Tag Archives: suffragist

The Case for Making a REAL Anna Howard Shaw Day

The following post is written by Megan Dunne, spring intern for the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

This is the first post in a series highlighting and celebrating female pioneers throughout history. Some of these women have been largely overlooked, others celebrated, but I feel that all of these inspiring women have made important contributions to the state of women today.

I have to be honest, the first reason Anna Howard Shaw came to my mind when I was developing a list of influential women was because of Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. Liz was trying to avoid the pressures of Valentine’s Day by scheduling dental surgery for that day and commenting that, on February 14th, she celebrates the birth of Anna Howard Shaw, not Valentine’s Day. “Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day!” she yelled across the studio. I never learned about Anna Howard Shaw in school, and I had no idea what her contribution to feminism was, but I nonetheless took this opportunity to look into her life.

As Liz correctly noted, Anna Howard Shaw was born on February 14th, 1847. She lived through a series of important historical moments in America’s story: her family emigrated from England to America when she was a child in 1853, and later embarked out to the American frontier. Her family ultimately settled in Michigan. Despite discouragement from her family and friends, she continued her education, graduating from Albion College in 1872. Then she went even further, attending the Theological School of Boston University in 1878, where she was the only woman in her class.

Higher education for women, at the time, was well outside of social norms. Anna was denied ordination from the Methodist Episcopal Church when she applied, despite having the proper qualifications. However, she did go on to become the first female minister ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church in 1880. While preaching in East Dennis, MA, Anna went to Boston University Medical School, getting her MD in 1885. This was an incredibly smart, driven woman.

Her story so far is fascinating on its own, trailblazing so that more women could go to college and any women could get graduate degrees, but its where the story goes that makes Anna Howard Shaw such a pioneer for women in society.

So here is Anna Howard Shaw, a highly educated pastor and doctor. She could easily have stayed in that already unique combination of occupations. But she began to notice something. Shaw writes, “Around me I saw women being overworked and underpaid, doing men’s work at half men’s wages, not because their work was inferior, but because they were women.” Shaw went to join the Massachusetts Women’s Suffrage Association, and joined with like-mined women to start the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. This doctor and preacher suddenly became more politically active than many of us will ever be.

Shaw was so effective in Massachusetts that she ultimately became president of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association—precursor organization to the League of Women Voters! During Shaw’s term from 1904 to 1915, membership grew tenfold; the budget grew threefold; and the discussion of women’s rights changed from a state-by-state approach to a national campaign for the federal level of government.

Shaw went on to be involved with the war effort during World War I and was a proponent of the League of Nations, and a cause for which she was campaigning when she passed away in 1919. She died one year before women got the right to vote.

As a pastor, Anna Howard Shaw refused to perform marriage ceremonies in which the word “obey” was used; as a citizen, Shaw refused to pay property for income taxes because she could not vote, thereby making her taxes “taxation without representation.” Anna Howard Shaw was a trailblazer and a true pioneer for the women who followed in her footsteps, and I surely believe that she would have joined the League had she been around at it’s inception.

Today we remember and thank Anna Howard Shaw for advancing women’s rights and helping to create a world where women can study whatever they want, however long they want! May every day be, as Liz Lemon says, Anna Howard Shaw Day.

(Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0214.html     http://www.biography.com/people/anna-howard-shaw-9480841)

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Why I Vote.

This is a guest post written by former LWVNJ intern, Christine Kaufman.

Why I Vote.

Voting is an untouchable privilege to millions of people around the world.  Just this year Egyptians finally got to vote in a presidential election that did not already have a clear cut winner.  70 year old Nadia Fahmy lined up with fellow Egyptian citizens, some who waited four hours, so she could vote for the first time in her life. Although some debate the fairness of our elections in the U.S., we are quite blessed to have the right to vote.  Americans spend so much time dwelling on what we do not have and forget to utilize the rights we were born with.

This is the first year I will be old enough to vote in a presidential election.  Unfortunately, I was born a few months late and was only 17 during the 2008 election.  In 2010, only 55.6% of eligible NJ citizens were registered to vote. Could it be that almost half of our population does not see the importance in voting?  Some of my friends would see that number and agree, everyone only has one vote and that one vote will not make much of a difference.  But what if everyone took their vote seriously?  If all of those non-believers came together and voted, they could easily change the outcome of any election.

