Seven Who Led the Battles

 

8. Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Unwavering Campaigner

Click here to listen to Sally Roesch Wagner speak as Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The " Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton Corner" honors the place where these two suffragists published their newspaper, The Revolution, from 1868 to 1870. It was just across the street in an earlier building at Thirty-seven Park Row, where the red terra-cotta stands now. The Anthony-Stanton office was Room Seventeen, on the fourth floor, and Stanton daily walked down and up to deliver copy to the printer. The Revolution was outspoken, even strident, in insisting that women be enfranchised simultaneously with the newly freed African Americans. It suffered severe criticism for its position. In this 1869 dispatch from Galena, Illinois, President Grant's home town, Stanton anticipated a day when all women and black men would be able to vote:

Dear Revolution: Your patriotic heart will palpitate to think that the women of The Revolution have taken possession of the home of the President, and propose to hold a Woman Suffrage Convention right under the very shadow of his flagstaff . . . . . We have had a most enthusiastic meeting . . . . Theodore Tilton had just preceded us, and some ladies laughingly told us that Theodore said they would certainly vote in twenty years! . . . Why, Mr. Tilton, when you go to the Senate some wise woman will sit on your right, and some black man on your left. You are to pay the penalty of your theorizing and be sandwiched between a woman and a black man in all the laws and constitutions before five years pass over your curly head. Twenty years! Why, Theodore, we expect to be walking the golden streets of the New Jerusalem by that time . . . . Do you not know, Theodore, that we have vowed never to go disfranchised into the Kingdom of Heaven? In the meantime, we propose to discuss sanitary and sumptuary laws, finance, and free trade, religion and railroads, education and elections with such worthies as yourself in the councils of the American republic. Twenty years! Why, every white male in the nation will be tied to an apron-string by that time, while all the poets and philosophers will be writing essays on "The Sphere of Man"!

Votes for women did not come in five, or twenty years, but fifty long years later.


9. Susan B. Anthony: Tireless Traveler

Click here to listen to Lynn Sherr speak as Susan B. Anthony.

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Stanton's collaborator, Susan B. Anthony, carried their campaign for women's suffrage wherever she could find an audience to hear her out. She told a crowd in 1893:

I had an experience in publishing a paper about twenty-five years ago and I came to grief. I never hear of a woman starting a suffrage paper that my blood does not tingle with agony for what that poor soul will have to endure -- the same agony I went through. I feel, however, that we shall never become an immense power in the world until we concentrate all our money and editorial forces upon one great national daily newspaper, so we can sauce back our opponents every day in the year; once a month or once a week is not enough.

The time has come when women should organize a stock company and run a newspaper on their own basis. When woman has a newspaper which fear and favor cannot touch, then it will be that she can freely write her own thoughts. I do not mean that any individual woman should strive to get a newspaper of her own, but that all should combine. . . .

We need a daily paper edited and composed according to woman's own thoughts, and not as a woman thinks a man wants her to think and write. As it is now, the men who control the finances control the paper. As long as we occupy our present position we are mentally and morally in the power of the men who engineer the finances. Horace Greeley once said that women ought not to expect the same pay for work that men received. He advised women to go down into New Jersey, buy a parcel of ground, and go to raising strawberries. Then when they came up to New York with their strawberries, the men wouldn't dare to offer them half price for their produce. I say, my journalistic sisters, that it is high time we were raising our own strawberries on our own land.


10. Maria (Midy) Morgan: Reporter with Muddy Boots

Click here to listen to Betsy Wade read an excerpt from the obituary of Maria (Midy) Morgan.

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A smaller building erected at 41 Park Row in 1858, as attested by a plaque there, was the first built by a New York newspaper, The Times. Expanded twice, it is now the last surviving newspaper building on Park Row itself. In 1869, the Irish-born Maria Morgan, known as Midy, got a job there covering the stockyards, race meets, and horse auctions. She has been identified as the first woman reporter permitted to enter the city room of The Times, and with her great height and stockyard boots, she soon became a striking figure on Newspaper Row. Yet no one dared laugh; even princes prized her advice on horseflesh. Morgan continued at the Times until she died in 1892, having lived long enough to move into the expanded building there now. Her obituary in the 1892 Times was long and admiring:

Towering well above the average man, with more than six feet to her credit, and clad in roomy serge, stout shoes showing to the ankles, and a bonnet defiant of wind and rain, she passed along at a swinging gait with more momentum to it than most men would venture to check. But this odd exterior housed qualities of heart and mind which won and kept friends for her and commanded respect and professional success. . . . Miss Morgan was one of the first women to take up daily newspaper work in this city, and was called a pioneer. The designation was deserved in more senses than one, for, while women have followed her, they have not gone into her field. She stood alone in the specialties she cultivated.


