The Fight For Freedom
Marsha Clark 0:00
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:30
We're a little bit different in the opening this week, Marsha.
Marsha Clark 0:34
Yes, yes, we are. And it's a special time. So we're kicking off a summer series on The Fight for Freedom. And this week, as we recognize Independence Day here in the U.S. we really thought it was a great opportunity to open our conversation with a very famous sentence, at least here in our country. And it's the preamble to the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:01
You know, I think most of us growing up in the United States had to memorize the preamble at some point in school, but hearing you read it just now, as I sit here, I hear it very differently as an adult and as a woman.
Marsha Clark 1:14
I couldn't agree with you more. And you know, what once was an exercise in rote memorization, it now has new meaning. And, you know, if I'm really transparent, it re-energizes my drive to do everything I can, while I can, to ensure that those words ring true for everyone, that all men, and of course, you know I'm going to add and women, are created equal. And so it's God, these words have to ring true in my mind for everyone, not just for some.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:45
Yes. So let's explore what this fight for freedom is all about. Will you share a quick preview of what we're going to be covering in today's episode, and then what we'll be doing in the coming weeks along this theme?
Marsha Clark 1:57
Yes, I'd love to do that. So as we kick off this series today, we're going to explore some of the history of the suffrage movements in the US. And we're going to dive a little deeper into the women's rights movement. So this is a little bit of a history lesson, if you will, for this this coming month. It's going to set us up for the next four weeks, where we're going to host four panel discussions centered on different powerful movies and documentaries. And these aren't just fictional movies, these are historical, you know, movies, and documentaries. And we're going to explore content around the fight that women had to wage to be able to vote, both here in the U.S. and in England. And we're also going to explore this second wave of freedom fighters for women's rights in the 60's and 70's, me in my teenage youth days. And we're going to wrap up the series with a very special award winning documentary on the challenge that women and young girls face today around the world. And it's period poverty.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:00
Wow. Well, I've seen the sneak preview of some of the movies we're going to be discussing, and they are really powerful. And so in addition to today's unique opening, we're also planning on making these upcoming shows different not only with those panel discussions, but also by inviting our listeners to watch these videos ahead of time to help them connect with the content each week.
Marsha Clark 3:26
Yeah, I think that will help a lot, to give some context and understanding. So we want to hear from our listeners and we want them to share their thoughts after each of these panel discussions. I really want to open up the dialogue on these topics, week in and week out and generate some depth of learning, some energy, some excitement around the episodes. And we're gonna open up the discussion this week with today's episode.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:51
Perfect. So for today, let's circle back to the top of the show where you opened with the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. I'm guessing that kind of caught our regular listeners off guard since it was different. So will you recite it again, now that we're all chosen.
Marsha Clark 4:11
Probably a really good idea. So this time, listeners, I would ask that you pay attention and notice what comes up for you as you hear this again. What words jumped out at you, how do you feel as you hear these phrases today? So here we go. "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." So, Wendi, I'm curious now that you've heard it twice, what are you thinking?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 4:51
Well, I'm thinking two things. Number one, I'm not liking the fact that just all men are created equal. So that's one issue that I have just like I know that's an issue for you. But again, in context of the time, women were still property. So it wasn't even a thought for these guys to phrase men and women. My second thought is, is around this idea of the pursuit of happiness. And I'm not really sure, you know, I've read a book, and I cannot remember the title, but the name of the title, but it's something about how the idea of the pursuit of happiness is always a forward thinking, forward looking thing, and that actual happiness is rooted more in the present. So that's just kind of, that's bouncing around in my head just a little bit.
Marsha Clark 5:46
I like that. I like that. And, you know, I think about this in terms of their Creator, recognizing that not all of us have exactly the same thoughts around that. And yet, however you might think about that, that that's a very personal statement. That's one of the things that jumps out at me.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 6:05
Yeah. And I also have to confess that I also had some lyrics from Hamilton swirling around in my head, (which ones?) well, the ones where the sisters are singing, and Angelica is singing about meeting Thomas Jefferson, we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal. And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'm a compellant to include women in the sequel work. I mean, it's just weird.
Marsha Clark 6:34
Singing our thoughts and singing some feelings about that. Yes, yes. And it is a great moment from that musical because in reality, there were many influential women at the time, who were already planting the seeds for equality. And I was enamored by this as we did the research for this particular episode. Even John Adams, the second president of the United States, his wife, Abigail, was lobbying for women in her many letters to him as he was attending that Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, working on the declaration's drafts as well as the revisions.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 7:10
Yeah, I vaguely remember there being more than just Jefferson who worked on the declaration, probably from some movie we saw, like in the U.S. History class.
