Women’s History Month: Inez Millholand, American Suffragist

By Katia Miazzo

Inez Millholand is known for her passionate and some might say aggressive activism for women’s rights. She led the Woman Suffrage Procession. But before she could lead the revolution let’s dive into her early years. Inez was born in 1886 in Brooklyn, New York. She was born into a wealthy family which gave her many opportunities to receive a great education. Her father was a news reporter and editorial writer for the New York Tribune. Her father also supported many progressive movements such as world peace, civil rights, and women’s suffrage. This helped spark her passion for these movements as well. Inez attended Vassar College, her time in Vassar consisted of protests and organizing women’s rights meetings. She was actually suspended for organizing such meetings. Inez organized protests and petitions that gathered a lot of support and attention. These acts were forbidden in Vassar. After she graduated from Vassar, she tried applying to Yale University, Harvard University and Cambridge but they denied her acceptance because she was a woman. She later got accepted into New York University School of Law. She became a great lawyer who fought for prison reform and equality for African Americans. She was involved in several organizations such as; the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the Women’s Trade Union League. An inspiring fact about Inez is that she was so determined to uncover the cruel conditions in prisons that she handcuffed herself to one only for her to see the true experiences that inmates suffered.

Millholand’s first suffrage event was in 1911. After that event, she quickly became the face of the women’s suffrage movement. She led several of those events/parades. There’s an image of her riding a horse in a white cape leading the procession a day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. She worked closely with the Suffrage leader Alice Paul. One of Inez’s missions was to gain support for women’s right to vote. In her speeches, she was a strong advocate for this and that women could help lead the country toward a better path by having the right to vote on important issues. In her personal life, it was reported that Inez proposed to Eugen Boissevain in 1913. They later ended their marriage due to her husband not being an American citizen. In the last years of her life, she got sick from pernicious anemia. She didn’t let that stop her from traveling and spreading the word. She decided to tour around the West in 1916 to advocate for women’s rights but she collapsed during a speech in California and died a month later.

Her final words she spoke were, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”

Women’s History Month: Sojourner Truth

By Morgan Clark

Sojourner Truth is known for her work as an abolitionist and her work in the Civil War that caught the attention of President Abraham Lincoln. Born Isabella Baumfree in 1797, she was born into slavery in New York and was sold to her first slave master at the age of 9. He was known to beat and abuse his slaves regularly. At the age of 13, she was sold again to her second slave master. Around 1815, Isabella was forced to marry a slave and bore five children, after being forced apart from the man she loved.

In 1827 she ran away to freedom, after her master did not honor his promise to free her and the other slaves. She ended up in New Paltz, New York, with her newborn daughter. There, she was taken in by the Wagenens, who eventually paid for her freedom for $20. Isabella then sued her previous slave master for illegally selling her son, Peter. She was the first black woman to sue a white man and win. In 1829, she moved her family to New York City,  where she became a Christian and became heavily involved in the Church. She worked closely with two preachers. In 1843 she renamed herself Sojourner Truth because she believed it was her religious obligation to go out and speak the truth. The year after she joined a Massachusetts abolitionist group, where she metFredrick Douglas who had a great influence on her career as an abolitionist.

In 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Right Convention Sojourner Truth gave her famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” which addressed the intersection of being a woman and black in that time period. During the convention, she met women’s activists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Lady Stanton.

During the Civil War, Sojourner Truth was an advocate for young men to join the Union. She was able to organize supplies for the young men. Because of her work, she was invited to the White House and recruited to be involved with the Freedmen’s Bureau. She was able to find jobs for freed slaves. During this time, she tried to lobby against segregation and fought to give land to freed slaves. Sojourner Truth was a woman ahead of her time, speaking of intersectionality before it was a term and knowing that segregation was wrong. She died at her home on November 26, 1883. Her tombstone stating, “Is God Dead?” refers to a question she asked her colleague Fredrick Douglas to remind him to stay faithful.

Women’s History Month: Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez

By Brianna Green

It’s astonishing how many people, how many women, get left out of history and important movements. Throughout high school and some college courses, I’ve learned about the Women’s Suffrage Movement. However, I have never heard of Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez until I was assigned to write a blog about her. I’m so happy I was assigned to her though. De Lopez was an incredible woman in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, especially within the Hispanic and Spanish communities.

