Skip to main content

tv   Winifred Gallagher New Women in the Old West  CSPAN  November 12, 2021 7:20pm-8:44pm EST

7:20 pm
able to talk about this. >> thank you. >> all right. >> but by. historian winifred gallagher examines the role women played in america's western expansion, this was a virtual event hosted by smithsonian associates. >> let me tell you about our speaker tonight winifred gallagher's include, "how the post office created american", "just the way you are", a new york times notable book,
7:21 pm
working out loud, "the power of place", "rapt" and "new: understanding our need for novelty and change". she's written for the atlantic monthly, rolling stone, and the new york times. her newest book, "new women in the old west", from settlers to suffragists, an untold american story, is available for purchase. if you lose the link in the chat box, it's also available on our website. you'll be able to purchase the book with a 10% discount. just make sure to use the code when checking out. please join me in welcoming to the smithsonian, winifred gallagher. >> -- >> winifred. >> hi kathy. thanks so much, it's wonderful to be with you. >> before --
7:22 pm
>> i'd like to say a few words, before we begin, about mina westbye. you can see her on screen with her cousin. after homestead in north dakota. she was a norwegian immigrant who spoke no english at all when she arrived in the u.s.. but she filed her homestead claim, lived on it for five years, and then sold it for a nice profit, which he used to start out in a new career as a photographer, with her own studio. like the other women we will talk about tonight, she made the most of the unusual opportunities that the american west afforded to her. i'd like to explain also that we will pick up with slides later in my talk, partly because women in general, particularly the ones that i'm going to talk about, we're not much photographed until the women's rights movement really picked up later in the 19th
7:23 pm
century. i began thinking about new women in the old west during my 12 years of living halftime in rural wyoming. i was impressed by the strong, versatile women, starting with the 80 year old mayor, who pretty much ran local affairs from government to business. and that's not even counting the actual cow girls. was there something in the water? i did some research and found that my friends were carrying on a long tradition of independent, competent and civic-mindedness. it began in the old west era of the 18 40s, into the early 20th century, when more than half of america was settled. but historians fail to notice, however, that women busy building homes and communities from scratch not only joined,
7:24 pm
but at crucial moments, lead the massive human rights revolution that enfranchised half the nation. indeed, by the time the 19th amendment was finally ratified in 1920, most western women had already voted for years, sometimes for decades, before their sisters in a single state back east. the colonization of the west and the suffrage movement were overlapping epochs and three generations of women were critical to both. yet their double barreled achievements have simply been neglected. according to the foundational myth, strong silent men won the west. in fact, women were equally essential to the process. moreover, they were not just stereotypical martyrish wives
7:25 pm
or hookers with hearts of gold, who supported men in various ways, but single homesteaders and doctors, entrepreneurs and suffragists. in their experimental, improvised settler society, these hardworking, determined women found unique opportunities. social, political, economic opportunities to become more equal to men by acting more as equals. all of these white, black and asian women were new to the west, but some of them -- and some of them native american and hispanic women they displaced -- also came to personify what was called a new woman. these new women rejected the 19th century self sacrificing domesticity and anticipated the early 20th century more liberated model of womanhood, based on the kind of
7:26 pm
independent, fulfilling way of life traditionally limited to men. officiating women's experience in the west requires understanding something about their position in larger american society, which was terrible. by age-old law and custom, they were citizens in name only. they had no official place in civic life and very few legal rights. according to americas version of english common law, a married woman, a wife, became a -- , who was covered by or officially absorbed into her husband's person, in exchange for his support and protection, she was legally obliged to serve and obey him. she could not inherit or control property including her own earnings. she could not sue in court, run
7:27 pm
a business, divorce or even claim custody of her own children. the connection between women's lack of economic status and lack of rights was highlighted in america just after the revolutionary war. while the men fought, many women, including abigail adams, the future first lady, capably ran their family farms and enterprises. in recognition of their service and patriotism, new york, new jersey, massachusetts and new hampshire allow them to vote. then the man returned from war. by the time of the constitution's ratification in 1788, most women had been disenfranchised. the new jersey women held on until 1807. by the mid 19th century, as the industrial revolution rapidly gathered steam in a rapidly
7:28 pm
urbanized america, women's status declined further, at least those of the middle and upper classes in towns and cities. in the old agrarian economy, home and work were intermeshed on farms, where the labor of both sexes sustained the family. especially in the booming urban areas, men's jobs in the new factories and offices now supported their wives and children. eager to codify this shift, victorian society can find the sexes to what were routinely called separate spheres. men got the public world of the home -- excuse me, men got the public world of industry and commerce, law and politics. women got the private world of the home. they continue to do housework
7:29 pm
and childcare but they lost the status of economic co-providers for their family. the only acceptable career was marriage. indeed, they could compromise their respective reputations simply by seeking a man's education, in quotes, much less a profession. just as westward migration began, however, social reformers started to renovate this cloistered victorian home, turning it into women's new power center. they built upon a theory, involving since the 18th century, that women were not so much inferior to man, as had always been thought, as different from them. they were weaker, generally, of course, but also more elevated, nurturing. in a treatise on domestic economy, which quickly became a secular bible on how
7:30 pm
respectable people should live, catherine beecher, a champion of female education and of home economics, took the home and the homemaker as the center of america's rapidly changing society. women were no mere domestic grudges drudges, she insisted, but the arbiters of mores, manners, childbearing, religion, charity, important matters previously adjudicated by men. indeed, beecher went so far as to proclaim that women's moral authority, perhaps even superiority, created a balance of power. she said that it is in america alone that women are raised to inequality with the other sex. a pretty radical thing to say back in 1841.
