Temperance as a Tool for Suffrage

Before women’s rights activists campaigned for suffrage, they called for prohibition. In 1852, four years after the Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the New York State Women’s Temperance Society. They would not found the American Equal Rights Association until 1866. 

Stanton and Anthony fought for statewide prohibition in New York alongside divorce and other Civil Reforms– like the amendment of the Married Woman’s Property Law, which allowed for property ownership, suits in court, shared child custody, and the rights to earnings and inheritance– before they ever explicitly fought for voting rights. 

Beginning in 1866, they fought for Universal Suffrage with the American Equal Rights Association, but split from the organization in 1869 over its prioritization of suffrage for black men over women. From there, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. That same year, the National Prohibition Party was organized. 

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) formed five years later in Cleveland. Its platform encouraged the prohibition of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs in the U.S., driven partially by a desire to protect wives and children from the physical, emotional, and economic consequences of living with men who were dependent on alcohol. Under the leadership of Frances Willard in 1879, the WCTU became one of the most influential women’s organizations in the country. 

At the turn of the century, assumptions about women’s moral superiority increased society’s comfort with their presence in the public sphere. Accordingly, the WCTU  expanded its platform to include progressive reforms such as labor legislation, prison reform, and public health. By 1890, the WCTU sponsored more than thirty-five areas of activity, most of which had little or nothing to do with temperance. It was especially effective because of its decentralized structure; local chapters had a great deal of flexibility to choose which issues their members would pursue. 

Beginning in 1881, WCTU members argued that women’s suffrage, also known as the “Home Protection Vote,” would cure America’s moral ills. A decade later in 1891, Frances Willard argued that “an organized movement of women will best conserve the highest good of the family and the State.” 

A National Prohibition Party postcard that exemplifies the temperance movement’s emphasis on domestic values and morality.

Beginning around the 1880s, Black women became active in the WCTU’s “Department for Work among Negros.” Most local branches were segregated, especially in the South. In 1883, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a Black poet and activist, became head of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia WCTU. Harper often worked closely with the National WCTU, because she saw the organization as the most effective way to expand women’s federal power and earn the vote. However, she also believed that Black reformers should be able to set their own priorities and implemented programs across the country meant to specifically benefit Black communities. Harper split with Frances Willard over issues like federal support for an anti-lynching law and the abolition of the convict lease system. The National Association of Colored Women (founded in 1896) grew out of this split. 

Though controversial, the WCTU’s efforts were crucial to the passage of the 19th amendment. Membership decreased sharply following Prohibition, but the WCTU remains active today as the oldest continuous women’s organization in the world. 

SCUA holds the Maryland Temperance Collection, which contains several WCTU materials. View the 1889 Annual Report from Union Bridge, Maryland, below.


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

Women’s Suffrage: Carrie Chapman Catt

“A small group of people determined to oppose legislation, if provided with money, as were the brewers and distillers, may prevent action being taken, even though the masses of the people demand it.”

In a modern political landscape that empowers lobbyists and special interest groups–particularly those with enough money to spare–you wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that these words were spoken in the last few years.  In fact, they were spoken one hundred years ago.

Carrie Chapman Catt, who composed these words, embodied socially progressive ideas in more ways than one.  Born in 1859 in rural Wisconsin, Catt dedicated four decades of her life organizing campaigns and advocating political leaders across the country for the passage of laws to enable women’s suffrage.  During a time when even the more influential women rarely occupied positions of high social and political power, Catt served two terms as the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association between 1900 and 1920 and founded the League of Women Voters in 1920.     

Like her close friend and NAWSA presidential predecessor Susan B. Anthony, Catt worked tirelessly for several decades to champion the women’s suffrage movement in the pursuit of a national right to vote.  Between the 1890s and 1910s, Catt helped develop and implement campaigns across the country to pressure state and federal leaders to support suffrage legislation. At the grassroots level, she also helped to mobilize thousands of volunteers and supporters for the NAWSA and made hundreds of speeches to promote her goals and visions.  

After the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 fulfilled the most fundamental goal of the suffrage movement, Catt helped to create the League of Women Voters.  Not fully content with a federal amendment giving women across the country the right to vote, Catt expanded her vision for greater gender equality by encouraging women to become more active political leaders.  In a pamphlet published by the LWV entitled “Whose Government Is This?,” Catt advocated for women to enroll in classes in citizenship and ethics so that they could learn about how their governments work and operate.  In order to attain a greater impact on politics, Catt concluded the pamphlet by writing, “women must be on the inside of parties, and before that can be brought about they must understand better than they do the strength of weakness of each political process.” 

