tv Sex Sexuality Suffrage CSPAN March 7, 2021 8:40am-9:47am EST
i'm the reference and outreach librarian at the california historical society. thank you all for tuning into our program a little bit about us the california historical society was founded in 1871 150 years ago its mission is to inspire and empower people to make california's richly diverse past and meaningful part of their contemporary lives. and now to our current program. on january 20th this year history will be made when kamala
harris becomes the first woman vice president of the united states of america as well as the first woman of color to hold this position. i think it is safe to say that this occasion marks the shattering of quite a few glass ceilings. harris is inauguration comes just months after the us month 100 year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. there's a long legacy of women fighting for political empowerment in the united states and in this program, our speakers will discuss their research into women whose contributions to this cause fully deserve recognition. our first speaker is kimberly, hamlin. she is the associate professor of history and global and intercultural studies at miami university in oxford, ohio as well as an award-winning historian speaker and writer her book free thinker sex suffrage and the extraordinary life of helen hamilton gardner reveals the story of hamilton gardner who the same year that suffrage went into law became the highest ranking and highest paid woman
in federal government as a member of the us civil service commission. our next speaker is wendy rouse. wendy is an associate professor of history at san jose state university her research focuses on the history agenda and sexuality in the progressive era. dr. rouse's current project explores the queer history of the women's suffrage movement uncovering the stories of several queer suffragists who dedicated their lives to furthering the suffrage cause even as they deflected criticism about their personal relationships and gender nonconformity. our third speaker sherry smith is the university distinguished professor of history at southern methodist university. she is a former president of the western history association and received the los angeles times distinguished fellowship at the huntington library where research for her book bohemians west. the latest book covers the opening years of the 20th
century when women radicals and reformers fighting for a new america sought change not only at suffrage rallies, but also in homes and bedrooms. welcome everyone. thank you for being here today. i am going to go off screen and i'm going to let kimberly take over. thank you so much to francis and the california historical society for hosting this event and thank you to my colleagues wendy and sherry for organizing and inviting me to participate i love to talk about the history of sex women's history and how they fit together. so i'm delighted that today will be together sharing our research thinking deep thought that's the importance of the role of sex and the history of sex in the history of the woman suffrage movement. so i'm gonna pause for a second and share my screen so i can show you some images of the woman whose biography i just wrote helen hamilton gardner.
i often say that helen hamilton gardner is the most important interesting impactful suffragist that no one's ever heard of so i'll attempt you to convince you of this today in part by emphasizing the role of sex in a particular the sexual double standard in her life and motivating her activism. the first i want to show you how i met helen hamilton gardner or hhg as i call her. i came across to helen hamilton gardner when i was working on my first book, which is called from eve to evolution darwin science and women's rights and gilded age america, and i was looking to see how 19th century women used science to advance arguments about equality and feminism in gardner was one of my examples because of her work in brain science. and yes, you guessed it. this is her brain here in a jar
outside the psychology department at cornell because when she died she donated her brain to science to prove her life-long contention that women were equal to men when she was a young woman. she wanted to go to columbia. and this is in the 1870s early 1880s and women were not allowed to go to college at columbia and many other schools at that time one of the leading arguments for why was that their brains were smaller their brains simply couldn't handle it and gardner said that camp possibly be true. so anyway, that's how i first met hhg. but when i decided i really wanted to write her biography is when i came across this coded letter and don't worry. this is when we're getting to the sex part of the story. i was looking through the collection of adelaide johnson who was known as the sculptor of suffrage she created the sculpture that's in the capital rotunda now and she did the busts of many other women including. hhg and she has this stash of
hhg letters in her collection of the library of congress, and this one is a coded letter you'll note it's little fill and it's from little one. so there's no actual names on this, but i recognize the handwriting and if you tilt your head you'll see it says best destroy this letter line underline and what hhg reveals in this secret coded letter in a third party collection buried away in the basement of the capital is that the man that she claimed was her husband for her whole life and for all of history until we started i started putting the pieces together was totally not her husband. she had had an affair with this man named charles smart when she was a young woman just 22 23 years old and then there have fair had become public. she lost her harder and job as a teacher. she was run out of town while he carried on just the same rather
than slink away and shame as a fallen woman. a gardener moved to new york city changed her name and started again and the various ins and outs and of this are revealed in this letter, so that's when i thought oh, this is a story i will need to tell because it shows how central sex and in this case the sexual double standard were to gardeners activism. this is another kind of key moment in my research and i want to give a shout out here to all the librarians. of this who have worked so hard to digitize small small town local newspapers across america because this is the newspaper that named gardner whose birth name and name at the time of her affair was alice chenoweth and you can see her highlighted it reveals her name. so gardner was born in 1853. in virginia to a slave owning family, but her father was a methodist minister and that contradiction between being a
minister and a slave owner. he couldn't quite reconcile. so when gardner was just one and again, her name at the time is alice chenoweth her father emancipated the people he held in bondage and moved everyone to, indiana. this whole family then they lose everything the father dies and the civil war and young alice chenoweth becomes a teacher and this is the job. she loses after she has an affair with a high ranking elected official named charles smart. this is the part of her story that she buries but it's what motivates her after the affair becomes public. she spends a few years reading thinking pondering. how is this come to be? why is it she writes later that a man is valued for many things least of which is his chastity whereas a woman is valued for a few things chief of which is her chastity. so it's this sexual double standard that starts her on her. time path of feminist reform when she moves to new york city in 1883, that's when she changes
her name to helen hamilton gardner. she debuts on the free thought lecture circuit where today we would call atheist or agnostic under the tutelage of robert ingersoll the great agnostic this guarantees her audiences and press coverage that no first time speaker could ever anticipate much less a woman. no one had ever heard of before and from the free thought podium. she critiques traditional marriage. she critiques women's second class status, and she says the bible is the root cause of it. then she turns her attention to what becomes her first real exposure to politics. this is where she learns the lessons that she later applies as a suffragist in washington and this is the campaign to raise the age of sexual consent for girls in 1890 the age at which a girl was considered legally capable of consenting to sex with a grown man was 12 or younger in 38 states in delaware. it was seven.
