A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Sunday, March 31, 2019

On Being Radical

One of the questions I had as I researched Mormon women and the suffrage movement was what role Mormon women played in the movement after their suffrage was enshrined in the Utah constitution in 1896. Would Mormon women care enough about other women's rights to continue the fight?

A great resource for information as I researched was Better Days 2020 Utah, a nonprofit organized to celebrate next year's 150th anniversary of Utah women voting in 2020 (suffrage was originally granted in 1870, before being taken away in 1887 and then restored in 1896). One of their blog posts introduced me to Ellen Lovern Robinson, a Mormon and member of the National Woman's Party ("NWP").

Alice Paul founded the NWP in 1916, to protest and drive towards a federal amendment supporting women's suffrage. Members of the NWP were the first people to protest in front of the White House in an effort to turn President Woodrow Wilson into a suffrage supporter. They began in January 1917, shortly before Wilson's 2nd inauguration, and it was considered a radical and provoking step.

Respectable suffrage supporters like Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA), were scandalized when the NWP continued protesting after the U.S. joined World War I. It was considered disloyal and treasonous. Alice Paul herself was arrested on October 20, 2017 while carrying a banner with Wilson's own words: "The time has come to conquer or submit, for us there can be but one choice. We have made it."

Once Alice Paul was sentenced to 7 months in prison, her colleague Lucy Burns carried on the fight and rallied the members of the NWP. Ellen Lovern Robinson came from Utah to join the protesters on November 10, 1917. The protesters were arrested and sent to the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, Virginia. Lovern was there for the Night of Terror, when suffragists were brutalized and thrown into dark solitary confinement.
Silent Sentinels, with Mormon Ellen Lovern Robertson fourth from right.
I'm grateful for those who were radical enough to get arrested and risk everything for suffrage. It's especially impressive in Lovern's case, when she already had the right to vote, but was willing to fight for others' rights by protesting. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Original "Women's March"

After President Trump's election, a huge women's march was held in Washington, D.C. That march was held on the day after President Trump's Inauguration. It wasn't the first time that women had marched in D.C., however! In 1913, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns organized a massive "procession" down Pennsylvania Avenue on the day before President Wilson's inauguration. They tried to make it genteel and ladylike, and even had an official "program" for the March:

Alice Paul planned it all with meticulous attention to detail and robust respect for the pageantry of the occasion. She spent over $20,000, which at the time, was an immense amount of money. This graphic lays out the order of the thousands of women who marched in the parade, and the Smithsonian has a really good interactive article explaining each part of the parade.

One of the things that is so interesting about history is that it's all interconnected. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns are the ones who lead the way, and we continue to build on their foundation today.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Seeing the Colors of the Suffrage Movement

As I've given a couple versions of my suffrage tour, I've been grateful that people have reminded me and asked questions that bring women of color into the story. Their contributions are often overlooked, but people of color were vital in the struggle for the 19th amendment, not to mention the continuing fight for civil rights that would follow the decades after the passage of the 19th amendment.

One of the African American heroines of suffrage and women's rights is Ida B. Wells, who had to fight to be included when many white women were uncomfortable with that and actively worked against it. This article details a bit of her struggle with Frances Willard, leader of the temperance anti-alcohol movement.

This article introduced me to Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who I didn't know anything about until I read the article last week. That article also goes into detail on the many descendants of slaves who were involved in the suffrage and civil rights fights.

D.C. natives should learn more about Mary Church Terrell, a D.C. heroine of the struggle for equal treatment of restaurants decades before the sit-ins and lunch counter protests of the 1960s. The Washington Post did a series of articles on her struggle to enforce D.C.'s anti-discrimination laws in the early 20th century, which can be found here and here.

I wish I knew more about women of color involved in the Mormon suffrage movement. So far, the only thing I have seen was this brief Twitter post on Elizabeth Taylor, a Utah African American suffragist. Would love to know more about her and others like her, so if you know of any resources, hit me up!

Monday, March 18, 2019

"The Better Man"

Martha ("Mattie") Hughes Cannon's life is often reduced to one story - she ran against her husband in an election in 1896. She won, he lost, and she served one term as the first woman state senator in the nation's history. But there is a lot more to her story, including medical school, the trials of being a plural wife, and a stint in hiding in England.

