Category Archives: USA History

Topic relating to an event in American History

North Carolina wants a State Religion

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Bill of Rights, 09/25/1789

Bill of Rights, 09/25/1789 (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

In the late 1800’s, some Christian groups proposed that the United States create a new state that was only for Christians. This worried feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton who knew traditional Christian values viewed women as second-class citizens – women couldn’t vote, own property, leave unhappy marriages, or do anything without their husband’s permission. Luckily, the Christian State was never created and decades later, women were able to gain equality rights since the United States was created with the idea of separating the church from the government.

On April 1, 2012, North Carolina proposed a bill that would allow an official state religion that would declare the state exempt from the Constitution and court rulings. The bill was filed on April Fool’s Day, though North Carolina is very serious about this pill. It is back by eleven Republicans and was filed after a lawsuit was filed to stop county commissioners in Rowan County from opening meetings with a Christian prayer. The bill’s main sponsors are Carl Ford and Harry Warren and the co-sponsors are Edgar Starnes and Larry Pittman.

The bill reads:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

Past American leaders knew religion should not control the United States. Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers made sure government was split from religion because they knew a country ruled by religion doesn’t allow democracy. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Anyone who knows history, particularly the history of Europe, will, I think, recognize that the domination of education or of government by any one particular religious faith is never a happy arrangement for the people.”  And she is right, look at the Middle East where all the countries are controlled by religion – the poor are uneducated, the leaders use the Quran to kill Christians and Jews, and women are forced to cover their faces and serve their husbands. Now, you may think “that wouldn’t happen here in a majority Christian country” but some strict Christians still believe men are better than women, that other religions should not be practiced, the homosexuals should be punished, and birth control should disappear – even though Jesus preached “love thy neighbor.”

The United States is supposed to be the country in the world that allows all religions, as long as the religions are not violent and the followers still follow the country’s laws. North Carolina choosing religion over government is a danger for all people. Though the bill will not pass since it 100% goes against the U.S. Constitution, the men behind this bill should not be in office if they care more about THEIR religion than about the people that were voted to represent. Instead of wasting time seeking revenge over the fact that they cannot pray at government meetings, they should be creating laws to help the poor and the weak; after all, that’s what Jesus said to do.

 

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Eleanor Roosevelt: First Lady of the World

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Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal...

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Spanish text. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is viewed as the third greatest President of all time (behind George Washington and Abraham Lincoln), but his wife is viewed as the greatest First Lady in American History. Though her husband was in the president and in charge of the United States, Eleanor did not sit silently behind the scenes as majority of First Ladies did; she led her own life to helping others.

Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 11, 1884. Though she was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor had a tough life. Her mother died when she was eight and then her alcoholic father died two years later, so she was raised by her grandmother and later sent to school in England. Her upbringing caused her to be a quiet, shy person . In 1905, she married Franklin D. Roosevelt; President Theodore Roosevelt walked her down the aisle. Eleanor spent the beginning of her marriage taking orders from her mother-in-law, Sarah.

In 1918, Eleanor discovered that Franklin was having an affair. From that moment on, Eleanor became her own person; she stopped taking orders from her mother-in-law and became involved in her own interests. Eleanor was inspired by her uncle on social reform. During World War One, she worked for the American Red Cross and Navy Relief Society. She even had the Wilson Administration’s Interior Secretary conduct an investigation with the intention of improving the facility’s services at the hospital. She was part of the Women’s City Club of New York, speaking to female listeners about politics through the radio. As a member of the Women’s Trade Union League, she educated women about joining unions and even picketed with them. She even persuaded her husband to promote Frances Perkins to the head of the State Industrial Relations – she would become Secretary of Labor and create Social Security. She also worked as a teacher. Though the love between her and Franklin was ruined, they remained each other’s biggest supporters throughout their marriage. When Franklin lost his ability to walk due to polio in 1921, Sarah wanted him to retire from politics. It was Eleanor who convinced him to seek treatment and return to politics.