now to gardener this stood out as like the epitome of the sexual double standard, right and also the why that men were legislating and advocating on behalf of women. so she joins the movement and begins advocating to raise the age of consent which she and her colleagues succeed in doing throughout the 1890s and this is where she learned about politics about how to lobby her lover charles smart who she lived with for 25 years is if he was her husband dies in 1901 and then she quickly marries this time for real a civil war hero. they moved to washington dc and gardner becomes the suffragist lead negotiator in washington. this is a picture of her from that time. she lived next door to the speaker of the house of representatives champ clark. she charmed her way until the wilson white house and became a welcome daily presence at the wilson white house this suffragists who converted wilson to the federal amendment and to
help negotiate its passage in congress her colleagues in the national american women's soccer association called gardener. they're diplomatic core and said she was the most potent factor in congressional passage. of this leads her to being as francis mentioned in the introduction the highest ranking woman in federal government. this is her being sworn in as civil service commissioner. in the spring of 1920 several months before most women especially white women not women of color and especially not black women in the south which is something i hope we'll talk about during our discussion. this is when gardeners being sworn in as the highest ranking woman in federal government, but what i really want to emphasize here is that it was the sexual double standard that motivated and animated her activism from the very beginning and that the age of consent campaign is where she learns politics and what convinced thousands of other women across america that women needed the vote and just to end
in my last minute. i wanted to say what leave you with one little nugget or fun fact about this and that's in 1895. so representative from colorado named kerry holly gained the distinction of being the first elected woman in america to propose a bill. what was the first bill she proposed in the colorado state legislature to raise the age of sexual consent for girls. so this really crystallized to women and especially here the hundreds of thousands of women in the temperance movement who were not yet art and suffragists. this is what convinced women like these temperance women that of solid surefire way to control what happened to their bodies was to secure the vote and maybe even the right to hold office. so, thank you and i look forward to hearing from wendy next. hi, i'm wendy rouse and i'm a historian at san jose state university, and i want to talk to you a little bit today about
my research on the queer history of the suffrage movement. share my screen. so over the past year with the centennial the radication of the 19th amendment, there's been a lot of talk by scholars about the need to move away from the narrow focus on the history of white upper class elite nationally leaders of the suffrage movement and to talk more about black suffragists women of color working class suffragists and local suffragists fighting in the campaign for the right to vote. i also would argue that we need to talk about the queer history of the suffrage movement. we need to look at the ways in which suffragists transgress the gender and sexual norms of their generation and really stood outside this idea of respectable femininity in a way that was quite distinct for their generation. and i think this is really important in part because there has been like a concerted effort to erase the queer history of
the suffrage movement and part of this was because suffragists themselves. and to present a public front of respectability so they hid their own queerness. you also had later generations biographers historians and to some extent descendants right trying to erase the queerness of their ancestors and try to present this more palatable view of the history of their suffragist ancestors. and so i think it's important. this is an important remedy because we want to talk about the lives of these women and to share their experiences in both their public and their private lives. part of understanding this and the reason why this happened this queer erasure is recognizing that the suffragist himself were subjected to quite a bit of criticism and the anti-sufficient movement explicitly began to attack suffragists as manish women,
which was the way of saying that they were standing outside those norms that they were presenting themselves as more masculine demanding the rights of of men was akin to trying to become men and so they were often attacked as masculine or manish women and men who supported suffrage were described as feminine men that they were basically being beaten into submission by their suffragist mothers and sisters and that the problem with all of this is the anti suffragist feared that it would invert gender norms. it would destroy the family it would destroy the lives of men and children and it would upset heterosexuality heteronormative concept. of society and so this was the fear. so in response the suffragists constructed a very public image of themselves as womanly women and men who supported suffragist manly men. and they literally talked about the need to present this public front of femininity to show
themselves as beautiful attractive heterosexuality wives and mothers of the movement. and so they essentially encourage the suffragists to dress well to present themselves in a feminine respectable light and we even see this in suffrage parades where they're parading in white and they're marching with their children to show that they are respectable wives and mothers who do not want to destroy the family that if any using the boat will allow them to be better wise and better mothers. but what we do know is that the suffrage movement was quite queer and especially if we look into the private lives of these individual suffragists we can see just how queer it was. so for example, let's take a mary edwards walker, right? so she is one of the earlier generation of suffragists in the mid 19th century, and she was not only an advocate for women's right to vote. she was an advocate of dress reform and this was part of the mainstream suffrage movement for quite a number of years. even advocates like susan b.
