Frances Willard – Forgotten Feminist

Often when we think about the temperance movement it’s limited to Prohibition, mobsters, and the roaring twenties. Temperance was an idea that was tried and failed in the sense that it didn’t work well for the country resulting in the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment via the Twenty-first Amendment. Because it is an idea that came and went, it is easy to forget the individuals who made their mark in history through the temperance movement. One of these individuals is Frances Willard.

But Frances Willard was much more than a temperance worker. She was a feminist and an advocate for women’s rights in the broadest sense. Her motto: ‘Everything is not in the Temperance Movement, but the Temperance Movement should be in everything‘  was her way of rallying a large number of women all across the country to work for reform in many different areas, but always with temperance at the core.

The Temperance movement was born out of the Second Great Awakening of religious fervor in America in the early nineteenth century. One of the people who found a renewed spirituality and a call to serve was Josiah Willard. In 1841, in order to study for the ministry under Charles Finney, Josiah and his wife Mary took their two children, Oliver and two year old Frances, and moved to Oberlin Ohio. He and Mary both studied at Oberlin College for the next four years until Josiah’s health required a move to the country.

In 1846, the family moved to a farm outside Janesville, Wisconsin, where Oliver, Frances, and younger sister Mary, born in Oberlin, spent 13 happy years. Frances’s talents began to emerge during this time. Mary was more artistic; Oliver played “fort” and wanted to explore; but Frances wanted to play “city” and organize. Their mother taught them at home until public schools were available in the area and was aware of and promoted each of her children’s strengths. When Frances was 17 she went to the Milwaukee Seminary where her aunt taught. In 1858, the family moved to Evanston Illinois where Frances attended the Evanston College for Ladies and graduated valedictorian in 1859.

Between 1859 and 1868, Frances taught school at various places before returning to the Evanston College for Ladies as the President, making her the first woman college president in the United States. When the college merged with Northwestern University in 1871, she became the Dean of Women. This was an ideal position for Frances to use her considerable organizational skills, but it was short lived. She resigned in 1874 after having her influence and responsibilities greatly reduced by the President of Northwestern, Charles Fowler. These may have been typical university political struggles, but they were complicated by the fact that Frances had previously been engaged to Fowler and broken the engagement. This experience left Frances distraught and at a loss as to how to proceed in her life. She had no desire to go back to one small schoolhouse after the other teaching. She also believed that God would use her.

Willard with Anna Gordon and Mary Willard.

These years had been difficult for Frances in other ways as well. Both her father and her younger sister Mary died of tuberculosis and her brother Oliver began to drink heavily and gamble. She found herself without work and her mother’s sole source of support, so after leaving the University, she decided to go on the lecture tour for the cause of temperance. Frances was tireless, over the next ten years she averaged 30,000 miles and 400 lectures a year. Never domestically inclined, this suited the independent non-conformist side of Frances, but she was also ambitious.

In 1874, Frances became the corresponding secretary of the newly formed Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the President of the Chicago chapter, and head of the WCTU publications committee. During her lectures, Frances also began to speak in favor of women’s suffrage. Just as Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony found in the abolition society, this created a conflict with the leadership, in Frances’s case Annie Wittenmyer, the first WCTU president.

This is where Frances’s brilliance as a strategist began to show. As corresponding secretary, no problem or concern was too small to receive a letter from her. Through her travels and letter writing, with the help of long-time companion Anna Gordon, she made personal contacts all over the country. When the time was right, in 1879, Frances ran for president of the national WCTU, and won. She held this position until her death in 1898.

Many women in the WCTU were conservative and involved in the fight against alcohol because they believed that indulgence was sinful and because of the impact it had on the family. The fight for temperance was seen as fighting for the home, family, and motherhood thus an acceptable cause for women to work outside their homes, but many saw suffrage as too radical. Frances had the same values with regard to alcohol; she had seen its devastating effects in her brother’s life, but she also believed that the way for women to affect change in their domestic lives was to have the vote. She insisted that women not view themselves as the “weaker sex” and that they had a place in politics.

Wittenmyer had insisted on uniformity among the chapters of the WCTU. Frances preferred a more liberal approach. As long as the chapters took the temperance pledge and paid their dues they had the flexibility to work for the causes appropriate to their location. “Do everything,” was her motto. This led to work in many different areas, such as free school lunches, 8 hour work days, anti-rape laws, protection for children against abuse, and work relief for the poor. Although some thought that too broad a focus would fracture the organization, Frances’s organizational skills, her intense travel schedule, and prolific correspondence prevented this from happening.

Frances Willard was the first woman to be represented in the Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.