Marsha Clark 7:19
Right, right. And I think your memory serves you well in that regard because the declaration was initially drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and then went through revisions and edits by a committee that included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. And after all of those reviews, the whole Congress made final edits before signing it on July 4th.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 7:44
Hmm, interesting. So some of those names are not even familiar to me, but Franklin and Adams definitely jump out.
Marsha Clark 7:48
Yeah, and I didn't remember all the names. But, you know, those same ones jumped out at me, too. And, and one thing I found especially interesting was one of Abigail Adams letters to Joh, in March of that year as they were working on those drafts. And, you know, the particular letter of the hundreds that they wrote back and forth over their lifetime together, this one is possibly the most often quoted. And in the letter, she's referring to the work of the Congress. And here's what she wrote. "I long to hear that you have declared an independancy. And by the way, in the new code of laws, which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited powers into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation." And the source for this particular letter is the National Park Service here in America.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:12
Okay, she was prognosticating the next two centuries, basically. So read that again, starting at the part about remembering the ladies.
Marsha Clark 9:22
I just love that line, right. "Remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation." And I want to highly recommend to our listeners that you do a quick search on this entire exchange that this particular excerpt comes from. Abigail's letter is quite pointed regarding her thoughts on how the men in power or those seeking power and independence for our country could and should use that power for the greater good. I love the sense of that, you know, I talk about that all the time.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 10:20
Right, right. Well, I can already tell this is going to be one of those episodes where I walk away with some self imposed homework. And I already want to Google Abigail Adams and find some more videos about her.
Marsha Clark 10:33
Well, there's some great resources out there for sure. And I would encourage our listeners to do the same.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 10:37
Exactly. So I guess I'm just, I'm just surprised that there were women as early as 1776 who were advocating for women's rights. And I don't remember reading or hearing much about that in my history classes. I mean, at least not until we start getting into the late 1800's and the turn of the century with the women's suffrage movement.
Marsha Clark 10:58
Well, our listeners are going to hear a lot of this. It wasn't in the history books. Right. So it's, you know, there's no surprise that it was a surprise because we didn't hear about it or learn about it. And in many ways, I can understand why, you know. Even though we're two different generations, the history books of our eras were limited in space, and there were decisions that had to be made on what would be included. And some, simply speaking, logistical choices had to be made. So I get it. And there's something to be said to the victors go the spoils, which includes the writing of the history books.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 11:33
Yeah. Now that I think about it, most of the history we grew up with was pretty male dominated and Anglo Saxon male dominated when it came to who was the focus of attention, founding fathers, astronauts and sports heroes, famous generals and soldiers, president. All of them more men.
Marsha Clark 11:52
That's right. And, and what famous women do you remember learning about in history class? And, you know, before you answer it, I'd love for our listeners to think about that question and, put it out on Facebook page where we've set up a series of discussion questions related to this episode.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 12:07
Okay. Give me a minute to think about my answer, because I didn't know it was gonna be a test on this episode. But I do remember learning about Pocahontas, Sacajawea with Lewis and Clark, Betsy Ross, of course, Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, and a few of the First Lady's like Martha Washington, although I don't really remember learning anything about her other than she was married to George. Marie Curie, Jackie Kennedy. I mean, but again, this is mostly because for Jackie, mostly because of the assassination. But also for Jackie, she was like, she and John were the first what I would call young president and you know, having children in the White House. That hadn't really happened a whole lot before them if ever. Billie Jean King, I think she was in a history book in one of my history classes for the whole battle of the sexes tennis match. And, you know, that's really about it.
Marsha Clark 13:12
Yeah. And, you know, I think that for most in our generation, and even those that came after mine, that was the experience. So, you know, fortunately for students today that in this internet age that they have access to more resources, more information. And history is much wider and deeper. So it's just easier to learn more about a more diverse cast of characters who have indeed influenced our collective stories. And so even in the historical fiction movies today, like "Hidden Figures", highlighting, you know, the African American women mathematicians who worked at NASA and were very instrumental in the space program, or even on the basis of sex, which tells the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her early years experiencing sexism at Harvard Law School and winning the first federal case to declare discrimination on the basis of sex unconstitutional. So movies like those tell the stories of women who achieved extraordinary successes in their own rights. But rarely, if ever, did that, did those stories make it into the school books beyond a mention and maybe a sidebar paragraph, or a sentence or two.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 14:21
Exactly. And we're lucky today that we have access to so many resources, including the powerful films like the ones you mentioned, to learn about these influential women around the world. So to give our listeners a bit of a quick history lesson into the fight for freedom here in the United States, what can we add beyond Abigail Adams' letters to her husband?