anthony adopted the dress reform rhetoric and war the reform dress as it was called back then but over time and especially with the attacks by the anti suffragists accusing them of manishness. they began to drop dress reform as part of their main movement because they feared that it was just distracting detracting from their fight for the vote. but walker insisted that they continue to fight for all of these things for all of women's rights, including the right to dress as they please and so over time. she actually adopted more masculine style clothing and was arrested and subject to public. condemnation for wearing what was described as times men's clothing? but she said i don't wear men's clothing. i wear my own clothing and that was the point that she would make over and over again. is that women had the right to express their gender in any way they so desired so she was really pushing back against this mainstream notion and was marginalized in the movement itself for for her more radical views. and even the younger generation of suffragists that come along
in the early 20th century. they also are adopting this this rhetoric of dress reform, but they're pushing it beyond because the earlier generation had kind of won them many of the rights and so they're pushing it even further. so annie tinker is another example of a suffragist who's really pushing back against acceptable norms, and she dresses in masculine style clothing and actually leads a calvary of suffragists in the new york city suffrage parade. so these were women dressed in military style clothing on horseback and they march through the streets declaring that women could could do just the same things as men could including writing on horses and writing a stride and so she really presenting her self as this empowered modern new woman, and of course she was mocked in the press and many of the suffragists sought to distance themselves from from that more radical element, but she was pushing against those norms of
her generation. and many of you maybe have heard of margaret chung a famous chinese-american doctor and a suffragist and cheung also defied gender norms in the early 20th century. he men's style hat and style jacket. she would wear walk with a cane. she would drink smoke gamble and she was considered pretty out there for her time, but she was also a pioneering physician a woman doctor. she was famous for pushing back against the patriarchy and arguing for the rights of women. not only in mainstream society, but also in china the rights of women in the united states in the rights of women in china, and so she was fighting for the rights of chinese americans as well and against segregation and discrimination in american society. so in addition to pushing against gender norms these suffragists also pushed against norms of heterosexuality and we can see this in their private lives. so we have to delve a little bit
deeper now away from their public personas into their private lives and what we discover is that many of the suffragists propped up this public image of heterosexuality. well living their own private queer lives. so a good example of this is alice dunbar nelson and nelson had been married to paul lawrence dunbar and even after they divorced and he eventually passed away. still she would present herself and introduce herself as mrs. paul lawrence dunbar. she was fully aware that this allowed her a certain heterosexuality that earned her a lot more respect in public than if she presented herself as a single woman, and so she continued to present herself as mrs. paul lawrence dunbar for years after even after she remarried even when she was divorced at various points in her life. and in a private life, we know she had relationships with men. she had relationships with women if she were alive today, she might identify as bisexual, but she had a very queer personal
life, but kept this all secret as she presented herself as mrs. paul laurence dunbar. and there are many many women in the suffrage movement. who were in boston marriages and these were very queer relationships for the time because they were not heterosexual. so what we have is women pairing up living together in economic partnerships professional collaboration and often lesbian romances. and these women were really standing outside the number for their time because they're entirely rejecting marriage and heterosexuality and choosing to devote their lives to each other. so these are the leaders of the movement. i mean we have francis willard and anna adams gordon. we have lucy anthony and anna howard shaw. kerry chapman cat and mary garrett. hey and everywhere you look basically in a suffrage movement. we have these women in these boston marriages, but again, they present themselves more as as single women spinsters even their sacrificing their lives
the personal lives to be a part of the suffrage movement. locally, i like to talk about local suffragists. i'm here in california. so dr. mary sperry and gail laughlin were a local bay area suffragists, and they were involved in a 14 year boston marriage. and both of them are very active in the california suffrage campaign and later the colorado suffrage campaign and laughlin and sperry actually moved for several years and live together and they had a happy life together. unfortunately sperry died after they'd been together for 14 years and the influenza epidemic and around 1919. she passed away and laughlin was obviously very upset at the loss of her partner and sperry had willed all of her property and her physical remains to laughlin for her care, and they wanted to be together basically in life and in death the sperry family objected to this and actually launched a really controversial court case, which i write about in an article and all i'll share the link with you in a second in
case you're interested in hearing more about this court case. but the sperry family essentially accused laughlin of being a lesbian and tried to invalidate their relationship as a couple. but laughlin continued she won the case she ended up. carrying on with the memory of their life together and even after 30 years insisted in her will that they be buried together so they were very side by side under a single headstone bearing both of their names as a tribute of their life. together but what's interesting about all of this is even though they were committed to each other they try to care for each other in life and in death. there was an erasure of their relationship as well. so there was a biography written in 1979 by a descendant of laughlin who mentioned sperry and only a half of a page and just mentioned her as a close friend of laughlin and for the rest of the biography, which is about 80 pages. there is no other mention of sperry and no suggestion that they were couple or in any way
in this committed relationship no discussion of the court case no discussion of their the death and their desire to be buried together. so there's this is part of that erasure that i'm talking about queer history and why it's necessary to go back to learn to read the archival silences and to find the evidence to show these queer lines of these suffragists to try to make up for the eurasia that has occurred over time. so thank you and i'll pass it on now to sherry. all right. thank you pairing my remarks with kimberly's and wendy's is really fun because there is much that that they share our women share and then some things that really make them distinctive among the things of course that works especially well. is that all of these women were
involved in and important and what would have been seen in their day as elicit love affairs in their lives that shape not only their personal lives but their political lives they were all fears advocates of women's rights, including suffrage, but also including the rights of equality and sexuality and love whether married free or queer, but there are so some differences. hhg has kimberly's her figure expressed her ideas through published writing while sarah's thoughts emerge almost solely through a trove of personal letters that she wrote to her lover and those 2,700 letters that was mentioned by francis and the introduction. we're actually just between the two of them these man this woman and of course in wendy's case she had to dig pretty deep to find anything at all about her her lovers and her relationships. hhg was a free thinker who wrote a great deal about sexual
