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Celebrating Sojourner Truth: A Can Do Woman

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“Ain’t I a Woman?” These are the most repeated and iconic words that Sojourner Truth, maybe, didn’t speak.

It’s May 29, 2021, and on this day, 170 years ago, Truth spoke before the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.

Here’s the famous portion of the speech that reformer Frances Dana Barker Gage published 12 years after Truth’s speech:

“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 ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

But here’s the thing, several newspaper reporters at the time made no mention of “Ain’t I a Woman?” It took a social reformer telling the story 12 years later to interject the compelling phrase. And if you still have doubts, because Truth as raised on an upstate New York estate, speaking only Dutch during her formative years, she didn’t have the stereotypical speech patterns of Southern blacks. The catchy “Ain’t I a Women?” phrase was made up to make a point.

Sojourner Truth Told What She Knew

But that’s not the end of Sojourner Truth story. Actually, it’s barely the tip of the iceberg. For she is a true Can Do Woman. Let me explain:

Around 1797, she was born Isabella Baumfree–a slave–on the Dutch Ulster County estate of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh in upstate New York. She spoke only Dutch until she was nine years old. And although she never learned to read or write, she understood the importance of freedom and equal rights for both blacks and women. She not only appreciated the power of speaking out and fighting for what she believed, she was also very good at both.

In 1827, although she had been promised her freedom and New York had passed an anti-slavery law, her master denied her rights. Baumfree’s response was to walk off the estate with her youngest daughter. But that was not the end of it. She had other children, one of which had been illegally sold to a plantation owner in Alabama. She raised money. Met with lawyers. Made her case in the New York courts. And she won custody of five-year-old Peter. Isabella Baumfree was the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

But Baumfree was only getting started. Caught up in a religious revival, she experienced conversion and became an itinerant Methodist preacher, changed her name to Sojourner Truth, and started speaking out. Throughout the 1850s, some crowds who didn’t like her message of freedom and equality for blacks and women often threatened her; still she was getting heard.

During the Civil War she recruited black troops for the Union Army and worked to ensure they had necessary supplies. Her efforts came to the attention of many important people and organizations.

She met with President Abraham Lincoln. And after the war, she worked for the National Freedman’s Relief Association to help improve the conditions of blacks. She even met with President Ulysses S. Grant. What’s more, she tried to vote for the re-election of Grant, but was turned away at the polls.

For the rest of her life, Sojourner Truth continued to speak to street crowds, at suffrage meetings, and anywhere and to anyone that would listen. As age caught up with Truth, her daughter cared for her at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan. She died on November 28, 1883 at the age of 86.

Remembering Truth Today

Although Sojourner Truth could neither read or write, her impact has been for the ages. She dictated her story to white feminist Olive Gilbert–entitled Narrative of Sojourner Truth, Northern Slave. William Lloyd Garrison published it in 1850.

In addition to having numerous libraries, schools and buildings named in her honor:

  • Today, historical markers and statues acknowledge her work in Michigan, Ohio, New York, California and Massachusetts.
  • In 1981, inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1981.
  • In 1983, inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
  • The US Post office issued a commemorative stamp in 1986
  • In 1987, the State Bar of Michigan included her in a statute called “Michigan Legal Milestones.”
  • She is among the Calendar of Saints of both the Episcopal and Lutheran churches.
  • In 1997, the NASA named the Mars Pathfinder rover “Sojourner.”
  • In 2002, Temple University declared her among the 100 Greatest African Americans.
  • Similarly, in 2014, the Smithsonian included Truth among the 100 Most Significant Americans.
  • Also in 2014, asteroid 249521 named “Truth.”
  • Honored with a Google Doodle in 2019.

In answer to Sojourner Truth’s apocryphal question in 1851, Yes, she was a woman…and so much more. She was a Can Do Woman.

