saying, ". . . we call upon all the believers in democracy to join in a national conference for the discussion of present evils, the voicing of protests, and the renewal of the struggle for civil and political liberty." The conference took place and from that meeting a new organization was founded. It was called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The nineteen fearless women named above were instrumental in encouraging the formation of the NAACP in 1909; among them was Anna Carpenter Garlin Spencer. More will be said about Anna at this blog on April 17th.
|Anna Carpenter (Garlin) Spencer (1851 - 1931)|
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Photograph of quote by Jane Addams in The American Adventure in the World Showcase pavilion of Walt Disney World's Epcot by Neelix. The copyright holder released the work into the public domain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Addams.JPG
Photograph of Fannie Garrison Villard (1913) was taken before 1923 and is now in the public domain in the United States. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fanny_Garrison_Villard.jpg
Photograph of Jane Addams in profile is in the public domain in the United States and is available from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jane_Addams_profile.jpg
Photograph of Mary Church Terrell is based on the work of a National Park Service employee created as part of the person's official duties and as such is in the public domain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_church_terrell.jpg
Photograph of Anna Carpenter (Garlin) Spencer from the Anna Garlin Spencer Papers (DG 034), Swarthmore College Peace Collection.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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