According to the National Women’s History Museum, de Lopez was born in Los Angeles, California in 1881. She was born to immigrant parents; her father having been born in Mexico (Brandman). Being that one of her parents came from Mexico, de Lopez grew up bilingual. This fact is very important because it later assists her suffrage work, but it also influenced her career choice. She attended college to become a teacher. After college, de Lopez taught English as a second language and later, with her sister, ran her own Spanish-language school out of her home (Brandman). In addition to this, de Lopez was also doing translation work on the side and eventually became an instructor at the University of California (Brandman).

According to the article “Suffragists You Need to Meet: Maria Guadalupe Evangelina Lopez,” in 1911, de Lopez was active in Los Angeles Votes for Women Club; she organized rallies and spoke about women’s right to vote in English and in Spanish. Also according to this article, de Lopez is typically accredited with “being the first in the state to deliver suffrage speeches in Spanish” (MyLO). In October of 1922, the suffrage proposition passed in California and de Lopez was considered a leading suffragist in Los Angeles (Brandman).

However, this incredible woman didn’t just help during the Women’s Suffrage Movement, but also during the first World War! Noted in “Suffragists You Need to Meet: Maria Guadalupe Evangelina Lopez,” when the US entered the war, she became an ambulance driver In New York City and traveled to France to do the same. Over a decade later, from 1937 until 1938, she became the president of the UCLA’s Faculty Women’s Club (Brandman). De Lopez died in 1977 on November 20 and is buried at San Gabriel Christian Church in Los Angeles (Brandman).

I hope you enjoyed learning about this wonderful woman in history, I know I did!

Resources

Brandman, By: Mariana. “Maria Guadalupe Evangelina De Lopez.” National Women’s History Museum, www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/maria-guadalupe-evangelina-de-lopez. 

“Suffragists You Need to Meet: Maria Guadalupe Evangelina Lopéz.” MyLO, 30 Apr. 2020, my.lwv.org/california/diablo-valley/article/suffragists-you-need-meet-maria-guadalupe-evangelina-lop%C3%A9z. 

 

Women’s History Month: Maria Stewart, Groundbreaking Activist

By Katia Milazzo

Maria Stewart is well known for her work as a women’s rights activist. In her early years, she lost her parents at a young age. She was forced to become a servant for a white household. She didn’t have the opportunity to have a proper education, but she did learn from the books in the household in which she was living. After several years there, she left and married to James Stewart, a veteran of the War of 1812. He died and left money for Maria. After her husband died, this resulted in her going back to being a household servant.

In 1831, Stewart wrote several essays for William Garrison to publish in the Liberator. Stewart’s twelve-page essay called Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality called African Americans to rally against slavery and resist the cruel actions that were inflicted on them. One of her famous quotes, “How long, shall the fair daughters of Africa be compelled to bury their minds and talents beneath a load of iron pots and kettles?” Stewart was a woman of faith and she encouraged other women to be faithful, but she also called for them to stand up for their rights. It’s refreshing to hear that a woman of faith not only valued her faith, but she didn’t let that stop her from supporting women’s rights. Stewart started to make public appearances, giving speeches that would carry on for decades. She was the first woman to ever speak in public places about women’s rights and politics. She joins powerful women such as Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth in advocating for what’s right. Stewart later used some of the money from her husband’s pension to publish new editions of her essays and writings. Stewart died at the hospital she worked at in 1879. Her legacy proves that her work would last years and years later. In reference to words of Hamilton the Musical, she planted seeds in a garden of freedom and equality that not only grew then but continues to grow now and the years to come.

 

Women’s History Month: Dr. Mabel Ping Hua-Lee

By Morgan Clark

When we think of women’s suffrage leaders we usually think of Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and maybe Ida B. Wells. But no one speaks about Dr. Mabel Ping Hua-Lee, who had the same amount of influence in the movement. Born in Hong Kong, Mabel Lee and her family moved to America in 1905 after she won a scholarship that provided her and her family visas. They settled in Chinatown in New York City where she attended Erasmus Hall Academy in Brooklyn.