7:31 pm
this glorification of their domestic role endowed women with a potent religious and social gravitas that elevated their social standing. it also provided activists with a platform for launching their campaign for further empowerment. there's a certain irony that women turned on domesticity, which was keeping them down on a certain level -- they turned it into an advantage and used it to go from home to world. poor and enslaved women, who had to work, could not emulate this new gentle model of womanhood. others, whether agrarian wives, bohemians or the first female teachers and nurses, did so qualify ably, if at all. by the aspirational ideals of
7:32 pm
the domestic, righteous american madonna, the sentimental religious victorian society, and migrated to the west. most 19th century americans, including beecher, considered politics to base a pursuit for women. but not all. in july, 1848, as migration increased, elizabeth katie stanton, who you can see here in all her magnificence, and lucretia mott, both abolitionists, held a meeting in seneca falls, new york, to discuss what were first called woman writes. the event was later promoted as the birthplace of suffrage, the right to vote in national
7:33 pm
elections or run for office. -- earlier, amid the ferocious battle called slavery. by the 1830's, black women, sun personified by sojourner truth, championed rights regardless of race, six, or creed. --o rebel against abolitionists to know that their own second class status was based on gender instead of race. mott was also well aware that in their own upstate community, the native women of the iroquois confederation headlong owned property, divorced and elected leaders. after two days, stanton wrote a declaration of rights and
7:34 pm
sentiments that elegantly paraphrase thomas jefferson. all men and women are created equal. two little words. despite the lofty language, the activists first roles were distinctly practical and domestic. they prioritized the rights to hold property, to work and maintain child custody. these were laws that would help protect their families from improvident or abusive husbands. even these zealots considered suffrage so far fetched that they included it in their declaration only after black abolitionist frederick douglass made a similar argument. in mainstream society, however, the woman writes proclaimed at seneca falls, including equal education and employment, we are considered so ludicrous that newspapers lampooned the
7:35 pm
idea simply by printing a list of women's rights. in that same year of 1848, change roiled the west. that vast territory stretching past the mississippi river. gold was discovered in california, the u.s. annexed the vast oregon territory, and also claimed what is now are enormous southwest as spoils from the mexican american war. the rush to the new frontier began in earnest. the west differed from the rest of america and significant ways that affected women's positions, starting with demography. until the turn of the century, white men significantly outnumbered white women there, particularly in towns and cities. and women's scarcity increased their value.
7:36 pm
overall supply and demand. so, far less popular than in the east, the west was also home to the great majority of the country's native american, hispanics and asians, which conditioned the white anglo-saxon protestant women, who dominated at least early migration, to be cast as maternal civilize or's among savages in an alleged wilderness. indeed, the west quickly became a showcase for the virtuous homemaker in her snug cabin. she was not only the moral heroin of beecher's victorians excitedly, but also of america's transcontinental expansion. women's status also benefited from conditions in the west's settler society, which by
7:37 pm
definition was simpler and more interested in progress than in tradition. it was all hands on deck, everyone was needed to do whatever needed doing. and people just didn't pay too much attention to these victorian ideas about what ways women's work and men's work. in the west, as in most of america today, it took to industrious partners too support a family, which increased the value of women's work. no man wanted to make a homestead without a wife to do all the domestic work and give birth to the labor force. and also, importantly, earn money from her home production, whether selling eggs or bread or taking in sewing or borders. by that time, a lot of the pioneers got to the west, and they were often very cash for -- even if they wanted to hire, there was really no help to be had. so this gave women a lot of
7:38 pm
opportunities. and the cash that they made, really, for the first couple of years often supported their families. not surprisingly, agrarian women had their pick of suitors. too many men, not enough women, and women were able to be very picky. in mining towns, women used their domestic skills to make small fortunes by marketing hot meals and clean laundry to the overwhelmingly male population. population.the pioneer woman od story maybe the proper, bonded wife in her remote homestead. but women like you gina stanley wilson have an equally valid claim to the title. in 1849, after barely surviving and especially taxing migration, she and her family arrived in
7:39 pm
the remote town of sacramento. she was one of three women among 6000 men. one morning, a minor offered her five dollars for a hot breakfast, about 168 dollars today. she noted that he would have paid her ten dollars if she had asked for it. she set up her first boarding house and prosper in the west hospitality industry, at the time when few women ran businesses. her final hotel, which he called wilson's hotel, the previous one had burned down -- she loaded her cook stove in the wagon, and they got some hay bails, they stopped at a nice spot, and she hung up a sign. her first guest slept on the
7:40 pm
other side of the hay bails. she was very good cook. the west settlers society was also free of an entrenched, highbrow the establishment determined to keep women in their place. building new communities required every pair of hands. and the town mothers, who organize many of the first schools, churches and charities greatly enhanced women's position in public life. one of the things that really annoyed me when i was doing research on this book was that because women didn't have the legal right to start an institution, to found corporations, the women would do all the work at the school or the hospital, and then their husbands would appear in the newspaper that it was his school, or his hospital. and he got the credit for being the town father instead of the town mother.