Marsha Clark 14:46
Well, one resource that I found really informative is from the National Park Service so much as I cited that as the source for for Abigail Adams' letter. I just never thought about them as being a repository for all things US history, but they are an excellent and well vetted source of content. So that website is, you know, the inevitable www.nps.gov and the article that I'm going to refer to here is titled, "On Their Shoulders: The Radical Stories of Women's Fight for the Vote", and the prequel, "Women's Suffrage Before 1848" by Joanna Newman. So let me share the opening of the article again to give some context. Most suffrage histories begin in 1848. And this was the year that Elizabeth Cady Stanton convened a women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. And it was there that she unfurled or, you know, launched or publicized a declaration of rights and sentiments seeking religious, educational and property rights for women, along with the right to vote. And while Seneca Falls remains an important marker in women's suffrage history, in fact, women had been agitating, and I loved the way they they wrote about that and use that word. They had been agitating for this basic right of citizenship, even before the first stirrings of revolutionary fervor in the colonies. And, you know, some, like Lydia Chapin Taft, had even voted.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 16:33
Yeah. So another name I vaguely remember from my history book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I don't remember much about Seneca Falls or this declaration of rights and sentiments.
Marsha Clark 16:46
Yeah, we're going to talk about that in a few minutes. But before we get to that event, I want to set the stage for a bit more groundwork that's been laid to, to really gain the full rights as citizens in the U.S. up to the point, up to that point. So for those of us who grew up in the US, we likely recall that women didn't gain the the rights of full citizenship until the 19th Amendment was passed and ratified on August 26, 1920. And until then, there were a few states where women did have the right to vote in local elections. And even then their ballots were limited to voting for things like school board. So I mentioned this name a moment ago, Lydia Chapin Taft is historically recorded as the first woman to legally vote in the United States. She voted in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, on behalf of her recently deceased husband at a town meeting on October 30, 1756. And get that, twenty years before the Declaration of Independence. She and her husband were wealthy and influential members of the community, and the leaders were eager to gain her support in favor of funding regiments engaged in the French and Indian War.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 18:01
So it was a special circumstance that allowed Mrs. Taft to vote.
Marsha Clark 18:06
Absolutely. So voting was strongly tied at that time to owning property, and in most towns and cities across all the colonies. And this was a carryover from European communities as well. And the belief was that if you had real property in the form of land, livestock, anything of value over a certain amount, you were less likely to be influenced by politicians and would make a more informed use of your vote. And what I found fascinating was that women who may have inherited property, whether from their father or their husband, who could own it, and technically that ownership would give them the right to vote in those certain communities. But once a woman married, she and anything she brought with her, if you think about it in terms of like her dowry, it became the property of her husband. And therefore she by right had no property and therefore had no rights as a citizen to vote. Isn't that fascinating?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 19:09
Okay. So many thoughts and questions swirling around. First of all, did you say that both she and her belongings became the property of her husband?
Marsha Clark 19:19
Yes, Wendi, you heard that right. Yes, we found an excellent explanation of this from the website of the Museum of the American Revolution, which is found at and I'll give you that website, www.amrevmuseum.org and the legal term for this arrangement is coverture, another word I learned when I was preparing for this, c o v e r t u r e, and according to the site coverture restricted married women from writing and signing contracts, suing, owning real estate or movable property or earning their own money. So basically things that we could all do today, but couldn't back then, and it implied a woman's legal covering after marriage that her husband took over her legal, economic and political identity. And what I find even more amazing is that this idea of coverture lasted well into the mid 1970s. And I remember this, I just want to say, I could not sign for my first car because I was 19 years old. And even though I was paying for it, my father had to cosign for it. And that when married women couldn't get a credit card in their own name, couldn't get a loan, couldn't buy a house or a car, really anything that involves money without their husband's,or sometimes father's or brother's consent. Even if their brothers were younger, they had rights that older women did not have. So it really has been within the period of, you know, just the last 50 years or so that married women have had any financial freedom or autonomy.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 21:11
Yeah, this makes me wonder why women even wanted to get married. I mean, why would you give up so much freedom?