RosieCentral’s Can Do Women

A Can Do Woman is every woman who doesn’t let circumstances of background, color, ethnicity, money, or gender stand in her way. Rich or poor; black, white or brown; she pursues her passion–whether it is riding a motorcycle across country when such a thing is unheard of, piloting a plane (even if she has to travel to France to learn) or summoning the strength of purpose to stand side-by-side with her white sisters to fight for freedom and equality. Any woman with a dream, who allows nothing to stand in the way, is a Can Do Woman. What’s your passion? Who is your role model?

We only just began our series of Can Do Women a few months ago. As yet, we haven’t created a Sojourner Truth historical figure doll, although you can know that it’s coming. In the meantime, however, we have honored several Black We Can Do It Women, some of whom Truth even helped inspire. You can see them at our Etsy store. Among them are:

  • Nannie Helen Burroughs (black suffragist)
  • Bessie Stringfield (rode motorcycles cross country multiple times in the 1930s and 40s)
  • Coming soon: Bessie Coleman (first black pilot)*
  • Coming soon: Mae Jemison (first black woman in space)*
  • Kamala Harris (first female Vice President)
  • Coming soon: Amanda Gorman (America’s first youth poet laureate)*

* Completed just not yet listed.

Kendra BonnettCelebrating Sojourner Truth: A Can Do Woman

Susan Ahn Cuddy, Honoring a Can-Do Woman

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Susan Ahn Cuddy. Who is she and why do you care?

Susan Ahn Cuddy is a strong, empowered Korean American who was the first Asian American woman in the Navy. We’re honoring her during May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

¶¶ Be sure to check out how you can find and apply lessons from Susan Ahn Cuddy’s life to your own. Lessons are at the end of this blog.¶¶

Susan was born in 1915 in Los Angeles and died there 100 years later in 2015. During those 100 years, she achieved many firsts even though her ethnicity and gender meant roadblocks for her.

Let’s look back at Susan Ahn Cuddy’s inspiring life

Imagine this:

Susan stood on the dock, waiving until the ship became just a dot on the horizon. That ship was taking her father from Los Angeles Port to China.

“Come on Susan, Philip, Philson, Soorah. We must get back home. You’ll see your father again soon,” said their mother.

That was 1926 when Susan Ahn was 11 years old. She and her siblings did see their father, but only for brief periods of time for the rest of his life.

Twenty-four years earlier, in 1902, Susan’s parents, Dosan Ahn Changho and Helen Lee, were the first married Korean couple to immigrate to the US.

Part Susan’s Story, Part Her Parents’ Story

And although this is Susan’s story, her parents’ strong ties to Korea had a major influence on her life. In fact, Dosan boarded that ship to join the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, the Korean government in exile in Shanghai, China. He served briefly as its sixth President in mid-1926. At that time (and since 1910), Korea was a colony of the Empire of Japan. Dosan was an activist working for Korean independence.

Dosan was arrested, tortured, and imprisoned multiple times. His activism eventually led to his death in a Japanese hospital in Seoul. That was in 1938, three years before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the US entered WW2.

Susan and her siblings had often heard their father say, “Do your best to be good American citizens but never forget your Korean heritage.” So you can imagine how the 1941 attack impacted Susan—Japan had colonized Korea, killed her father, and now attacked America, her homeland.

What made her such a strong and inspiring women

Susan Ahn Cuddy

If you have faced prejudice in your life, make Susan Ahn Cuddy your touchstone.

Early in World War II, the Navy opened enrollment in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Susan applied for Navy Officer Candidate School, hoping to be part of the fight against Japan. OCS rejected her application because she was too “oriental.” That didn’t stop her. She reapplied and was allowed to enlist, becoming the first Asian-American woman in the Navy. 

Susan’s performance as an enlisted WAVES brought her to the attention of Navy officers who recommended she be admitted to OCS where she was once again successful. After officer training, she went to Atlanta where she served as the first female gunnery officer training Naval fighter pilots how to shoot down enemy aircraft.

¶¶ Scroll down for recipe celebrating Asian food.¶¶

Prejudice Continued but Susan Persisted

She often met resistance both as a female and an Asian. She recalled one of many incidents:

“A white male pilot I was training disobeyed my orders. I said, ‘Down here, you will shoot when I tell you to shoot.’”