7:41 pm
during sarah royce's first years in gold rush, california, she held church services in her family's tenth. more than five years, i believe. in 1854, the teacher turned her modest, one story house into a school. her only resources were some book she found in an abandoned wagon. a bible, a volume of milton, some fables. but her home schooled son became a famous harvard philosopher. and her daughter-in-law, -- as her daughter-in-law later put it, quote, where were she was, she made civilization, even when it seemed that she had very little indeed from which to make it. kind of a quote that applies to a lot of these women that we
7:42 pm
are talking about tonight. when she arrived in central city, colorado, my roya brown, a black freed woman, worked as a washer woman until she could start her own laundry. as her business expanded, she shrewdly invested in mines and real estate. she accumulated 10,000 dollars, than a huge sum, and became a philanthropist. she helped the needy of all races and other freed people to migrate to colorado. at the age of 82, after years of searching for the for children who have been sold away during slavery, she finally found her daughter alyssa jane. the local paper described brown as still strong, vigorous, tall,
7:43 pm
her hair thickly streaked with gray, her face kind. women like wilson, brown and were royce not considered equal to men. but they had narrowed the gap. their record of hard work and dedication one respect and made them a political force, albeit not electoral to be reckoned with. during the civil war, small but influential groups of western women began to capitalize on two unique opportunities to get ahead. each process made them be treated as equals by the federal government, a very important legal precedents. in 1862, as the civil war raged,
7:44 pm
president lincoln and his more gender egalitarian republicans passed to groundbreaking laws that recognized women's importance to the greater reconstruction. we have far too narrow an idea of reconstruction. it actually lasted from 1845 to 1877, and it was meant to create a coast to coast nation that actually never existed before. if you think about it, most of america on the east coast and the south -- and then gold was discovered in california, there is a whole lot of nothing in the middle there. the greater reconstruction, it created a new trans continental country, by not just for unifying the south after the war, but by colonizing the
7:45 pm
west. so it's actually kind of -- if you wanted to study an interesting period of american history, i think that the greater reconstruction from 1845 to 1877 is really worth a whole lot more attention. more than half of what is america. people forget it's more than half of america. it doesn't get the same press. but that history is phenomenally interesting. anyway, in 1862, congress passed the homestead act, which enabled female as well as male heads of households to claim 160 acres of free land in the west. at the time when most women had a few economic opportunities at all, the chance to own real estate to support an
7:46 pm
independent life, and to sell it later for a sizeable profit, was a stunning advance. bear in mind that women of ample means, or wealthier women, the only -- they were allowed to have was marriage. if no one was married then, they had two more or less live as an unpaid servant for one of their male relatives, like, 90s for their brothers children or took care of grandpa in his old age. if you were a poor woman the only opportunity you'd have would really be domestic service. so this idea that a woman could own her own property and support herself on her own land was really a pretty phenomenal advance. women especially didn't have the opportunity to accumulate capital. the idea that you could own this land and then sell it and end up with something like
7:47 pm
30,000 dollars or 40,000 dollars in today's money, was just amazing. importantly, women homesteaders also attained landowner status, which since the days of the agrarian founders, washington and jefferson, had been tied to citizenship and social standing. at first, in america, the only men who were allowed to vote were white men who owned property. the women homesteaders names on tax rolls besides mans became an important argument for women's full citizenship. few single women could dream of owning a home of their own, much less enough land for farm. but in 1873, pauline armstrong, a single, 53 year old scandinavian immigrant -- a lot of these women were middle aged.
7:48 pm
filed for a homestead on the remote minnesota frontier. it was -- she was actually near where laura ingles wilder -- her fourth book in the little house series, on the banks of plum creek, the books of -- pauline lived right near their. summers alternated with arctic will tours, and periodic plagues of grasshoppers wiped out farms in moments. despite the challenges, five years later, when pauline finally finalized her homestead claim, she owned a 14 by 15 foot cabin, cattle, pigs and chickens. she produced 400 bushels of wheat, dozens of eggs, and 150 pounds of butter for sale.
7:49 pm
she lived off her land for 14 years and then sold it for 1280 dollars, more than 30,000 dollars today. to make additional income for her retirement in a snug house in town, she carried the mortgage. a lot of the women homesteaders, after they proved up their claims, they would hang on to their land and went to a farmer and they would have income for the rest of their lives, in many cases, or until they wanted to do something else. this was a very unusual thing for a woman to be able to have her own money in that way. they were a few 19th century americans, especially women, having access to college and the professional life it enables. but in july, 1862, just a few months after the homestead act, congress passed the moral land grant act. the law created nearly 100
7:50 pm
tuition-free coeducational public colleges and universities. two thirds of the schools were in the rapidly developing west, which desperately needed expertise. given access to careers that would enable them to support themselves, women graduates who chose to delay family life now had an alternative to marriage. i should point out -- these were some of the first coeducational schools in the world. in the world. and it was -- coeducation was found a prawn in the east, as you know. college girls back east at that time went to vast sir, and smith and wellesley, girl schools. but western girls went to college with men. given access to career is that enabled them to support themselves, they could delay family life. many became teachers.