Eleanor was worried when she became First Lady that she would lose her life and have to spend the next four years hosting social parties for her husband’s supporters. But, Franklin realized that Eleanor was her own person. Eleanor gave press conferences for only female reporters, forcing newspapers to hire females. She also had a magazine column where people could write to her; she was paid $1,000 a month and donated it all to various charities. She also traveled overseas to visit U.S. troops during World War Two – she frequently traveled alone without the secret service, carrying a gun. Besides being an advocate for women, children, laborers, immigrants, and the poor, she also wanted equality. While Franklin could not support equality since he needed the Southern vote, Eleanor could show public support for the black community. She resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution when the organization refused to rent its Constitution Hall for black singer Marian Anderson. Eleanor had Anderson sing at the White House for the King and Queen of England. She also showed support for black pilots by flying in a plane flown by Charles Anderson. When Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps, she criticized her husband and his cabinet. Though she was criticized for supporting all races, these minority groups switched from President Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party to the Democratic Party, where they still remain.

After Franklin died on April 12, 1945, Eleanor believed her days in the public were over. However, President Harry Truman appointed her to serve as a delegate for the United Nations General Assembly. She was the only female of the five delegates. She was on the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission, the main writer of the Universal Declaration of Humans Rights. The document is still the principal guide to assessing a country’s treatment of its people. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy made her a delegate to the United Nations, appointed her to the Commission on the Status of Women, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She died from cancer on November 7, 1962 in Manhattan.

Eleanor Roosevelt spent her early life as a shy, obedient lady. After Franklin’s affair, Eleanor became a different person by taking charge of her life. While previous First Ladies remained behind the scenes, Eleanor connected to the American public through radio and news articles. She supported numerous social causes; advocating equal pay for women, shorter work hours for children, medical benefits for veterans, equal rights for minorities, and world peace for all. She also became a huge part of the early success of the U.N. since she helped get the United States involved in the organization and drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Her humanitarian work in the world is the reason why she is, as President Truman said, “The First Lady of the World.”

Sources:

Eleanor Roosevelt. biography

First Lady Biography: Eleanor Roosevelt

Champions of Human Rights

 

Abigail Adams: Founding Woman

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Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blythe, 1766

Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blythe, 1766 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In history classes, the American children learned about the Founding Fathers, the political leaders who participated in the American Revolution and established the United States Constitution. They learn about George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin… but why aren’t they taught about the Founding Women? The women who raised these men to become leaders and the wives of these men who gave them advice and the daughters of these men who took care of them as they grew old? It is because women worked behind the scenes, while the men gained all the glory. When 1,200 letters of the correspondence between President John Adams and Abigail Adams were found, it was discovered that John depended on his wife to take care of the house, the children, and he depended on her for advice.

Abigail Smith was born on November 22, 1744 in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Like many women at that time, Abigail never received formal education, however, her mother taught her and her sisters how to read and write. Abigail fell in love with reading, a trait that John Adams loved about her. The two married in 1764 and lived in Braintree, Massachusetts. When John’s law practice grew, he moved the family to Boston and traveled as a circuit judge, leading Abigail to take care of the four children.

In 1774, John went to Philadelphia to serve as his colony’s delegate to the First Continental Congress. At home, Abigail was appointed by Massachusetts Colony General Court to question Massachusetts women who were charged by their word or action of remaining loyal to the British crown; this was Abigail’s first government position. Since John was away most of the time, the two kept in touch by sending letters to each, 1,200 letters in fact. Through these letters, John usually asked for Abigail’s opinion and advice. She wrote to her husband requesting that he “Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to formant a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” Sadly, the men did forget about the women.

In 1784, Abigail left her family, friends, and farm to join John at his diplomatic post in Paris. In 1785, she became wife of the first United States Minister to Great Britain. They returned to Massachusetts in 1788. When John Adams became Vice-President, she helped Martha Washington entertain guests in Philadelphia, the nation’s capitol at that time. When John became president, Abigail missed his inaugural ceremony in 1797 because she was talking care of his sick mother. Besides entertaining guests as the First Lady, Abigail was taking care of her 3-year-old granddaughter since her son, Charles, died from Alcoholism in 1800. As the First Lady, her controversial quotes and private letters, stolen from the mail system, were published in the newspapers. She was nicknamed “Mrs. President” because her advice asked her advice on everything, which at the time was amusing because a man asking a woman for help was not common. When John failed to become president for a second term, Abigail was happy to be done with the public life. The two finally were able to enjoy each other’s company until she died on October 28, 1818.

