Category Archives: U.S. History

Lessons for today from the Woman Suffrage Movement

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.  Winston Churchill

Recently I posted on this blog a spate of brief and preliminary backgrounders about the forthcoming celebration of the centenary of ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.  Celebration of the ratification is simply a point in time; what’s important is that we capitalize on the occasion to learn from and share the lessons that can be gleaned from the long and volatile struggle known as the Woman Suffrage Movement.

The hallmarks of the Woman Suffrage Movement were vision, commitment, resilience, collaboration and persistence – virtues demanded by these troubled times.  Fortunately, the tools to understand and share those stories are both rich and relevant. These are the links to these recent posts:

The earlier posts identify resources that cover the Woman Suffrage Movement from a national perspective. They suggest the broad perspective, what was happening at the national level, the leaders and key supporters of the Suffragettes.

Still it is often more meaningful to tackle complex issues such as ratification of the 19th Amendment from a local perspective, the context of  one’s personal experience.  The Woman Suffrage Movement may be best understood as the struggle evolved and involved individuals “close to home” – with whom we have some connection in terms of  geography or experience

Fortunately, the record of Minnesotans’ involvement in the Woman Suffrage Movement is robust and readily accessible.

For a quick and easy guide to Minnesota’s ratification, start with the Minnesota House Record posted here:   (http://history.house.gov/HouseRecord/Detail/15032436205)  The archives  include a replica of the original ratification document – an inspiring first step on the journey to trace the roots of the movement. (http://history.house.gov/HouseRecord/Detail/15032436205)

For an excellent overview of the history of Minnesota’s steps to ratification there is no better than Eric W. Weber’s excellent piece on the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association  posted in MNOpedia.  (http://www.mnopedia.org/group/minnesota-woman-suffrage-association).  Weber’s essay  was reprinted by MinnPost in 2012 (https://www.minnpost.com/mnopedia/2012/09/minnesota-woman-suffrage-association-fought-womens-right-vote)

The MNOpedia entry leads to treasure troves of excellent resources including these:

These sources provide a firm foundation to appreciate the work of historian Jane Curry who has toured the state with her delightful one-woman show “Samantha Rastles the Woman Question.” It’s a powerful production that tells the story of the Woman’s Movement in a most delightful way!  Learn more here: (http://www.usfamily.net/web/dllund/jac/samantha.htm)

Though these posts may seem premature, consider the prolonged struggle for the Woman Suffrage Movement.  The parallel with today’s challenges offers a powerful model of resistance, collaboration, persistence and resilience, qualities that serve us well both individually and collectively in these difficult times.

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails ― Elizabeth Edwards

Summertime – A Good Time to “waste time” thinking!

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.

John Lubbock, The Use of Life

True enough – it is by no means a waste of time to slow down, to listen and watch – in fact this sort of clearing of the mind accomplishes two goals: it takes the mental spotlight off the blast from the Beltway, and, more important, it creates ideal conditions for serious thinking – about “life, the universe and everything.”

Some powerful prompts may help to  jumpstart the dormant thinking process, try some or all of these:

