American Women in History 1

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Last updated: December 9, 2019

She held a spiritual leadership position in Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans during King Phillips War in the Early Colonial Period. She was a wife of Metacom, also called King Phillip.

She drowned while trying to escape the English who sought her capture based on her powerful position. Her life serves as an example of the leadership positions open to women in Native American Society compared to British Colonial women’s options.

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Mary Rowlandson
Captured and lived briefly among Weetamoo’s tribe in the Early Colonial period. Her captivity narrative documented life in the Wampanoag community though her outlook was decidedly negative compared to the experience of Mary Jemison.

Anne Bradstreet
Wife of the governor of Massachusetts, she represents the colonial “goodwife.” She was and private, quiet unlike Anne Hutchison. She was however literate as most northern colonists were and her poetry documents the concerns of women at the time.

Her poem written before the birth of child illustrates the fear of death in childbirth which claimed 1 in 10 women in the Colonial period.

Anne Hutchinson
Her early colonial period trial recorded her willingness to speak out and preach before men and women regardless of the Puritan rules of the day which did not allow women to teach or preach in public, let alone to men. She was ultimately banished from the colony, but not without challenging the idea that women should not preach before men.

Enough of the colonists had been coming to her to cause consternation among those in leadership positions illustrating a beginning of a shift in thinking about women’s role in religion.

Mary Dyer
She was banished in 1638 from Massachusetts and followed Anne Hutchison whose teaching she supported to Rhode Island. She went to England in 1650 and there she joined the Quakers. She return Boston in 1857 and was arrested based on the new Anti-Quaker law. She returned preaching several times was arrested and expelled.

In 1658 Massachusetts passed a new law administering death to Quakers. She challenged Massachusetts anti-Quaker law and was arrested and hanged as one of the three Boston Martyrs in 1660. The hanging, particularly of a woman, marked the end of extreme religious intolerance. 1661 King Charles II forbade Massachusetts from hanging Quakers and in 1684 the crown revoked their charter, the new assembly passed a religious toleration law in 1689.

Margaret Brent
A Catholic emigrant leaving persecution behind in England, Margaret settled in the catholic colony of Maryland. She was a single woman and large land holder. First woman to demand right to vote in the English Colonies in 1648 before the Maryland Assembly.

She was made the executrix of Governor Calvert’s will, as a distant cousin and as such had power of attorney for Lord Baltimore’s, then in England. Her handling of payments to Calvert’s military prevented continuation of an anti-Catholic uprising in the colony.

Elizabeth Key Grinstead
She was the first enslaved African American woman to sue for her freedom and win. She won her sue in July 1656 in Virginia. She also successfully sued for gained the freedom of her infant son. She won her suit based on the fact that her father was an Englishman and she was a baptized Christian. Hers was one of the earlier “freedom suits.

In response to her suit, and a few others, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed the 1662 Servant and Slave code declaring that the status of the mother rather than father would now determine the status of the child. This reverse English common law.

Mary Jemison
Her early 18th century life among the Seneca group of the Iroquois documented the different types of housework Native American women engaged in versus European colonial women. Adopted into a family Mary married and had children and became accustomed to the Seneca way of life.

She helped around the home, with the skins, the children and documented the semi-nomadic/semi-agrarian lifestyle of the Seneca during the colonial period.

feme covert
The legal position of married women in the colonial period was covered by her husband. He was in charge of her property, finances, income, children and legal being. She could not make contracts, sue or be sued or sell what had been her property.

feme sole
This legal position designated a woman’s legal independence in the eyes of the court. With ” feme sole” status a woman could sue and be sued and make contracts.

She could also retain control of her property and income. Married women’s husbands could attest to their wives’ feme sole status so that they could legally handle business while they were away. Fathers could grant daughters property rights separated from that of their husbands.

indentured servitude
¾ of those that arrived in Virginia and Maryland during the colonial period were indentured.

This means that they owed money for their passage and had agreed to work for a term, usually seven years. Masters could sell indentured servants time. Indentured servants could not marry without masters consent and female indentured servants who became pregnant while serving their indentures had their time extended.