11. Jenny June, Hewer of New Paths

 

Click here to listen to Rita Henley Jensen speak as Jenny June

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A little farther down Park Row was Number Thirty-Two, now vanished, the home of the New York World in its earliest days. Jane Cunningham Croly, who used the byline Jenny June, became women's department editor of The World in 1862, but there was almost no paper in town she did not write or work for, including the Weekly Dispatch, Noah's Sunday Times and the Daily Graphic. In 1868, signing only her initials, she nervily applied for a ticket to the dinner being tendered by the Press Club of New York at Delmonico's honoring Charles Dickens as he completed his tour of the country. She was found out and rejected; no women need apply. She responded by convening a number of female colleagues and forming a plan to give women a club of their own, the first of its kind. They called it Sorosis, which did not mean sisterhood but a flowering plant. Later, she also fostered the creation of the Women's Press Club of New York. In mid-career, this pioneer was asked why more women had not followed her into daily journalism. She replied:

Sex alone, not at all capacity. There are plenty of women who would be preferred as workers to men, if they were not women. But men are not accustomed to act with women from a business point of view, and their presence oppresses them. They will stand carelessness, negligence, even drunkenness from a man, because that is in the regular order of things, but a woman, without trial, is generally understood to be a "nuisance" in a newspaper office. Then, it is true that they cannot as yet be put upon subordinate routine work. A large part of the work of a daily paper has to be done at night, and editors say, with truth, that a sense of impropriety attaches to the idea of a woman going unattended to night meetings for the purpose of reporting them, returning late to the office, writing her report and traveling home alone after midnight. Still, there are many things that a woman can do upon a daily journal, and women could be used upon them much more than they are, with benefit to the journals themselves.


12. Augusta Lewis: Organizer of Working Women

Click here to listen to Kathleen Turner speak as Augusta Lewis.

In the 1860s, 26 Ann Street held the offices of the weekly New York Era. There the teenage Augusta Lewis, a precocious graduate of Manhattanville Convent of the Sacred Heart, went to learn typesetting, entirely a hand process in those days. She soon became one of the swiftest and most accurate in the trade. In those days, women printers were often hired to scab – that is, to supply cheap help during labor disputes with unionized printers. But Gussie Lewis would have none of that. The suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton had her fired when Lewis tried to organize a union in the printing shop of Stanton's newspaper. In response, Lewis organized the first and only chapter of the Women's Typographical Union and, at the 1870 convention of the National Typographical Union, read this petition:

We beg to call your attention to the large number of women working at the trade, whose neglected interests, uncared-for welfare, and disorganized labor are obstacles to your perfect organization, a detriment to the trade, and disastrous to the best interests of printers. Heretofore women compositors have been used to defeat the object for which you have organized--have been the prey of those philanthropic persons who employ women because they are cheap--their labor has been used during strikes to defeat you. When that object has been accomplished they are set adrift, disorganized and unprotected, their necessity compelling them to work for a price at which they cannot earn a living, and which tends to undermine your wages. In view of these facts, and the injustice we have done you, as well as ourselves, and believing the interests of Labor--whether that labor be done by male or female--are identical, and should receive the same protection and the same pay, we, the women compositors of New York, have taken the initiative in this, and formed the Women's Typographical Union No. 1, of New York.

Although the petition succeeded, equality for women printers lay far in the future. Lewis herself served as an officer of the national union, then left the trade to marry a typographical union officer, who founded a pro-union newspaper in New Haven. Today a school in New Haven is named for her.


13. Victoria Woodhull: Prophet of Women's Power

Click here to listen to Barbara Goldsmith speak as Victoria Woodhull.

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The formidable sisters Victoria Woodhull and Tennie C. Claflin published Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly at 111 Nassau Street until 1876. The sisters started as stock traders farther south at Forty-four Broad Street. But those sisters march right into history with journalism and politics. Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, begun in the early 1870s, exposed the adultery of the famed Brooklyn preacher, Henry Ward Beecher. Their frank accounts of the scandal sent Victoria Woodhull to jail on obscenity charges. The weekly closed but reopened at this site on Nassau Street. Shortly before Victoria began her newspaper, she gave this speech in Apollo Hall that made her stand on women's rights explicitly clear:

I have asked for equality nothing more. . . . Sexual freedom means the abolition of prostitution both in and out of marriage, means the emancipation of woman from sexual slavery and her coming into ownership and control of her own body, means the end of her pecuniary dependence upon man . . . means the abrogation of forced pregnancy, of . . . undesired children and the birth of love children only . . .

Rise and declare . . . yourself free. Women are entirely unaware of their power. Like an elephant led by a string they are subordinated by . . . just those who are most interested in holding them in slavery. If the very next Congress refuses women all the legitimate results of citizenship . . . we shall proceed to call another convention expressly to frame a new constitution and to erect a new government . . . We mean treason, we mean secession, and on a thousand times grander scale than was that of the South. We are plotting revolution.


14. Emily Warren Roebling: Engineer of City's Growth

Click here to listen to Dr. Patricia Galloway speak as Emily Warren Roebling.

Click here to watch a video of this footage.

The arches of the Brooklyn Bridge might not have been finished in 1883 had it not been for Emily Warren Roebling. After her husband, Washington Roebling, suffered decompression sickness, she took over, as "Field Engineer," the execution of what the American Institute of Architects calls "New York's supreme icon." Because creating the first bridge over the East River took so long, there were anxieties about its soundness. Delivering a plea that she and her husband be permitted to finish the work, she became the first woman to address the American Society of Civil Engineers. Early in May 1883, Emily Roebling was the first passenger to cross the completed bridge.

Of the opening ceremonies, The New York Times reported:

Among the many parties made up to attend the opening ceremonies was what Mrs. Roebling called her "bridge party," and was composed of a few friends from Trenton, New-York, and Brooklyn. Twenty-five carriages carried the guests, Mrs. Roebling occupying the first, a handsome new Victoria, drawn by two magnificent sorrel horses with bright and new harness. They were driven by the coachman who drove Mrs. Roebling across the bridge a short time ago.

After the formal opening, the bridge began to create a bigger city. Ten years later, the city of Brooklyn annexed adjoining towns to encompass all of Kings County. In fifteen years, the bridge helped unite Manhattan with the four other counties to form Greater New York. And engraved on the bridge, with her husband's name, is that of Emily Warren Roebling.

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