When the League of Women Voters published these words, only one woman had been elected to Congress. By the end of the 1920s, 23 women would hold positions in the federal legislature. This pamphlet not only attests to Catt’s vast contributions to the women’s suffrage movement and its eventual realization in 1920, but also illustrates how the fight for equal rights and representation continued to grow beyond the passage of the 19th amendment.   

**To learn more about women’s suffrage, check out the “Get Out The Vote: Suffrage & Disenfranchisement in America” exhibit from the Special Collections and University Archives.    


David Biel, Candidate for Master of Library & Information Science, University of Maryland.

The Trial of Susan B. Anthony, 1873

On November 1, 1872–four days before Ulysses S. Grant was re-elected as President of the United States–Susan B. Anthony and her three sisters walked into a voter registration office in Rochester, New York.  After a local inspector contacted a legal professional and required them to take an oath of registry, all four women obliged and walked out of the office as registered voters. This was a surprising result, to put it lightly, as the state of New York would not allow women to vote for another 45 years, and nationwide suffrage for women would not be legalized for another 48 years.

Susan B. Anthony on the cover of the February 26, 1916 issue of The Suffragist
Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage newsletter collection

While this event was not the first time women attempted to cast ballots without the legal right, the developments that occurred afterwards generated unprecedented national attention and helped generate new interest in the growing women’s suffrage movement.  After Anthony, her three sisters and about a dozen other women successfully voted after completing the standard oath of registry, they were all arrested less than two weeks later on charges of illegal voting. The arrests were an unexpected and dispiriting turn of events, but Anthony–always a gifted publicist as well as a strong leader–managed to use the upcoming trial as an opportunity to expose the injustices of the current voting regulations and cultivate further support for her movement.

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Spotlight on Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was an abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and acclaimed poet born in Baltimore in 1825. Born to free parents and orphaned at three, Watkins was raised by her maternal uncle Rev. William Watkins, an abolitionist and civil rights activist, and his wife Henrietta. She was educated at her uncle’s school, the Watkins Academy for Negro Youth. While she was still very young, Harper worked as a nursemaid and seamstress for a white family that owned a bookshop. There, she discovered her love for books and filled her free time with reading. 

From there, Watkins grew up to become the first African American woman to publish a short story, and she published her first book of poetry, Forest Leaves, at age 20. Harper went on to publish another book of poetry, many short stories, and several novels, including her most popular work Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted. Watkins’ writing often addressed issues of race, gender, and their intersections. 

The poem below, “Slave Mother,” highlights the painful relationship between motherhood and Blackness that Harper observed during her lifetime. 

Heard you that shriek? It rose

   So wildly on the air,

It seem’d as if a burden’d heart

   Was breaking in despair.

Saw you those hands so sadly clasped—

   The bowed and feeble head—

The shuddering of that fragile form—

   That look of grief and dread?

Saw you the sad, imploring eye?

   Its every glance was pain,

As if a storm of agony

   Were sweeping through the brain.

She is a mother pale with fear,

   Her boy clings to her side,

And in her kyrtle vainly tries

   His trembling form to hide.

He is not hers, although she bore

   For him a mother’s pains;

He is not hers, although her blood

   Is coursing through his veins!

He is not hers, for cruel hands

   May rudely tear apart

The only wreath of household love

   That binds her breaking heart.

His love has been a joyous light

   That o’er her pathway smiled,

A fountain gushing ever new,

   Amid life’s desert wild.

His lightest word has been a tone

   Of music round her heart,

Their lives a streamlet blent in one—

   Oh, Father! must they part?

They tear him from her circling arms,

   Her last and fond embrace.

Oh! never more may her sad eyes

   Gaze on his mournful face.

No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks

   Disturb the listening air:

She is a mother, and her heart

   Is breaking in despair.

In her discussions of intersectionality, Watkins alienated many white suffragists. She criticized the racism and selfishness of their refusal to support the 15th Amendment. In response, she helped found the American Woman Suffrage Association, which actively supported the 15th Amendment. She was also active in the “Colored Section” of Philadelphia’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. 

