The History of Women in the Republican Party

The Republican Party had established itself as the party of reform in the 19th century, not the conservative organization it would become. Introduction Though 19th-century women could not vote, they could and did align with political parties and ideologies. Average citizens demonstrated their partisan loyalties at rallies and public celebrations. And, this included women. The[…]

I Spy Something Free

Women spies of the American Revolution. Introduction Throughout the Revolutionary War, there are stories of heroism; those who sacrificed to save others, those who put their lives on the line to warn of impending danger. The vast majority of these stories involve men. But there are countless extraordinary women who risked and sacrificed just as[…]

Love and the Revolution

Two wives of the American Revolution – one a patriot, one a spy. By Victoria Cooney Lucy Flucker of Boston and Peggy Shippen of Philadelphia were beautiful, well-born, and well-bred specimens of the ideal eighteenth-century American lady when love altered the course of their lives and thrust them into the action and intrigue of the[…]

Mythbusting the Founding Mothers

Examining some myths about women during the Revolutionary War and trying to find the truth. We all can picture the Founding Fathers, gathered in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, debating what to do about tyrannical Britain, and finally signing their names onto the Declaration of Independence. But what about the Founding Mothers? Often the women of[…]

Sex, Power, and Violence in the Renaissance Nude

Visual access to real women’s bodies was strictly policed in the Renaissance, particularly in Italy. The relationship between art, gender, and power goes back centuries; it didn’t start with #MeToo. Cultural production, such as novels, paintings, or films, does not merely reflect the ideas of a single artist or a patron—it articulates and reflects the norms[…]

The Three Daring Women Who Traversed the Himalayas in 1958

They called their adventure the Women’s Overland Himalayan Expedition. Antonia Deacock, Anne Davies and Eve Sims were three rather extraordinary women who, when in their mid-twenties and thirties, set off overland from England to Tibet in 1958.  Their aim was climbing one of the Himalayas’ unexplored high peaks. They made the 16,000-mile drive to India and back,[…]

Female Artists in the Renaissance

Women have always been artists, even famed artists. So why were many forgotten? Recovering Forgotten Masters When Renaissance painter Plautilla Nelli got her first solo exhibit at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery in 2017, some art historians asked . . . Plautilla who??  Despite being a celebrated artist in sixteenth-century Florence, Nelli had been forgotten by art[…]

19 Facts about the 19th Amendment

Women’s historic struggles to vote continue to resonate as the country debates who should vote and how. The 19th Amendment enfranchised millions of women across the United States following a seven-decade campaign. The struggle to expand voting rights to women resonates today as the country continues to debate who should vote and how. As scholars[…]

Vibrators Had a Long History as Medical Quackery before Their Use as Sex Toys

By the 1930s, vibrators were just another household electric appliance that could soothe your pains at the end of a long day. And then…. In the contemporary moment of sex-positive feminism, praises for the orgasmic capacity of the vibrator abound. “They’re all-encompassing, a blanket of electricity, that’ll course through your veins, producing orgasms you didn’t[…]

Waging Health: Women in Medicine in Nineteenth-Century American Wars

The nineteenth century is a decisive time in the development of medicine and the medical profession in Europe and North America. Thinking of war from a U.S.-American perspective will almost immediately evoke associations of male soldiers fighting heroic battles for a good cause such as democracy and/or the liberation of people from dictatorships, tyrannies, and[…]

Lifting as We Climb: African American Women’s Clubs in Progressive Era Chicago

How the work of African American clubwomen deepens our understanding of the Great Migration and the Progressive Era. Introduction When one considers the typical Progressive Era (1890-1930) reformer, figures such as Jane Addams, founder of Hull House, John Dewey, educational reformer, or political progressives, like Robert La Follette or Teddy Roosevelt come to mind. All[…]

Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend

The most famous event of Pocahontas’ life, her rescue of Captain John Smith, did not happen the way he wrote it. By Sarah J. Stebbins Introduction Not much is known about this memorable woman. What we do know was written by others, as none of her thoughts or feelings were ever recorded. Specifically, her story[…]

Motherhood in the Early American Republic

Women’s roles present in the emerging United States before, during, and after the American Revolution. Introduction “Republican Motherhood” is an 18th-century term for an attitude toward women’s roles present in the emerging United States before, during, and after the American Revolution. It centered on the belief that the patriots’ daughters should be raised to uphold[…]