Utah's PBS affiliate put together this video which tells her story in more detail. Utah plans to honor her with a statue in the Capitol's Statuary Hall in D.C. in 2020. I'm grateful for her courage and moxie under difficult circumstances.

Utah State Senate in 1897. Mattie is standing left of center.
One of my favorite details about her election is that in a newspaper editorial endorsing Mattie over her husband Angus, the Salt Lake Herald had this to say: "Mrs. Mattie Hughes Cannon, his wife, is the better man of the two. Send Mrs. Cannon to the State Senate and let Mr. Cannon, as a Republican, remain at home to manage home industry" (emphasis added).

You can learn more about here by watching the linked video, or reading her Wikipedia page.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Happy Birthday, Relief Society!

My last post was about Sarah Granger Kimball, but really she deserves ALL the posts. She's pretty amazing, and there is so much to love about her story. Sarah was one of the instigators of Relief Society when she and Margaret Cook decided they wanted to form a benevolent society to make shirts for temple workers in Nauvoo in 1842. She was a secure woman in her faith - although married to a nonmember, she remained steadfast (eventually her husband, Hiram, converted).

Sarah's husband was killed in a steamship explosion while on his way to serve a mission in Hawaii, but she stayed faithful, serving as a local Relief Society President for 42 years! Now, that is what I would call dedication. One of her most ambitious projects was a Relief Society Hall for the sisters to gather and to sell handicrafts. Her Bishop suggested a site for the hall, but she didn't agree - purchasing and selecting the site herself and laying the cornerstone with her own hands in 1868. Built for the sisters of the Salt Lake 15th Ward, it was the first ever Relief Society building in the church.

In 1870, Sarah was serving as Relief Society President and was one of the instigators of several mass meetings in January 1870, convened to protest the federal government's proposed anti-polygamy measures. On February 12, the Utah territorial legislature voted unanimously to extend voting rights to women, partly as a result of the agitation of Sarah and others.

On February 19th, at a "Ladies Cooperative Retrenchment Meeting," Sarah said the following (per the minutes, available here):

Said that she had waited patiently a long time, and now that we were granted the right of suffrage, she would openly declare herself a womans rights woman, and called upon those who would to back her up, whereupon many manifested their approval. Said her experience in life had been different to that of many, had moved in all grades of Society, had been both rich and poor, had always seen much good and inteligence in woman, the interests of man and woman cannot be seperated, for the man is not without the woman or the woman without the man in the Lord. She spoke of the foolish custom which deprived the mother of having control over her sons at a certain age. Said she saw the foreshadowing of a brighter day in this respect in the future, said she had entertained ideas that appeared wild that she thought would yet be considered woman’s rights. Spoke of the remarks made by bro. Rockwood lately, who said women would have as much prejudice to overcome in occupying certain positions as the men would in letting them, said he considered a woman a helpmate in every department of life.
(emphasis added by me)

I love that she declared herself a "woman's rights woman"! She also called up the audience to back her up - I love her feisty personality. And I love that she admitted that she had ideas that "appeared wild" with regards to women's rights! More than two decades later, at a 1895 conference celebrating the enshrinement of women's suffrage in Utah's constitution (where she was introduced as a speaker by Susan B. Anthony herself), Sarah would recount how she was a reader of Susan B. Antony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's paper, "The Revolution," which was published from 1868-1872:
Susan B. Anthony and Anna Shaw visit Utah in 1895
Sarah Kimball is standing and holding a handkerchief in the center, behind Susan B. Anthony
I read an article ridiculing a little paper that was published in the City of New York called the “Revolution ” in which I saw the names of Elizabeth Cady-Stanton and Miss Susan B. Anthony. I looked at the little article of ridicule and I said “There is something I see in that which strikes me and I want it,’’ and I reached out after the little paper I was very much struck with it. It was very peculiar and said very many strange things, but I learned from that little paper the theory and object they had in view was to create thought, their idea was if you can get the people to talk upon this subject, if you can get them to agitate the subject, agitation produces reform. Now this is going to be a reformation and we are going to do all we can to produce this reformation and we are going to labor in our own way. Now 52 years ago I would not have dared to say the bold, grand things that Miss Anthony said, it would have made me so unpopular and I hardly dared to shoulder it; but the seed was planted within my soul and I have been laboring for the same cause — I felt that it was uplifting, that it was necessary for the nation, and as time rolled on we were very careful. (Emphasis added, read full speech and proceedings here)