freedom and equality. serovart field was what i call a free actor. she is somebody who took what she was learning about herself through the suffrage movement and then apply it not only to her public politics but to her personal relationship with a particular man. so sarah bard feels experiences in the suffrage movement and in the sexual revolution, we're very closely intertwined but lesson of public way and much more in a very private and intimate way and those many letters provided me with insight into that sarah barb field was originally from the midwest, but she ended up in the west coast in oregon and ultimately in california, and she was absolutely a committed feminist and a suffragist. she was also a christian socialist. she was an advocate of course at birth control pacifism a labor and a whole slew of issues of the day, but she was also deeply in love with a man who was not
her husband and that man was erskine scott wood that is too mad and 1910 and portland, oregon winning clarence stero, the famous lawyer introduced the two of them. he know what presumably through legal cases. i don't really know how they met. but he knew sarah because sarah's sister was one of darrell's mistresses back in chicago both sarah and ces. would or erskine as he was called. we're married, of course to other people sarah to a baptist minister. they shared however their politics their political values their radicalism about those issues, but also a love of poetry and a belief that they had not been allowed to be their true authentic selves up to that point in their lives and that their families and their marriages had really kept them from realizing who they truly were which was poets and they found him one another their soulmates now would was a long time proponent of free love when
sarah met him which he defined by the way as love that is neither necessarily sanctioned by church or state and in fact should not be sanctioned by church and state but it is simply a love that emerges between two people that they have each other. that's freely given and when it dissipates when it's gone is easily released sarah discovered from him that she agreed with him about these ideas of free love and so she embraces them for but inspired by him the 30 years separated them in age the picture of wood on the left is him as a very handsome. i might say army officer in 1877 the one on the right was eight years after she met him but closer to what he looked like when they did meet. so 30 years difference sarah had young children erskine's children were grown. he had grandchildren, but he felt a deep responsibility to his wife and to his children and so this difference also revealed the power differential in the relationship itself.
he was older had money. he had tremendous confidence in himself. sarah was younger not as confident and so the two issues that they debated for many years one about monogamy, which i'm not going to talk about today and the other about the timing of when they would actually join their lives together in a physically that together is the one the letter went in particular that sarah finds herself dealing with and learning how to cope with in her in her activities as a suffragists. so suffrage turns out to be the arena where sarah was waiting for erskine to join her and where she went was california and she wanted him to leave portland in his life and his law firm and come down and live with her there. that was her primary goal in life. but in the meantime, she had to do something while she was waiting and so suffragist you'd have to be the arena where she did that waiting and where she changes over time. first of all she discovers that she is capable of earning an independent living she discovers something very meaningful to her to do with her time in the company a wonderful and daring
and supportive women. she uses it as a distraction from her obsession with erskine. and then finally it's the place where she discovers that she actually does have power to bend her skin to a more equitable relationship now the other context in which all this is going on is the american west. she as i said, they met in portland she lives in california by the end of 1912 health departure from oregon i came about was in the context of suffrage. she was living with her husband deeply unhappy with that. he probably knew about this relationship, but she wasn't telling him openly and he wasn't probing about it, but in 1912, she is recruited by a suffrage friend to stump, oregon for a state suffrage and she she turned out to be a tremendous order and very effective and she was using many of the arguments that wendy talked about emphasizing that i'm a mother. you know, i'm not too challenging the family and all this kind of stuff. well privately she was
challenging the family quite explicitly but not publicly and also she was quite attractive young slim one of the headlines when she came to i don't know if it was bend, oregon or one of those places in the eastern part of the state. the headline was suffragist is not fat so she was dealing with her using her physical attributes to promote suffrage, but she was also learning. she was really good at it and in the mean wood was suffering was excuse me was stumping the state on behalf of suffrage, but also on behalf of woodrow wilson's presidency. and so this allowed them opportunities to rendezvous away from portland. so they really loved the experience of being politically active. and of course, they were both delighted that both suffrage and wilson won at the end of 1912, but more importantly for what i'm trying to say today. is that this helped sarah grow in confidence about her abilities not only as a speaker and an art and advocate of suffrage but also in her determination to take more control of her life and to leave her marriage, so by the end of
1912, she she has confessed her husband while she's outside. be sure to write some a letter about this affair by the end of them of the year. she goes down to california. she begins to divorce process which takes a while at the cost of losing custody of her children, but she also helped that these moves would move erskine and that he would come down and join her but he resisted so she turns again to suffrage movement as solace and as something to do with her life and in 1915 the panama pacific exposition in san francisco opens and the national women's party. has a booth there and they hire sarah to man the booth and at the booth they had this wonderfully huge petition that they were asking particularly western women who already were voting. the sun petition the memoir encouraged to sign it as well. demanding a federal amendment to the constitution and then when they position an exposition was closing sarah who's on the left
here in this photograph was asked by alice paul to deliver this petition to congress but to drive it across the country and these two women who were a queer a couple i had a car and they offered to to take her and so they did and this was an absolutely amazing expedition. they called the gasoline expedition at a time when there were not finished highways. this was a very grueling trip, but the three of them took it and got incredible public relations attention for it and also, then they got to get you washington dc. they delivered the petition to congress sarah also testified in congress, and she also met president wilson at the white house. so she was in rising star at this moment in the national suffrage movement, by the way before she went. however, she wrote to erskine and said my major purpose in life is to be yours. do you think i should go if you don't want me to go? i won't go and happily he
encouraged her to go. and so she did but at the end of this as i say she was a rising star and ellis paul wanted to stay in the east and help them because of her oratorial skills and her fundraising skills, but erskine was in the west and she had no interest whatsoever in coming and saying, excuse me in on the east coast. so once again, she thought this might bring erskine to california, but it did not so she still waiting for him and in the fall of 1916. she joins the national women's party's western strategy of using western women votes to punish any candidate in the western states who were not supporting the federal amendment and also to encourage them to punish president wilson who was not supporting the federal amendment by voting against him. so this was a strategy that the national women's party came up with it was traversal among the opponents of it was charles erskine scott wood. he thought it foolhardy and not a good idea at all.
