The current divisive debate over national immigration policy has two sets of confrontational positions. On one side, advocates of immigration favor a liberal policy of admitting sizable numbers of immigrants, no discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, or national origin, and protection of undocumented immigrants. On the other side, President Trump is the leading spokesperson and advocate for building a wall on our southern border with Mexico, banning certain immigrants from entering the country, and deporting those living here illegally, many of whom, he insists, are criminals.
The debate in some ways echoes discussions in the nation a century ago.
In 1921, the vice president published an article entitled “Whose Country Is This?” in the popular magazine Good Housekeeping. “We are confronted by the clamor of multitudes who desire the opportunity offered by American life,” the author noted. But America has no place for “the vicious, the weak of body, the shiftless or the improvident . . . Our country must cease to be regarded as a dumping ground.” People accorded the privilege of immigrating to the U.S. should become productive, patriotic citizens. “It would not be unjust to ask of every alien: What will you contribute to the common good, once your were admitted through the gates of liberty?”
“There are racial considerations too grave to be brushed aside for any sentimental reasons,” the author continued. “Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With other races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides.”
What was needed was “the right kind of immigration.”
That sounds a bit like some government leaders who are demanding immigration restriction today. Actually, it was Calvin Coolidge (R, Vice President, 1921-1923, President 1923-1929).
He became President on August 2, 1923, upon the death of President Warren G. Harding, and was elected in his own right the next year. Coolidge was bland and taciturn. He tried to avoid controversy. But Coolidge had strong views on immigration, some with parallels to today.
In his first address to Congress on December 6, 1923, he struck a theme of limited, selective immigration: “New arrivals should be limited to our capacity to absorb them into the ranks of good citizenship. America must be kept American. For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration.”
In 1924, he signed the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act which severely limited immigration, imposed a quota system based on the 1890 census which in effect favored northern Europeans over others, continued a longstanding ban on Chinese immigration, and imposed a new one on Japanese immigration.
His views on immigration were complicated. Speaking to a delegation of labor leaders on September 1, 1924, he asserted that “Restricted immigration has been adopted by this administration chiefly for the purpose of maintaining American standards. It undoubtedly has a very great economic effect. We want the people who live in America, no matter what their origin, to be able to continue in the enjoyment of their present unprecedented advantages. This opportunity would certainly be destroyed by the tremendous influx of foreign peoples if immigration were not restricted. Unemployment would become a menace, and there would follow an almost certain reduction of wages with all the attendant distress and despair which are now suffered in so many parts of Europe. Our first duty is to our own people.”
The Republican Party platform that Coolidge campaigned on that year put the economic case this way: “The unprecedented living conditions in Europe following the world war created a condition by which we were threatened with mass immigration that would have seriously disturbed our economic life. The law recently enacted [the Johnson-Reed Act] is designed to protect the inhabitants of our country, not only the American citizen, but also the alien already with us who is seeking to secure an economic foothold for himself and family from the competition that would come from unrestricted immigration.” Putting the jobs argument more directly, immigration restriction “saves the American job for the American workman,” as Coolidge said in a speech in December of that year.
On the other hand, he opposed some immigration restrictions and celebrated America as a melting pot. For instance, he lobbied Congress not to include the Japanese provision in the immigration act, and instead to continue a longstanding, informal agreement by which Japan voluntarily limited the number of its citizens emigrating to America. Congress included it anyway. In his formal signing statement on May 26, 1924, an angry Coolidge called the provision “unnecessary and deplorable” and asserted that Americans had a “sentiment of admiration and cordial friendship for the Japanese people” despite the new law.
He told the American Legion convention in 1925 that “Whether one traces his Americanism back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years [ago in] the steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of today is real and genuine. No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat.”
In a 1926 speech, he said “when once our feet have touched this soil, when once we have made this land our home, wherever our place of birth, whatever our race, we are all blended in one common country. All artificial distinctions of lineage and rank are cast aside. We all rejoice in the title of Americans.” In Calvin Coolidge’s public utterances and his actions on immigration, several themes emerge. Some have reverberations for today.
Coolidge emphasized that America has prospered and excelled in the past. Times were good then. But things seem to be slipping. Principles and values seemed in danger and future prospects appeared dimmer. Coolidge thought Americans had to be on guard. That sentiment sounds similar to Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again.”
Coolidge encouraged assimilation. He believed that most past immigrants adopted American values and assimilated with the population already living here. Race, religion, and a consensus about the importance of family, hard work, and patriotism were important parts of that process. But, he went on, people now clamoring for admission were of different races and religions, and were determined to hold onto their own cultures and values. These new immigrants tended to stay together rather than assimilate and blend in and, to Coolidge, that made them a threat to the nation. Coolidge’s views in this area seem similar in some ways to Trump’s and other immigration restrictionists.
Economics was a critical issue in Coolidge’s thinking. The economy was expanding but there were only so many jobs to go around, he implied. Letting in too many immigrants would take jobs from citizens already here. America’s capacity to absorb newcomers was therefore limited. That sounds a lot like immigration restrictionists’ arguments that immigrants (particularly undocumented immigrants) compete with American citizens for jobs, especially low-paying positions.
Coolidge felt that Americans need not be concerned with conditions in other countries or the fate or prospects of people who wanted to come in as immigrants but were not allowed to do so. That was not something for which Americans had responsibility. It was up to those countries, and to the individuals living there, to fend for themselves. That, too, parallels the view expressed by immigration restrictionists today that unemployment, poverty, and violence elsewhere in the world, e.g., Central and South America, do not justify people from those nations seeking sanctuary here in the United States.
We have to keep to “America First!” — a vague and undefined but popular slogan among Coolidge and conservatives in those days and occasionally used by President Trump. It has overtones of American exceptionalism, nationalism, and patriotism but also undertones of nativism and racism.
Whose country is this? It was a central question a century ago, and still is today. President Coolidge and President Trump might have similar answers to the question.
Whose Country is This?
By Calvin Coolidge, Vice-President elect of the United States Good Housekeeping, volume 72 number 2, February 1921, pages 13-14, 109
Men and women, in and of themselves, are desirable. There can’t be too many inhabitants of the right kind, distributed in the right place. Great work there is for each and every one of them to perform. The country needs all the intelligence, and skill, and strength of mind and body it can get, whether we draw such form those within our gates, or from those without, seeking entrance. But since we are confronted by the clamor of multitudes who desire the opportunity offered by American life, we must face the situation unflinchingly, determined to relinquish not one iota of our obligations to others, yet not be so sentimental as to overlook our obligations to ourselves. It is a self-evident truth that in a healthy community there is no place for the vicious, the weak of body, the shiftless, or the improvident. As professor Sumner of Yale, asserts in his book, “The Forgotten Man,” “every part of capital which is wasted on the vicious, the idle, and the shiftless, is so much taken form the capital available to reward the independent and productive laborer.” We are in agreement with him in his conviction that the laborer must be protected “against the burdens of the good-for-nothing.
We want no such additions to our population as those who prey upon our institutions or our property. America has, in popular mind, been an asylum for those who have been driven form their homes in foreign countries because of various forms of political and religious oppression. But America cannot afford to remain an asylum after such people have passed the portals and begun to share the privileges of our institutions.
These institutions have flourished by reason of a common background of experience; they have been perpetuated by a common faith in the righteousness of their purpose; they have been handed down undiminished in effectiveness from our forefathers who conceived their spirit and prepared the foundations. We have put into operation our faith in equal opportunity before the law in exchange for equal obligation of citizens. All native-born Americans, directly or indirectly, have the advantage of our schools, our colleges, and our religious bodies. It is our belief that America could not otherwise exist. Faith in mankind is in no way inconsistent with a requirement for trained citizenship, both for men and women. No civilization can exist without a background-an active community of interest, a common aspiration-spiritual, social, and economic. It is a duty our country owes itself to require of all those aliens who come here that they have a background not inconsistent with American institutions. Such a background might consist either of a racial tradition or a national experience. But in its lowest terms it must be characterized by a capacity for assimilation. While America is built on a broad faith in mankind, it likewise gains its strength by a recognition of a needed training for citizenship. The Pilgrims were not content merely to reach our shores in safety, that they might live according to a sort of daily opportunism. They were building on firmer ground than that. Sixteen years after they landed at Plymouth, they and their associates founded Harvard College. They institutionalized their faith in education. That was their offering for the common good. It would not be unjust to ask of every alien: What will you contribute to the common good, once your were admitted through the gates of liberty? Our history is full of answers of which we might be justly proud. But of late, the answers have not been so readily or so eloquently given. Our country must cease to be regarded as a dumping ground. Which does not mean that it must deny the value of rich accretions drawn from the right kind of immigration.
Any such restriction, except as a necessary and momentary expediency, would assuredly paralyze our national vitality. But measured practically, it would be suicidal for us to let down the bars for the inflowing of cheap manhood, just as, commercially, it would be unsound for this country to allow her markets to be over flooded with cheap goods, the produce of cheap labor. There is no room for either the cheap man or the cheap goods. I do not fear the arrival of as many immigrants a year as shipping conditions or passport requirements can handle, provided they are of good character. But there is no room for the alien who turns toward America with the avowed intention of opposing government, with a set desire to teach destruction of government-which means not only enmity toward organized society, but toward every form of religion and so basic an institution as the home.
If we believe, as we do, in our political theory that the people are the guardians of government, we should not subject our government to the bitterness and hatred of those who have not been born in our tradition and are willing to yield an increase to the strength inherent in our institutions. American liberty is dependent on quality in citizenship. Our obligation is to maintain that citizenship at its best. We must have nothing to do with those who undermine it. The retroactive immigrant is a danger in our midst. His purpose is to tear down. There is no room for him here. He needs to be deported, not as a substitute for, but as a part of his punishment. We might avoid this danger were we insistent that the immigrant, before he leaves foreign soil, is temperamentally keyed for our national background. There are racial considerations too grave to be brushed aside for any sentimental reasons. Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With our races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides. Quality of mind and body suggests that observance of ethnic law is as great a necessity to a nation as immigration law.
We must remember that we have not only the present but the future to safeguard; our obligations extend even to generations yet unborn. The unassimilated alien child menaces our children, as the alien industrial worker, who has destruction rather than production in mind, menaces our industry. It is only when the alien adds vigor to our stock that he is wanted. The dead weight of alien accretion stifles national progress. But we have a hope that cannot be crushed; we have a background that we will not allow to be obliterated. The only acceptable immigrant is the one who can justify our faith in man by a constant revelation of the divine purpose of the Creator.
