William Still and The Underground Railroad

In 1872 William Still published The Underground Railroad, a book describing the accounts of African Americans who had escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad.  Still, an influential leader in the abolitionist movement, provided first hand assistance to hundreds of people escaping slavery.  The Underground Railroad is notable because it is the only first person history of the Underground Railroad written and published by an African American.

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Frederick Douglass, The 15th Amendment, and White Women’s Racism in the Suffrage Movement

Abolitionists and suffragists shared activist spaces as early as the mid-19th century. However, though members often overlapped, shared goals and spoke to the same crowds, talks of the 15th Amendment caused rifts in each movement after the Civil War. 

Women’s rights activists like Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton got their start in abolition. Mott helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society, of which women made up a significant percentage. They formed local women-only branches including the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, notable for its promotion of racial and gender equality and inclusion of Black women as leaders and members. 

Additionally, some well-known abolitionists like Gerrit Smith and Frederick Douglass voiced support for the women’s rights movement. Douglass spoke at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 and was one of 32 men who signed the Declaration of Sentiments there. In 1866 he co-founded the American Equal Rights Association alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The organization demanded universal suffrage in the United States. 

However, supporting universal suffrage eventually proved a daunting and dangerous task for Black men, whom Douglass argued faced prejudice and violence that made their need for the vote more urgent. Though he never abandoned support for women’s suffrage, Douglass began to fight for the passage of the 15th Amendment, which aimed to enfranchise men of all races, but not women. After the passage of the 15th Amendment, Douglass wholeheartedly supported a new amendment meant to enfranchise women and thanked women’s rights activists for their support of Black liberation. In 1888, he spoke before the International Council of Women, in Washington, D.C.: 

“All good causes are mutually helpful. The benefits accruing from this movement for the equal rights of woman are not confined or limited to woman only. They will be shared by every effort to promote the progress and welfare of mankind everywhere and in all ages. It was an example and a prophecy of what can be accomplished against strongly opposing forces, against time-hallowed abuses, against deeply entrenched error, against worldwide usage, and against the settled judgment of mankind, by a few earnest women, clad only in the panoply of truth, and determined to live and die in what they considered a righteous cause.”

Despite Douglass’s steadfast support of women’s enfranchisement, his support for the 15th Amendment felt like a betrayal to white suffragists. Established alliances between abolitionists and suffragists fell to pieces, and many white women who got their start in abolition voiced disdain for the nation’s prioritization of Black enfranchisement. 

Unable to agree on a position about the 15th Amendment, white suffragists split into two main organizations. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, which argued that women should demand the 15th Amendment also include women’s suffrage. Those who supported the passage of the amendment as-is joined the American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone and her husband Henry Brown Blackwell. 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton preached that the 15th Amendment would “create an antagonism everywhere between educated, refined women and the lower orders of men, especially in the South.” Read “lower orders” as immigrants and freed slaves; in the same speech she asked her audience to “think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung, who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a republic, who cannot read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling book, making laws for … Susan B. Anthony.” 

Still, in the face of racism from the movement’s leaders, Douglass argued for women’s rights until his death. 

Take a look at Frederick Douglass in SCUA’s Digital Collections at these links: 

Portrait of Frederick Douglass, undated
Engraving of Frederick Douglass, 1845
Engraving of Frederick Douglass, circa 1855
Engraving of Frederick Douglass, circa 1881
Photograph of Frederick Douglass, circa 1893

This item is featured along others about suffrage in the exhibition Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America.


Post by Rigby Philips
History, specializing in women’s history and the history of sexuality
(2021)

Finding Aid Update for the Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott

As we come back from winter break, you may be looking for something to keep you in the holiday spirit.  Well there’s no better place to look than the Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott!  You can now view and request individual items from this collection through the updated finding aid, making it easier than ever to access these timeless stories. 

The Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott contains numerous editions of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, including everything from a first edition copy of the novel, a Danish translation, an edition from 1995, and more!  Seeing how Little Women has been interpreted throughout time and across countries can allow you to experience this classic story in new ways.  The Carolyn Davis collection also contains other works by Alcott such as Hospital Sketches and Rose in Bloom and works about Alcott and her family.

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The Shelleys, Godwins, and Wollstonecrafts in Literature and Rare Books

What do anarchism, science fiction, women’s rights, and Romanticism have in common?  One family!  William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Percy Shelley wrote in different genres but the writings of all four continue to provoke thought and provide enjoyment centuries later.  You can learn more about this fascinating family by viewing their works in Hornbake Library’s Literature and Rare Books collection!

William Godwin was a British philosopher, novelist, and a radical critic of British government and society in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Godwin was a proponent of utilitarianism and anarchism, and many of the radical critiques of these schools of thought can be found in his writings.  For example in St. Leon: A Tale of the Sixteenth Century Godwin ponders the value of the aristocracy and questions what truly makes people free.

In 1797, Godwin married Mary Wollstonecraft.  Like Godwin, Wollstonecraft was an author and philosopher.  Wollstonecraft is best known for writing a Vindication of the Rights of Women,  a work that was highly influential on the early women’s rights movement.  In Vindication, Wollstonecraft argues that a lack of education, rather than inherent differences due to sex, is what prevents women from achieving the same things as men.  You can find both the 1794 edition and the 1796 edition in the Literature and Rare Books collection.

Godwin and Wollstonecraft had one daughter, Mary.  Wollstonecraft died shortly after Mary’s birth and Mary was raised by her father and step-mother.  At age 16, Mary met the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Percy, despite his aristocratic birth, was a follower of Godwin’s radical political views.  Despite the fact that Percy was already married, the two fell in love and fled along with Mary’s stepsister, Claire, to Switzerland.

In Switzerland, Mary would write Frankenstein, her best known work. Hornbake has several fascinating editions of Frankenstein such as a specialty edition given out to the armed forces during World War II and an edition featuring engravings from the acclaimed artist Lynd Ward.

While Frankenstein is what Mary is most well known for, she continued to write in a variety of genres after it was published.  Her novel Lodore follows a widow and her daughter as they struggle to find their way in a patriarchal culture after the death of her husband.  Mary also wrote a travel narrative, Rambles in Germany and Italy in 1840, 1842, and 1843.

Mary’s literary output also included editing her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley’s works after his passing.  Mary edited volumes of Percy’s poetry that were published in 1824, 1839, 1840, 1854, and 1892.  Hornbake’s Rare Books collection also includes works that were published before Shelley’s death such as Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson, The Revolt of Islam: A Poem, in Twelve Cantos, and Rosalind and Helen: A Modern Eclogue: With Other Poems.

Writings by Wollstonecraft, Godwin, and the Shelleys are only a portion of what Literature and Rare Books has to offer.  For more information about our holdings contact us!

New Resource: 19th Century Literature Libguide

Even if you have never studied literature you are likely familiar with authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson or Charles Dickens.  While these authors may have written in different styles and about different subject matter, they were among the most notable authors of the 19th century.  To learn more about Emerson, Dickens, and other notable writers of the 19th century take a look at our new libguide on 19th Century Literature!

The libguide draws attention to some of the main collecting areas for Literature and Rare Books, such as illustrated works.  Hornbake’s holdings include a variety of different kinds of illustrated works that were popular in the 19th century, from scientific illustrations (Thomas Bewick’s woodcut portrayals of animals) to satirical illustrations (Punch Magazine).  The libguide also features highlights from our collection of 19th century literature, such as books published by Kelmscott Press, which reacted against the consumerism and mass production of the late 19th century by producing expensive, high quality books that doubled as works of art.

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