but sarah completely embraced this idea. she was assigned to travel through, utah and idaho and wyoming as a silver orator of the suffrage movement to encourage women to follow this very plan and in the letters between erskine and sarah during this particular chapter of their lives, they are for the first time really in different camps about this issue and and sarah's letters reveal her greater confidence and her greater power in the relationship and she says in several different letters to him about this. i am bigger than you. i am bigger than you because i see the necessity of this strategy. privately, so i hope that wilson would win the election but loose the west to demonstrate that women voters did have the power but in fact women voters unfortunately did not come through for her and and with wilson even when california and women's votes helped him do that by 1917 the national women's party decides to up the ante as
many people know by picking wilson's white house and in the context of world war. i this was an early brave and daring thing to do women on the streets picketing was unknown. they were received a great deal of push back as many of you now that were thrown into jail alice paul wanted sarah who was on the east coast at this time to join the pickets. she demurred and the basis of her health, and she privately wrote she doubted if ellis paul would do it herself if she had children instead sarah spent the summer ghost writing alva vanderbilt belmonts out of biography, which was never published but belmont was a major underwriter at the national women's party in sarah thought that she was doing good service in doing that and again, she's sparring with her skin here about this latest tactic, which she absolutely opposed thought was very ill-advised. well what happens now in their love affair, is that the war ironically although there are both the posts of the war
brought resolution to erskine's long brewing problem of how could he afford to retire from his law firm but provide great trusts for his wife and his children and because of a long legal case that was finally resolved in this context. he was able to create trust for his family and leave portland and join sarah in california. so this is a photograph of the two of them when he finally after eight years does come and live with her in california. that's at this moment. actually that sarah is involved in the suffrage movement essentially ended because because he came to live with her which had been her premier goal in life, but i'll be because of personal tragedy in her life they lived openly together in a free love relationship. she did not advocate or publish or write or trumpet that arrangement, but neither did she hide it wood had written quite a bit about free love. so he was actually involved in the public sphere about advocating it as a way to go.
they from this point forward did live together. they built a beautiful home. some of you california's might recognize those two cats. they are at right at the place where their private lineup to their estate sits at the road between santa cruz and the bay they side of the that the peninsula and many because they're still there to this day and they they lived happily ever after until erskine died in 1944 and sarah lived until 1974. they left happily ever after their families. however, we're not particularly happy and that's another part of the story that i won't go in today. so the kind of summarize my point here sarah's immersion in the suffrage movement and company of talented and ambitious and independent women refined her aspirations regarding equality as a citizen, but actually more importantly for her. it refined her a role as a partner and an equal free love relationship participation in
the more radical branch of the movement led to greater confidence on her part to demand and achieve more power in her relationship with erskine, which is a thing that mattered most to her initially. she had deferred to his greater sophistication and experience in presume wisdom yet. she was ripe for revolt against male privilege and patriarchy and she did take it on not only with the broader world, but also in her relationship with erskine so her new through her newfound self-assurance and self-possession. she challenged him and ultimately bent him to more equal and happy partnership. so that's that's my presentation. this is really awesome. and i think it's exciting to see the ways in which our research is actually intersecting quite a bit. it has me wondering about the
ways that suffragists were questioning the institution of marriage. generally i in doing my own research. i have come across a few suffragists who vowed never to marry including a chicago suffragist named bell squire who insisted that she would rather have the vote than a husband because she said that with marriage a woman's rights actually decline and with a vote she would in prove and increase her rights and she went so far as to say that women should single women should have the right to be called mrs. because it endowed them with a certain respectability that men were always called mr. no matter what whether they were married or not and that women should not be with but they should always be referred to with honorific title of mrs. she was she was really challenging this idea of marriage as a construct that confined women, so i'm curious about your thoughts on that on the ideas about marriage and how stuff just challenged those heteronormative ideals. when the as you were going
through your presentation and talking about the interesting ways that the queer suffragists you highlighted arrange themselves domestically and personally and sexually i thought myself, you know i i don't know that i can count on more than one hand where i would call good suffrage husbands, you know what i mean? like what this had a good husband that really was supportive. well lucy stone had henry blackwell married church trel who was president of the national association of colored women her husband, i think was on board robert harrell. he was a judge in dc but like beyond that what what good suffered husbands are there so i feel like can't overstate how bad marriage was for most women in the 19th century. i think right like how especially for the sorts of women who wanted to think thoughts or do things right and all women who didn't want to be raped or sexually assaulted or have their children raped and sexually assaulted so, i think you know, my next project is going to be about temperance and
centering sex and sexual assault in the temperance movement. and i think that's something that goes unstated a lot the role of sexual violence the 19th century. so the so few freedoms and write the woman had within marriage, so i think to answer your question from my perspective as a straight-in from the perspective of hhg that yes marriage was entering this the constraints of marriage were was a huge motivation for women to become active in the 19th century. i think another thing hhg did before she entered the suffrage movement and just shortly after she became really involved in it age of consent campaigns was divorce reform. she shared the divorce reform committee for a national woman's conference and she was also best friends with elizabeth cady stanton whom she had been the free thought movement in the 1880s and as many people know standing too was a real critic