Abigail Adams, like many women at the time during the Revolutionary War, had to take care of the family and home while her husband was away during wartime. Since John was a politician, he was hardly ever home, leaving Abigail to raise the children. One of the children, John Quincy Adams, would become one of the greatest politicians of all time, including one term as President. Since his father was gone most of his childhood, it was Abigail ensuring that John and the rest of the children were educated. For John to ask his wife for advice concerning national and international affairs meant that Abigail was intelligent. Though he was teased for it, their relationship showed that the two truly loved each other for they trusted and listened to each other. John Adams and John Quincy Adams are considered two of the greatest politicians of American History thanks to Abigail’s guidance as a wife and mother.

Sources:

Abigail Smith Adams

First Lady Biography: Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams. biography

Lucretia Mott: Social Reformer

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English: Painting of Lucretia Mott (1793 - 188...

English: Painting of Lucretia Mott (1793 – 1880), the proponent of women’s rights. The artist is Joseph Kyle (1815 – 1863). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before the Civil War, a minority of Americans believed that slavery should end in the United States. These abolitionists had heard horror stories of mothers witnessing their children being sold to a different slave owner, of men being whipped to death, and female teens being raped by their masters. The abolitionists traveled the country and the world, giving speeches against slavery in hopes of persuading the rest of the public to join their cause. Though both male and female abolitionists had the same goal, the females were excluded from certain events and meetings; the women soon learned that they too were not equal to men. Lucretia Mott quickly learned women were not equal to men so she spent the rest of her life fighting for equality for slaves and women.

Lucretia Mott, born Lucretia Coffin, was born on January 3, 1793 in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Her parents were Quakers so she grew up hating slavery. After attending a Quaker boarding school, she became a teacher. As a teacher, she learned that male teachers made more than female teachers. This surprised her sine the Quakers preached equality, yet women still were not equal with men. A fellow teacher, James Mott, followed her to Philadelphia and the couple married in 1811. He would support his wife throughout their marriage. After the death of her son, Mott became a Quaker minister to spread the word of God. Mott, along with the rest of the Quakers, protested slavery by refusing to buy products of slave labor. Her husband got out of the cotton trade around 1830. Mott became a huge supporter of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and his American Anti-Slavery Society. Though she was threatened with physical violence at several anti-slavery meetings, Mott never stopped speaking out against slavery.

In 1833, she and 30 other female abolitionists organized the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. In 1840, she was voted to be the delegate for the organization at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convection in London. When she arrived in London, Mott could not actively participate in the convection because she was a female. The male delegates voted to exclude the women because the women might try to make the meeting about themselves and women suffrage. Another woman there was Elizabeth Cady Stanton; as the two women sat in chairs in a rope-off area, they agreed that when they returned to the United States, they needed to create a convection for women about women’s rights. In 1848, the two women helped create the Seneca Falls Convection, the first women convection. This meeting was the official start of the women’s suffrage movement.

After the Civil War ended, many abolitionists believed their work was done since slaves were now free. Mott continued to work for black suffrage, traveling the country speaking about how the former slaves deserved to vote and how they deserved government aid. She also spoke about the importance of women’s suffrage. She was elected the head of the American Equals Rights Association, which split into National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association; one believed the 15th Amendment shouldn’t pass because it didn’t guarantee votes to women while the other believed that women must be patient. When the two women organizations split, she tried to ring them together (eventually the two groups did rejoin). This organization would succeed in getting women to vote, though it wasn’t until 1919. She died on November 11, 1880 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from pneumonia.

Lucretia Mott was born into a religion that preached freedom and equality, yet still believed women were not equal to men. As she traveled the world speaking out against slavery, she realized that society still treated women as men’s property. Mott, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, organized the first women’s convection in Seneca Falls, New York. This meeting would inspire hundreds of women to take action and because of these feminists, women are now able to own property, marry for love, have a career, and vote. Lucretia Mott, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, is honored in the Capitol Rotunda as a sculpture.