I vote because I believe you cannot just sit back and complain about the government if you do not attempt to influence it.  I vote because this is the first year my younger brother is old enough to vote and I want to set a good example.  I vote because my father spends hours upon hours educating himself on current events since he takes his vote seriously.  I vote because my mother votes and because her mother had to earn the right to vote.  So let us all start taking our votes seriously.  Visit our website for more information on voting and how you can register to vote.

Women’s Equality Day: I Hope They Danced

The following post is written by LWVNJ President Toni Zimmer.

It’s hard to imagine the emotions that must have surged through the hearts of American women back on August 26, 1920 – the day they received the right to vote through passage of the 19th Amendment. It may be impossible to replicate those feelings, but what I can do is take you on a virtual trip back in time, to describe how the historic day unfolded in Washington, changed the future for all of us, and where we find ourselves today.

The fate of the 19th Amendment was decided by a single vote, by 24-year-old legislator Harry Burn, of Tennessee, who switched from “no” to “yes” in response to a letter from his mother saying, “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage!” The Secretary of State in Washington, DC issued the 19th Amendment’s proclamation immediately, well before breakfast on August 26, 1920, in order to head off any final obstructionism.

Did women kick up their heels and dance in the streets when they heard the news? I really don’t know, but they certainly deserved to. Our country had taken a tremendous step forward that could not have been accomplished without the decades of hard work, courage and planning put forth by woman suffrage movement leaders and supporters.

A couple of years before that historic day, leaders of the suffrage movement began to carefully plan for it. They realized that winning the right to vote would be just the beginning of full citizenship for women. As new voters, women would have to be taught the fundamental elements of voting, including how and where to register and vote, how to interpret ballot issues, and how to assess candidates. They would also need to be informed and educated on an array of relevant issues to cast their votes effectively and with conviction.  And so, the League of Women Voters was conceptualized, ready and waiting in the wings to step forward on that incredible day as the official organization to help women make the historic transition into the world of the informed voter.

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey joined in the original 1920 effort to launch this successful transition. Today, 91 years after it was officially founded in Newark, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey has grown to include 35 local League organizations throughout the state, and is supported by members who continue to serve the civic needs of all New Jersey citizens. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey registers thousands of voters, defends voting rights, supports women’s rights, and actively educates citizens on important issues so they can have an effective voice in government to bring about constructive change.

We are proud and grateful for the efforts of the strong and principled women who sacrificed and fought for so many years to bring equality to all women by standing up and insisting upon the passage of the 19th Amendment.  We believe that a secure future depends on citizens learning about the issues, speaking out, and seeking positive solutions to the problems confronting our communities and our country.

Of course, there is still lots of work to be done, but before we continue on, we should take some time off to celebrate Women’s Equality Day, as many celebrated this day back in 1920.  I hope they danced.

Following in their Footsteps

The following is a continuation in a series highlighting members of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.

Anne Ruach Nicolas began her journey to the League of Women Voters at a very young age. As a child, she was struck by a photograph she saw mounted on her grandmother’s wall. After asking her grandmother about the photograph, Anne was told the story of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the British suffragist movement. In the photograph, Emmeline is being held by a police officer who is arresting her for attending a protest to support women’s right to vote. Speaking of the photograph, Anne says:

“Emmeline is fighting for women to have the right to vote, so I don’t take voting for granted. I want to be a part of an organization with a rich history of social justice combined with the mission of empowering everyone in the voting booth.”

Identifying with Emmeline’s passion for social justice, Anne found a place at the League of Women Voters of New Jersey where she is able to continue making positive changes in the community. She believes that the League of Women Voters:

“…is an important asset to the community because of its nonpartisan stance and its thoughtful and educated discussion of the issues.”

Our society needs such an organization with members who fight for the rights of the people. Without the League, many people would not be seeking the necessary education to be active members of our democratic society. Anne strongly encourages active participation in government and through her position at the League of Women Voters she is able to spread awareness about important issues to educate and create a community of informed voters. Her work with the League of Women Voters has had a tremendous impact on the community. Speaking of some of the League’s accomplishments, Anne says:

“We’ve educated thousands of voters through our educational publications, our voter hotlines and our educational forums. We’ve helped shape the landscape on issues such as election reform, the environment and educating New Jersey’s children.”

Anne also notes that there aren’t many places left where one can have an informed and educated discussion about the issues. This is one reason why it is important for others to get involved with the League. The League, and League meetings:

“…are a modern day version of a town square.”