I don't know for sure, but I like to think that one of the reasons Sarah Kimball declared herself a "Women's Rights Woman" in 1870 was due to the influence of reading "The Revolution." I can't think of a better way to celebrate today's birthday of the Relief Society than by celebrating Sarah Kimball, a true pioneer and one of my heroes!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Spitfire Sarah Kimball

One of the delights of researching suffrage is reading the words of the women who participated in the movement. Sarah Kimball was one of the instigators of the Relief Society in Nauvoo, then moved west with the saints to Utah. At age 73, she responded to an anti-suffrage opinion column published in The Woman's Exponent in 1891. As part of that response, she write the following:

Women as a rule have listened to the asserting voice of men and have been led by their precepts too long. It has slowly dawned upon woman's understanding that man as a ruler is weak; in many respects very weak and unreliable, (remember we love him still,) and she has been compelled for the good of the great family to explore new paths leading to broader fields of helpfulness. Women will make mistakes, and profit by them, all along the unbroken pathway, but never so fatally disastrous mistakes as men have made while holding exclusive power.

You assert that suffrage advocates take a wrong shoot, start out on leaves, or small branches, and they must change tactics, etc., this reminds me of early Colonial history. Did our forefathers when they struck for freedom, ask their usurping oppressors what shoot they should take, what tactics they should adopt?

In her editorial, Kimball also argues in favor of women judges and women police forces. You can read her whole editorial here. There's also a full length article about her here

Friday, March 8, 2019

Happy International Women's Day!

If you can vote, thank a suffragist!

I thought I'd share a quote from Eliza R. Snow. She actually was more of a traditionalist than I realized - not overall a huge women's suffrage fan, but once Utah women were granted the vote in 1870 she got on board.

She said in 1873 that "[God] has given us the right of franchise...and it is as necessary to vote as it is to pray."

Words to live by!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Heber J. Grant, the Suffragist!

One of the fun things about research is little quotes you find. Heber J. Grant, during the 1895 Utah constitutional convention deliberations, wrote his friend a letter and he said "I am as ardent a women's suffrage man as can be found." Makes me wonder what we would find if we were to read the emails of today's General Authorities!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The 35th State

Some of you may know about the final state to ratify the 19th amendment, Tennessee. There is a dramatic last minute "change of heart" story about Harry Burns, a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, which will be part of my suffrage tour. We won't have time to talk about the penultimate state, West Virginia.

At the time the 19th amendment was passed by Congress, the U.S. had 48 states, which meant that the suffrage supporters needed 36 states to ratify the amendment in order to get the 3/4ths majority required by the Constitution. Suffrage supporters organized themselves across the country and actively campaigned for special sessions to ratify the amendment before the 1920 election so that women could vote in that election. Early on, some states came easily - suffrage states like Utah and Colorado were easier than the eastern states. However, some states rejected the amendment, including many southern states. My native land, Virginia, voted down the amendment.

Suffrage was not super popular in West Virginia - just a few years earlier, in 1916, women's suffrage had lost a referendum by a 2-1 margin. In February 1920, Governor Cornwell called a special session of the West Virginia legislature to consider a tax issue. At this point, 34 states had already ratified the 19th amendment. Some interests pressured the governor to limit the scope of the session so that the legislature couldn't consider suffrage - he ignored them, and included the 19th amendment in the agenda for the special session. . The amendment passed the House, and was sent to the Senate.

In the West Virginia Senate, the vote deadlocked, 14-14. However, Senator Jesse Bloch, on vacation in California, wired a telegram to Lenna Lowe Yost, the woman leading the suffrage supporters, "Just received notice of special session. Am in favor of ratification." He immediately boarded a train, but it would take him a few days to arrive, which meant that suffrage supporters had to hold half the senate hostage so they would not adjourn.

While Bloch was traveling back from California, anti-suffrage forces tried to get the governor to reverse the resignation of Senator A.R. Montgomery, who had resigned and moved to Illinois eight months before. Senator Montgomery would have voted "no" on the amendment. The Governor refused. Bloch finally arrived after more than a week and a half of travel, and the amendment passed 15-14!