After rising to the rank of lieutenant, she worked in the Office of Naval Intelligence where she faced more prejudice. Her supervisor did not trust her with classified materials. Eventually, working hard, she became a code-breaker.

Her experience as a code-breaker gave her the credentials to join the National Security Agency (NSA) after WW2. And during the Cold War, she oversaw 300 agents in NSA’s Russia section.

Susan Ahn CuddyFacing prejudice made her aware of prejudice against others

Susan faced and overcame prejudice against Asian-Americans and women. This may explain why she identified with Blacks in the segregated South. She often used “colored” bathrooms and drinking fountains to show support for those who had no choice. 

Honors for a life well lived

In 2003, the State Assembly of California of District 28 named Cuddy the Woman of the Year in honor of her commitment to public service.

On October 5, 2006 she received the American Courage Award from the Asian American Justice Center in Washington D.C.

She continued to be active at both Navy and Korean American events throughout her life. Numerous government bodies and nonprofits honored her in her later years.

If you’d like to learn more are Susan Ahn Cuddy’s inspiring life, click here for a brief video.

ABOUT THE ASIAN SALAD DRESSING RECIPE BELOW: One evening I raved to my friend, Diana Yoshikawa Paul, about her salad dressing. She replied, “It’s so simple. Here’s how you make it.” Below I’m sharing her recipe with you. It’s a delicious dressing as written. But you can to adapt it and make it your own. Consider adding a bit of minced fresh ginger or a tablespoon of room temperature peanut butter. It is lovely over cabbage slaw as well as lettuce. Enjoy.

Asian Salad Dressing
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Asian Salad Dressing

Simple salad dressing recipe
Prep Time5 mins
Resting Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: Asian Salad Dressing, Tangy Dressing, Miso Dressing
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp mild miso
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup vinegar rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Instructions

  • ADD miso to bowl and stir until smooth
  • MIX IN orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil to miso. Stir after each addition.
  • REST Let dressing rest for 15 minutes so the flavors can mingle.
  • NOTE This is a tangy dressing. If you like a sweeter dressing, you can cut back from ¼ cup of vinegar to 2 tablespoons. Or, if you use the stated amounts and find it too tangy, add a tablespoon of maple syrup or agave.

Video

Using the Lessons from Susan’s Life

Susan Ahn Cuddy was a Can-Do Woman. The two prompts below will get you thinking about your own life. Specifically the prompts focus on the influences from your mother.

  • What is one thing your mother taught you that has held you back from pursuing your life dreams? You might have overcome the advice or lessons, but they stopped you for a while.

Susan Ahn Cuddy faced incredible prejudice and excelled anyway. But she also faced prejudice from her mother. Susan married an Irish American, a fellow Navy intelligence officer. Her mother refused to talk to her for five years because she did not marry a Korean. Eventually, Susan and her husband, Francis Cuddy, moved back to Los Angeles. She wanted to be near her family and overcome their prejudice.

My mother taught me to never let a man think I was smarter than he was. She always emphasized the importance of featuring the man. Fortunately, I put aside that advice because I saw I would never be able to pursue a career if I always remained in the shadow.

Now, you think about, or write about, what you were taught that might even now be holding you back from being the best Can-Do Woman possible. Or think of advice you have overcome.

  • What is one thing your mother (or father) taught you that helped you move forward in your life?

Susan Ahn Cuddy was raised with the words, “Do your best to be a good American citizen, but never forget your Korean heritage.” This advice helped her think beyond herself and to understand that she was part of two cultures — words that made her strong in the face of prejudice.

My mother eventually came around to understand how important my work was to me and that I would always pursue it seriously. She started saying (with some pride), “I know you are going to burn the candle at both ends, but try to not burn it in the middle too.” Even now I laugh when I remember that.

Now, you think about some way that your mother gave you advice that has helped you pursue your dreams.

¶¶ Would you like a touchstone to remind you of overcoming prejudice and pursuing excellence? You might like our Susan Ahn Cuddy ornament.

