Happy Birthday Margaret Fuller, Correspondent for Equality

FROM OUR ARCHIVES: ORIGINALLY POSTED FRIDAY, MAY 23, 2011 ON WEWALK: BEHIND THE SCENES OF OPENING THE WAY. EDITED AND UPDATED ON 5/23/2016.

On this day in women’s history, we celebrate the birth of Margaret Fuller, a woman whose name is associated with several important contributions to American history.

5. Margaret FullerFuller was born on May 23, 1810 in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts to Unitarian parents, and received a strong classical education from an early age, becoming well-versed in languages such as French and German. She became a passionate advocate for transcendentalism, a philosophy that developed as a critique to the state of ideas in society and at Harvard in particular. A core belief of transcendentalist philosophy was the belief in an ideal spirituality that goes beyond the physical and empirical and is fulfilled only through a person’s intuition rather than organized religious doctrine. It affected literature, poetry, art and music from about 1835-1880. Fuller worked with prominent figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman, and gained a respected reputation in this field, becoming the first editor of the transcendentalist journal The Dial in 1840.

In 1844, Fuller came to New York to work for Horace Greeley’s New-York Daily Tribune, one of the most influential newspapers in the country. There, she became the first full-time female book reviewer in America. She was considered one of the most well-read people in New England, and became the first woman admitted to use the library at Harvard College. In 1845, she published Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which is considered the first major feminist work in the United States. The book was based in part on a series of “Conversations” or seminars she had held for women social reformers while in Boston, to compensate for their lack of access to higher education.

In 1846, Fuller left for Europe as the Tribune’s first female international correspondent. She settled in Rome and covered the Italian revolution. She had a son with Giovanni Ossoli, whom she married; and the three of them left on a ship on May 17, 1850 to return to America. But en route to New York, their ship was wrecked in a storm and the family tragically perished.

Margaret Fuller died at only 40 years old, but left a legacy in which she is considered one of America’s first feminists. She fought fiercely for women’s rights, particularly in the areas of education and work. On May 25, 2011, she was celebrated through the Margaret Fuller Bicentennial Celebration, in Boston.

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Happy Birthday to Elizabeth Cady Stanton!

Today, November 12, is Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 200th Birthday and  
 her spirit has never been more alive.

Elizabeth_Stanton

The Unwavering Campaigner, Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Stanton, called the Unwavering Campaigner, joined up with her close friend, Susan B. Anthony, and the two tirelessly campaigned for U.S. women’s suffrage throughout the 19th century.   The countdown to the 100th anniversary of their ultimate victory has begun, and her heirs in the women’s political power movement honor Stanton’s strategies and still look forward to the day when the U.S. Senate has 51 women and the U.S. Supreme Court is five women and four men. So start looking out for celebrations.

Although Stanton died without seeing women granted the right to vote, she remains, along with Anthony, one of the best known American suffragists.

At Women’s eNews, we are particularly proud to use our women’s history walking tour to share her work with Anthony from 1868-1870 publishing a newspaper called The Revolution.

Women are often defined by their lifecyles: wife, mother, widow. I would prefer to define Stanton by her tenacity. Her life-long dedication to social and gender equality began at a time when very few people were listening.

Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton_and_Susan_B._Anthony

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with Susan B. Anthony

Many more are listening now. Here are two of our favorite Stanton quotes:

“Men, their rights and nothing more; Women, their rights and nothing less.”                                                                                                            — the motto of The Revolution.

“I shall not grow conservative with age.” 

We can take comfort in knowing that these last 200 years would not have weakened her resolve.

As an added bonus, please check out  our honoree Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner giving her stellar performance as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, at Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Gala in May 2015:

Happy September 23rd birthday to 3 of our Opening the Way women!

It seems almost too much of a coincidence, but September 23rd is the known date of birth for three pioneering women featured on our women’s history walking tour: (in order of birth) Victoria Claflin Woodhull, Emily Warren Roebling, and Louise Nevelson.

On our tour we highlight the great achievements of each woman: Victoria’s stop reveals that 111 Nassau was the location of her and her sister, Tennessee’s, newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly; Emily is forever memorialized with the Brooklyn Bridge; and Louise’s sculptures, Shadows & Flags, stand tall on her namesake plaza on Maiden Lane.

Still, the linking date September 23rd made me wonder what else these women had in common. I was surprised that it was not family background or motivations.

So I did some research into their childhoods. My inquiry centered on the question whether there was a similarity in their upbringings that caused Victoria, Emily and Louise to fight back against gender norms and expectations, and create lasting legacies of feminist leadership.

Here’s what I found out:

Victoria Claflin Woodhull, c.1860s

Victoria Woodhull, c. 1860s by Bradley & Rulofson, Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Victoria Claflin, born September 23, 1838 in Homer, Ohio, was one of a large, unstable and impoverished family. Married at just 14 years old to an older man named Canning Woodhull, a physician and alcoholic, Victoria was exposed to hardships from a young age. Victoria, Tennessee and the other Claflin children were taught to be clairvoyants, spiritualists, and “healers” and put to work by their parents to contribute to the family income. Victoria and Tennessee were incredibly close and worked side by side as clairvoyants, stockbrokers, writers, publishers, activists, campaigners and suffragists. Their reputations, especially in their early years, were scandalous. They relocated several times to avoid prosecution and the bad reputations that accompanied them.

But it was these early experiences that caused them to be so extraordinary. Victoria divorced her first husband after eleven years of marriage, and went on to marry two more times in her long life. She was an active campaigner for divorce, free love and female independence. The ideals she championed as an adult mirror the confining experiences of her childhood.