7:51 pm
but almost 15% of these career oriented new women and who traditionally male feels like medicine, journalism and law. almost twice women's national rate of 8%. that's kind of an impressive statistic, i think. in these towns and this region where people are particularly just coming out of the mud, living in these ramshackle towns, and yet we have twice as many women that are going into the professions as those back east. a classic western new woman, independent and as adventurous and as good as any man, will a taver had a dashing figure at the university of nebraska, land grant school. a journalism major, who
7:52 pm
sometimes styled herself william taver junior and sometimes favored conventional mail haircuts and mannerisms, was a popular editor of the college newspaper. later, as the consummate poet of the western prairie and its women, she based the most beloved characters, earthy of antonine my antonina, portraits of women immigrants she met on her grandfather's homestead. the west knew women helped america come to terms with women's new role in a rapidly modernizing society. now we can go back to the slide because it was a rapidly modernizing society. i think --
7:53 pm
there we go. one favorite of the american public was mary how light foot. she was in east debutante, who migrated with her minor husband. he studied mining at yale. and then went west. she -- represented the west with a distinctly female perspective in art, journalism and novels. no heroic cowboys alone on the prairies for her. she was determined to show that women were just as important to men, to western development. and that -- you can kind of tell from the demeanor of the men and women in the pictures that the men were by no means all swashbuckling heroes. but few new women compare with
7:54 pm
caroline lock heart, an amazing wyoming woman. she has a special place in my heart. she began her writing career as a girl reporter for the boston post. nearly blind start of this thing of, send the women to do something, and caroline we dive into the boston harbour, and jump off a building with the net the fireman were holding. anyway, she went west on an assignment and then fell a love with cody, wyoming. she published the local newspaper. she founded the famous cody stampede. but she was most famous for her
7:55 pm
novels, which challenge the idea of good guys and bad guys. but several of her westerns became major hollywood movies, including the fighting shepherdess, based on the so-called sheath queen of wyoming. readers loved lockhart's mastery of western speech. i don't like you know how, i don't like the way you act, i don't like the way you talk. i don't like the way you think, the way your face grows on you, and if i never see you again, it will be soon enough. the hard drinking, hard partying cowrote never married but enjoyed many unofficial liaisons. ialat the age of 54, she becamea
7:56 pm
cattle queen in her own right on her 6000 acre ranch and live to the age of 91. just as the west gave ambitious women unique opportunities to own land and attend college, it gave them special advantages in their pursuit of more rights. indeed, in 1864, just a few years after the seneca falls conference, and one year after washington territory was founded, a suffrage bill filled pass in the washington territories legislature by single vote. the national movement may have been based in the east but when the cause reemerged after a hiatus imposed by the civil war, suffrage first caught fire in the west. the suffrage movement was a
7:57 pm
messy, fragmented phenomenon that waxed and waned over a century of internal squabbling in public debate. many suffragists did not consider people of color, including fellow suffragists, as there equals. some leaders wanted to first focus on women's right to vote in school board elections. you would think, gee, it's just school board elections. but it was a very contentious issue. other suffragists claimed that women deserved full and fair enfranchisement. some insisted that women were mans equals. that many more argued that -- were moral superiors. and that women would vote to
7:58 pm
protect and care for the homeland just as they protected and cared for their homes. what's the movement lacked in ideological consistency, however, it made up for in sheer grit over three generations. in the west, suffragists maximized the special advantages that women enjoyed in the region. legislators in a sparsely populated territory were too eager to increase their electorates because that's how you got more power in washington d.c.. they also wanted to entice white women because they needed them to help balance the white gender ratio. they also wanted to counter the ballots of men of color. legislators tried to lure women with liberalized laws regarding property and divorce, not just
7:59 pm
suffrage. indeed, by the 1850s, unhappy wives may california the first of the west many divorce mills. controversial laws, such as suffrage, were also much more easy and loosely governed in territories and in states encumbered by century of laws and legal precedent. importantly, territories transitioning into states had to write constitutions, which required the legislators to debate on issues, including women's legal rights and political status. finally, compared to men in the south and the east, western men had witnessed women's service during ongoing settlement and were notably more receptive to their empowerment, particularly if it was two men's own political advantage.
8:00 pm
for all these reasons, in 1869, the women of the wyoming territory, who were outnumbered by men by a ratio of nine to one, became the first women to be fully enfranchised. later, after hobart suffragist, wyoming was appointed as the nation's first woman judge. despite her lack of formal legal training, she was so capable that none of the 27 cases she tried were a field or reversed. she was treated by the crude press as a freakish celebrity but one respectable national weekly calder, quote, the terror of all rogues, and an infinite delight all lovers of peace in
8:01 pm
virtue. she acknowledged that her appointment was quote, , a testf women's ability to hold public office, end quote, then added that quote, in performing all of these duties i do not know that i've neglected my family any more than an ordinary shopping. i love esther. in 1870 the women of the largely mormon utah territory were enfranchised as well. we'll see emily wells, there she is. suffrages such as the journalist emily wells who was one of her third husband second wives insisted that sister wives, that because sister wives share domestic chores, polygamy gave women more freedom. in fact, the whole enfranchisement of women in utah
8:02 pm
back to them by the republican party set the twin evils of the era were slavery and polygamy, and they assume that if they gave mormon women the vote, that mormon women would vote to eliminate polygamy but, in fact, the mormon women were just as religious as the mormon men and polygamy was part of the religion. so it backfired on the republicans. importantly, both the wyoming and utah territories enfranchised women i half-century before the passage of the 19th amendment. it is often said that western women, western men gave women the vote but after those two gifts, other territorial and state governments responded only after women persistently lobbied for bills saw them defeated and tried tried tried again.
