American History · biography · history

Arrested for Voting: Susan B. Anthony’s Fight for Suffrage

August 2020 marks 100 years since the 19th Amendment was passed. This amendment provided women with the right to vote in the United States. It is hard to believe that it was not until 1920 that the female citizens of America received a right that should have been automatic as a citizen of the country. This right is often taken for granted today and it can be difficult to imagine a time when a woman would actually be arrested for voting in an election! It is important to remember this anniversary and to remember how hard the women who came before us fought. They fought so we could participate in government and in the decision making of this country. It is critical that we exercise this right every opportunity we have. During August (and likely the months beyond), I would like to highlight some of the tactics the suffragettes used to have their voice heard, famous standouts, and highlight how much hard work was put into the movement.

No self respecting woman should wish or work for... | Sutori

 

November 5, 1872

Dear Mrs. Stanton,

Well I have been and gone and done it!! –positively voted the Republican ticket–strait this a.m. at 7 Oclock–and swore my vote in at that–was registered on Friday…then on Sunday others some 20 or 30 other women tried to register but all save two were refused…Amy Post was rejected and she will immediately bring action for that…and Hon Henry R Selden will be our Counsel–he has read up the law and all of our arguments and is satisfied that we our right and ditto the Old Judge Selden–his elder brother. So we are in for a fine agitation in Rochester on the question–I hope the morning’s telegrams will tell of many women all over the country trying to vote–It is splendid that without any concert of action so many should have moved here so impromptu…I’m awful tired–for five days I have been on the constant run–but to splendid purpose–So all right–I hope you voted too.

Affectionately,

Susan B. Anthony

Most people have heard of Susan B. Anthony. She was at the forefront of the early women’s rights movements and spent over fifty years of her life fighting for the right to vote. She gave countless speeches, petitioned legislatures and Congress, and published her own feminist newspaper. This November of 1872, Anthony was determined to vote.

Social Welfare History Project Anthony, Susan B.
Susan B. Anthony

Her argument was that the recent 14th Amendment (this amendment stated that all people who are born in the United States are citizens and are entitled to the “privileges” that citizenship provides, including the right to vote). There was nothing in the amendment that specified any restrictions in regards to sex. Anthony believed that since she, and many other women, were born in the United States and considered citizens that they were entitled to the privilege of voting. Clearly, the male dominated government did not see it this way.

In November of 1872, Anthony and her sisters went to the voter registration office. Boldly, Anthony approached the election inspectors and demanded to be registered to vote. Naturally, the inspectors refused on account of Anthony’s sex. That did not deter her. She pulled out her copy of the Constitution and quoted the 14th and 15th Amendment. She was refused for a second time, so she had to turn to other methods.

“If you refuse us our rights as citizens,  I will bring charges against you in Criminal Court and I will sue each of you personally for large, exemplary damages!” She threatened the young inspectors after almost an hour of back and forth debate. In the end, she got her way. Anthony and fourteen other women were registered to vote in Rochester, New York.

The Rochester Union and Advertiser stated “Citizenship no more carries the right to vote than it carries the power to fly to the moon…If these women in the Eighth Ward offer to vote, they should be challenged, and if they take the oaths and the Inspectors receive and deposit their ballots, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”. Many other media outlets of the time agreed with this sentiment.

To a modern reader, it seems ridiculous that a woman would receive so much backlash for just registering to vote. Yet, Anthony was forcing herself into the political sphere that society deemed she did not belong. This was an attack against the hierarchy of society and a threat to the male dominant political power. It seems that throughout history ( and to this day) those in power are never fond of sharing.

Susan B. Anthony, newspaper depiction 1873

On November 5, Anthony and a group of women cast their votes. Anthony herself voted for President U.S. Grant and the Republican party (who at the time, was the progressive party). According to the Woman’s Journal (printed June 28, 1873), women also attempted to vote in Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York using Anthony’s argument. The media began to quickly pick up the unusual story of women successfully casting a ballot. Some outlets were quick to support while many others denounced Anthony’s and the other women’s actions.

