A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.


Congo's Victims of Horrid Rapes

Let us all light a candle and say a prayer that our sisters might one day be safe and free. 


Harriet Tubman

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."--Harriet Tubman

Her birth name was Armanita Greene but she was called by her mother's name, Harriet, throughout her life. She was born into slavery on a Dorchester County, Maryland plantation to Benjamin Ross and Harriet Greene in or about the year 1820.  Harriet was forced to work long hours at the age of five, and as a small child, she was often hired out to work for other slave owners...mainly for household duties.  She was often beaten and whipped, and as she grew older, she was sent out into the fields with the other slaves.  When she was only 13, she was accidentally hit in the head by a rock that had thrown at someone else. She was near death for some time and for the rest of her life she suffered from severe headaches and blackouts.

In 1844, Harriet married John Tubman, who was a free man and was allowed to sleep in his cabin. Harriet would frequently talk to John about freedom but he was pretty much contented with what he had. To him, the idea of escape was far too risky especially since he felt they already had it well.  Harriet was unhappy in marriage found herself growing impatient with her husband because they didn't seem to have anything in common.  He was content; she wanted freedom. Then one night 1849, Harriet made a daring move.  Without telling a soul, she decided to escape from the plantation. She just couldn't take it any longer. 

The Quakers were opposed to slavery, and Harriet found safety and shelter in the home of a Quaker woman who had connections with the Underground Railroad. This was a secret system of safe houses that aided slaves in their attempts to reach the North. Free blacks and sympathetic whites all joined in to help the runaway slaves find food, shelter, and transportation. Harriet made most of her journey was during the night when it was easier to hide from slave hunters who were out and about trying to recapture any escaped slaves. The North Star was her guide it offered her hope and pointed her in the direction of freedom. 

Finally, Harriet crossed the state line and entered into Pennsylvania.  She had made it; she had escaped into freedom.  
As soon as she arrived in Philadelphia, Harriet began to work in the hoes of earning enough money to bring her family to freedom in the North. Soon thereafter, she met joined William Still, an abolitionist who was connected with the Underground Railroad. Harriet soon joined the abolitionists and volunteered to become  a conductor for the railroad. It has been said that between 1850 and 1860, Harriet had saved enough money to make 19 trips into the South where she freed about 300 slaves.

As stories of her bravery grew, they began to call her "Moses," after the Biblical Moses who led the slaves out of Egypt. She  was a hero to slaves but this popularity also placed her in danger. After years of eluding slave hunters, white slave owners posted a reward of $40,000 for 'his' capture. Slave owners just could not believe that a woman was capable of this daring. Fortunately, with the help of her allies and well planned routes, Tubman was never captured and the reward was never collected.

"I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger."

During the Civil War, Harriet worked as a nurse and scout for the North, and although shewas honored more than once by the Union Army, she did not receive a pension for years. In her later years, she continued to serve others by establishing a home for orphans and the elderly in Auburn, New York.  It is there that she died of pneumonia, in poverty, in 1913. The Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People in Auburn is now a museum.

She was an extraordinary woman, one who, despite enduring physical hardship and pain, dedicated her life to saving the lives of others. She is a true hero to those she rescued and to millions who never met her.


Susan B. Anthony

"The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race."
—Susan B. Anthony

"We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever."
—Susan B. Anthony, Declaration of Rights for Women, July 1876

"There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers."
—Susan B. Anthony 


Louisa May Alcott

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sale my ship."--Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott was born November 29, 1832 in Germantown, Pennsylvania.  She was the second of three daughters.  Louisa and her sisters were educated by their father, Bronson Alcott who was a philosopher and a teacher.  At an early age, the family moved to Boston so her father could pursue a teaching career.  A close family friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, helped the family set up residence.  Young Louisa loved the atmosphere and spent her days with visits to Emerson's library or walks in nature with Henry David Thoreau. 

Writing was an early passion for Louisa; she had a rich imagination and took great pride in the stories that she wrote.  It was almost as if her writing was means of escape.  Her father's non-traditional teaching methods had been a failure, and by 15, she began to feel more and more responsible for the families financial needs, taking on as many jobs as she could find...such as reading for an elderly father and his invalid sister.  She took teaching jobs and mended and washed laundry to help the family.  Then, in 1852, her first poem "Sunlight" was published.

Then, in 1854, when she was only 22, her first book "Flower Fables" was published.  At this point, her family had moved to New Hampshire, but Louisa stayed in Boston to further her literary career, but then tragedy struck the Alcott family.  Louisa's younger sister, Lizzie, contracted scarlet fever, and the family moved back to Massachusetts.  Lizzie recovered the first time the illness struck, but when it returned a few months later, she passed away.  

