Tag Archives: Gender History

1860: Married Women As Wage Slaves


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cotton-mill-workers1As the national debate over the extension of chattel slavery into the territories heated up in February and March of 1860, women’s rights advocates were storming the capitol in Albany demanding an end to what they felt was another form of slavery—wage slavery for married women.

Under the law in effect until March 20, 1860 in New York State, married women did not have legal control over any money they earned working for themselves or others. All of it belonged to their husbands! As Lucy Stone explained it to the National Women’s Rights Convention in 1853, “unless by cunning she can keep her earnings away from him, he can and does take them to pay the drunkard’s bill, and to squander upon abandoned women.”

According to women’s rights supporters, there were tens of thousands of these kinds of ne’er-do-well husbands, most of whom were cigar-smoking drunkards and/or womanizers, who paid their bills with money they took from their wives’ bank accounts without their permission. Continue reading

Events to Celebrate Adirondack Women’s History


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image001(8)Celebrate Women’s History Month on March 21 and 22 with a program of stories and music by acclaimed Adirondack singer-songwriter Peggy Lynn and author/performer Sandra Weber.

On Friday, March 21 at 7:00 pm Peggy and Sandra perform at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall. On Saturday, March 22 at 6:30 pm at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts there is a reception to benefit the Adirondack History Center Museum followed by a performance at 7:30 pm. The Wild Spirits: Songs and Stories of Remarkable Adirondack Women program highlights the contributions and journeys of famous (and not so famous) women of the Adirondacks. Continue reading

Help Us Promote Women’s History


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Womens History MonthHelp this New York History Blog spread the word about the role of women in New York State history by contributing an essay for publication.

Essays are sought that focus on individual women, women’s groups, or relevant historic sites located in New York State. Historiography and commentaries on public history issues related to women’s history, are all welcome.

Essays should be about 750-1,200 words. Send your submissions via e-mail to editor John Warren. Include a short (three line) biography of yourself.

Troy Labor History:
Kate Mullany 150th Anniversary History Walk


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kateimage-201x300The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) is hosting a special event this Saturday, February 22nd commemorating the 150th anniversary of Kate Mullany’s historic formation of the Collar Laundry Union in Troy. The event begins at 11am at RCHS and includes a walk from RCHS to the Troy Farmers Market at 12pm and concludes with speeches at the Farmers Market at 12:30. This event is free to the public.

At the age of 23 Kate Mullany organized 300 of her fellow laundry workers to strike for higher wages and improved working conditions in the collar laundries. This Saturday, February 22nd, RCHS will commemorate Mullany’s creation of the 1st sustained female labor union in America’s history. The event begins at 11am at RCHS (57 Second St., Troy, NY) where the public will be invited to create strike signs in keeping with the historic celebration of the strike. Continue reading

Susan B. Anthony in Rochester


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1-HorseChestnut-HistoricalRochester is the epicenter of a great deal that’s related to Susan B. Anthony in New York State. When you enter the city, it’s an exhilarating experience to drive over the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge to reach downtown.

Rochester residents are well aware of where Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) once lived. Get lost on any city street and say you’re trying to find the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House at 17 Madison Street in the section of the city known as the Susan B. Anthony Preservation District. Many local residents are even willing to escort you there personally. Continue reading

Annual Susan B. Anthony Birthday Luncheon Planned


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Susan B. Anthony HouseThe National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House’s annual major event, the Annual Susan B. Anthony Birthday Luncheon, will be held Wednesday, February 12, 2014, at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

The keynote speaker is Louise W. Knight, author, lecturer, and historian. The theme for this year’s luncheon is “Up and Doing,” inspired by a statement Susan B. Anthony once made as she called people into leadership and active citizenship: “We woman must be up and doing. I can hardly sit still when I think of the great work waiting to be done…” We may well include a surprise or two in the program this year to help the audience understand what Miss Anthony meant by “Up and Doing.” Continue reading

A Winter Baby Girl, Harriot Eaton Stanton, 1856


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Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1857By 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

Joan of Arc’s Birthday: Reflections On NY Suffrage History


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Inez MilhollandPosterJanuary 6 is Joan of Arc’s 602nd birthday. Not many historical figures, very few of them women, are celebrated 600 years after their birth. But the French teenager who led her country to victory after a century of war, changed its history, and was captured and killed by her enemies is an exception. Inspired by angels and saints, she has become an inspiration to many others, and New Yorkers are no exception.

When New York suffragist Inez Milholland, for example, led the women’s March for the Vote in Washington, DC in March 1913, clad all in white and astride a white horse, she didn’t overtly claim to be impersonating Joan of Arc. The electrifying figure she presented was called “the Herald” or simply “the Woman on a Horse,” an evocation of women in the West who already had the vote or a nod to the moral purity of American temperance leaders who frequently dressed in white. But everyone knew who she really was.  Continue reading

Ulster County: The Life of Sarah (Hasbrouck) Osterhoudt


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The Osterhoudt houseIf Sarah (Hasbrouck) Osterhoudt was transported from the 18th century to her home today, she would recognize her actual stone dwelling and little else. Once the nucleus of a large and prosperous farm which remained in the Osterhoudt family for centuries, today the home sits on less than an acre and is crowded later development.