Frances Willard’s profound belief that she was called by God for this task, her excellent speaking skills, and even her feminine demeanor made her and her message acceptable to some who rejected the message of other suffragists of the time. At the time of her death in 1898, the WCTU had grown to approximately 150,000 women, making it the largest women’s organization in the world at the time, and making Frances one of the most famous women in the nation. She truly had an impact on the fight for women’s rights and should be remembered for her considerable contribution.

Frances was also a prolific writer. Some of her works were
Woman and temperance, or the work and workers of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, 1883
Glimpses of fifty years: the Autobiography of an American Woman, 1889
How to Win: A Book for Girls, 1886
Woman in the Pulpit, 1888
Do everything: a Handbook for the World’s White Ribboners, 1895
A Wheel within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle, 1895

Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists by Jean H. Baker
Glimpses of fifty years: the Autobiography of an American Woman, 1889
The Beautiful Life of Frances E. Willard by Anna Adams Gordon

Susan B Anthony – “Failure is Impossible”

“I never felt I could give up my life of freedom to become a man’s housekeeper.  When I was young, if a girl married poor she became a housekeeper and a drudge.  If she married wealthy, she became a pet and a doll.” ~Susan B. Anthony

Susan B Anthony c. 1855 (source)


When I first began reading about woman suffrage several years ago, I wondered why the only name I remembered from school was Susan B. Anthony. There were so many women involved in the movement that played major roles such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone, two about whom I’ve already written, and that’s before you even begin to talk about the women who brought the movement home so to speak, such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. One reason is that women have often been slighted in history, but if you had to choose one woman to represent the movement, why Susan B Anthony?

Of course, I can’t be sure, but one reason I would choose her is because of the major players, Anthony was probably the most single minded and driven. She came to the movement late, but when she did, she never wavered, and when it was clear that the goal wouldn’t be reached in her lifetime, she spent considerable time mentoring younger women to carry on the fight. She was tireless. While Elizabeth Cady Stanton might be seen as the philosopher of the movement, Susan was the tactician, the organizer. She organized national women’s conventions almost every year after the Civil War, selecting places and speakers, raising money, organizing local women’s groups, traveling extensively to promote the cause and rally the troops. When others might have given up, she said “failure is impossible.”

Susan Brownell Anthony was the second of seven children born to Lucy Read and Daniel Anthony on February 15, 1820. While Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone grew up with the idea that it was a disadvantage to be a woman; that wasn’t the case with Susan. Daniel Anthony was a Quaker who instilled in his children a sense of their own self-worth and that of all human beings. Although women and men sat on opposite sides of the meeting house, Susan’s grandmother was an elder and her aunt preached freely when she was moved to do so. Her grandfather believed so strongly in education that he built a school on his own property for his children and the neighbors. Later when Susan’s teacher didn’t see the need to teach girls long division, Daniel Anthony did the same thing, providing a place where girls could learn the same subjects as boys.

The Anthonys believed in education, self-determination and self-discipline. Daniel Anthony was a good Quaker, but he also had an independent streak. When he decided to marry Lucy Read a non-Quaker, his meeting disapproved, but he stood his ground. Lucy was not so sure about giving up her bright colors and dances, but gave in and they were married. As time went on they both became involved in the temperance and abolitionist movements, and they passed these values on to their children.

Parents of Susan B. Anthony (source)

Parents of Susan B. Anthony (source)


When Susan was young, the family was well off. Her father owned a successful cotton mill, but they didn’t live a life of leisure. Many of the mill workers boarded with the family, so Susan’s mother was constantly working and Susan helped out as soon as she was old enough. Her father started an evening school for the mill workers and as soon as Susan and her elder sister Guelma were old enough they began teaching in the home school or nearby villages.

Susan and Guelma were both able to go to Deborah Moulson’s Female Seminary, a boarding school in Philadelphia, but in the depression of 1837 their father’s business failed and they had to return home. At 17, Susan was well qualified to teach, so she did her part to support the family and work to pay off their debts. In this endeavor, she would encounter her first real disadvantage being a woman, when she realized that she was paid ¼ the salary of men doing the same job, even when she was more qualified. This experience would prompt her to advocate for equal pay for equal work during most of her women’s rights work.

After several years of hard work, in 1845 when Susan was 25, she moved with her parents and two siblings to their new home on a small farm near Rochester, NY. The farm was purchased by Lucy’s brother with money which had been left to her by her father. If the money or the farm had been put in Lucy’s name it would legally belong to Daniel and could then be seized by his creditors. The Quaker’s of Rochester welcomed the Anthony family and introduced them to a very active anti-slavery community. Here Susan learned about the Underground Railroad and began reading The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison’s anti-slavery paper.

