Edited by Kathleen M. Dowley, Susan Ingalls Lewis, and Meg Devlin O’Sullivan
Suffrage and Its Limits offers a unique interdisciplinary overview of the legacy and limits of suffrage for the women of New York State. It commemorates the state suffrage centennial of 2017, yet arrives in time to contribute to celebrations around the national centennial of 2020. Bringing together scholars with a wide variety of research specialties, it initiates a timely dialogue that links an appreciation of accomplishments to a clearer understanding of present problems and an agenda for future progress. The first three chapters explore the state suffrage movement, the 1917 victory, and what New York women did with the vote. The next three chapters focus on the status of women and politics in New York today. The final three chapters take a prospective look at the limits of liberal feminism and its unfinished agenda for women’s equality in New York. A preface by Lieutenant Governor Katherine Hochul and a final chapter by activist Barbara Smith bookend the discussion. Combining diverse approaches and analyses, this collection enables readers to make connections between history, political science, public policy, sociology, philosophy, and activism. This study moves beyond merely celebrating the centennial to tackle women’s issues of today and tomorrow.
Kathleen M. Dowley is Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science and International Relations, Susan Ingalls Lewis is Professor Emerita of History, and Meg Devlin O’Sullivan is Associate Professor of History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, at SUNY New Paltz.
Same Bigotry, Different Name: Race Suicide, the Birth Dearth, and Women’s Rights
Despite the fact that roughly half of the world’s population is born female, women’s roles in history are consistently regulated to side characters and often left out of core history classes. In those same classes there is a lack of discussion of the ways that women have been affected by the issues of the time in often dramatically different ways from men, but from each other as well. We have a tendency to treat the experiences of all women as one universal experience in education which could not be far from the truth. Even the optional women’s history courses taught at some high schools have unregulated curriculums created by teachers that want more for their students but may unintentionally let their own ideas of whose story matters steer the course away from the point. Intersectionality is the crux of progress, understanding that no one is ever just one thing. Gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, and a whole host of other aspects of a person are independent of each other and differ widely, allowing for humanity to benefit from the wonder of a complete variety of distinct perspectives and unique people. Limiting women’s history to an optional course with no clear path hurts the learning of all students and sets the standard that women are a separate branch of human history, that their stories and lives have had no bearing on the course of events.
As teachers, it is our responsibility to determine where and how we can incorporate supplemental material into our core curriculum in order to provide additional insight and get to more topics than we might be able to delve fully into. One such topic of importance that gets zero attention in U.S. history is women’s movements. Sure we talk about the 19th amendment; but only long enough to ensure students that it fixed everything overnight, missing the whole sections on the rights of women of color and the other ways women were still restricted. The current struggle federally over the rights women have to their own reproductive choices is an issue I guarantee that your students have questions about. They know little about Roe v. Wade, or the numerous attempts to overthrow it. What they do know is that this coming year may change the landscape of the nation and that is terrifying. One of the most overused cliches in the English language is ‘knowledge is power’, and it could not fit better here. Arming students with an understanding of the origins of these battles gives them context, motivation, and a place to start. And what better way to do so than to connect the present legislative concerns with where U.S. history classes love to focus; U.S. presidents. Shortly, the opinions of two presidents from opposite ends of the 20th century will become clear; Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. In order to take them in fully however, we first must form a distinct picture of the issues facing the nation today.
In December of 1971 a pregnant woman, named Jane Roe in court documents for privacy, sued her county district attorney Henry Wade alleging that the Texas abortion law violated her constitutional rights. Two years later on January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 majority in Roe’s favor, declaring safe access to abortion a constitutional right. The ruling ensured legal protection for those seeking the essential medical procedure despite the countless protests and legislative attempts at blocking access throughout the years, and restricting eligibility for the procedure based on the length of pregnancy. Forty-eight years later, the state of Texas has passed the most restrictive abortion legislation to date. The bill, SB 8, bans all abortions except those fitting into slim medical necessity criteria after ultrasound scans first pick up evidence of cardiac activity typically around six weeks’ gestation. The term “heartbeat bill” has caused strife as it inaccurately labels electrical pulses as a heartbeat, attaching emotional images of infancy to a cluster of cells the size of a grain of rice. Not only is the nickname misleading, but six weeks is only two weeks after a missed period and is the earliest possible time a pregnancy test can give a positive result. Therefore an abortion is nearly impossible for any Texas woman to receive by the time they discover they are pregnant.
This is by far not the first time Texas legislation has made national headlines for its restrictive nature or controversial stance, but now there is an insurmountable fear of how influential this bill may be. Texas is not the first state to pass a “heartbeat bill” but all others have been struck down as unconstitutional. This law has skirted the limitations of previous legislation by putting the onus of prosecution on civilians instead of the government. Per Roe v. Wade, government officials cannot prosecute an individual for seeking an abortion but according to the Texas Tribune the new legislation has remedied that stating, “While abortion patients themselves can’t be sued under the new law, anyone who performs or aids with the abortion can be sued”. By creating a civil avenue for abortion persecution Texas lawmakers have stepped into uncharted waters where it is unclear if attempts to throw the bill out will succeed. A successful bill of this kind will produce similar bills across the country until women’s reproductive healthcare is completely unrecognizable in a post Roe v. Wade world.
Unfortunately though perhaps unsurprisingly, attacks such as this on the rights and liberties of women are persistent throughout American history. The above instance is a prime example of these attacks which increase in number and intensity during periods of increased women’s rights activism, but are ultimately always present. The right to vote was the first cause that women congregated in support of solely for themselves in the United States. Women sought the influence of voting privilege and equal treatment under the law; if men and women are all citizens why should they not have the same liberties? For some this made perfect sense and women came together locally and eventually nationally to advocate for women’s suffrage.
In 1890 the two national suffrage organizations, the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association, separated for twenty years due to conflicting support for the 15th amendment and Black men, finally came together again with the help of suffragist Alice Stone Blackwell. Under the name of the National American Woman Suffrage Association the group led women’s suffrage efforts ultimately culminating in the ratification of the 19th amendment giving White women the right to vote. This success was certainly to the chagrin of the opposition; which was a surprising combination of men and women who felt that White women did not need to vote as they spent most of their time in the home caring for children. Coupled with this group’s perceived lack of political knowledge, they believed that giving White women the ability to vote would only raise taxes and not change much else. Anti-suffragists believed that most White women did not want the vote and made their voices heard through protests, political cartoons, scathing articles, and speeches. But even the formation of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage by Josephine Dodge in 1911 to coordinate and amplify anti-suffrage opinions did tip the scales and the 19th amendment passed. When women activists would once again bring calls for equal treatment to the national stage, similar opposition surfaced.
Though it was first drafted fifty years earlier, in 1972 the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was passed by both houses of Congress and ratification of the potential 27th amendment seemed all but certain. The amendment’s sudden and long overdue position as a topic of national conversation was the credit of a new age of women’s activism; women’s liberation. Often shortened to women’s lib in discussion, the movement aimed to free women of the unequal barriers present in professional spaces. These barriers kept them from the opportunities afforded to men in the same spaces, as if these working women were not privy to a secret password. The ERA was the universal translator, a legal declaration that adequate pay, promotions, and authority were not to be hidden above a glass ceiling away from women who were held back from reaching them.
So in 1972, support was high from the women’s liberation movement and a true success for women’s rights felt close enough to taste. Women were tired of the inconsistencies and being told that the vote was enough to fix hundreds of years of inequality. But the deadline for ratification came and went without a ratified ERA, leaving the nation wondering how. In the ten year time limit thirty-five out of the thirty-eight required states ratified the amendment. But this was not enough. As shocking as it may seem, this is attributed to the work of one woman, Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly was an author, activist, and lawyer who formed the Stop ERA movement on her own. She believed that equality was not truly in the interests of men or women and would ultimately lead to a detrimental moral shirt in American society. Her emphatic public expression of this opinion frightened the public and had the intended effect on politicians. It was this extremist comparative approach that was responsible for the failure of the ERA and is yet another example of the oppositional forces that spark up against fights for women’s rights.
Though separated by decades, these two 20th century movements, suffrage and women’s liberation both tackled the mistreatment of women in the United States, pulling the discrepancies to the forefront of national discussion. What is most shocking is that 50 years separate these two movements but they frankly could have taken place at the same time. Nothing changed from the ERA’s conception while White women were gaining the right to vote in 1920 and its failed ratification in the last decades of the century. This is even more apparent when you consider the inherent issues of race in women’s movements. The suffrage movement was populated by abolitionists who fought for the 13th amendment decades prior securing Black men their constitutional right to vote. Yet the same White women who had shown up in support then refused to acknowledge that suffrage should come for all women at once. They selfishly secured their own rights ahead of all other women and proved that their earlier activism for Black men was only in the interest of paving their own way. This racial divide in women’s movements is demonstrative of the larger social perception of race, the lines of demarcation that defined acceptance and persecution so clearly outlined by skin color.
