Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lost daughters in the young United States

By DevinCook [Public domain],
 via Wikimedia Commons
One of the contentions of this blog is that Mary Wollstonecraft had a significant effect between her death and her rediscovery in the 1970s, and that she has some unexpected friends now. To that end, I am digging up the bones of her lost daughters and sons: so far we have looked at Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, eternal reinventor Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Victorian prime minister William Gladstone, American anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre, Mary's ghostly almost-stepdaughter Claire Clairmont, and Irish radical Margaret King. Today, as part of the week in the shadow of the Fourth of July, we look at early American activists for women's rights, many of whom drew on her work explicitly. "Without the revolutionary thoughts of Mary Wollstonecraft, who knows upon which philosophy these women... would have based their movement?" Or so says Megan Winkler

She bases her assertion on the paper I alluded to earlier, Botting and Carey's “Wollstonecraft’s Philosophical Impact on Nineteenth-Century American Women’s Rights’ Advocates”.  They remind their readers that A Vndication of the Rights of Woman was "reprinted many times in America between 1792 and 1891". They give a plethora of women who drew on Mary.

Hannah Mather Crocker, (born 1752, Boston – died 1829, Boston) was an American essayist and one of the first advocates of women's rights in America. She was born into the illustrious Mather family of Boston, and heir to its long history of Puritan activism.... Before her marriage, she set up a school for women to show that they had the same intellectual capabilities as men, if they had the same educational opportunities. After raising her children, she took up a career in writing. Her most important contribution was Observations on the Real Rights of Women, with Their Appropriate Duties, Agreeable to Scripture, Reason and Common Sense (1818), in which she argued that education was crucial to the advancement of women. This included a courageous defense of Mary Wollstonecraft, who, in Boston society, was viewed as a libertine.

Lucrecia Coffin Mott (January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) was a Quaker,abolitionist, social reformer, and proponent of women's rights. [She co-organised the Seneca Falls gathering of women's rights activists, of which more tomorrow.]

Sarah Moore Grimké (November 26, 1792 – December 23, 1873) was an abolitionist, writer, and suffragist. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says cautiously, "Throughout Sarah’s and Angelina’s writing, their arguments for women’s rights is based on the moral authority of the reasoning person – similar to the arguments that they both made for natural rights for African Americans. In this they may also be reflecting some of the arguments that they had read in Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 Vindication of the Rights of Women [sic]." [Grimké and her sister grew up as the children of a slave-owning plantation, but "ran away" to become Quaker leaders and speakers.]

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller, (May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850) was an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States. [George Eliot compared her to Mary in an essay in 1855.]

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (November 12, 1815 – October 26, 1902) was a social activist and leading figure of the early woman's movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the first women's rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca FallsNew York, is often credited with initiating the first organized woman's rights and woman's suffrage movements in the United States. Before Stanton narrowed her political focus almost exclusively to women's rights, she had been an active abolitionist. Unlike many of those involved in the woman's rights movement, Stanton addressed various issues pertaining to women beyond voting rights. Her concerns included women's parental and custody rights, property rights, employment and income rights, divorce laws, the economic health of the family, and birth control. She was also an outspoken supporter of the temperance movement.

Susan Brownell Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was a prominent civil rights leader who played a pivotal role in the 19th century women's rights movement to introduce women's suffrage into the United States. She was co-founder of the first Women's Temperance Movement with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as President. She also co-founded the women's rights journal, The Revolution. She traveled the United States and Europe, and averaged 75 to 100 speeches per year. She was an important advocate, leading the way for women's rights to be acknowledged and instituted in the American government.

All quotes in Courier font  are from each individual's Wikipedia biography, unless otherwise stated. Tweaked for brevity.

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