1662 Virginia Slave Law
This shifted common law considerably. Until this point in time a child’s status was that of its father. It was in fact the property of the father in essence. With this law a child of a slave woman became the property of the owner regardless of the status of the father-even if the father and mother were married

1662 servant and slave code
The status of the mother rather than father would now determine the status of the child. This reverse English common law.

1691 Statute Outlawing Interracial Union
This law banned interracial marriage. Those that married people of different races were fined and the married couple had to leave the state. Marriages with slaves and among slaves were not legally recognized.

Salem Witchcraft Trials
In the 1690s hysteria hit in Salem Massachusetts. Over a hundred people were accused of witchcraft. 20 were killed, over three quarters were women. This occurred during a period of social turmoil and highlights the precarious position of poor cranky women who don’t conform to ideals. The trials ended once a fair number of respectable women were being charged. This also highlights the colonial belief that women were more sinful and susceptible to the devil.

Republican Motherhood
Abigail Adams, Eliza Pickney, Mercy Otis Warren and Judith Sargent Murray all are examples of this new feminine ideal. The belief developed during the Revolution that women should be educated companions of their husbands and that women’s key role in the new Republic was to rear virtuous, educated children.

They did not gain the equal representation they had sought however.

Eliza Pinkney
This South Carolina planter’s daughter ran her father’s plantations in the late colonial period. She was highly educated, married well and raised sons who became political leaders of the US during the Early Republican period.

She serves as an illustration of the ideal of Republican Motherhood.

Sally Hemings
She was a slave of Thomas Jefferson. She also bore his children, four of whom lived to gain their freedom during her twenty year relationship with Jefferson. Her life highlights the difficult terrain of slavery for enslaved women who were bodily the property of masters.

Phillis Wheatley
Though enslaved in Colonial Boston this woman was unusual in that she received an education and was well known for the sophisticated poetry she wrote. Her education and life undermined the belief that Africans were intellectually inferior.

Mercy Otis Warren
This prominent elite Boston woman was a printer and writer who supported the Revolutionary cause.

She published work supporting the revolution and supporting the Bills of Rights.

Molly Brant
She was an Iroquois woman whose common law marriage to an Indian Administrator made her a cultural bridge between British colonial society and Native American society. Often Native American women served as cultural liaisons in the trade relationships that formed in frontier society. She was instrumental in maintaining Iroquois support for the British during the Revolutionary War.

Ester Reed
During the Revolutionary War she formed the Ladies Association of Philadelphia and these women raised thousands of dollars to support the Continental Army. She then communicated with and organized the other governors wives across the colonies to form similar fundraising groups. She published tracts supporting the forgoing of luxury goods to buy linen and shirts for soldiers.

Ladies Association of Philadelphia
Begun by Ester Reed this group of elite Philadelphia ladies raised money to support the Continental Army by forgoing luxury goods. They also sewed thousands of shirts to cloth the troops surrounding the city.

Penelope Baker
She formed the Edenton Tea Party which consisted of 51 ladies who publically renounced British tea imports. They were part of a larger unorganized patriotic effort of ladies to boycott British goods.

They avoided all imports including tea and cloth and turned to drinking local herbal teas and making their own homespun clothing as part of the war effort.

Edenton Tea Party
Formed by 51 ladies of North Carolina this group boycotted tea publically. It was the first documented case of women’s political organizing. Boycotts were an important part of the war effort. Ladies produced goods at home to avoid buying British made goods.

Sybil Ludington
She was like Paul Revere in that she also road over the countryside calling out the militia’s of New York in face of the oncoming British troops during the Revolutionary War.

Deborah Sampson
She dressed as a man and fought in the Revolutionary War, an uncommon experience for women and has gained some fame. Most women ran farms during the revolutionary war. 35,000 troops were supported by wives at home who continued to run businesses and farms without them.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women
This British woman’s work was widely read and supported the idea that women should have rights.

She laid the intellectual framework for the growing American women’s rights movement of the early 19th century.

Judith Sargent Murray
She wrote “On the Equality of the Sexes” published in 1790. She also wrote “The Gleaner.” She argued women were intellectual equals and should be educated. Her work was widely read by the elite of the New Republican period/early nineteenth century.