of traditional marriage, which she equated to legalized prostitution, right a prostitute has to sleep with multiple men to support herself. where as a wife signs away her body to one man, but the and effect is the same in a world in which women have no rights to their own money or their own voice. so anyway, i think yes a marriage was a huge motivating factor sherry. what do you think? well as you were speaking about good or bad husbands sarah had the the luxury of actually having her husband be quite supportive of women's suffrage. yeah. he was actually part of the men's whatever that men's yeah answer. yeah actually and he was encouraging her to to go out in the world and work and you know, he was just kind of amazing guy, but there was some other things that were so great about him from her perspective. and of course earth can also did even though they political differences, but you know what i think when i think about hhg, but it's interesting to me about her is that she actually was living a free-level relationship, but didn't tell the truth about it, right and
she got married the second time as well. now, this is the thing about these people and they're all people. maybe that's always so interesting because you discover if you can dig deep enough if you can find out is going on how they're twist and turns in the story. so sarah absolutely embraced relive. it was what she thought was appropriate. she doesn't personalize her, but she certainly thought it was the right thing for her. so very late in life wood has a heart attack and all of a sudden he decides that they have to marry. the lawyer in him was worried that if they were not married she might not be able to inherit the property. he wanted her to have and she was absolutely stunned and she did not want to do it. she felt this was a just a violation of all that they had lived for and all that they believed in but she you know, she could see he was agitated about it. so she agreed so they secretly married and never told anybody about it. so i think you know what you have here. is this very interesting story about what people think marriage should be they also they often
we refer to each other as husband and wife, but they also made it clear to people we're not legally so and then the last thing i want to say about this is that once i was talking about giving a paper and this really good friend of mine who happens to be gay was furious. he just hated particularly erskine's charles richmond scott wood. he hated him because he was supposed to marriage and my friend had just been finally allowed to legally marry, you know, so there's all kinds of twists and turns about marriage and benefits in the deficits of it so it's a great and we could write a whole book about this many books about this actually, but it's a it twists and turns in very interesting ways. when did you have any thoughts on the way marriage plays out or rejection of was that a motivating factor for some of the women? yeah, i think a lot of the women just didn't want to have to be married and since that path that
was expected of them. it was something that many of them rejected and saw the suffrage movement as a way of kind of ensuring their rights to live as they please and i think for queer women, especially they didn't want to get married right? and so they're looking at these ideas these alternate domestic relationships like boston marriages as a way to set themselves up and to live the lives they want to live so it really is freeing and they're involvement in the suffrage movement itself is freeing several of the women had the opportunity to kind of extend their use in a sense because young women weren't expected to marry until after college so they would be after college join the suffrage movement and then they could travel around with other women and they could participate in these rallies and protests and parades and no one expected them to get married and i'm thinking of hazel hunkins montana suffragist whose letters home to her mother were like, don't worry mom. i'll come home. i'll get married if that's what you want. but right now i'm having the
time of my life. i'd really like to just keep doing this and you know, she just keeps pushing off marriage does eventually get married, but she experiences this longer period of her youth and freedom to live in these same sex households and to enjoy her life. and so she even she was pushing back against marriage for a large part of her life. yeah, i found that too that many women hhg help start suffrage house in dc which was the nasa headquarters where suffered some suffragist lived, but so they could just stay there for you know, if they were coming to dc for an event or something and just the excitement that women had about going to suffer to us right like this will be finally right? they could hear them saying like finally like a girls weekend like i'm getting away from my husband. i want to live in this space with the like-minded women. so even i think for women who would not identify today as queer still there was such a freedom of the same sex space. yeah. i wondered one thing that when
sherry was talking i thought we might highlight the theme of california a teeny bit more than we even though it were so talking about sex. i wouldn't sherry was speaking. i was reminded that hhg met her the guy who became her real husband sell the alan day the civil war hero at an event in california day owned property in california. so she spent a lot of time in point point loma, california, his family's property and and her experience is with california. suffragists is what hhg used in part as her wedge into the white house, so she had spent the winter of 15 16 the year that sherry was talking about when the when the national women's party was trying to get wilson defeated and trying to get the california women to turn out. hhg had spent the winter here. so she spent a lot of time serving california suffragists. how are you gonna vote? what do you think about this and he and she was not in favor of
the blanket vote out all the democrats strategy. so when she returns to washington in june of 1916, that was her entree to the white house. she said, you know, you need to know that not all suffragists think like this. i've just returned from california and i've got like the scoop on california. so she really that as her entree to befriend wilson and his chief of staff and his wife. so i think that, you know people talk a lot about the 1917 new york state referendum as important, but i think also the role of california in 1516 also is something we all could think and talk a lot more about yeah, that is i did not know that that's i mean if i have read your book if it's in the book, i forgot about that part. but yeah, that's an interesting to me then that she was able to use it as a vehicle to get close to him. you know, i thought a number of times what would i don't believe as we said before that. hhg and sarah ever met but if they had they would have been on different side, right? you're about this and they might