8:03 pm
in the 1870s and '80s, activists such as abigail scott dunaway, there she is, much later she, she really is, she's the elizabeth cady stanton of the west, and there she is visiting with the great women herself. women such as abigail fought on in legislatures and courtrooms to improve women's rights to own property and divorce as well as vote. back abigail became a suffragist with her husband pressed a friend of his and countersigned a load of his friend, the friend defaulted on the loan and mrs. dunaway home which she shared with her five or six children, the bank seized their home. she was so outraged, she it worked a dog establishing i
8:04 pm
think their second firm, establishing the farm and giving things up and going, that she on the spot became a suffragist. and again as was true often of the early feminists, what she really wanted was women's property rights. because women have no money,, they had no power. well, so abigail is very busy and courtrooms trying to make her case but other western women continue to accumulate political power by moving from community building to large scale social reform which was also catching on in late 19th century, later 19th century america. many women enlisted in the powerful nationwide women's christian temperance union. it began the campaign against the vices that jeopardized the family, particularly drunkenness
8:05 pm
and prostitution. before long, however, wctu embraced suffrage that included sanitation, labor regulation, food and drug laws, the rehabilitation of prostitutes, starting at kindergarten. this pragmatic shift was especially popular in the very practical west. contrary to its image the wctu still one of the largest and most important political organizations in american history, gave tens of thousands of women aipac from the home into the larger world of personal growth -- a path -- and politics. i strongly influencing public policy before women could even
8:06 pm
vote, the wctu strengthened their claim to the rights of full citizenship. there were many, many, many more women in the temperance movement than in the suffrage movement. it's really a neglected area of american history, probably because it was dominated by women. the western western sufn stereotyped fighter eastern counterpart as white, but a surprising number of were women of color. for native americans, hispanic, black and asian women, political activism first and foremost meant ensuring their families survival amidst the systemic racism that was just as bad in the west as in the east. many of the wes first chinese women had been sold back in china by their indigent parents or kidnapped to become sex slaves in california, yet polly
8:07 pm
who we see here, escaped from sexual slavery. she married and became a beloved homesteader on idaho's salmon river. our homestead as to how a national historic landmark. despite difficulties that we can hardly imagine, suffragist later emerged from the ranks of women of color to amplify their people's choices as well as their sexism. they wanted to speak up for native american women, black women, asian women as well as women. they include elizabeth, a black teacher and a cofounder of colorado's nonpartisan equal suffrage association, a very important organization. this was a time when a lot of suffrage movement was itself
8:08 pm
segregated in many instances and elizabeth ensley helped provide an alternative to that. and you will meet a hispanic journalist and rights activist from texas. she shown here in her printshop. she at one point the texas rangers came to break up or printing press and she prevented them, she barred the door and she told him -- repelled them. she prevented them from doing that. native american activist such as suzanne laface and sarah, there she is, and orator, inspired influential white women to join the fight for equality to the wes original people's. one of the recruits, helen hunt
8:09 pm
jackson, a prominent journalist, went on to write a century of dishonor, a blistering history of the government treaty violations that she sent a copy to every member of congress. so she wrote ramona, which breast me of you read, i know it used to be a high school reading lists, a perennial bestseller that prevented the same injustices of government treatment of native peoples in more accessible fictional form, unfortunately she died before she knew that it had really captured the public attention and actually started some of the reforms that she wanted to see happen for the california mission indians. suffrages have also been stereotyped as traditional wives and mothers. what a striking number of these activists like the wes outstanding women in general was
8:10 pm
single, like a homesteader and force services first female fire lookout. or divorced like clara shortridge foltz, a mother of five who became the pacific coasts first female lawyer. she was a real firebrand. her brother became a senator. of course she should have been the senator but she actually started the position of public defender which was considered a very radical thing. she championed public defenders and now of course they are everywhere, but the first one was in california. she was an amazing woman. she was married to a real narrative will. she left him, no legal education or anything, five little children. she studied the law, passed the bar and just went on to become a
8:11 pm
crackerjack lawyer. others were gay like montana's jeannette rankin, the first woman elected to the u.s. congress. or bisexual like adelina warren, a new mexican educator and politician. by the 1890s, huge numbers of women such as luna kelly, and nebraska farm wife and mother of 11, helped make the west the national capital of the new aggressive politics. she was also a folk singer and a poet and she wrote a very rousing ballad called stand up for nebraska that brought everybody to their feet. progress is upheld women's rights and a poorly economic justice for average people, and
8:12 pm
opposed the corrupt lyrical machines and corporate monopolies of the eras -- political machines up until this time there certainly have been rich people in america but in two oh the gilded age which started after the civil war, there were not these enormous inequities like that separated, like the superrich from everybody else. so this was something that americans were just coming to terms with, and that's how the progressive movement developed. the kansas homesteader turned lawyer mary elizabeth lease, cofounded the new people's party before she could even vote. the electrifying orator help audiences enthralled for hours, warning in her irish voice that the u.s. had become a government
8:13 pm
of wall street by wall street and for wall street. many progressive women also quietly helped to shape the laws of new western states, right down to the more gender-neutral wording of their constitutions. when the progressive states of colorado and idaho enfranchise women in 1893 and 1896, the west which was already the national hotspot of suffrage because of wyoming and utah, became a global epicenter of suffragist as well showing the spotlight with the other settlers societies of australia and new zealand. as immigration surged in the early 20th century, the public heatedly debated the question of who is a real american. women wanted to know how could
8:14 pm
barely literate immigrant men could vote but an educated woman more on home soil could not? in the west suffragists pointed to women's long record of service during ongoing settlement still going on, and demanded full citizenship. devising a successful formula for winning the vote in the holdout states, suffrages built successful coalitions with other forward-looking nonpartisan good government groups, progressive clubs, farm and labor unions,, liberal republicans, certain churches who needed women's votes to promote their own agendas. suffrage had always been a kind of the snooty middle-class upper-class thing mostly associate with white women even though there were lots and lots of women of color.