At the age of 15, Mabel Lee was a figure in the New York City suffragist movement. She helped lead a parade for women’s rights, attended by up to ten thousand people. In 1912 she began her studies at Barnard College, an all-women’s school. She began to write essays on feminism for The Chinese Students’ Monthly.  One of her popular essays was “The Meaning of Woman Suffrage” in which she argued that suffrage would lead to a successful democracy. In 1915 Lee was invited to give a speech at the Women’s Political Union. In her speech “The Submerged Hall” she advocated for education for girls and civic participation from women in the Chinese community. The 19th Amendment passed in 1917 allowing women to vote— white women. Mabel Lee and others were not able to vote because of the color of their skin and laws that stopped women of color from voting.

After graduating from Barnard College, Lee pursued her Ph.D. in economics at the Columbia University, becoming the first Chinese woman to do so. After school Dr. Mabel Lee published her research in book form, naming it The Economic History of China. Dr. Mabel Lee became the director of the First Chinese Baptist Church of New York City after the passing of her father. She founded the Chinese Christian Center a little bit after, providing classes for English and health clinics. She dedicated her life to the Chinese Community until her death in 1966.

Women’s History Month: Zitkala-Ša

By Mia Lukic

“Gertrude Kasebier Photo of Zitkala Sa, Sioux Indian and activist” by National Museum of American History is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Zitkala-Ša was an empowering activist who fought for native rights and played a role in the fight for suffrage. She was born on February 22, 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. At only eight years old Zitkala-Ša was taken from her home and placed in White’s Indiana Manual Labor Institute, a residential school that, like many others across the country, forced assimilation on native children. Here, Zitkala-Ša was given the name Gertrude Simmons, her beautiful and meaningful long hair was chopped off and her personal beliefs dismissed as she was forced to pray as a Quaker.

The school impacted Zitkala-Ša greatly, in positive and negative ways. She loved school and learning, especially learning to play music and she went on to become a music teacher at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Carlisle was an assimilation school like Zitkala-Ša had attended herself, a place where native children were taken to after being ripped away from their homes and forced to accept and act in ways that were favorable to the white teachers. The founder of Carlisle is quoted to have said “kill the Indian in him, and save the man”, in reference to what they did at the school.

The assimilation attempts and disconnect from her culture and heritage left her feeling stuck in a limbo between worlds. She tried multiple times to return to the reservation she was from, but was too upset by both the personal separation the school had made and the state of the reservation after years of white settlers occupying the land and the negative results of those actions.

A talented writer, Zitkala-Ša started writing for magazines about her experiences and her heritage. She wrote out against assimilation and boarding schools that tore children away from their families and communities. She even wrote down many stories from her tribe and culture to share with the white communities as means to humanize and share the rich cultures native people have, in an attempt to slow the push for assimilation. Zitkala-Ša even wrote the first native written opera, based on a sacred Sioux dance that was illegal in the eyes of the United States Government. The opera was a piece of art that expressed her feeling of being caught between two worlds, and her desire to connect the two.

She eventually went on to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Society of American Indians where she fought hard for native rights, against assimilation, and lobbied for American citizenship. She argued that as the original people of America, indigenous people had a right to be citizens and be represented in government with the right to vote. Zitkala-Ša moved to Washington DC and fought for what she believed in even after the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act passed. While this act granted citizenship it did not prevent states from deciding who had a right to vote and who did not. Zitkala-Ša devoted her entire life to fighting for native rights and was incredibly passionate about suffrage, creating voting registration drives and working to make voting accessible for all natives. She died in 1928 and the last state granted natives the right to vote thirty-four years later in 1962. Even then, much like the Jim Crow laws that were used against Black voters, natives faced literacy tests and taxes and general discouragement.

Zitkala-Ša was a driven and passionate woman who fought for native rights and the right to vote for all. Her role in the suffrage movement is not nearly as covered by the media nor textbooks but it was and is incredibly important and powerful.

