Happy Birthday Elizabeth Cady Stanton!

Elizabeth_StantonOn November 12, 1815, the pioneering American suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in Johnstown, New York. Stanton was a leader in 19th century activism for women’s suffrage. She often worked with Susan B. Anthony as the theorist and chief writer for the movement while Anthony acted as the public spokesperson for women’s rights.

Holding fast to her belief in true equality, when Elizabeth Cady married abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton in 1840 she insist that the word obey be dropped from the ceremony.

While she is is best known for her lifelong contributions to the woman suffrage struggle, she was effective in winning property rights for married women, equal guardianship of children, and liberalized divorce laws that all helped to make it possible for women to leave marriages that were harmful to the wife, children, or economic health of the family.

Mrs. Stanton died in New York on October 26, 1902 – 20 years before American women won the right to vote.

I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.

-Elizabeth Cady Stanton

In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object.

Declaration of Sentiments,
Seneca Falls Convention (July 19-20, 1848)

Our “pathway” is straight to the ballot box, with no variableness nor shadow of turning… We demand in the Reconstruction suffrage for all the citizens of the Republic. I would not talk of Negroes or women, but of citizens.

Letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Women have crucified the Mary Wollstonecrafts, the Fanny Wrights, and the George Sands of all ages. Men mock us with the fact and say we are ever cruel to each other… If this present woman must be crucified, let men drive the spikes.

Letter to Lucretia Mott

I have endeavored to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at last that peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church.

– “The Degraded Status of Woman in the Bible”,
Free Thought Magazine, September 1896

To make laws that man cannot, and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt.

-Address to the Tenth National Women’s
Rights Convention on Marriage and Divorce,
New York City, May 11, 1860

To deny political equality is to rob the ostracised of all self-respect; of credit in the market place; of recompense in the world of work; of a voice among those who make and administer the law; a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment.

Addressing Committee of the
Judiciary, January 18, 1892

Men think that self-sacrifice is the most charming of all the cardinal virtues for women, and in order to keep it in healthy working order, they make opportunities for its illustration as often as possible. I would fain teach women that self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.

The Woman’s Bible (1898)

Margaret Sanger: Woman Rebel

Margaret Sanger: Woman Rebel

Margaret Sanger, birth control crusader, feminist and reformer, was one of the most controversial and compelling figures of the 20th century. The first volume of “The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger,” titled “The Woman Rebel, 1900-1928,” documents the critical phases and influences of an American feminist icon and offers rare glimpses into her working-class childhood, burgeoning feminism, spiritual and scientific interests, sexual explorations, and diverse roles as wife, mother, nurse, journalist, radical socialist and activist.

In spite of the some perceived negative aspects of her determination to be a martyr for the birth control movement, Sanger was a positive social force in testing and denouncing the Comstock law. The law, named for Anthony Comstock, a postal inspector who had lobbied Congress to forbid the distribution of obscene materials throughout the United States, equated birth control and sex education with obscenity. (more…)

Words from Us
Words from Us
Margaret Sanger: Woman Rebel
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Radio: The Homosexual in Our Society (1958)

Radio: The Homosexual in Our Society (1958)

This 1958 recording is the earliest known radio show episode that openly discussed homosexuality. The show is in the form of a panel featuring:

  • The Host/Moderator: Elsa Knight Thompson – The Public Affairs Director of KPFA (Founded in 1949 by Lewis Hill, a pacifist, poet, and journalist, KPFA was the first community supported radio station in the USA.)
  • The Gay: Hal Call – The editor of the Mattachine Society’s newsletter, the Mattachine Review. After graduating Call worked for several news outlets, including the Kansas City Star. In August 1952, while working for the Star, Call was arrested for “lewd conduct” and paid an $800 bribe to have the charges dismissed. Call resigned his job and he and his lover Jack moved to San Francisco. Call died in San Francisco on December 18, 2000, at the age of 83.
  • The Doctor: Dr. Blanche BakerDr. Blanche Baker – A psychologist noted for her then-rarely-shared belief that homosexuality was not an abnormality nor an illness. Few activists were so universally loved within the West Coast homophile movement as San Francisco psychologist Blanche M. Baker. In the 1950s and 1960s, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental illness that could be cured or managed by psychotherapy treatments. While many therapists quietly dismissed this in practice, Dr. Blanche Baker put her career on the line by publicly challenging the designation.
  • The Civilian: Lee Galey – The mother of a gay man, Galey recounts her shock at first learning her son is gay and her eventual embrace of her son’s sexuality.