8:15 pm
and to win in the holdout states they had to break through these barriers of race and class under the banner of unity and diversity. they also recruited women from different ethnic groups, poor working women, waitresses. this was the time that women were starting to work in factories, in the west in canneries. they were seamstresses and the lived away from home. it was a whole new working-class group had to be integrated into the suffrage movement. so all women of different races and classes were enlisted to join in an unofficial labor union of hard-working citizens, whether they were unpaid mothers at home or clerks, seamstresses and waitresses, who were entitled to move. in oregon doctor esther paul
8:16 pm
lovejoy, there she is, she's so beautiful, her pictures are dazzling, who made house calls by dogsled during the alaskan gold rush, then ran portland's board of health patted the multiracial everybody is equal suffrage league. her partners included harriet redman, job opportunities for black women were very limited. so she worked as a janitor at the cities in u.s. district court but you also the president of portland's colored women's equal suffrage association the sophisticated third-generation western suffragists also mounted new kinds of splashy creed of campaigns that change american politicking for ever with marches, publicity stunts and
8:17 pm
the first button told maggie even electric signs. in seattle, doctor coarseness eaten, co-authored the washington women's cookbook, votes for women, good things to eat. she is also an accomplished mountaineer who had some wicked all of the state of washington's, i think there are six big peaks. she led a party of men and women, the women had to wear knickerbockers which are sort of canvas shorts that kind of buckle under the knee. she led this party on a three-week camping trip to carry a suffrage and to the summit of mount rainier. here she is in washington. the other washington. by 1914 suffragists had one in washington, california, oregon, arizona, kansas, nevada and
8:18 pm
montana. most western women could now move before women in the single state back east. ironically, by the time of the suffragists triumphs that year, the west demography at synchronize with the rest of the country. women no longer benefited from the settlement eras unprecedented opportunities. as world war i loomed come societies conservative turn activated by women's economic and political gains created a predictable backlash. even the rugged radio cowgirl said recently competed with men were replaced by rodeo queens who waved from their palomino was. like the history of the old west in general, the record of its women is not a seamless march of
8:19 pm
progress. their history charts jagged trajectory of advances on one front and retreats on another. progress for some and declines for others. there is no way to balance colonization benefits for white settlers and their descendents with the terrible costs to the regions original people's. or to reconcile the racism endured by women of color including within the suffrage movement with the gains made by their sex. to move forward, however, americans must engage with the tragedies of our shared past. and also take in its triumphs including women's ongoing empowerment. before the first eastern greenhorns arrived in their covered wagon, the west had changed countless times during
8:20 pm
the 14,000 years of its a known history. indeed, its landscape of red/blue and purple continues to shift today. inspiring legacy of the overlooked westerners who helped define the independent, capable, active american woman later personified in western boots and blue jeans is an important part of that long record. american women to journey towards the quality did not begin nor has it ended with suffrage. as the struggle continued, they can take part from their western foremothers who proved that despite formidable obstacles, change is possible, even for rules once seemingly written in stone. thank you. >> thank thank you, winnifr. that was great.
8:21 pm
we have been keeping track of questions from her audience and we have a couple to get us started. to our viewers please know that we welcome your questions now. so please post them in the q&a box and will ask them. first question, i understand that the homesteader land owner status was huge for women but why did congress pass it with that particular language? who was the instigator for getting women into that bill and he was responsible for everyone going along with it? >> good question. a big part of it was that the west desperately needed women. it was overwhelmingly male, as we talked about earlier, and he really wanted to get women into the west to have families. the settlement of the west really was a matter of settlement. it wasn't so much like the cavalry. there was terrible genocide of
8:22 pm
indians, but the colonization occurred really through settlement, like people starting farms and villages and towns and just moving the native american, hispanic people had been out of the way. so settlement was really, settlement really conquered the west. you couldn't do that without women to be wives and mothers endure the children and increase the number. it was also, lincoln and the republicans, his branch of liberal minded republicans, were more generally gender egalitarian. both parties worship and adored and respected women, but the republicans were much more inclined to give them legal empowerment. in fact, it was a big bone of contention in the suffrage
8:23 pm
movement that they wouldn't enfranchise women when they enfranchised formally enslaved men. the republicans were afraid that if you put the women in it would be too much and it wouldn't be able to get the black men enfranchised. there were a lot of factors at work but i think the fact they really needed women for settlement is a big one. >> great, thank you. here's another question that just came in. i don't recall the names of the women that winifred identified as gay. i'm curious if these women lived openly as lesbians during that timeframe? >> yeah, that's an interesting question. it's very hard to identify western women as gay because unlike certain gay men, they would get arrested for doing
8:24 pm
something that was illegal in a particular town and they would appear in papers but there was no -- and was considered perfectly fine. i mean, it was considered perfectly fine for women to be best friends. they hugged each other, kissed each other, slept in the same beds. they lived together, maiden ladies or in a boston marriage. so there was no -- attached to women living and having partnerships with other women. but i think, i think the number i want to say about 4% of women in the west in this era lived either alone or with another woman. and i was really struck by the number in the book who had come the closest relationships were with other women.