Susanna Rowson´s Charlotte Temple
Published in the late 18th century this best seller catered to women readers.

It was a tale of seduction and woe- a morality tale- a common genre of the day. It was a cautionary tale warning girls of the dangers of licentious men. It fostered concern for fallen girls moral reform associations were increasingly concerned about.

Female Moral Reform Society
This New York association was created to try to reduce prostitution. They estimated 5-10% of women fell into prostitution. They were concerned with the morality of the girls and tried to address licentious men who they held responsible for “ruining” girls.

They lobbied to make prostitution a crime.

Isabella Graham
founded the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children in the early 19th century (early National Period) to address the problem of poverty in New York. She founded the first orphanage which became the oldest one in New York.

She is an example of middle class women advocacy for women and children and the early moral reform movements concern for women and children.

Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children
Established by Isabella Graham in the early 1800s this organization collected charity for widows with small children. Trying to alleviate the plight of poor urban mothers society women paid subscriptions (pledges) to this organization. Ultimately they founded the first orphanage.

Sarah Hale
This widow became the editor of Godey’s Ladies Book a magazine for women with a very large readership in the first half of the 19th century.

She promoted the concept of the women’s sphere, advocated for women’s property rights and for expanded educational opportunities for women. She did not advocate for women’s right to vote however

Emma Willard
She lobbied the New York legislature to provide public funding for girls education in 1819. Though she was not successful she did draw enough support to endow a school for girls and in 1821 opened the Troy Seminary. Her education was female focused and religious in nature. She was part of the increasing number of people arguing for increased women’s education.

Mary Lyon
She advocated for women’s education and created Mount Holyoke in the early 19th century as a female seminary which continues as an educational institution today. She advocated that women be educated to be missionaries and teachers.

Catherine Beecher
She founded a school for girls and strongly advocated for the education of women as teachers.

She promoted women educators in common schools across the west.

Elizabeth Blackwell
In1849 she graduated from the only medical school which would admit her- the Geneva Medical School, NY. Most hospitals refused her as a medical practitioner. 1852 wrote The Laws of Life; with Special Reference to the Physical Education of Girls. In 1853 she opened and clinic in the slums of New York along with her sister, also a doctor and another female doctor. Together they expanded this clinic into a hospital, the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.

They helped organize the New York Central Relief Association which sent medical aid to Union troops at the start of the Civil War.

Lowell Offering and Voice of Industry
This was published by the women workers of the Lowell Mills in the early 19th century. Girls shared stories, poetry and advocated for better conditions. This is an early example of the voice of female factory workers.

Sarah Bagley
She worked in the mills during the early 19th century and founded the Female Labor Reform Society advocating for a 10 hour work day. Girls typically worked from 5 am to 7 pm.

They were paid less than men and had their wages were cut in the mid 1830s during the economic crisis.

Female Labor Reform Society
This early 19th century labor organization support factory girls desire for a 10 hour day, safer conditions and better pay. It is an example of working class women advocating for improving their conditions.

Edward Clarke
A renowned doctor who published a widely read article the 1830’s that spread the idea that women were too fragile for intellectual activity and that mental exertion might lead to insanity.

Maria Stewart
The first black woman to lecture on women’s rights and slavery in public in the early 1830s in Boston.

Encountered vocal opposition and violence. Garrison published some of her lecture’s in The Liberator.

Angelina and Sarah Grimke
These women from a Charleston slaveholding family moved north and became outspoken members of the abolitionist movement. Angelina was hired by Garrison for the lecture circuit on behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society in1836. Her public speaking on behalf of abolitionism and her advocacy of women’s rights caused a rift among abolitionists

Lucretia Mott
She founded the Female Anti-slavery society of Philadelphia in 1835. She and her husband -both Quakers and outspoken abolitionists- also worked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton on women’s rights issues.

A 19th century movement based on the sentiment that slavery should be abolished.