The intersection between the treatment of women and racially motivated fears in the United States is considerably large. Women are, by virtue of reproductive anatomy, the individuals who give birth to the next generation. Those who wish to control the future makeup of the population therefore have always had a vested interest in the ways women choose to procreate or not, and with whom they do so. Sociologist Edward A. Ross established the term ‘race suicide’ at the beginning of the 20th century to refer to situations ‘when the birth rate within a so-called race dropped below the death rate’ and expected the end result of this to be ‘that the “race” would die out’. This definition with its use of the word suicide heavily implies that the focus of the blame falls within the race in question and is not due to outside forces impacting the race. Later on we will see evidence of President Theodore Roosevelt taking Ross’s idea and running with it, popularizing a national idea that race suicide was killing the United States and that the only remedy was a strictly traditional large family. Prominent political and academic thinkers of the era seeing as women produce children, also blamed them for White race suicide in America as the term gained popularity.
Just as Edward Ross coined the term race suicide in the early 1900s, Benjamin Wattenberg coined the term ‘birth dearth’ in 1987 in his book titled The Birth Dearth: What Happens When People in Free Countries Don’t Have Enough Babies?. Birth dearth is close in meaning to race suicide. Quite simply it refers to a lack of births contributing to a lower population and in the next generation a lack of adults to replenish those retiring out of the labor force or passing away. Again, as with Roosevelt, Wattenberg lists many reasons that caused this horrific decline. Of those causes, most directly implicate women. Of the subheadings in chapter 10 titled Causes, two-thirds (12 of 18) specifically target women. They include education (for women), working women, abortion, contraception, divorce, and decreased fecundity all of which except the last attacked personal decisions women made in their lives. These decisions were perceived by Wattenberg to have caused a majority of the birth dearth decline, leaving the country open to being outmatched in advancement and population by other Eastern countries. Instead of focusing on the family as Roosevelt did, Wattenberg chose to turn his attention to the outside influences of immigration and fears of the advancement of other countries.
Based on the history and current events described previously, it is clear that women’s personal decisions have been the concern of the public and the government for well over a century, and far beyond the time frame examined. Whether or not the individual choices of a group as large as women should be controlled or inspected so closely is not up for debate, but the reason for that examination certainly is. The picture that Ross and Wattenberg painted of a future United States devoid of children centers women’s contributions in a specifically narrow light. The research conducted in this paper aims to answer the question raised by the opinions of figures like Ross and Wattenberg. That is, what are women’s roles in nationalism as mothers and how are expectations for women shaped by government officials and national culture? With that question at the focus a secondary question forms that will also be answered in the following pages; why and how has progress in women’s rights led to backlash and a privileging of unequal gender and racial hierarchy? Holding tightly to those two questions it is important to examine the body of work conducted in this vein looking at both the suffrage and women’s liberation movements and their backlash.
At every turn, women’s rights activists struggled in a greater culture that benefits from the reduction of women’s capabilities and denial of the positive effects that liberation and equality provide. There is a consistent bubbling undercurrent of discontent in American society that continues to exist in the pervasive nature of disease, perpetually infecting the nation with discontent whispers of feminist pursuits as the biggest possible detriment to national prosperity in existence. These whispers push and claim that elimination of and movement beyond feminism into postfeminism is the only cure, women must forget the call for equality because they already can have it all. This is certainly not the case and frankly is a desperate albeit successful attempt to bring women’s issues full circle, to replace the barriers that are already broken one by one.
The use of the word backlash above is deliberate. Backlash is a term that originated with Susan Faludi who examines the distinct spikes in discontent that push into aggressive, propagandist backlash in her book of the same name, aptly subtitled The Undeclared War Against American Women. She describes the intense media and governmental assault on women’s liberation that occurred in the 80’s, at the height of the movement managing to sow indecisive and malcontented seeds of self-doubt into the minds of women across the nation. This gave the backlash places to hide in the minds of its victims and a convenient space for denial in the spotlight. But the backlash of the 80’s is not the only one we have experienced as a country, far from it in fact.
But the 80’s were not the first decade to experience backlash, it historically comes as a direct “reaction to women’s ‘progress’” as Faludi dives into further. That being said, Faludi is not the only historian to connect the seemingly cyclical attacks to women’s progress historically. In Building a Better Race : Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics From the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom, Wendy Kline contends that the history of eugenics in America has been passive and pretends that eugenic efforts have ceased which she demonstrates is far from the truth. Kline asserts that eugenics is responsible for the notion of race suicide in the beginning of the 19th century and the concept of the birth dearth in the 80’s.
Notably Kline is not the only historian to share this opinion. In her essay “Reproduction: The Politics of Choice” taken from an anthology of her works titled No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women Estelle B. Freedman reiterates the importance of eugenics on reproductive decisions in the United States. According to Freedman, when fears of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant women committing race suicide bubbled to the surface of American life, eugenics was already heavily rooted in the United States as well as other predominantly White European nations across the ocean. It was not long until eugenics ideologies gripped the medical practice of these countries allowing doctors, White men, to decide which women were fit for reproduction. She discusses laws implemented in the United States to institute compulsory sterilization by stating, “The laws applied to men or women of any background, but they disproportionately affected immigrants, African Americans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, the poor, and disabled women. Twice as many American women as men underwent compulsory sterilization”. Freedman’s analysis of the perilous situation eugenic efforts placed people of color, women, and those who were disabled in demonstrates how the fear of race suicide was not just a lack of White babies, but an increase in non-White babies.
The way President Roosevelt viewed women and their role in society is discussed in Leroy Dorsey’s article “Managing Women’s Equality: Theodore Roosevelt, the Frontier Myth, and the Modern Woman” where he articulates a nuanced view of the man and his perspective. Dorsey asserts that Roosevelt built his idea of womanhood around the idea of the frontier woman, creating a niche way to build support for women’s equality while still claiming that motherhood was of the utmost importance to the equal frontier woman. He managed to find a balance where he could support a progressive approach to women’s equality while still championing a traditional view of marriage and family aligned with its emphasis on national welfare. This midrange stance did leave Roosevelt in contention with women’s rights activists who felt he could push harder in support of the movement, but Dorsey argues that Roosevelt’s careful balance was wholly intentional and actually was necessary in order to “consider the application of Victorian principles in a modern age”. Though Dorsey does make a solid argument, he neglects a large portion of Roosevelt’s beliefs, mainly regarding racial purity and race suicide. These beliefs are ever present in his presidency and opinions, to leave them out of the analysis creates an inaccurate depiction of Roosevelt and his impact.
Though her work does not contend with the implications of race suicide or eugenics, Elaine Tyler May does investigate the legislation surrounding women’s bodies and choices. Her book, America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation lays bare the history of the contraceptive pill and how inaccurate the assumptions of its grandiose accomplishments for women were. The pill was FDA approved in 1960 and was viewed publicly as an incredible advancement in birth control technology. Prior to the pill, the Comstock Law made it illegal to send information about contraceptives or any contraceptive devices through the mail. The Comstock Law was in effect from 1873 to 1936. From its introduction to the birth control scene, the pill was represented in mountains of legislation and informal governmental rulings limiting it as well as other forms of contraception. Presidential gag rules were also cyclically introduced would ban U.S. aid for health organizations working in other countries that provided abortion, even if that was a small percentage of the services provided. Though the gag rules were a part of foreign policy, they are incredibly telling in regards to American positions on contraception and abortion, both of which heavily impacted women’s lives.
While May heavily addresses the legislative efforts to control women’s reproductive rights, the work of Grant and Mislán focuses on the media that influenced the spread of race suicide ideology in the first place. Through close examination of articles published in two newspapers, the Columbia Missourian and the Columbian Tribune, in Columbia, Missouri, Grant and Mislán demonstrate how objectivity as a tenet of journalism ethics contributed to the rise in eugenics scientific legitimacy. The trust that local communities placed in their newspapers to provide ethical, honest, evidence-based claims lent itself to being taken advantage of by journalists with clear biases. Coupled with the lack of other news outlets to compare information with and the insulated nature of small communities, race suicide ideology implanted and festered without much resistance. Through examination of these works, a picture develops of a society where women’s civic impact is emphasized by their willingness and ability to produce children to combat the racial suicide of the American race.
The research conducted in this paper on the recurring antifeminist backlash and emphasis on women as wombs for national protection against a non-White population increase fits in nicely with of Susan Faludi, building upon her research into backlash against women’s liberation. To do so it will highlight a specific focus of the opposition on women’s reproductive capabilities as their primary quality over all others, taking required emphasis away from other qualities and damaging women in the long run. From there the bridge between this discussion of backlash and the eugenics arguments of the 20th century is easy to cross as historiography has evolved to understand how eugenics was responsible for the restrictions placed upon women and continues to be. In this way the intention is to complement and build upon these works to foster a stronger understanding of the reproductive harm caused by fearful efforts to mitigate supposed racial tensions.