Marsha Clark 21:17
Yeah, and I know that's more of a rhetorical question. But really, in all honesty, if you think about it, cultural traditions and necessity drove that arrangement. It's not like that many single young women had financial independence that would need to be quote, unquote, "protected" from coverture. So the risk of that being a problem for most girls really wasn't that high. And in the case where the female actually did have assets to protect, there were legal options, including prenuptial agreements, marital settlements, trusteeships, and so on. And then another cultural element to consider in colonial America was that many women didn't work outside the home. So as long as they had some say, in decisions that impacted their primary responsibilities, and in those days, it was child rearing and homemaking, most were content with letting the men deal with everything else, including voting on decisions regarding how the town council, you know, their world, was operating.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 22:14
So, what was the catalyst for women wanting the right to engage and decide in what was happening in their communities?
Marsha Clark 22:21
Yeah, I think it was more of a slow shift over time, rather than any one thing. You know, the American Revolution itself was sparked by enlightenment thinking, enlightenment thinking. And it was questioning and challenging the status quo, especially regarding political power and status, advocating for individual liberties and rights, establishing a quality and, and you get that picture. And pretty much the foundation of what we know today is the Declaration of Independence. And the European age of enlightenment, philosophies and structures really drifted across the Atlantic. And this unsettled desire for autonomy really hit a boiling point with the infamous Boston Tea Party. But prior to that, it was the women in the colonies who were quietly but quite effectively boycotting Britain, if you will, that other, that mother country across the Atlantic, by refusing to even purchase tea or other imported products, and they begin bartering and creating their own products like cloth that would take the place of what was once provided by Britain. And the quiet familiar refrain of no taxation without representation was not only a mantra for the men of the colonies, but the women were just as aligned and committed to this newfound freedom from the dependence on foreign products.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 23:49
Yeah, but I'm also starting to see a sense of irony for women at the time who might have thought that this fight for freedom from under British rule meant that everyone would benefit from these newfound freedoms.
Marsha Clark 24:02
Well, that would be a hope, yeah, of any one of us. So now I want our listeners to think back to that letter from Abigail Adams to John as they were drafting the Declaration of Independence, and her reminder to remember the ladies. Women had fought in their own ways for freedom just as the men had, and there was an expectation among many of them, that they too would achieve a level of agency.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 24:28
Yeah, but we all know that that's not how the story went. And women were not included in the language of the Declaration of Independence.
Marsha Clark 24:37
No, we weren't. Women, immigrants, Indians, or as we refer to them today as the Native Americans, and enslaved people were excluded in the language, with one notable exception.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 24:51
Marsha Clark 24:52
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 24:53
New Jersey as in the state of New Jersey?
Marsha Clark 24:57
Yes. Okay, New Jersey along with nine other states in the newly formed country, wrote and adopted its own state constitution in 1776. And New Jersey's constitution was unique among all nine and was the only one that allowed women the right to vote. And the right to vote for women all came down to the use of a simple pronoun. They. T-H-E-Y, they.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 25:25
Okay, I'm loving where this is going. How did a pronoun give women the right to vote? I need to hear this in context.
Marsha Clark 25:32
It's kind of like a loophole, an accidental loophole. So this information comes to us again from the Museum of the American Revolution. And they explained that while most of the New Jersey State Constitution used a male pronoun when referring to its residents and citizens, the electoral statute use the unspecific pronoun "they" in its section on voter eligibility, permitting men and women, black or white, to vote, and the one limitation at the time came back to the issue of property ownership. And so the New Jersey State Constitution only allowed property owners the right to vote and it was based on those people who possessed 50 pounds proclamation money clear estate. The proclamation money was another phrase for currency. 50 pounds currency.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 26:25
Okay, so there's the loophole that once again was probably blocked, probably blocked a large number of women, especially married women and people of color.
Marsha Clark 26:35
Yeah, I think about it is it was a loophole that that gave them hope. And it was a loophole that knocked them out of that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 26:41
50 pounds probably was a lot of money back then.
Marsha Clark 26:44
Yeah. And, you know, it's also especially since enslaved people could not even legally own property. So the inclusiveness of that language wasn't that inclusive at all.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 26:54
Okay, so let's do a quick summary of what we've covered so far to give everybody a chance to catch up. Women were not permitted to own property if they were married unless they had obtained a special legal agreement like a prenup. This prohibition against property ownership was also true for enslaved people and Native Americans, although it doesn't sound like they had any legal recourse to protect them. And to be considered a citizen in a community, which allowed a person rights like the right to vote or to be on a jury or run for office. In most cases, you had to be a property owner.