Figure 1: A 1921 political cartoon portrays America’s new immigration quotas, influenced by popular anti-immigrant and nativist sentiment stemming from World War I conflict. Source: Library of Congress
Charles P. Howlett & Patricia Howlett [Excerpted with Permission from Peace & Change, 44 (2), 169-206]
On matters of teacher loyalty and conscience, World War I marked a legal watershed in the United States. During this conflict, schools became seminaries of patriotism and teachers had to promote loyalty and allegiance to the government. On the local level, the New York State Legislature passed a 1917 law mandating that teachers would be subject to dismissal for “the utterance of any treasonable or seditious word” and even created a commission to hear and examine complaints about “seditious” textbooks in subjects like civics, history, economics, and English literature. In elementary schools, teachers were instructed to teach the themes of patriotism, heroism, and sacrifice as well as learning about the differences between German autocracy and the American democratic way of life.
New York City, the nation’s largest school system, became the flash point for conflict over conscience. One Board of Education member, General Thomas Wingate, displaying the bluntness of a drill sergeant rather than the aplomb befitting his retired military rank, proclaimed in the New York Times that “It is time to read the riot act to some of these teachers . . . [T]he teacher who teaches pacifism and that this country should not defend itself is a thousand times more dangerous than the teacher who gets drunk and lies in the gutter.” Despite elaborate hearings, defense counsel and all the appearances of a trial, the decision to fire teachers had been largely predetermined by the hysteria and overzealousness of the educational officials in charge of conducting the proceedings. Throughout the city’s school system, teachers were suspended, transferred to another school, or dismissed for questioning American military involvement, refusing to teach patriotism in their classes, or not taking the recently enacted loyalty oath.
At first, the New York City Board of Education denied certificates of morality and loyalty to probationary teachers which they needed for permanent licensure and tenure. This became the backdoor method for avoiding a school hearing or trial. Anyone in the classroom who was suspected of disloyalty or sympathetic to socialist ideas or pacifism risked an investigation that would determine if they could keep their certificate. High school teachers such as Harrison C. Thomas at De Witt Clinton High School were denied their certificate even though Thomas had been classified as a conscientious objector. Because he would not enthusiastically promote Liberty Bonds with his students and proclaimed “he would do anything but fight,” the high school committee of the Board of Education found him unfit to teach. Although not a conscientious objector, Bernard M. Parelhoff of George Washington High School was also denied his certificate “because he did not believe in teaching patriotism in the schools and had no reverence for the uniform.” Thomas and Parelhoff were just two of many teachers from city high schools, including Girls’ Commercial, Stuyvesant, Brunswick, and Julia Richman, to have their certificates not renewed.
Teachers faced much the same on the elementary level. Alexander Fichlander of Public School 165 in Brooklyn was denied his certificate. At Public School 62, twenty-four teachers were grilled by their immediate supervisors and then their cases were referred to the board of education for a public hearing about their fitness for certification in January 1918. In all of these cases of certificates denied, no trial or hearing took place.
A number of secondary and elementary teachers possessing licenses and accused of disloyalty resisted; they were willing to go to trial (such proceedings were classified as a hearing before school administrators and board officials, which were conducted in legal fashion with both the board’s attorney and defense counsel for the accused, so it really was a trial). One of the most notable cases occurred at De Witt Clinton High School in the northern part of The Bronx. Three teachers — Samuel Schmalhausen, Thomas Mufson, and A. Henry Schneer — were dismissed from their teaching positions. A trial was held for all three in early December 1917.
Schmalhausen, an instructor in English, was charged with “unbecoming conduct” because he gave a writing assignment asking students to compose “a frank letter to Woodrow Wilson commenting on his conduct of the war against the government of Germany.” Schneer, a mathematics teacher, was found guilty because he insisted that if uniformed soldiers came in to address students so, too, should pacifists be invited to speak as well as his opposition to military training in schools. Mufson, also an English teacher, was accused of discussing anarchism in class and for taking a neutral position on the war — during his testimony he refused to answer any questions pertaining to active support for the war.
After the day-long trial they were discharged, according to the City Board of Education, for “holding views subversive of good discipline and [sic] undermining good citizenship in the schools.” They were fired because of their socialist opposition to the war and alleged “radicalism”; Mufson also felt that anti-Semitism played a role since all three were Jewish.
Whatever the precise combination of factors, school officials quickly became obedient servants to the state and followed orders. Gustave Straubenmuller, acting superintendent of the city’s schools, instructed principals to submit to his office the names of any teacher whose patriotism was questionable. Investigations throughout the city school system were rampant. Given the nationalistic climate at that moment, the superintendent had numerous supporters within the teaching ranks. Many teachers were quite vocal in demanding the dismissal of any colleague who criticized the war effort.
One of the clearest examples occurred in December 1917, when a large contingent of teachers gathered at the respected Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan for a “loyalty meeting.” They called for the firing of “disloyal” teachers, demanding their immediate dismissal from the classroom. The meeting concluded with teachers loudly proclaiming a loyalty pledge which stated in part: “We declare ourselves to be in sympathy with the purposes of the government and its efforts to make the world safe for democracy, and believe that our highest duty at this moment is to uphold the hands of the President and Congress in this crisis.”
What quickly followed was the New York “Teachers Council” establishing an investigative arm to sanitize every school of “disloyal” and “unpatriotic” teachers. A questionnaire was sent to all 23,000 teachers ascertaining their beliefs about the war as well as undertaking an effort to remove from the classroom German alien teachers who had not taken out citizenship papers. Such action prompted the Teachers Union to counter with a petition opposing the signing of such loyalty pledges under compulsion. Some eighty-seven teachers endorsed it; the union also wrote President Wilson requesting that he draft a pledge, which teachers could sign “without violating their consciences.” It never materialized.
John Dewey, sympathetic to the union’s position and seeing the rise of Prussianism at home, lashed out at the Board of Education by calling them “self-righteous patriots” who impugned other people’s loyalty. He also stated that the three teachers at De Witt Clinton were treated unfairly in being “charged with a lack of that active or aggressive loyalty which the state has a right to demand, in wartime particularly, from its paid servants.” Putting it bluntly, he referred to it as an “Inquisition.” These condemnations addressing compulsory loyalty fell on deaf ears. The momentum for total obedience continued unabated despite the 1897 New York State statute enacting tenure to protect teachers from unfair firings or political pressures. Creating a loyalty pledge provided a convenient pathway for charges “unbecoming a teacher” as allowed under the governing tenure statute.
America going to war created an inconvenient truth for teachers when it came to matters of conscience. One of the earliest victims in this regard was Brooklyn elementary teacher Miss Fannie Ross of Public School 88; she was benched for six months. On December 27, 1917, according to the Flushing Evening Journal, Ross “had been found guilty of opposing the draft and of having used her influence against military enlistment.” As reported in the education journal, School and Society“It was charged that while acting as a census agent, she advised persons not to enlist in the military service, and induced them to claim exemption and that she was opposed to the drafting of men to wage war against the German government, and openly approved of the action of persons who refused to render military service.” However, after her hearing before the Committee on Elementary Schools, though found guilty of the charges, it “expressed the opinion that her utterances were tactless and not made in a spirit of disloyalty.” She accepted her suspension without pay.
A German-born elementary schoolteacher, also from Brooklyn, became a clear-cut victim of legal injustice in the chapel of patriotic obedience. Unlike Ross, she was not so fortunate to keep her job. Gertrude Pignol, was fired after a Board of Education hearing on May 7, 1918, on the grounds of “conduct unbecoming of a teacher,” an all too familiar and hard to overcome charge. Pignol immigrated to the United States from Germany when she herself was school aged and in 1911 applied for U.S. citizenship. A strong critic of German autocracy, she taught German and French at Brooklyn Manual for twelve years. In the fall of 1917, amid the patriotic hysteria sweeping the city schools she came under fire when an anonymous letter written by zealous teachers was sent to the board of education accusing her of being proGerman. In the spring of 1918, after she told her principal that she did not support U.S. military involvement but kept her personal beliefs to herself. She never once spoke about it to her students, yet her fate was nevertheless sealed. As evidence of her so-called “disloyalty,” disciplinary charges were brought against her for “wearing a locket engraved by her father and having a picture of the Kaiser’s grandfather on one side and the cornflower on the other.”
Pignol could have challenged her dismissal in a court of law. This was a teacher’s last resort if the Commissioner did not overturn the school board’s ruling. Some dismissed teachers did file a claim in court, but the time and expense made this course of action prohibitive to most. When considering the wartime climate of opinion, moreover, the chances were most unlikely that a sympathetic judge or jury would rule in favor of the dismissed teacher. Still, there were a few teachers who chose to take their case to court in the name of conscience and to stand up to the loyalty craze. One of the most famous cases in this regard was the dismissal of Phi Beta Kappa, Swarthmore College graduate, and Quaker Mary Stone McDowell from Brooklyn’s Manual Training High School, the same high school as Pignol. When she refused to take the loyalty oath because of her Quaker faith, school officials promptly gave her a hearing and then fired her anyway. Little consideration was given to the right to conscience claimed by the Society of Friends’ religious opposition to war. Grounds for her dismissal in terms of insubordination were that she turned over her homeroom responsibilities for participation in student fundraising for the war and leading students in the pledge of allegiance to another teacher while she remained respectfully silent as well as not joining in supporting the teachers’ loyalty pledge formulated by the “Teachers Council.”
McDowell, encouraged by attorneys for the New York Religious Society of Friends, chose to challenge her dismissal in state court, but she lost. Ironically, the reason she lost was because her attorneys, believing that this case was of such great magnitude in terms of religious freedom, decided to bypass the normal appeals process with the state Commissioner of Education and, instead, sought immediate relief in the state courts. The court ruled that she should have first appealed to the commissioner as part of the established due process procedure before filing suit. When they did take her case to the Commissioner, he also stood by the board’s decision. Her counsel then chose not to file a brief in the Court of Appeals, perhaps because no procedural error could be found meriting a review of the lower court ruling; the tactical strategy her attorneys employed bypassing established state education department procedures in such matters involving teacher discipline ultimately backfired. Her legal challenge, nonetheless, was the first case in American history involving the issue of religious freedom in public education that went to a state court.
To a certain extent, the anti-preparedness efforts of pacifist-socialist Brooklyn schoolteacher Jessie Wallace Hughan made teachers prime targets for loyalty zealots. Before the United States entered the conflict, Hughan was active in speaking out against the war. When the war first broke out she joined forces with other female pacifists Tracy Mygatt and Frances Witherspoon to initiate a number of peace groups that joined pacifism, Christianity, and socialist politics. In 1915, she organized the AntiEnlistment League, which enrolled 3,500 men who were willing to sign a declaration against military enlistment. After the country entered the war and three of her students signed an AntiEnlistment pledge, Hughan immediately became the subject of intense investigation by the city board of education for her antiwar activities. Fired up by the Wilson administration’s call for loyalty in schools her superintendent proclaimed, “We expect to bring before the Board of Education a resolution that will put a stop to Miss Hughan’s utterances and to those other teachers who have adopted a similar attitude.”
