The Fairer Sex: Women’s Right to Vote: Susan B Anthony

Welcome to another post in the series “The Fairer Sex”. This is week five, we only have four more weeks. Here the list of topics again if you wanted to see them:

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: Ancient Women

Week 3: Medieval Women

Week 4: Victorian Women

Week 5: Women’s Right To Vote: Susan B Anthony

Week 6: World War Women

Week 7: Modern Women

Week 8: Religion and Women

Week 9: Conclusion

Today’s subject is on Susan Brownell Anthony, or as she is more famously known: Susan B. Anthony. Susan was born on February 15th 1820 in Adams, MA. If you’ve studied your American History then you know that she is most famously known for winning the right for women to vote in 1920.

Susan came from a Quaker family that was committed to Social Equality. Susan’s father encouraged her and her siblings, regardless of sex, to be self-supporting, teaching them business principles and giving them responsibilities at an early age. Her family was also very politically active. Her family was involved in the Abolitionist and Temperance movements. When Susan was seventeen she collected Anti-Slavery Petitions.

Susan’s activism career began when she was a teacher from the age 17 to 29. During her time teaching, Susan discovered that men were being paid significantly more than women for doing the exact same job.While teaching in Canajoharie, New York, Susan saw that male teachers were being paid $10.00 per month (which would have been roughly $271.68 today) and female teachers were being paid $2.50 ($67.92 today). She joined The Teachers Union to fight for equal wages. even after she stopped teaching in 1853, she was still involved in the Teacher’s Union and in a convention she called for better pay, professional recognition, and deeper involvement of women in the movement.

But really her career began when she began to attend conventions for the Temperance movement in the New York State. In 1849, Susan became Secretary For Daughters Of Temperance, here is where she began to speak against alcohol abuse. But this was also where she met her life long friend: Elizabeth Stanton. Together they changed the world.

A_poser_for_a_bloomer_John_Johnson_political_&_satirical

In a reversal of genders, a “bloomer” asks her fiancé’s shocked father for consent to marry her son: satirical cartoon from 1852 – Wikipedia

During this time there was an article of clothing that was made and made it’s most famous appearance at this point in time. Yes, I am speaking of the Bloomer. The Bloomer at first was just some clothing that was supposed to be a healthier alternative to the long, heavy dresses that women were wearing. But it quickly became a symbol for Women’s Rights, the Bloomer actually got it’s name from Amelia Bloomer, a suffragette and was the editor for the first newspaper for women called “The Lily”. She wrote in the newspaper that she had adopted the dress and explained how to make it. It was thus then dubbed Bloomer’s Dress.

For a while Susan and several suffragette wore bloomers but after a year she and her colleagues went back to more traditional clothing because they discovered people were paying more attention to their clothes then to their ideas.

In 1872, Susan was arrested for illegally voting the Presidential Election. According to “The Trial of Susan B. Anthony” by Ann D. Gordon it says this about the incident:

On November 5, 1872, in the first district of the Eighth Ward of Rochester, New York, Susan B. Anthony and fourteen other women voted in the United States election, which included the election for members of Congress. The women had successfully registered to vote several days earlier. A poll watcher challenged Anthony’s qualifi- cation as a voter. The inspectors of election took the steps required by state law when a challenge occurred: they asked Anthony under oath if she was a citizen, if she lived  in the district, and if she had accepted bribes for her vote. Following her satisfactory answers to these questions, the inspectors placed her ballots in the boxes. The individuals at the polling place revealed the state and federal aspects of Anthony’s crime. Three inspectors of election, local men who also served as a board of registration for voters, enforced the election laws of New York, which allowed all white males and some black males to vote. Since ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, Congress had provided for new federal oversight of elections through several Enforcement Acts, primarily to ensure that all black men be allowed to vote despite state laws, but also to stop fraud and corruption in federal elections. Two federal supervisors of election oversaw the inspectors

The judge declared Susan guilty and charged her a $100 fine, which she never paid. Then the judge asked Susan if she had anything to say and why the sentence should not be pronounced on her.

Judge Hunt—(Ordering the defendant to stand up), Has the prisoner anything to say why sentence shall not be pronounced?

Miss Anthony—Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered erdict of guilty, you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor’s verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government. Judge Hunt—Th e Court cannot listen to a rehearsal of arguments the prisoner’s counsel has already consumed three hours in presenting.