The host focused many of her questions on the idea of a conflict between the society and the individual, as well as whether the root of homosexuality is a product of biology or environment. Elsa Knight Thompson seems more interested in the origins of homosexuality than anyone else on the show.

Elsa Knight Thompson also seems convinced that there may be some kind special artistic talents that go hand in hand with homosexuality. Doctor Baker and Hal Call both confirmed that in their experience “the homosexual is, on the average, more talented” but that may not be a just evaluation because of the very small number of openly gay people they know. But Hal thinks the difference is that gay men may have more of an opportunity to be creative as a young man because he is not tied down in a job with dependents at a young age.

What I find rather heart warming about this whole discussion is the way most of the panel doesn’t really give a crap WHY people are gay. Hall Call also explains his theory about “gay mannerisms.”

Words from Us
Words from Us
Radio: The Homosexual in Our Society (1958)
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The Truth About Prohibition and Murder

The Truth About Prohibition and Murder

Through the years a variety of laws were passed in Nebraska to limit the sale of alcoholic beverages. But until the second decade of the 20th century, these laws fell short of complete prohibition.

Initially the prohibitionists pushed for a “county option” to permit individual counties —- as opposed to cities and towns — to declare themselves wet or dry. This allowed the prohibitionists to drum up support among rural residents far from towns who would not be directly effected the way business owners who served or sold liquor in towns were. In the end, that bill was defeated by the anti-prohibition forces.

Nationwide both sides used hyperbole, heavily biased statistics, and ominous rhetoric to promote their position, but this ad that ran in the The Alliance Herald in Box Butte County, Nebraska on October 19, 1916 takes the cake. (more…)

Should Girls All Dress Alike?

Should Girls All Dress Alike?

The question: Should Students Have to Wear School Uniforms? is alive and well in America today.  The adoption of uniforms by public schools is on the rise in many parts of the United States.

Schools with a student body consisting of 50% or more non-white kids are four times more likely to require uniform dress than schools with a minority base of 20-49% and twenty-four times more likely than a school with a white student population of 81-95%.

By 2008, 22 states had laws in place allowing local schools to decide on the issue of uniforms for students.

Early in 1913 this question was being debated in the city of Seattle, Washington – but only for girls.

Dress School Girls All Alike?

Shall Seattle put its high school girls a uniform dress?

Miss Ruth Shank thinks her simple dress should be adopted by all high school girls.

Miss Ruth Shank thinks her simple dress should be adopted by all high school girls.

A retiring the school board recently proposed it. The Federated women’s club has taken the matter up in discussion. Teachers in the schools favor the idea. Mothers have varying opinions.

In our grandmothers day it was not actually understood that the matter of dress might have a good deal of effect on the work of a high school girl or that it in any way affected her morals. Neither was understood that adenoids, removable by a simple and almost painless operation, made a dunce of a really smart child, or that scientific ventilation facilitated the work of students.

Ruth Shank, a pupil at Lincoln high school, is a disciple of simplicity in dress.

“I believe,” she said, “high school girls are trying to be more simple in their dress. They don’t wear loud or flashy clothes any more. But I think they should be even more simple. A uniform dress might be just the thing.”

An investigation in the New York schools have revealed the fact that many pupils are retarded to their studies because of petty jealousies aroused in matters of dress. Boys too, they say, pay too much attention to gaily the dressed girls.

(more…)