have liked each other. okay, but they really had very very different ideas about how to go about achieving your goals. so wilson was worried about california. i mean it could have i don't know whatever made a difference in the outcome had california gone for charles evans hughes or not, but that is interesting it suggests then that this strategy was a good one because it got him worried and and so from the perspective of the national women's party that was a that was a good thing, of course, california had a lot of votes a lot of electoral votes something rather relevant today. so, so thanks for sharing that because i did. know about that. i do think many people do not understand the whole western strategy or haven't really thought about this so much of the emphasis is on you know it typically i have to say as a western historian on the eastern part of the country rather than the western part of country. so the western part of this is a big piece that i think people are learning more about now 100 years later. i don't know wendy has anything to add. yeah, i mean interesting because
a lot of the women that i'm looking at actually left the east to come out west to work on the campaign but also because they found a little bit more freedom to live as they please laughlin specifically wanted to go to colorado because women were fighting for the vote and then achieve the vote and then she felt like she had the the rights that she didn't have anywhere else to live as a queer woman in the west and when she comes to california works on the california campaign and meet sperry and then they move in together. she actually says let's go out back to colorado together where they already have a vote and we can live how we want to live and then they come back and they fight in the california campaign. so they continue they're like back and forth and just see the west is like this more free place where they can assert their rights and live as queer women. so it's just fascinating the role of the west and the california campaign itself and how it wanted women together even earlier and and unified them and created these new strategies that they were able. at the national level as well.
i would like to raise the issue of the consciousness at the time about race and about queer relationships because when i look at sarah bart field, she does she's radical in so many ways. but on issues of race. she's almost silent and on queer relationships. she's totally silent, even though i'm sure she know many people who are in those relationships never talked about either one of those things. how about hhg and and wendy and the insights you can give on why they might not have been conscious of it or willing to address it even in personal correspondence. so i'll leave that to you guys too over a bit. and the race and racism is a big, you know tough theme of my book free thinker. so in short, i will say that hhg really used her whiteness. she didn't write much about race, but you can really see how she used her whiteness to make friends with wilson.
she also because they were both from virginia. so even though her family had left virginia, she used that southern whiteness to kind of bond with him and then being married to a civil war hero. who was friends at this point with you know union veterans and confederates to use that as an entreated members of congress. so it was very much a shared whiteness and a sectional reconciliation after the civil war without black people right like a just a white person bonding. so she very much participated in that and you can really see through her letters the role that race plays in the congressional passage of the 19th amendment. so by the time congress is ready to seriously debate and vote on the 19th amendment people are no longer making arguments about the vote destroying the family about it, you know unsexing women the only thing that members of congress are saying but now we're in like 19 19 is they don't want black women to vote in the south and they're afraid that the 19th amendment
will somehow also compel the federal government to enforce the 15th amendment, which is what i'm paper made it legal for black men to vote in the south but had never been enforced since 1877 so through now hh she's really you know argue one way or the other and so you can really see this through her correspondence that this was the key issue so that i would say about race and about her over the way to the extent to which she recognized non heterosexuality living. i don't know she she had a lot to say about the sexual double standard and she was really close friends with carrie chapman cat the nassau president who was in a boston marriage for many years with mary garrett. hay but she didn't write one where the other about any thoughts with regard to that. so, i don't know. i don't want to speculate freely there wendy. yeah. well, i think the reason you don't see that or hear that in the historical record is because they are seeking to distance themselves from this idea of
queerness and especially if if suffragists were constructed as manish or masculine they want to do everything to suggest that they're not that so they don't they don't want to associate with that. um, the field of sexology was just developing there was this idea of abnormality of homosexuality that was emerging and even queer stuff to stem cells are identifying with that idea. they're not saying i'm queer on sexual and lesbian right? they don't want to be associated with that because that's seen as pathological. so they're their distancing themself so they would never claim that identity even in that time frame. so i think that's why you see that silence. instead they're propping themselves up as these respectable feminine women and even if they choose not to marry and if they're in the same sex couple they're still saying but we're respectable. we're middle class. we're sacrificing for the cause and they highlight their whiteness, especially the white queer suffragists, right? they highlight their whiteness as an example of of their respectability and and their white privilege is evident throughout their role in the
suffrage movement, and they're a guilty of racism and classism and you see that and you see black suffragists to fighting back against that and black queer suffragists who are not only concerned about fighting against sexism and racism, right? but they're also propping up this image of themselves this heterosexuality respectable women because they're concerned because the the propaganda used against black women was the black woman were more sexually promiscuous and we're endangering the family and respectability in many ways. heterosexuality in many ways. so that's adds to the tension of people like alice dunbar nelson, who is also wanting to exude her heterosexuality right in a way that highlights that she's respectable. she's not one of these degenerate classes. so to speak as they would call them and so all of this plays into this very complex intersectional identity that they create for themselves as
these upper class elite respectable women that unfortunately creates all kinds of erasures that we're talking about here. you know when you you said when do you use the term archival silences, which i think is a very apt term because when you are researching in a lot of archives and institutions you realize how much is not there and what the gaps are like, you said, it's particularly for women particularly for women particularly people of color their their role might be a little bit mentioned, but it's so hard to dig deep and i was just wondering in the research that you have all been doing and have and have done. what were what is it? that was so hard to find or how difficult was it to actually get deep into the story because i know with some of the people that they're very well known as documented and organizations of documented such as the league of women voters or but to get more