Further, it is clear that an examination of presidential opinions and decisions will demonstrate the clear and intentional steps taken to protect a white supremacist nationalist view that has carried on throughout the decades undetected by giving the same rhetoric a facelift and vocabulary change while maintaining the oppressive structure and values. Eras with strong women’s rights movements challenge this placement of women in society and as a result see a huge backlash from those aiming to protect this view in the highest realm of politics. This will be evident in the analysis of the sources from the periods of women’s suffrage and women’s liberation that establish the rhetoric of each. Presidential speeches and opinions illustrate how women’s role in the family was essential to the continuation of American excellence. Ultimately, this will culminate in an argument that is difficult to dispute, that women’s role in American nationalism as breeders has been planned by men in power for the better part of a century to use them as pawns in a one sided race war.
Though Edward Ross coined the term race suicide, credit for its proliferation into 1900s American vernacular and everyday life goes to then president, Theodore Roosevelt. He was inaugurated for his second term as President of the United States on March 4, 1905 in Washington, D.C. Nine days later he appeared in front of the National Congress of Mothers to address his concerns over the grave dangers that plagued the nation. Roosevelt was uniquely positioned as the first president to have been reelected following a term ascended to from the vice president position. In this position he felt justified by his victory to press further onwards with his beliefs on maintaining the pride and prowess of the nation via a close adherence to traditionally apt goals of marriage and family. Through an emphasis on the strict traditional representations of men and women’s roles, Roosevelt aimed to mitigate the plight of ‘race suicide’ in the United States; in doing so he alienated and invalidated the women fighting for women’s suffrage by asserting that a woman’s civic duty began and ended with their children.
Roosevelt brought race suicide to national attention through his public speeches and written work over the course of his presidencies, heightening national fear and promoting the idea of procreation as function of national security. In this speech he claims, in reference to his own example of what would happen if all American families only had two children, that “a race that practiced race suicide would thereby conclusively show that it was unfit to exist, and that it had better give place to people who had not forgotten the primary laws of their being”. Here he demonstrates the racial imperative he believed Americans held to have a large family, anything less was not enough. Roosevelt doubly emphasized this notion for women in this speech, highlighting the importance of choosing motherhood over personal ambitions. He believed, as many soon would, that the American population was in a serious decline that would diminish America’s prestige around the world and lead to a change in the demographic makeup of the country. This would reduce the White population’s majority in the country as well, as he claimed “But the nation is in a bad way if there is no real home, if the family is not of the right kind.” In this speech Roosevelt further emphasized the “primary duties” of men and women; for men to tend to the financial needs of their families and for women to tend to the physical, emotional, moral needs of their children. These two roles are treated the same in that they are essential and play the largest part in protecting the white race but are different in that women who choose not to have children are demonized. And, this distinction comes at the same time that American women are struggling for the right to vote.
Despite condemning both men and women who shirked their duty to procreate and raise children with strong American ideals, Roosevelt targets women more vehemently than men. He asserts that the nation suffers if the home is in bad shape providing several examples, most of which are specifically towards women. Roosevelt calls these examples a woman losing her “sense of duty”, sinking into ‘vapid self-indulgence’, and “let[ting] her nature be twisted so that she prefers a sterile pseudo-intellectuality”. In this way he connected the future population numbers to women’s personal decisions. From there it was not difficult to make the jump to controlling women’s decisions about their bodies in the interest of the nation. In doing this, he places a woman’s civic duty in direct connection to her decision to procreate and removes the ability to be a proud citizen without having done so. His audience, being mothers who took part in the National Congress of Mothers, received this message well, embraced it as they were validated by the prestige his beliefs awarded their position. In proliferating this message to an audience of mothers, Roosevelt played into pre-existing divisions amongst women regarding suffrage efforts and further increased the divide by providing means for a motherly superiority complex in the form of nationalist praise.
This public speech was not Roosevelt’s first time deliberating on the topic of race suicide. It happened to be a subject of correspondence between him and his associates. He also made it clear in his writing that his particular stance was racially motivated. In a personal letter to politician and friend Albion W. Tourgée, sent in November of 1901, this latter racial matter is made clear as Roosevelt begins the letter by saying, “I too have been at my wits’ end in dealing with the black man”, elucidating further in his next paragraph by writing, “I have not been able to think out any solution of the terrible problem offered by the presence of the negro on this continent”. Further in this sentence he explains that he is resigned to the fact that it would be impossible to expel Black men from America either by death or emigration, so “the honorable and Christian thing to do is to treat each black man and each White man strictly on his merits as a man”. From these quoted passages, Roosevelt’s opinion is clear; he does not want Black men in America and they would be banished as soon as possible if only that was feasible. The fact that this letter predates his speech to the National Congress of Mothers by four years emphatically stresses that Roosevelt’s belief in the severity of race suicide was motivated by an increasing non-White population in the United States.
Further delving into the former president’s personal correspondence shows much of his public sentiments as president were very much rooted in personal truths. One year following the letter described above to Albion W. Tourgée, in October of 1902 Roosevelt wrote to Bessie Van Vorst the notable author of the magazine series and book titled The Woman Who Toils: Being the Experiences of Two Gentlewomen as Factory Girls. This book focused on the lives of factory working girls. Roosevelt begins by complementing Vorst’s magazine series before condemning another article by a different author published in the same magazine on the unemployed rich population. In comparing the women at the focus of the two articles Roosevelt finds similarity stating that he sees, “An easy, good-natured kindliness, and a desire to be independent” claiming that these qualities “are no substitute for the fundamental virtues, for the practice of the strong racial qualities without which there can be no strong races”. Here he defines independence as a quality that is incompatible with American womanhood, and a lack of independence as better for the White race.
A final letter written by Roosevelt in April of 1907 demonstrates that his view if race suicide did not waver and ultimately grew stronger following the 1905 speech. This letter was written to the editor, Dr. Albert Shaw, of The American Monthly Review of Reviews regarding issues Roosevelt had with an article published in the journal titled “The Doctor in the Public School” written by Dr. Cronin. In the article Dr. Cronin says with a level of professional certainty that American families do not need to have more children than are depicted by the national birth rate of the time. But Roosevelt contests this calling the idea erroneous and claiming that the doctor is not fit to write definitively on the subject because he is not as well read as the president is on the subject.
Roosevelt calls attention to what he sees as the biggest issue of this misinformation, which he says is a “tendency to the elimination instead of the survival of the fittest; and the moral attitude which helps on this tendency is of course strengthened when it is apologized for and praised in a magazine like yours.” Cronin’s article asserts in a journal read by the well-off of American society an argument that goes directly against Roosevelt’s own and removes the imperative placed on the elite to reproduce profusely. This is a direct threat to White American nationalist efforts like Roosevelt’s to increase White birth rates. Further evidence that Roosevelt is incensed by the article because of this perceived threat is seen when he states, “These teachings give moral justification to every woman who practices abortion; they furnish excuses for every unnatural prevention of child-bearing, for every form of gross and shallow selfishness of the kind that is the deepest reflection on, the deepest discredit to, American social life.” By writing in this passionate way, Roosevelt betrays his true feelings of reproductive control and the women who assert that right. These private, personal decisions of American women are a direct reflection on the entire nation and as such are terrible choices that should be shamed unlike how Dr. Cronin bears their justification. Time and time again through his public speeches and private letters, former President Theodore Roosevelt demonstrates his belief that women who chose not to have children were criminals at the center of a racial betrayal. By his description, women’s continued birthing and raising of new White children was all that protected the country from the loss of a truly American society.
It is important to note that President Roosevelt’s fears of racial imbalance in the United States were not sparked by Black men though they were the target of most of his vitriolic rhetoric. In reality the fear of Jewish and Irish Catholic immigration was the true catalyst for his sentiments, Black men simply garnered the heavy burden of his prejudices because they were the visibly identifiable group amongst the three. In reality, Black men have been present in the country since 1619 when the first African slaves arrived while Jewish and Irish Catholic immigration grew considerably in the early 1900s, making them the “real” outsiders. Though today Jewish, Irish Catholic, and Protestant White people are all considered a part of the same White population in the United States, this was not the case at the beginning of the 20th century. Protestants were the White race and were clearly different from the former groups in society. Though his ideology clearly developed a focus on Black men and their potential corruption of White birth rates, it bloomed from fear of increased immigrations effects of the birth rate because White did not mean what it means today.
