Friday, May 31, 2013

Chien-Shiung Wu

Born this day in 1912: Chien-Shiung Wu, (1912–1997), who during her lifetime was one of the world’s leading experimental physicists. Wu’s experiments tested a notion, put forth by colleagues Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang, challenging the law of conservation of parity. Her experiments overturned the law of physics that held that nature has a left-right symmetry. Guess who was awarded the Nobel Prize.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29

On this day in 1977 Janet Guthrie became the first woman to complete in the Indianapolis 500. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Ain't I a Woman?"

Sojourner Truth—former slave, abolitionist, and women's rights activist—delivered her famous speech in 1851 at the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

“May I say a few words? [Receiving an affirmative answer, she proceeded;] I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal; I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am strong as any man that is now.
 “As for intellect, all I can say is, if woman have a pint and man a quart—why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much—for we won’t take more than our pint’ll hold.
 “The poor men seem to be all in confusion and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble.
“I can’t read, but I can hear. I have heard the Bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept—and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and woman who bore him. Man, where is your part?
 “But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, and he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.” —Sojourner Truth, 1851, as reported in the Salem, Ohio, Anti-Slavery Bugle, June 21, 1851

For a discussion of why the speech has come to be known as the “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, go here or here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Margaret Fuller

Born this day in 1810: MARGARET FULLER (1810–1850), distinguished woman of letters, teacher, literary critic, journalist, Transcendentalist, brilliant conversationalist, critic, activist, the nation’s first feminist, and one of the intellectual prime movers of her day.

For free digital access to Fuller’s groundbreaking feminist work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, go here.

To read about her in a U.S. textbook, you’re shit out of luck.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ellen Spencer Mussey

Born this day in 1850: Ellen Spencer Mussey (1850–1936), lawyer, educator, women’s rights activist

Mussey was born Ellen Spencer in Geneva, Ohio. Her father operated a penmanship school and promoted his method of handwriting (Spencerian penmanship). At a very young age, Mussey helped her father teach classes. Her father died while she was still a teenager, and Mussey lived with several different siblings and attended various seminaries for the next several years.
In 1869 Mussey moved to Washington, D.C. and managed the women’s department of her brother Henry’s business school (Spencerian Business College). The school trained young women for government work and was well-known in Washington.
In 1871 she married Reuben Mussey, a lawyer, and eventually began assisting him in his practice. After her husband’s death in 1892, Mussey wished to formally practice law in order to support herself and her family. No law schools in the area would accept her as a student because—really, do I have to tell you? She took the bar exam anyway the following year and qualified to practice law. She was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1876 and to practice before the U.S. Court of Claims the following year. Her practice included probate law, general commercial law, and international law. She also served as counsel to the American Red Cross and to the Norwegian and Swedish legations for 25 years.
Discovering young women who wished to study law (and who, like her, were denied admission to law schools on the grounds that they had lady parts), Mussey, along with lawyer Emma M. Gillett, established a law school—the Washington College of Law (1898)—that accepted both women and men as students.
Mussey was also active in the fight for women’s rights, including playing a prominent role in securing married women’s property rights, and drafted the Cable Act of 1922, which granted independent citizenship to married women.
Mussey’s other contributions included playing a leading role in establishing public kindergarten and the juvenile court system in the District of Columbia. She also established a school for developmentally disabled children.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Sarah Peter

Born this day in 1800: Sarah Anne Worthington King Peter (1800–1877), philanthropist who founded the Philadelphia School of Design for Women

Now the Moore College of Art and Design, the Philadelphia School of Design for Women was the first and only women’s visual arts college in the nation. Due to her wealth and position, Peter was able to acquire her own education, spoke several languages, and was well-respected for her intellect. She believed that all women, however, should have greater access to learning. The school’s original purpose reflected Peter’s lifelong concern with women’s education, the arts, and the less fortunate. The school first formed to provide single and widowed women with skills to support themselves financially.  Students were taught to design articles such as patterns for wall-paper, carpet, calico, and woodwork moldings—all of which were popular domestic items at the time. Peter’s other charitable work included ministering to Civil War soldiers, POWs, and children orphaned by the Civil War and to women’s prisons. She conducted many of her charitable activities  through the Catholic Church.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gail Laughlin

Born this day in 1868: Gail Laughlin (1868–1952), first woman lawyer in Maine and long-time public servant

Laughlin graduated from Cornell Law School and became the first woman to practice law in Maine. She practiced law in several other states as well and held a judgeship in San Francisco. She served three terms in the Maine house of representatives (1927–1934) and three terms in the Maine senate (1937–1941). Laughlin was a suffragist and introduced various legislation to protect the rights of women and children; she was also a defender of animals, wildlife, and the environment.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Phebe A. Coffin Hanaford

Born this day in 1829: Phebe A. Coffin Hanaford (1829–1921), minister, suffragist, feminist

Hanaford, a native of Nantucket, Massachusetts, was the first Universalist woman minister, first woman minister in New England, and third woman minister in the United States. Despite frequent opposition, she preached for more than 20 years. Rev. Hanaford believed that scripture “retarded the progress of woman for centuries, but not for all time." She was an active suffragist and worked closely with the leading feminists of the day. She was a charter member of the Equal Rights Association and the New England Woman’s Suffrage Association.

For a brief account of her life from the Nantucket Historical Society, go here

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lucy Larcom

Born this day in 1824: Lucy Larcom (1824–1893), poet and chronicler of the industrial age working girl.

A noted poet in her day, Larcom is best remembered for a literary and detailed account of her life as mill girl in the Lowell mills of Massachusetts. This important account of life for women and girls in the industrial age is still in print today.

Go here and here to read more about Larcom and her contributions to Operative Magazine and the Lowell Offering, monthly magazines that provide a literary outlet and forum for mill workers.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

May Sarton

Born this day in 1912: May Sarton (1912–1995), prolific writer of poetry, novels, and essays who explored themes of love, mind-body conflict, creativity, personal fulfillment, inner peace, relationships, lesbianism, feminism, aging, and illness

Enjoy an interview with May Sarton in her home, reading some of her works and talking about her career, poetry, women poets, and the role of the women’s movement in art:

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Alice Bertha Kroeger

Born this day in 1864: Alice Bertha Kroeger (1864–1909), reference librarian. 

Creator (1902) of the Guide to the Study and Use of Reference Books: A Manual for Librarians, Teachers and Students, the reference librarian’s bible for more than 100 years. Librarians at the Columbia University Libraries have been updating the book on an ongoing basis since Kroeger’s death in 1909. She was also a suffragist. Yea!

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell

Married this day in 1855: women’s rights activist Lucy Stone and women’s rights supporter Henry Blackwell

At their wedding, Stone and Blackwell read a statement denouncing the loss of a woman’s rights upon marriage. Stone became the first woman in the nation to retain her own surname after marrying.

“While acknowledging our mutual affection by publicly assuming the relationship of husband and wife, yet in justice to ourselves and a great principle, we deem it a duty to declare that this act on our part implies no sanction of, nor promise of voluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage, as refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess.”

For full text of the Stone-Blackwell Protest Against the Laws of Marriage go here.

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