Copyright © 2009 Henrietta W. Hay
Women's History Month
March 27, 2009
March is Women's History Month. What history? Until the past several hundred years historians did not know that women
Well, let's see. There have been a few who got reported. Eve started the whole thing. And there was Cleopatra and Lucrezia Borgia, and Joan of Arc. Queen Isabella helped discover America. There was even a Queen Henrietta, but she wasn't a very good queen.
I had an interesting question tossed at me at breakfast this morning; "What American woman made the biggest impact on the country?" I had to say Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
In 1848, women could not vote, own property or run for president. A hundred and sixty-one years later we can do all of those things and a lot more. The anniversary of the Women's Rights Movement is celebrated each year in March.
The revolution really started on July 13, 1848, with five women having tea and conversation in upstate New York. One of them was Elizabeth Cady Stanton who was dissatisfied (to put it mildly) with the limitations placed on her by America's new democracy.
The women agreed to convene what they called, "A convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women." It was to be held in Seneca Falls, New York. .
Out of that convention came the "Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions," signed by some 70 women and 30 men.
They used the Declaration of Independence as its framework.
The statement closed with, "Now, in view of this entire disenfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation,--in view of the unjust laws, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States."
The backlash was immediate and severe. But the negative articles and comments about women's call for expanded rights were so vicious that they actually had a positive impact. Women and men across the country were alerted to the issues and the revolution began.
Stanton teamed up with Susan B. Anthony to form the National Women Suffrage Association. Those two made quite a team. Stanton, mother of seven and a prolific writer, stayed home and wrote diatribes against female discrimination. Anthony, aggressively single and a fine orator, spread her partner's words across America.
There are, of course, countless other women who have made an impact on American society. One is Betty Friedan. Her book, "The Feminine Mystique" aroused another generation of women to realize their potential.
Another is Margaret Sanger. She was a pioneer in the long medical and legal efforts to make birth control methods effective and legal.
I can't resist mentioning another woman, without whom we might still be wearing house dresses.
Thank you, Amanda Bloomer, for wearing your "pants" in public.
In "Living the Legacy," a chronology written for the National Women's History Project, we find these words, "The staggering changes for women that have come about over these seven generations in family life, religion, employment, education, did not happen spontaneously. Women themselves made them happen. Seven generations of women have worked together to bring about those changes by the most democratic ways: through meetings, petition drives, lobbying, public speaking and nonviolent resistance. They have worked very deliberately to create a better world, and they have succeeded hugely."
Thank goodness for uppity women.