When the Civil War broke out, Louisa headed to Washington, DC to serve as a Civil War nurse, and there, like many other nurses, she contracted typhoid fever, and although she would recover, she would continue to suffer the poisoning effects of mercury...which was used in the form of a drug, calomel, which was used to cure typhoid.  It was during her stay in Washington that she wrote "Hospital Sketches", an account of her Civil War experiences that confirmed her desire to be a serious writer.  

Louisa was 35 years old when her publisher asked her to write a book for girls.  She wrote for two and a half months and produced "Little Women" (one of my all-time faves) based on her own experiences. In this book, her family was represented by the "March" family with the character of "Jo" representing her. The novel, which was published on September 30, 1869 was an instant success.  Louisa would go on to continue the story with two later books..."Little Men" in 1871 and Jo's Boys in which she made arguments for women's rights and other reforms in 1886.

During this time, Louisa also became active in the women's suffrage movement and canvassed door to door trying to encourage women to register to vote.  In 1879, Louisa became the first woman in Concord to register to vote in the village's school election.  

In 1877, tragedy struck again when Louisa's mother passed away.  Then, in 1879, her sister, May died from complications of childbirth, and her dying wish was for Louisa to care for her daughter...her namesake, Louisa May Nieriker.  The infant brought much joy and contentment into her life, and Louisa moved what was left of her family into an elegant home in Boston.  She continued to write as best she could, but the mercury poisoning was beginning to take its toll.  Then, early in 1888, her father's health failed and he died in March.  Two days later, at the age of 56, Louisa May Alcott died in Boston.  She is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. 

Louisa had never found much personal happiness in her life and she never seemed bitter about the struggles of her early years. She left behind a legacy in wonderful books that will continue to be admired and cherished for generations to come.


Victoria Woodhull

One of my favorite courageous woman in history is Victoria Woodhull...a spiritualist, activist, business woman, politician and author.  She was truly a woman ahead of her time.

She was born Victoria California Claflin, the 6th of ten children, on September 23, 1838 in Homer, Ohio. Her father was a petty con man; her mom a religious fanatic.  When she was child, the family was forced out of Homer after her father was accused of insurance fraud.   From then on, they traveled around in her father's medicine show.  Victoria never had an easy childhood.  Her father was a brutal man, and young Victoria was beaten and starved.  Never spending much time in one place, she received very little education.  It was during her travels that it was discovered that she had the powers of clairvoyance, and she was able to predict the future, find loss objects, and relay messages from loved ones on the other side.  

She was only 15 when she married Canning Woodhull, an alcoholic doctor; they were divorced two years later.  Then, in 1868, she and her sister moved to New York City.  By now, she was a very popular medium, and this is how she met millionaire Cornelius Vanderbuilt. As the story goes, he had recently become a widower and because he appreciated the solace he had received from Victoria, he set her and her sister up in business.  The sisters became Wall Street's first female stockbrokers.  They made a huge amount of money, and in 1870 began to publish their own journal...a radical publication which proved them with a place to air their ideas on social reform--women's suffrage, birth control, and "free love".  Yes, you did read that correctly.  The 60's were not, in fact, the birth of the free love era.  It actually became an idea in the 19th century.

Victoria was always a strong supporter of women's rights and often spoke publicly on behalf of giving women the right to vote.  She even spoke to Congress on the issue, but she always wanted to do more.  So it was that in 1872, Victoria Woodhull established the Equal Rights Party and ran for the presidency of the United States...for even though women could not vote at this time, there were no laws on record prohibiting a woman from running for office. Her opponent was Ulysses S. Grant.

Victoria faced many obstacles to the election.  Besides running for office when women could not vote, her funding eventually ran out.  And, instead of debating her on the issues, her opponents attacked her personal life...calling her everything from a witch to a prostitute. Her public remarks about sexuality and social reforms were also held against her. They accused her of having affairs with married men and so many other vicious attack which caused her and her family to be evicted from their home.

Victoria became convinced that Henry Ward Beecher was behind all this slander, and decided that she was going to fight back by publishing a story in her journal that Beecher was having an affair with a married woman.  This backfired on Victoria, and she was arrested and charged under the Comstock Act for sending obscene literature through the mails.  Not only was she in prison on the day of the elections, but was arrested no less than eight times during the next seven months.  Eventually she was acquitted of all charges, but was left bankrupt from paying all the legal fees.