Marsha Clark 27:33
Yes, that was a frequently used requirement.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 27:35
But even in some states, property ownership wasn't enough to guarantee women the right to vote, or at least the opportunity to vote on all items on a ballot, limiting women to voting only on ballots for things like school board, correct?
Marsha Clark 27:51
You got it. So that's where we find things like separate ballot boxes for men and women, so that the women's ballots could be sorted and any illegal votes on items that they were not given the right to weigh in on were eliminated.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:06
Oh my god, what a mess. Wow.
Marsha Clark 28:09
Yes. And I think about some of our recent elections, the hanging chads, all of those things. So it was such a mess that it led to New Jersey actually rescinding the right to vote from women and men of color, even freed men, in 1807.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:28
Okay, so the vote was available. I mean, not to everybody, but at least to some for what, 31 years, and then it was taken away?
Marsha Clark 28:38
Yes. And, you know, now that I hear that number of years, you know, said out loud, I'm having a bit of deja vu with some of our recent rescinding of Roe vs. Wade, which had been on the books for 50 years and was considered to be, you know, a national right and a nationally protected right for women. And it is no more or it's in the process of being diminished.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:59
Yeah, I'm honestly starting to feel queasy.
Marsha Clark 29:03
Yeah, and that's understandable. And I don't make this as making a statement, a political statement, or a moral statement or any of those kinds of things. It's just a perfect example and a recent example. And our own history shows us that nothing is guaranteed, and it only takes a subtle shift in the political winds for what had once been a right to now be ripped away.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 29:25
What was the justification for resending the right to vote in New Jersey?
Marsha Clark 29:30
So bottom line, the explanation was based on a new law passed in 1798 that limited voting for town officials and that was people like the town clerk, the collector, the poll inspectors and judgments, or excuse me judges, to only white male taxpayers. Property owners, regardless of race or sex, we're still eligible to vote for county, state and federal officials and the problem or quite accurately the mess as you referred to earlier was that county clerk's who were trying to administer elections were not doing it consistently. So in some cases, they were willing and or able to verify or validate property ownership, but in other areas, they didn't try that hard or simply looked the other way. And when it became clear that people were being allowed to vote who weren't legally eligible, the solution was pretty draconian. Just take away the vote from anyone who wasn't a white male property owner.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:26
God, draconian is an understatement. I mean, what a setback.
Marsha Clark 30:30
Yeah, and I'm sure that's exactly how it felt to the people then. Many women and men had been very vocal when fighting for freedom for enslaved people for decades, in small communities around the colonies. It wasn't until 1775 that the first anti slavery society in America was formed in Philadelphia, and two years later, Vermont's constitution included provisions for universal male suffrage and outlawed slavery. And in 1780, Pennsylvania passed the first gradual Abolition Act in the United States. So progress was being made, but it was very slow. And dare I say, excruciatingly slow. And a real setback like New Jersey rescinding the vote for women and people of color in 1807 was a real gut punch.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 31:20
Yeah. So I'm noticing how incredibly contemporary all of this sounds. One state makes progress on the human rights issue and another takes two steps back. I was thinking this was only the beginning of something that happens today. But it seems like we've been doing this as a country since our beginning.
Marsha Clark 31:41
Well, you know, they don't call it the great American experiment for nothing. And it's hard to get the big picture in these small bites like we're trying to represent here. And I do highly recommend that our listeners really give themselves some time to go out and do some of their own homework, as you called it earlier, to really get a sense of all the progress and setbacks, progress and setbacks that were made over those, you know, first few decades of our country's initial beginnings. And, you know, for example, while New Jersey was rescinding the vote, the U.S. Congress was passing the act prohibiting the importation of slaves, which became law on January 1, 1808. And it abolished the international slave trade. And that particular law was a small step in the right direction. But unfortunately, it still allowed for the trading of slides from state to state or territory within the U.S. And so groups continued the fight for freedom in our country for all disenfranchised residents, free or enslaved. And many of those vocal advocates for freedom were getting more and more organized and effective.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 32:47
So you mentioned earlier that part of the catalyst for this fight for freedom wasn't just one thing, but an overall cultural shift, including some thinking that was coming from Europe. So the United States wasn't the only country dealing with these cultural changes, was it?
