Category Archives: Women’s History

This generation’s test – Lessons from Seneca Falls

 

We all know that each generation has its own test, the contemporaneous and current standard by which alone it can adequately judge of its own moral achievements, and that it may not legitimately use a previous and less vigorous test. The advanced test must indeed include that which has already been attained; but if it includes no more, we shall fail to go forward, thinking complacently that we have “arrived” when in reality we have not yet started ~Jane Addams

On July 19 and 20, 1848, some three hundred brave souls, supporters of a common cause, gathered in Seneca Falls, New York.  They shared a common cause, to affirm and eventually guarantee, the rights of women, including a woman’s right to vote.   The enormity of their challenge is matched only by the results of the progress they envisioned, sought, and ultimately achieved.

As we grapple with the challenges that face this democracy today we may lose hope, not to mention stamina.  Thinking about the Seneca Falls Convention may shed welcome light on these dark days.

To preserve and strengthen our democracy will demand nothing less than a movement of informed, committed American truth-seekers who care – and dare — to speak out, join forces and share energies towards a common purpose.

As always, we can draw strength and wisdom from those who have fought the good fight in the past.  A glimpse of the humble beginnings of the Nineteenth Amendment offers a sense of how a movement is born and how it grows with time and effort.  We may draw strength from a look back at the movement born at Seneca Falls some 170 years ago.

Some manageable starting points:

Previous posts related to ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

 

 

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National Catholic Sisters Week 2018

Possibly I was too wrapped up in Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day to remember that March also heralds the special recognition of some of the strongest women of all.  I have just realized that this week, March 8-14, is also National Catholic Sisters Week http://www.nationalcatholicsistersweek.org

In the interest of sharing that time-sensitive message without delay I am taking the liberty of quoting the website description of this major initiative:

Created to honor women religious, it is a series of events that instruct, enlighten and bring greater focus to the lives of these incredible women. It’s our chance to recognize all they have done for us. It’s also our hope that as more young women learn about women religious, more will choose to follow their example. 

 National Catholic Sisters Week, a branch of National Catholic Sisters Project headquartered at Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisc., is headquartered at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn., and is held in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

For a not-quite-recent update on today’s women religious this 2011 article in the National Catholic Reporter offers a brief history of the contributions of women religious to the history and values of this nation. https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/us-women-religious-have-earned-place-american-history

I am also taking the liberty of noting some past Poking Around posts that give a sense of the unique missions and roles of women religious in this region:

These posts are a minimal sampling of the myriad articles and books that reflect the leadership of individual women and communities of women religious in Minnesota.  In the interests of piquing the interest of readers, I presume to note just a smattering of the stories that record the work of strong committed women who have shaped the state’s health, education, political, social movements and intellectual life.

Minnesota Women’s Press has published several articles about women religious; following are links to just a couple:

A quick skim of MNOpedia disclosed these articles about women religious – there are, and will be, more but these offer a taste of the research that has been and needs to be undertaken, recorded and shared:

On my personal bookshelf I found these books that record the work of the women religious in Minnesota.  The shelf is tilted to the contributions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet because the CSJ’s were my teachers throughout high school and college:

  • They came to teach; The story of Sisters who taught in parochial schools and their contribution to elementary education in Minnesota. Annabelle Raiche, CSJ and Ann Marie Biermaier, OSB. Published by North Star Press, St Cloud in 1994.
  • Eyes Open on a world: The challenge of change. A collaboration by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St Paul Province. Published in 2001 by North Star Press, St. Cloud.
  • On Good Ground, The story of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. by Sister Helen Angela Hurley. Published by the University of Minnesota Press, 1951.

By any measure this is a sadly incomplete listing.  My last-minute effort is to share the message that we are now celebrating National Catholic Sisters Week.  Much more important, this post is intended to spark and encourage scholars’ interest in learning and share more stories.  The archives of the religious communities and academic institutions (of which there are many!) are robust, meticulously preserved, and open to serious students of the history of these too-often under-recognized powerful women of faith and vision.

I am interested in and will post other publications – please share ideas, suggestions, stories and publications that fill in the gaps in the role that women of strength and wisdom have played of Minnesota’s and the nation’s history.

National Catholic Sisters Week, March 8-14 2018

 

Exhibit shares stories of cruelty to Indigenous women

 All My Relations Arts and the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center are sponsoring a powerful exhibition entitled “Bring her home: Stolen daughters of Turtle Island.”  The exhibit, representing the work of 18 visual artists from across the US and many tribal nations, will be in Minneapolis February 2 – April 20.

All the works in the exhibition are original; formats include 2D, 3D, video, performance, or installation.  Visionaries who planned the exhibit link the exhibit and events with issues now on the nation’s agenda:  “In light of the local movement to stop exploitation and the international #MMIW awareness campaign, Bring Her Home shares visual stories of the women who bore the impact.”