Former President Roosevelt was perhaps fortunate that he could be so outspoken about the views he held regarding race suicide and women’s reproductive decisions in both his private communication and public speeches as president, as his views were common amongst those he spoke to. The presidents of the country during the women’s liberation movement did not have that same so-called luxury and had to combat the new fear of being taken out of context in conversation and being recorded. One of the biggest lessons learned by President Nixon was the importance of hiding your personal opinions from the public. This is evidenced by his commissioning of the infamous ‘Nixon tapes’, recordings of his meetings and phone calls in the Oval office and his private study which have been released in recent decades as part of public record. His recorded conversations contrasted with public communication and decisions show his opinion of mothers but also his impact on their lives and how these things were steeped in his own racism.
Richard Nixon’s paranoia about a leak in the White House and his need to always be covered in case of miscommunication not only led to his impeachment but also provided the public with copious records of his personal communication and a glimpse into the man behind the president. One thing that Nixon clearly knew to keep private was his racist ideology, though he had no problem discussing it on his private telephone line. On October 7, 1971 Nixon called sociologist Daniel Moynihan to discuss an article titled “I.Q.” written by psychologist Richard Herrnstein and its impacts on education, welfare, and government intervention. During this conversation they begin discussing Nixon’s Family Assistance Plan. At this point Nixon says, “everybody says, ‘Well, God, you can’t—the work requirement is only for the purpose of making these poor colored women, you know, who can’t work and with little babies coming every month—or it’s every nine months, I believe. Anyway, whatever the case is, you can’t make them work’”, assuming that only women of color need to use welfare programs and that they simply cannot stop having children. Later on in the same conversation he says that it is the responsibility of a nation’s leader to know the hard truths that drive decision making but never say them outloud. Nixon says, “My theory is that the responsibility of a president, in my present position, first, is to know these things. … But also my theory is that I must do everything that I possibly can to deny them.”. The things in question being that Black people and Jewish people would damage the performance of a voting ticket and that women do not belong on the Supreme Court. Here the overlap between his racist views and misogyny is tentatively expressed, but that is developed further in a future tape.
Roe v. Wade occurred in 1973 while Nixon was still president. He never publicly commented on the ruling however so his opinion was not known until the January and February 1973 tapes from the Oval office were released in 2009. On January 23rd, the day after the decision, Nixon and his special counsel Chuck Colson were discussing the decision and Nixon said, “I know, I know. I admit, I mean there are times when abortions are necessary. I know that. You know [when] you have a black and a white.” And then following a prompt by Colson adding “Or rape.” as an afterthought. This shows with clarity how his racist views overlapped his views on women. It was not acceptable for women to have mixed race children and the thought of allowing women to make that decision after a traumatic event like rape was not nearly as important to him as keeping the races separated.
Though never explicitly stated publicly, these views were present in his decisions. The most notable one being his veto of the Comprehensive Child Development Act in 1971, a bill that would have extended the programs available from the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) establishing national public daycare facilities among other provisions. A main reasoning of Nixon’s veto was keeping focus on the family. His veto reads “good public policy requires that we enhance rather than diminish both parental authority and parental involvement with children.” In speaking to his Secretary of the Treasury John B. Connally on the phone Nixon confirmed that his stance was not only concerned with family stability but also with keeping stay at home mothers in childcare saying, “I mean, I think if you ever start down this—the road of having the state raise the kids and giving mother, whether they work or not, the option of that, it’s bad, you see?” His motives in vetoing the child care bill were to strengthen the American family by continuing to force American women to stay home with their children and reducing the number of Americans on welfare programs. This was in spite of their personal wishes regarding going to work if they were not able to afford private child care. This coupled with the way he spoke about women of color on welfare on the tape with Moynihan in 1971, referenced above, demonstrates that he believed women must earn the right to need government assistance for their families and that supporting families was not as important as protecting his ideal of the American family. The fact that this was the president’s opinion of American family life during the women’s liberation movement’s fight for equality of opportunity is baffling and explains how he managed to produce the exact opposite of his intended result.
Contrary to Nixon’s intention of building up the American family by vetoing the OEO bill, his action directly contributed to the degradation of the American family and subsequent birth dearth that Ben Wattenberg would write his titular book about. As we have discussed earlier on, Ben Wattenberg was an economist who analyzed decreasing birth rates in the United States, finding that White births suffered a considerably higher decline, and claimed that the nation’s authority as a world power would undeniably suffer as a result. His fears of the United States being overtaken by Eastern socialist countries heavily influenced his results. These findings were published in The Birth Dearth where he contended that this was because of a variety of social and legal successes of women’s movements and contributed his own solutions for a White birth increase. The highlights if these contributing issues included increased higher education and job opportunities for women, accessibility of contraception and abortion, and divorce, while his most notable solution was banning abortion because a majority of abortions were done on wealthy White women, a ban would naturally increase the White population. At the time of the book’s publication, Wattenberg was a notable public figure following his time as an advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson and condensed versions of the book’s argument were published in prominent newspapers including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times which also published scathing reviews of the book. That is to say that his view on the topic was projected to the national stage much in the same way as Roosevelt and Nixon’s were by nature of their position.
A scathing indictment of Nixon’s decision to veto was published in the New York Times the day following the decision, quoting Nixon as saying, “our response to this challenge must be a measured, evolutionary, painstakingly considered one, consciously designed to cement the family in its rightful position as the keystone of our civilization.”. Yet, the birth dearth is cited as beginning in 1971, continuing until the present day, so that conscious decision did not play out as planned. Worse, Nixon’s veto is still contributing to the unequal distribution of wealth and participation in the labor force that still plagues women in America despite the efforts of the women’s liberation movement. According to Lisa Rabasca Roepe, author of the Business Insider article “Richard Nixon Sabotaged a Generation of Women, but Now Congress Has Another Chance – If It Can Pass Biden’s $3.5 Trillion Spending Plan”, the birth dearth is evidence “that Nixon’s veto weakened the family structure in exactly the way he was trying to prevent”. By forcing childcare to remain a private industry, many families could not and still cannot justify having both parents in the workforce when the salary of one parent would be used in almost its entirety to pay for childcare that can be done at home instead.
In effect, growing costs of living and a lack of childcare options forced many women to choose between having a family and a career. This sentiment was echoed throughout the ranks of the women’s liberation movement, as women cried out for support that President Nixon refused them. Combined with the widespread use of the birth control pill, Nixon’s veto contributed to the birth dearth by making the choice easy; to have a career women had fewer children. The nation was not prepared to make the necessary efforts to ensure that families were supported in ways that mattered so that was the only way. If only Nixon had taken the time to consider women as individuals separate from their relationship status or obligation as mothers the American family could have prospered the way he intended.
It may not seem so, but the relationship between Roosevelt’s views on race suicide and Nixon’s impact on the birth dearth is quite close. Nixon was born in 1913 while race suicide rhetoric, strengthened and popularized by President Roosevelt’s speeches years prior was still wildly prominent in American culture. He grew up breathing in and internalizing these messages that the White race was dying and that minority groups were overtaking “true Americans”. In truth the birth dearth was inspired by the rhetoric of the early 1900s, a continuation of the same mantra with a fancy new name and subtler approach. This is a fantastic place to build connections as a teacher, to demonstrate the importance of chronology when understanding history. Nixon was a young child at the height of race suicide ideology so it is no wonder that his own beliefs so similarly mirror this notion minus the name. Our societal beliefs form slowly and change even slower, fifty years is not so long in the grand scheme of time.
The 1973 case of Roe v. Wade was the first national government ruling that gave women the right to make decisions about their bodies that they had been making without government approval for centuries, but some in the government finally recognized the need for women to be in charge of those health decisions. The current backlash and attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade are reflective of the attitudes of older decades. Fears of race suicide and separation of the family unit pushed presidents and therefore the public to the extreme of the traditional family unit barring women from gaining strides in reproductive rights in the same way that they did with the vote and workplace equality. The views and actions of Presidents Roosevelt and Nixon were crucial to the pressure on American citizens to participate in the good American family ideal in order to preserve the nation from potential racial disparities and consequently White women had to be controlled. Their bodies housed all potential for another generation of Americans and they had to be made to do what was ‘right’. With all the evidence laid out it can be clearly seen that this was an intentional decision by the men in power to use White women as pawns in this war of perception by making their bodily decisions for them.
Using the primary sources depicted in this article and the historiography provided, the means to develop a short but effective interjection to a U.S. history classroom are clearly available. The situation of Roe v. Wade’s standing as a Supreme Court ruling is the most recent legislative example in a long storied history of the American government and our presidents attempting to assign limitations to women. Our students were not alive for even the most recent prior examples of these attempts but that does not mean they cannot learn. Incorporating new primary source material from notable and already frequently discussed U.S. presidents provides further detail to an undiscussed issue and will also teach your students more about developing full opinions of historical figures as flawed human beings.