Miss Anthony—May it please your honor, I am not arguing the question, but simply stating the reasons why sentence cannot, in justice, be pronounced against me. Your denial of my citizen’s right to vote, is the denial of my right of consent as one of the governed, the denial of my right of representation as one of the taxed, the denial of my right to a trial by a jury of my peers as an offender against law, therefore, the denial of my sacred rights to life, liberty, property and—

Judge Hunt—The Court cannot allow the prisoner to go on.

Miss Anthony—But your honor will not deny me this one and only poor privilege of protest against this high-handed outrage upon my citizen’s rights. May it please the Court to remember that since the day of my arrest last November, this is the first time that either myself or any person of my disfranchised class has been allowed a word of defense before judge or jury—

Judge Hunt—The prisoner must sit down—the Court cannot allow it.

Miss Anthony—All of my prosecutors, from the 8th ward corner grocery politician, who entered the complaint, to the United States Marshal, Commissioner, District Attorney, District Judge, your honor on the bench, not one is my peer, but each and all are my political sovereigns; and had your honor submitted my case to the jury, as was clearly your duty, even then I should have had just cause of protest for not one of those men was my peer; but, native or foreign-born, white or black, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, awake or asleep, sober or drunk, each and every man of them was my political superior; hence, in no sense, my peer. Even, under such circumstances, a commoner of England, tried before a jury of Lords, would have far less cause to complain than should I, a woman, tried before a jury of men. Even my counsel, the Hon. Henry R. Selden, who has argued my cause so ably, so earnestly, so unanswerably before your honor, is my political sovereign. Precisely as no disfranchised person is entitled to sit upon a jury, and no woman is entitled to the franchise, so, none but a regularly admitted lawyer is allowed to practice in the courts, and no woman can gain admission to the bar—hence, jury, judge, counsel, must all be of the superior class.

Judge Hunt—The Court must insist—the prisoner has been tried according to the established forms of law.

Miss Anthony—Yes, your honor, but by forms of law all made by men, interpreted by men, administered by men, in favor of men, and against women; and hence, your honor’s ordered verdict of guilty, against a United States citizen for the exercise of “that citizen’s right to vote,” simply because that citizen was a woman and not a man. But, yesterday, the same man-made forms of law, declared it a crime punishable with $1,000 fi ne and six months’ imprisonment, for you, or me, or any of us, to give a cup of cold water, a crust of bread, or a night’s shelter to a panting fugitive as he was tracking his way to Canada. And every man or woman in whose veins coursed a drop of human sympathy violated that wicked law, reckless of consequences, and was justified in so doing. As then, the slaves who got their freedom must take it over, or under, or through the unjust forms of law, precisely so, now, must women, to get their right to a voice in this government, take it; and I have taken mine, and mean to take it at every possible opportunity.

Judge Hunt—The Court orders the prisoner to sit down. It will not allow another word.

Miss Anthony—When I was brought before your honor for trial, I hoped for a broad and liberal interpretation of the Constitution and its recent amendments, that should declare all United States citizens under its protecting aegis—that should declare equality of rights the national guarantee to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. But failing to get this justice—failing, even, to get a trial by a jury not of my peers—I ask not leniency at your hands—but rather the full rigors of the law.

Judge Hunt—T e Court must insist— (Here the prisoner sat down.) Judge Hunt—The prisoner will stand up. (Here Miss Anthony arose again.) The sentence of the Court is that you pay a fine of one hundred dollars and the costs of the prosecution.

Miss Anthony—May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a $10,000 debt, incurred by publishing my paper—The Revolution—four years ago, the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your man-made, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, that tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in the government; and I shall work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”

Judge Hunt—Madam, the Court will not order you committed until the fine is paid.

That’s some intense dialogue right there. Suffice it to say that this got quite the publicity.

Susan and Elizabeth continued their quest for Women’s Rights up until their deaths. They held conventions, wrote speeches and articles for the papers. From 1869-1906, Susan appeared before every congress to ask for a women’s suffer amendment.

In 1906 on her 86th birthday she made one last speech in which she said these famous words:

 “There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible”

Susan died March 13th, 1906. She is supposed to have said this before she died.

“To think I have had more than 60 years of hard struggle for a little liberty and then to die without it seems so cruel.”

