Monday, February 1, 2016
Today’s #GoogleDoodle celebrates abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Douglass was one of the men present at the signing of the women’s rights Declaration of Sentiments in July 1848, and an early supporter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the women’s movement, though disagreements between the two over the Fifteenth Amendment emerged later.
Another connection between Stanton and Douglass was her support of his later interracial marriage. Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book on Stanton, Tracy A. Thomas, “The Pivot of the Marriage Relation,” chap. 3, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (NYUP forthcoming 2016).
For Stanton believed in the theoretical ideal of free love, resulting “whenever compulsion and restraint, whether of the law or of a dogmatic and oppressive public opinion, are removed.” So when her friend Frederick Douglass remarried to Helen Pitts, a white woman, she sent her personal congratulations and support for his subversive act. She noted that “there’s much hostile criticism on your condescension in marrying a white woman. After all the terrible battles and political upheavals we have had in expurgating our Constitutions of that odious adjective ‘white’ it is really remarkable that you or all men should have stooped to do it honor. The ‘white’ feature of this contract is bad enough, but ‘the woman’ is still worse.” Stanton commented on the gender implications of the controversy in which his “large circle of admiring friends protest” against him risking his legacy as a black civil rights leader on white interests, especially those of a mere woman. Stanton wanted to draft a public announcement of support for Douglass from both her and Anthony and invite him to speak at the next women’s rights convention. Anthony refused, concerned with the potential backlash on “the subject of amalgamation” against the growing consensus on women’s suffrage. Anthony wrote to Stanton, “I do hope you won’t put your foot into the question of intermarriage of the races. It has no place on our platform, any more than the question of no marriage at all, or of polygamy, and so far as I can prevent it, shall not be brought there.” She pleaded, do not “throw around that marriage the halo of a pure and lofty duty to break down race lines. For Stanton had publicly supported interracial marriage before, attending legislative hearings in Boston to repeal colonial miscegenation laws and printing an editorial in her newspaper in support of interracial marriage. But this time, she backed down.
 DuBois, “On Labor,” 65.
 ECS to Frederick Douglass, June 27, 1884; see Maria Diedrich, Love Across Color Lines (1999).
 SBA to ECS, Jan. 27, 1884; Newman, 4.
 ECS to Elizabeth J. Neall, Feb. 3, 1843; “Theodore Tilton’s Opinion of Anna E. Dickinson,” Rev., Nov. 5, 1868.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
In honor of Alice Paul's birthday yesterday, it's important to remember not only her work for suffrage, most vividly captured in the movie Iron Jawed Angels. But also Paul's first proposal of an Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 and her fifty-years of advocacy for that broader grant of equality. See After Suffrage Comes Equality? The Nineteenth Amendment as the Next Logical Step, forthcoming in 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women’s Political Activism (Lee Ann Banaszak & Holly McCammon eds.) (Oxford Univ. Press 2016).
Monday, January 11, 2016
I've posted Chapter 1 of my book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law, forthcoming this summer from NYU Press. This chapter introduces Stanton, her legacy for the law and domestic relations, and her holistic legal feminism. See The "Radical Conscience" of Nineteenth-Century Feminism.
A little more than a year after launching a campaign to create an endowed chair in honor of modern American feminist Gloria Steinem, Rutgers University officials announced they have surpassed the $2 million mark in donations.
The funds, totaling $2.1 million from more than 250 individuals and 12 foundations, put the university two thirds closer toward the $3 million required to finance the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies.
The chair, a unique collaboration among Rutgers’ Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL), School of Communication and Information (SCI) and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences, will focus on the creative and complex ways information technology and new media are reshaping culture and power relationships.
Rutgers seems particularly appropriate, given its locus as the birthplace of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's academic work on women's rights, and the Stanton and Anthony Papers Project.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
A careful study of recent popular history books reveals a genre dominated by generals, presidents--and male authors.