On November 14, a warrant for Anthony’s arrest was issued by United States Commissioner, William C Storrs. She was charged with voting in a federal election without having the “lawful right to vote”. The 1870 Enforcement Act was cited as the law she violated (this was passed to prevent individuals from casting willful illegal votes). Anthony disagreed as she believed she had the inherent right to vote being a citizen of the United States of America. On January 24, 1873 a grand jury (consisting of entirely male members) charged Anthony with knowingly voting for members of Congress without having the right to vote due to her sex. Anthony was going to have to stand trial.

Susan B. Anthony used this publicity to her advantage and went on speaking tours around the county to bring awareness to the injustice of this trial and the ridiculous nature of preventing women from voting. She drummed up support for her upcoming trial. Anthony and her followers knew that if she won this case, then women would be given the right to vote.

“Friends and Fellow-citizens: I stand before you to-night, under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last Presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but instead, simply exercised by citizen’s right, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any State to deny…”

Anthony’s Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote? speech (which was given as part of her speaking tour in Monroe County) was a very interesting read. Many of her points highlighted the hypocrisy of the governments argument. She cited the words of the founding fathers and how no where in their works were women prevented from exercising these rights. The words of the Constitution were gender neutral. She also brought to attention how denying a citizens right is nothing different than a monarchy, which they had just escaped from about 100 years earlier.

“What, I ask you, is the distinctive difference between the inhabitants of a monarchical and those of a republican form of government, save that in the monarchical the people are subjects, helpless, powerless, bound to obey laws made by superiors, while in the republican, the people are citizens, individual sovereigns, all clothed with equal power, to make and unmake both their laws and law makers…”

This argument was interesting as well:

” In all the penalties and burdens of the government, (except the military), women are reckoned as citizens, equally with men…The United States government not only taxes, fines, imprisons and hangs women, but it allows them to pre-empt lands, register ships, and take out passport and naturalization papers….” The open question here is why does the government treat women like citizens, allows them to get citizenship papers, but refuses to honor their privileges as a US citizen.” 

Anthony was really rallying the people of Monroe county to her cause, so much that the government conveniently moved the trial to take place in another county, Ontario County. This did not stop Anthony as she just moved her speaking tour to this county.

The trial began and Anthony was present in court with her two lawyers, Henry R. Seldon and John Van Voorhis. The dice were stacked against her. The laws were made by men, the jury was composed 100% by men, and the judge was a man. Anthony was not even permitted to speak in her defense at the trial.

Women's Suffrage - Great Gatsby

Her lawyer, Seldon, spoke for her and announced his reasoning for her innocence (which is pretty much reflected in Anthony’s own argument above). He concluded that the only reason this was even at trial was due to her sex.

Yet, even after the long speech by Seldon the trial ended up being a farce. Judge Hunt stated that, “The Fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote, and the voting by Miss Anthony was in violation of the law…Upon this evidence [evidence that Anthony knowingly cast an illegal ballot] I suppose there is no question for the jury and that the jury should be directed to find a verdict of guilty”.

Essentially, the judge ordered the jury to find the defendant guilty and the jury never took a vote during this trial. Another of Anthony’s citizen rights was pushed aside as she failed to receive a fair trial.

Her lawyer argued this and demanded a new trial as her right to trial by jury was overturned, but the motion was quickly denied. But, the Judge did finally give Anthony the opportunity to speak in her defense.

Judge Hunt: “Has the prisoner anything to say why sentence shall not be pronounced?

Susan B. Anthony: Yes, you honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty, you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizen ship, I am degraded from the status of citizen to that of a subject…

A back and forth begins between Judge Hunt and Anthony. Hunt tells the “prisoner” she must cease speaking.

Susan B. Anthony: “But your honor will not deny me this one and only poor privilege of protest against this high-handed outrage upon my citizen’s rights. May it please the Court to remember that since the day of my arrest last November, this is the first time that either myself or any person of my disfranchised class has been allowed a word of defense before judge or jury.”

Judge Hunt: “The prisoner must sit down-the Court cannot allow it.”