Sources

https://www.history.com/news/native-american-voting-rights-citizenship

https://www.nps.gov/people/zitkala-sa.htm

 

 

Celebrating Women’s History

By Elise Wantling

March is National Women’s History Month, a time for focusing on the rich history of women here in the United States and around the world. This year’s celebrations are particularly special because this year, 2020, marks 100 years since the passage of the 19th amendment which officially granted some women the right to vote in elections in the United States (it wasn’t until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed racial discrimination in voting, that all women were granted the right to vote). Here at the Women’s Center, we are hoping to use our platforms this Women’s History Month to uplift lesser-known or often forgotten women of the revolution. My personal goal as the social media intern and head of the Women’s History Month programming is to teach you about at least one new event or woman of history that you did not know about prior to this month.

For example, did you know the first female mayor was elected more than 30 years before women were legally allowed to vote in elections? Her name was Susanna M. Salter, and not only was she the first female mayor, but also the one of the first women in the US to hold any form of elected office. She was elected mayor of her small town in Kansas in 1887. A group of men trying to undermine the women’s rights movement put her on the ballot as a prank.  But upon finding out she was on the ballot, she said she would accept the duty if elected. She won and served for a year, before choosing not to seek re-election.

Then there is Shirley Chisolm, another barrier-breaking woman I feel does not get enough recognition. In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to Congress. She also put in a serious bid to run for President of the United States, making her the first black candidate to represent a major party in the Presidential race and the first woman to run for president on behalf of the Democratic party. In 2015 she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we will be holding a whole week of trivia on our Facebook and Instagram from March 9th to March 13th. Each day we will post a new trivia question and whoever answers correctly will be entered into a daily drawing for a prize. Then, on Wednesday, March 11th, we will have a trivia table in Royall Hall, where we will be asking trivia questions and offering prizes to those who answer correctly. The trivia table will be from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm, so come on out and join us!

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal

By Tatiahna Turner

Born September 21, 1965, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is known as an American politician and activist. She currently serves as the U.S. Representative from Washington’s seventh congressional district. She is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jayapal was born in Chennai, India and was raised in Indonesia and Singapore. She immigrated to the United States in 1982, at the age of 16 to attend college. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and her master’s degree from Northwestern University.

After the September 11 attacks, Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone as an advocacy group for immigrants. Hate Free Zone registered new American citizens to vote and lobbied on immigration reform and related issues. The group successfully sued the Bush Administration’s Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis across the country. The name of the group was changed from Hate Free Zone to OneAmerica in 2008. In May of 2012, Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in the group and in 2013 was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change.”

Jayapal also served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, and co-chaired the Mayor’s police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city’s first woman police chief. After State Senator Adam Kline announced his retirement, Jayapal entered the race to succeed him. She went on the win in the race for Senator against Democrat Louis Watanabe in November of 2014.

In January of 2016, Jayapal announced her candidacy for Congress in Washington’s seventh congressional district. In April of 2016, she received an endorsement from Bernie Sanders, and on August 2, 2016, Jayapal finished first in the top-two primary, alongside state representative Brady Walkinshaw. In the end, Jayapal won the election with 56 percent of the vote.

The Legacy of Berta Càceres

By Korrien Hopkins

Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores was a Honduran activist of the Lenca people. 

She was born March 4, 1973 and grew up witnessing the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980’s. Her mother, Austra Bertha Flores Lopez, was a great role model for humanitarianism. She was a midwife and social activist who took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people. Austra Flores served as two-term mayor of their hometown of La Esperanza, as a congressional representative, and as a governor of the Department of Intibucá

With the great influence of her mother, Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, at the age of 19, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging. This organization fought for their territorial rights and to improve their livelihoods.

In 2006, community members from Rio Blanco came to COPINH asking for help. They had witnessed an influx of machinery and construction equipment coming into their town. They had no idea what the construction was for or who was behind the project and asked Cáceres to investigate. What they did know was that there was a threat against the Gualcarque river which was a place of spiritual importance to the Lenca people and viewed as sacred land.