(Also available as keychain, backpack charm, or sachet. Just ask us.)

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT OUR ORIGINAL DRAWING AND HAND-SEWN CLOTH DOLL.¶¶

Matilda ButlerSusan Ahn Cuddy, Honoring a Can-Do Woman

Mother’s Day Reflections and Recipe

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Mother’s Day is Almost Here. Reflect, Honor, Celebrate (and Eat)

Mother's Day ReflectionsMother’s Day is a hectic time. If your mother is alive, then you’ve probably bought or sent her a gift. You may be planning on having her over for a meal. If you have children who are still at home, you’re planning to be “feted” (which actually takes work on your part).

Maybe you have a great relationship with your mother. Maybe not. Over the years, I’ve interviewed women about their lives, and have heard some wonderful and some horrible stories. These range from “gave me unconditional love” to “beat me and told her friends that I was ‘clumsy’ and always falling down”.

We idealize the concept of mothers. But reality takes over. In big ways and small ways, in good ways and in bad ways, our mothers influenced the women we have become. Mother’s Day is one official time I remember to reflect on these elements in my life. I hope you do too. At the end of this blog, I’ve included a few prompts to get you thinking or writing or journaling about you and your mother.

Mother’s Day, Mothers, and Traditions

On the lighter side, carrying on traditions is one of the ways that my mother continues to influence me. Sometimes, I’ve modified these traditions to better fit me. Sometimes I reject them outright. And when I am particularly wise (which is extremely rare), I urge my grown children to start their own traditions rather than continuing mine.

For example, long after my children were married, they continued to all came home for Christmas. I loved this — preparing food, buying gifts, planning outings. One holiday was barely over before I began planning the next year. But then I had an insight. They needed their own way of celebrating. I was robbing them of this pleasure. So at the end of the following Christmas, I gave each person his or her own stocking and said, “Take your stocking with you when you go home. Beginning next year you dad and I will be on a trip during Christmas. It’s time for you to start your own holiday traditions.” As you can tell, I didn’t completely give up on my tradition. I did assume they would somehow continue to use these decades-old stockings!

My Mother’s Cornbread Tradition

Before, I share my mother’s cornbread recipe tradition and how I carry it on, I’ll tell you a funny story.

A number of years ago, Lew, the salesman in my company, told me a great story of family traditions. His wife, Virginia, always cut a ham into two pieces and only baked half at a time. After a few years, Lew said, “Virginia, why do you cut the ham in half?” She replied, “Because my mother always did.” Time passed and they went east to visit her family. Lew asked Virginia’s mother, “Virginia tells me you always cut a ham in half before cooking each piece separately. Why?” She laughed and told him she’d learned that from her mother.

The following day, the entire family got together for a June picnic. Virginia’s grandmother, Lois, was in poor health, but came in order to spend a little time with Virginia.” After eating a double serving of potato salad, three deviled eggs, and a ham sandwich, Lew walked over with his plate of homemade strawberry shortcake to sit beside Lois.

He began, “Your daughter and granddaughter both cut a ham in half before placing one half in a pan and baking it. They tell me that’s the way you always cooked ham. Why?” Lois laughed, almost doubling over. Finally, catching her breath, she said, “Because I only had a small pan.” Lew told me, he thought that great laugh probably extended Lois’ life by at least several months.

Traditions. We carry on what we have seen as well as what we have been specifically taught. Lew’s “half-a-ham” story continues to tickle me. It is a small window into the relationship between generations.

Mother’s Cornbread Recipe (Almost)

Mother's Day Cast iron skillets

— My grandmother’s and mother’s cast iron skillets

My grandmother lived in Jasper, Arkansas for some years and that is where my mother was born. Then the whole family moved to Yale, Oklahoma, which was the first of several towns where they lived.

My mother learned to make cornbread from her mother and always loved to make it. The cornbread side accompanied many dinners when I was growing up. I can still smell the bacon-scented air when she pulled the hot cast iron skillet from the oven. She, of course, had generously oiled the pan with bacon drippings she saved in a small canister next to the stovetop.

