No, you can’t go to school! It’s not a place for girls. I’m sorry, your husband is the only one who can own that property. Yes, Mr. Smith makes more money than you because he has a family to provide for; you don’t. Lady, if you want that credit card you’ll need your husband’s signature. Don’t worry your pretty head about politics; I’ll take care of it. The military is for men only.
There was a revolution in the 1700’s that created a nation. But along the way, the founders forgot about women. Volumes have been written about the new nation. Its essential truth was “all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” It went saying that, “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted by men who get their powers from those governed.” What did that really mean? Only men were created equal? If men were the Government, did their powers only come from other men? Did freedom and liberty and justice for all apply only to them? My questions weren’t so unusual. Others long before me had asked them. Especially Sarah, Susan and Alice!
In South Carolina, Sarah Grimke (top left) and her sister Angelina (1792-1879) were the first American female advocates for abolition and women’s rights. Sarah’s father, Chief Judge of the Supreme Court, refused to send her to law school, deeming it only fit for his son, Tom. Nonetheless, she studied every book in her father’s library, excelling in the law. Judge Grimke later said she would have been the greatest lawyer in South Carolina—if she were not a woman. In violation of the law, Sarah taught her personal slave to read and later freed her. Then the sisters went on another improper activity for women—a national speaking tour against slavery and for the rights of women. Angelina wrote, “Women were not created for the possession of men. But rather as unique, intelligent, capable creatures deserving equal regard, rights and responsibilities with men.” It was inflammatory and incited riots. (Read their remarkable story in Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Invention of Wings.)
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906, top middle) is the most famous reformer of the suffragette movement in America. She too was an abolitionist but later was more focused on women’s rights. As headmistress of a female academy, she was enraged to learn she was paid much less than a male headmaster. It caused her to ease into the role of voting rights for women, saying, “I didn’t want to vote but I did want equal pay for equal work.” That changed when she met the women of Senaca Falls, who were lobbying for a woman’s right to vote. For over 50 years she and her closest collaborator, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, worked tirelessly. They marched, petitioned congress and endured public humiliations. She, and many of her friends, were imprisoned in horrible conditions for illegally voting in an election. Not until August of 1920 did women get the right to vote in the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It changed things.
Then there was Alice. Alice Paul (top right) from Mt. Laurel, NJ. She was the architect, activist, strategist and leader of the campaign for the 19th Amendment. She dedicated her life to securing a woman’s right to vote. She mobilized women as “Silent Sentinels” to stand outside the White House during WWI, incurring the wrath of angry mobs and the disdain of the President. They were imprisoned in filthy rat-infested cells. They were beaten and left out in the cold with no coats. They went on hunger strikes and were force-fed. Government officials removed Alice to a sanitarium in hopes she’d be declared insane. The doctor said no, she wasn’t. When the press found out about their treatment, the public responded in favor of the women. It went to Congress with the deciding vote in the hands of a 24-year-old from Tennessee who intended to vote “no.” Until his mother sent him a telegram saying “support the women.” Ninety-seven years later, a statue honoring his mother and the Tennessee Suffragettes was just installed in Nashville’s Centennial Park.
Thank you Sarah, Susan and Alice. You were vilified and humiliated. You were imprisoned and tortured. You were spat on and urinated on. You were chained and beaten. Yet you persevered and endured. You struggled for hundreds of years, finally getting women the right to vote. In November, at Thanksgiving, in an election year where the first woman in history is running for office, we thank you for your valiant courage in the face of unimaginable discrimination and horror. Because of you we can vote without facing those horrors.
Thank you Sarah, Susan and Alice!
Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to www.starsoundings.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.