Susan soon left the farm to accept a teaching position at the Canajoharie Academy, where her uncle James Read was a trustee. It was here that Susan made her first public speech. In both the temperance and abolitionist movements there was disagreement, sometimes violent disagreement, about whether or not to allow women to speak to “promiscuous” meetings, meetings including both men and women. In Canajoharie, the Sons of Temperance refused to allow women to speak, so the women formed the Daughters of Temperance. Most of the women were uneasy at the idea of speaking in public, but Susan, raised in Quaker meeting where women were welcome to speak, thought nothing of it. Her speech at their first meeting, attended by approximately 200 men and women, was a success.

Because of the distance to Rochester, she spent her vacations with Guelma and Hannah and their families or with Lydia Mott, one of her former teachers at Deborah Moulson’s school and cousin of Lucretia Mott. From Lydia, she learned more about the abolitionist movement. It was during this time, in 1948, that the Seneca Falls Woman Rights Convention was held, and attended by Daniel and Lucy Anthony and Susan’s younger sister Mary. All three were very impressed with the speakers, especially Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, and signed the Declaration of Sentiments, the statement of resolutions for women’s rights that resulted from the convention. When Susan heard about this, she wasn’t opposed, but she found it surprising and somewhat amusing. After all, she hadn’t experienced the opposition that many women faced.

Susan B Anthony age 28 (source)

Susan B Anthony age 28 (source)

Although she didn’t embrace the women’s movement immediately, she was very intrigued by what her family was telling her about the women involved, so she welcomed the opportunity to get to know Elizabeth Cady Stanton when she met her in Seneca Falls in 1851. It was the beginning of a friendship that would last a lifetime and would be the foundation of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

In 1852, Susan attended her first women’s rights convention in Syracuse, while at the same time becoming more and more active in the abolitionist movement. She began lecturing for William Lloyd Garrison’s Anti-Slavery Association in 1956, and started to experience the opposition directed at women such as the Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Abby Kelly, and Lucy Stone when they lectured. By the time of the Civil War, Susan was convinced of the need for women’s rights reform and suffrage, and was working closely with Elizabeth Cady Stanton to bring it about.

Although, she had received a couple of offers of marriage, Susan chose to remain single. She didn’t see the need to tie her self to a man and thereby restrict her own actions and work. She was often impatient with the women who did, even with Elizabeth and Lucy, and was critical of their divided loyalties. After the Civil War, Elizabeth and Susan worked very closely. While Elizabeth still had children at home, Susan did much of the traveling to spread their message. She organized annual women’s rights conventions, doing most of the logistical work while Elizabeth did most of the writing, including many of Susan’s speeches. Together they published The Revolution, a newspaper devoted to women’s issues. Elizabeth was the editor, and Susan was the publisher and business manager. Elizabeth always had a very broad even radical view of what was needed and should be fought for; Susan felt that if suffrage was achieved all the rest would follow.

Several major strategies were used during those years to approach the suffrage question. One, championed initially by Victoria Woodhull, was that women already had the vote by virtue of the 14th Amendment and should just do it. Women were citizens and therefore couldn’t be denied one of the rights of citizenship – voting. In preparation for the 1872 presidential election, Susan organized women to register to vote. Many were turned away, but Susan and a group of women were successful at registering and later casting their votes for president. Two weeks later, she was arrested and eventually tried and convicted for “knowingly casting an illegal vote in a federal election.” She was fined $100, which she refused to pay. The result was probably a public relations victory on her side. No attempt was ever made to make her pay the fine and she arranged for the trial transcripts to be printed and distributed, promoting her cause.

Susan lectured and campaigned in every state promoting local and state suffrage for women, but she always believed that the solution was a federal amendment to the Constitution. In 1878, she finally succeeded in getting a proposed amendment introduced into Congress. Proposing it as the sixteenth amendment, it was introduced every year until 1919 when it finally passed as the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

As with most of the original suffragists, Susan wouldn’t live to see the passage of the amendment she had worked tirelessly to bring about. Her last appearance before the Senate’s Select Committee on Woman’s Suffrage was in 1902 because of failing health, but she made one last speech in 1906 on her 86th birthday one month before she died. Surveying the women who had joined the movement, many of whom she had mentored, she declared that “ with such women consecrating their lives – Failure is Impossible.”

Susan B Anthony house in Rochester, NY by Dmadeo at Wikimedia Commons (source)

Susan B Anthony house in Rochester, NY by Dmadeo at Wikimedia Commons (source)

History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton  et. al.
The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony
by Ida Husted Harper
Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists
by Jean H. Baker
Susan B. Anthony by Alma Lutz

Trial Homepage – nice write up of her registration, vote, and the events leading up to the trial as well as links to the trial transcript.

Lucy Stone (1818 – 1893) – Abolitionist and Suffragist

Lucy Stone c. 1850, Library of Congress (source)

Lucy Stone c. 1850, Library of Congress (source)

Common causes often draw people together, but it’s not always sufficient to keep them together. Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony are often called the “triumvirate” of the women’s suffrage movement. All three were ardent abolitionists, and all three began speaking for women’s suffrage early in the movement. In many ways that’s where the similarities end.