I inherited the two skillets, but they are far too delicate (read ‘worn out’) to use. I get them out every so often, touch them, and can almost feel the strength of my grandmother (who left school after the 4th grade to help her family) and my mother (who left college during the depression to get a job). Many adjectives do not describe my mother, but I love to think of her as strong, and she was. (She was strong in a Rosie the Riveter We Can Do It! way.)

Chef Rosie

I asked Rosie to help me make my mother’s cornbread recipe for Mother’s Day. Hope you join her.

Cornbread in skillet
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5 from 1 vote

Honoring Mother's Cornbread Recipe, Vegan Guten-Free

Cornbread is a Southern staple. My grandmother's Arkansas recipe and skillets became my mother's Oklahoma recipe and skillets. The recipe and the skillet(s) were passed on to me so that I could carry on the tradition. Of course, when I became a gluten-free vegan, I said goodbye to the bacon drippings and eggs. Today I have my California recipe and skillets. And yet, every time I choose to make cornbread, I think of my mother and grandmother and all that I learned from them.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Bread
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Cornbread, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Cornmeal, Quick Bread, Southern
Servings: 4
Author: Matilda Butler

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cornmeal whole grain, medium grind
  • cup corn flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plant-based milk (almond, soy, etc.)
  • 1 egg replacer (1 T ground flax + 3 T water mixed; or 3 T aquafaba; or 1 1/2 t Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 2 T water)
  • ¼ cup light oil such as canola
  • 2+ tbsp light oil for skillet or baking pans

Instructions

  • Set oven to 400°
  • Measure oil into oven-friendly skillet and swirl to coat. Cast iron is preferred as it provides an excellent crust for the cornbread. If using small individual loaf pans, divide oil evenly. Put skillet into preheated oven.
  • In medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, corn flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • In glass measuring cup or small bowl, combine milk alternative, egg replacer, and oil
  • Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  • Take hot skillet out of oven. Add batter into it, making sure it covers all the surface. The edges will begin to cook immediately. Return skillet to the oven and cook for 22 minutes. Top should be light brown. Test for doneness with toothpick. If more time is needed, cook for 3 to 5 additional minutes.

Notes

  • Not a vegan?
  • Not gluten-free?
  • Not a problem. You can use cow's milk and chicken's egg. (I know, we usually just say milk and egg!).
  • What's aquafaba egg replacer? If you pour the liquid off a can of garbanzo beans (or actually any type of bean), you have aquafaba. You can replace 1 egg with 3 T of the liquid. 
  • You can use any favorite cooking oil including olive oil (which I find to be too heavy, but it definitely works) and coconut oil (refined is preferred unless you like the coconut taste with your cornbread, but either works).
  • I combine a medium grind cornmeal with the corn flour. If you are using a fine grind cornmeal, then you can just use 1cup of it. I like the more robust texture approach. Either approach works.

Prompts for Mother’s Day Reflections or Journaling

  • What is the best thing my mother taught me?
  • How have I built on this and made it “mine”?
  • What is the worst thing my mother taught me?
  • How have I overcome this — changed this — so that I am a better person and not limited to her way?

If none of those prompts inspire you, try this one:

  • What is the favorite tradition I learned from Mother that I continue even now?

Enjoy reflections on your mother. Write for at least 5 minutes on one of these prompts. Or, if more your style, take a long walk and think about at least one way your life is different because of your mother. And if it is good or if it is bad, examine the way you have remade or crafted the influence until it is yours — not hers.

And always remember, you are a strong woman.

Last week, Kendra wrote about Mother’s Day and her mother’s great advice that has helped make her a Can Do woman today. Here’s the link to that article.

Matilda ButlerMother’s Day Reflections and Recipe

What Does Persistence in Women’s Lives Have to Do With Tea, Nannie Helen Burroughs and Voting?