Marsha Clark 33:05
No, not at all. And any quick literature research will reflect numerous female authors who were beginning to publish what really amounted to seismic shifts in perspectives and expectations around freedom. In France, and I'm going to try and pronounce this right, Olympe de Gouges, "The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen" was published in France as early as 1791. And the following year introduced Mary Wollstonecraft's work "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" in England. And sadly, de Gouges' work was considered so radical regarding her position on abolishing slavery and women's freedoms, that she was hung as a traitor only two years after her declaration was published. I mean, this is serious stuff. And I share these two examples of European female authors simply to illustrate that these ideas of emancipation were erupting all across the globe and not just here in the U.S.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 34:17
Isn't one of the films we're going to watch and discuss in our upcoming panel series about women's suffrage in England at the turn of the century?
Marsha Clark 34:25
Yes, it is.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 34:26
Okay, I never really considered how this fight for freedom was happening simultaneously in other parts of the world.
Marsha Clark 34:34
Well, again, I go back to how outside of a college course on women's history, would you even know about that. You had a specific course to learn it. And, you know, that was really more about just a logical perspective. And, you know, we barely even know our own history, let alone what was happening around the world.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 34:50
Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this video series for sure. So one thing you said a couple of minutes ago was that the groups that were fighting for freedom were getting organized and effective. So what's an example of that?
Marsha Clark 35:04
Well, there were some very specific hot button topics where people, especially women, were learning the art of advocacy and influence. And these centered on temperance, the abolition of slavery, and safe labor practices, specifically around child labor. And in fact, remember earlier when I mentioned the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 and Elizabeth Cady Stanton?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 35:32
Yes, I wondered when we were going to circle back to her.
Marsha Clark 35:35
Well, it's time. So the Seneca Falls convention, and it was held in Seneca Falls, New York, which is thus the name, is considered to be the first official women's rights convention in the United States. And the convention was organized by five women, most of whom were very active in the abolitionist movement. And they were Quakers known for their belief in equality across genders. And these organizers, including Stanton and Lucretia Mott generated what I referred to earlier as a Declaration of Sentiments. And I really like that idea, that phrase, that label and it was modeled after the Declaration of Independence.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 36:15
Okay, please tell me you're gonna share these.
Marsha Clark 36:16
Well, the highlights, yeah. So I want to share first her opening remarks for the convention. And I want our listeners to imagine a room full of women about 300 in all, gathered to learn and discuss this very sensitive and controversial topic of women's rights. And so here's Stanton's introduction: "We are assembled to protest against a form of government existing without the consent of the governed to declare our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in the government, which we are taxed to support, to have such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages she earns, the property which she inherits, and in case of separation, the children of her love."
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 37:12
Okay. 1848 is when this is happening. Let's do the math here. That's 72 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and 40 or so years after New Jersey revoked the rights of women to vote. I love how her opening words evoke the language from the declaration and even the mantra from the revolution, no taxation without representation, declaring our right to be free as men are free. That had to be pretty bold statements at the time,
Marsha Clark 37:47
You know, Wendi, I'm sure it was. The Declaration of Sentiments that was drafted by the five organizers, and presented as part of the Seneca Falls convention would have been considered not only bold, but quite controversial. And in addition to an opening that mirrored the preamble, the document included a series of grievances, and then a set of resolutions that the convention goers voted to adopt on day two of that convention, the Seneca Falls convention. And I want to provide our listeners with a bit of their preamble. And it's another example of where I'd like our listeners to notice, what are the thoughts and feelings that these words evoke in them, realizing that they were spoken 175 years ago. So here they are: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the rights of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it and to insist upon the institution of a new government laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 39:35
So basically, what she's saying is if you all can't design a government that's equal for all, fair for all, accessible to all, you can't expect us all to pledge allegiance to it. I mean, what was the sentence about what happens when government becomes destructive?
Marsha Clark 39:52
So here it is: "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it." Radical then, and still today.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 40:07
So what were some of the grievances that they had listed as part of this declaration?
Marsha Clark 40:13
Well, so the list that they made itself, it begins this way: "The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations (hope I'm saying that right, usurping right?) on the part of man toward woman and having a direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world." And then the first two injuries listed were, one, he has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise, which basically meant she was not given the right to vote. And number two, he has compelled her to submit to laws in the formation of which she had no voice. So there are a number of these grievances listed but a few more that jumped out at me included these next three. He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. And we know today that women still make 82 cents, 57 cents, 49 cents, depending on your race, less than men for equal work. He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine or law, she is not known. He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her. So any thoughts about these, Wendi, as you as you hear these last three that I offered?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:02
Well, I think I'm gonna hone in on the last one, being denied the facilities for obtaining education. You and I both are powerful proponents of the fact that education is the key out of poverty, it's the key out of being controlled, you know, that access to knowledge then becomes the gateway to the access for power. And so keeping these women illiterate, and, you know, without the ability to write or even sign their own names is a part of the disenfranchisement that's going on here.