Address by President Roosevelt before the National Congress of Mothers. Theodore Roosevelt Collection. MS Am 1541 (315). Harvard College Library.
Colson, Chuck and Richard Nixon. “President Nixon and Chuck Colson Discuss the Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade.” Edited by Luke A. Nichter. Nixon tapes and transcripts. Accessed October 23, 2021. http://www.nixontapes.org/chron53.html.
Jane Roe, et al., Appellants, v. Henry Wade, Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute (United States Supreme Court 1973).
“Richard Nixon and Daniel P. Moynihan on 7 October 1971,” Conversation 010-116, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Nixon Telephone Tapes 1971, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4002184
“Richard Nixon and John B. Connally on 8 December 1971,” Conversation 016-044, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Nixon Telephone Tapes 1971, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4006696
Roosevelt, Theodore. “The American Birth Rate”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 520.
Roosevelt, Theodore. “The Danger of ‘Race Suicide’”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 259.
Roosevelt, Theodore . “Dealing with the Black Man”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 244.
Wattenberg, Ben J. The Birth Dearth: What Happens When People in Free Countries Don’t Have Enough Babies? New York, NY: Pharos Books, 1987.
Dorsey, Leroy G. 2013. “Managing Women’s Equality: Theodore Roosevelt, the Frontier Myth, and the Modern Woman.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 16 (3): 423–56. doi:10.14321/rhetpublaffa.16.3.0423.
Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women. New York: Crown, 1991.
Freedman, Estelle B. “Reproduction: The Politics of Choice.” in No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, 229-252. New York:Ballantine Books, 2002.
Grant, Rachel and Cristina Mislán (2020) “Improving the Race”: The Discourse of Science and Eugenics in Local News Coverage, 1905–1922, American Journalism, 37:4, 476-499, DOI: 10.1080/08821127.2020.1830627
 Leroy G. Dorsey. 2013. “Managing Women’s Equality: Theodore Roosevelt, the Frontier Myth, and the Modern Woman.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 16 (3): 423–56. doi:10.14321/rhetpublaffa.16.3.0423. 446,447.
 Lroy G. Dorsey. 2013. “Managing Women’s Equality”, 448.
 Elaine Tyler May, America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation. New York: Basic Books, 2011, 1.
 Elaine Tyler May, America and the Pill, 53-55.
 Rachel Grant and Cristina Mislán (2020) “Improving the Race”: The Discourse of Science and Eugenics in Local News Coverage, 1905–1922, American Journalism, 37:4, 476-499, DOI: 10.1080/08821127.2020.1830627, 476.
Address by President Roosevelt before the National Congress of Mothers. Theodore Roosevelt Collection. MS Am 1541 (315). Harvard College Library.
Address by President Roosevelt before the National Congress of Mothers. Theodore Roosevelt Collection. MS Am 1541 (315). Harvard College Library.
Address by President Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt Collection.
 Address by President Roosevelt before the National Congress of Mothers.
 Theodore Roosevelt. “Dealing with the Black Man”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 244.
 Theodore Roosevelt. “Dealing with the Black Man”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches, 245.
 Theodore Roosevelt. “The Danger of ‘Race Suicide’”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 259.
 Theodore Roosevelt. “The American Birth Rate”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 520.
 Theodore Roosevelt. “The American Birth Rate”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches, 521.
 Theodore Roosevelt. “The American Birth Rate”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches, 522.
 “Richard Nixon and Daniel P. Moynihan on 7 October 1971,” Conversation 010-116.
 Chuck Colson and Richard Nixon. “President Nixon and Chuck Colson Discuss the Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade.” Edited by Luke A. Nichter. Nixon tapes and transcripts. Accessed October 23, 2021. http://www.nixontapes.org/chron53.html.
 Morris, Richard. “The Birth Dearth: What Happens When People in Free Countries Don’t Have Enough Babies? by Ben J. Wattenberg (Pharos: $16.95; 182 Pp.).” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, August 2, 1987.; Shabecoff, Philip. “Warning on Births Provokes Dissent.” The New York Times. The New York Times, August 23, 1987. https://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/23/us/warning-on-births-provokes-dissent.html.
The American flapper, a “new woman”, a change in society, oftentimes overlooked inside history. The flapper did not provide any legal change for women, did not gain them more political rights in her time. She did something else entirely. The American flapper held change in the role of women, the appearance of women, and the way women were looked at inside society. Their power was in their style, their actions, and the culture time period they lived in. When it comes to teaching the flapper, she many times will be brushed over and not paid enough attention. Inside this paper, I will explain a way to place the flapper inside the social studies classroom that will be engaging for the students.
The flapper emerged during a time in American history where much of society and culture was undergoing change. Historians Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber wrote “According to many historians, the Jazz Age marked the birth of Modern America” (Drowne & Huber, 2004). Meaning that during this time considered “the Jazz Age” is what truly began what many consider to be modern American, many of our modern themes came about and can be traced to begin with this time period in America. This time period in American history was one of change, prosperity, and modernization. Many people look here and can see the beginning of the modern times Americans would soon enjoy. So, what exactly happened in this time? A positive aspect of the 20s was the consumer culture. In 1922 the economy had a reboot due to consumer goods being manufactured in industries (Drowne & Huber, 2004). This made products faster, easier, and cheaper. More people would be able to afford a top since it was mass produced by machines. One major reason for consumer goods spreading quickly inside America was through the new media. “Consumer goods revolution fueled the nation’s flourishing economy and increasing reliance on new technologies and mass media transformed the daily lives of ordinary Americans” (Drowne & Huber, 2004). The media was able to influence the lives of Americans across states, classes, and genders aiding in influencing this new consumer culture. People began to use the media and technology to grasp what consumer goods they should purchase during this time period. All of this would be useful information to provide for students to prepare them for the flapper and why the media plays a role in her fame. If the students come into the lesson I explain later one, with a background of the consumer culture and the new media outlets for Americans, it can make learning about the flapper better.
Who was the American flapper? Historian Joshua Zeitz provided a description of the flapper in Flapper. He states “… the notorious character type who bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts, and passed her evenings in the steamy jazz clubs, where she danced in a shockingly immodest fashion” (Zeitz, 2006). Inside this activity, I am not trying to convince them of who the flapper is or what she is trying to gain, but more so how she became a household name inside America during the 1920s. After taking the time to explain the 1920s, it is time to begin the flapper movement.
As a way to engage the students and allow them to move about the classroom, you can create a station activity. This would be a group activity but their review will be independent to see each student’s understanding of the material. Throughout the research done around the American flapper, I have been able to find numerous sources from the time period that can help express the flapper. The goal of this activity is to allow the students to engage with the primary sources and develop their own interpretations. Another goal would be for the students to see how the media during this time could change an opinion of a subject, for them to see bias using the flapper as an example. At the end of the lesson, the students should be able to explain the various types of media sources during the 1920s allowed ideas, opinions, and themes to spread throughout America.
You can add more sources if you deem necessary but for my lesson I have two newspaper sources and three magazine covers from LIFE. Day One will be the introduction to the 1920s and the mass media (as discussed above). For the review and to check for understanding, they will have a brief response to compare the primary sources they interacted with and explain how those sources depicted the flapper and what influence these would have on the American people then. If it is an honors class, it would be useful to also add for them to describe how these sources affect Americans today in comparison to the 1920s.
The first newspaper was from the Library of Congress. It was a fashion page that describes the latest trends in dressing, shoes, and hats. A famous actress Clara Bow who portrays a flapper in the film “IT” in 1927 is shown modeling her own hat. It was labeled “the latest for girls” (Evening Star, 1927). The second newspaper was NYS Historic Newspaper. This paper as well was centered on Clara Bow but instead of her fashion, it was her movie “IT” (The Massena Observer, 1927), showing the times the movie was playing at and the theater it was located in. It allowed Americans to find the film easier by simply reading the paper. As well, this paper promotes the film to the people and could influence a person to attend the theater that day. With these two newspapers, it allows the students to interact with the primary source material on their own and come to understand the type of sources written about the flapper during this time.
The three magazine covers by John Held can be found in numerous books such as Carolyn Kitch’s The Girl on the Magazine Cover; The origins of visual stereotypes in American Mass Media. However, these images can also be discovered on the web. The first one “The Sweet Girl Graduate” depicts the flapper with a cap on her head and diploma in her hand. This expresses the view that the American flapper was educated to some degree. It allows the students a different perspective on the flapper from simply the fashion and actress inside the newspaper.
The next magazine cover was labeled “Sitting Pretty”. This picture shows a flapper and dog both sitting. It expressed the dress, appearance and appeal of the flapper to the students. The newspaper did not do a great job at seeing the flapper since it was more grain like, whereas this cartoon makes it more clear. It helps to show just another aspect of the flapper that would be displayed to the American public.