In recent years, as academic history has taken a turn toward the cultural and social, producing more and more works about women, minorities, and everyday life, the kinds of history books you see on the New Releases table at a Barnes & Noble have begun to feel like throwbacks. A quick survey reveals naval battles, grand adventures, and biography after biography about the Founding Fathers. Call these “uncle books”—tomes that you give an older male relative, to take up residence by his wingback armchair.
This state of affairs dismays many academic historians. Last year, at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting, a presenter in a session on “Buying and Selling History” included a slide listing the best-selling trade history books of 2014, as tallied by BookScan. The generous helping of politically conservative histories by Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly caused concern, but some historians noticed another troubling trend: The list was dominated by male authors. Of 23 titles, two were written by women. * * *
Why does this matter? Academics are interested in cultural and social history because those approaches allow room for contemplation of what it was like to live life as an everyday person in a certain period, not just as a general or president or pioneer. Last year, historian Ann M. Little noted that the best-selling biographies of 2014 tended to be about men—and a particular kind of man, at that. Popular biographies of Founding Fathers and war heroes, wrote Little, “reflect our contemporary preoccupation with modern history themes: politics, economics, warfare, the nation-state. … These biographies are invested in a particularly modern kind of subjectivity, that of the heroic individual who bends history to his will.” In other words, the popularity of biographies of presidents and sports heroes reflects and reinforces the idea that interesting lives are lived in public, often defined by conflict and glory. Cultural and social histories make the meta-point that history is about communities, not just individuals.
Some of us are trying hard to swim against this tide:
Tracy A. Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (forthcoming NYU Press 2016)
Felice Batlan, Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid, 1863-1945 (Cambridge 2015)
Arissa Oh, To Save the Children of Korea:The Cold War Origins of International Adoption (Stanford 2015)
Mary Ziegler, After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (Harvard 2015)
Friday, December 11, 2015
Group Challenges AZ Susan B. Anthony-Frederick Douglass Selective Abortion Ban as Discrimination for Perpetuating Stereotypes
This Wednesday, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) will challenge Arizona’s ban on so-called race-selective and sex-selective abortions.
NAPAWF along with the Maricopa County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (MC-NAACP) argue the law “targets and stigmatizes Black and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and is based entirely on racially motivated stereotypes and generalizations about Black and AAPI women’s reasons for deciding to terminate a pregnancy.”
Lawmakers in support of the ban cite high numbers of sex-selective abortions in Asian countries as a primary reason why the ban should be enacted.
The case will be heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In 2011, the Arizona legislature passed the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011.”
An earlier court ruling upheld the law on the grounds the NAACP and NAPAWF had no legal grounds to challenge it. The court said, in effect, that if there is no individual claiming that they were personally denied the ability to obtain an abortion, then there is no harm in this case to bring suit. Both groups are challenging that ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court this Wednesday.
” The Arizona law unconstitutionally and unequivocally discriminates against people of color, including Asian Americans,” Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of NAPAWF said to AsAmNews. “Specifically, lawmakers in support of the ban cite high numbers of sex-selective abortions in Asian countries as a primary reason why the ban should be enacted. The Arizona ban was passed based upon racist stereotypes about Asian Americans that have no basis in fact.”
I have written a bit about the Anthony-Douglass Act and the misappropriation of Susan B. Anthony's name for anti-abortion advocacy. See Tracy Thomas Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politicis of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev. 1, 8 (2012).
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
November 12 was the bicentennial of the birth of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of America’s most prominent and extraordinary women’s right leaders. The event passed largely un-noticed. We missed a chance to pause and reflect on her leadership and also on the issues she wrestled with, some of which are still with us.
Stanton deserves more recognition. She was, of course, the main organizer of the famous Seneca Falls women’s rights convention in 1848, which issued a ringing declaration demanding the right to vote. But there are several other reasons for studying her career.
We didn't miss it at the Con Law Colloquium at Akron Law. The entire colloquium featured Stanton scholars of law and history delving into Stanton's contributions to gender equality and constitutional thinking of the vote, political economy, marriage, the family, and religious liberty.