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Learning About Persistence in Women’s Lives

Nannie Helen Burroughs Suffrage OrnamentIn our previous post, Kendra wrote about the life of Nannie Helen Burroughs and how she turned “no” into “yes” throughout her life. Persistence as it applies to women’s lives is one of the takeaways from that blog. And as I reflect on Nannie’s life, I remember the times in my own life that I gave in too quickly or thought that “no” meant “no.” Only later did I realize that “no” sometimes just means “not now.”

In seeking inspiration for achieving persistence, I’ve become interested in Nannie’s life and how persistence paid off for her.  This led me on an unexpected path of tracing a series of events that created some of the influences on Nannie’s life and the lives of all of us — especially in relation to voting and other civil rights.

Here’s a Fun Story You May Enjoy Discovering as Much as I Have

Original Tea Chest from Boston Tea Party

Only surviving chest from Boston Tea Party

On December 16,1773, in the growing evening darkness, more than 100 men boarded the Eleanor, Beaver, and Dartmouth ships in Boston Harbor. In what later became known as the Boston Tea Party, these men poured the contents of 342 tea chests into the water. (Stay with me…this really is relevant.)

As a tea drinker myself, I can’t even imagine how many cups that would have been.

Of course, you already know the tea dumping part of the story. But did you know the bigger story about tea, about how…

…America was Changed by Those 342 Tea Chests PLUS 5 Other Cups of Tea?

Earlier that morning in 1773, merchants and tradesmen Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, and others, met at the Old South Meeting House. There these Sons of Liberty voted against paying the English tax on tea. Instead they decided to dump all the tea as a visible and powerful statement of their unhappiness with England forcing them to comply with laws and taxes when they had been unable to influence them.

Throwing tea overboard was one of the early acts of defiance that led to the American revolution. Colonists used the tea to demonstrate their refusal to pay taxes without representation in government. That was persistence.

5 Cups of Tea … 75 Years Later

It’s July 9, 1848 and tea again is the focus of a revolution that was needed to have a voice in making the laws that they must follow. This time it was women that wanted change in American laws rather than English laws.

Imagine, if you will, a parlor in Jane Hunt’s home in Waterloo, New York. Looking around you see a red velvet sofa, a wall map of the 30 US states (it would be 111 years later before a map would show 50 US states), and five chairs encircling a polished wood tea table set with embroidered linen napkins, silver spoons, a bone china sugar bowl, cream pitcher, and teapot plus five matching cups and saucers.

The women arriving to fill those chairs were Martha Wright, her sister Lucretia Mott who was visiting, Eizabeth Cady Stanton from nearby Seneca Falls, and MaryAnn M’Clintock whose husband rented a home from Jane’s husband.

Jane poured the tea and after a bit of socially expected chit-chat, discussions quickly turned to moral and political injustices that women face in their everyday lives. But this time words were not enough for them. They agreed to hold a convention to advance the cause of women’s rights.

Jane brought paper and pen to the table and the women wrote an advertisement for the Seneca County Courier. The ad invited readers to Seneca Falls 10 days later, for “a Convention to discuss the social, civil and religious condition of women.”

7 Days After the Tea Party

Because women were not allowed leadership positions, the women had no experience organizing and running a large meeting. But they knew they needed to present a statement of purpose.

Elizabeth Cady StantonSo when they met again, this time in the M’Clintock home. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and MaryAnn M’Clintock, using the Declaration of Independence as their model, wrote what became known as the Declaration of Sentiments. It said, for example:

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal…

On July 19-20, 1848…

The Seneca Falls Convention ad attracted more than 200 women and men who, after much discussion over two days, passed the Declaration of Sentiments that argued for women’s right to vote, along with other points. But there was no immediate success. Words are just words. It took actions, education, and persistence before the 19th Amendment, which opened suffrage to women, became law.

Finally, Women to the Polls in 1920

It didn’t just take persistence. It took a lot of persistence over the following 72 years before women could finally vote in 1920. Many of the women who participated in the early days of the suffrage movement did not live long enough to ever get to vote.

On August 6, 1965…45 Years After 1920 When “Women” Gained the Right to Vote

I put the word “women” in quotes because it was only theoretical that the 19th Amendment meant both white and Black women could vote. In reality, it took 45 more years before the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 that specifically lowered the barriers to voting for Black women.