 

 

Sources:

 

Lucretia Mott. biography

 

Women’s Rights

 

Lucretia Mott

 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Feminist

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When one thinks of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, one usually thinks only about Susan B. Anthony. Besides giving speeches and getting arrested trying to vote, Anthony also appeared on the U.S. coin dollar. Besides Anthony, there were hundreds of women involved in getting women the right to vote, including Anthony’s best friend  Elizabeth Cady Stanton. While majority of the women focused only on voting, Stanton also focused on women leaving unhappy marriage and saying “no” to their husband if they didn’t want to have sex; two very radical ideas at the time. Stanton believed before many women did that women are equal to men.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born on November 12, 1815 in Johnston, New York. Her father, Daniel Cady, was a New York Supreme Court judge so she grew up learning about law and how to debate. She attended Emma Willard’s Academy but because she was a woman, she could not attend college. After the academy, she spent much of her time at her cousin’s, the abolitionist Gerrit Smith. While she was there, Stanton met Henry B. Stanton and the two married in 1840. They spent their honeymoon at the World’s Antislavery Convection in London where Stanton met Lucretia Mott, an American female abolitionist. The two women were not allowed to participate in the antislavery convection, forced to sit in a rope-off area. The couple went to live in Boston, Massachusetts, where Stanton was surrounded by free-thinkers, including Louisa May Alcott and Frederick Douglass.

In 1847, the Stantons moved to Seneca Falls, New York. After having seven children, Stanton grew tired of domestic confinement and began working to get the Married Women’s Property Bill passed. The bill passed in New York in April 1948; it allowed women to own their property after marrying, instead of having their belongings go to the husbands. In July 1848, with the help of Mott, she organized the world’s first women’s rights convection. The two women never forgot being roped off from men at the slavery convection.Over 300 people attended, – it was the official start of the women suffrage movement.  In 1851, she met Susan B. Anthony through Amelia Bloomer; the two would remain best friends for the rest of their lives. While Stanton had to stay at home to take care of her husband and children, Anthony was single and able to travel; thus, Stanton wrote the speeches and Anthony delivered them. In 1854, Stanton addressed the New York Legislation on a women’s rights bill. Stanton and Anthony formed the National Women’s Loyal League on the constitutional abolition of slavery. They were upset when the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments allowed former male salves to vote but not American women, black or white. In 1969, they established the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, the forerunner of the organization that eventually secured the Nineteenth Amendment. The organization was upset that the Amendments passed excluding women while the American Woman Suffrage Association, founded by Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe, supported the Amendments. In 1876, she wrote the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States, which Anthony presented, uninvited, at the Centennial Celebration in Washington, D.C. in 1876. The Rights were signed by several feminists, including Lucretia Mott. Stanton, Anthony, and Matilda Gage wrote the first three volumes of A History of Women Suffrage.

While majority of women concentrated on gaining voting rights, Stanton focused on women being able to divorce alcoholic husbands and to leave unhappy marriages; she also believed women should decide if they want more children and if not, they should be able to tell their husband “no” when he wanted to have sex or use birth control. Stanton believed organized Christianity was sexist, so in 1898, along with Gage, published The Women’s Bible. Stanton’s radical ideas shocked the conservative AMSA members, the reason why Stanton grew unpopular. In 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage merged with the conservative American Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton opposed the merge, but became the first president. Though the two ideas had differing ideas, they both agreed that women should be able to vote.

Stanton died from heart failure on October 26, 1902, 18 years before women were granted the right to vote. Though she almost disappeared from the history books due to her radical views in the late 1800’s, she is gaining popularity as Americans realize that women do deserve to have a happy marriage. At the Capital Rotunda, there is a sculpture of  Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton on display. Stanton’s biggest regret was that she was not able to attend college because she was a woman; her daughters were able to attend college.

Sources:

 Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Women’s Rights

Frances Perkins: Secretary of Labor

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Frances Perkins, 1880-1965

Frances Perkins, 1880-1965 (Photo credit: Penn State Special Collections Library)

The stock market crash of October 1929 resulted in the Great Depression, a time when  unemployment reached 25%, poverty increased, and deflation occurred. When Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, he created several laws, known as the New Deal, that created employment amongst Americans. These measures included social security, minimum wage, normal work hours, and child labor laws. Though it was Roosevelt who managed to have all of these laws passed, there was a woman behind the scenes who came up with several of the New Deal laws. Her name was Francis Perkins.

