Suffrage

Celebrate 101 Years of Women’s Right to Vote

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Celebrate 101 Years of Women’s Right to Vote

Meet Victoria Claflin Woodhull and Nannie Helen Burroughs, two suffragists

Before August passes by, we want to honor and celebrate 101 years of women’s right to vote. As you probably know, this all started back on June 4, 1919 when the language for a 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was passed by Congress. The next step was for the amendment to be ratified by 36 state legislatures.

The final state, Tennessee, ratified the amendment on August 18, 1920. Beginning on that date women had the right to vote.

Nobody “Gave” Women the Right to Vote

Notice, I didn’t say “gave women” the right to vote because tens of thousands of women worked hard to achieve their goal. They marched, protested, spoke, and educated both women and men about the need for suffrage. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation and protest.
So go ahead and celebrate 101 years of women’s right to vote. Just remember that suffrage, like many important causes, requires work.

But Not All Women

The 19th amendment prohibited states from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. It said nothing about Jim Crow laws in effect at the time that denied African Americans, both males and females, the right to vote for a number of reasons. So while white women could vote beginning in late 1920, many Black American females could not vote until after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Let’s Also Celebrate 50 Years of Women’s Equality Day

In 1971, Congress designated August 26th as Women’s Equality Day to celebrate our accomplishment. It is perhaps more accurate to say it is the celebration of achieving advancement of women’s rights towards quality with men. The day is hopefully used to create an awareness of progress made and progress to be made.

Who Called for Women’s Equality Day?

If you are old enough, you may recall the name of Bella Abzug from New York. She was known as a no-nonsense women who was fierce in defending her beliefs. She was often called “Battling Bella”. Bella was known for always wearing a large hat. It was her signature look. But when the Sergeant at Arms of the US House of Representatives asked Bella to remove her hat, she did. Her supporters could not believe this and asked her why? She replied, “I choose my battles.”

We have Women’s Equality Day thanks to Congresswoman Bella Abzug. She introduced a resolution to designate August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. Nixon was the first president to issue a proclamation to declare August 26 Women’s Equality Day. Nixon wrote in his proclamation:

“The struggle for women’s suffrage, however, was only the first step toward full and equal participation of women in our Nation’s life. In recent years, we have made other giant strides by attacking sex discrimination through our laws and by paving new avenues to equal economic opportunity for women. Today, in virtually every sector of our society, women are making important contributions to the quality of American life. And yet, much still remains to be done”.

And that was 1972. There have been setbacks as well as steps forward since then. But all of us can make a difference — both in our own lives as well as in the lives of others.

Rosie the Riveter and Wendy the Welder are Also Beneficiaries of the Suffrage Movement

Rosie the Riveter OrnamentWe’ve been accomplishing the seemingly impossible ever since.

During WW2, we saw so many women excel. For example, Rosie the Riveter is a product of the suffragists. She accomplished so much to support the war effort, knowing her actions of courage and strength were made possible by her role in civilian life.

 

CAN DO Woman - Wendy the Welder Ornaments

Meet Wendy the Welder, Rosie the Riveter’s Cousin

Don’t forget Wendy the Welder. She’s another woman who showed empowerment through her work in shipyards and aircraft factories.

These, of course, are only two of the millions of CAN DO women who inspire us every day to reach our potential.

YES! You Are Also a Beneficiary of the Suffrage Movement

Please, take a moment out of your busy day to thank the suffragists who fought for your right to vote. And then reflect on you own accomplishments.

Congratulations!

We congratulate you and know that you will do even more in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. For now, remember…

We Did It! … And We’ll Keep on Moving Forward and Making Progress.

Matilda ButlerCelebrate 101 Years of Women’s Right to Vote

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