And Back to Nannie Helen Burroughs

And so I find myself circling back to Nannie Helen Burroughs. She was just one person walking that long road to women’s right to vote. Earlier she walked the multi-year road to establishing a school for Black women and girls. And even before that, she walked the road to her own education.

It’s true that we “know” we need to persist to achieve our goals. But that is such vague advice. I find inspiration in reading about specific women who have persisted and succeeded.

I hope it helps you too.

Matilda ButlerWhat Does Persistence in Women’s Lives Have to Do With Tea, Nannie Helen Burroughs and Voting?

Nannie Helen Burroughs: Inspirational Women Who Wouldn’t Take “No” As An Answer

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It’s early on March 1, 2021—on the cusp of the transition from Black History Month and on to Women’s History Month. And we have the perfect We Can Do It Woman to introduce. Nannie Helen Burroughs.

And here’s why.

Burroughs was born May 2, 1879. Although she was the daughter of former slaves, she graduated high school with honors and went on to become a businesswoman, bookkeeper, secretary, civil rights activist and suffragist. But more than anything, she was a dedicated educator. “Education and justice,” she explained, “are democracy’s only life insurance.”

Burroughs’ legacy of determination is an important takeaway for us. Never one to let a few closed doors stand in her way, she worked to turn No into Yes. For example, as The Washington Post recently explained, after graduating, she hoped to teach domestic science. But the Columbia Public Schoo refused to hire her–not because she was African-American, but because she was “too Black.”

Undaunted, Burroughs worked to raise the money to start her own school. She realized her dream for improving opportunities for Black women in 1908 when she founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, DC. Here she taught for the rest of her life—until May 20, 1961.

Nannie Helen Burroughs bridged generations. Booker T. Washington was an inspiration early in her life, and later in life she befriended a young Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a suffragist, Burroughs worked for women’s rights. Although the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, she did not live to see the passage of either the Civil Rights Act (1964) or the Voting Right Act (1965), which helped to overcome the state and local barriers to equality.

Burroughs fought as a Black and a woman. But most of all she wanted individuals to have self-respect and purpose. “Having standards isn’t really for anyone else,” she wrote. “You should want to have them for yourself.”

The Literary Ladies Guide named Nannie Helen Burroughs one of “12 African-American Suffragists Who Shouldn’t be Overlooked.” We agree, and when we introduced our We Can Do It! Doll ornaments for Christmas 2020 in honor of the 19thAmendment Centennial, Nannie was one of our popular figures. Her life and her Can Do spirit are an inspiration for women of all ages.

Available on Etsy

Available on Etsy

 

Kendra BonnettNannie Helen Burroughs: Inspirational Women Who Wouldn’t Take “No” As An Answer

Happy Birthday, Susan | A Strong American Woman: Suffragist Susan B. Anthony!

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The suffragist Susan B. Anthony would be 201 today.

 

Feb 15, 1820 to March 13, 1906, Adams, Massachusetts

Susan B Anthony ArrestedAlthough suffragist Susan B. Anthony didn’t live to see the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, she a leading force in the fight for women’s voting rights. From a family of ardent social reformers who worked on anti-slavery and the temperance movements, she dedicated her life to women’s suffrage.While their efforts on behalf of women’s voting rights were largely peaceful, Susan B. Anthony was not above actively forcing the issue. In spite of not yet having won the right to vote, in 1872, Anthony and 14 other Rochester (NY) women voted in the presidential election.

Suffragist Susan B. Anthony Arrested!

Susan B. Anthony was arrested on November 18, 1872. Her trial for violating the state laws of New York, which only allowed men to vote, began in June of the following year in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District—Justice Ward Hunt presiding.

At her trial, Anthony gave an impassioned speech (ignoring Justice Hunt when he told her to stop talking). She said, “You have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.”

Although Anthony was found guilty and fined $100, she refused to pay what she called “your unjust penalty.” And even though she never paid the fine, the court neglected to jail her. To do so would have given her the right to escalate the case to the Supreme Court. (And we certainly couldn’t have that!)