Hughan was not intimidated. She insisted that as long as she separated her role as teacher from her actions as a citizen she was free to express her position on matters related to war and social injustice — the same defense Pignol raised to no avail. “The whole question it seems to me,” she vigorously argued, “centers not about war or peace, but about the right of an individual to express a personal opinion in public . . . I has never expressed my views in the school in which I teach and have never spoken as a teacher. So I cannot have been ‘taking advantage of my position as a teacher.’” Despite tremendous pressure from the local press, public, and school board Hughan was not dismissed because her actions occurred prior to American entrance into the war. However, it was her case that “was partly responsible for the [subsequent legislation on loyalty] that enabled New York school boards to fire teachers, such as Pignol and McDowell, who did not fully endorse the war effort.”
In the years right after the war, fear and suspicion among teachers regarding the demands of state continued, with New York as its flashpoint. On March 26, 1919, the state legislature established a joint committee of six under the chairmanship of Senator Clayton R. Lusk. Although created as an investigating and not prosecuting body, this committee went out of its way to sponsor two new school laws. The first required a loyalty oath of all teachers and compelled any educators deemed guilty of advocating “a form of government other than the government of the United States or of this state” be removed from the classroom. In taking this oath, a teacher swore “that I am, have been and will be loyal and obedient to the government of this State and of the United States; that I have not while a citizen of the United States advocated, either by word of mouth or in writing, a form of government other than the government of the United States and of this State, nor have I advocated, either by word of mouth or in writing, a change in the form of government of the united States or of this State by force, violence or any unlawful means.” The second law required all private schools to be licensed by the state education department and stipulated that no license be granted to any school “where it shall appear that the instruction proposed to be given including the teaching of the doctrine that organized governments shall be overthrown by force, violence or unlawful means.” It was only after Al Smith became governor that these laws were repealed. “I firmly believe,” Smith proclaimed, “that I am vindicating the principle that, within the limits of the penal law, every citizen may speak and teach what he believes.”
Between the world wars, numerous states, including New York, required schoolteachers to sign an allegiance pledge supporting the Constitution of the United States. The residual effects of the war’s patriotic impulse, apart from the imposition of newly enacted loyalty oaths, also resonated long after the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. Teachers were still being held accountable for their remarks and positions on war and peace. Again, New York took center stage. A teacher in Public School 83 in New York City, Louis Jacobs, had been drafted but because of his conscientious scruples was declared “a sincere objector by the Board of Inquiry, and had been furloughed to the Friends’ Reconstruction Union [Unit] for service in Russia.” His conscientious objection to war made no difference in the eyes of Superintendent William Ettinger. His reinstatement was denied in 1919 on the grounds that the Superintendent “deemed him unfit for further teaching once the War was over.” On May 28, 1919, Louis H. Blumenthal of Public School 148 in Brooklyn was officially terminated “because as a conscientious objector to war, he refused to enter the Army.” Morris High School German and Spanish teacher Fritz A.H. Leuchs, in one of the strangest cases, was originally suspended on October 30, 1918, right after he decided to enlist in the Army. He was officially tried after the war for “unbecoming conduct” — sympathy for Germany, avoiding assemblies involving the flag salute, and lack of participation in War Savings Stamps and Liberty Bond drives. At his trial, the New York Times reported, “he appeared in the uniform of a United States soldier and showed his honorable discharge from the army. The only thing that he did not deny was that he had tried to enter the German army as a non-combatant before the war was declared by the United States.” The charges for dismissal were not upheld, his suspension removed, and his reinstatement immediately went into effect. Because of hostility expressed toward him by fellow teachers, he was transferred to another school due to his perceived lack of “respect to the war programme at Morris.” English teacher Garibaldi LaPolla, at De Witt Clinton High, the focal point of numerous investigations, and Stuyvesant High history teacher Charles Hamm found themselves scrutinized for possible dismissal in 1922 because four years earlier they “signed a letter . . . urging that men with conscientious scruples against killing be permitted to serve in noncombatant work.” In 1922, history teacher Simon Goldblum, again from De Witt Clinton, had to defend himself “because of a reputed remark in 1918 that reports of German atrocities had been exaggerated.”
Beale, H. (1936). Are American teachers free? Washington DC: American Historical Association.
Dewey, J. (1917). “Public education on trial,” New Republic 13. Ekirch, A. (1969). The decline of American liberalism. New York: Athenaeum.
Howlett, P. and Howlett, C. (2008, August). “A Silent Witness for Peace: The Case of Schoolteacher Mary Stone McDowell and America at War,” History of Education Quarterly 48(3).
Kennedy, K. (1999). Disloyal Mothers and Scurrilous Citizens: Women and Subversion during World War 1. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press,
The new state mandate to teach financial literacy in middle schools was passed on January 3, 2019 and becomes required instruction in September. The law passed 38-0 in our State Senate and 76-1 in the New Jersey Assembly. The most likely reason for an almost unanimous vote is the multiple financial crises affecting all income areas of residents in our state. Although New Jersey has the fifth highest per capita income in the United States at $67,609 and some of the highest property values, residents are struggling with debt at $62,300 per capita.
The alarm was sounded by a report in July 2014 from the Federal Reserve Bank that perhaps 52% of Americans have less than $400 in emergency savings: “Only 48 percent of respondents said that they would completely cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money.”
Although statistics can be distorted, they are still important and helpful. The data supports the need for financial education in grades K-12. Retirement savings are low and almost non-existent by younger workers, identified as “Millennials” (1980-2000) who are likely the parents of our students. According to a 2019 survey by Merrill Lynch 7 out of 10 millennials ages 18-34 received financial support from their parents in the last year. The primary reason for this is personal debt.
As a retired baby boomer, I remember when
• the owner of the corner grocery store would total the prices on a paper bag
• my parents received S&H green stamps as a reward for shopping
• my grandparents did not have a checking account and kept their savings in the basement
• only male students on my college campus had credit cards
• leaving school during my lunch hour to bring my pay check to the bank.
Financial matters were simpler, the line to deposit or cash a check was long, and money changed hands less frequently than it does today.
The technology of the ATM, direct deposit, PayPal, Apple Pay and a host of other fee-based services takes our money with its “invisible hand.” We are faced with up to 20 automatic deductions from our salaries within hours or days from earning it. For example, a person who uses an ATM machine with a fee of $3.00 a transaction is likely to pay more than $150 on weekly withdrawals over a year. If an organization collects $40,000 through PayPal or another provider, they will pay 2.9% per transaction or almost $1,200 in fees! New Jersey required the teaching of financial literacy K-12 in the 2009 Learning Outcomes and mandated a semester course as a requirement for high school graduation. New Jersey has 117 Learning Outcomes for teaching financial literacy in Grades K-12 in seven content areas of income and careers, money management, credit and debt, planning, saving, and investing, being a critical consumer, civic financial responsibility, and insuring and protecting.
Based on a survey of 65,000 college students administered by USA Today in 2014: “Students who took a class did better on the survey’s financial knowledge questions, were found to be more averse to debt, more likely to pay credit card bills on time, and less likely to go over their credit limit…The study, which is in its second year, is the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of high school financial literacy education on not only knowledge but attitudes and behaviors.”
The National Financial Literacy Report compiled by Champlain College (2017) identified only five states with a requirement of a ‘stand alone’ semester course and an effective curriculum that includes activities, relevance, and specific benchmarks. New Jersey received a grade of “B” while 27 states and the District of Columbia, a majority, received grades of C, D, and F.
As you will see in this report (https://www.champlain.edu/centers-of-experience/center-for-financial-literacy/report-national-high-school-financial-literacy ), a B grade does not necessarily mean that a state requires an adequate level of instruction. The Center estimates that half of “Grade B” states allocated less than one-quarter of a half-year course in high school to personal finance topics. This means that students in 8 of these “Grade B” states received between 7 and 13 hours of personal finance instruction in four years of high school. The report identified only11 states that required 15 or more hours of personal finance education in high school.
What Does the New Financial Literacy Law Require?
The legislation mandates that students receive instruction based on the NJ Learning Outcomes for Financial Literacy (9.1) in Grades 6, 7, and 8. The new mandate does not quantify the number of hours of instruction and it specifically requires instruction in each grade level rather than a semester or year course in any one grade. Schools should embrace this as an opportunity to establish positive student behaviors and engage students in decision-making and problem solving. In a school with a curriculum focusing on the application of real life situations, students in Grades K-5 are learning to respect money and understanding how our economy functions, middle school students are applying personal financial lessons to what they are studying in social studies and math and using the tools of technology to analyze their decisions and solutions to problems, and high school students are demonstrating competence as financial planners using scenarios and presentations.
Where Should Financial Literacy be Taught?
Many districts teach financial literacy in social studies, business or family and consumer science courses, math classes, or computer technology courses. The new law suggests a fragmented approach by requiring instruction for a few days or weeks in Grades 6, 7, and 8 without identifying the courses where it will be implemented or the amount of instructional time that is appropriate. Another perspective on this limited approach is to translate five days of instruction in 40-minute periods to about three hours of instruction. The research suggests that effective instruction is best taught in a semester course with 15 or more hours of instruction. There are currently 58 mandated Learning Outcomes for teaching financial literacy in Grades 6-8 and if one class period was allocated for each Learning Outcome, students would need over 30 hours of instruction, instead of 9 hours over three years! The National Financial Literacy Report is critical of instruction that is limited to one quarter or less, or the equivalent of 30 hours of instruction.
A study by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in January 2015 of three states (Georgia, Texas, Idaho) cited evidence of changes in financial decision-making by students in Texas and Georgia which required a half-year course for graduation, teacher training, clearly stated learning outcomes, and state and/or national assessments:
Based on our analysis, we conclude that exposure to the types of high school personal financial education mandated by these three states improves credit scores and reduces delinquency rates for young adults.
The research strongly indicates that it is important to talk about money with students, provide activities that encourage problem solving and decision-making, application of math skills, and relevance to what is taught or a student’s personal situation. Although credit cards, auto insurance, college loans, savings, and developing a personal budget are the most likely financial decisions for high school students in the next five years, there are also opportunities for personal application in a history or economics course which includes lessons on inflation, trade, national debt, and the inequality of income. Their parents are likely discussing banking, budgeting, mortgages, college expenses, investments and their grandparents are concerned with Social Security, retirement planning, and insurance. Even if students are not directly involved with these personal matters, they are aware of them.
How Should Financial Literacy be Taught?
After accepting the importance of financial education and its relationship to your district’s mission statement, the first step is for the curriculum team in your district and school to decide the best way to effectively deliver instruction on the required NJ Learning Outcomes. Piaget’s theories provide a significant understanding that middle school students are exploring and challenging theories about how the world works. Effective instruction leading to changed behaviors must be relevant, make applications to their prior knowledge and provide opportunities for inquiry, research, debate, and presentation. Instead of a checklist based on core content or the completion of a number of activity sheets, consider how scenarios, simulations, speakers, decision-making, and problem-solving impact enduring understandings and new behaviors regarding saving, spending, investing, and planning.