Emily Warren Roebling

Portrait of Emily Warren Roebling by Carolus-Duran, Brooklyn Museum

Emily Warren’s start in life had little in common with Victoria’s. Born in 1843 and raised by a successful, though also large, family in Putnam County, NY, she had the luxury of a childhood, unlike Victoria. They did have one important similarity: the devoted love of a sibling. The eldest brother, Gouverneur Kemble Warren took his younger sister under his wing and paid for her academic education. As a civil engineer and general in the Union Army he lived in Washington D.C. He enrolled Emily in Georgetown Visitation Convent to study history, geography, French, English, mathematics, and of course the domestic skills of housekeeping, tapestry and piano. It was Kemble who introduced Emily to Washington Roebling, who she married in 1865. Arguably it was the support and encouragement by her brother that enabled Emily to complete the Brooklyn Bridge and forever preserve the Roebling name in engineering history.

Louise Nevelson

Nevelson (fourth from left) posing for a class portrait with her classmates, 1913, unidentified photographer. Louise Nevelson papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Decades later, at the turn of the century, Louise (Leah) Berliawsky, was born in Ukraine, although September 23rd 1899 was her chosen birthday. The Jewish family immigrated to Rockland, Maine when Louise was five years old. They brought with them the skills of their family business and started a successful lumber company. But Louise always knew she wanted to be an artist. And it was the forest environment, specifically wood, that inspired and mediated her early artwork. Unlike Roebling, Louise’s family did not support her ambitions of life as an artist. At the age of 21 she married Charles Nevelson and had her son and only child quickly after.

These brief accounts expose that there were few similarities in the upbringings of Victoria, Emily and Louise.

In fact, the only thing that these three women did have in common came about after their childhoods, when they reached an important stage in women’s life cycles: marriage. But it wasn’t the marriage itself; it was their move to New York City.

Victoria was 30, Emily was 26 and Louise was 21.

The City provided them with unique opportunities on a grand metropolitan scale. It gave them the platform to thrive.

All three took the best traits they had gained in their early lives to carve a niche for themselves in New York City.

Sources:

  1. Victoria Claflin Woodhull: National Women’s History Museum; Encyclopaedia Britannica- Victoria Woodhull; M. M. Marberry, Vicky: A Biography of Victoria C. Woodhull (New York: Funk ôtWagnalls, 1967); Emanie Sachs, “The Terrible Siren”: Victoria Woodhull, 1838-1927 (New York: Harper, 1928).
  2. Emily Warren Roebling: Roebling Museum; American National Biography Online; Scandalous Women Blogspot.
  3. Louise Nevelson: The Art Story; Encyclopaedia Britannica- Louise Nevelson;  The New York Times Obituaries- Louise Nevelson Sculptor is dead at 99, 04/19/1988; Louise Nevelson Foundation.

July 16: Ida B. Wells’ 153rd Birthday!

IDA B. WELLS: 1862-1931

Anti-Lynching Journalist, Women’s Rights Advocate

Ida B. WellsA SHERO of Women’s eNews, Wells set examples and broke ground for generations of women and men through her refusal to accept the racial and sexist prejudices that cause harm, trauma and death.

July 16 is her 153rd birthday. Born in 1862, Wells worked and lived as a teacher, a journalist, a suffragist, an activist, a founder, a politician, and much more. She was a pioneer who left us many reasons to celebrate her.

As a women’s news organization, we are especially drawn to her work as an investigative journalist at the turn of the century.

In 1892, the newspaper owned by Ida B. Wells in Memphis, Tenn., was burned to the ground in response to her editorial condemning the lynching of three of her friends. Wells fled Memphis and continued her blistering journalistic attacks on Southern injustices, being especially active in investigating and exposing the fraudulent “reasons” given to lynch black men, which had become common in the 1890s. Born a slave and a former school teacher, Wells became a national figure in the anti-lynching movement and wrote “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.” She also became a tireless worker for women’s suffrage and joined in the famous 1913 march for universal suffrage in Washington, D.C. Throughout her life, she continued her passionate advocacy against lynching and for women’s rights. In 1930, a year before her death, she ran for a seat in the state legislature, becoming one of the first African American women to stand for public office. — Lee D. Baker, published by Women’s eNews

Opening the Way features Wells as our 16th stop marking her connection to Cedar Street in downtown Manhattan. This was the location of T.T. Fortune’s New York Age, an African-American and influential newspaper, where her article was published after the office of her own paper Free Speech was attacked in retaliation to her investigation and reporting on the lynching of black men accused of raping white women.

To hear how Ida B. Wells’ described this moment in her life, watch Carol Jenkins reading Wells’ words:

Carol Jenkins is a writer, producer, and Emmy award-winning former television anchor and correspondent. She spent 30 years with news departments throughout New York City, hosted her own daily talk show, and was also president of the Women’s Media Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to make women visible in the media. She is especially well-known for the 23 years she spent with WNBC-TV in New York, where she co-anchored the 6:00 newscast. Her talk show was called Carol Jenkins Live and was shown on WNYW-TV. Jenkins is the author, with her daughter Elizabeth Gardner Hines, of Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire, which was chosen by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association as one of the best books of 2004 in non-fiction. She is currently working on another book, and her articles have appeared in various journals and anthologies. She has served on the boards of the Feminist Press and the Ms. Foundation for Women. 

Ida B. WellsTo learn more about Wells and her accomplishments see Our History page at womensenews.org

And to join Women’s eNews for our women’s history walking tour featuring Wells, contact us at 212-244-1744 or openingtheway@womensenews.org