Anthony: “All of my prosecutors…not one is my peer, but each and all are my political sovereigns, and had your honor submitted my case to the jury, as was clearly your duty, even then I should have had just cause of protest for not one of those men was my peer….each and every man of them was my political superior; hence, in no sense, my peer. Even, under such circumstances, a commoner of England, tried before a jury of Lords, would have far less cause to complain than should I, a woman, tried before a jury of men…Precisely, as no disfranchised person is entitled to sit upon a jury, and no woman is entitled to the franchise, so, none but a regularly admitted lawyer is allowed to practice in the courts, and no woman can gain admission to the bar—hence, jury, judge, counsel must all be of the superior class…”

Judge Hunt: “The Court must insist—the prisoner has been tried according to the established forms of law”

Anthony: “Yes, your honor, but by forms of law all made by men, interpreted by men, administered by men, in favor of men, and against women; and hence,  your honors ordered verdict of guilty, against a United States citizen for the exercise of “that citizen’s right to vote,” simply because that citizen was a woman and not a man…”

Susan B. Anthony was a fighter and held strong to her beliefs and her rights as a citizen. Judge Hunt sentenced Anthony to a $100 dollar fine and she had to pay the costs of the prosecution. That fine would be about $2,113.09 in currency today. This was her response:

“May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty…I shall work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that “ Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God’”.

 

Anthony never paid the fine and is, to this day, still recorded in the books as a convicted felon. While the trial did not result in the verdict that she wanted, the spectacle she made attracted the media and brought more awareness to the cause. Susan B. Anthony continued to spend her life fighting for women’s rights and the right to vote. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. Their goal was to fight that women were to be included in the fifteenth amendment (which granted African American men the right to vote). Together they wrote a newspaper, The Revolution, which spread the word of their organization. In 1905, Anthony met with the President Theodore Roosevelt to lobby to include women in the 15th amendment.

Suffragist – The Official Susan B. Anthony Museum & House

Despite her life work, it was not until 48 years after the year Anthony got arrested that the women of the United States got the right to vote. Anthony herself died in 1906 which was only 14 years before the 19th amendment was passed. Even at age 86, she was still participating in National Suffrage Conventions.

In an obituary by the New York Times (March 13, 1906), just two hours before her passing, she is recorded to have said, “To think I have had more than sixty years of hard struggle for a little liberty, and then to die without it seems so cruel.”

It is important to remember those strong women who came before us and fought against exclusion solely due to their sex. Without their struggles, we would never have received the rights we deserve. I hope to highlight more about the suffrage movement in America and other incredible female figures

 

Sources:

She Votes! Podcast hosted by Ellen Goodman and Lynn Sherr (2020), specifically episode 1 “Convicted!”

https://www.shevotespodcast.com/

Susan B. Anthony’s Speech before the Circuit Court (transcript)

https://www.rit.edu/cla/statesmanship/media/ap-friday/AnthonyStanton/SBA%20speech%20before%20the%20Court.pdf

The Trial of Susan B. Anthony for Illegal Voting by Doug Linder (2001)

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/anthony/sbaaccount.html

Susan B. Anthony Obituary, New York Times (1906)

https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0215.html

Newspaper Account of Susan B. Anthony’s 1873 Trial for Voting (United States v. Susan B. Anthony) June 20, 1873

https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=44297247&fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjk1NDg1NjI3LCJpYXQiOjE1OTYxOTI3MjcsImV4cCI6MTU5NjI3OTEyN30.E-sJC3cTwFGBPi60aJ-W1IIiAwD_QbuXFL4j8sTfq6E

The Woman’s Journal: Boston, Chicago and St Louis, Saturday, June 28, 1873. Miss Anthony’s Case

https://newseumed.org/tools/artifact/newspaper-coverage-susan-b-anthonys-trial-voting-june-28-1873

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/45224826/editorial-voicing-opinion-about-susan/

https://www.newspapers.com/topics/famous-people/susan-b-anthony/

http://www.rarenewspapers.com/view/581187?imagelist=1

https://progressive.org/op-eds/susan-b.-anthony-arrested-voting-135-years-ago/

https://susanb.org/suffragist/

https://www.wvpublic.org/post/susan-b-anthony-charged-voting-illegally#stream/0

https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/EnforcementActs.htm#:~:text=In%20its%20first%20effort%20to,intention%20of%20violating%20citizens’%20constitutional

https://www.biography.com/activist/susan-b-anthony

http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/nwsa-organize/

https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/susan-b-anthony

 

 

 

 

American History · biography · history

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera: Activists

This month I wanted to write an article about two figures who made such an impact, yet have been forgotten through time. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were icons of the LGBT and transgender movement during the 1960s and 1970s.