The second step is to identify the resources for these strategies. Consider planning your curriculum with the assistance of college professors, professional organizations, local banks and entrepreneurs. They require discernment, planning and customizing to your student population. Although there are many resources available on the internet and from banks, investment firms, and entrepreneurs, a serious concern is that some of these resources are simply not effective, do not support student inquiry and are missing applications to prior knowledge. The Council on Economic Education has developed lessons with application to economics and history that are also adaptable to financial literacy concepts. An organization in New York City, Working in Support of Educators (W!SE) has developed a best practices curriculum with assessments. A benefit of the W!SE program is that its effectiveness is demonstrated in many different states and in urban and suburban districts. The New Jersey Council on Economic Education offers professional development programs, webinars, and assistance. See the Works Cited section at the end of this article for their websites.
The third step is to provide meaningful and effective professional development for your teachers. When possible, professional development opportunities should be offered to every teacher in the district. Professional development is affordable and practical by using experienced teachers of financial literacy and economics in your district. Also, banks are required under the Community Reinvestment Act to support financial education in the areas where they are located and colleges and investment firms (real estate, insurance, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) have extensive experience and resources that can lead to a best practices model curriculum for your students. Consider a partnership or collaborative dialogue to get started.
The Importance of Assessments
A critical part of a best practice curriculum on financial literacy includes assessments that engage students in demonstrating their level of competency in addressing problems relating to financial decision making. One concern of the critics who are opposed to requiring financial literacy in schools is that it is not effective and has not produced significant changes in student’s behavior because it lacks relevance to the decisions that make in middle school and high school. A recent article in the Washington Post (April 23, 2019) stated that financial literacy is a “waste of time” and a poor financial decision:
“That’s because financial education simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t change behavior — as numerous studies have shown. Indeed, the fact that giving people information does not, by itself, change how they act is one of the most firmly established in social science, whether the subject is the dangers of drug use, the value of getting vaccinated or the calories in a restaurant’s bacon cheeseburger. The same is true of finance.”
Assessments can provide important answers to the debate on the efficacy of financial literacy instruction in grades K-12, especially when assessments involve more than one classroom or school and are validated by an outside professional organization or college faculty. Questions requiring an explanation are best for assessing what students have learned and how they are thinking. An example that includes multiple scenarios is: Select three (3) scenarios below and answer the question with a complete explanation as to which type of insurance policy (if any) is covered and a detailed explanation of the reasons. •
Scenario No. 1: A fire from another apartment destroys much of your apartment and your belongings. Whose insurance (yours of your landlord’s) pays for what? •
Scenario No. 2: You are negligent and leave food on your hot stove, starting a fire. Whose policy pays and what is covered? Are you liable for damage to the apartment building? •
Scenario No. 3: Your landlord is negligent in not repairing a plumbing problem you’ve been reporting, and a pipe bursts. Whose insurance (yours or your landlord’s) pays and what is covered?
Scenario No. 4: Someone trips and falls in your apartment and is injured. Does you renter’s liability pay for the injury, or your landlord’s?
• Scenario No. 5: Your apartment is broken into and your computer, television, and some jewelry are stolen. Are you covered?
• Scenario No. 6: Your landlord claims you have damaged the apartment and is keeping part of your security deposit. Will the renter’s insurance cover this loss?
• Scenario No. 7: Your washing machine overflows, flooding the basement.
Although multiple choice questions may not always represent higher cognitive skills, Working in Support of Educators (W!SE) provides valuable multiple choice assessments as part of their financial literacy certification test for students. The depth of learning comes with their rich data base of practice questions because the choices lead to deeper student inquiry and research. One benefit of using their multiple choice assessments is that these questions have been tested for reliability and validity and can be used objectively to measure local performance with other classes, schools or states.
Educators should also think about the importance of a longitudinal study of students taking financial literacy classes over time. Even if the evidence collected is anecdotal, it is helpful to collect data about financial decisions while students are still in school. For example, if financial literacy is taught in Grades 9 or 10, students in Grades 11 and 12 might be administered some of the questions they answered in Grades 9 or 10 to see if their answers remained consistent or if they improved or regressed.
Contributors: Shannon Alexander, Julianna Carron, Charles Friedman, Jennifer McCabe, Shannon Mitchell, Josh Schoenbrun, Stephanie Skier, Jasmine Torres, and Alan Singer
“I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty
cannot be Equally Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to
deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs.”
– Abigail Adams, 1776
“The origin of all power is in the people,
and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own
creation.” – Mercy Otis Warren, 1788
“If Congress refuse to
listen to and grant what women ask, there is but one course left then to
pursue. What is there left for women to do but to become the mothers of the
future government?” – Victoria Woodhull, 1871
“I do not believe that women are
better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature, nor
done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we
have not had the chance.” – Jane Addams, 1897
“There will never be
complete equality until women themselves help to make the laws and elect the
lawmakers.” – Susan B. Anthony, 1897
[Industrial Workers of the World] has been accused of pushing women to the
front. This is not true. Rather, the women have not been kept in back, and so
they have naturally moved to the front.” – Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
doubted that equal rights was the right direction. Most reforms, most problems
are complicated. But to me there is nothing complicated about ordinary
equality.” – Alice Paul, 1972
2020 marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution ensuring the right of women to vote. As part of our commemoration, Teaching Social Studies will publish material writing more women into United States history. This package contains lesson material on the Seneca Falls convention, the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” strike, 1917 food riots in New York City, the campaign for Woman’s suffrage, changing gender roles in the 1920s, the right of women to continue to work while pregnant, and on a number of individual women including Anne Hutchinson, Mercy Otis Warren, Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Lease, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Margaret Sanger, Sally Ride, Michelle Obama, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Aim: What did Anne Hutchinson contribute to American society?
Source: Anne Hutchinson in Massachusetts Bay, the National Park
Anne Hutchinson was a Puritan spiritual adviser, mother of 15, and an important participant in a religious controversy that sharply divided the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1636 to 1638. Hutchinson was part of a religious faction that believed they had received personal revelation about the will of God. Her religious convictions were at odds with the established Puritan clergy in the Boston area who believed knowledge of God’s will came through understanding of the Bible. Hutchinson’s popularity and charisma helped create a theological schism that threatened to destroy the Puritans’ religious community in New England. Because she refused to change her beliefs and stop teaching, she was tried for heresy and convicted. Her punishment was banished from the colony along with many of her supporters. The painting by Edwin Austin Abbey (1900) shows Hutchison defending herself in front of a court in New England in 1638. Questions 1. What is happening in this picture? 2. Who is Anne Hutchinson defending herself against? 3. In your opinion, what do you think Hutchinson is saying to her accusers and judges in this picture?
The Trial of Anne
Instructions: This is the transcript from the trial of Anne
Hutchinson. In 1638, she was found guilty of heresy (believing in false gods)
and banished from (forced to leave) the Puritan colony in Massachusetts Bay.
Read the excerpt of the trial and answer the questions below.
John Winthrop: Mrs. Hutchinson, you are called here as one of those that have
troubled the peace of the commonwealth and the churches here; you are known to
be a woman that has had a great share in the promoting of opinions that have
caused trouble, and…you have spoken out against our leaders, and you have
maintained a meeting and an assembly in your house that has been condemned by
our government as a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor
fitting for your sex, and you have continued doing this, even after we asked
you to stop. Therefore, we have thought good to put you on trial and ask you
what is happening. If the rumors against you are false, we will dismiss the
charges so that you may become a profitable woman here among us, otherwise if
you continue to speak your mind, then the court may take such course that you
may trouble us no further
Anne Hutchinson: I have come when you summoned me but I hear no charges against me.
John Winthrop: I have told you some already and more I can tell you . . . Why do
you lead a Bible study every week upon a set day?
Anne Hutchinson: It is lawful for me to do
John Winthrop: It is lawful for you to lead a Bible study for women, but your
meeting is of another sort for there are sometimes men among you.
Anne Hutchinson: If men came it is because they chose to be there.
John Winthrop: But you know it is illegal for a woman to teach a man scripture?
Anne Hutchinson: Again, if men chose to come to my meetings it was their own
fault. I taught all those who came to me.
Gov. John Winthrop: the
sentence of the court you hear is that you are banished from out of our jurisdiction
as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the
court shall send you away.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: You
have power over my body but the Lord Jesus has power over my body and my soul,
and you should assure yourselves this much, if you go on in this course, I will
bring a curse upon you and your children, the mouth of the Lord hath spoken
Gov. John Winthrop: the
sentence of the court is that you are banished from our land as being a woman
not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court sends you
Anne Hutchinson: I desire to know why I am banished?
John Winthrop: Say no more, the court knows why and is satisfied.
1. Who is in charge of
asking the questions? Do you think he is important in this society? Why?
2. Why is Anne Hutchinson
being banished from society?
3. Why wouldn’t the court
explain to Anne why she was being banished when she asked?
4. Why didn’t Anne just
deny the charges laid against her?
5. Do you think Anne
would have been treated differently if she were a man? Explain.
Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis Warren was born in Massachusetts in 1728. She was a dramatist, historian, and an important political writer during the American Revolution. Because she was a woman and concerned about being taken seriously, any of her works were published using pseudonyms. Mercy Otis Warren wrote poems and plays that attacked British authority in Massachusetts and urged colonists to resist infringements on their rights and liberties. Her home in Plymouth, Massachusetts was a meeting place for the Sons of Liberty before the outbreak of the War for Independence. Her regular correspondence included Abigail Adams, John Adams, and Martha Washington. During the debate over the Constitution, she opposed ratification unless it included a Bill of Right. In 1805, she published one of the earliest histories of the American Revolution.
How did Warren contribute to the push for American independence?
Where did Warren believe power should reside in a society?
Why is Warren considered “ambivalent” about the new Constitution?
A) Observations on the
New Constitution (1788)
origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to
check the creatures of their own creation.”
Letter to Catharine Macaulay (1788)
situation is truly delicate & critical. On the one hand we are in need of a
strong federal government founded on principles that will support the
prosperity & union of the colonies. On the other we have struggled for
liberty & made costly sacrifices at her shrine and there are still many
among us who revere her name to much to relinquish (beyond a certain medium)
the rights of man for the dignity of government.”
Abigail Adams: “Remember the Ladies” (1744-1818)
Background: Abigail Smith was born in Massachusetts in 1744. She never
received a formal education, however her mother taught Abigail and her sisters
to read and write. She married John Adams in 1764. He would become the first
Vice-President and second President of the United States, John Adams. She was
also the mother of John Quincy Adams, who became the sixth President.
Abigail Adams is remembered today for the many
letters she wrote to her husband while he was in Philadelphia in 1776 during
the Continental Congress. John frequently sought the advice of Abigail on many
matters, and their letters are filled with intellectual discussions on
government and politics. Abigail Adams was also a correspondent with Thomas
Jefferson and kept both Adams and Jefferson aware of events at home while they
served overseas during and after the American Revolution.