  • There are just a few days remaining to visit the current exhibit at the White Bear Lake Center for the Arts. “Woven Together: Traditions of the Indigenous Culture of Peru” is curated by Melanie Eberts, founder of ArtAndes. ( http://artandes.com)  Wilber Quispe is the master weaver who shares the challenge to preserve the ancient craft.  (http://www.presspubs.com/white_bear/image_4f11082c-56b8-11e7-879d-6b6e70ae7ba8.html)  Read more about the unique partnership of Melanie and Wilber here: http://www.startribune.com/duets-wilbur-and-melanie-woven-together-across-continents/268625052/
  • The theme of fiber art continues with a show featuring fiber artist Tressa Sularz, http://www.mnartists.org/tressasularzwill) To learn more about Tressa, her life and creative work, view her Voices of Northeast conversation here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vq_pGW6Jm4.  Both exhibits are free and open to the public.  Learn more about the White Bear Center for the Arts here: http://whitebeararts.org
  • “Shout Out: Community Intervention, Independent Publishing and Alternative Distribution” is the theme of the Book Art Biennial, July 20-23, 2017. Centerpiece of the Book Art Biennial is presentation of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts Prize, “a unique award that showcases and honors the best artists’ books in the world.”  (Much more about this major national gathering on the MCBA website: http://www.mnbookarts.org/biennial/
  • Moving Image is Walker Art Center’s established series of exemplary films https://walkerart.org/about/moving-image/ “In solidarity with Minnesota immigrants and refugees” Mizna (http://Mizna.org) is collaborating with Walker to sponsor a series of films representative of the seven countries named in the original presidential travel ban.  Reshaping our World: Cinema without borders will be screened Wednesday evenings, 7:30 p.m. on July 5, 12, 19 and 26 and August 2.  Tickets are $10 (with reduced rates for Mizna community members).  The series begins with screening of A Stray, the story of a struggling young Somali-American living in Minneapolis.  The “stray” is, in fact, a dog with whom the young man, Adan, forms a friendship.  A Stray is preceded that evening by a screening of Rumee, a documentary created by Somali community residents who share refugee stories “from a strength-based perspective.” State Representative Ilhan Omar and actor Ifrah Mansour will discuss the films. The special viewing is just one feature of Somali Week 2017. (https://somaliweek.org) Details here: http://mizna.org/articles/events/175.shtml
  • It’s 4th of July weekend – think “up to the lake!” On Friday evening, June 30, Tim Jollymore will share the pleasure.  He’ll be reading from his new book, Lake Stories & Other Tales at Eat My Words, 1228 2nd Street Northeast.  https://www.facebook.com/events/299092377204602/.  (You may even have an opportunity to the bookshop complete their move to new digs just up the road…)
  • Discovering hidden attributes of your of-an-age abode? Learn about Researching the History of Your Minneapolis Home at one of the learning opportunities sponsored by Special Collections staff at Minneapolis Central Library. The popular training sessions are scheduled for July 1, 10:30-11:30 at Special Collections, 4th floor, Minneapolis Central Library and August 5, 10:30-11:30 at Roosevelt Library.  Register online at https://hclib.bibliocommons.com/events or call 612 543 5669.

To truly expand your thinking horizons take advantage of the seasonally and politically  timely opportunity for deep thinking about the Civil Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964.  It was the Civil Rights Act that outlawed all segregation on the basis of raceThe Law was intentionally – and decidedly – specific that this was to include any hotel, motel, restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, gas station, movie theater, concert hall, theater, sports arena, stadium of other place of “exhibition or entertainment.”  (You get the idea.) When he signed the bill Johnson was anachronistic but firm when he affirmed: We believe all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty.”

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them~~ Albert Einstein

Learning and Sharing Stories of the Suffrage Movement

The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.  ~ Carl Jung

The story of the Suffragette Movement is the story of resistance, persistence – and ultimate triumph.  The long struggle to ratify the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women’s right to vote is a uniquely American story worthy of retelling in these times.

The June 2019 centenary of passage of the 19th Amendment offers an opportunity for us to study the story of the Suffragettes in depth, to analyze and emulate the vision and tactics of the Movement.  This is a powerful story of American patriots who shared a vision and marshalled their talents, strength and unstinting hope to pursue a common purpose.

The centenary of their success, June 4, 2019, invites the nation to research the records, remember and retell the story.  There is time to honor the unstinting courage of the Suffragettes by doing a deep dive into the history of the Woman Suffraqe Movement — then sharing the stories with contemporaries and future generations.

Though it may seem like overkill, when tackling an historic issue of national scope a good place to start is with our nation’s repositories of recorded history –the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration.  Not the magnificent buildings in Washington, DC but the very accessible digital libraries that open the historic record to armchair searchers wherever they may be.   In recent times LC and the Archives have created digital repositories that breathe life into the story of the Suffragettes Movement.