Marsha Clark 42:42
You know, I often said the structure is designed to produce exactly what the structure is producing and the governmental structure that was designed then was to keep women in their place, (That's right. That's right.) not at the table. So, there were 68 women and 32 men who voted on the second day of the convention. Notice it was kind of a 2/3 women, 1/3 men. And here's an example of one of the resolutions they passed and signed: "So resolved, that all laws which prevent women (I'm sorry, I keep saying women) that all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society, as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the greater precept of nature, and therefore have no force or authority. Then another one that jumped out at me was: "Resolved. That woman is man's equal, was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such."
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 43:53
Yeah, these resolutions are just as relevant today as they were then.
Marsha Clark 43:57
I couldn't agree with you more. And, you know, sadly, of the 100 people who signed this Declaration of Sentiments, including Frederick Douglass, and many of them ultimately withdrew their support.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:11
Okay, talk about that.
Marsha Clark 44:13
All right. So, there was so much public backlash and criticism for the document, especially the resolution calling for the right for women to vote, it widened a growing, ever growing chasm between those who were willing to advocate for the freedom of enslaved people and a number of rights for women, but were hesitant or even downright opposed to women's suffrage, and that included many women who simply didn't agree that women should be mingling in political affairs. And for some, linking women's suffrage with the anti slavery movement was counterproductive and could jeopardize the progress being made on that front. So the formalized abolitionist organizations were beginning to grow and gain traction and these efforts were leading states to pass laws in opposition to slavery, which, as we all know, became a catalyst for the Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 45:08
You know, it's a shame that fighting for freedom for all couldn't be a unified front. I mean, I'm sure it must have been a bittersweet victory for many, when the 15th Amendment was ratified, and yet it excluded women from the qualifications of voting. And women were a enormous part of the anti slavery movement.
Marsha Clark 45:30
They were. Yeah, we were. And the language of the 15th Amendment, which was ratified in 1869, stated: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 45:52
And then the 19th Amendment wasn't ratified until 1920.
Marsha Clark 45:57
Yes, and one of the documentaries that we're going to watch in the series is called 'By One Vote: Woman Suffrage in the South', and it follows a very dramatic path to the ratification of the 19th amendment as it concludes in Tennessee.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 46:12
Yeah, I can't wait till our listeners hear these movies and documentaries, and we discuss them with our listeners.
Marsha Clark 46:18
I think it's going to be, it can be a rich conversation, Wendi. And one thing before we wrap today is that I'd like to share the schedule for those video panel discussions so that our listeners can watch the videos and review the questions ahead of time. But But before we get to that, I do want to share one last thing about the women's suffrage movement in the movement in the U.S. that I really find encouraging. And that is that prior to the 19th Amendment being ratified in 1920, there were a number of U.S. territories and ultimately states that granted women full voting rights. And I'm going to list off some of these and their dates. It's not, I just want to give our listeners a sense of how many and when. So we start with the territory of Wyoming in 1869, shortly after the Civil War. This was followed by the territories of Utah, Washington, Montana, and Alaska, from 1870 to 1913. And U.S. states that allowed women the right to vote before the 19th Amendment was ratified, in Colorado in 1893, Idaho in 1896, California in 1911, Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon in 1912, Montana, Nevada in 1914, New York in 1917. And in 1918, Michigan, Oklahoma and South Dakota join the ranks of enlightened states. And you know, at the risk of dropping even more historical data in the overload here, but I think it's important to recognize the other states that allowed some restricted voting rights for women prior to that to 1920. And these were states where women could vote for President. So Illinois granted that right in 1913, Nebraska and 1917, along with Ohio, Indiana, North Dakota and Rhode Island in 1917. And finally, 1919, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin granted women the right to vote for President.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 48:25
Well, good on all these states who were willing to take a stand in support of women's suffrage early on. And while I'm not likely to remember all of these dates, but it's good to have the context for where and when states started aligning and supporting the rights of women, at least the fundamental unalienable right to cast their vote. Okay, so let's do a really quick preview of the videos and documentaries we're going to be watching as part of our Fight for Freedom discussion panel series. Next week, we're going to kick off the series with the documentary you mentioned a few minutes ago, "By One Vote: Woman Suffrage in The South", and it's available on YouTube and it's just under an hour long.