Abigail Adams to John Adams, March 31, 1776 I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Equally Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs. Of this I am certain that it is not founded upon that generous and Christian principal of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us. . . . I long to hear that you have declared an independence and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation. That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend. Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the Lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of Sense in all Ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your Sex. Regard us then as Beings placed by providence under your protection and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.
1. What events were
taking place when Abigail Adams wrote this letter?
2. Why does Abigail Adams
question the “passion for Liberty” of the men assembled in
3. What does she believe is the natural tendency of men?
4. What does she want the new Code of Laws to do?
5. In your opinion, what
is the historical significance of this letter?
Sentiments, Seneca Falls, NY, July 19-20, 1848
Background: The Declaration of Sentiments were written demands made by attendees of the July 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. The final document was signed by 68 women and 32 men. Prominent signees included Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amy Post, and Frederick Douglass.
A. When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
B. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.
C. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer. while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.
D. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
What does the second passage [B] of the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments declare?
What document is it modeled on?
According to section D, why do the signers of the Declaration feel justified in their campaign?
If you had participated in this convention, what specific rights would you have wanted to guarantee?
In your opinion, why did the authors of the Declaration of Sentiments model it on an early document from United States history?
In your opinion, have the problems noted in these passages been resolved in the United States? Explain.
Reactions to the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments
The male dominated press
did not take warmly to the Seneca Falls woman’s rights convention and the
Declaration of Sentiments. Read the articles, select one, and write a
letter-to-the-editor in response.
Public Ledger and Daily Transcript (Philadelphia): Our Philadelphia ladies not only possess beauty, but they are celebrated for discretion, modesty, and unfeigned diffidence, as well as, wit, vivacity, and good nature. Who ever heard of a Philadelphia lady setting up for a reformer, or standing out for woman’s rights, or assisting to man the election grounds, raise a regiment, command a legion, or address a jury? Our ladies glow with a higher ambition. They soar to rule the hearts of their worshipers, and secure obedience by the scepter of affection. The tenure of their power is a law of nature, not a law of man, and hence they fear no insurrection, and never experience the shock of a revolution in their dominions . . . Women have enough influence over human affairs without being politicians. Is not everything managed by female influence? Mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sweethearts manage everything. Men have nothing to do but to listen and obey to the “of course, my dear, you will, and of course, my dear, you won’t.” Their rule is absolute; their power unbounded. Under such a system men have no claim to rights, especially “equal rights.” A woman is nobody. A wife is everything. A pretty girl is equal to ten thousand men, and a mother is, next to God, all powerful . . . The ladies of Philadelphia, therefore, under the influence of most serious “sober second thoughts,” are resolved to maintain their rights as Wives, Belles, Virgins, and Mothers, and not as Women. Rochester (NY) Democrat: This has been a remarkable Convention. It was composed of those holding to some one of the various isms of the day, and some, we should think, who embraced them all. The only practical good proposed —the adoption of measures for the relief and amelioration of the condition of indigent, industrious, laboring females — was almost scouted by the leading ones composing the meeting. The great effort seemed to be to bring out some new, impracticable, absurd, and ridiculous proposition, and the greater its absurdity the better. In short, it was a regular emeute [riot] of a congregation of females gathered from various quarters, who seem to be really in earnest in their aim at revolution, and who evince entire confidence that “the day of their deliverance is at hand.” Verily, this is a progressive era!
Mechanics (Albany, NY): Now, it requires no argument to prove that this is all wrong. Every true hearted female will instantly feel that this is unwomanly, and that to be practically carried out, the males must change their position in society to the same extent in an opposite direction, in order to enable them to discharge an equal share of the domestic duties which now appertain to females, and which must be neglected, to a great extent, if women are allowed to exercise all the “rights” that are claimed by these Convention-holders. Society would have to be radically remodelled in order to accommodate itself to so great a change in the most vital part of the compact of the social relations of life; and the order of things established at the creation of mankind, and continued six thousand years, would be completely broken up. The organic laws of our country, and of each State, would have to be licked into new shape, in order to admit of the introduction of the vast change that is contemplated . . . [T]his change is impractical, uncalled for, and unnecessary. If effected, it would set the world by the ears, make “confusion worse confounded,” demoralize and degrade from their high sphere and noble destiny, women of all respectable and useful classes, and prove a monstrous injury to all mankind. Telegraph (Worchester, MA): A female Convention has just been held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., at which was adopted a “declaration of rights,” setting forth, among other things, that “all men and women are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The list of grievances which the Amazons exhibit, concludes by expressing a determination to insist that women shall have “immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.” It is stated that they design, in spite of all misrepresentations and ridicule, to employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and National Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and press in their behalf. This is bolting with a vengeance.
Isabella Bomfree was born into slavery in upstate New York. In 1826, she escaped slavery with her infant daughter but had to fight her former owner in the courts to free her son. In 1828, she became the first black woman to win a case like this against a white man. In 1843 Isabella Bomfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth and became an itinerant preacher and political activist. During the Civil War, Truth helped to recruit black men to join the Union Army. Truth was a nationally-known anti-slavery speaker. Her most famous speech was Ain’t I a Woman? In this speech she argued for equal human rights for all women and for blacks. Truth exclaimed, “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody helps me any best place. And ain’t I a woman?” Sojourner Truth was nearly 6 feet tall, and some people accused her of not really being a woman. When someone publicly claimed this in front of her, she paused her speech, glared at the man, and opened her blouse revealing her breasts.
1. Where was Isabella Bomfree born?
2. How did she use the
law to challenge slavery?
3. Why do you think Isabella Bomfree changed her name to Sojourner Truth?
4. In your opinion, why
is her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech considered one of the most powerful in United
“Ain’t I a Woman”
In May 1851, Sojourner Truth attended the Ohio
Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. She delivered a speech where she
demanded full and equal human rights for women and enslaved Africans. The text
of the speech was written down and later published by Frances Gage, who
organized the convention. In the published version of the speech Sojourner
Truth referred to herself using a word that is not acceptable to use. This is
an edited version of the speech.
Well, children, where
there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that
between the Negroes [Blacks] of the South and the women at the North, all
talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s
all this here talking about?
Then they talk about this
thing in the head; what do they call it? [Intellect, someone whispers.] That’s
it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or Negro’s rights? If my
cup won’t hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to
let me have my little half-measure full?
Then that little man in
black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, because Christ
wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had
nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God
ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these
women together . . . ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up
again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
“Women Suffrage in New Jersey”: An address to
the New Jersey State legislature by Lucy Stone (1867)
Lucy Stone (1818-1893) dedicated her life to improving the rights of American women. She graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1847, worked with the American Anti-Slavery Society, convened the first national Women’s Rights Convention in 1850, and in 1868 organized and was elected president of the State Woman’s Suffrage Association of New Jersey. This excerpt is from a speech she gave to the New Jersey State Legislature demanding the right of women to vote.
What arguments did Lucy Stone use when she demanded that New Jersey grant women the right to vote?
According to Stone, why was the right to vote the fundamental right of citizens?
A. Women ask you to
submit to the people of New Jersey amendments to the Constitution of the State,
striking out respectively the words “white” and “male” from
Article 2, Section 1, thus enfranchising the women and the colored men, who
jointly constitute a majority of our adult citizens. You will thereby establish
a republican form of government.
B. Gentlemen will see it
is no new claim that women are making. They only ask for the practical
application of admitted, self-evident truths. If “all political power is
inherent in the people,” why have women, who are more than half the entire
population of this State, no political existence? Is it because they are not
people? Only a madman would say of a congregation of Negroes, or of women, that
there were no people there. They are counted in the census, and also in the
ratio of representation of every State, to increase the political power of
white men. Women are even held to be citizens without the full rights of
citizenship, but to bear the burden of “taxation without
representation,” which is “tyranny.”
C. “Governments derive
their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Not of the governed
property-holders, nor of the governed white men, nor of the governed married
men, nor of the governed fighting men; but of the governed. Sad to say, this
principle, so beautiful in theory, has never been fully applied in practice!
D. What is Suffrage? It
is the prescribed method whereby, at a certain time and place, the will of the
citizen is registered. It is the form in which the popular assent or dissent is
indicated, in reference to principles, measures and men. The essence of
suffrage is rational choice. It follows, therefore, under our theory of
government, that every individual capable of independent rational choice is
rightfully entitled to vote.
D. The great majority of
women are more intelligent, better educated, and far more moral than multitudes
of men whose right to vote no man questions. Women are loyal and patriotic.
During the late war, many a widow not only yielded all her sons to the cause of
freedom, but strengthened their failing courage when the last good-bye was
said, and kept them in the field by words of lofty cheer and the hope of a
country really free.
E. We are asked in
triumph: “What good would it do women and negroes to vote”? We answer:
“What good does it do white men to vote? Why do you want to vote,
gentlemen? Why did the Revolutionary fathers fight seven years for a vote? Why
do the English workingmen want to vote? Why do their friends-John Bright and
Thomas Hughes and the liberal party-want the suffrage for them?” Women want to
vote, just as men do, because it is the only way in which they can be protected
in their rights.
Susan B. Anthony was born February 15, 1820 in Adams Massachusetts. She was brought up in a Quaker family with long activist traditions. Early in her life she developed a sense of justice and moral zeal. After teaching for fifteen years, she became active in temperance. Because she was a woman, she was not allowed to speak at temperance rallies. This experience, and her acquaintance with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, led her to join the women’s rights movement in 1852. Soon after she dedicated her life to woman suffrage. In 1872 she was arrested in Rochester, New York when she tried to vote in the Presidential election in violation of state law. She argued that she had the right to vote because the 14th amendment said, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” On the final day of the trial, Anthony, who had not previously been permitted to speak, defended her actions.
1. On what legal grounds
did Susan B. Anthony demand the right to vote?
2. Why did Anthony deny
the legitimacy of the trial?
3. What other act of
defiance is Anthony referring to in passage C?