In 1920, 14 years after Susan B. Anthony’s death, women were finally granted the right to vote. Not only that, but even before Susan’s death, legal rights for married women were in place in most states, more and more professions were now being opened for women and at least 36,000 women were attending colleges. She may not have been able to have the liberty, but she gave it to future generations.

Before I close this week’s post there is one more quote that stuck out to me. Clara Barton said this a few days before Susan’s death and I wanted to share it with you:

“A few days ago someone said to me that every woman should stand with bared head before Susan B. Anthony. ‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘and every man as well.’ … For ages he has been trying to carry the burden of life’s responsibilities alone… Just now it is new and strange and men cannot comprehend what it would mean but the change is not far away.

So it might be helpful to not just see it as women weren’t being treated fairly, but that men had to handle life all on their own and now women could help handle burden and they will, next week we talk about being a woman during the World Wars.

Thank you again for joining me this week, I hope to see you next week!

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The Fairer Sex: The Victorian Era

Welcome to week four of our nine week series. We are just about half way through this series. Before we launch into our topic for this week, I want to say that I have learned a lot during this journey. This has provided me the opportunity to study about different cultures and societies. I also hope, Reader, that perhaps this series is changing your life for the better. Now on to our topic.

This week we are discussing the Victorian era of England. The Victorian era took place from the years 1837-1901. Queen Victoria is the reigning monarch on the British throne, it is a time of peace, Pax Britannica (British Peace), prosperity, etiquette and a strong sense of morality.

The role of women has risen since the Medieval era. Women could now go and get jobs so long as it didn’t interfere with their domestic duties, higher education (education at all) was becoming more and more available.

The Victorian era was also a time in which gender roles were being even more sharply defined than at any other point in history. Below is a chart of some of the qualities that were expected of both men and women.

MEN                                          WOMEN

Powerful

Weak

Active Passive
Brave Timid
Worldly Domestic
Logical Illogical
Rational Emotional, susceptible to madness, hysteria
Individual Social/Familial
Independent Dependent
Able to resist temptation Unable to resist temptation
Tainted Pure
Ambitious Content
Sexual/Sensual Not sexual/sensual
Sphere: Public Sphere: Private

At this point in history, more and more workers commuted to their workplace. A shopkeeper, for example, might not necessarily live above his shop anymore and leaves early in the morning to open his store. Or the factory workers would walk from their homes to the factory and back. So whereas women used to help more in the shop it was less so now since it wasn’t directly connected to the home.

For any woman, rich or poor it was expected for a woman to marry and have children. But of course in order to do that one must find a husband. Pre-marital sex in that day in age was scandalous and absolutely unacceptable. However, the woman had be subtle in her search for a husband. A woman was expected to little no sexual feelings, only to have sex so she might be able to bear children and please her husband. If she was obvious with her intent for a husband, then company might think her to have a ravenous sexual appetite. A Victorian doctor named William Acton famously once stated this:

“The majority of women (happily for them) are not very much troubled with sexual feeling of any kind…As a general rule, a modest woman seldom desires any sexual gratification for herself. She submits to her husband’s embraces, but principally to gratify him; and, were it not for the desire of maternity, would far rather be relieved from his attentions.”

Further on the subject, sex was a obscure mysterious subject. The term “unmentionables” as another name for undergarments comes from this era, arms and legs were called limbs, there is even a myth that Victorians would cover furniture legs because they were supposedly suggestive. Most women didn’t even learn about sex until their wedding night (talk about an awkward time to get a sex ed lesson.)

In this time women were becoming literate and educated. However women were not taught sciences and high level math. Here is a quote from Pride and Prejudice which gives us an idea of what a middle class and higher class woman was taught:

A woman must have thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages…and beside all this she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expression. – Ch. 8

In the 1840’s two college’s were opened. The first was Queen’s College which was founded by men who were sympathetic to the need of better educating women and second was the Ladies College which would later be known as Bedford College, this college was founded and run by women. However women who were devoted to intellectual pursuits were given the unkind name of Blue-stocking. Doctors actually claimed that if a woman studied too much it would damage her ovaries and turn her into a prune, this would make her unmarriable. Crazy huh?