Forsaken transgender pioneers recognized 50 years after Stonewall

In the mid-20th century, it was still difficult for homosexuals to be open in the world. It was even more difficult for transgender individuals. Those in the LGBT community were ostracized from society. Society still did not want to acknowledge their existence. Most employers excluded and denied opportunities for those of the community. Some were sent to mental institutions to go through shock therapy to “cure” any “unnatural” thoughts. Many had no where to go and were unable to obtain employment. They ended up on the streets after running away or being abandoned by their own families.

This is the world that Marsha P. Johnson entered after graduating high school with $15 dollars to her name. She immediately left her home in New Jersey to move to New York City in 1963. In her hometown, Johnson was not accepted as a transgender female. She experienced harassment by males and in a 1992 interview she stated that she was a victim of sexual assault. She moved to Greenwich Village in 1966 and found a community of people who accepted her. She became a part of the transgender community and participated in drag.

As an open transgender individual, it was nearly impossible to find work. Johnson was living on the street. She would sleep at the movie theaters and even under the tables of the flower vendors. Yet, despite the hardship she lived, she became known as St. Marsha to the people of the transgender community. She was a very brave person. People remembered her for always having a positive attitude and a kind and generous spirit. She would give away her last dollar for someone in need, she would give away clothing and jewelry, and, most importantly, she would provide encouragement and happiness to those who were down on their luck.

Marsha P. Johnson - Stonewall, Quotes & Death - Biography
Marsha P. Johnson

Johnson was very creative with the little means she had. She would use flowers to create floral arrangements to wear on her head, created drag outfits out of thrift store finds and donated clothes, and eventually she would become an entertainer.

Sylvia Rivera was another important figure in New York City. Rivera was born in New York City and was of Puerto Rican descent. She was an orphan living on the streets but found a home in the transgender community. At a young age, she joined the Gay Activists Alliance and fought not only for gay rights but for the inclusion of transgender individuals in the movement. Rivera and Johnson met in Greenwich village and formed a strong friendship.

Throughout their lives in Greenwich Village, both Rivera and Johnson were harassed by law enforcement. They were often arrested and locked up. They lived on the street and sometimes worked as sex workers. Harassment by law enforcement was common for many people of the transgender and LGBT community. There was a bias against them that prevented them from being who they truly were.

In June 1969, The Stonewall Inn, which was known as a popular gay bar, was raided by police. Bars like the Stonewall Inn were important to LGBT individuals as they were places they could be themselves and be accepted by those who were like them. The Stonewall was also one of the few gay bars that allowed drag queens to enter. The Stonewall was often raided. The lights would go out and everyone present had to show identification. Those in drag or without identification were arrested immediately. They were arrested if they were not wearing the required to wear three pieces of “proper gender” clothing. Kissing, dancing, and holding hands with someone of the same sex was also still illegal.

Stonewall riots - Wikipedia

Yet, on this particular night, enough was enough. It is said that Marsha P. Johnson was the one who started the rebellion. Supposedly, throughout the bustle of the raid, Marsha threw a shot glass into a mirror and shouted, ” I got my civil rights!”.  With this inspiration and resistance against the police, other patrons began to follow. They were tired of being treated terribly and manhandled. The crowd began to throw items at police and eventually barricaded themselves in the bar.  After the police dispersed this crowd, for the next few days riots would continue to flare up in in the area. These riots opened the way for many LGBT movements to begin and on its anniversary, the first gay pride parade was held. The story of Johnson’s involvement may have been exaggerated over time, but it is important to the impact of the Stonewall Riots.

Johnson and Rivera would go on to found STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) in 1970. This was a way to assist transgender youth who were homeless and  living dangerous lives on the streets. Both of these women knew the hardship that young LGBT people felt and the violence they experienced from intolerant people and police.  They also noticed that the current gay liberation movement turning a blind eye to assisting the transgender youth.  Sylvia and Marsha created this organization to provide housing and food for those who needed it and gave them a safe haven. Despite having so little, the two found ways to pay the rent to support their STAR home.

Unfortunately, STAR did not last quite as long as the two envisioned due to economic issues and rent increases, but it was influential to the movement and the first LGBT youth shelter in the United States. The organization and its founders would serve as inspiration for future activists.