Lucy Stone was born in 1818, the eighth of nine children to Francis and Hannah Matthews Stone. Unlike Stanton, she was not born into a family of means. Francis Stone owned a small farm in Massachusetts where everyone in the family had to contribute to survive. The boys fished and hunted; the girls made cheese and did piecework to help make ends meet. Francis was also a drinking man and one that believed firmly in a “woman’s place.” He was physically and verbally abusive and Hannah often had to beg him for money to get things for the girls. Where Stanton’s father wished she were a boy because he wanted a boy, Lucy’s mother wished she and her sisters were boys because “a woman’s life is so hard.”

Around the age of twelve Lucy took on much of the housework because of her mother’s ill health, yet she still managed to do well in school. In 1837, at the age of 16, she started to teach. Her dream was to go to Oberlin College. Her father paid for the boys to go to boarding school and then college, but he didn’t believe it was necessary for a woman. At this point, Lucy had probably begun to be a trial for her father. She saw her mother’s position as a trap in which she didn’t want to be caught. They were members of their local Congregationalist church which reinforced many of her father’s ideas. In 1838, the officials of the church condemned the use of the pulpit for abolitionist speeches particularly by women. The Grimke sisters from South Carolina and Abby Kelley had begun to speak against slavery to mixed groups of men and women. The church viewed this as a violation of what they saw as the Bible’s prohibition against women teaching men. Lucy decided two things then: that she would study Greek and Hebrew to better understand the Biblical passages and that if she ever had anything to speak about in public that she would do it.

Between 1838 and 1843, she continued to teach and study when she could. Two of her sisters died during this time and she helped with the children, supporting her mother. One thing that she did learn from her family was her hatred for slavery. She kept up with the fight by reading The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison’s anti-slavery newspaper, with particular interest in the divisions in the American Anti-Slavery Society caused by women speaking out. She wrote to her brother that some in the Society wanted to “crush Garrison and the women. While it pretends to endeavor to remove the yoke of bondage on account of color, it is actually summoning all its energies to rivet more and more firmly the chains that have always been fastened upon the neck of woman.” Later when she began to speak publicly for the abolitionist cause, she was criticized for injecting women’s rights issues into her speeches.

In 1843, Lucy had finally saved enough money for her first year at Oberlin. She continued to work and study and was able to graduate in 1847 with honors. (Her father also insisted that she compensate him for the money that she was denying the household by being away at college, which she did.) Although Oberlin was ahead of it’s time in many ways (they admitted both African American students and women), they were still constrained by the society in others. The student body selected Lucy to write a speech for the graduation ceremony. The catch was that she would not be able to deliver the speech because she was a woman and the audience would contain both men and women. After much thought, although she had decided to pursue a career as a public speaker, she chose not to write the speech rather than compromise her principles.

One thing that helped Lucy make her decision to pursue public speaking was her experience in a debate club that she founded while at school. During her time there, she met Antoinette Brown, a young woman who was studying to be a minister. While studying rhetoric, they were not allowed to debate in the class, you guessed it, because they were women and the class contained men. They were expected to watch the men debate and keep silent. So they started their own debate club off campus. Then in October of 1847, Lucy gave her first public speech called The Province of Women and her career began.

In 1848, Lucy was hired by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Philips as a lecturer and organizer for the Boston Anti-Slavery Society. In 1850, she worked with Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis and others to organize a national convention on women’s rights. At the convention her speech met with wide acclaim. She continued her speaking engagements and organizing activities for the next ten years, until the start of the Civil War when most of the women put their activities on hold to assist in the war effort.

Henry Blackwell c. 1850, Blackwell Family Paper at the Library of Congress (source)

Henry Blackwell c. 1850, Blackwell Family Paper at the Library of Congress (source)

Like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy had decided early in her life that she didn’t want to submit herself to the constraints of marriage. Unlike Anthony, she changed her mind. Henry Blackwell noticed Lucy during one of her speeches. He was immediately smitten and began to woo her, a process which took several years. If anyone could have won Lucy over it was Henry. He was raised in a family which strongly supported both the abolition of slavery and women’s rights. His one brother Samuel Blackwell had married Antoinette Brown, Lucy’s friend, who had become a minister as well as a prominent abolitionist and suffragist in her own right, and Henry’s five sisters had all opted to remain single and pursue careers of their own, the most prominent being Elizabeth Blackwell the first female doctor in the United States. Lucy and Henry were married in 1855. As part of the ceremony they read a “Marriage Protest” where they protested the laws which gave a husband control over a wife’s person and sole control and guardianship of the children. Needless to say the word “obey” was left out of the ceremony. Lucy continued her career as a speaker and continued to use her maiden name. She did take time off the lecture circuit when she gave birth to Alice Stone Blackwell in 1857 and throughout the years of the war.