8:25 pm
>> gosh. >> francis, the president of the wctu who we talked about, she was known as, she's now described as the eleanor roosevelt of her day. she was a real fireball come very much like eleanor roosevelt unlike eleanor roosevelt ship relationships with men and women. >> okay, thank you. what was the background and incentive for men, , were there any, who championed women struggle for achievement and equality? >> you know, that's a really good question, and the work enormous number of good guys in the west, demonstrably more than in the east or the south, particularly the south, not so many men there. -- not submitting suffragist men there. one man said my wife is a smart as any man and smarter than most, like there's just a sense
8:26 pm
especially in this settler society where everybody was pitching in. the women were working as hard as the men and doing a lot of the stuff the men did and it was just in that kind of very practical like medic culture, like why would you say that she couldn't vote when she does everything that i do? so i think there was real general fairness. like i mentioned in the speech the washington territory in 1854, the territory was on one year old, and suffrage lost by one vote. they were men voting. i think we have to give the man credit, western men credit. >> okay. >> because all of those, without men none of those suffrage bills would have been passed. the women had to talk me into supporting them. that's really very good point. >> was the western woman
8:27 pm
inclination to be more inclusive or expansive in their efforts women of several different backgrounds part of their success? where it may have heard the groups from the east. >> yes, i think so. although to be fair, women i think were doing, the savages back east were doing so poorly, they didn't get their first state intel, like what was a, 1915 or 1916? they were just losing across the board here you could sort of tell from the pictures of elizabeth cady stanton and susan b. anthony. these are very well educated upper-class women. they considered themselves ladies. they dressed like ladies. but they were not getting very far with that. so you had to reach out i would
8:28 pm
say both in the east and the west on just those class borders and the race borders, which certainly in the west, because the west actually was more multiracial than they east coast. there again it was just part of this is a settler society, we don't have so many laws and rules and regulations here. >> that racial question just came in from one of our viewers saying if the western states that encourage suffrage were primarily white, what about suffrage for native american women? >> some native american women and men didn't get the vote until the 1920s, and even later. a number -- gets, get it. a number of native american women and men did get the vote
8:29 pm
when an act was passed, the people who promoted, thought it would be a wonderful thing for native americans but it turned out to be a disaster. it enabled the tribal reservations to be -- that the give to different people. if you claimed one of those plots, sort of like a hosted, you also got the right to vote. some did get the right to vote but, i mean, a lot of native women, as we talked about sarah and suzanne, a campaign for suffrage because they wanted to empower their people. it wanted to give their native peoples more of a voice. it was for them, it was -- to be a native suffragist or black suffragist or hispanic or asian suffragist was more complicated thing than to be a white suffragist who was just interested in getting the vote for her sex. this was a more complicated
8:30 pm
story. >> okay. speaking of complicated stories and going back to the earlier question about gay women in the west -- >> this was a lot of fun working on. >> someone wrote in to say, this is kind of great come she said i'm probably very naïve, but how do we get the information about the sexual preferences of these women? i find this fascinating but genuinely curious about the source for this information. >> there had been academics have researched it and have done some digging through records. there are occasional cases where a woman was either -- she was suffering from a mental illness or somebody else that she was suffering from a mental illness so they got into the papers.
8:31 pm
there are some records like that a lot of them come from census figures. if you see a woman who has a lit by yourself or with another woman for a certain time, and this was in this whole era like 95% of women married. it was kind of what was happening. so women who remain single and are reported in the census. the other ways to tell was sometimes money, if they had, women who had some property, some possessions. so there were those -- i think mostly as you get later in the century certainly with frances willard, the president of the wctu, and a lot of the other women, they let correspondence with a person who was her soulmate and can you say are you sure?
8:32 pm
even willa, you see pictures of willa with kind of her crew cut and necktie and chatted very patchy relationship with a female student when she was at university of nebraska. do we know what they did in bed? no, we don't. even academics resist come saying we can ask her say she was gay even though all of her abiding relationships were with other women. >> this is also fascinating. okay, next question. when suffrage was passed, you may have covered this already and i apologize if i missed it, but when suffrage was passed for women in the various states, did the right to vote include any minority women? did minority women have the right to vote when suffrage was passed? >> yes. you mean, in the states? >> yes. >> included minority women.