Marsha Clark 49:09
That's right. And then the following week, we're going to be discussing "Suffragette". And this is a movie that was released in 2015 and it's available on Amazon Prime. The runtime for that is about one hour and 47 minutes, just so you can plan accordingly. And that movie is very similar to "Iron Jawed Angels", which is one of my favorite films, depicting the women's suffrage movement in the U.S. at the turn of the century, and really leading up to the passage of the 19th amendment. And then 'Suffragette' takes place in England and follows their fight for women's rights around that same timeframe.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 49:46
The third film of our discussion will be centered on the documentary "She's Beautiful When She's Angry" and oh my god, love that title. (I know.) This one is also available on Amazon Prime. It's a documentary. This documentary moves us forward to what we're calling the second wave of feminism, and the fight for freedom in the 60's and 70's. And that video is about an hour and a half long.
Marsha Clark 50:14
Yes. And our last video discussion is a short documentary titled "Period. End of Sentence." and this film won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject, and is available on Netflix. So this contemporary short story features a small village in India, where the introduction of high quality, affordable sanitary napkins changes not only the lives of young girls, who typically drop out of school due to the lack of hygienic products available. It also explores the cultural stigma tied to the process, if you will, of menstruation and female bodies. So we're trying to, it's a broad coverage here from a global standpoint. And you know, for those of you who may not have Amazon Prime, or YouTube or Netflix or whatever, you can probably find some summaries of this that will give you a sense of the the essence of the movies.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 51:09
And I really hope that everyone gets as excited about this series as I am. It's going to be so cool to discuss these topics with women across cultures and generations.
Marsha Clark 51:20
Yeah, I hope so, too, Wendi, because if we, if you and I didn't learn this in school, it's not likely that our daughters and nieces and granddaughters are learning it either.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 51:29
And yep. Well, Marsha, today was a jam-packed episode. We covered a lot of ground. We traveled across the globe and more than two centuries. And so I'm both exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. So thank you for this fascinating look back at a slice of history, and those who fought for freedom. But we've really just scratched the surface, haven't we?
Marsha Clark 51:51
Yeah, I agree. It's been a lot of territory to cover and content to cover. And yet, there's so much more to learn and explore around the topics of suffrage and human rights around the world. And, you know, there I forget who said this. But I think it's something like 'Women's rights are human rights." And so I hope our listeners found today not only enlightening and educating, but also inspiring to hear the stories and the struggles of the people who've fought the good fight for a very long time, for freedoms that we just cannot take for granted today.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 52:25
So Marsha, if you had one wish for our listeners after today's episode, what would that be?
Marsha Clark 52:30
Yeah, it's a great question for all of us, I think. I guess my wish would be that this episode inspired you to do three things. One, learn more. Go do your homework, as you call it, Wendi, and gain greater insights about this. This is a part of you and your historical lineage. The second is do something to make the world a better place for women and girls, I don't care how small - volunteering, contributions, having conversations that you wouldn't have otherwise. And that really leads me to number three, which is having conversations with the younger women in your life, and make sure that they know these stories. So that's where I really want to go. So Wendi, what stands out for you around today?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 53:14
I honestly I'm gonna ditto, ditto, ditto all three of your points. Learning more creates the space to have those conversations. And I love that we're covering these topics on on these episodes. So thank you, Marsha, for queuing these up. These are awesome. So thank you, listeners, for joining us today on our journey of authenti, powerful leadership. Please continue to download, subscribe and share this podcast from wherever you like to listen. Visit Marsha's website at marshaclarkandassociates.com, you'll see places on her Facebook and LinkedIn where you can comment on this episode. And please, you know, go back and re-listen to just this little section at the end, where we did a preview of what's coming up in the next episode. And watch these movies because it's going to make those episodes just, I know, come to life even more for you.
Marsha Clark 54:12
Yeah, and I think it also just you begin to see the parallels of what was happening at this point 300 years ago, and the struggles that you know, we're still fighting the good fight as much progress as we've made and as we continue to make. I have, I've been fighting for women's rights. I've been trying to model what women can do. We can do hard things. Our voices matter. And being there for one another is a critical part of that. So as always, I leave you with the 'do what you can'. And "Here's to women supporting women!"
Transcribed by https://otter.ai