Here's my prior blog post and all the details from the program.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
I had the fortune to participate in The Center for Constitutional Law at Akron's Colloquium last week, The Origins of Gender Equality. The Colloquium scheduled for the 200th Anniversary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's birth celebrated Stanton's vast intellectual and political contributions to the law.
The New York Times Book Review often asks authors, if you could have dinner with any writers, who would it be? Well the participants at the colloquium were my list of ideal dinner guests. These scholars to me represented the best of the work on Stanton in law and history, characterized by original thinking, impeccable and thorough research, and ideas found nowhere elsewhere in the literature. It was a privilege to engage in conversation with these women and deepen our understanding of the legacy of women's rights still so unknown and unappreciated.
The papers from the Gender Equality Colloquium will be published in the spring in ConLawNOW.
Tracy Thomas, Introduction: The Origins of Gender Equality in the Life and Work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Lisa Tetrault (history, Carneige Mellon): On the Meaning of the Vote
Felice Batlan (law, Chicago-Kent): Manhood Suffrage at the New York Constitutional Convention of 1867
Lisa Hogan (women's studies, Penn State): Unveiling Gendered Notions of Marriage and Women's Sexuality
Kathi Kern (history, Kentucky): Religious Liberty Claims: From Kim Davis to Elizabeth Cady Stanton
As we work to inspire, educate and empower others by integrating women's history as part of the distinctive culture of the United States, we applaud the writers and producers of Suffragette who recognized the need to expand awareness about this significant moment in Britain's history. Director Sarah Gavron, in a recent interview, talked about the timing for the movie, which had been six years in the making.
This story had never been told, the reason it's never been told before is because women keep being marginalized. What was on our side was there's a conversation now happening about the inequity in the film business, so people were aware. The story we wanted to tell had become more timely.Her explanation is not surprising. We know that for most Americans, their knowledge of how U.S. women won the right to vote is limited to major personalities like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But the campaign stretched from the East to the West Coast, with dozens of women doing their part as local canvassers, state campaigners, White House picketers, and filling many other roles. The breadth of the suffrage story is still largely unknown.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
(Muller v. Oregon, 1908)
At the NE Ohio Faculty Colloquium last week, I presented on the topic derived from my forthcoming book chapter on the long history of the ERA.
For this presentation, I focused on the early history of ERA, introduced by Alice Paul in the midst of the Supreme Court's detour into Lochnerism. A close review of the Lochner cases on maximum hours law, shows how gendered these cases were. The Court struck down laws like that in Lochner limiting men's work, while easily upholding the same limitation for women. The advent of the Brandeis Brief (or more appropriately the Kelley Brief since it was mostly written by Florence Kelley) in Muller v. Oregon (1908) added sociological facts of women's weakness, primary material function, and need for protection research designed to justify the rationality of the state legislature's determination that women needed protection.
My takeaways on looking at Lochner through the gendered lends were:
1. It explains some of the flip-flops and seeming inconsistencies of Lochner to understand legalistic exceptions were made for women.
2. It shows how grounded Lochner was in masculinity: real mean don’t need “protection.” Men were tough, strong, and could withstand or counter the abuse of workplace. (Except maybe in the case of coal mining, see Holden v. Hardy, 1898)..
3. And perhaps most importantly, it reveals the historical depth of what Joan Williams calls the “ideal worker.” The ideal worker since industrialization was male, able to work unlimited hours at a moment's notice, needed the job as a family breadwinner, and never needs any accommodations like pregnancy leave, nursing breaks, or family leave. Women are defined as "other" than the ideal, or even regular work. Women themselves defined female workers this way, attuned to the realities of women's working class experience.
Sunday, November 1, 2015
Which means the Salem Witch Trials.
Most of the victims of the trials were women. And most of the accusers. Scholars have talked about the trials as misogyny and at the same time as women's assertion of agency and power. They also suggested the lax evidentiary standards allowed social judgments about women to be determinative of legal guilt.