Lucy with her daughter Alice, Library of Congress (source)

Lucy with her daughter Alice, Library of Congress (source)

After the war, the differences between some of the primary leaders within the women’s movement began to emerge. The issues are multi-faceted and I may write a future post on them, but for now, there was a split within the movement in 1869. The argument arose primarily over whether or not to fight for suffrage for black men and women at the same time within one amendment, or to work toward the vote for all men and once that was achieved return to the issue of suffrage for women. The 15th Amendment had passed in Congress in February ensuring that no citizen could be denied the right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Stanton was incensed that it didn’t include the word sex and resorted to racist language that alienated many in the group. She refused to support ratification whereas the majority wanted to support ratification and propose an additional amendment for the suffrage of women. The final result was Stanton and Anthony’s withdrawal and formation of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Lucy Stone responded by creating another organization – the American Woman Suffrage Association.

Over the next 20 years Lucy and the AWSA continued to work for women’s suffrage focusing primarily on individual states. In 1870, she founded the Woman’s Journal, a newspaper that she would write for and publish for the rest of her life. At some point she realized that she was not going to see the women’s vote become a reality in her lifetime, but she had raised Alice to have the same values and knew that she would carry on the fight. She also spent time with Carrie Chapman Catt for the same purpose, preparing her to take up the mantle.

In 1890, the NWSA and the AWSA were finally reconciled, and in 1892, Lucy spoke before the House Judiciary Committee with Stanton and Anthony in support of women’s suffrage. Her last speech was in 1893 at the World’s Congress of Representative Women in Chicago where women from over 27 countries spoke to an audience of over 150,000 people in favor of women’s rights. She died later that year.

When Stanton and Anthony began their History of Woman Suffrage, Lucy was still in disagreement with them and chose not to send a biographical sketch for inclusion. For this reason she is not represented to the degree that she probably should be. But in recent years, her tremendous contributions to the advancement of women’s rights have received more attention. She was truly one of the founders of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton  et. al. (6 volume work)
Sisters: The Lives of America’s Suffragists
by Jean H. Baker
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 – 1902)
Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary – Blazing the Trail for Women

Mary Ann Shadd, National Archives of Canada (source)

Mary Ann Shadd, National Archives of Canada (source)

Not very many people accomplish as much as Mary Ann Shadd Cary did in her life, much less blaze a trail to do it. She has many “firsts” to her credit: first African American woman publisher in North America, first woman publisher in Canada, first woman to enroll in Howard University, first woman to graduate from Howard with a law degree (sort of, more to come) and only the second African American woman to practice law in the United States, at 60 years old no less! She was even commissioned by the governor of Indiana to recruit black soldiers to the Union army, the only woman to hold this position.

Mary Ann Shadd was born free in Delaware on October 9, 1823, to Abraham and Harriet Parnell Shadd, the oldest of their 13 children. Her father was a prosperous boot manufacturer and her mother a woman who wanted her children to be educated. Delaware was a slave state and it was illegal to educate black children, so when Mary was 10, the family moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania where she enrolled in a Quaker school. After graduating at 16, Mary began a career in teaching. For ten years, she taught in schools in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and amazingly returned to Wilmington Delaware to open a school for black children. It was partly through her efforts that Wilmington began to make provisions for educating free black children in 1844.

During her childhood, her parents were actively involved with many prominent abolitionists. In the 1830s and 40s, her father helped lead a series of conventions led by black leaders, and when the time came they were also involved in the Underground Railroad. This was risky enough, but when the Fugitive Slave Law passed in 1850, it became even more dangerous. Even the northern non-slave states were no longer safe, and, it wasn’t only escaped slaves who were at risk. Freed slaves and free-born blacks were at risk as well. In a time where civil rights were non-existent for African-Americans, the law wasn’t much help, so many free blacks as well as escaped slaves moved to the safety of Canada. Mary Ann Shadd was one of these.

In 1851, Mary and one of her brothers moved to Windsor, Ontario, after meeting Henry Bibb and his wife at the Convention of Colored Freeman in Toronto. In Windsor, she opened a school for fugitive slaves with assistance from the American Missionary Association and eventually brought the rest of her family to join them. Mary became active in the community and began to write and promote Canada to other blacks in the United States, both slave and free. Her first published pamphlet was Notes on Canada West, and it described the virtues of Canadian living. Canada had abolished slavery in 1833 and had no agreement with the United States to extradite escaped slaves. In her book Homespun Heroines, Hallie Brown recounts an incident where a young boy, pursued by slave hunters, was captured and about to be carried off when Mary “tore the boy from the slave hunters, ran to the court-house and had the bell rung so violently that the whole town was soon aroused. Mrs. Cary with her commanding form, piercing eyes, and stirring voice soon had the people as indignant as herself–denouncing in no uncertain terms the outrage perpetrated under the British flag and demanded that these man-hunters be driven from their midst.”