4. In your opinion, why
do some historians consider Anthony’s defiance and this statement to the court
among the most important actions in the fight for women’s suffrage and social
United States v. Susan B. Anthony, Rochester New York, 1873
A. 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.
B. 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.
C. 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 fine 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.
D. 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.”
Mary Lease: The Power of
Wall Street Threatens Democracy
Mary Clyens was born in 1853, the daughter of famine era Irish immigrants to the United States. Her father and older brother died fighting for the North in the Civil War. In 1870, Mary Clyens moved to Kansas to teach at a Catholic mission school. She married Charles Lease, a local shop owner and pharmacist, and had four children. Charles Lease’s business was destroyed during the national financial crisis of 1873 and the family moved to Texas. In Texas, Mary E. Lease became involved in politics and was an active supporter of prohibition and women’s suffrage. She joined the Women’s Temperance Union, the Farmers’ Alliance and the Populist Party and obtained a national reputation as an outstanding orator. Between 1890 and 1896 she toured the country making speeches. She is credited with telling Kansas farmers to “raise less corn and more hell.” Some scholars believe Mary E. Lease was the model for the character Dorothy in Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” In 1902, Mary E. Lease divorced her husband and moved to New York City. She joined the Socialist Party, became an editor of a newspaper, and campaigned for Eugene V. Debs when he ran for president of the United States in 1908. She died in Callicoon, New York in 1933.
foreclosure – a bank takes over of a property after a borrower has not made payments on a mortgage or loan
monopoly – A company that controls an industry, good, or service
loan-shark – a moneylender who charges extremely high rates of interest tariff – a tax on imported goods (goods that are produced in other countries)
“This is a nation of
inconsistencies. The Puritans fleeing from oppression became oppressors. We
fought England for our liberty and put chains on four million of blacks. We
wiped out slavery and our tariff laws and national banks began a system of
white wage slavery worse than the first . . . Wall Street owns the country. It
is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but
a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great
common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master. The West
and South are bound and prostrate [defeated] before the manufacturing East.
Money rules . . . We want money, land and transportation. We want the abolition
of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the
government. We want the foreclosure system wiped out… We will stand by our
homes and stay by our fireside by force if necessary, and we will not pay our
debts to the loan-shark companies until the government pays its debts to us .”
1. What are 3 examples of
“inconsistencies” that Mary Lease lists in her speech?
2. What does Lease mean
by “slaves” and “masters” in her 1890 speech?
3. According to Lease,
what were the different circumstances of the U.S. regions of West, South, and
4. What does Lease mean
when she says the U.S. is “no longer a government of the people, by the people,
and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for
5. What economic and
policy changes does Mary Elizabeth Lease want?
6. In your opinion, does
the power of Wall Street banks threaten democracy? Explain.
Alice Paul: A Woman Who Gave Her Life to Her Cause by Shannon Alexander
Suffragettes protest in
front of the White House in Washington DC, February 1917.
childhood and religious upbringing strongly influenced her activism. She was
born on January 11, 1885 in Moorestown, NJ to William and Tacie Paul. The
eldest of four children, Alice spent her childhood at Paulsdale, a 265 acre
farm, where she was raised a Hicksite Quaker. Quakers beliefs, such as gender
equality and education for women, challenged societal norms at the time. They
also believed in making society a better place. Paul Another major influence on
Alice was her mother’s involvement in the women’s suffrage movement. Tacie Paul
was an active member of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and
regularly brought Alice to meetings.
graduating at the top of her class at Friends School, a Quaker High School in
Moorestown NJ, Alice continued her education at Swarthmore College, a Quaker
institution founded by her grandfather. After Swarthmore, she began graduate
work at the New York School of Philanthropy and also attended the University of
Pennsylvania where she received a M.A in Sociology in 1907. In the years that
followed, she studied sociology and economics in England and earned a doctorate
in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree.
that Alice Paul spent in England was a turning point in her political and
social life. While working at the Woodbrook Settlement of Social Work, Alice
befriended Christabel Pankhurst, daughter of the Emmeline Pankhurst, a leader
of the British Suffragist Movement and founder of the Women’s Social and
Political Union. The organization’s motto was “Deeds, not words” and it was
notorious for breaking the law. The radical ideals of the Pankhurst women
inspired Alice and she was transformed into a radical militant suffragette.
Direct Action To Promote
next three years Alice became involved in direct action to promote women’s
rights. She and her supporters smashed windows, threw rocks, and participated
in hunger strikes, demonstrations and picket lines. She was arrested on several
occasions. It was at this time when she also met her “partner in crime,” Lucy
Burns; an individual who would be greatly involved in Alice’s work in the
United States in the years to come. By 1910, Alice Paul had left England and
returned to the United States bringing the radical ideals and philosophies of
the English Suffragettes with her. She planned to implement these ideals to
help reshape the American Women’s Rights Suffrage movement.
demanded that the United States pass a new constitutional amendment giving
women the right to vote. She challenged the N.A.W.S.A., which focused on state
campaigns rather than calling for a constitutional amendment and supported
President Wilson. She blamed Wilson and his administration for not making
women’s suffrage a priority.
In 1911 the
American Women’s Suffragist movement moved from advocacy to activism. Alice
Paul and Lucy Burns took over the N.A.W.S.A Congressional Congress in
Washington D.C. and organized one of the largest parades supporting the right
of women to vote. On March 3, 1913, 8,000 women – suffragists, educators,
students, mothers, and daughters – marched down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the
White House where Woodrow Wilson was prepping for his inauguration. The parade ended
in chaos and a riot as police officers turned a blind eye as marchers were
mobbed by angry men watching the parade. As a result of the erratic
interruption, over 300 women were injured.
Alice Paul left the N.A.W.S.A and founded the Congressional Union for Women’s
Suffrage, whose sole priority was a constitutional amendment. In 1915, the
group was renamed the National Women’s Party. The reorganization of the NWP and
the creation of Silent Sentinels marked a new level of struggle. On January 10,
1917 Alice and the Silent Sentinels began their two and a half year picket
demonstration outside of the White House. President Wilson was initially amused
by the suffragettes. However, his attitude changed after the United States
entered the war in 1917. When women continued to picket and referred to him as
“Kaiser Wilson,” many were arrested, including Alice Paul, for “obstructing
traffic.” They were sent to Occaquan Workhouse, a woman’s prison in Virginia,
where they were forced to live in unsanitary cells, brutalized, abused, and
Hunger Strikes and Prison
imprisoned, Alice Paul continued to protest for women’s suffrage by partaking
in hunger strikes. Prison doctors had to forcibly feed her, sticking tubes down
her throat and shoving food into her stomach. Though these procedures were
torturous, she never succumbed. Her actions gained her widespread support and
other women began to follow in her footsteps. After a 22-day hunger strike, one
of the prison doctors was quoted saying about Alice Paul: “She has the spirit
of Joan of Arc and it is useless to try to change it. She may die, but she will
never give up.”
15, 1917, a date known as the Night of Terror, W.H Whittaker, superintendent of
the workhouse and over forty men beat, choked, dragged, and brutalized many of
the women prisoners. One of the victims was a 73-year old woman. Once the press
released news about the attacks, as well as the hunger strikes and the
torturous force-feeding methods, the public became outraged. The women received
widespread sympathy from the general public and from politicians, including
In 1920, the
19th Amendment was ratified and women gained the right to vote. For the rest of
her life, Alice Paul continued to fight for women’s rights both domestically
and internationally. In 1923, she announced a campaign for another
constitutional amendment, which she called the “Lucretia Mott Amendment” or the
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). It would say, “Men and women shall have equal
rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its
The ERA was
first introduced in Congress in 1923, and continued to appear in every session
of Congress until in 1972. It was finally passed in 1972, but failed to get
ratified by the states.
1920s through the 1950s, Alice Paul traveled across South America and Europe
advocating women’s rights. During World War II, she became involved in a Peace
Movement which helped give refuge to victims under the Nazi regime. She
strongly believed that if women were more involved in World War I, World War II
would never have happened. In 1938, she helped establish the World’s Woman
Party (WWP) in Geneva Switzerland. The WWP worked closely with the League of
Nations to ensure equal rights for men and women.
return to the United States in the 1950s, Alice campaigned to abolish l sex
discrimination. Her efforts were successful, and the sexual discrimination clause
(title VII) was added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Alice Paul never married or had children. Her entire life was
devoted to the cause of women’s rights. She died in 1977 at the age of 92 in
Moorestown, NJ from heart failure.
In 1917 Food Riots Led By
Immigrant Women Swept Through U.S. Cities
at New York City Hall (Library of Congress)
1917 the United States still had not entered the Great War in Europe. But the
week of February 19-23, 1917, there was a wave of food riots in East Coast
United States cities attributed to wartime food shortages, profiteering, and
hoarding. The New York Times reported
riots in New York City’s the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan and in Boston,
Massachusetts, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Williamsburg and Brownsville, Brooklyn an estimated 3,000 women rioted
overturning peddler’s pushcarts and setting them on fire after food prices
spiked. On New York City’s Lower East Side an army of women, mostly Jewish,
invaded a kosher poultry market and blocked sales the day before the Jewish
Sabbath. They protested that the price of chicken had risen in one week from
between 20 and 22 cents a pound to between 28 and 32 cents a pound. Pushcarts
were overturned on Rivington Street and at a similar protest in the Clermont
Park section of the Bronx. Four hundred of the Lower East Side mothers, many
carrying babies, then marched on New York City Hall shouting in English and
Yiddish, “We want food!” “Give us bread!” “Feed our children!” The Manhattan
protests were organized by consumers committees led by the Socialist group
Mothers’ Anti-High Price League, which had also organized a successful a
boycott on onions and potatoes.
At the City
Hall rally, Ida Harris, President of the Mother’s Vigilance Committee,
declared: “We do not want to make trouble. We are good Americans and we simply
want the Mayor to make the prices go down. If there is a law fixing prices, we
want him to enforce it, and if there isn’t we appeal to him to get one. We are
starving – our children are starving. But we don’t want any riot. We want to
soften the hearts of the millionaires who are getting richer because of the
high prices. We are not an organization. We haven’t got any politics. We are
just mothers, and we want food for our children. Won’t you give us food?”
rally the police arrested Marie Ganz, known in leftwing circles as “Sweet
Marie,” when Police Inspector John F. Dwyer claimed he heard her inciting a
group of women to continue rioting while she was speaking in Yiddish, a
language it is unlikely that Dwyer understood. Ganz was soon released with a
suspended sentence. Dwyer, four years later, was implicated in a Congressional
investigation of real estate fraud in New York City.
City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, who was away from City Hall during the
protests, finally meet with the group’s leaders and then directed city
commissioners of Charities, Health and Police to determine whether there were
cases of starvation or of illness from insufficient nourishment amongst the
city’s working class and poor.
At a public
hearing the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment unanimously passed a
resolution instructing its Corporation Counsel to draw up a bill to be
presented to the State Legislature City that would authorize the city to
purchase and sell food at cost during emergencies. It also urged Congress to
fund an investigation of food shortages and price spikes. Speakers at the
hearing in favor of immediate action to address food shortages and price hikes
included Lillian D. Wald of the Henry Street Settlement, “Sweet Marie” Ganz,
and Rabbi Stephen Wise of Manhattan’s Free Synagogue.
the hearing, “We are all of a common people and we would lay down our lives for
this country. The people are suffering and ask you to do what you can for them.
What you should do is get after the people who have been cornering the food
demanded to know if “there is food enough the city or there is not food enough.