Cáceres responded to this threat by filing complaints with government authorities, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and by appealing to businesses that were funding the dam to withdraw support. Those efforts proved unsuccessful, however, and in 2013 Cáceres organized a human blockade of the road to access the construction site. The blockade stayed in place for more than a year, and protests continued to take place thereafter. Criminal charges were filed against Cáceres, and she and other activists were routinely threatened with kidnap and murder. After one protest leader was killed in 2013, Sinohydro, the Chinese partner of the Honduran company building the Agua Zarca Dam, withdrew from the project, and the International Finance Corporation later withdrew its support. Cáceres was later murdered in her home due to a fatal gunshot wound.

Despite her tragic death, Cáceres continues to be a great inspiration to many. She was a prominent figure in a very strong movement. Looking at current events like the protest at Standing Rock, we can see the attacks against indigenous tribal lands continue to rise. The fight that indigenous people continually face is a reminder that Cáceres was one person who has moved thousands, a single life turned into countless calls for justice.

Berta no murió. Se multiplicó. Berta didn’t die. She multiplied.

 

Isabel González

By Tatiahna Turner

Isabel González was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When the island came to be under ownership of the United States through the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, González still resided on the island. One condition of the treaty was to transfer allegiance of the islanders to the United States. Under the Treaty of Paris, Puerto Rico was classified as “unincorporated territory” which meant that citizens of Puerto Rico did not have the protection from the United States Constitution that Americans did, including the right to United States citizenship. In short, the island belonged to the United States but was not a part of the United States. There were many factors that played a part in why the United States was not granting Puerto Ricans citizenship, one reason was the belief that the Puerto Rican population was considered to be racially and socially inferior to Americans. An 1899 letter published in the New York Times described Puerto Ricans as, “uneducated, simple-minded and harmless people who were only interested in wine, women, music and dancing.”

González’s fiancé, Juan Francisco Torres traveled to New York City in 1902, leaving her behind, pregnant and with another child from a previous marriage. He left with the intention of finding a job in a factory in Linoleumville, Staten Island. González was to join her fiancé there and they were to marry after he found a place to live. In August of 1902, González traveled from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York. Normally the steamship she boarded would dock at the Port of New York, but during her travels the United States Treasury Department’s Immigration Commissioner, General F. P. Sargent issued new immigration guidelines that changed Puerto Ricans status to “aliens”. As a result, when González arrived on August 4, 1902 her and other passengers were taken to Ellis Island. González was detained upon arrival by the Immigration Commissioner as an “alien immigrant” with the intention of deporting her. When immigration officials learned of her pregnancy the Board of Special Inquiry opened a file on her.

The next day a hearing was held for González. Her uncle, Domingo Collazo, and her brother, Luis González joined her. During the hearing her family had to answer questions that vouched for her character and independence in a manner that would convince the court that she would not be a burden to the state’s welfare system. These attempts failed and her fiancé’s absence (due to work requirements) played a part in the court’s decision to stop González from being allowed to enter into the United States. After her loss, González appealed her case to the Supreme Court and focused on the issue that all Puerto Ricans were citizens of the United States, and as a result shouldn’t be detained, treated as aliens, or denied entry to the United States. The case, which became known as Gonzáles v. Williams, was argued in the U.S. Supreme Court on December 4 and 7 of 1903. González, who was out on bond, secretly married her fiancé and thus became “a citizen of this country through marriage” and acquired the right to remain stateside. She could have ended her appeal, but she instead decided to press her claim that all Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens. On January 4, 1904, the Court determined that under the immigration laws, González was not an alien, and therefore could not be denied entry into New York. The court, however declined to declare that she was a U.S. citizen. The question of the citizenship status of the inhabitants of the new island territories, and their situation remained confusing, ambiguous, and contested. Puerto Ricans came to be known as something in between: “noncitizen nationals.” However, in 1917 triggered by the efforts of Isabel González, Congress extended citizenship to Puerto Ricans.

Through her determination and perseverance, Isabel González helped pave the way for the rights of Puerto Ricans. She died on June 11, 1971 and is buried with her husband at Holy Cross Cemetery in New Jersey. Her legacy continues through her great-granddaughter, Belinda Torres-Mary, who actively pursues information regarding her great-grandmother’s history and immigration struggles.