Fannie “Frances” Perkins was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 10, 1880. Her parents supported her education; she graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1902 with chemistry and physics degrees and graduated from Columbia University with a Masters in sociology. In 1910, she became head of the New York Consumer’s League and lobbied for better working hours and conditions. On March 25, 1911, she witnessed the deadliest industrial disaster in American history: the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. A total of 146 garment workers died from fire, smoke inhalation, or falling to their deaths. Most of the victims were Jewish and Italian immigrant women – the youngest were 14-year-olds Kate Leone and Sara Rosaria Maltese. As was the common practice at the time, the managers had locked the doors leading to the stairwells and exits to prevent thievery. From that moment on, Perkins spent the rest of her life improving working conditions for the American worker. She quit her job and went to work for the Factory Investigation Commission in New York City as a factory inspector. When she wasn’t working or studying, she volunteered at settlement houses, including the Hull House in Chicago.

On the Factory Investigation Commission, she sat on the committee that was created to understand what happened at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory and how to make sure it would never happen again.She later became executive secretary for the Committee on Safety of the City of New York. In 1913, she married Paul Wilson and had a baby daughter. After two years of marriage, her husband developed what is now known as a bipolar disorder. He was institutionalized, leaving Perkins to raise her daughter by herself. In 1919, she was added to the Industrial Commission of the State of New York by Governor Alfred Smith. In 1929, she was appointed by Governor Franklin Roosevelt to the New York State Commissioner of Labor where she worked to expand factory investigations and to reduce the workweek for women to 48 hours. She also worked on getting a minimum wage set, create unemployment insurance laws, and to put an end to child labor.

When Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, she was invited to become the Secretary of Labor. She became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet. Perkins proposed several ideas that Roosevelt supported, including social security, which provided unemployment benefits, pensions for the elderly, and aid to the poor. She served 12 years and 3 months as a member of the cabinet, the longest officer to have served. After Roosevelt died, President Harry Truman asked her to serve on the U.S. Civil Service Commission, which she did until 1952 when her husband died. She spent the rest of her life teaching at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations until she died on May 14, 1965.

Before Perkins, men, women, and children were working 60-hour weeks in dangerous factories for little pay. After witnessing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Perkins dedicated the rest of her life to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. When she wasn’t creating labor laws, she was raising her daughter by herself because her husband suffered from a mental illness. When Roosevelt became president during the Great Depression, he knew the Secretary of Labor must be someone capable of brining America out of the depression. By appointing Perkins, he showed that she was the best person for the job. Because of Frances Perkins, there is a minimum wage, child labor laws, and social security. She later reflected as to why she went to work in Washington D.C.; “I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and millions of forgotten plain common workingmen.”

Sources:

Social Security Pioneers

Frances Perkins

The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire

 

Margaret Sanger: Birth Control Activist

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Margaret Sanger Deutsch: Margaret Sanger (* 1879)

Margaret Sanger (1879) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For thousands of years, a woman was expected to stay at home and birth a baby every year while the man went to work. Even American families that could barely afford one child would end up with ten children because certain religions and federal laws forbade the use of birth control. Then in the early 1900’s, a woman named Margaret Sanger began giving speeches about birth control. She talked about how a  woman could decide how many children she wanted and could afford and how they could finally enjoy sex without worrying about becoming pregnant. Though the government tried to silence her for decades, Sanger continued spreading the word about the freedom for women achieved by using birth control.

Margaret Sanger was born Margaret Louise Higgins on September 14, 1879 in Corning, New York. Her parents were devout Catholics; her mother went through 18 pregnancies (11 live births) in 22 years before dying at the age of 50 from tuberculosis and cervical cancer. At the funeral, Sanger lashed at her father, “You caused this. Mother is dead from having too many children.” Not wanting up end up like her mother, her older sisters helped her attend college and nursing school. She married William Sanger, had 3 children, and settled down in Hastings, New York. In 1910, her husband quit his job as a architect to try painting, forcing Sanger to work as a nurse to support the family; they would separate four years later. As a nurse, she was called in to tend for the poor women who had abortions because they could not afford to have another child. Seeing the women suffer through un-safe back-alley abortions, Sanger knew better contraceptives were needed to prevent more women from suffering.