If there is not food enough here then the city officials should do what England
and Germany have done. They should have supplies passed around equally. If
there is enough food, the question is: What can be done to control prices?”
directly to Mayor Mitchel, Rabbi Wise declared: “If an earthquake should
happen, you would not hesitate a moment, Mr. Mayor, to go to the Governor or to
telephone to the President at Washington if a telephone could be used, or go to
General Wood at Governors Island and demand army stores. Of course, that would
be an emergency, but this is an emergency also, though, of course, it is not as
spectacular an emergency as an earthquake would cause. But the fact remains
that you have got to take energetic steps. Let us have an end of this cheap
the Mayor launched a campaign to have women substitute rice for potatoes while
George W. Perkins, the chairman of the city’s Food Committee, personally
donated $160,00 for the purchase of 4,000,000 pounds of rice and a carload of
Columbia River smelts from the State of Washington. Arrangements were also made
with William G. Willcox, President of the New York City Board of Education, to
distribute a flyer to every school child encouraging parents to purchase and
serve rice as a way of holding down the price of other commodities.
the food riots, Congressman Meyer London, a Socialist who represented a
Manhattan district, gave an impassioned speech in Congress where he argued:
“While Congress is spending millions for armies and navies it should devote a
few hours to starving people in New York and elsewhere. You have bread riots,
not in Vienna, nor in Berlin, not in Petrograd, but in New York, the richest
city of the richest country in the most prosperous period in the history of
Cahan, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward,
a Socialist and Yiddish language newspaper, reported that they had investigated
a number of cases and that families, even with working members, were suffering
speakers at the Boston rally denounced the high cost of food, as many as 800
people, mostly women and children, looted a grocery and provision store in the
West End. Police finally suppress the rioters. Philadelphia was under virtual
marshal law after a food riot led to the shooting of one man, the trampling to
death of an elderly woman, and the arrest of four men and two women. Several
hundred women attacked pushcarts and invaded shops.
States Attorney for Massachusetts announced the formation of a special Federal
Grand Jury to investigate food shortages and price increases. He blamed “local
intrastate combinations” that were forcing up prices. New York County District
Attorney Edward Swann also began an investigation into reports that potatoes
were being warehoused on Long Island while farmers and agents waited for prices
possible source of the probably were coal shortages caused by wartime demand
that were disrupting food supply lines. The Bangor & Aroostook Railroad in
Maine, that served the country’s chief source for potatoes, reported it had
only a five-day supply of coal in stock.
The Times also reported on the formation of
“Feed America First” in St. Louis, Missouri. Police officials warned the
protest movement might be the result of pro-German propaganda designed to
pressure the Wilson administration to embargo food shipments to European combatants.
Federal investigators, however, argued that there were no facts supporting this
from protestors and the city government pushed New York State Governor Charles
S. Whitman to endorse emergency measures to contain food prices. In a public
announcement he declared that “There is no doubt in my mind that the situation
is the most serious perhaps in the history of this State, and it will grow
worse before it grows better. I intend to take any steps that may be necessary
to bring relief to the famine-stricken poor in New York City and other
communities where there is widespread suffering.” Whitman then called for the
immediate passage of the Food and Market bill proposed by a special state
legislative committee headed by State Senator Charles W. Wicks. However, by
mid-March the original Wicks Committee bill, which would have allocated broad
power to the city government to regulate food markets, was dead after facing
fierce opposition from farm groups in upstate regions.
later everything changed when the United States entered the war. The Socialist
Party of America continued its opposition to United States involvement and many
of its leaders were imprisoned while the mother’s food campaign receded from
Background: In January 1912 a newly enacted Massachusetts law reduced the workweek of women and children from 56 to 54 hours. Mill owners in Lawrence, Massachusetts responded by cutting the wages of these workers by 32 cents a week. While it does not seem like a lot of money now, for workers, whose average pay was $8.76 per week, that meant family members would go hungry. The workers, who were largely immigrant women, went on strike. They were helped by the Industrial Workers of the World and organizers “Big Bill” Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. To break the strike, mill owners hired provocateurs to cause trouble and planted dynamite in an attempt to discredit strikers. Strikers grew so angry that they attacked a streetcar with scabs who were crossing the picket line. Police attacked the strikers, killing one person. The next day a soldier killed another striker.
as conditions in Lawrence grew tenser and more desperate, striking families sent 119 of their children to
New York City to live with relatives or strangers who supported their strike.
5,000 people greeted the children at Grand Central Terminal. When a second
trainload of children arrived a week later, the children paraded down Fifth
Avenue. Because the “children’s exodus” won broad public support for the
strikers, Lawrence mill owners and authorities tried to stop a third trainload.
When mothers tried to get their children on the train, police dragged them away
by their hair, beat them with clubs, and arrested them.
the women was a strategic mistake. President William Howard Taft ordered the
Attorney General to investigate what was happening in Lawrence and Congress
held hearings. Striking workers, including children testified about brutal
working conditions and poor pay in the Lawrence mills. A third of mill workers
died within a decade of taking their jobs from respiratory infections caused by
inhaling dust and lint or from workplace accidents. A fourteen-year-old girl
recounted how she was hospitalized for seven months after a mill machine tore
off her scalp.
result of public outcry, mill owners agreed to many of the workers’ demands and
the nine-week strike ended. The workers received a 15% wage hike, overtime, and
the mill owners’ promise not to retaliate against striker leaders. By the end
of March, other New England textile workers received similar raises.
“Bread and Roses” originated in a speech by Rose Schneiderman, an
organizer for the garment workers union in New York City. It became the title
of a poem by James Oppenheim and appeared on signs and banners at Lawrence,
Massachusetts rallies. It later became a song sung at union rallies and
“Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim
As we go marching, marching In the beauty of the day A million darkened kitchens A thousand mill lofts grey Are touched with all the radiance That a sudden sun discloses For the people hear us singing Bread and roses, bread and ro
As we go marching,
We battle too for men
For they are women’s children
And we mother them again
Our lives shall not be sweetened
From birth until life closes
Hearts starve as well as bodies
Give us bread, but give us roses
As we go marching, marching We bring the greater days For the rising of the women Means the rising of the race No more the drudge and idler Ten that toil where one reposes But the sharing of life’s glories Bread and roses, bread and ro
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964) Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a labor leader, activist, and feminist who played a leading role in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). She was in Concord, New Hampshire, her family moved to New York when she was ten. Her parents were socialists and introduced her to radical politics. When she was 16 she gave her first political speech, “What Socialism Will Do for Women.” At the age of seventeen, she became a full-time organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1912, she assisted strikers in Lawrence, MA and organized to bring the children of Lawrence to New York City for safety. Flynn was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and she played a leading role in the unsuccessful campaign to stop the executive of Italian immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti. Among other causes she championed women’s right, suffrage, and birth control. In the 1930s she became a member of the American Communist Party. She wrote for their newspaper and served on the national committee. In the 1950s she served two years in federal prison because of her Communist Party membership.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the inspiration for the song The Rebel Girl by IWW songster Joe Hill.
Statement by Elizabeth
Gurley Flynn at her Trial for being a member of the Communist Party (1952)
A) I am
an American of Irish decent. My father, Thomas Flynn, was born in Maine. My
mother, Anne Gurley, was born in Galway, Ireland. I was born in Concord, New
Hampshire, 62 years ago . . . My mother was a skilled tailoress; my father a
quarry worker who worked his way through the engineering school at Dartmouth
College in New Hampshire. My father, grandfather, and all my uncles were members
of labor unions.
B) I come from a family
whose day-by-day diet included important social issues of the day, and from
this I early learned to question things as they are and to seek
improvements. Thus, my mother advocated Women’s Suffrage, discussed with
their children the campaigns of Debs, the Socialist candidate for President. My father read aloud to me and to my brother and
sisters such books as the Communist Manifesto and other writings of Marx and
C) I was
determined to do something about the bad conditions under which our family and
all around us suffered. I have stuck to that purpose for 46 years. I consider
in so doing I have been a good American. I have spent my life among the
American workers all over this country, slept in their homes, eaten at their
country is a rich and beautiful country, fully capable of producing plenty for
all, educating its youth and caring for its aged. We believe it could do this
under Socialism. We will prove to you that it is not the Communists who
have advocated or practiced force and violence but that it is the employing
class which has done both throughout the history of my life in the American
E) We will prove to you
that it is nor we who flaunt the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but that
is has always been done by the employing class. We will prove that we are
fighting here for our constitutional and democratic rights, not to advocate
force and violence, but to expose and stop its use against the people. We will
demonstrate that in fighting for our rights, we believe we are defending the
constitutional rights of all Americans. We believe we are acting as good
1. What was Elizabeth
Gurley Flynn’s background?
2. Why was she put on trial?
3. In your opinion, why
did Joe Hill call her “The Rebel Girl”?
4. In your opinion, how
should women like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn be remembered?
Battle for the 19th
Instructions: Analyze the
images, the map, and bread the descriptions and answer questions 1-5.
feminism was a period of feminist activity during the 19th and early 20th century that
focused on legal issues, primarily on gaining the right to vote. The 19th
Amendment was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and was ratified by the states
on August 18, 1920. The Women’s Suffrage Clause gave the right of women to vote.
Daily picketing of the White House in
Washington DC demanding the right of women to vote began January 10, 1917. The
protesters were pressuring President Woodrow Wilson to support the “Anthony
amendment” to the Constitution. During the year, more than 1,000 women from
across the country joined the picket line. 218 protesters from 26 states were
arrested and charged with “obstructing sidewalk traffic.” 97 were sent to
either the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia or the District of Columbia jail.
19th Amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
How did suffragettes pressure President Wilson to support the right of women to vote?
What happened to women protesting in Washington DC?
When was the 19th Amendment adopted?
In your opinion, how did state’s that issued women the right to vote prior to the 19th amendment influence its final passage?
In your opinion, why was the 19th amendment a “turning point” in the struggle for equal rights for women?
Not All Women Supported
the Enfranchisement of Women
In 1870, Harper’s New Weekly Magazine
published a letter from an “earnest and thoughtful Christian woman” opposed to
women’s suffrage. In 1895 Massachusetts asked women if they wanted the right to
vote. Only 22,204 women answered in the affirmative. In 1911, Josephine Dodge founded the National Association Opposed to
Woman Suffrage (NAOWS). The NAOWS was most popular in northeastern cities. Examine
the excerpt from the letter, the flyer, and the political cartoon and answer
1. Why does the author of
the letter oppose women’s suffrage?
2. Why is the New Jersey
Association opposed to woman’s suffrage?
3. What is the point of
view of the cartoonist?
4. How would you respond
to the letter, flyer, and cartoon? Why?
“The natural position of
woman is clearly, to a limited degree, a subordinate one. Such it has always
been throughout the world, in all ages, and in many different conditions of
society . . . Woman in physical strength is so greatly inferior to man . . .