The final magazine to look into was titled “Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks”. This image shows a young flapper dancing with an older man. They both appear to be enjoying their time and having fun. During this Jazz Age, there was music and dancing, this image helped bring that to life. Part of the flapper was going out and having a good time, so to fully understand this flapper, they would need this side as well.
For the setup of the lesson. I would create the five stations. Have the desk preorganized with the primary source already at the table, however it would be hidden inside a folder and they would be told not to touch it yet to keep them from being distracted. Then I would start with a Do Now. Personally, I would begin with asking the students what is a flapper. It would be interesting to see what they do and do not know about this term. Then, pass out the paper they will be using for the activity. The first section on their paper will be filled with questions from the 1920s review. I would have, define the consumer culture, what mass media is, and why this period is considered “Modern America”. This way, as they continue through the stations they can reference if needed and can use this after watching the film. Then, after the review, they can begin their stations. They would be given questions to answer at each station. What type of source are you looking at? When was the source created? What is the source attempting to convey or show the reader? How do you think this influenced a person’s view on the flapper? Depending how long the block is would determine how much time they are given at each station. Allow roughly 10 minutes to briefly go over what they learned and their opinions on the primary sources. I would bring up bias at this point in the lesson.
Overall, the students should be able to use the primary sources and develop their own understanding of how media affected Americans during this time. The students would use the flapper to better understand the media and the power it could have over this time period. As stated before, the flapper is commonly overlooked. However, she can be used to not only show the changing of women inside society and creating a modern woman, but the flapper can also show them how the media played a role inside the lives of Americans.
Drowne, K., and Huber, P. (2004), The 1920s: American Pop Culture Through History 3-28.
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.
The Museum of the City of New York has an exhibit exploring social activist movements beginning in the 17th Century through the many movements of the present day. These movements and events are portrayed using artifacts, photographs, and audio and video presentations. This use of multiple sources brings the exhibit to life. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the exhibition is the interactive component, where users can select which different forms of activism they would like to learn more about using a tablet, such as immigration, labor conflicts, or gender inequality. This then takes them through the personal stories and accounts of various protests today. The important role social media plays in activism today is of particular interest as there is a screen displaying posts which use the #ActivistNewYork to show individual’s stories. This stresses the importance of people within these movements, which can be seen time and time again throughout the display where the many ways ordinary New Yorkers have affected and continue to shape their city. As you walk the room where the exhibit is located each movement is given a mural like space where its story and history is told. The sections go in chronological order and as you progress through the room you are moving from the past to the present. The fluidity and the connectedness of the exhibition make it easy to see and develop a greater understanding of the many ways these events and groups were connected.
The accompanying book, Activist
New York, progresses in a similar manner. It is split into six sections:
Colonial and Revolutionary New York, from 1624 to 1783, Seaport City from 1783
to 1865, Gilded Age to Progressive Era, from 1865 to 1918, Midcentury
Metropolis, from 1918 to 1960, The Sixties in New York, from 1960 to 1973, and
finally, Urban Crisis and Revival, from 1973 to 2011. These six sections are
then further divided into chapters, each focusing on a different form of
activism and with an additional segment or two on another influential topic
from the corresponding time period. For example, the chapter focusing on Puerto
Rican activism has an accompanying segment on Black Power and Asian American
Activism. These mini-sections help to provide a more complete context for the
time period as well as the main chapters events. Of additional importance with
the book is its detailed endnotes, credits and further readings sections as all
three provide the reader with a greater understanding of the information as
well as the opportunity to dive deeper into the history.
One of the most important and significant aspects of both the
exhibition and its companion book is its in depth coverage of history through
the lenses of the minority perspective. Rather than simply telling the events
with the accounts of those who history is traditionally written, namely the
white male Europeans, this collection drives to incorporate less heard, but no
less importance, voices. From Clara Lemlich, a young Jewish immigrant involved
in the Labor Movement, to Emma Goldman, a young Russian Jewish immigrant who
spoke to thousands in a protest in Union Square, to David Ruggles, a free black
man who helped free hundreds of African Americans prior to the end of slavery.
These perspectives are not ones we often get to hear and their inclusion in
these works has a lasting impact on anyone who reads the book or sees the
The supplemental activity sheets focus on ten forms of
activism explored in the exhibition and the book. Beginning with abolition in
the 1800s, students will examine the story of Elizabeth Jennings, who like Rosa
Parks a century later, refused to give up her seat simply because she was
black. The influence of anarchists within New York City is examined using a
speech from Ms. Goldman, an anarchist propaganda poster, a photograph of the
immigrant living conditions during this time and the New York State Criminal
Anarchy Law. The Labor Movement is assessed using a speech by Ms. Lemlich, a
political cartoon on the relationship between labor unions and employers.
Women’s Suffrage offers the 19th Amendment, an article by Harriet Stanton
Blatch explaining her reasons for being a suffragist, and an advertisement from
Margaret Sanger for her first clinic. Other sections focus on Civil Rights, Gay
pride activists, and student activism.
Activist New York and
the Abolitionist Movement
Directions: Read the background information on
the Abolitionist Movement in New York City. Analyze and review the documents,
then answer the questions that follow.
Background: Though slaves had been freed in New
York State by 1827, the African Americans who remained in the City were often
met with outright hostility and racism. They were forced out work by white
immigrants, prevented from attending schools, and often were denied access to
public transportation and places. The State Constitution of 1821, only allowed
Black men who owned $250 worth of property to vote, effectively preventing the
majority of Black men from doing so. While, slavery was still legal elsewhere
in the country, and many New Yorkers still supported it, not all its residents
believed in it. David Ruggles, a Black man born to free parents in Connecticut,
actively worked to help African Americans escape slavery in New York City.
Document A: The American Anti-Slavery Almanac
of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (1845)
After my arrival at New York, I said I felt like one who had escaped a
den of hungry lions. This state of mind, however, very soon subsided; and I
was again seized with a feeling of great insecurity and loneliness. I was yet
liable to be taken back, and subjected to all the tortures of slavery… Thank
Heaven, I remained but a short time in this distressed situation. I was
relieved from it by the humane hand of Mr. David Ruggles, whose vigilance,
kindness, and perseverance, I shall never forget… I had been in New York but
a few day, when Mr. Ruggles sought me out, and very kindly took me to his
boarding-house… Very soon after I went to Mr. Ruggles, he wished to know of
men where I wanted to go; as he deemed it unsafe for me to remain in New
York Tribune article by Horace Greeley (February 1855)
She (Elizabeth Jennings) got upon one
of the Company’s cars last summer, on the Sabbath, to ride to church. The
conductor undertook to get her off, first alleging the car was full; when
that was shown to be false, he pretended the other passengers were displeased
at her presence; but [when] she insisted on her rights, he took hold of her
by force to expel her. She resisted. The conductor got her down on the
platform, jammed her bonnet, soiled her dress and injured her person. Quite a
crowd gathered, but she effectually resisted. Finally, after the car had gone
on further, with the aid of a policeman they succeed in removing her.
Doc D: Brooklyn Circuit Court Judge William
Rockwell in response to Jennings’s incident, 1855
Colored persons if sober, well
behaved and free from disease, had the same rights as others and could
neither be excluded by any rules of the Company, nor by force or violence. –
What message do you think the artist is conveying in Document
In Doc. B, how did Mr. Ruggles help Frederick Douglass?
Predict why you have not learned about Mr. Ruggles but have
learned about Douglass.
From Doc. C, what happened to Elizabeth Jennings? Why?
Does her story remind you of anything? If so, what?
Using Doc. D, what did the Judge decide in response to the
Is this significant? Why or why not?
What do these four documents and the background information
tell you about life in New York City for African Americans?
Directions: Read the background information on
Activist Harlem in New York City.
Analyze and review the documents, then answer the questions that follow.
Background: During World War I, black workers
began migrating to urban cities for the factory jobs created by the war. This was met by resistance from whites who
feared unemployment and the loss of their homogenous society. From 1910 to 1930, the number of African
Americans living in New York City increased from 91,709 to 327,700, when it
became the city with the most blacks worldwide.
The majority of the African Americans flocked to Harlem, which quickly
became central for African American issues.
Many who lived there dedicated their lives to improving the conditions
of blacks throughout the country. This
movement later became known as the Harlem Renaissance, where the image of the
“New Negro” was formed.
Doc A: National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People Annual Report (1917)
The National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People seeks to uplift the colored men and women of
this country by securing to them the full enjoyment of their rights as
citizens, justice in all courts, and equality of opportunity everywhere… It
believes in the upholding of the Constitution of the United States and its
amendments, in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln.