She definitely was not shy. In fact, she had substantial disagreements with some of the other residents of Windsor, in particular Henry Bibb, the publisher of a newspaper called The Voice of the Fugitive. When Mary moved to Windsor, she established a racially integrated school. She believed that blacks must fight for equality and integration into society, and that self-segregation would hinder the fight. Not everyone agreed, and she came under attack by Henry Bibb in his newspaper. Rather than just defending herself, she started her own newspaper, The Provincial Freeman. She had the help of Samuel Ringgold Ward, a newspaper man in his own right, who agreed to be the editor, but it seems likely that he was editor primarily in name only and that Mary was the driving force and primary writer and editor for the paper. The Provincial Freeman gave Mary a way to get her message out about the advantages of moving to Canada, but also about other causes important to her such as women’s rights.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary House in Washington DC (source)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary House in Washington DC (source)

Financing was difficult, and they published the paper off and on between 1853 and 1859. Mary spent a good deal of time traveling back in the United States, distributing her pamphlets, extolling the virtues of Canada, and raising money to keep the paper going. This was a challenge, because in 1856 she married Thomas Cary. Thomas was a barber with three children, but it seemed to work well for them even though she was often away. She and Thomas were both still very involved in the abolitionist cause and in 1858 attended John Brown’s Constitutional Convention. They were friends with Osborne Perry Anderson, the only surviving African-American member of the raiding party, and Mary later helped him prepare his memoir, A Voice From Harper’s Ferry, for publication in 1861.

Mary and Thomas had two children Sarah and Linton, but Thomas died while Mary was pregnant with Linton and she found herself in a position of having to support two young children and three teenagers. She continued teaching, but wanting to be of service to the war effort, she returned to the United States. In 1863, President Lincoln called for volunteers and Mary as always wanted to be of service, so she was commissioned by Levi P. Morton, the governor of Indiana, to recruit black soldiers for the Union army.

At the end of the war, Mary had a decision to make. Although she considered life in Canada a good option, she decided to remain in the United States to help in the assimilation of the newly freed slaves. A strong believer in self-determination, and believing in the importance of education for this purpose, she obtained a US teacher’s certificate and relocated in 1868 to Washington, D. C. She eventually became a principal in the D.C. public schools and enrolled in Howard University.

There seem to be different accounts of her graduation and acceptance to the District of Columbia Bar, one stating that she was the first black woman to become a lawyer in the US and others say she was the second. Mary Ann Shadd Cary is on the roles of the senior class of 1870 at Howard; however, it appears that she was refused her law degree because she was a woman. In the meantime, Charlotte E. Ray graduated in 1872 and was admitted to the bar in Washington D.C. under the name C. E. Ray. (I’m sure the assumption was that C. E. Ray was a man!) So Charlotte Ray became the first black woman lawyer in the US and Mary was awarded her law degree in 1883.

Mary was a strong believer in self-determination whether black or white, male or female. So while her primary work was as an abolitionist and in education, she was also involved in the suffrage movement. During her years in Washington D. C. she continued writing, joined the National Woman Suffrage Association, working with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. She also founded the Colored Women’s Progressive Franchise in 1880 to work toward equal rights for women.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary continued to speak and write as long as she was able. She died on June 5, 1893, having blazed a trail for women both black and white. As a teacher, writer, publisher, speaker, in the cause of abolition and equal rights for women she was truly an amazing woman!

Mary Anne Shadd Cary: Abolitionist by Adrienne Shadd
Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction ed. Hallie O. Brown

Elizabeth Cady Stanton – Suffragist and Women’s Rights Activist

Elizabeth Cady Stanton c. 1880 (source)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton c. 1880 (source)

In many ways, Elizabeth Cady Stanton provided the philosophical bedrock for the women’s movement in the United States. She is known for fighting for women’s suffrage, but she never lost sight of the bigger picture of women’s rights or other reform issues. Throughout her long life she would concern herself with such things as the abolition of slavery, the right for married women to own property, birth control, custody for mothers, education for girls, and relief for suffering families after the Civil War. Her overriding concern was that all individuals have the right of self-determination and should be allowed to have all the tools necessary to do this.

Elizabeth, born on November 12, 1815, was the eighth of eleven children born to Daniel Cady and Margaret Livingston Cady. Only she and four sisters survived well into adulthood. After years of miscarriages and exhausted by childbirth, Margaret retreated to her bed in ill health, possibly to avoid any more attempts at having a boy. After menopause, she recovered her health to a degree that Elizabeth’s children remember their grandmother as fun and affectionate. In the meantime, Elizabeth was often cared for by her older sister Tryphena and her husband Edward Bayard.