In 1878, Stanton and Anthony officially presented Congress with an amendment calling to give women the right to vote. At the time, it was known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. Ultimately, at the time of its passage, it became the 19thAmendment to the Constitution.

Although she did not live long enough to see the Amendment passed, on its 100th anniversary in 2020, President Trump used the occasion to pardon Anthony for voting back in 1872.

Celebrating We Can Do It! Women

Nannie Helen Burroughs

In honor of women, we created our We Can Do It! figures. Every ornament, keychain, sachet, t-shirt begins with a careful eye for research. Then we commission original designs and hand craft the figures…with just a little help from Kendra’s sewing machine. Our We Can Do It! Women are inspirational to everyone who strives to achieve. They’re a great teaching tool too. A booklet about the life and accomplishments of our We Can Do It! woman is included with every item.

Happy birthday, Susan B. Anthony!

We Can Do It Women

Kendra BonnettHappy Birthday, Susan | A Strong American Woman: Suffragist Susan B. Anthony!

We Can Do It! Began 77 Years Ago

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Rosie the Riveter Poster

First Posted February 15, 1943 at Westinghouse Electric Service factories

The We Can Do It! poster began 77 years ago

Imagine showing up for work on February 15, 1943. After hanging up your coat, you walk onto the factory floor and notice a new poster on the wall. To keep up morale, you are treated to a new one every two weeks.

But this poster is different. It shows a woman much like you. She wears a red-and-white polka dot bandana, blue factory clothing, employment badge on her collar, and has the words We Can Do It! captioned over her head.

We Can Do It! — that’s your attitude too so you like this poster.


Limited Distribution of We Can Do It! Poster

Rosie the Riveter PosterAbout 1800 copies were originally printed and displayed in the Westinghouse Electric Service factories beginning on February 15, 1943. That was the humble beginning of the now famous poster.

Fast Forward…

The poster was almost forgotten. However, the women’s movement of the 1970s rescued it from the dustbin of history. In fact, it became an integral part of the feminist movement. And today, it is a recognized icon, symbolizing women’s strength, courage, and empowerment.

In 2020, 77 years after Westinghouse displayed the original Rosie the Riveter poster, we have a 2-FER offer on our special version of this poster.

"Doing the Rosie"Purchase one poster and we will give you a second one for FREE in our combo deal. What’s so special about this poster? This is a two-sided poster. SIDE ONE is a digitally enhanced copy of the original that we purchased from the National Archives. SIDE TWO is all the same background and text except we removed Rosie. This lets you pose in front of the poster “Doing the Rosie”. 

Here’s what you get in this special 2-Fer Combo:

  • 24” x 36” We Can Do It! poster, 2-sided with a Rosie side and DIY side for posing
  • 2nd 24″ x 36″ poster — FREE
  • 1 red and white polkadot bandana, and
  • 1 Rosie employment collar button.

Get All 4 items at an incredible price. This combo has a value of $58.01. Your price is just $24.97.

 CLICK HERE to get this Special Combo Offer

2-Sided Rosie the Riveter PosterWhat Can You Do With This Special Offer?

Here are just a few ideas. We’re sure you have other ones: 

  • Give 1 poster to an elementary or secondary teacher in anticipation of March’s Women’s History Month AND keep one for your kitchen
  • Send 1 poster to your daughter at college for her dorm room AND  keep one for your office
  • Donate 1 poster to a woman’s shelter AND keep one for a women’s luncheon
  • Make 1 a party favor AND use the DIY side of the other for your daughter’s (or granddaughter’s) birthday party photo backdrop where all the guests can “Do the Rosie.”
  • Use as a puppy bandana, AND empower your dog (although she probably already knows it).
  • Share one with your best friend.

You can keep the bandana and collar button for yourself, send them along with your gifted poster, or use them at a party. Both items make posing in front of the DIY side of the poster great fun.

Matilda ButlerWe Can Do It! Began 77 Years Ago