It upholds the doctrine of “all men up and no man down.” It abhors Negro crimes but still more the
conditions which breed crime, and most of all crimes committed by mobs in the
mockery of the law, or by individuals in the name of the law.
Doc B: Marcus Garvey, Explanation of the Objects of the Universal Negro Improvement
Fellow citizens of Africa, I greet
you in the name of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). You may ask, “what organizations is
that?” It is for me to inform you that
the UNIA is an organization that seeks to unite, into one solid body, the
four hundred million Negroes in the world.
To link up the fifty million Negros in the United States of America,
with the twenty million Negroes of the West Indies, the forty million Negroes
of South and Central American, with the two hundred and eight million Negros
of Africa, for the purpose of bettering our industrial, commercial,
educational, social, and political conditions… We of the UNIA are raising the
cry of “Africa for the Africans,” those at home and those abroad.
Doc C: 125th Street in Harlem
initially caused African Americans to move to cities?
importance did Harlem hold for African Americans during the 1900’s?
was the main goal of the NAACP from Document A?
is Abraham Lincoln mentioned in Document A?
is the main goal of the UNIA in Document B?
does “Africa for the Africans” mean?
are the messages of Document A and Document B similar? How are they different?
on the documents and your previous knowledge, which group was more successful,
the NAACP or the UNIA?
the picture in Document C. Use at least
five details in your response.
why the people are gathered in the photo.
Activism in New York:
Directions: Read the background information on
anarchism in New York City. Analyze and
review the documents, then answer the questions that follow.
Background: In 19th Century Europe, in response
to the social unrest caused by the Industrial Revolution, anarchism
emerged. Its core belief was that only
when workers rose up against their government and abolished it completely,
could they escape their lives of poverty.
In its place they wanted to create a free and classless society. They were often in conflict with socialists,
as they are argued a government run by the working class needed to come before
a classless society, though both leftist groups shared the same enemy in
capitalism. Both anarchists and
socialists within New York City were either immigrants from Europe or their
children, many of whom left Europe because of their radical views. The poor living and working conditions for
immigrants convinced many of them that a revolution was needed in New York City
Emma Goldman, a young Russian Jewish immigrant, speaking to crowd at
Union Square (August 21, 1893)
“Men and women, do you not realize
that the State is the worst enemy you have?
It is a machine that crushes you in order to maintain the ruling
class, your masters… Fifth Avenue is laid in gold, every mansion a citadel (fortress) of money and power. Yet there you stand, a giant, starved and
fettered (restrained), shorn of his
strength… They will go on robbing you… unless you wake up, unless you become
daring enough to demand your rights.
Well, then, demonstrate before the palaces of the rich; demand work. If they do not give you work, demand
bread. If they deny you both, take
bread. It is your sacred right!”
Doc C: New York Criminal Anarchy Law of 1902
Sec. 160. Criminal Anarchy Defined.
Criminal anarchy is the doctrine that organized government should be
overthrown by force or violence, or by assassination of the executive head or
of any of the executive officials of government, or by an unlawful
means. The advocacy of such doctrine
either by word of mouth or writing is a felony.
were the anarchists in New York City?
Doc. A, who is Emma Goldman? Is this
significant? Why or why not?
Doc. A, what rights does Emma Goldman say the people are being denied? What does she say they should do?
the poster in Doc. B. List at least five
message do you think the author is trying to convey in Doc. B?
is does the law in Doc. C do?
is this significant? What does it tell
you about the government during this time?
Activism in New York: Gay Rights
Directions: Read the background information on
gay rights in New York City. Analyze and
review the documents, then answer the questions that follow.
Background: On June 28, 1969, police officers
raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village. The Inn’s selling of alcohol without a liquor
license was the official reason behind the raid, but the patrons of the club
believed the real motivation was their sexual orientation. In response to the raid a riot broke out, and
for the next four nights similar protests took place. “Stonewall” electrified the gay and lesbian
communities of New York and marked a turning point in the gay rights
campaign. Prior to this gay people lived
in fear of their secret coming out, as they often faced harassment, violence
and even job loss when they came out.
Various gay and lesbian organizations were established to further the
gay rights cause; often using Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights movement as
a guide, though some used more radical means.
Doc A: 3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by
Bars – But They Visit Four Before Being Refused Service, in a Test of State
Liquor Authority (S.L.A.) Rules – By Thomas A. Johnson, The New York Times (April 22, 1966)
Three homosexuals, intent upon challenging State Liquor Authority regulations cited by some bartenders in refusing to sell liquor to sexual deviates, met with some difficulty yesterday finding a bar that would deny them service. The three, who were officials of the Mattachine Society, a group dedicated to the improvement of the status of homosexuals, found their first testing establishment closed. Then they found willing service in two other places, even after advising the managers that they were homosexuals. But, in their fourth call, when they told the bartender they were homosexuals, he refused to serve them… Informed of the incident, the S.L.A.’s chief executive officer said that regulations leave service to the discretion of the management and that they do not discriminate against homosexuals. He said, however, that bartenders had the right to refuse service if a customer is not orderly…
Doc B: 4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’
Raid – Melee (Riot) Near Sheridan Square Follows Action at Bar – The New York
Times (June 29, 1969)
Hundreds of young men went on a rampage in Greenwich Village shortly after 3 AM yesterday after a force of plainclothes men raided a bar that the police said was well-known for its homosexual clientele. Thirteen persons were arrested and four policemen injured. The young men threw bricks, bottles, garbage, pennies and a parking meter at the policemen, who had a search warrant authorizing them in investigate reports that liquor was sold illegally at the bar, the Stonewall Inn, just off Sheridan Square. Deputy Inspector Pine said that a large crowd formed in the square after being evicted from the bar. Police reinforcements were sent to the area to hold off the crowd…. The police estimated that 200 young men had been expelled from the bar. The crowd grew close to 400 during the melee, which lasted about 45 minutes. … The raid was one of the three held on Village bars in the last two weeks. Charges against the 13 who were arrested ranged from harassment and resisting arrest to disorderly conduct.
Doc C: Christopher Street Rally
was Stonewall? What impact did it have
on New York City’s gay community?
is the Mattachine Society from Doc. A?
were the men refused service in Doc. A?
did the men go on a “rampage” in Doc. B?
you think this is a biased account of the event in Doc. B? Why or why not?
are gay men portrayed in the newspaper articles from Doc. A and Doc. B?
would you describe the people in the picture from Doc. C?
picture in Doc. C is from the first Gay Pride Parade in New York City, why do
you think 1970 was the first year?
the poster from Doc. D. What do you think the artist is trying to convey?
in New York: Labor Movement
Directions: Read the background information on
the Labor Movement in New York City.
Analyze and review the documents, then answer the questions that follow.
Garment production was the largest manufacturing business in New York City by
the early 1900’s and it was fueled by the city’s immigrant population. The work
was typically characterized by unsafe and unclean conditions, low pay, long
hours and abusive bosses. Workers wanted
to create unions to combat these poor working conditions, but employers were
resistant to them. Despite this, unions
were formed by the 19th Century. With
the relative success of the “Uprising of 20,000,” a garment worker’s strike in
1909, the city’s labor movement exploded.
Within the next four years, labor unions increased from 30,000 to
Doc A : Clara Lemlich, a 23-year-old
immigrant garment worker speaking in Yiddish from stage in Manhattan (November
“I am a working girl. One of those who are on strike against intolerable conditions. I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in general terms. What we are here for is to decide whether we shall strike or shall not strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared now. If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither from the arm I now raise.” –
Doc C: Public Indifference Held Responsible – Voters Should Demand Better Fire Protection, Says Dr. Anna Shaw at Protest Meeting. “DOLLARS AGAINST A LIFE” The New York Times (April 1, 1911)
A mass meeting of protest at the conditions which made possible the Washington Place fire disaster a week ago today was held at Cooper Union last night… Stretched where everyone could see was a flaring banner which bore the legend:
Nov. 26 – Twenty-five women killed in Newark factory fire. March 25- One hundred and thirty women killed in Triangle fire. Locked doors, overcrowding, inadequate fire escapes. The women could not, the voters did not, alter these conditions. We demand for all women the right to protect themselves – … “Well it all comes right down to dollars and cents against a life,” Fire Chief Croker was quoted as saying, “that is the bottom of the entire thing. Mr. Owner will come and say to the Fire Department: ‘If you compel us to do this or that we will have to close up the factory; we cannot afford to do it.’ It comes right down to dollars and cents against human lives no matter which way you look at it.”
is factory work described during the early 1900s?
were unions created? Why did employers
not want unions?
Doc. A, to what cause does Clara Lemlich pledge?
do you notice about the description of Clara Lemlich? Why is this significant?
the political cartoon in Doc. B. Provide
at least five details.
message do you think the artist is trying to convey in Doc. B?
happened in the Washington Place fire from Doc. C?
is blamed for the fire?
in New York: Women’s Suffrage
Directions: Read the background information
on the Women’s Suffrage Campaign in New York City. Analyze and review the documents, then answer
the questions that follow.