It’s not uncommon for a daughter to fill the place of a son when there aren’t any boys in the family. Elizabeth Cady had the interests and mental capability to be like a son to her father, to share his intellectual interests and pastimes. She was an accomplished horsewoman, and excelled in mathematics, Latin and Greek and could play chess. She once took a young man who came to read law with her father on a 10 miles ride that left him exhausted. But in Elizabeth’s father’s eyes it wasn’t enough. At the age of eleven when her only brother (Eleazar, aged 20) died, she climbed into her father’s lap to comfort him and he said, “Oh daughter, I wish you were a boy.” As hard as she tried, she always felt inadequate simply because she was a girl and unable to take Eleazar’s place.

Elizabeth's father the Hon. Daniel Cady c. 1835 (source)

Elizabeth’s father the Hon. Daniel Cady c. 1835 (source)

Elizabeth’s father was a prominent attorney who served one term in Congress and later became a judge. As a young girl, Elizabeth would often sit quietly in her father’s office and listen to the women who came seeking help in legal matters. She became aware at an early age of the great disadvantage of women in the legal system. Her brother-in-law, Edward who studied with her father, would tease her by reading the most egregious laws and Bible passages pertaining to women. At that time, women had virtually no legal rights; they couldn’t own property, in fact any property they inherited became the property of their husbands when they married to do with as he saw fit; wages they earned became the property of their husbands; they had no custody rights; in fact they were the property of their husbands. This struck Elizabeth as unfair, in fact as a young girl she marked the worst passages in her father’s law books and planned to cut them out, but a friend revealed her plan and her father explained to her that it wouldn’t make any difference, the laws would still exist.

Growing up Elizabeth attended Johnstown academy. Working to earn her father’s love she excelled and received many honors, often out performing the boys in her classes. In spite of this, when it was time for the boys to go on to Union College, she couldn’t. They didn’t admit women. Once again, the system seemed unfair to Elizabeth. Although her father considered the subjects she excelled at unfeminine, she was encouraged intellectually by a neighbor, the Rev. Simon Hosack and at Edward’s urging, Judge Cady did agree to send her to the Troy Female Seminary where she learned subjects more “appropriate” for a young woman, such as music, dancing and French. This did little to instill in her a liking for these subjects. In fact, she particularly disliked sewing, calling the needle “that one-eyed demon of destruction that slays thousands annually; that evil genius of our sex, which, in spite of all our devotion, will never make us healthy, wealthy, or wise.”

After graduating from school, Elizabeth spent time in the Bayard’s home and that of her cousin Gerrit Smith a prominent abolitionist. There she made the acquaintance of Henry Brewster Stanton a young attorney who also supported the abolitionist cause. Over the years Edward’s teasing had become affection, but Elizabeth had no desire to betray her sister, so when Henry Stanton proposed marriage to her, she accepted. Edward tried to intervene by disparaging Stanton to Elizabeth’s father who was not a staunch abolitionist, and she was convinced to break off the engagement. But, Henry was persistent.

In 1840, Henry was planning to go to England to attend the first world slavery convention. He told Elizabeth that he would be gone for 8 months and asked her again to marry him. She accepted and within a few days they were married and on their way to England. Their experiences there would set the stage for the beginnings of the suffrage movement in America.

Elizabeth and Henry arrived in London with some of the most well-known abolitionists in the United States: James and Lucretia Mott, Wendell Phillips, and William Lloyd Garrison. When they reached the convention they were told that women were not allowed to participate; even though Lucretia was an official delegate, the women couldn’t speak or vote. In fact, they had to sit in a partitioned off space away from the men. They were outraged. William Lloyd Garrison was so incensed that he refused to participate and sat with the women.  In spite of this, the situation gave Elizabeth the opportunity to get to know Lucretia Mott who would be an important mentor to her in her reform activities.

Stanton with sons Daniel and Henry c. 1848 (source)

Stanton with sons Daniel and Henry c. 1848 (source)

Once Elizabeth and Henry returned from England they moved in with the Cady’s for a time while Henry read law with Judge Cady. They then moved to Boston. In Boston, Elizabeth thrived in the social and intellectual climate, but that changed when they moved to Seneca Falls in 1847. It wasn’t long before she began to feel an intense “mental hunger.” Elizabeth was an excellent mother and housekeeper. In a time when the infant mortality rate was around 50%, she raised seven children to adulthood, having her children with midwives rather than doctors, using homeopathic medicines and sticking to a strict healthy diet. But, this wasn’t enough for her, so when she met with Lucretia Mott and three other women in the summer of 1848, she was ready to campaign for a cause – women’s rights.

