September 24, 2004

Progressive Women 5: Activists

First, a history lesson . . .



"Wall, chilern, whar dar is so much racket dar must

be somethin' out o' kilter. I tink dat 'twixt de niggers of de Souf and de womin at de

Nork, all talkin''bout rights, de white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all

dis here talkin''bout?

"Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped

into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber

helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me any best place!" And raising

herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunders, she asked

"And a'n't I a woman? Look at me! Look at me! Look at my arm! (and she bared her right

arm to the shoulder, showing her tremendous muscular power). I have ploughed, and

planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And a'n't I a woman? I could

work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear de lash a well! And

a'n't I a woman? I have borne thirteen chilern, and seen 'em mos' all sold off to

slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And a'n't

I a woman? [from Sojourner Truth, 1851: Account by Frances Gage, 1881 -]

Harriet Tubman -
We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then

we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and

that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that

we reaped.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton -
The strongest reason for

giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her

faculties, forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought

and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence,

superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear, is the solitude and personal

responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a

voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe;

equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and

professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to

self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself. No matter how

much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to

have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency

they must know something of the laws of navigation. To guide our own craft, we must be

captain, pilot, engineer; with chart and compass to stand at the wheel; to match the

wind and waves and know when to take in the sail, and to read the signs in the firmament

over all. It matters not whether the solitary voyager is man or woman. [from Solitude of Self


Sappho -
Some an army of horsemen, some an army on

and some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest sight
on this dark earth;

but I say it is what-
ever you desire:

and it is possible to make this

perfectly clear
to all; for the woman who far surpassed all others
in her

beauty, Helen, left her husband --
the best of all men --

behind and

sailed far away to Troy; she did not spare
a single thought for her child nor for

her dear parents
but [the goddess of love] led her astray
[to desire...]

reminds me now of Anactoria
although far away, [a fragment, translated by Josephine Balmer]
Margaret Sanger -
No woman can call herself free

who does not own and control her own body . . .
No woman can call herself free

until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother . . .

/>Woman must have her freedom, the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she

will be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man's attitude

may be, that problem is hers -- and before it can be his, it is hers alone. She goes

through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of

man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether

she will endure it.
Emma Goldman -
All wars are wars among thieves who are too

cowardly to fight and who therefore induce the young manhood of the whole world to do

the fighting for them . . .
The most violent element in society is ignorance . .

Jane Addams -
I do not believe that women are better

than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature, nor done many unholy

things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance . .

We slowly learn that life consists of processes as well as results, and that

failure may come quite as easily from ignoring the adequacy of one's method as from

selfish or ignoble aims. We are thus brought to a conception of Democracy not merely as

a sentiment which desires the well-being of all [people], nor yet as a creed which

believes in the essential dignity and equality of all [people], but as that which

affords a rule for living as well as a test of faith.
Thanks, folks. More


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Be at peace