8:33 pm
>> included minority women, although it does get tricky. in certain cases native american women were not enfranchised. different states have different ideas about the legal rights of native people. some were relatively progressiv progressive. progressive. oregon was notably not progressive at all. even after the 19th amendment was passed in 1920, native american women still, some native americans still were not enfranchised. so it's very difficult to say, to make a global statement. i would have to look at each state and see. >> okay. >> generally, generally yeah, if you could -- if you could, if you could, if you could prove that you were a citizen, i would
8:34 pm
say yes, you could vote. >> great, thank you. next question. were their there traditios end quote, traditional women who worked against women's progressive politics as they were in our day? for instance, the women who help defeat the era. >> yes. there was a very vigorous anti-suffrage movement that s called the anti-suffrage party. they were, in fact, george patons mother, i think beatrice patton, led the troops. she come in california, he grew up in california and they said if women got the vote they would grow mustaches, that men would have to stay home and change the diapers and the women would be
8:35 pm
cavorting around injury boxes. for some idea dead this idea women would be courting the main in jury boxes. there was a very vigorous anti-suffrage movement in both places but i would say it was more do you like in the east. obviously it was. >> okay -- more virulent. >> i'm impressed that the women accomplished so much with equal requirements of marriage, childbirth and child rearing. how did they balance all of this? [laughing] >> it really is especially when women like abigail scott dunaway who i call the mother western suffrage. she was a homestead daughter. her parents went west and covered wagon. she grew up on homestead. she married a homestead or when was like 14 or 15. she had her five or six children. they develop one homestead, they
8:36 pm
sold it. they develop another homestead and he lost it all in a stupid legal maneuver. nothing daunted her and then he got hurt in a wagon accident and could never work again. so abigail moved the whole family to portland, started up a woman's newspaper and start campaigning for suffrage, and some al-qaeda supported everybody. so these women were made of sterner stuff for sure. >> sterner than me, that's for sure. >> i have five children and i can't even fantasize what they must have -- >> me neither. just amazing. this this is a specific quesn about the homestead act and acreage. good men and women equally qualified for the 180 acres? >> it was 160. >> 160. 160. for a couple was that doubled?
8:37 pm
>> depends on where you were. in oregon, in 1850, the donation land claims act was actually seeing as a way, as a sign of women's empowerment because a single guy could only get 160 acres, a married man and his wife could get 320. she couldn't get it on her own but as a couple they could get 320. 320. mostly it was 160 acres. the homestead laws did not allow -- in a funny way they -- a wife could not find her own claim separately from her husband. so in a way it privileged single women, many of them were widows, abandoned, various states of singleness. >> okay, thank you. this is a question to you.
8:38 pm
was there ever a point in your research that you felt gratitude for being born in this timeframe? or did you feel like you were born in the wrong century? >> no. i think, however discourage we get and it's easy to get discouraged these days in america, between the pandemic and our polarization, if ever there was a good time to be a woman it is now. if you look at what these women went through, they were really, they were chattel. harriet beecher stowe, the author of "uncle tom's cabin," famously said that a married woman has the same rights as the slaves. no more no less. they were basically their husbands property. the way they built their evolution from taking their
8:39 pm
domestic authorities that they had in their home, taking it out to you merely by starting community organizations, then broadening up to social reform, and then finally suffrage. it was amazing, their efforts. and i think of my own mother, did not have the opportunities that her brother had. and this is just one generation back. i can remember when i was in high school and college reading articles in young women's magazine saying if you're going out with a boy and you were taller, you better where flat shoes. don't act too smart, you know? act in a little dumb. this isn't all that long ago. so yeah, i think we have a great deal to be thankful for. >> i agree. >> we are just about out of time
8:40 pm
and running out of questions. some going to leave you with this last question that circles back to your book. who was your favorite woman from the book? >> it's a really hard question but i do love doctor esther lovejoy. we did see her picture. she was the one with the washing clothes in the tub and her husband who was a surgeon. she was born in a logging camp, very poor family, huge, big family, lots of children. she had almost no schooling but she was very impressed by the woman doctor who delivered one of her baby sisters, and she said to herself when i i grewp i'm going to be a doctor. by the time she was a teenager her parents had finally moved into portland. they work in in a hotel, andf the guests in the hotel was a professor and he started tutoring her. she was very bright and she, by
8:41 pm
the time she got to the point where she could apply to medical school she clerked in some of the first department stores in the west. she was a sales clerk, to make money for her tuition money to go to the university medical school. she was one of three women and her class. this was around 1890-ish. she married a surgeon in her class and they took off -- they practice for a little while in portland and they said no, this is not exciting enough. they took off to the alaska gold rush, did house calls on dog sleds, started a hospital, prevented some terrible epidemic. she came back to portland, only visited him then for summers, had her baby, got her mother to watch the baby. she carried on her medical practice, started the suffrage
8:42 pm
campaign, broke all kinds of class and race barriers, ended up running for congress in 1920. she didn't win but she spent the rest of her life working for women's medical associations, no cure here and internationally, and wrote to macbooks. >> just an astounding woman. it's a pleasure, everybody should look her up just a you could see your pretty pictures. >> that's fantastic. thank you thank you so . what a fascinating evening of fascinating women. we wish you all the best with the book, and i thank you so much for joining us tonight. i do want to remind our audience that "new women in the old west: from settlers to suffragists, an untold american story" is available for sale from our partner booksellers politics and prose. we are putting up a link in the chat box right now, , and he followed that link you can get a 10% discount on on the book. i would also like to extend.
8:43 pm
>> good evening everybody and welcome. i run events are at the strangford villa relaunch into a discussion of mike duncan's new book i like to share a little bit of history about the strangford's travis founded 19207 by benjamin beth on fourth avenue ro enjoy go from 48


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on