Those that worked for abolitionism sought to end slavery. This did not mean that they also believed in racial equality. Some did, as the Grimke’s did. Other’s did not and advocated for second class citizenship or removal of African Americans back to Africa. Garrison’s 1833 American Anti-Slavery society marks the beginning of an organized effort to end slavery.

Female Antislavery Society
Women were first not allowed to be active members in male societies.

They founded their own parallel societies. Lucretia Mott founded the ladies auxiliary to the American Anti-Slavery Society. Women were not supposed be in the company of men and this allowed women to advocate within the confines of the women’s sphere.

American Anti-Slavery Society
an abolitionist society founded by Garrison, Lucretia Mott and her husband. This group grows to encompass the Grimke’s, Sojourner Truth. They famously split with others over the issue of women’s rights in 1840.

Foreign American Anti-Slavery Society
This abolitionist group did not believe in women’s rights and formed a separate from that of Mott and Garrison. Women were not allowed in membership

Lydia Maria Child´s An Appeal of That Class of Americans Called Africans
She wrote on behalf of African Americans and her work was a strong voice for abolitionism. Her influence moved more into abolitionist thinking.

Harriet Beecher Stowe´s Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Her book was a best seller and shed a negative light on the slave system and the South. Her work is credited with increasing anti-slavery sentiment in the north.

World Slavery Convention 1840
Lucretia Mott was not allowed to be a delegate at the convention. Women had to sit in the balcony seats. She met Elizabeth Cady Stanton there. They would eventually organize the Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 at Seneca Falls1787 Northwest Ordinance: banned slavery in the western territories. This meant for African American women that they and/or their children would not be sold to slavery in the NorthWest.

Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell
Abolitionists who worked with Garrison and the American Anti-slavery society.

Stone and Blackwell formed in 1869 the American Women’s Suffrage Association: This group admitted men and women and sought state by state women’s suffrage. They supported the passage of the 15th amendment which was ratified in 1870.

Sojourner Truth
a former slave woman, she advocated for the end of slavery and for women’s rights. Her famous, “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech highlighted the double standard black women faced during the 19th century.

Harriet Jacobs
Also known as Linda Brent. Her Incident’s in the Life of Slave Girl highlight the sexual exploitation inherent in slavery. She hid for years in an attic. Abolitionists published her work but were uncomfortable with the fact that she had willingly taken a white lover who was not her owner as a form of resistance to sexual exploitation.

1787 Northwest Ordinance
banned slavery in the western territories. This meant for African American women that they and/or their children would not be sold to slavery in the NorthWest

Julia Ward Howe
Wrote Battle Hymn of the Republic and infused abolitionist sentiment into the war rhetoric. She founded the American Women’s Suffrage Association with Lucy Stone and advocated for the passage of the 15th Amendment.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow
a Southern lady and a Confederate spy.

Gives insight into southern women’s lives and experiences of the Civil War.

Mary Boykin Chestnut
A white southern plantation mistress who kept a journal leading up to and through the Civil War. Her work sheds insights into plantation life and is a much used document for detailing Southern Plantation life. She documented the prevalence of mulatto slaves on plantations and thus noting the sexual exploitation of enslaved women.

Clara Barton
Founded the American Red Cross.

She improved sanitation among the northern encampments leading to a significant reduction in death due to disease.

Dr. Mary Walker
Syracuse medical college graduate. She was the second woman to earn a medical degree (Elizabeth Blackwell was the first) Worked voluntarily in Army hospital in DC during Civil War, at first only allowed to as nurse. Hired by Army General George Thomas as a civilian field surgeon in 1863.

First woman doctor hired by military. Also first to get the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Dorothea Dix
She was a reformer who addressed the miserable condition of the insane during the 19th century.

She helped establish mental hospitals for those with mental illness rather than being housed in jails. She also later during the civil war served as Superintendent of Army Nurses helping to incorporate sanitary standards and nursing practices into the military to reduce non-combat related illness and death.

15th Amendment
Gave men the right to vote as part of citizenship.

The constitution for the first time distinguishes between men and women’s rights.

Elizabeth Keckley
She wrote her autobiography Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. She was the seamstress for Mary Todd Lincoln and her work documented life in the White House and shed light on race relations in DC during the Civil War.