Librarians and archivists responsible for preserving the record of the nation have taken a lead to harness digital technology to share the intellectual treasures of the nation.  They are committed to crafting useful tools that guide the remote searcher along the digital path to learning about the country’s legacy.  Their mission is to share the personal stories of real people whose recorded legacy is now accessible through digitized letters, scrapbooks, songs, photos, and diaries –  real life stories that share the thoughts and situations of those individuals and institutions that shaped this nation..

A couple of  starting points will guide the seeker’s path to the Suffragettes’ stories:

Library of Congress:

Though the physical Library of Congress is elegant it is beyond overwhelming; and yet a digital dive into the treasures is manageable. LC resources are even organized by grade/age level to suggest their appropriate audience, even  the youngest learner.  Some basic tips:

  • A good strategy is a dip into the primary documents digitized by LC – – it will inspire even the recalcitrant searcher to press on! Among the treasures are the files of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony as well as countless photos, letters, diaries that capture the stories, the images and voices of the suffragettes.   All that little stuff gives life to real people who worked for years to resist the human forces that impeded their struggle to reach a mighty goal. https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/19thamendment.html
  • And here’s a great photographic complement to the primary documents collection. https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/076_vfw.html
  • For a timeline of American women’s road to assuring their voting rights, click here: https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/076_vfw_timeline.html

Each of these launch points will lead the searcher to treasure troves of stories waiting to be told.

National Archives:

The resources of the National Archives and the Library of Congress complement each other.   Staffers at the Archives  join  colleagues at LC in their commitment to expand digital access.  Of the many navigational tools here are some useful starting points:

These digital options for understanding the long struggle for passage of the 19th Amendment provide a logical first step on the research path; they offer a door to a world of stories!   The challenge is to realize and document this pivotal era in our nation’s history.  If we are to honor the labor and vision of the Suffragettes we must take to heart the priority for us to learn and tell the stories of the women and men who pressed on for decades to achieve what we now take for granted.  For us, the mission must be to study the true facts that capture the essence and describe the forces that emboldened the Suffragettes to speak truth to power for decades leading up to passage of the 19th Amendment.    The quest to learn, then tell, the stories deserves time, discussion, reflection.

Some other starting points:

For a really quick overview of the Suffragettes’ struggle, click here:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-passes-the-19th-amendment

For a broader view of American women’s rights, including but not limited to the Suffragette Movement, this Congressional publication provides a good overview.  http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/No-Lady/Womens-Rights/

For authoritative information regularly updated, these are major – and very helpful –  sources:

These are simply suggestions; resources and perspectives abound.  Exploring, then telling, the story of the Woman’s Movement offers a focus and a challenge to examine strategies that emboldened the Suffragettes to resist and persist.  We are not the first Americans to face a mighty challenge.  We have much to learn from those who set the pace a century ago:

When you walk with purpose you collide with destiny. Bertice Berry

 

 

Rekindling the vision of the 19th Amendment: A centennial challenge

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

That’s it – that’s the full text of the 19th Amendment, words crafted with care by suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  The proposed Amendment was first introduced in 1878, ultimately passed decades later.

Yesterday, Sunday June 4, 2017, marked the 98th anniversary of Congressional passage of the 19th Amendment.  The House of Representatives voted 304-90 and the Senate voted 56-25 in favor of the Amendment — which was then sent to the states for ratification.  Most times the reminder would have inspired a flicker of awareness; in light of the times, the occasion ignited a call to action!

The times demand that we embrace the centenary of this monumental moment in the nation’s history.  Women and their male supporters earned the right to vote in the face of bullying, misogyny, alternative facts (i.e. lies), money and mockery.  They resisted, collaborated, and kept a steady eye on the mission.  They understood that this democracy depends on the will of an informed electorate.  They spoke truth to power – and they succeeded.

On June 4, 2019 the nation will commemorate the centenary of Congressional passage of the joint resolution that led to passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, aka the Woman’s Suffrage Amendment, to the Constitution.   Recognition of the centenary of the 19th Amendment has the potential to expand our knowledge and appreciation of our roots and hone our collaborative strategies. If we seize the possibilities, awareness of the 19th Amendment can fuel a movement based on bipartisanship and acceptance of the fact that thoughtful policy has the power to trump pernicious prevarication and the over-rated glories of wealth.