Stacy Schiff, The Witches: Salem, 1692 (2015)
Carol Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman (1998)
Jane Moriarty, Wonders of the Invisible World: Prosecutorial Syndrome and Profile Evidence in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, 26 Vermont L. Rev. 43 (2001)
Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2003)
Peter Hoffer, The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History (1997)
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Lots in the media with the advent of the release of the movie Suffragette on the British women's suffrage movement.
Remembering the mammoth women’s suffrage parade of October 1915They came on horses and carriages. They marched on foot. There were old women with canes and young mothers with babies. They dressed in white and carried banners with phrases like “A vote for suffrage is a vote for justice” and “You trust us with the children; trust us with the vote.” It was Oct. 23, 1915, and tens of thousands of women flooded Fifth Avenue in a spectacular, five-mile suffrage parade that all but shut down New York City.
Pop quiz: when did women in the United States get the right to vote?
If you answered June 4, 1919, or Aug. 18, 1920 — the dates on which the 19th Amendment was passed and ratified — then you’re almost right. Yes, the Amendment guaranteed that the right to vote could not be denied on account of sex. But the right wasn’t fully secured until this day, Feb. 27, in 1922. That’s when the Supreme Court decided Leser v. Garnett.
Here’s what the case was about: Two Maryland women registered to vote a few months after the 19th Amendment passed. Oscar Leser, a judge, sued to have their names removed from the voting rolls, on the grounds that the Maryland constitution said only men could vote, and that Maryland had not ratified the new amendment to the federal constitution — and in fact, Leser argued, the new amendment wasn’t even part of the constitution at all. For one thing, he said, something that adds so many people to the electorate would have to be approved by the state; plus, some of the state legislatures that had ratified the amendment didn’t have the right to do so or had done so incorrectly.
As the 19th century ended and the 20th began, the American wave of women pushing for access to the ballot box gathered momentum. But it wasn't until the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920 that voting rights were guaranteed for all women.
Hard as it is to imagine today, there were certain women — mostly forgotten — during that period of duress who did not believe that women deserved the right to vote. Some called these naysayers "anti-suffragettes" or "anti-suffragists." Some called them "remonstrants" or "governmentalists." Some called them just plain "antis."
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Few people outside of women’s rights historians understand that American women fought for political enfranchisement for nearly 75 years—from when Elizabeth Cady Stanton made suffrage a rallying cry at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. And while a chunk of that time was referred to as “the doldrums” by eastern suffragists, in the West, women’s rights activists had far more exciting experiences. In fact, by the time national suffrage passed, 14 western states had already enfranchised women voters.
In pop culture, the American West belongs to rugged cowboys and macho gunslingers. Left out of those depictions are the women, immigrants, former slaves and Native Americans who also made homes on the range. Far from just the wives, mothers, daughters and playthings of frontiersmen as portrayed in books and films, women arrived in the West, single or with their families, for the same reasons men did—for adventure, for livelihood or to escape the oppressive social mores that dominated the eastern United States.
“The West is supposed to be he-man country, not some place where the little ladies mattered, or were even present,” notes Dr. Virginia Scharff, distinguished professor of history at the University of New Mexico and chair of Western Women’s History at the Autry National Center. “But there were indigenous women in the West long before there were Marlboro Men, and they were absolutely essential to the survival of their communities. And once American migrants started showing up, women were a big part of conquest and resistance in the West.”
