All posts tagged: Nannie Helen Burroughs

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