Saturday, May 24, 2014

Women Who Made a Difference: Croly, Webster, and Anthony

The founder of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, Jane Cunningham Croly (1829-1901), was a journalist for the New York Tribune. Her pen name was “Jennie June,” a name sometimes spelled “Jenny June.” Outraged at being banned from attending a speech given by Charles Dickens in 1868, on gender bias alone, she vowed to start a club that accepted women only, and she accomplished that task!

Thirty years after that, she wrote a book titled The history of the woman's club movement in America. A hand-written message in the book says this:

This book has been a labor of love, and it is lovingly dedicated to the Twentieth Century Woman by one who has seen, and shared in the struggles, hopes, and aspirations of the woman of the nineteenth century. J.C. Croly

In 1994, Jane Croly was inducted posthumously into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Today, the Women's Club (GFWC) is still very active as an international group and strives via volunteer work to support Education via fundraising events dedicated to gathering money for student scholarships. The work of the club centers on improving their communities.

CD cover of the book I wrote about Ellen Webster, a quilt researcher, lecture presenter, and overall leader in her community. Contact to arrange to buy a copy of the 355 page book, saved to disc and sold as an e-book, about Mrs. Webster

An early president of the GFWC was Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster, Franklin, NH, about whom I wrote a 355 page book that details her life, her work and in particular her lectures and quilt charts made to share quilt history. She would have fully understood and appreciated the meaning and intent of Mrs. Croly's remarks. An independent spirit, Mrs. Webster valued education highly. In fact, she went back to school after her husband's death, completed work for a master's degree, and became a professor at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

Equality a Goal

During the preceding 100 years (throughout the 1800s), women struggled for equal treatment under the law and to have access to education, as well as the legal right to own their own bank account, real estate, and even their own children (who were considered the “property” of their fathers! Through all of the marches for Suffrage (to win the right to vote), Temperance (to ban the sale of hard liquor), and abolition, (work dedicated to ending slavery), women maintained the hope that these goals one day would be accomplished.

Other Women Activists

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), a strong supporter of Suffrage, died before having the chance to see the first day that women were legally allowed to vote in a national election.s (November 1920). Miss Anthony was a needlework and a quilter long before she became heavily involved with teaching and giving speeches. She made three quilts, but none after the age of 22. She sent pieces of her old silk dresses to be included in Crazy Quilts that were sold to raise money for Suffrage. Given her fame, those respective quilts would have instantly become more valuable. She is reported to have given a speech to a group of ladies gathered at a quilting bee in Cincinnati, Ohio. (That statement has not been verified).

Women's Work Matters!

We can never measure the influence of one woman. There were many women in the 19th century who accomplished much by their leadership. Clara Barton, Civil War nurse and founder of the American Red Cross, is one of those people. Another name that comes to mind is Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Editress of Godey's Lady's Book. She is also called the “Mother of the American Thanksgiving” for her letter-writing campaign over many years to have the president proclaim a November day of thanks. The list of women who were noted for their contributions to society and the common good is very long. We cannot forget New Hampshire's own, Harriet Dame, a Civil War nurse.

The grave site of Harriet Dame, Civil War nurse from Concord, NH

These women are remembered only because of their own writings but sometimes because of words written about them. Jane Croly Cunningham published many books. Photos of her show up in an online search. We can draw much inspiration from the past, especially when we zero in on a particular woman and look at the person's life in depth.

In writing a book about Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster, I put together many facts heretofore unknown by the public. I wrote an article for The Quilter magazine about Clara Barton and a quilt made in her honor. A newspaper article I once wrote was about Sarah Josepha Buell Hale who is also highlighted in one of my books. I did much research in order to write a lengthy article about Susan B. Anthony. These names do not represent all of the heroines of the 19th century. There were many other groundbreaking leaders. Today, however, we highlight these women and feel a sense of gratitude to them as we praise their vision and the outcomes of their work.

Copyright 2014, Patricia L. Cummings, Quilter's Muse Publications, Concord, NH. All Rights Reserved.
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