In conclusion, this is a new age for women. Women are being treated less like second-rate citizens and more equally. Women are more literate and educated than at any other point in time at that point and even although there were many professions that shut women out, this was a building block to the next step.

Next week we will talk about a very important woman: Susan B. Anthony the woman who fought to vote.

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The Fairer Sex: Medieval Women

Hey, I am so sorry that this post is late. Work has been hard this week and I was doing some extra studying for this week’s topic. As for last week I was really busy. So instead of this week’s topic I posted this instead.

This week’s topic is Medieval Women. If you remember from two weeks ago we were talking about women in Antiquity. We explored a couple ancient cultures and saw how women were treated.

Now we are moving up to the Middle Ages. Our story continues after the collapse of the great Roman Empire. Christainity is the main religon of most kingdoms at this time and the world is trying to reorder itself.

Now women’s role change very little- if at all- during the Middle Ages. They were the main caretakers of the home. Poorer women would care for the children, sew, brew beer and spin. Among this, they might help their husbands out in the field, or if he was wealthy enough to own a shop she might help him with the shop. A wealthier woman would overlook the household, checking finances, preparing the menus for the meals and the like.

It was hard for women to earn a living. They were paid less than men. For reaping, a man typically would be paid 8 pence a day. However for a woman, she would get 5 pence. And for hay making, men could earn 6 pence a day while women got 4 pence. Sometimes a woman would have to get several jobs just to make ends meet.

This poem was written by William Langland and it speaks of the tragedy of the Lower-Class Woman in the Early Middle Ages:

“Burdened with children and landlords’ rent;
What they can put aside from what they make spinning they spend on housing,
Also on milk and meal to make porridge with
To sate their children who cry out for food
And they themselves also suffer much hunger,
And woe in wintertime, and waking up nights
To rise on the bedside to rock the cradle,
Also to card and comb wool, to patch and to wash,
To rub flax and reel yarn and to peel rushes
That it is pity to describe or show in rhyme
The woe of these women who live in huts;

In this age women had limited life choices. If you had to simplify it, it was be married to go to a convent. In noble families, children would often be betrothed, even married by the age of 7. However the marriage was not sealed until consummated. Since in poor families it was all hands on deck to make sure the family didn’t starve, a woman might not marry until she was 20. Poorer families couldn’t afford to loose a worker.

In wealthy families (and I’m sure for poorer families as well) it was important that a woman produced a boy so that the family name could be preserved. But pregnancy was a dangerous thing. In the medieval ages there weren’t many doctors, so many children and women died during childbirth. It is speculated that 20% of women died in childbirth.

If a woman didn’t want to risk childbirth or marriage, she might ‘take the veil’ and join a convent. While the rules at a convent could be strict, sometimes they would be taught to read and write, something that not most people knew, much less something that was taught to women. (A quick note aside: we should all be grateful that we can read and write. Just imagine not being able to read these very words. We wouldn’t be able to read books, letters, even our own bibles!) When a woman became a nun she had to take three vows.

The Vow of Poverty: A nun had give up worldly possessions. She couldn’t own anything, everything belonged to the community.

The Vow of Chastity: A nun couldn’t marry or have sexual interactions.

The Vow of Obedience: She must obey her Abbess.

A nun’s life was about living as a bride for the Lord both in prayer, meditation and in works of charity. In fact when a novice became a nun it was celebrated much like a wedding, the nun was even given a wedding ring to wear because she was married to The Lord.

But now what happens when you are a woman in the middle ages and your husband dies? Well if a woman’s husband dies and she has either no sons or underage sons, she could inherit whatever her husband left behind. A widow strangely had many more freedoms then a married woman. According to the book: The Wealth of Wives: Women, Law, and Economy in Late Medieval London it states this:

A widow had a unique status in both borough and common law. She was not under the legal guardianship (Mund) of either her father or her husband. While the moral literature perpetuated the image of widows as poor and devout women, another image of widows was also prevalent in Christian Literature. Widows could be potentially independent, powerful individuals and sexually aggressive. Chaucer portrayed such a widow in “The Wife Of Bath.” A widow could enter into contracts alone, sue for debt, run her business or till her land and marry off her children. She could also choose her own husband the second time around.”

Even though she could choose her husband for the second time, she didn’t have to remarry and if she didn’t remarry she could keep those freedoms. If she did remarry, all the land, money and titles were transferred over to her new husband’s name.