June 4, 1919 was a pivotal step in the very long struggle.  A robust centennial campaign has the potential to magnify the import of the Amendment we take for granted a century later.  It seems to me that the best way to honor our forebears is to learn about their struggle, their strategies, their commitment to honor policy over politics.  It may seem early to celebrate – it’s certainly not too early to plan.

Though most long-range planning projects focus on a budget, the coin of the realm in this instance is the truth of history.  The work begins with serious research, the raw material of which is already on library shelves or in the digital stratosphere.  Recognition of the day is a moment in time; the real story lies in digging into the true facts and forces that shapedthe suffragette movement.  The mission, hopes, tribulations and ultimate success of a powerful crusade are recorded in carefully-chosen  words and photos that capture the era and rekindle the spirit that imbued the suffragettes.

This early mention of the forthcoming commemoration is simply a starting point – with special reference to the struggle for equality as it played out in Minnesota.   Future posts will focus on the immense archival records, literature, photos, memorabilia and other resources that make the movement for women’s right to vote  come alive. My hope is that the efforts of those who fought for women’s rights will inspire us to get up and do what needs to be done to assure that the vision and labors of the suffragettes inform and inspire us to value and protect an engaged and informed electorate that makes democracy work.

The principle of self-government cannot be violated with impunity. The individual’s right to it is sacred – regardless of class, caste, race, color, sex or any other accident or incident of birth ~~ Susan B. Anthony

 

Why we need the Peace Corps – then and now

This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease. ― Robert F. Kennedy

For reasons I can’t quite explain, the President’s proposed axing of the majority of nation’s volunteer programs is causing me unique and terrible pain.

Though hunger, homelessness, fake facts and betrayal inflict deeper wounds, the end of the Peace Corps is a stab in the back that I can neither explain nor overcome.  One of the several volunteer programs the President has targeted, the Peace Corps set the pace – for my generation it was an awakening to global awareness. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/us/politics/trump-budget-americorps-peace-corps-service.html?_r=0

As one who has known the privilege of living with hope, I shudder at the pall that this disastrous proposal to half essential volunteer initiatives casts on youth, the same young people who must understand, eventually inherit, believe in, protect and share this nation and this planet.

My focus on the Peace Corps is personal; it was the program that most affected my life and my world awareness.  Obviously I realize that the Peace Corps was then and this is now.  And yet for me the bold venture will always represent a willingness of youth to give, to learn, and, above all, to hope.  My life, and the lives of a generation of hopeful Americans, has been shaped in part by the dream and the reality that the Peace Corps represents.

Though I didn’t have the guts to join the Peace Corps, the tough decision made by my contemporaries inspired me to explore the world writ large.   The Peace Corps, by its very existence, expanded my world. In a sort of backup move, I answered without question the call to serve as ED of a national faith-based youth organization in Our Nation’s Capital, one of a host of similar groups in the front lines of civil rights and inter-faith collaboration.

From Peace Corps friends’ letters (yes, written epistles) I learned of others’ cultures, challenges, needs, how to listen, learn and share ideas and basic truths.  I learned from friends who shed their pretense of superiority as they explored with equals the principles that shaped this democracy.  Friends wrote of their experiences with others whose ways, though different from American ways, were viable and adaptable.  I learned about my friends’ efforts to be authentic seekers and tellers of truth.

Though the Peace Corps faced charges of “do-goodism” at the outset, it was not long before volunteers became frontline emissaries of American good will.

Over the years, the nature of the Corps changed radically.  Volunteers of all ages joined their younger colleagues – Lillian Carter being the poster grandma for a trend of seniors who brought skills, not to mention maturity, that strengthened the organization.   In time, joining the Corps became not so much a bold risk but a viable means of contributing to a “work-in-progress”.