Stonewall at 50: Transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and ...

STAR had its own manifesto when it founded in 1970. Below is a copy of what it said which was pulled from Stephan Cohen’s book, The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: ‘an Army of Lovers Cannot Fail’ :

The oppression against Transvestites of either sex arises from sexist values and this oppression is manifested by heterosexuals and homosexuals of both sexes in the form of exploitation, ridicule, harassment, beatings, rapes, murders.

Because of this oppression the majority of transvestites are forced into the street and we have formed a strong alliance with our gay sisters and brothers of the street. Who we are a part of and represent we are; a part of the REVOLUTIONARIES armies fighting against the system.

    1. We want the right to self-determination over the use of our bodies; the right to be gay, anytime, anyplace; the right to free physiological change and modification of sex on demand; the right to free dress and adornment.
      2. The end to all job discrimination against transvestites of both sexes and gay street people because of attire.
      3. The immediate end of all police harassment and arrest of transvestites and gay street people, and the release of transvestites and gay street people from all prisons and all other political prisoners.
      4. The end to all exploitive practices of doctors and psychiatrists who work in the field of transvestism.
      5. Transvestites who live as members of the opposite gender should be able to obtain identification of the opposite gender.
      6. Transvestites and gay street people and all oppressed people should have free education, health care, clothing, food, transportation, and housing.
      7. Transvestites and gay street people should be granted full and equal rights on all levels of society, and full voice in the struggle for liberation of all oppressed people.
      8. An end to exploitation and discrimination against transvestites within the homosexual world.
      9. We want a revolutionary peoples’ government, where transvestites, street people, women, homosexuals, Puerto Ricans, Indians, and all oppressed people are free, and not fucked over by this government who treat us like the scum of the earth and kills us off like flies, one by one, and throws us into jail to rot. This government who spends millions of dollars to go to the moon, and lets the poor Americans starve to death.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE
S. T. A. R.

Rivera and Johnson continued to be activists in their community. They often organized and participated in protests for gay rights despite the hostility against transwomen from others in the movement. At Pride March in 1973, Rivera was blocked from speaking. She stole the microphone away and, to a chorus of boos, she shouted, “If it wasn’t for the drag queen, there would be no gay liberation movement. We’re the front-liners.”

Marsha P. Johnson would perform at a drag revue called Hot Peaches. The artist, Andy Warhol, took notice of Marsha and included her in a silk-screen portrait as part of his “Ladies and Gentlemen” series. Johnson was also very active in fundraising and assisting those who were suffering from AIDs in the 1980s. Marsha herself had the disease.

In 1992, Marsha’s body was found in the Hudson River. Her death was officially declared a suicide by the authorities with very minimal  investigation. Many of her followers and family believed that her death was not a suicide, but a possible homicide. There are reports of her being followed and she had been the victim of violent attacks prior to her death. Her case was reopened in 2012 and is still being investigated.

LGBTQ pioneers Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson to be honored
Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera continued the fight until her death in 2002. She supported the Transy House which was founded in 1995 by two transwomen (Rusty Mae Moore and Chelsea Goodwin). A descendant of STAR, it provided a safe place for transgender individuals who were homeless or had been kicked out of their homes. It continued until 2008. Rivera continued to push for more trans individuals to become involved in the LGBT movement and continued to give speeches at Pride events around the world. She helped in the fright for the New York City Transgender Rights Bill (gender identity and gender expression is a human right) and the New York State Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act (prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, etc.).

In 2019, it was announced that Marsh P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will have a monument built in their honor in Greenwich Village. This was during the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This monument will be to honor their work in the early LGBT movement.

I greatly admire both of these individuals and the work they did. They went through so much hardship, yet continued to fight for a cause they believed in and continued to help others before themselves. They were so influential to the LGBT movement, yet I never learned about them in school.  I hope this post will bring their work to the attention of others and I encourage further research into their lives.

 

Sources:

Documentary:

Frameline Voices-Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson (This documentary features one of the last interviews by Johnson and interviews from friends/those who knew her)

 

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson which was directed by David France and screenplay by David France and Mark Blane. This documentary can be found on Netflix.

Book:

The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: ‘An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail’ by Stephan Cohen, 2007.