stories you need those personal things like the letters, but then what struck me was kimberly when you said that letter had destroy this and you're like i thank god didn't get destroyed. yes, so hhg mandated in her will that all of her remaining correspondence be destroyed and then she goes through and like details where it is so you could tell there was tons of it was really heartbreaking to see so she did not leave behind very many letters. so this was very much a piecemeal, you know needle in a haystack sort of magnum pi adventure to research and so i've given i gave another talk. that's also on youtube in june for the society of ohio archivists more specifically about the how or archives are organized and like keyword search terms so i would we could talk about that another time, but i think i've read a lot about this and i'll just give one quick example here, which is one one contribution of free thinker is that i did extensive
research about how suffragist corresponded with members of congress and also the white house, but here i'm talking specifically about congress. so what i noticed in looking through the members of congress in partic or hhg? who was a leader of the nassau national association of women's suffragists the national american woman association. sorry. she was on their congressional committee. so i made a list of all the congressmen that they were really targeting and then i would look at those congressmen's records, but what i found was most congressman's files, you know, if you go to their collections most of which our library of congress, you know, they'll be by theme and also by year, but for many congressmen women's suffrage doesn't rise to the level of you know, thematic category. it's not like world war one or treaty of versa, which would have like its own separate box. so then what i did was i would i looked to see like every time congress voted on the 19th amendment or when the committees had debate throughout the 19th, and then i would look to the chronological files so buried in these chronological files is
where i found really what members of congress were saying about the 19th of them, which was that they didn't this was for both parties and all regions. they didn't want to increase the black vote. south they didn't want to impranchise black women in south and they didn't want a repeat of the 15th amendment which was federal enforcement of voting rights. so that was a real kind of hunting and pecking chronologically person by person folder by folder whereas, you know, most other issues in their files would just say treaty of versa. here's our corresponds, you know, so that's one small not just what's missing in the archives which is a whole other topic, but how archives are organized to privilege certain histories and silence others. so i had the opposite problem. i had an abundance of material. although i will say that i've stumbled upon the this trove of letters when i was looking at charles. ruscon scott wood and his army
experiences, and i was mostly interested then in his really remarkable ideas about the indians that he was fighting. he was incredibly sent sympathetic and he so that's a whole other story, but i only found these letters because they were they were in his collection and the collection is only his name, but i just discovered, you know box after box after box and so i couldn't help but look and who was this woman who's not married to this guy and that's when i discovered the story, but the question is why did they end up there at all? and then this is the the reason would believe that they were pioneers and free love. and that in a 100 or so maybe less. people are going to really want to know what these pioneer pioneers of free love we're thinking and how they went about. achieving their goal and so he tells sarah a very early in the relationship keep every letter. keep every letter you write to me and i will keep everybody you keep every letter. i write to you and when he died the huntington library swooped
down on sarah not because they were looking for these letters. they they were literary figures in california, but she eventually gave as far as i can. tell every single letter even those that present them in the darkest sort of way frankly, so they were interested in sharing their experience with the future and they were willing to make it as complete as far as i can tell as it was and for that i am very grateful the hard part of it was in the end. my original manuscript was 900 pages long. i had to cut out a bunch of it. i have so much more that i could have said about this so but that's a better problem i have than to have the really difficult problem of trying to find a rooting through things like the way that you did but wendy i'm sure you have a story closer to of kimberly yeah searching for queer. suffragists is really really difficult because there are these archival silences and i thought i never thought it was going to be easy, but when i
went into the archives, i would literally find complete gaps. i'd be researching an individual who i believed was queer and there would be no nothing there. there would be no letters between them and their partner and it's the reading those silences that's important. so for example, alice morgan wright was a suffragist who was in a long-term relationship with edith's good and what's interesting is i had every piece of scrap of her life except for her letters with good. and so looking at that and thinking well, what does that mean? what exactly does that? and and then it's like well, maybe they never rode to each other. right? i mean, that's the one conclusion you could reach or maybe they destroyed the letters and eventually i did find a note from edith good to a friend at one point when when alice was sick. she said please send me every letter that she ever wrote to me so i can take care of it. so that is where that that ended up going.
it was destroyed and unfortunately, that's what often happens with the queer suffragists as they wanted to purge their own records and to present their own history of themselves. and so there's often information missing so you have to go to what's missing and ask yourself why and see if you can figure out where it went what happened to it. and try to reconstruct their lives, i found myself looking a lot at their death records. they're literally they're death certificates their funeral records their wills their that disposition of the probate because it was in those like dying wishes right that you can often see who was important and where the priorities lie and what they wanted to be remembered about them. and so i'm delving into a lot of the morbid when i'm doing this research, but i think it really does reveal a lot about their queer lives and makes it more interesting. thank you, wendy. kimbly sherry. thank you so much for joining us today.
we really appreciate it. and we we really it's so good to hear these stories that are finally coming out. i mean little bits of course have come out before but but to know that that people are continuing to research even if it's hard even if it's difficult to find and to make these stories no longer healing. so thank you very much and to our listeners. please stay tuned because at the end of this program we will put up information about to how to purchase free thinker and bohemians west so that you can learn more about our speakers and any additional projects there may be working on. thank you. thank you. thank