And yet I keep thinking of those early volunteers.  What I realize is the ways in which their Peace Corps experience changed their lives and the lives and institutions they have shaped over the decades.   The expanded world views of those now-aging volunteers continue to make a difference.  Though they may not talk much about their years in Ethiopia or Nigeria the volunteer alumni have not abandoned the spirit of hope they shared with others and that they continue to keep hope alive back home.  https://www.peacecorpsconnct.org/cpages/home

 

 

 

Archivists challenged to look ahead for looking back

The sounds of the past enrich our understanding of the nation’s cultural history and our history in general.  Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

We live in what Harlan Cleveland dubbed a “temperocentric” world, a world that expresses ideas in fewer than 140 characters, and then moves on……

This is digital age, when thoughts expressed in 140 characters start a war, when a signature replaces a thoughtful disquisition, when Facebook and emails can be manipulated and alternative facts thrive, the work of the archivist is ever-more challenging and still more essential.

And then my thoughts rambled:  I wondered future researchers will ever know how decisions were made……. At the core is a deep concern about the implications of those tweets for government transparency and accountability?

More concerning is the degree to which the ephemeral nature of information and communication will relieve them of responsibility – culpability – for the consequences or blur the causes of their actions.]

It is cold comfort to learn that the President’s tweets are safely archived, available for researchers who will bear the burden of explaining this era:  http://www.trumptwitterarchive.com.  Still tweets, even archived tweets are of scant value.

The serious work archiving President’s papers is in the hands of archivists. abby Zimet’s article published just yesterday in Common Dreams, offers a good – actually fun-to-read– overview of one major effort to cope with the Trump archives.  https://www.commondreams.org/further/2017/05/09/lots-copies-make-stuff-safe-saving-trumps-bigly-dumb-words

Clearly, it is a mighty challenge to capture the archival record of this era, much less to assure permanent access to past public documents. In recent months archivists have welcomed the assistance of informed volunteers – archivists, librarians, researchers, historians and others concerned with preservation of real facts have met the challenge.  Though it’s a finger in the dike of information flow our nation’s recorded history is at risk.

Without archives many stories of real people would be lost, and along with those stories, vital clues that allow us to reflect and interpret our lives today. ― Sara Sheridan

UPDATE:  https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/05/ex-feds-confident-comeys-devices-and-files-are-safe-even-if-fbi-wont-confirm/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Law Day 2017 inspires timely focus on the 14th Amendment

Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.  Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The world was a very different world in 1958 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower first proclaimed Law Day, a move endorsed three years later by a joint Congressional resolution.  In an earlier era, the push for Law Day, first proposed by the American Bar Association, was to counter the push for May Day, aka International Workers’ Day.

This year’s theme “The 14th Amendment: Transforming American Democracy” anticipates next year’s 150th anniversary of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.   It is the 14th Amendment that explicitly affirms the rights of equal protection and due process.

Summary: https://www.thoughtco.com/us-constitution-14th-amendment-summary-105382

Full text: https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv

The Library of Congress provides in-depth analysis of the 14th Amendment and an excellent reading list here: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/commemorative-observations/law-day.php.  The American Bar Association offers suggestions for commemorating Law Day  2017. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/initiatives_awards/law-day/law_day_2017_additional_resources.html

Many communities and countless organizations related to the legal profession sponsor Law Day dinners, proclamations, even a Law Day art contest sponsored by the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/initiatives/law_day_art_contest.http

The American Bar Association defines Law Day as “a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law.  Law Day underscores how law and the legal process have contributed to the freedoms that all Americans share.”  Law Day 2017 prompts the media to voice the range of differing opinions and angst about the Rule of Law, specifically the 14th Amendment, in volatile circumstances.

Most important, Law Day 2017 inspires each of us whose rights are spelled out in the 14th Amendment to assess the Rule of Law as it affects the life of a regular citizen, how the law is meted out in the real world of an ordinary American, regardless of heritage or circumstance. https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights.  Likewise, the occasion calls on the grown-ups among us to share with young people the essence of the role of law in the creation of this democracy.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  Thomas Jefferson*

*LIBRARIAN NOTE: http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2011/01/eternal-vigilance-is-price-of-liberty.html