In 1878 she moved to England where she continued to campaign for women's rights.  In 1882, she married wealthy banker John B. Martin. John died in 1897; Victoria did not remarry, and after his death, once again became involved in the woman suffrage campaign.  She died at their country estate on June 9, 1927...finally living to see women earn the right to vote. She was a pioneer of and advocated for many things we take for granted today...social welfare programs, the eight hour workday, profit sharing, diet, and exercise.  During her lifetime, she had offered hospitality to both prostitutes and the upper class.  She fed the hungry and cared for the sick.  She was truly a woman of courage.


Mary Livermore

She was born Mary Ashton Rice into a strict Calvinist family on December 19, 1820 in Boston, Massachusetts.  She graduated from the Boston Public School System at the tender age of 14 and went on to attend the Female Seminary at Charleston, Massachusetts.  She graduated there in two years rather than the usual four years and became a member of the faculty.  It is said that Mary read the entire Bible each year until she reached the age of 23.  

In 1842, she took charge of a private school in Duxbury, Massachusetts and worked there for three years until, in 1845, Mary was wed to Universalist minister, Rev. Daniel Livermore. Then, for the next three years, the couple worked amongst the factory workers providing education and health care to the poor. The couple had three daughters, one of whom died in childhood. In 1857, frustrated with parish life,  Mary and Daniel moved to Chicago where she began working as the associate editor of the religious publication, The New Covenant. They made Chicago their home for the next 13 years.

It was during that time that Mary came into her own as a competent woman with an important role to play in the reshaping of society.  The turning point in her life came during a cholera epidemic where Daniel fled with their two daughters while Mary chose to stay and volunteer to help.  Then, the Civil War broke out.  Mary did some relief work and after a tour of military hospitals, she joined the U.S. Sanitary Commission in Chicago. For the next four years visited hospitals, wrote thousands of letters to the soldiers, escorted the wounded to their homes, and raised money to support the commission's work.

At the close of the war, she turned her energies into the direction of woman's rights and organized the Chicago Woman Suffrage Convention in 1868 and established The Agitator, a feminist journal for the advocacy of temperance reform and woman's rights.  Then in 1870, along with Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, she co-edited The Women's Journal.  She also became one of the leaders of teh Women's Christian Temperance Union.  Meanwhile, Daniel, who had returned some years previous did research at libraries for Mary's lectures and and joined her at regular intervals while she was traveling the circuit.

For 13 years Mary delivered almost 150 lectures per year.  Meanwhile, she continued to write...publishing her lectures and other essays.  She finally retired from lecturing at the age of 75. Daniel, her lifelong supporter died in 1899, and Mary lived on for 6 more years...dying on May 23, 1905 at the age of 85 in Melrose, Massachusetts.  She is buried at Wyoming Cemetery in Melrose.




Now We Can Begin, 1920

The following appeared shortly after the passage of the 19th amendment...

The problem of women's freedom is how to arrange the world so that women can be human beings, with a chance to exercise their infinitely varied gifts in infinite ways, instead of being destined by the accident of their sex to one field of activity--housework and child-raising.  And second, if and when they choose housework and child-raising to have that occupation recognized by the world as work, requiring a definite economic reward and not merely entitling the performer to be dependent on some man.  I can agree that women will never be great until they achieve a certain emotional freedom, a strong healthy egotism, and some unpersonal source of joy--that is this inner sense we cannot make women free by changing her economic status. 
--Crystal Eastman--


19th Amendment

In January, 1918, Woodrow Wilson announced that women's suffrage was urgently needed as a "war measure".  The House of Representatives passed the federal woman suffrage amendment 274 to 138, but it was opposed in the Senate and was defeated in September, 1918.  Another attempt in February, 1919 also ended in failure.

In May, 1919, the House of Representatives again passed the amendment 304 to 89 and on June 4, 1919, the Senate finally gave in and passed it by 66 to 30.  On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was certified by the Secretary of State, when Tennessee, the 36th and final state needed signed for ratification.


President Wilson and the 19th Amendment

"We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy.  Twenty million women are denied the right to vote."--Alice Paul
Woodrow Wilson was governor of New Jersey when he won the Presidential election in 1912.  During the election year he had been undecided on the issue of Woman's Suffrage and refused to take a stand on it.  Suffrage activists staged demonstrations and petition drives to try to win the President's attention.

And so it was that throughout the winter of 1917, Alice Paul and her fellow suffragists picketed the White House.  They stood silently outside the gates holding signs that said "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?"  They wanted President Wilson to support a Constitutional amendment which would give American women the right to vote.  At first, the women were largely ignored, but when the United States entered WWI, the suffragists began taunting the president, accusing him of being a hypocrite. Soon, they became an embarrassment to the president and it was decided that the picketing must end..