In 1912, Sanger began writing a column on sex education for the New York Call. Censors suppressed her column on venereal disease. In 1914, she published Women Rebel, a radical feminists monthly that advocated the right to practice birth control, and sent diaphragms through the mail. These actions went against the 1873 Federal Comstock Law that banned dissemination of contraceptive information. She was arrested several times, but her arrests attracted wealthy supporters. In 1916, she opened the firth birth control clinic in Brooklyn; nine days later, it was raided and she and her staff were all arrested. New York state then decided that physicians could prescribe birth control for medical reasons, which allowed Sanger to open a legal, doctor-run birth control clinic in 1923. She also founded the American Birth Control League, which would later be known as the Planned Parenthood Federation. When a black social worker asked Sanger to open a clinic in Harlem to provide black women with birth control, Sanger did and staffed it a all-black staff – W.E.B. Du Bois served on the board of Sanger’s Harlem Clinic.

After traveling the world for decades talking about  birth control, Sanger realized there needed to be better birth control options for women since the diaphragm was not popular. She wanted a magic pill that could provide women with cheap, safe, and effective female-controlled contraception. In 1951 she met Gregory Pincus, a medical expert in human reproduction. Sanger also found a sponsor for the research, International Harvester heiress Katharine McCormick. McCormick had worked with Sanger since the 1920’s, smuggling diaphragms from Europe to New York. McCormick strongly believed in birth control because her husband had schizophrenia and she believed it to be genetic (she was right). Together, the three of them helped create Enovid, the first FDA approved oral contraceptive in 1960. The goal of Sanger to create a magic pill was achieved. In 1965, the Supreme Court Case Griswold v. Connecticut ruled that the private use of contraceptives was a constitutional right. Sanger passed away on September 6, 1966 after realizing her goal was accomplished. Pincus died on August 22, 1967 and McCormick died on December 28, 1967; they too were able to witness birth control becoming legal.

Though it has been over 40 years since birth control became legal in the United States, women still have trouble accessing it due to costs, state laws, and even pharmacists refusing to sell it. It is up to women to continue fighting for their right to have and to use birth control since it can be used for medical reasons (preventing ovarian cancer) and it gives a woman the right to choose to when she wants to have children. Thanks to Margaret Sanger, women have a choice when it comes to having a family.

Sources:

About Margaret Sanger

People & Events: Margaret Sanger

Rosa Parks: Civil Rights Activist

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English: Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Mar...

Photographic Rosa Parks (ca. 1955) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though the slaves were freed after the Civil War, it wasn’t until 100 years later when black people were considered equal with white people. Until then, the blacks had to use separate water fountains, separate schools, and separate entrances. Minorities were discriminated against, especially in the South where the Jim Crow laws made “everything separate, but equal” – which actually meant the white citizens were the only first class citizens. And anyone who stood up against the racist laws would mysteriously disappear thanks to the KKK butthat all changed when one woman, Rosa Parks, refused to move to the back of the bus.

Rosa Parks, born Rosa Louise McCauley, was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. After her parents divorced, she and her mother moved in with Rosa’s maternal grandparents, two former slaves. On her way to her segregated one-room school, Rosa would watch as the school buses drove by with the white children; after all, black children were not provided school buses of their own to ride. In 11th grade, Rosa dropped out of school to take care of her sick mother and grandmother. In 1932, she met and married Raymond Parks, a barber and member of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People. With her husband’s support, she earned her high school degree in 1933; at that time, only 7% of blacks graduated high school. In 1943, she became involved in civil rights issues by becoming the secretary and youth leader of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP.

To get to work at the department store where she worked as a seamstress, Rosa took the city bus. The Montgomery City Code required that all public transportation be segregated. There was a sign in the middle of the bus that divided the bus: white passengers in the front and black passengers in the back. Though the law did not require black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers, bus drivers would still threaten the black passengers with the police if they refused. On December 1, 1955, Rosa took the seat in the first row of the black section of the bus after work. A few bus stops later, the us driver noticed white passengers standing in the aisle so he stopped the bus, moved the sign, and asked four of the black passengers to move to the back of the bus. Three of the passengers complained, but moved. Rosa repliaed “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” She was arrested.