Woman is also, though in a very much lesser degree, inferior to man in
intellect . . . Christianity
confirms the subordinate position of woman, by allotting to man the headship in
plain language and by positive precept . . . Sensible women may always have a
good measure of political influence of the right sort, if they choose. And it
is in one sense a duty on their part to claim this influence, and to exert it,
but always in the true womanly way. The influence of good sense, of a sound
judgment, of good feeling may always be theirs. Let us see that we preserve
this influence, and that we use it wisely. But let us cherish our happy
immunities as women by keeping aloof from all public personal action in the
political field.” – Female
Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America, Harper’s New Weekly Magazine
Changing Roles for Women in the 1920s in Pictures
Instructions: How does each photograph suggest changing roles for women in the
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
Margaret Higgins Sanger was born in 1879 in Coming, New York. She was an American birth control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse. Sanger popularized the term “birth control” and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sanger worked as a nurse and mid-wife in New York City in the east-side slums. During her work among working-class immigrant women, Sanger met women who underwent frequent childbirth, miscarriages, and self-induced abortions for lack of information on how to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Access to contraceptive information was prohibited on grounds of obscenity by the 1873 Comstock Laws. In 1916, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in Brownsville, Brooklyn and was arrested for distributing information on contraception. But Sanger believed that while abortion was sometimes justified, it generally should be avoided, and she considered contraception the only practical way to avoid them. Sanger felt that in order for women to have a more equal footing in society and to lead healthier lives, they needed to be able to determine when to bear children. She was forced to flee to England to escape persecution, but returned to the United States and continued to champion for the right of women to access information about reproduction and contraception.
1. Why is Margaret Sanger remembered today?
2. Why is the letter from a mother in “bondage” a powerful
statement about the need of women for reliable and safe birth control?
in Bondage (1928)
Margaret Sanger published a selection of the letters she received from women
seeking birth control information. The letters remain a powerful testament to
the vulnerability of women without access to reliable contraception. One is
reproduced here. A more complete list is available at
How can one control the
size of a family? I am the mother of four children, thirty years old. Our first
child died of pneumonia in infancy. Since I’ve had three others, —six, three
years and nine months old they now are, and it’s a continual worry for fear I
shall be having more soon as we would be unable to care for them. My husband is
a barber, earning, besides tips, $26.00 a week. Out of this we are trying to
pay for a home, as it’s cheaper than renting with three children. The baby
requires certified milk because I am so overworked I am unable to nurse her. If
it were not for my mother we could never get along. I do all my own work, make
over all my own clothing and my relatives’ for the children, even all our coats
and hats, as I learned to do this before I was married. You can easily see
there is no recreation or rest . . . Please don’t think I dislike children; I
love mine dearly, but trying to care for them and bring them up properly wears
one’s patience all away as I have to make every minute count to keep things
going. I can’t afford any improvements to help me in my work. I must wash every
day in order to get the washing done and keep the children clean as I have
neither the time or strength to do it all at once. With a baby one cannot
anyway. I can’t bear to be a cranky, cross mother to my children. I haven’t
been to a place of amusement, even a picture show, in over seven years. The
last time I was away from home for a few hours visit was Christmas 1924. The
only way I can get downtown to shop for an hour is when my husband takes the
time off to stay with the children. Don’t you think I am doing all I can
without having more children. What help is there for a woman? Must she separate
from her husband and break up the home?
Women Who Helped Win
World War II
American women played
essential rolls on the home front and overseas during World War II. In 1943, a song “Rosie the Riveter,” was broadcast nationally. It was
performed by singers and popular band including the Four Vagabonds, an
Rosie the Riveter by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb
girls attend their fav’rite
Sipping Martinis, munching caviar
There’s a girl who’s really putting
them to shame
Rosie is her name
All the day long whether rain or shine She’s a part of the assembly line She’s making history, working for victory Rosie the Riveter Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage Sitting up there on the fuselage That little frail can do more than a male will do
a boyfriend, Charlie
Charlie, he’s a Marine
Rosie is protecting Charlie
Working overtime on the
When they gave her a production “E”
She was as
proud as a girl could be
There’s something true about
and blue about
Rosie the Riveter
Everyone stops to
admire the scene
Rosie at work on the B-Nineteen
She’s never twittery, nervous or jittery
What if she’s smeared full of
oil and grease
Doing her bit for the old Lend lease
She keeps the gang around
They love to hang around
Rosie the Riveter
Rosie buys a lot of
That girl really has sense
Wishes she could purchase
Putting all her cash into national
Senator Jones who is “in the know”
Shouted these words on the radio
Berlin will hear about
Moscow will cheer about
Rosie the Riveter!
World War II radically
changed roles played by women in American society. Between 1940 and 1945, the
female percentage of the U.S. workforce increased from 27 percent to nearly 37
percent. By 1945 nearly one out of every four married women worked outside the
home. About 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces. In 2010, the Women’s
Airforce Service Pilots were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Serving in the Military
and Teaching While Pregnant
Most Americans are
familiar with the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) that a right to
privacy exists as part of the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the
Constitution that protects a women’s reproductive freedom, specifically the decision
whether to carry a pregnancy to term. Forty-five years later it remains one of
the most politically contested Supreme Court decisions. Two other court cases
in the same period, one that made it to the Supreme Court and one that did not,
also were crucial in defining the legal rights of pregnant women and women’s
rights in general.
Susan Struck was a career
nurse and Captain in the U.S. Air Force. In 1970, while stationed in Vietnam,
Stuck became pregnant. The Air Force offered her the option of resigning her
commission with an honorable discharge or of terminating her pregnancy. Struck
rejected both options, although she was willing to place the baby up for
adoption. She sued the Secretary of Defense in federal court demanding the
right to both give birth and keep her job. Struck argued that the Air Force
statue discriminated against her because she was a woman, men were allowed to
become fathers, and because of her religious beliefs which prevented her from
terminating a pregnancy. The Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals
sided with the military. Future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was
scheduled to represent Struck when her appeal was heard by the Supreme Court.
However Struck’s appeal became unnecessary when Air Force reversed its policy
on pregnancies and allowed her to have the child and remain in the military.
1. Who was Susan Struck?
2. What was the issue in
Struck v. Secretary of Defense?
3. Why did Captain Struck
argue the Air Force regulation was unconstitutional?
4. What was the
resolution of the case?
5. In your opinion, how
did this case impact on the rights of women?
B) Cleveland Board of
Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974)
As recently as the 1970s,
pregnant teachers could be forced to take unpaid maternity leaves as soon if
they reported to supervisors that they were pregnant or if a supervisor
observed that they were pregnant. In a case heard before the Supreme Court in 1974,
three teachers challenged these rules as “arbitrary and irrational.” Carol Jo
LaFleur was a junior high school teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. Ann Elizabeth
Nelson taught French at Central Junior High School in Cleveland. Susan Cohen
was a social studies teacher at Midlothiam High School in Chesterfield County,
Virginia. The cases were combined as Cleveland Board of education v. LaFleur.
By a 7-2 vote the Supreme Court ruled that the “presumption that every pregnant
teacher who reaches the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy is physically
incapable of continuing” was unconstitutional.
1. What was the issue in
Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur?
2. Why did the three
teachers bring this case?
3. What is the meaning of
4. What was the Supreme
5. In your opinion, how
did this case impact on the rights of women?
The Court’s Majority
Decision by Justice Potter Stewart
Neither Mrs. LaFleur nor
Mrs. Nelson wished to take an unpaid maternity leave; each wanted to continue
teaching until the end of the school year. Because of the mandatory maternity
leave rule, however, each was required to leave her job in March 1971. The
two women then filed separate suits in the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Ohio . . . challenging the constitutionality of the
maternity leave rule. The District Court tried the cases together, and rejected
the plaintiffs’ arguments . . . Susan Cohen, was employed by the School Board
of Chesterfield County, Virginia. That school board’s maternity leave
regulation requires that a pregnant teacher leave work at least four months
prior to the expected birth of her child. Notice in writing must be given
to the school board at least six months prior to the expected birth date . . .
Mrs. Cohen informed the Chesterfield County School Board in November 1970, that
she was pregnant and expected the birth of her child about April 28, 1971. She
initially requested that she be permitted to continue teaching until April 1,
1971. The school board rejected the request, as it did Mrs. Cohen’s subsequent
suggestion that she be allowed to teach until January 21, 1971, the end of the
first school semester.
This Court has long
recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family
life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment . . . There is a right “to be free from unwarranted
governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the
decision whether to bear or beget a child.” By acting to penalize the
pregnant teacher for deciding to bear a child, overly restrictive maternity
leave regulations can constitute a heavy burden on the exercise of these
protected freedoms. Because public school maternity leave rules directly affect
“one of the basic civil rights of man,” the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment requires that such rules must not needlessly, arbitrarily,
or capriciously impinge upon this vital area of a teacher’s constitutional
liberty . . . The provisions amount to a conclusive presumption that every
pregnant teacher who reaches the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy is
physically incapable of continuing. There is no individualized determination by
the teacher’s doctor – or the school board’s – as to any particular teacher’s
ability to continue at her job. The rules contain an irrebuttable presumption
of physical incompetency, and that presumption applies even when the medical
evidence as to an individual woman’s physical status might be wholly to the
contrary . . . We hold that the mandatory termination provisions of the
Cleveland and Chesterfield County maternity regulations violate the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because of their use of unwarranted
conclusive presumptions that seriously burden the exercise of protected
Women Continue to Transform Our Country
Sally Ride: Sally Kristen Ride was born in 1951 in La Jolla,
California. She was an American astronaut, physicist, and engineer. Ride joined
NASA in 1978 and in 1983 became the first American woman in space. At age 32,
she is the youngest person to have gone into space. Ride was one of 8,000
people who answered an ad in the Stanford student newspaper seeking applicants
for the space program. After she was chosen, she received considerable media
attention where reporters asked her questions such as, “aren’t you worried what
space will do to your reproductive organs?” And, “Do you cry when things go
wrong on the job?” Ride insisted that she saw herself only in one way, as an
astronaut. Ride was extremely private about her personal life. She was married
for five years to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley. Ride is one of the most
successful astronauts and continued her career in researching space until her
death in 2012. After her death, her obituary revealed that her partner of 27
years was Tam O’Shaughnessy, a childhood friend. She is the first known LGBT
Michelle Obama: Michelle Robinson Obama was born in 1964 and is
an American lawyer, university administrator, and writer who served as the
First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Obama is a graduate of
Princeton University and Harvard Law School. As First Lady, Obama worked as an
advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and
healthy eating. She supported American designers and was considered a fashion
icon. Michelle can trace her genealogy back to the American South where her
great-great-grandfather was born into slavery in 1850 in South Carolina.
Michelle has devoted much of her career to teaching the values of self-worth to
young women. She said in 2012, “one of the lessons that I grew up with was to
always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you
from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really
don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in 1989.
She is a Latina American politician, educator, and political activist. In
January 2019 she became the youngest member of Congress representing a district
that includes largely immigrant communities from the Bronx and Queens.
Ocasio-Cortez was elected as a Democrat and identifies as a Democratic
Socialist and a strong advocate for a Green New Deal.