...the picketers were assaulted both verbally and physically, and police did nothing to protect them.  The Suffragists were arrested and sometimes jailed for considerable lengths of time. Some staged hunger strikes and were force-fed.  Alice Paul was arrested and put into a mental ward.  The Suffragists made headlines around the world, and their stories began to anger many Americans...thus creating even more support for the suffrage amendment.  The President could not hold off any longer.

It was on January 9, 1918, that President Wilson finally announced his support for suffrage.  The next day, the Susan B. Anthony amendment which would give suffrage to all women citizens, was narrowly passed. Then, on June 4, 1919, the Senate passed the amendment by one vote.  In the summer of 1920, August 26th to be exact, the 19th Amendment was ratified and came to pass.  Women had won the right to vote. The headlines for the New York times on November 2, 1920 read as follows:  "The Greatest Voting Day in History."   



Woman's Mission

The following poem appeared in The North Star, October 3, 1850.  The author of the poem, Ebenezer Elliot leaps to woman's defense, although, to those of us of the 21st century, the defense might seem to echo some of the same presumptions about woman's nature that the woman's rights activists sought to dispel.  The newspaper was edited by Frederick Douglass , a former slave turned abolitionist, who consistently advocated woman's rights.  

What highest prize hath woman won
In science, or in art?
What mightiest work, by woman done,
Boast city, field, or mart?
"She hath no Raphael!  Painting saith;
"No Newton! Learning cries;
"Show us her steamship!  her Macbeth!
Her thought-won victories!"

Wait, boastful man! though worthy are
Thy deeds, when thou are true;
Things worthier still, and holier far,
Our sisters yet will do;
For this the worth of woman shows,
On every peopled shore,
That still as man in wisdom grows,
He honors her the more.

Oh, not for wealth, or fame, or power,
Hath man's meek angel striven,
But, silent as the growing flower,
To make of earth a heaven!
And in her garden of the sun
Heaven's brightest rose shall bloom;
For woman's best is unbegun!
Her advent yet to come!  


Women in the Revolutionary War

"History raves about the heroics of men in war...but few instances are mentioned in which female courage was displayed.  Yet in every conflict, and the peaceful years between, they were there, too."

Many women dressed as men and fought in the war although it was far more common for them to be camp followers who stayed with their husbands and earned pay as cooks, laundresses, and nurses. Women also delivered secret messages, spied on the British, and produced goods for the men.

Debra Sampson was the first known American Woman to impersonate a man in order to join the army and take part in the combat. .  She was 21 years old , and at 5 foot 7 inches quite tall for a woman, when she enlisted in the 4th Massachusetts regiment of the Continental Army...as a man named Robert Shurtleff.  Although she was teased by the other soldiers because she didn't have to shave, they just took her for a boy who was still to young to grow facial hair. Eventually, she went with her regiment to West Point, New York where she was wounded in battle, but tended to her own wounds so that she wouldn't be found out.  As a result, her leg never did heal properly, and when she was hospitalized for a fever in Philadelphia, the physician discovered that this boy was, in fact, a woman and made arrangements that ended her military career.  She was honorably discharged from the army at West Point on 25 Oct 1783.

Mary Hayes McCauley (Molly Pitcher) became famous at the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778.  The day was very hot and the canons were being fired so continuously that they required water to cool them down.  Mary spent the day ferrying water back and forth the cool down the canons and to serve the soldiers who were dying of dehydration.  She also helped tend to the wounded and even dragged one of the wounded back across the lines and away from British forces.  Then, as she returned back onto the battlefield, her husband was wounded.  Mary took his place, operating the plunger, and helping to load the canon.  This made her the second woman to man a gun on the battlefield.  Later, by the order of George Washington, she became a commissioned officer and to this day has remained an example of female greatness in the face of battle...a true heroine of the Revolutionary War.

Margaret Corbin followed her husband in the Revolutionary War and stayed with him when the British attacked Fort Washington in New York.  She took over her husband's job as the person who loads the cannon when her husband was killed.  She was also hit and left for dead, but a passing doctor stopped and saved her life.  Her wounds left her permanently disabled, and for her bravery, "Captain Molly" became a part of the Invalid Regiment.  She was the first woman to receive a lifetime pension for the wounds she suffered in battle.

Rebecca Barrett, the wife of a militia colonel, hid military stores and equipment on her farm, then remained at home to protect her family from the British.  