Word of her arrest quickly spread through town. The president of the local chapter of the NAACP, E.D. Nixon, met with Rosa after she paid her bail and was released. Nixon and other leaders were waiting for the perfect plaintiff to take a trial to the supreme court and Rosa was perfect: she was married, employed, financially stable, mature, and quiet. It was determined that they would take her case to court and that there would be a bus boycott on the day of her trial. The first group to endorse the boycott was the Women’s Political Council. Rosa’s trial was to be on December 5th. On the day of her trial, she was found guilty of violating the local ordinance and fined $10. On that day it rained, yet 40,000 members of the black community walked to work, some walking as far as 20 miles. Due to the boycott’s importance, it was determined that there should be someone in charge of the bus boycott. The leaders of the black community elected Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an unknown minister.

For months the buses remained empty since blacks made up 75% of bus riders. King and Nixon both had their homes destroyed by bombing and many protesters were arrested for boycotting. Rosa and her husband lost their jobs and moved to Detroit, Michigan. In June 1956, the district court declared Jim Crow laws to be unconstitutional. The city of Montgomery appealed, but the U.S. Supreme court upheld the lower court’s ruling on November 13, 1956. The boycott ended on December 20, 1956 after Montgomery lifted its segregation of buses. In the 1960’s, several laws passed to prohibited segregation laws throughout the United States.

As for Rosa, she became a secretary in the U.S. Representative John Conyer’s congressional office. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton and when she died on October 24, 2005, she became the first woman to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda. Millions of blacks were waiting for years for the moment when they would be considered equal. When Rosa Parks, an average woman, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, the local black leaders realized that it was now the time to take a stand against the Jim Crow laws. The boycott was organized and future Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr. was put in charge of the boycott. Because of Rosa Parks, white and black children can ride the school bus together.

Sources:

Rosa Parks. biography

Rosa Parks

Dorothea Lynde Dix: Mental Illness Reformer

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U.S. Library of Congress DIX, DOROTHEA LYNDE. ...

U.S. Library of Congress DIX, DOROTHEA LYNDE. Retouched photograph. date found on item. Location: Biographical File Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-9797 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mental Illness is still a taboo topic in the United States even though 57.7 million Americans experience a mental health disorder every year. Fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children receive mental health services in a given year. Though there are strides to make healthcare more accessible to people with mental illness, there was time when they were locked away in jails, chained to walls, sexually assaulted, and starved. For centuries, this was how the mentally ill were taken care of until the 1800’s. There is one person responsible for mental illness reform; her name is Dorothea Lynde Dix.

Dorothea Dix was born in Hampden, Maine on April 4, 1802. She had an unhappy childhood because her mother suffered from depression while her father was an alcoholic priest who traveled a lot, so it was up to Dix to take care of her younger brothers. Her father did manage to teach her how to read and write. When she was 12, she moved to Boston to live with her wealthy grandmother. Her grandmother was strict and punished Dix when Dix donated her new expensive clothes to the poor children on the street. Dix became a teacher at the age of 15, opening a school in her grandmother’s mansion. In her spare time, she wrote books for adolescents. In 1836, Dix stopped teaching due to frequent illness and traveled to Europe with friends. Though she was supposed to be relaxing, she met social reformers investigating asylums and she returned to the Untied States to see how her own state dealt with the mentally ill.

In 1841, Dix volunteered to teach a Sunday School class for women inmates at the East Cambridge jail. At the jail, she saw that prostitutes, mentally ill, and criminals were all housed together in dirty conditions. When she asked why the jail was in a terrible condition, she was told that “the insane do not feel heat or cold.” Dix traveled throughout Massachusetts, documenting how the mentally ill were treated in each town. She saw prisoners being whipped, staved, chained, physically abused, and sexually abused by other inmates and guards. The prisoners were often naked without heat or sanitation. She presented her documentation to the Massachusetts legislation and convinced them to set aside funds for the expansion of a state mental hospital in Worcester. Dix traveled to Rhode Island, New York, and other states repeating her process; she help found 32 mental hospitals, a school for the blind, and numerous training facilities for nurses. When she was done with the United States, she traveled to Europe to help the mentally ill.

She returned to the United States in 1854 to travel to states she had missed, but the Civil War interrupted her goal of mental illness reform. She was appointed the Superintendent of Union Army Nurses, the first woman to serve in such a high capacity in a federally appointed role. President Lincoln asked her to appoint a nurse to take care of his sick son, Tad, who had fallen ill after his brother Willie died. Dix appointed Nurse Rebecca Pomeroy, who provided care to Tad while comforting Lincoln. Dix clashed with army officials and was feared by her female nurses, so she submitted her resignation in August 1865.