Web:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-york-city-monument-will-honor-transgender-activists-marsha-p-johnson-and-sylvia-rivera-180972326/

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/z3enva/star-house-sylvia-rivera-marsha-p-johnson

Transy House

The Unsung Heroines of Stonewall: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/594aq8/marsha-p-johnson-happy-birthday-marsha-transgender-rights?utm_source=stylizedembed_vice.com&utm_campaign=z3enva&site=vice

https://www.nswp.org/timeline/event/street-transvestite-action-revolutionaries-found-star-house

http://web-static.nypl.org/exhibitions/1969/revolutionaries.html

https://zagria.blogspot.com/2017/09/sylvia-rivera-part-iii-street.html#.XuIrpkVKiUk

https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/06/12/transgender-women-heart-stonewall-riots-are-getting-statue-new-york/

https://legacyprojectchicago.org/person/sylvia-rivera

https://legacyprojectchicago.org/person/marsha-p-johnson

American History · biography · Detroit/Michigan · history

The Italian Hall Disaster and the Copper Strike of 1913

In this post I want to bring attention to the Christmas Eve Italian Hall Disaster. This event is a forgotten piece of history to those outside of the local area. This story takes place in the early 1900s during a time where big corporations were booming and there were essentially no restrictions on how an employer could choose to treat their work force. It begins with local workers who became fed up with the way they were being treated and realized that they should be worth more to their employers. With great sacrifice to many union families, a strike begins. Unfortunately, it will end in a Christmas tragedy, but there will be a legacy that these families left behind. It should not be forgotten.

Continue reading “The Italian Hall Disaster and the Copper Strike of 1913”

American History · biography · european history · history

Humboldt and the Natural World

“As our planet faces irreversible global heating, politicians and scientists are throwing statistics and numbers at us, but few dare to talk about our awe for nature, or the vulnerable beauty of our planet…”

-Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature, quote from “Alexander von Humboldt, an Intrepid Scientist who Re-imagined the Natural World” HistoryExtra magazine Sept 2019 edition

Climate change is an extremely important topic in our present-day world. Greta Thurnberg’s speech at the Climate Action Summit this year has inspired as she became a social media sensation. It has inspired people who may not have been as well informed, including myself.  Yet, did you know the dangers of human induced climate change were recognized by one of the worlds most famous scientists as far back as 1800? Continue reading “Humboldt and the Natural World”

American History · Detroit/Michigan · history

Woodward Avenue: The Backbone of Detroit

Woodward Avenue is one of America’s most iconic roads. The road 27 miles that connects Detroit River to Pontiac, Michigan and was once the main way to connect the suburbs to the main city. What makes it so special?

It is the home for many firsts in America: the first paved road, the first four way stoplight, possibly the first ice cream soda mixed by Sanders, and the first road where a ticket for street racing was written (March 1895). In 1963, thousands marched and listened to Martin Luther King, Jr gave a precursor to his “I have a Dream” speech. It is the home to the famous “Dream Cruise” where thousands of classic cars owners come to cruise, socialize, and show off their vehicles. It is also just an important part of Detroit culture; it is a landmark. The road was also important to the auto industry. The auto industry grew up and expanded on this road. It truly is the spine of Detroit.

Continue reading “Woodward Avenue: The Backbone of Detroit”

American History · Detroit/Michigan · history

Code Word: “Midnight”

“Midnight” was the code word for one of the final stops of the Underground Railroad. By the time the former slaves arrived at “Midnight” they must have been filled with a sense of relief after surviving miles and miles of dangerous travel. Dawn was right around the corner. At this time, the country was teeming slave catchers. After the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act, a new popular profession was created. This law gave the slaveholders the ability to seek out and have their runaways returned. The law of 1850 expanded this and allowed the capture of fugitives slaves anywhere in United States held territory. It did not matter if the fugitive was north of the Ohio River border (1787 Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery north of the Ohio River), they could still be caught and returned. If they made it to Midnight (though not danger free) they were just a few miles and a ferry ride from freedom. Have you guessed where this was?

Image result for detroit underground railroad
Gateway to Freedom Monument, Detroit, Michigan

Continue reading “Code Word: “Midnight””

American History · history

The Declaration of Independence and its Legacy

This week celebrated one of the most important events in American history. Wednesday, July 4, was the anniversary of the ratification of the Declaration of Independence and, after spending some of the week in Boston, I find myself full of the Revolutionary spirit! I wanted to create some blog posts this month that highlight some of the key events leading to the break of the American colonies from England.