Speaking of widows, there was an important woman born in the Late Middle Ages. Her name was Christine de Pisan (sometimes spelled Pizan) an Italian French woman born in 1364 was an author. Her father Tommaso di Benvenuto da Pizzano (or just Thomas de Pizan) was a astrologer for the French Court. Christine received a magnificent education she not only learned how to read and write, but she learned to speak Latin, (Only extremely intelligent and wealthy people learned to speak Latin) she learned philosophy, and the sciences known in the medieval world.

At fifteen, Christine married Etienne du Castel, a royal secretary, who died in 1389. She had three children two of whom died in childhood and her surviving daughter- Jean du Castel- became a nun.

When Christine’s husband died, Christine looked for a way to support her mother, niece and three children. She turned to writing and became a court author, writing poems and ballads of love for nobles.

Christine’s most famous work is “The Book Of The City Of Ladies” written in response to Jean De Meun’s poem Roman De La Rose (Romance Of The Rose) which criticized women as seducers and that their only purpose is to seduce men and cause them to fall. In this book Christine defends the female gender against the unjust prejudice they receive. If you’d like to read a short biography on Christine de Pizan as well as excerpts from her first book click here. Christine also wrote a sequel called “The Treasure Of The City Of Ladies” in which Christine lays out ways that women can influence her society for the better despite her position.

Christine de Pizan is one of the earliest feminists and Simone de Beauvoir in 1949 wrote:  “[This is] the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex”. If you ever have time I strongly suggest reading her books. I personally am still searching for her first book, but I am in the process of reading her second book and it is life changing. But that is for a different post.

In conclusion, life was rough on Medieval Women, things were getting a little better but not too much. Women could now inherit from their fathers and husbands (Supposing they had no brothers or sons). And if they were widowed a woman could have unimaginable influence in the region she lived in. Now we skip ahead 340 years to The Victorian Age. An age of sophistication, strict morality, and peace. Until next time.

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Sorry for the wait!

So I am terribly sorry about the wait. I’ve been busy with some stuff at work and I was also doing some extra research for this week’s topic. So instead, I am posting up what I did last Tuesday. There was an article I found on Facebook and I reacted to it and wrote this on Facebook.

ME: I am a teenage girl and I definitely feel this. We need to stop putting all the blame on women and what they wear. While there should be some restraints, such perhaps not wearing bikinis or that dress with the low neckline, we should be free to decide what we want to wear.

It is not the responsibility of women to make sure that any man who looks at her is not drawn into lust. We should be considerate of our brothers in the lord, however it not our responsibility.

When we wear beautiful clothing it should be for the glory of God. It should be because we want to look beautiful before him. Not because we are afraid of ourselves

This is the link to the article.

Here is the response I got. The name shall remain anonymous, however I will say it is someone I know who was trying to challenge me.

FRIEND:  Ok, but where do you get the parameters for the restraints? You suggest “no bikinis and no low-cut dresses”. Why? I have further thoughts but I want to see how you respond to my question first  😛

ME:  I admit my comment on parameters was vague. I guess I would say that it’s not how much skin you show, but the attitude in which you wear it and the message your clothing is sending.

For example, let’s say I was wearing the sundress shown in this article. The dress suggests a hipster style while also keeping cool in the summer. I wouldn’t say that the dress is provocative. It may reveal the shoulders and the upper half of her back, but the attitude is not provocative.

Whereas, a black dress with a low neckline is provocative, giving the viewer a teasing peek at what might follow. The attitude there is about being sexy.

Now, please do not assume that there should never be a reason to look sexy. When you are with your husband or fiance, there is a place for that. The issue is when women wear these clothes outside of these contexts for the sole purpose of being sexy to everyone.

Sometimes these women do it because they are lonely and want to feel loved. Sometimes women do it because they love the power that it gives them. Others simply don’t understand.

I hope that gives you an answer and some insight to my concerns.

FRIEND:  Ok, so I had further thoughts but they all boil down to- perhaps this is a more nuanced issue than people give it credit for. And by people I mean people on both ends of the pendulum swing. So all I as poking at you for was a bit of nuance. That’s all 🙂 Love you!

ME: Not at all. It made me think about what I meant.

I hope that will hold you over to when I finally finish my next blog post. Hang in there!