As Scharff alludes, some of western women’s early political advancement was inherently tied up in the goals of white Americans. “Early western suffragists often referred to ‘frontier’ egalitarianism and ‘chivalry,’” as reasons why western states were more amenable to politically active women, “but this was an ethnocentric conclusion that privileged white women,” writes Dr. Rebecca Mead in her book How the Vote was Won. Indigenous women would not realize the right to vote as American citizens until 1924 (sometimes much later in certain states). Similarly, women of color struggle against tacitly sanctioned racial and ethnic discrimination that continues to impact their ability to vote. Nevertheless, for the women who stood to benefit most from suffrage, frontier territories—anxious to attract more white families and often understanding of the equal work demanded of both male and female homesteaders—were the earliest successful battlegrounds for suffrage.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
I just posted TJ Boisseau & Tracy Thomas, After Suffrage Comes Equality? ERA as the Next Logical Step, forthcoming as a chapter in the book 100 Years of the Nineteenth Amendment: An Appraisal of Women’s Political Activism edited by Lee Ann Banaszak and Holly McCammon (Oxford University Press 2016).
The chapter traces the long, and surprising, history of the Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923.
From the abstract:
Almost a full century in the making, the campaign for an ERA far exceeded in longevity the campaign for woman suffrage, however much a “logical next step” women's equality seemed to some following the spectacular achievement of the Nineteenth Amendment. The history of the amendment reveals how resistant to the idea of equality between men and women a political system—even one that includes women as voters—can be. In this chapter, we re-examine the route taken by the ERA through its many permutations in the century since the passage of woman suffrage. Proposed by Alice Paul in 1923 and immediately opposed by social feminists advocating protective labor laws, the ERA wound itself in and out of feminist, conservative, and public favor before its final defeat in 1982, three states short of adoption. Woven into the Supreme Court's analysis of Lochner and substantive due process, and the later evolution of equal protection law, women's equality--or difference--has been the foundation of much of the development of modern constitutional doctrine.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
The new issue of the Journal of Women's History (Fall 2015).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
"I Wouldn't Be No Woman If I Didn't Hit Him": Race, Patriarchy, and Spousal Homicide in New Orleans, 1921 - 1945
Jeffrey S. Adler
"As Potent a Prince as Any Round About Her": Rethinking Weetamoo of the Pocasset and Native Female Leadership in Early America
Gina M. Martino-Trutor
Dode Akabi: A Reexamination of the Oral and Textual Narrative of a "Wicked" Female King
Harry N.K. Odamtten
From Anne to Hannah: Religious Views of Infertility in Post-Reformation England
Sex Scandals and Papist Plots:The Mid-Nineteenth-Century World of an Irish Nurse in Quebec
Sanitizing the Domestic: Hygiene and Gender in Late Colonial Bengal
Constructing Women's Citizenship: The Local, National, and Global Civic Lessons of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur
Single Girls and Working Women: Gender, Power, and Feminism in American History and Culture
Sexual Labor and the Transnational Sphere
Michelle K. Rhoades
Personal and Political: Love's Revolutions in Recent Historical Research
New Views on Left Feminist Activism Before the 1960s
Monday, September 7, 2015
Legal History Blog, Woloch's "Class By Herself"
A Class by Herself explores the historical role and influence of protective legislation for American women workers, both as a step toward modern labor standards and as a barrier to equal rights. Spanning the twentieth century, the book tracks the rise and fall of women-only state protective laws—such as maximum hour laws, minimum wage laws, and night work laws—from their roots in progressive reform through the passage of New Deal labor law to the feminist attack on single-sex protective laws in the 1960s and 1970s
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Monday, August 3, 2015
An automatic legal pardon should be given to all men convicted under historical homosexuality laws without the need for families or individuals to apply to the government, the Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham has proposed. His pledge, following consultation with Sir Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions and current Labour MP, means it would be possible to quash up to 50,000 convictions for acts that would be not be illegal today.
Burnham, who currently shares roughly the same number of constituency nominations as Jeremy Corbyn, said he will press prime minister David Cameron to make a relatively simple change to the law, but if he does not do so, it would form part of the first legislative programme of a Burnham-led government. The move comes two years after the royal pardon granted to second world war codebreaker Alan Turing.
Were there any women convicted the referenced law?
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Suffragette - on the British women's suffrage movement starring Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, and Helena Bonham Carter
She's Beautiful When She's Angry - on the second-wave US feminist movement