Residents of antebellum New York State assumed a large responsibility for sheltering slaves fleeing to Canada. It’s rare that we hear how families dealt with the challenge of concealing a fugitive, a crime for which they could pay high fines or even jail terms. The following account of Martha and David Wright’s experience reveals some of the complications involved when a family with young children offered lodging to runaways.
Martha and David Wright offered their Auburn, New York home as a station on the Underground Railroad from its early years. In letters to her sister, Lucretia Mott, Martha described the stories and challenges that boarding fugitive slaves presented to her and her family. One of those stories happened in January, 1843. Continue reading
By the time Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave birth to her sixth child, Harriot Eaton Stanton, she had had plenty of practice. This winter baby would be her second daughter, but the first born in New York State’s frigid temperatures. It was January 24, 1856 and the Stanton family had resided in Seneca Falls and experienced its Januaries for almost ten years.
Within moments of Harriot’s birth, at home with a midwife as was the practice, Elizabeth forgot any ambivalence she might have felt about a child delaying her re-entry into the Woman’s Rights Movement. Clinging to the warmth of her fireplace, she discovered that she could not resist the allure of Harriot, whom she promptly dubbed Hattie. She told her closest colleague, Susan B. Anthony, “Well I have got out the sixth edition of my admirable work. Another female child is born into the world! Last Sunday afternoon, Harriot Eaton Stanton – oh, the little heretic thus to desecrate that holy day – opened her soft blue eyes on the mundane sphere.” Elizabeth wrote, “I am very happy that the terrible ordeal is passed and that the result is another daughter.” She joked that instead of giving birth to a baby, “I might have been born an orator before spring, you acting as midwife.” Elizabeth was nevertheless reconciled to waiting for her “latent fires to burst forth.” She admitted that Hattie was worth delaying her re-entry into the public world and “it would not be in vain that I am held back.” Continue reading
As many of us anticipate winter traveling in New York State this week, we might complain about the price of gas, too much traffic, or long hours on the road. None of our journeys could compare with the one Susan B. Anthony embarked on December 25, 1854.
Ignoring the holiday that most of her friends and family celebrated, Susan set out, not on a train or stagecoach. Just like Santa, she chose a sleigh, pulled not by reindeer but by horses. Just like Santa, she had vast goals in mind, which seemed as miraculous as those he pursued. Yet Susan’s trip would last far longer than twenty-four hours. She planned to visit each of New York’s 54 counties and take four months to do so. Continue reading
These days, no one likes a radical, especially one who makes unpopular statements or questions the government. The same can be said for our 19th-century counterparts. They, too, did not like a trouble-maker, particularly William Lloyd Garrison, who was born 208 years ago today, on December 12, 1805. A familiar figure to the women’s rights leaders and daughters I have studied, this Newburyport, Massachusetts native became the most outspoken abolitionist in America. At a time when North and South alike still tolerated the great evil of slavery, he called for immediate and complete abolition.
What is less known about Garrison is his staunch defense of women’s rights. He became the inspiration that led many New Yorkers to insist on women’s as well as slaves’ rights. We could view four periods of Garrison’s life through four New York women, each of whom saw him from a different vantage point. Continue reading
As we anticipate the February, 2017 centennial of women winning the vote in New York it’s a perfect time to focus on New York State’s women’s rights leaders as mothers. Some may ask: Why examine the woman’s rights leaders as mothers rather than speakers and writers? Or, why picture them at the hearth rather than the podium?
Years ago, I began researching the private lives of these women as a matter of survival in the classroom. After teaching women’s history at various colleges in New York through the 1990s and 2000’s, I became dismayed by the dry texts available to my students. Continue reading