Margaret Fuller and Woman and the Nineteenth Century1845
She wrote an influence work that was widely read among the Women’s Rights activist groups. She advocated for women’s right to an education and the right to employment. Anthony cited here as an inspiration

Seneca Falls Convention 1848
organized by Stanton Mott and Motts sister and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This is seen as the foundation of the Women’s Rights Movement

Elizabeth Cady Stanton
She wrote the Declaration of Sentiments in 1848 which first laid out the issue of women’s rights and established the desire for the right to vote as a central issue. A small group of activists including Susan B Anthony worked for women’s rights.

The groups divided over the 15th amendments exclusion of women from voting rights. Stanton sought a wider array of women’s rights than the increasingly conservative suffrage movement. She successfully got New York to pass married women property rights and guardianship of children on husband’s death or divorce. Other states followed.

Her Daughter was Harriot Stanton Blatch.

Amelia Bloomer
Advocate of dress reform and health knowledge for women in the mid and late 19th century. Bloomer’s did not catch on, but the idea that corsets were unhealthy gained mainstream acceptance and dress standards changed by the end of the century- wasp-waists were out. She was not an advocate of suffrage, but did advocacy for other rights for women.

New York’s Married Women’s Property Rights Act 1848
Became the model for the rest of the states in granting women the right’s to their property and income.

Woman’s Rights Convention 1851
This was where Stanton and Anthony met. They were introduced by Amelia Bloomer.

This would be a powerful friendship and forge a coalition that would ultimately win women the right to vote.

Susan B Anthony
She worked with Stanton on women’s rights and suffrage. She and Stanton formed the National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA) and did not support the 15th Amendment and its exclusion of women. She traveled a lecture circuit and organized petition drives across the East for greater women’s rights and for women’s suffrage. NWSA did not support the 15th amendment and focused on a wider range of women’s rights.

She eventually helped orchestrate the successful merger of the NWSA and the AWSA into the NAWSA group in 1890. She was a powerful symbol of the Suffrage Movement and critical in mobilizing the push for the 19th amendment.

Nancy Ward
a Cherokee woman and head of the Cherokee Women’s Council.

She sought a peaceful existence with white society. She led the opposition to the sale of Cherokee land to whites and argued women needed to retain control of land. Ultimately the Cherokee would be forcibly removed in the 1830s after white’s failed to purchase lands.

1830 Indian Removal Act
resulted in the removal of 45,000 Indians from the American Southwest. The Cherokee trail of tears is the most famous and deadly removal. Americanized Native American nations of the east were uprooted and forced west.

Jovita Idar
Mexican American woman journalist in Texas who exposed the lynchings of Mexican Americans by the Texas Rangers.

She also founded and woman’s group who organized schools for Mexican American children in the early 1900s.

Helen Hunt Jackson
Saw the abuse of Native Americans as a moral issue. She wrote and congress read A Century of Dishonor which highlighted the broken treaties and abuses of Native Americans by America. Her work resulted in the Dawes Act which sought to empower Native American by granting them individual land holding and forced education of their children into American culture.

1884 Dawes Act
The Dawes Act individualize land holding and sought to end Native American culture by incorporating Native Americans into the broader society. Forced Americanization in education is one of the hallmarks of this Act as is the cultural and land loss of Native American tribes.

American patriarchal gender rolls erased matriarchal rolls of traditional Native groups and Native American women lost access to land ownership and thus food production.

Sarah Winnemucca
Advocated for rights of Native Americans and cultural preservation in 1890s. She wrote Life among the Paiutes which drew attention to the wrongs they suffered.

highly education Sioux woman who lobbied for passage of the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act to allow Indians right to vote. She was a founder of the National Council of American Indians in 1926 and lobbied for the passage of the 1934 Indian reorganization Act which gave back Indian lands to the control of Indian governments and ended the forced Americanization programs in Indian schools.

1934 Indian Reorganization Act
Promoted heavily by Zitkala Za and Native American rights advocates at the turn of the Century this Act restored Native lands to the control of Native Americans and recognized Native American governments.

This Act ended the forced Americanization education programs initiated during the earlier century.

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