The collaborative initiative begins February 2 and continues through April 20.  Planners note that “rather than reduce the issue to a statistic, Curator Angela Two Stars challenges us to honor the life of each indigenous woman as we would a sister, a wife, a mother, a best friend, a cousin, or a daughter.”

The first event is a Reception on Friday, February 2, 6-8 PM at All My Relations Arts, 1414 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis.  This is followed by a host of related programs including an artist workshop, a march for missing and murdered indigenous women and a Talking Circle with the artists.

Find details about dates and times, sites and maps here: (http://www.allmyrelationsarts.com/bring-her-home/)

More about the sponsoring organizations here:

 

Meridel LeSueur’s words ring true at ESFL

A good civilization gives the greatest possible scope to the common passions and makes them intelligible among the great number of people ~ Meridel LeSueur

Meridel LeSueur would embrace the vision and endorse the vision of the East Side Freedom Library (ESFL).  She would no doubt have some helpful suggestions for programs and outreach strategies, but she would embrace the idea!

The feeling is mutual. The vision and words of Meridel resonate in the essence of ESFL In fact, the mission of ESFL is to “give the great possible scope to the common passions and make them intelligible among the great number of people.

Though Meridel died in 1996 her spirit lives, captured in her own words, in the memories of colleagues and in film/video – not to mention in the lives of those who felt her influence. Her spirit is needed at this hour.

To underscore that point, ESFL is sponsoring a Labor Movie Night, starring the spirit of Meridel.  My People Are My Home is a 45-minute creative documentary produced in 1976 by a Twin Cities women’s film collective.  The documentary follows the text of several of Meridel’s writings “woven with images of Midwestern people, especially working class women.  It fulfills Meridel’s vision of making “common passions…intelligible among the greatest number of people.”

Following the film there will be a discussion of the film and of the life and work of Meridel LeSeuer.  The discussion will be led by Neala Schleuning who has written about Lesueur, including for this MNOpedia entry (http://www.mnopedia.org/person/le-sueur-meridel-1900-1996)   Members of the women’s collective that created the film will be on hand to participate in the exchange of ideas.

The film showing and discussion are Tuesday, August 1, 7:00 p.m. at ESFL 1105 Greenbrier Street, St Paul 55106.   Free and open.

Mother King – A life, a movement, an inspiration for these times

Before you read on, pause to view this short YouTube story about Alberta Williams King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVp8Tj7h6GM  Then read a bit about the death of MLK’s mother here: http://www.atlantamagazine.com/civilrights/the-murder-of-alberta-king/

You will want to know and to think more about the life and influence of this grand woman.

The beautiful fact is that the story of Alberta Williams King is now immortalized in an opera that premieres this month.   Mother King, produced by OperaWorks52, opens next weekend at the Public Functionary in Northeast Minneapolis (https://www.facebook.com/events/1390516824378444/) 

Mother King is described as a “conceptual Black opera” that interprets the story of the slain activist. The libretto is based on a series of poems by Venessa Fuentes (https://www.linkedin.com/in/venessa-fuentes-00b49b9/) and the musical score is the work of Dameun Strange. (http://www.dameunstrange.com)

Through the words and music of  Mother King six local vocalists, including Liz Gre in the title role, share the story of “Black birth, Black resilience, and Black joy.” Joining Gre on stage are local vocalists Michael McDowell, Sarah Greer, Roland Hawkins, Kevin Moore, and Ava McFarlane.  They are accompanied by a twelve-member instrumental ensemble.

This is the first production of OperaWorks52, a collaboration formed by Fuentes and Strange.  The partners describe theirs as “a music and story-telling partnership that aims to highlight overlooked narratives, including the stories of individuals of color, Native people, women and those in the LGBTQ community.” (https://www.facebook.com/operaworks52/ )

Mother King is produced through a partnership between OperaWorks 52 and Public Functionary, an art exhibition and “social space” in Northeast Minneapolis.  Public Functionary is also the venue for the premiere production. (http://publicfunctionary.org)

Read a great interview with Fuentes and Strange in this recent issue of Twin Cities Arts Reader.  (http://twincitiesarts.com/2017/07/10/interview-venessa-fuentes-dameun-strange-mother-king/)

Performances for Mother King are at 7:00 p.m. July 20-22 and 27-28 at the Public Functionary, 1400 12th Avenue Northeast in Minneapolis.  Tickets are available online at Brown Paper Tickets ($8 students and elders; $12 general admission)

UPDATE:  https://www.tcdailyplanet.net/dameun-strange-and-venessa-fuentes-create-mother-king-for-black-audiences-to-see-themselves-in-opera/

 

 

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

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