Mary Hagidorn's reply to orders for the women and children to retire to the cellar, "Captain, I shall not go to that cellar should the enemy come.  I will take a spear which I can use as well as any man and help defend the fort."

And there are so many, many more...far too many to mention.  Ladies, I salute your courage and thank you for your fight for the freedom I have today. So, tomorrow, as we pay homage to the men of the Revolution, let us not forget the women who fought so bravely beside them.

Have a safe and happy 4th.



Bessie Smith

She was born April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennesee, the eighth child of a poor black family. She was raised in poverty and just as the other blacks of her time, subject to the cruel restrictions of segregation. Her father was a Baptist minister. Her mother died when she was eight and her dad when she was only nine.  Orphaned and being raised by an older sister, Bessie's music career began when she was nine years old when she began singing and dancing on street corners for pennies. 

Her professional career began when she was twelve; her brother had arranged an audition for her with a travelling show where Bessie developed a friendship with Ma Rainey who soon became Bessie's mentor. Over the next few years, Bessie's abilities propelled her forward, and by 1918, she was already a seasoned performer and a favorite on the theater circuit.  By the 1920's, her reputation as a singer had spread along the Eastern seaboard, and in 1923, she signed with Columbia Records, a major breakthrough for this poor orphan from the south...and from 1923 to 1931, she launched no less than 160 recordings which propelled her to immortality.

In 1925, Bessie purchased a customized railroad car for herself and her troupe and travelled with her own show...commanding a weekly salarly of $2,000.  Throughout the remainder of the 1920's, Bessie maintained an active schedule of touring and recording, and although she performed primarily to black audiences, she did find popularity among the whites as well.  Among her most successful songs was "Jailhouse Blues", "Cold in Hand Blues", and a version of Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band."   Most of her songs had themes of poverty or unrequited love and her rich voice was perfect, striking a chord into the heart of her listeners.

But, by the end of the 1920's, Bessie's career fell in sharp decline. The Depression and talking movies was crippling vaudeville, and tastes in music were changing (blues were out of fashion), and Bessie's long-standing alcoholism, as well as mismanagement of her affairs, paved the way for her downfall.  Bessie had begun drinking in her teens, and throughout the years, began to drink excessively...making her very difficult to work with.  

Her last recording session, which was billed as a comeback, was mostly a sentimental gesture by one of her producers.  Then, in 1935, she appeared to great acclaim at New York's Apollo Theater.  And by 1937, Bessie was in the process of a comeback, but she died on September 26, 1937, when she was critically injured while on her way to a singing engagement.  Bessie's car, driven at a high rate of speed by her boyfriend, crashed into a truck on a road in Mississippi.  The circumstances of her death remain unknown.  Some say she died because she was refused admission into an all-white facility; others say she was treated and died hours later; and others say she died upon impact. 
She is buried at Mount Lawn Cemetary in Pennsylvania. Her grave remained unmarked until Janis Joplin and Juanita Green, daughter of a former employee of Bessie, gave her a gravestone on August 7, 1970.   


Women Shot With Paintballs

Here's a little something I wanted to share with you all.  It's something I have been reading about on several of the different news sources and feminist sites that I follow. It disgusts me, but it is also a part of the world we live in.  It seems that police officers in Russia's Chechnya region have been firing PAINTBALLS into women's faces and then filming them on mobile phones...and all because the women have their heads uncovered.  There have been multiple instances which have been reported of police officers driving slowly by in cars with tinted windows and shooting the paintballs at the women as they innocently walk down the street. 

This was followed by a flurry of fliers which have been sent out condemning those women who are not complying with the Muslim inspired rules to keep their heads covered. The fliers say: "Isn't it nasty for you with your head uncovered, dressed defiantly, to hear all those obscene compliments and proposals?  Think again."... They then go on to warn the women that if they did not cover their heads, the attackers will be forced to  resort to tougher measures to get the women to comply...if necessary.  

While not deadly...thus far...this is degrading, violent, and humiliating for our sisters over in Chechnya...and it is nothing more than a form of terror aimed at forcing these women into subjugation...a man's idea of strengthening his power by oppressing the women.  Hey, we're in the 21st century; this kind of stuff shouldn't be happening in this day and age...but, sadly, it is.  Our sisters around the world are still being treated as inferior human beings, and it's not just in Chechnya.  We find this disgusting treatment of women all over...in all countries.  Not all women are free, and we may not probably will not see all women living free during our lifetime.

So, it has been awhile since I asked this, but before you go to bed tonight take a moment to light a candle and say a little prayer for our sisters who are still suffering...send your healing powers their way that they may be strong...and that they know they are not alone, that we stand beside them to give them strength and support.