Later, Watkins helped organize the National Association of Colored Women (NACW). The NACW focused on both black and women’s issues such as women’s suffrage, lynching, and Jim Crow laws, and became the most prominent organization of the African American Women’s Suffrage Movement. 


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

New Exhibit for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This blog post and its accompanying exhibit in the main lobby of McKeldin Library chronicle the ongoing student activism at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) to create a culture that actively works to prevent power-based violence and support survivors of sexual assault.

Though sexual assault was not part of the public discourse at UMD prior to the 1970s, examples from the 1950s and 1960s highlight how sexual assault and rape culture impacted student life. This Associated Women Students Revised Dress Code from 1968 highlights the way that women were seen as responsible for the treatment they received based on their personal appearance, and how accepted standards of behavior based on gender roles often reinforced and obscured rape culture. Strict limitations on women’s conduct and dress connect to an ideal of purity and serve to prevent women from having sexual contact before marriage. Women were often blamed for any unwanted contact if they did not abide by these codes. Ideas like these often reinforce the idea that rape is result of the behavior or appearance of the victim, rather than the actions of the perpetrator. It is also important to note that these stark distinctions between men and women can often erase the fact that a person of any gender can be sexually assaulted.

Report from the Association of Women Students
Association of Women Students — Reports, 1954-1964. Division of Student Affairs records, 5.1.4. Special Collections and University Archives. University of Maryland Libraries.
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Fembot Edit-A-thon

To celebrate Women’s History Month, Fembot, the University of Maryland Department of Women’s Studies, the University of Maryland Libraries, the LGBT Equity Center, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, are hosting a two-day Wikipedia Edit-a-thon  to write women of color, trans, and/or non-conforming people and related organizations and ideas into Wikipedia.

fembotlogo

Please join Fembot and our partners for the 2018 Fembot Edit-a-thon! The Edit-A-thon will take place Friday and Saturday, March 9-10, from 10:30-4:00pm in McKeldin Library Rooms 6107 and 6103.  This Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon will contribute to the world of free and accessible knowledge, while at the same time working toward an anti-racist, gender inclusive history of everything within Wikipedia’s vast database.

More details about the event:

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Women’s History Month: Defining “Normal” Pt.II

Just in case you can’t visit the display in Hornbake Library, Defining “Normal,” here are some of the items we’re featuring to celebrate Women’s History Month!

“Single Blessedness”

Does marriage define a normal woman? Clara Barton never married, but she accomplished great things that have inspired both men and women alike. At the same time, women who look forward to marriage and raising families may face scorn and discrimination, both from the workplace, society, and other feminists.

Clara Barton, 2nd from the left, at Clara Barton House in Cabin John, Maryland. From the Clara Barton Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Clara Barton, 2nd from the left, at Clara Barton House in Cabin John, Maryland. From the Clara Barton Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Clara Barton

Do you think Clara Barton, the American Red Cross founder known as the “Angel of the Battlefield,” is “trapped by so-called single blessedness?” (Single Girl, Dr. Brown).

  • Barton established the first free public school in Bordentown, New Jersey
  • She served as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, one of the first regularly appointed female civil servants
  • Until Clara Barton, women were not allowed in hospitals or on battlefields; she provided aid and supplies on 16 battlefields

Associated Women Students

The self-governing body of women students called the Associated Women Students formed between 1953 and 1954. The purpose of the association was to

 “establish and enforce standards of conduct for women students; sponsor cultural and social activities; coordinate women’s activities on campus; and promote the development of leadership, good scholarship, and self-responsibility among the co-eds.”

A 1961 Bridal Fair sponsored by the Associated Women Students, documented in the scrapbooks, includes a list of fashions for the bride marrying a professional man (click for PDF of the Bridal Fashion Show). For example,

SO YOU’RE GOING TO MARRY AN ENGINEER! (…..wear yella for that fella!)

Would this be “normal” for a woman now? What judgments and stereotypes might the Associated Women Students have to face today?

The 1961 Scrapbook of the Associated Women Students, featuring pages about their Bridal Fair on April 18th.

The 1961 Scrapbook of the Associated Women Students, featuring pages about their Bridal Fair on April 18th. http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/1679

International Women’s Day Resources from UMD Libraries

Each month, the Special Collections displays rare, unique items from our collection that resonate with present-day events. On March 1st through March 31, 2013, visit the Maryland Room on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library and delve deeper into women’s history. We’ll also provide online tools, resources, and information about our displays and women’s history every Wednesday and Sunday this month.

