Great Women in American History
Book referenced: Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women – Cheryl Harness, HarperCollins, 2001
Here are some challenges to male authority to share with our children. The women included are all profiled in Cheryl Harness’ illustrated encomium to brave women (not her only effort in this area). The book is dense with information and expressive sketches of our foremothers. It is a great source of inspiration and an invitation to learn more.
Anne Dudley Bradstreet: “I am obnoxious to each carping tongue/Who says my hand a needle better fits.” Obnoxious, indeed. Women write poetry, and are often the best interpreters of our own experiences.
Pocahontas/Matoaka: I’m not a Disney heroine….
…I balanced the authority of my father and my own desires. It wasn’t easy.
Abigail Adams: John, while you are establishing a new nation, “Remember the Ladies.” Tyranny isn’t limited to British men.
Deborah Sampson: I fought in the Revolutionary War until you found out I was a woman. Courage isn’t limited to one gender.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” How dare you have excluded women from the doctrine of equality that formed, very imperfectly, the basis of our new nation? So in 1848, at Seneca Falls, I spoke up for women. Keep up the fight!
Amelia Bloomer: Yes, I’m wearing trousers. They’re comfortable and give women greater mobility. Deal with it.
Harriet Tubman: Born a slave, people called me “Moses” for leading many to freedom. But the struggle for freedom was collective, not the result of one individual’s bravery. I did what I could. I spied for the Union and fought for women’s suffrage. I hope that my life has been a testament to the truth: freedom is for everyone.
Emily Dickinson: “The Brain – is wider than the Sky – /For- put them side by side/The one the other will contain/With ease – and You – beside.”
Louisa May Alcott: Girls and women want to read about our own lives. Little Women found an eager audience. Jo March speaks up for every girl who has ever wanted to write, and find an intelligent companion who treats her as an equal.
Mary Cassatt: If motherhood and the every domestic lives of women are supposedly so important to us, why can’t we portray these experiences in paintings? Do men have to paint women’s lives?
Mary Harris “Mother Jones”: Better working conditions. Protection of workers’ rights and safety. I co-founded the “Wobblies,” “Industrial Workers of the World,” to give a voice to the people, men and women, who built our country with sweat, pain, and pride.
Ida Bell Wells-Barnett: Muckrakers don’t have to be men. They don’t have to be white. I used my pen and my convictions to fight the plague of lynching.
Frances Perkin: What an honor, and what an opportunity, to serve as Secretary of Labor under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I was there when America needed me. I was the first woman to serve in the Cabinet, but I won’t be the last.
Marian Anderson: When the Daughters of the American Revolution closed the doors of Constitution Hall to me, as a woman of color, I graced the Lincoln Memorial. “My country ‘tis of thee/sweet land of liberty,” never resonated with such purity and power.
Betty Friedan: In my book, The Feminine Mystique, I gave a name to “the problem that has not name.” Women needed more, and the world needed what we could contribute.
Maya Ying Lin: The nightmare of the Vietnam War cried out for a new kind of memorial. Not just heroics, but sorrow and sacrifice marked this terrible conflict. I created the Wall engraved with names of those who served. Critics who questioned my young age, my Asian background, my unconventional approach, were just wrong. I am proud of what I created.
Maya Angelou: The chronicle of my life in poetry and memoir gave women hope. “Shadows on the wall/Noises down the hall/Life doesn’t frighten me at all.”