Thus West Virginia became the 35th state to ratify. This story reminds me that progress is often a "nail-biter" - even something as obvious to me as the 19th amendment is hard to get passed - it was only through the determined work of dedicated men and women (and a slow train from California to West Virginia) that I am able to vote today. So grateful!

Senator Jesse Bloch's campaign poster

Source: "Suffragists in Washington, D.C.: The 1913 Parade and the Fight for the Vote," Rebecca Boggs Roberts, pages 125-126

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Through Rain and Sleet

Some of you may already be aware of the 1913 "March on Washington" by thousands of suffragists. That march took place the day before Woodrow Wilson's first inauguration. Unfortunately, not much progress on a federal amendment happened during President Wilson's first term, but the National Women's Party kept on determinedly pushing the federal government.

On inauguration day for Wilson's second term, March 4, 1917, Alice Paul and more than 1,000 suffragists marched to the White House to present President Wilson with resolutions demanding suffrage. Doris Stevens described conditions that day: "They marched in rain soaked garments, hands bare, gloves torn by the sticky varnish from the banner poles, and streams of water running down the poles into the palms of their hand."

Rain and sleet did not deter them - but all three gates to the White House were locked against the suffragists despite the elements. They marched four times all the way around the White House. A newspaper correspondent described the events thusly: "Had there been fifteen hundred women carrying banners on a fair day the sight would have been a pretty one. But to see a thousand women--young women, middle-aged women, and old women--and there were women in the line who had passed their three score years and ten--marching in the rain that almost froze as it fell...was a sight to impress even the jaded senses of one who has seen much."

Ironically, the rudeness of President Wilson and the unforgiving weather probably earned the suffragists more sympathetic press and helped the cause. It would be several more years, and many pickets later, that all American women would gain the right to vote. I'm grateful for these staunch suffragists and their devotion to the cause!

Marching in the Rain!
Source: "Suffragists in Washington, D.C.: The 1913 Parade and the Fight for the Vote," Rebecca Boggs Roberts, pages 76-78

Saturday, March 2, 2019

American Women Voted in the 18th Century!

Continuing my series on random facts about Women's suffrage.

You may know that the 19th amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in 1920. If you're really up on your history, you'll know that many states had already granted women the right to vote before that (the first state was Wyoming, which entered the Union as a state in 1890 when its women had been voting in the territory for 20 years). So, women have been American voters in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

But, I can bet that you didn't know that there were American women who voted in the 18th Century! When the New Jersey constitution was adopted in 1776, it promised voting rights to "all free inhabitants." While American laws may have had gender neutral language, not many women were aware of this language and we don't know if many of them voted.

Interestingly, Joseph Cooper, a Quaker, sponsored language to add "he or she" to the election codes of the state in 1790. I'll note here that the Quakers were one of the few egalitarian religions in the U.S. at the time - they let women vote on church matters and speak in meetings. A lot of early suffragists were Quakers, because they had public speaking experience.

In 1797, a group of women marched to the polls to vote, and nearly defeated a candidate for the legislature. It caused an uproar among newspaper journalists at the time. They portrayed the women as either ignorant or controlled by their husbands. That same man who was nearly defeated later sponsored legislation to restrict voting rights to males only, which was passed by the New Jersey legislature in 1807.

Unfortunately, it would take another 113 years after that 1807 law for all American women to be guaranteed the right to vote in America. But I think it's cool to learn about some women who voted in the early days of our country.

(Source: A History of the American Suffrage Movement, Doris Weatherford, Pages 9-11)

Friday, March 1, 2019

Happy Women's History Month!

I'm currently organizing a walking tour of Washington, D.C. related to suffrage history and Mormons. It's going to be a lot of fun! But in the course of planning this tour, I inevitably discover cool random facts that I won't have time to talk about on the tour. So, my goal is to share a few of them during the month of March, which is Women's History Month, after all! I won't promise to post every day, because inevitably that will be a lie, but I'll try to post a few times this month.

Today's interesting factoid: did you know that suffragists made full length theater movies to promote the suffrage cause? You can read about one of them, "Your Girl and Mine," here at this link: https://ladailymirror.com/2015/10/19/mary-mallory-hollywood-heights-your-girl-and-mine-promotes-womens-suffrage/

Sadly it appears that the footage has been lost, but I kind of love that suffragists were willing to use every medium to help their cause, even the movies!