After the war, she returned to work as a social reformer until 1881 when the New Jersey State Hospital in Morris Plaines opened. This hospital was the first one created built because of Dix, so she checked herself in due to her poor health. She died on July 17, 1887 at the hospital. Dix never wanted hospitals to be named after her, embarrassed of being praised for her work, but it should be known that it is because of her that people now know that the mentally ill are humans and deserved to be treated as such.

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Dorothea Lynde Dix

Mental Illness

Dorothea Dix

Clara Harlowe Barton: American Red Cross

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Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every year, the American Red Cross responds to 70,000 disasters in the United States; the disasters range from hurricanes and earthquakes to fires and floods. The Red Cross provides food, shelter, and supplies for families and communities to get back on their feet. The Red Cross also helps 150,000 military families and veterans each year by providing training and support to wounded warriors. The Red Cross is also the nation’s leading provider of health and safety courses. The American version of this organization was founded by Clara Harlowe Barton.

Clara Harlowe Barton was born on December 25, 1821, in North Oxford, Massachusetts. When she was 16, phrenologists (studied bumps on people’s head) said a career in teaching would cure her of her shyness. After teaching for a few years, she moved to New Jersey where she found out that New Jersey did not have free schools. She opened up a free school and while only 6 students showed up on the first day of school, she had over 200 students when the school year ended. The people of Bordentown were impressed and donated $4,000 to build a new, larger school. When the school opened in 1853, Barton found out that she would not be the principal because she was a woman. Hurt that she could not be in charge of the school she help create, she quit and moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a clerk at the U.S. Patent Office. She would be the first woman to have a government job in the United States.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, thousands of wounded Union soldiers headed to Washington, D.C.. Barton quickly realized that the government was not prepared to care for the wounded soldiers. For a year, she pleaded with the bureaucracy to allow her to bring medical supplies to the field. When she was granted permission, she headed to the battlefield. Barton became the “nursing angel” to soldiers in some of the war’s bloodiest battles: Second Manassas, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Grateful soldiers who survived the war would name their daughters Clara. When regimental standard-bearer Sergeant Thomas Plunkett had both his arms blown off (still managed to support the flag staff with his body until another soldier could carry it forward into battle) Barton took care of his wounds and saw that he was placed on a train to D.C.. When he encountered trouble trying to return home, Barton pledged his case to U.S. Senator Henry Wilson, who saw that Plunkett had money and help for the rest of his life.

During the Civil War, Barton received hundreds of letters from families wandering if she knew where their sons were. When the war ended, Barton took charge of identifying and marking the graves of 13,000 Union soldiers who died at the Anderson, Georgia, prisoner-of-war camp. President Abraham Lincoln made her the head of the Missing Soldiers Office, the first woman to become in charge of a U.S. government bureau. The agency located 22,000 missing soldiers from 1865-1868.

In 1869, her doctor recommended her to travel to Europe to relax. Instead of relaxing, she took part in the relief effort during the Franco-Prussian War. While she was helping the wounded, she was introduced to the Red Cross, the organization created in 1864 to provide humane services to war victims. She also learned about the Geneva Conviction, rules that apply in times of armed conflict that seek to protect people who not taking part in hostilities. At the time, the United States had not signed it. Barton returned to the United States to establish the American Red Cross and she pushed the U.S. to sign the Geneva Convection. The Red Cross was recognized by the U.S. government to provide aid for natural disasters on May 21, 1881; after the Johnston Flood (dam broke and killed 2,000 people) Barton and 50 doctors and nurses showed up to take care of the town.She resigned its presidency in 1904 and she died in Glen Echo, Maryland on April 12, 1912.

Clara Barton would rather take care of wounded soldiers during a battle then speak at a meeting, but she was able to overcome her shyness when others needed her to. She became a teacher to overcome her shyness, but instead she made sure that children received free education in New Jersey. When she noticed wounded soldiers outside her house, she rushed to the battlefield to take care of them. When parents wanted to know where their son was, she was put in charge of the agency responsible for bringing 22,000 families peace. Barton never “relaxed” as her doctor ordered her to, she was too busy creating an organization that is now the number one organization to respond to a natural disaster.

 

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Angel of the battlefield

American Red Cross

Clara Barton