Background: Beginning in the 1860s, New York
City became the center for Women’s Suffrage.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two of the movement’s most
prominent leaders, took up residence in the city during this time. Later in the 19th Century, it
became the center for the “New Woman,” a popular phrase used to describe the
young middle and upper-class women who began attending college and later
obtained careers; something previously denied to their mothers. This newfound education and career achievements
led many women to believe they were entitled to vote and become more
politically active. In the early 1900s
the National American Woman Suffrage Association moved its headquarters to New
York City as well.
Doc A: Opinions of Prominent Women –
Leaders in the Movement Tell Why They are in Favor of Equal Rights– The
New York Times (February 21, 1909)
Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch. – Why am I a suffragist? Because women are living under the conditions of the twentieth century. When they were spinning or weaving, teaching and nursing in their own homes, with no examining boards, factory inspectors, or school officers to interfere, a male aristocracy was not so unjust a political system as it is today. Women lived then in a sort of republic of their own making. But with health boards after us, our children snatched from our proverbial knee by compulsory school laws, and every means of creating wealth stolen from the chimney corner, and placed in the business world, women’s concerns have become the State’s concerns…Men cannot feel the new needs of women, and therefore cannot safely assume to be their political sponsors.
Doc C: 19th Amendment: Women’s Right to Vote (1920)
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.
What was the “New Woman?”
Why do you think New York City was the home of the Women’s Suffrage Movement?
In Doc. A, why is Ms. Blatch a suffragist?
Why are women’s concerns now the State’s concerns from Doc. A?
Where are the women from Doc. B protesting? Why there?
Do you think the location of the picture had more of an impact than protests elsewhere? Why or why not?
What does the 19th Amendment from Doc. C guarantee?
Are you surprised by the year? Why or why not?
What three languages is the poster from Doc. D written is? Why?
The poster from Doc. D was created by Margaret Sanger. What is she discussing? What does this have to do with Women’s Suffrage?
Activism in New York:
Occupy Wall Street
Directions: Read the background information
on Occupy Wall Street. Analyze and
review the documents, then answer the questions that follow.
Background: The Depression of 2008 was set
off by many of the world’s richest banks selling billions of dollars in risky
investments, including home mortgages which had been sold to Americans. Borrowers were unable to pay back their loans
and the impact from their defaults was felt throughout the economy. This resulted in the near collapse, or
collapse, of many of the U.S.’s financial institutions, the freezing of credit
and economic problems throughout the world.
The economic conditions were eventually stabilized, but trillions of
dollars were needed to “bail out” the banks.
Unemployment continued to rise, thousands lost their homes, but bank
executives continued to profit. Wall
Street, New York, had been seen as the financial capital of America since the
1830’s, and as such it became the center of the protests in 2011.
Doc A: Declaration of the Occupation of
New York City (September 29, 2011)
As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know what we are your allies. As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their rights and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people on the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceable assembled here, as is our right to let these facts be known. They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosures process, despite not having the original mortgage. They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity (freedom), continue to give Executives exorbitant (excessive) bonuses. They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right…
Doc C: A Day of Protests as Occupy Movement Marks Two-Month Milestone by Katharine Q. Seelye – The New York Times (November 17, 2011) Protesters across the country demonstrated en masse Thursday, snarling rush-hour traffic in several major cities and taking aim at banks as part of the national “day of action” to mark the two-month milestone of the Occupy Wall Street movement. While thousands of protestors clogged the streets in New York and more than 175 people were arrested in clashes with the police, demonstrators elsewhere in the country were largely peaceful… Union workers, students, unemployed people and local residents joined the crowds in many cities, adding to a core of Occupy protesters… Activists decried banking practices, called for more jobs and demanded a narrowing of the divide between the richest 1 percent of the population and the other 99 percent.
was Wall Street chosen as the location for the protest?
economic conditions lead to the Occupy Wall Street Movement?
Doc. A, what does the Declaration cite as the facts for the Occupation?
the document in Doc. A resemble any other document you have read?
the picture in Doc B. Use at least five
details in your response.
does the sign say 99% in Doc. B?
Doc. C, who joined the protest? Why do
you think these groups of people joined?
does the New York Times say the activists want in Doc. C?
the political cartoon in Doc. D. Use at
least five details in your response.
message do you think the artist is trying to convey in Doc. D?
in New York: New Housing Activists
Directions: Read the background information on
new housing activists in New York City.
Analyze and review the documents, then answer the questions that follow.
Background: During the late 1960’s and 1970’s
dozens of community organizations were created to combat the “urban
crisis.” Entire neighborhoods were near
collapse in the face of crime, drug addiction, unemployment and housing abandonment
which had been going on for years. The
thousands of African Americans and Puerto Ricans who had moved to New York
after World War II, were caught between two government programs. The first, “redlining,” kept them from
borrowing money to upgrade or buy homes in either their area or middle-class
areas as banks viewed them as a risk to residential security. The second, was Urban Renewal, where powerful
people used federal funds to construct new highways, art centers and apartment
complexes without care of the existing neighborhoods. The people who were crowded out by these new
buildings were not given adequate housing and thus were forced into the
slums. When the city government ran out
of money in 1975, the poorest areas were virtually abandoned. In response, the residents of these areas
banded together to save their areas.
Document A: Bronx Housing Devastation Found Slowing Substantially by David W. Dunlap – The New York Times (March 22, 1982) New York City officials and neighborhood activists say they are witnessing a marked slowing of the wholesale devastation that plagued the Bronx in the 1970’s. The burning and abandonment that cut a wide swath from south to north through the borough have not stopped. But the neighborhoods that are now on the northern edges of the devastated areas show new signs of stability, officials say. Among the encouraging factors, they say, are that hundreds of buildings are being rehabilitated, that private money has been successfully enlist in the effort and that tenants and whole communities have organized to fight on behalf of their buildings and neighborhoods… If this stability – reflected by inhabitants clinging more tenaciously to their buildings and neighborhoods – continues, the officials said, it may be due to the simple economic fact that many residents have no choice but to stay put.
was the “urban crisis?”
was the government response to the crisis?
What was the residents’ response?
the picture. Use at least five details
in your response.
reasons does the author provide for the slowing down of the “devastation” of
does the author of Doc. D say, “the residents have no choice but to stay put?”
changes does the author see in the Bronx?
Activism in New York:
Directions: Read the background information on
protests today in New York City. Analyze
and review the documents, then answer the questions that follow.
Background: After the 2011 Occupy Wall Street
protest, activism has continued to play an important role in New York City. These protests have taken on new strategies,
namely social media, in addition to the familiar ones used throughout New
York’s history. Many issues have
centered around race, from the Black Lives Matter protest to “Stop and Frisk,”
and the statue debate. The successful
push for same-sex marriage in 2015, advocating for AIDS, the protection of
undocumented immigrants and the Women’s March are additional examples from
recent years, all showing New York City’s lasting impact for activists and
change throughout time.
Doc A: New Yorkers Rediscover Activism in the Trump Presidency Era by Gina Bellfante – The New York Times (January 20, 2017): The “movement,” of course is Trump resistance, which is essentially a movement against everything – the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, climate-change denial, the omnibus threats to the pursuit of equality (racial, economic, gender), a general erosion of civility, modesty, nuance, logic. How to counter it all? Even if the answer to that question is still taking shape, the intensity to fight back, made evident in part by the Women’s March on Washington taking place on Saturday, is producing what will probably turn out to be one of the most fertile periods of activism on the left in decades. Right now, in New York City, it is possible to join in an act of opposition to the New World Order nearly every day… The new wave of activism taking hold in New York and perhaps around the country owes a debt to the Occupy Wall Street movement even as its success continues to be debated… It created a foundation upon which politicians and causes have flourished, and build, and demanded power. And power, in the words of Frederick Douglass, concedes nothing without a demand.
Doc D: “Why Demonstrating is Good for Kids,” by Lisa Damour – The New York Times (March 12, 2018) Participating in political activism may be good for our teenagers, according to a new research report. The study, published in January in the journal of Child Development, found that late adolescents and young adults who voted, volunteered or engaged in activism ultimately went further in school and had higher incomes than those who did not mobilize for political or social change… Of course, correlation does not prove causation, but the study makes a case for the benefits of civic engagement… The study’s lead author said that “having meaningful opportunities to volunteer or be involved in activism may change how young people think about themselves or their possibilities for the future.” The research is especially timely as American students consider whether to participate in the National School Walkout.
are three recent protests in New York City?
you participate in any forms of activism?
Why or why not?
do you think New York City continues to be central for many protests?