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Posts Tagged ‘suffrage’

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It’s weird to think that for the first seven years of my mother’s life, women were not allowed to vote in this country. Even now, we don’t utilize our full power, repeatedly voting to elect men who belittle us.

In 2020 we are recognizing our first measly hundred years with the vote, in honor of which, the League of Women Voters is sponsoring a traveling exhibit about a mostly unknown woman who probably had more influence on the trajectory of our country in the 20th century than any other individual, male or female. Fierce determination got results under the radar.

Meghan Sorensen of the Boston Globe wrote a tidy summary of Frances Perkins’s life and accomplishments to let readers know that the Perkins exhibit is at the State House, but only until February 7.

“Frances Perkins was the first woman to serve in the US Cabinet, a signature achievement in a groundbreaking life.” she writes. “The Massachusetts State House is hosting a traveling exhibit through Friday on the ‘Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins’ to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the National League of Women Voters.

“Here is a brief overview of Perkins’ life and accomplishments. (Historical information from the Frances Perkins Center in Maine.)

“Perkins was born Fannie Coralie Perkins in Boston in 1880. Although her parents were from Maine, she was raised in Worcester and attended Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, earning a degree in physics while turning to economics and activism after learning about the lack of protections against women and children in factories.

“While her parents expected her to move home after college, Perkins moved to Chicago, [where] she worked with the poor and unemployed at the Chicago Commons and Hull House.

“In 1907, Perkins began working as the general secretary of the Philadelphia Research and Protective Association, which fought to stop newly arrived immigrant women and black women from the South from being forced into prostitution.

“Two years later, she began a fellowship with the New York School of Philanthropy, where she investigated childhood malnutrition among children living in Hell’s Kitchen. Alongside the fellowship, she earned her Master’s degree in sociology and economics at Columbia University. …

“In 1910, Perkins became the executive secretary of the New York City Consumers League, where she sought sanitary regulations for bakeries, fire protection for factories, and limiting work hours to 54 hours per week. After the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 146 workers, she followed Theodore Roosevelt’s suggestion and became the Committee on Safety’s executive secretary.

The group’s work led to what was referred to as ‘the most comprehensive set of laws governing workplace health and safety in the nation.’

“When Franklin D. Roosevelt became governor of New York in 1929, he hired Perkins to be the state’s Industrial Commissioner and oversee the labor department, [and] when Roosevelt became president in 1933, he asked Perkins to serve as labor secretary. She said yes, but with a condition — that he endorse her policy priorities, which included a 40-hour work week, minimum wage, unemployment compensation, the abolition of child labor, Social Security, and universal health insurance. …

“Under Roosevelt, Perkins achieved most her goals. The Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 established a minimum wage and maximum work hours while banning child labor. As the head of the Committee on Economic Security, Perkins helped draft the 1935 Social Security Act, which offered unemployment, disability, and workers’ compensation. …

“ ‘A government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life,’ Perkins said in a lecture titled ‘Labor Under the New Deal and the New Frontier.’ ”

More here. And do read Kristen Downey’s biography. It’s great. For my GoodReads review of that book, email me at suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

 

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Photo: Library of Congress
This powerful image symbolizes the awakening of the nation’s women to the desire for suffrage. The torch bearer is striding across the western states, where women already had the right to vote, toward the east where women are reaching out.

This month I’ve been enjoying a different tea every day after my daughter-in-law had the kind thought of giving me a teabag-a-day Advent calendar. I do like trying new teas. Today I’m thinking about the role tea has played in American history. No, not just when men threw tea into Boston Harbor to protest “taxation without representation,” but when women urged people to buy Equality Tea.

Janelle Peters writes at the Atlantic, “Access to daily necessities has long been a priority for social-reform movements. … When it came time for women to get the vote, tea played a role, too. Women such as the wealthy Alva Vanderbilt-Belmont held ‘suffrage teas,’ where support for the cause was proclaimed. The tea parties also served as fund-raisers, a practice that extended to the teas themselves.

“In California, suffragist women showed how both tea and the national movement of women’s suffrage could be democratized at the state level. Two suffrage teas generated revenue for political organizing in the run-up to the 1911 election. … Equality Tea sprang up in Northern California and spread throughout the state. In Southern California, Nancy Tuttle Craig used her position as one of the only female grocers in the state to package a ‘Votes for Women’ tea. …

“By the late 19th century, the suffragette cause had stalled in the Golden State. … It took a decade and a half for California women to prove that they had a broad base of support to gain the right to vote in state elections. The 1911 vote was hard-fought. Suffrage leagues and reform-minded women organized feverishly, but women’s suffrage still did not pass in San Francisco. This time, the rest of the state made up the difference. Tea smoothed over the gap between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego in supporting women’s suffrage.

“Equality Tea was based in Northern California. Distributed by the Woman’s Suffrage Party, it spread through the state. San Francisco storerooms served the tea in tearooms decorated with a Chinese theme. Suffrage-minded consumers could purchase Equality Tea in half-pound, whole-pound, and five-pound boxes. Varieties included Ceylon, English breakfast, young hyson, gunpowder, and oolong. Some suffrage organizations, like the Club Women’s Franchise League, served Equality Tea at their headquarters in the St. Francis Hotel on Saturday afternoons.

“[Equality Tea] was also sold at regional fairs and by mail order. Ads appeared in venues ranging from local newspapers to medical journals. Some grocers carried the tea, and

there were women who refused to pay their grocery bills if their grocer did not carry Equality Tea.

“The ability to order by mail assured that the tea’s purveyors did not discriminate against rural or lower-class residents, groups of the population with stronger support for women’s suffrage.

“Tea became a central feature of the political strategy of San Francisco suffragists. On August 22, 1911, The San Francisco Call reported that the Votes for Women club had prepared a ‘suffrage special’ train that would carry feminist speakers to the state fair in order to be heard by people from all parts of the state. … By emphasizing tea on the suffrage train, the Votes for Women club focused on how accessible the basic civic right could be.”

Read more at the Atlantic, here, while I head off for tea at Pamela’s home.

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