The Osterhoudt house, located on a dead-end street in Lake Katrine, NY, is one of the oldest in Ulster County. It’s about five miles from the Stockade District of Kingston where Sarah’s eldest brother Abraham Hasbrouck lived. A considerable amount of information is known about the home Osterhoudt, but little is known about the lives of the occupants themselves, most notably Sarah. Continue reading

Susan B. Anthony’s Sleigh Ride Through New York State


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Twas_Night_Before_Christmas_Airborne_SleighAs 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

Votes for Women Trail: Federal Legislation Needed Now


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Appeal to Santa for a women's trailWhen we visited the national park in Seneca Falls, NY this year we asked Noemi “Ami” Ghazala, superintendent of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, about the significance of the feds reaching the “stakeholder” phase in the Votes for Women trail process. “We really don’t know what it means,” she said. “The criteria may sit there for a short time or remain there for years.”

This was alarming enough. Then we checked into the statistical probability of Congressional approval for funding the Votes for Women federal trail in the Finger Lakes region. We consulted the tracking web site for Congress and stumbled on the prediction that we might find coal in our stockings this year if we’re expecting a reauthorization of a bill that includes a Votes for Women federal trail. This is complicated by the fact that federal funding must be delivered separately. Continue reading

Dear Santa: Please Bring Us A Women’s History Tourism Trail


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Cradle of the U.S. women's rights movement is in NYPLEASE HELP, Santa. What we really want for Christmas is a women’s trail.

When members of the U.S. Congress and the New York State Legislature open their doors in January 2014, chances are that they will have received notice of our holiday appeal.

The reason for asking Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves for assistance is because of the urgent need for help in obtaining funding to advance women’s trails on both the state and federal levels. Realistically Santa might not be able to deliver on trails by December 25th, but that’s no reason to give up. Continue reading

William Lloyd Garrison: Radical Friend to New York Women


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William Lloyd GarrisonThese 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

Women’s Rights: Lessons from Motherhood


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Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1857As 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

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in Seneca Falls, New York


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Christmas film classic: "It's a Wonderful Life"George Bailey: What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.

Mary: I’ll take it. Then what?

George Bailey: Well, then you can swallow it, and it’ll all dissolve, see… and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair… am I talking too much?

What’s Christmas without putting your feet up and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”? This much-loved holiday classic is an industry for Seneca Falls, New York at this time of the year. Continue reading

Cradle to Torch: How Women Won New York


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2013-11-18-icon-thumbThe anniversary of the New York victory for woman suffrage (1917-2017) in the not too distant future is prompting proud talk of our state as “the cradle of women’s rights,” which is true enough but only half the story. The phrase refers specifically to the revolutionary movement that began in the small northern town of Seneca Falls in 1848 and was propelled by visionaries like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Frederick Douglass.

That early movement was “cradled,” as in “nourished in its infancy,” by geography. Cities and towns like Rochester and Seneca Falls were the “north star” of the Underground Railroad, places packed with Abolitionists and Quakers and radicals of all stripes. The population nurtured the young women’s movement and provided a base from which its standard-bearers could venture forth to persuade the rest of the nation. Continue reading

Archaeology in Westchester County:
An Excavation at St. George’s – St. Mark’s Church


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ExcavationIn the town of Mount Kisco in Westchester County, there is a small graveyard known as the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, after the two successive Episcopal churches that once stood there. Established in the 1760s, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the American Revolution. In the late 18th century, the small wooden St. George’s Church was one of the few man-made structures in a sparsely populated area that was transformed into a hostile wilderness with the onset of war.

Accordingly, the church was used by American, British, and French armies as a landmark in their journeys through Westchester County. General Washington’s troops retreated to the church to tend to the wounded and bury the slain after the Battle of White Plains in 1776; Colonel Tarleton brought his army to the church on the eve of the Burning of Bedford in 1779; and in the summer of 1781 the Comte de Rochambeau’s army camped near the church prior to the meeting with Washington that would ultimately bring their combined forces to victory at Yorktown. Continue reading

Nettie Fowler McCormick, Jefferson County Philanthropist


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Nettie Fowler McCormickIn 1835, in the small community of Brownville, a few miles west of Watertown, was born a young girl who would one day impact the lives of countless thousands. Nancy “Nettie” Fowler, the daughter of store owners Melzar and Clarissa (Spicer) Fowler, was the victim of tragic circumstances at an early age. In the year of Nettie’s birth, the family moved 13 miles northwest to Depauville. On a trip from there to Watertown, Melzar died after being kicked in the head by an unruly horse.

Nettie was less than a year old (her brother, Eldridge, was two). Clarissa ran the family business while raising two small children, but seven years later, she died as well. Nettie was raised in the home of her grandmother and uncle in Clayton, on the St. Lawrence River. The household’s strong Christian bent would have a lasting effect on her future. Continue reading

New Online Collections For New York History


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grace-hopper-and-the-univacHere’s a quick look at some of the latest New York history resources to hit the web:

The Bronx Zoo is digitizing three dozen scrapbooks of its first director, William Temple Hornaday (from 1896 to 1926). The work is being done with a grant from the Leon Levy Foundation. The zoo director promoted habitat preservation worldwide, and the scrapbooks include letters, postcards, legal briefs, newspaper clippings and pamphlets. His involvement in the infamous Ota Benga scandal in 1906 is not recorded. Hornaday died in 1937. The collection can be found at the Wildlife Conservation Society Library and Archives website. Continue reading