Childbirth and Maternal Health in 17th-Century England

Historical material about the bodily and emotional experience of the period after birth has been relatively neglected. Summary For a month after childbirth, the authors of medical and religious prescriptive literature instructed new mothers to keep to their beds. During this time they were expected to bleed away the bodily remnants of pregnancy. At the[…]

A Saint, a Seurat, and a Baby in a Cot

How three artists, from three different eras, depicted motherhood. Introduction The first official Mother’s Day holiday was observed in the U.S. in 1908, but celebrations of mothers date back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who honored goddesses who were mothers. Depictions of mothers range from images of Aphrodite and her son Aeneas on a[…]

Ten Noble and Notorious Women of Ancient Greece

Many women in ancient Greece led interesting lives and performed heroic acts and who remain lesser known in the modern day. Introduction There were, no doubt, many notable women in ancient Greece, but history books are usually silent on female accomplishments. According to the historian and novelist Helena P. Schrader, this is because, “Herodotus and[…]

How Black Suffragists Fought for the Right to Vote and a Modicum of Respect

Hallie Quinn Brown and other “homespun heroines”. Hallie Quinn Brown knew the power of black women and urged anyone who heard her to let it flourish. Read her remarks from 1889 and you might believe she saw the future or at least had the capacity to call it into being: “I believe there are as[…]

Parlor Politics: The Activist Legacy of Harriet Beecher Stowe

She was a famous activist in her day, arguably the most famous in the world. By Tom Christopher Katherine Kane, executive director of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut, has no doubts. As she escorts me through Stowe’s home, a 4,500-square-foot Victorian “cottage,” Kane points out that the issue at the heart of[…]

Winning the Vote: A Divided Movement and the Nineteenth Amendment

Roughly fifty years after a handful of suffragists conceived the idea, it became a hard-fought reality. Introduction In 1869, a bold new idea was born. It would have been inconceivable a few years earlier. Upending everything about the balance between state and federal power, this idea strove to remake American democracy. It proved so vexing[…]

Food Rationing and Canning during World War II

Rationed foods were categorized as either needing red or blue points. Introduction The events on December 7, 1941 catapulted the United States into World War II. The country’s entrance into the war meant many changes on the home front. Chief among these alterations was the introduction of food rationing in 1942. On January 30th of[…]

Harriet Prudence Patterson: American Revolution Spy in a Petticoat

Corroborating Prudence’s wartime adventures is difficult. Introduction Prudence Patterson was born in 1743 (either in Wales or in County Antrim, Ireland) and emigrated to America with her parents. In 1763, she married another immigrant, John Hall, in York, South Carolina. They had eight or nine children. Their children’s names were James, John, Prudence, Jennet, Margaret,[…]

Women’s Rights: Old Friends Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

In their last days, the suffragist pioneers looked back and left us their story in letters. “It is fifty-one years since we first met, and we have been busy through every one of them, stirring up the world to recognize the rights of women,” Susan B. Anthony wrote her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1902. The letter,[…]

Maggie Lena Walker: Pennies and Nickels Add Up to Success

Maggie Lena Walker was one of the most important Black businesswomen in the nation, and today too few people have heard of her. Maggie Lena Walker was the first Black woman in the nation to organize and run a bank. And she did it in the segregated South in the former capital of the Confederacy,[…]

Mary Edwards Walker: 18th-Century Physician and Suffragist

Mary Edwards Walker defied convention in just about everything she did. Mary Edwards Walker was uncompromising in her beliefs about herself and the world she lived in. She declined to conform to social expectations, which sometimes cost her greatly; until her dying day Walker refused to be anyone but herself, a trait even some of[…]

The First Women to Make Movies

For decades, women’s contributions to silent movies were mostly ignored. Motion pictures began in the East in the 1890s, then settled in Southern California around 1910 where the sunny climate was perfect for filming. In these early years, across this country, in tiny towns and big cities, thousands of young women sat in darkened theaters,[…]

Women of the Red Cross Motor Corps in WWI

Just leave it to a group of fiercely determined women to make a name for themselves behind the wheels of the Motor Corps’ ambulances. As Sophia Petrillo of the Golden Girls repeatedly said, “Picture it”… it’s the turn of the 19th Century and the production of automobiles has, pun intended, revved up. It’s an age of[…]

A Tale of Two Suffragists: Hazel Hunkins and Maud Wood Park

Thousands of women took different paths and pursued multiple strategies to win the goal of securing the right to vote. Two suffragists arrived in Washington, D.C. in late 1916, one from Billings, Montana and the other from Boston. Born twenty years apart, they spent the next three years in the nation’s capital working for the[…]