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
“The IWW [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
“I never 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 Service
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 Hutchinson
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.
Gov. 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
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I have come when you summoned me but I hear no charges against me.
Gov. 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?
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: It is lawful for me to do
Gov. 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.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: If men came it is because they chose to be there.
Gov. John Winthrop: But you know it is illegal for a woman to teach a man scripture?
Mrs. 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 it….
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 away.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I desire to know why I am banished?
Gov. 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 (1728-1814)
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)
“The origin of all power is in the people, and they have an incontestable right to check the creatures of their own creation.”
B) 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 Philadelphia?
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?
Declaration of 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.
Contemporary Press 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.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
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 States history?
“Ain’t I a Woman” (edited)
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 Demands the Right to Vote
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 equality?
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 Elizabeth Clyens Lease (1853-1933)
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 East?
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 Wall Street”?
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.
Alice Paul’s 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.
After 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.
The time 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 Women’s Rights
During the 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.
Alice Paul 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.
In 1913, 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 generally mistreated.
Hunger Strikes and Prison
While 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.”
On November 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 President Wilson.
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 jurisdiction.” 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.
From the 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.
Upon her 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
By Alan Singer and Jasmine Torres
at New York City Hall (Library of Congress)
In February 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.
In 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?”
After the 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.
New York 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.
Ganz told 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 supply.
Rabbi Wise 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?”
Speaking 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 peanut politics.”
In response, 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.
Following 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 that country.”
Abraham 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 from hunger.
After 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.
The United 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 to rise.
Another 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 rumor.
Pressure 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
Why did women strikers demand “Bread and Roses”?
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.
In February, 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.
Attacking 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.
As a 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.
The slogan “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 parades.
“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 0
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 Engels.
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 tables.
D) Our 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 labor movement.
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 Americans.
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 Amendment
Instructions: Analyze the images, the map, and bread the descriptions and answer questions 1-5.
First-wave 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 questions 1-4.
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 1920s?
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?
Motherhood in Bondage (1928)
In 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 http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5083/.
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 African-American group.
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 0f
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 war bonds
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! g;
American Women At War
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.
A) Struck v. Secretary of Defense (1970)
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 “irrebuttable”?
4. What was the Supreme Court’s decision?
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 constitutional liberty.
Women Continue to Transform Our Country
|Sally Ride||Michelle Obama||Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez|
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 astronaut.
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.