Our display honors International Women’s Day on March 8th.


The exhibit “Taking a Leading Role” offers a sampling of items drawn from Library of American Broadcasting collections. The photo depicts Martha Brooks.

University of Maryland Libraries Resources for the student or researcher of women’s history

Women’s history and the struggle for equality covers a broad spectrum of issues, events, and individuals. To support International Women’s Day and students or researchers of women’s history, here is a list of some online resources (exhibits, collections, and subject guides) available from the Special Collections and other University of Maryland Libraries. If you run into a resource only accessible to University of Maryland researchers, and you need access to something in these guides, we welcome you to contact us for more information.

Online Exhibits

Taking a Leading Role: Women in Broadcasting History

Women on the Border: Maryland Perspectives of the Civil War

Nancy Drew and Friends: Girls’ Series Books Rediscovered

ERA_NOW_UMD

The Maryland Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment, May 1986. Image may be under copyright.

Collections

Are you interested in the individual voices of women? Are you searching for organizations in history that represented women’s communities or rights?

Here is a list of finding aids for materials at the Special Collections. Some of these items are digitized and available online through Digital Collections (online items will be noted in the finding aids).

You can also search Digital Collections using the terms “woman,” “women,” “women’s rights,” and similar key terms for images and finding aids from our collections.

Subject Guides

These guides provide tips and resources for researching women’s history. Some guides relate to a specific class, but may also have useful resources for your studies.

Women & the American Civil War

Women in Maryland

Women’s Studies Research Guide

Women in the Media

Introduction to Women’s Studies: Women and Society

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies

Maryland Genealogy

International Women’s Day Feature: Mona Kent

Each month, the Special Collections displays rare, unique items from our collection that resonate with present-day events. On March 1st through March 31, 2013, visit the Maryland Room on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library and delve deeper into women’s history.

Our display honors International Women’s Day on March 8th.


mona_kent

I think how wonderful it would be if some writer could find a formula for giving women the substance and not the shadow of life.

 Mona Kent, in an interview with Time Magazine. September 12, 1949.

Mona Kent (1909-1990) was a radio and TV script writer. She wrote every episode of radio soap opera “Portia Faces Life.” Kent defines the problem driving the emotion in this soap opera as “a conflict between her wish to be a wife and mother, to keep a neat and cheerful home for her husband, Walter, and raise his children properly–and the ever-recurring necessity of being a lawyer and career woman in order to keep groceries in the kitchen.” Clearly, Kent had identified a relevant, divisive problem: an article in “Radio and Television Mirror” in 1950 asks readers, “Does a working wife cheat her family?” and encouraged women to write in with their opinions.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Kent criticizes the soap opera women for the success and power that derives from a set of self-sacrificing virtues. The writer speculated that “possibly, the American woman feels actually so dependent, economically and emotionally, that she has to appease her insecurity by identifying herself with one or more soap opera heroines.” In her novel, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Kent writes, “how much should a woman sacrifice for the man she loves?” To Kent, a virtuous and self-sacrificing woman like Portia, defined only by her love for her husband and children, lives only as a formula for soap-opera heroines.

International Women’s Day Display

Each month, the Special Collections displays rare, unique items from our collection that resonate with present-day events. On March 1st through March 31, 2013, visit the Maryland Room on the 1st floor of Hornbake Library and delve deeper into women’s history. We’ll also provide online tools, resources, and information about our displays and women’s history every Wednesday and Sunday this month.

Our display honors International Women’s Day on March 8th.

About the display

mona_kent

“Working Women”

March 1-March 17

Script writer Mona Kent and her radio character Portia highlight the challenges facing working women in the 1940s and 1950s, including the social expectation of self-sacrifice in women, and the struggle of a writer to portray women who didn’t fit that code.

The Single Girl book cover

Defining “Normal”

March 17-March 31

Dr. Brown, author of “The Single Girl,” claims that the abnormal woman must “re-channel her existence via adjustment, sublimation, or a return to the normal, in order to find real happiness.” How do women define normal? Clearly, not all of us have identical goals, lifestyles, and beliefs. This month, we celebrate the complex diversity of women and each individual’s right to find her personal definition of “real happiness.”

centredinternationalwomensdayVisit the website for more information about International Women’s Day 2013 and resources for continuing the momentum toward equality.