In July of 1848, at the Seneca Falls Woman’s Convention, 100 of the 300 attendees signed the Declaration of Sentiments which had been written by Stanton: 68 women and 32 men. Among these were Daniel Anthony, his wife Lucy and his daughter Mary. His daughter Susan B. Anthony was away at college, but would make the acquaintance of Elizabeth soon after the convention, beginning a friendship and partnership that would last for the rest of their lives.

Initially, Susan and Elizabeth worked in the temperance movement together, but soon women’s rights and suffrage in particular took up most of their time. Their skills complemented each other. Elizabeth took speaking engagements, but was more restricted to the homefront, while Susan, who remained single, had the freedom to travel. Elizabeth was the better writer and wrote many of Susan’s speeches, where Susan, as Elizabeth said, “was the better critic. She supplies facts and statistics, I the philosophy and rhetoric.” Together they worked on the expansion of the 1848 Women’s Property Act, giving women more legal rights, and when the Civil War began, as many women did, they set their political concerns aside to found the Loyal League for the purpose of relieving the suffering of families whose men were fighting.

Stanton with Susan B. Anthony c. 1900, Library of Congress digital ID cph.3a02558 (source)

Stanton with Susan B. Anthony c. 1900, Library of Congress digital ID cph.3a02558 (source)

Elizabeth worked hard with all the abolitionists toward passage of the 13th Amendment gathering signatures and campaigning to ensure its passage in 1865, but when discussion of the 14th and 15th Amendments began there were disagreements. The question was whether to fight for suffrage for African-American men first and then for women, or to fight for both at the same time. With Andrew Johnson in the White House, the situation for freed slaves was desperate in many ways. Southern states were passing laws making life very difficult, such as the law that would require the arrest of any black man without a job. In one incident in Memphis TN, in May of 1866, when former black Union soldiers were discharged and ordered to turn in their arms, former confederate soldiers attacked a large community targeting hospitals and schools run by the Freedmen’s Bureau. The riot which lasted for 2 days before federal troops could arrive resulted in the deaths of 46 black men, women, and children, 285 maimed, and over $100,000 worth of damage to property owned by African-Americans. There were no deaths or injuries of white people, and no one was arrested.

Elizabeth and Susan wanted suffrage for black men, but they wanted it for women at the same time. They wanted the removal of the word male in the amendments, making them applicable to all citizens, but many of the prominent men and some women were afraid that the inclusion of women in the right to vote would result in the defeat of the amendments. The 14th Amendment was presented and passed with the word male included. When work began on the 15th Amendment, the disagreement caused a major split among women and their supporters resulting in the formation of two separate organizations: the National Woman Suffrage Association founded by Stanton and Anthony, joined by Sojourner Truth and Matilda Joslyn Gage, and the American Woman Suffrage Association which included Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe, among others.

Over the next 20 years, Elizabeth and Susan would work together publishing a weekly paper, Revolution, with articles covering a wide range of women’s issues. They would tour the country speaking, work toward suffrage in various states, and write. When it was proposed that the two Women’s Suffrage organizations merge in 1890, Stanton was opposed. Many of the more conservative and religious women had distanced themselves from her over the years. In spite of this she was elected the first president of the new National American Woman Suffrage Association.

In many ways Elizabeth became even more radical over the years, supporting divorce rights, birth control, employment rights, and even interracial marriage, issues that more religiously conservative women didn’t want to get involved in. She also created intense controversy when she wrote The Woman’s Bible, a reinterpretation of the Bible from a feminist perspective. This and the fact that Anthony actively mentored younger women in the movement, may have contributed to the fact that Susan B. Anthony came to be seen as the founder of the movement. In recent years though, Elizabeth Cady Stanton has been recognized more and has reemerged in many ways as the Mother of the Suffrage movement.

Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt and Lucretia Mott on a 1948 stamp commemorating 100 years since the Seneca Falls Convention (source)

Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt and Lucretia Mott on a 1948 stamp commemorating 100 years since the Seneca Falls Convention (source)

After her death on October 26, 1902, Susan B. Anthony was asked about their relationship and the movement.

“Through the early days, when the world was against us, we stood together. Mrs. Stanton was always a courageous woman, a leader of thought and new movements. I always called her the philosopher and statesman of our movement.”

Some of her writings include
History of Woman Suffrage; Volumes 1–3 (written with Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage; vol 4–6 completed by other authors, including Anthony, Gage, and Ida Harper) (1881–1922)
The Woman’s Bible (1895, 1898)
Eighty Years & More: Reminiscences 1815–1897 (1898)
Solitude of Self – originally delivered as a speech and considered by some to be the best thing she wrote.

Read Solitude of Self

Along with Stanton’s own works, you might be interested in these.
New York Times Obituary for Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull by Barbara Goldsmith