I came to a realization while traveling in Boston that in current time we don’t truly realize how radical the events of the Revolution were. The rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” and having a government that is run by the consent of the people are just what is expected. That did no exist in the world that the Declaration of Independence was born into. The American colonies were there for the benefit of the parent country first and their own needs were secondary. These figures in our history were truly risking their lives for something they did not know would work at all and I admire that. At the time, Britain, and even the world, believed these “upstart colonists” were doomed to fail. Britain was the greatest power in existence and they had the advantage. When the British looked at the colonist they saw untrained and undisciplined farmers while they had a professional army. Some in Parliament even viewed the future Americans as “lazy”. The British also knew that the colonists could not finance a war as they had no navy and no way to manufacture supplies in large quantities.

Image result for american revolution

Continue reading “The Declaration of Independence and its Legacy”

American History · biography · history

Victoria Woodhull: First Female Presidential Candidate and Activist

Victoria Claflin was born on September 23, 1838 in Homer, Ohio. She was the seventh of ten children and was closest to her youngest sister, Tennessee. She grew up in a very rural area and her parents were considered “undesirable” in society. Her father was a con man and her mother a religious fanatic. Victoria would learn the valuable trade of fortune telling and how to be a medium through her mother. Victoria had to drop out of school after only three years of elementary school in order to earn income for her poor family. She earned this through fortune telling. The family was exiled from Homer after her father burned down their gristmill to try and cash in on the insurance policy. From this moment on Victoria spent much of her time traveling with her family attempting to earn money. Through her difficult childhood, Victoria learned to be independent and find strength within herself.

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American History · art history · european history · history

Places to See: Ancient Spanish Monastery, Miami, FL

In the 20th century, 11,000 wooden crates were brought across the Atlantic in order to rebuild one of the most beautiful (and oldest) buildings. I visited Miami this weekend and was able to tour this amazing place. I was astounded at the beauty and overall peaceful feeling while in this ancient Spanish Monastery. It is most likely the oldest building in America and I felt I needed to share its history (and my pictures!).

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Currently this church is known as the St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church, but it was originally created in 1133 in Sacramenia, Spain. The construction was completed in 1141 and the Monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was built in the Cistercian Romanesque style and was located in a mainly Muslim area of Spain during this period. It would have originally contained some defensive structures (as the Christians and Muslims where at war during this period). This monastery also contains two of the only three known telescopic windows from the medieval period that exist today (pictured below). These are placed above the altar Continue reading “Places to See: Ancient Spanish Monastery, Miami, FL”

American History · art history · history

Documenting History: The Story of the Civil War’s Forgotten Sketch Artists

When you think of Civil War art the first thing that comes to mind is the photography, right? It was groundbreaking as it was a fairly new invention and was able to capture an exact representation of a moment in time. The photograph is so common today that it may actually surprise you that most contemporaries during the Civil War never saw any of these battlefield photographs as the technology did not exist to print and publish them on a wide scale. What the majority of contemporaries did see were beautiful sketches that documented the battles and happenings of the war in illustrated newspapers, such as: Harper’s Weekly, Frank Lesile’s Illustrated News, and the Illustrated London News. They were hired men who were known as the “Specials”; they were on-site pictorial war correspondents who traveled and actually lived amongst the troops (on both sides!). They faced all the same hardships as the traveling troops and were there in the heat of battle in order to do their work. Using pencils and paper they documented the war and the soldier’s life through their sketches in order for the people at home to have a chance to see what was going on. These sketches are some of the most valuable items from the Civil War. Photography was limited as it could not capture movement or the drama of the war, but the sketches could. As the artists sketched what they saw these could be some of the most accurate depictions (with maybe just a hint of embellishing at parts) and created scenes of human interest for the audience back home.

The image of war changed dramatically during the Civil War as the traditional “Heroic” imagery used in the past was changed to depict a more realistic (and more violent) image along with a stronger concentration on the common soldier rather than the commanders. Continue reading “Documenting History: The Story of the Civil War’s Forgotten Sketch Artists”