WeWalk: Behind the Scenes of Opening the Way

Opening the Way is a walking tour celebrating women's history in downtown Manhattan. It is a multifaceted new project developed by the award-winning nonprofit organization Women's eNews. The walk honors the achievements of women such as Margaret Sanger, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ida B. Wells -- 21 women in all. This blog has been created to update fans of the walk on its exciting developments and expansion. Please join us in revitalizing history that has been ignored or forgotten!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Shared Oppressions: Abolitionism and Women's Suffrage in the Nineteenth Century

On this day in 1865, the House of Representatives voted to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in the United States following Senate’s approval of the amendment in April 1864. The 13th Amendment came to full fruition after years of activism by abolitionists, including many women who later set into motion the women’s rights movement and often sacrificed the cause of women’s suffrage in order to attain the African American male vote more quickly.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the wife of prominent abolitionist Harry Stanton, met the Quaker preacher and abolitionist Lucretia Mott at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in England in 1840, after they were ordered to sit separately from men. They held the first Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY eight years later. Frederick Douglass, a former slave and one of a small number of men in attendance there, persuaded the Seneca Falls audience to accept a controversial resolution demanding that women work to attain the right to vote.

In the later anthology History of Woman’s Suffrage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton dedicates a section to examining the effect of women’s participation in abolitionism on their future mindsets. She writes:
“In the early Anti-Slavery conventions, the broad principles of human rights were so exhaustively discussed, justice, liberty, and equality, so clearly taught, that the women who crowded to listen readily learned the lesson of freedom for themselves, and early began to take part in the debates and business affairs of all associations. Women not only felt every pulsation of man's heart for freedom, and by her enthusiasm inspired the glowing eloquence that maintained him through the struggle, but earnestly advocated with her own lips human freedom and equality.”
Other American women suffragists also contributed to the anti-slavery cause. Susan B. Anthony was the principal leader of the New York chapter of the American Anti-Slavery Society and petitioned for the freedom of slaves during the Civil War era. Anna Dickinson was considered one of the greatest orators in America during her lifetime, and began her involvement in abolitionism as early as 13 years old, when she wrote for William Lloyd Garrison’s respected newspaper The Liberator.
Frederick Douglass

When the women’s rights movement split into two major associations after years of disagreement, Lucy Stone led the American Woman Suffrage Association, which prioritized the rights of black men before those of women. Ida B. Wells, a founder of the NAACP, worked for both women’s and civil rights by exposing in her newspaper the vast number of white men who raped black women, as well as dispelling the myth that black men raped white women. The praised leader of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, also worked often with her good friend Susan B. Anthony to secure women’s rights. Finally, the former slave Sojourner Truth worked all her life for both women’s rights and the rights of black men. “I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman?” she said in her most famous speech.

The 13th Amendment was the first of several Reconstruction amendments immediately following the Civil War, but equal rights for the African American community de jure did not culminate until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To this day, the commonality among seemingly different oppressions continues, and as a result, feminists frequently combine their activism with efforts against racism, homophobia, classism, and ableism in order to address root causes of inequality. Contemporary writers such as bell hooks address the invisibility of black women within the history and discourse of both the civil rights and feminist movements. Different movements continue to learn organizing tactics from each other, and as such, it is likely that equality for all people will finally be achieved only when all minority groups recognize the intersection of their oppression.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NYC & Co.: Discovering Hidden History and Opportunities

Opening the Way is excited to announce its new partnership with NYC & Company, the city’s largest marketing, tourism and partnership organization. With an expected spike in tourism this year due to the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks and the ongoing development of the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, we hope that this collaboration will offer new opportunities to reach out to a greater number of constituents.

NYC & Co. offers the best of travel in New York City, including suggestions on entertainment, attractions, dining, transportation, and accommodations. It’s a useful resource for both tourists and locals alike to go beyond the major landmarks and explore the lesser known gems of the city. As New York regains its title as the number one tourist destination in America, sites like this one are integral to getting the best deals in cultural events and the arts. We anticipate that this pairing will allow us to network with other historical venues and open the door to bigger events.
Visitors explore the NYC & Co. Information Center. © NYC & Company

Have you taken the Women’s History Walk? Please rate and write us a review under Opening the Way’s new venue listing! If you have yet to take the walk, be on the lookout for future dates—Opening the Way tours are thus far being scheduled during two major parts of this year: Women’s History Month in March, and the recognition of 10-year anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th. We encourage you to check out the other events NYC & Co. has to offer as well!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ernestine Rose: An Advocate for the Rights of Married Women

Today marks the birthday of Ernestine Rose, a pioneer women’s rights advocate in the nineteenth century. Born to Jewish parents in Russian Poland in 1810, Ernestine led an unconventional life devoted to social and political reform. After her mother died when she was 16, Ernestine’s father—a rabbi—attempted to arrange his daughter’s marriage without her consent. Ernestine refused, got the marriage dissolved in civil court, and sued successfully for her mother’s inheritance. She left home in 1827 at the age of seventeen, and traveled on her own throughout several European cities, including Berlin, where Jewish entry was severely limited.

In 1832, Ernestine married a Christian man named William Ella Rose, and the two came to New York four years later. She was one of the first people in America to speak publicly about women’s rights, and the first to petition for women’s rights, beginning in 1840. Twelve years after she’d begun her activism, New York State passed the first married women’s property law in the country. Opening the Way pays tribute to the time she spent at the Broadway Tabernacle in 1853, where she spoke at the New York State Women’s Rights Convention on married women’s property rights.

Ernestine formed lifelong partnerships with other women’s rights activists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Paulina Wright Davis, and Susan B. Anthony, who often praised her efforts. Ernestine Rose was considered one of America’s first Jewish feminists, and was also a dedicated abolitionist. She died in England in 1892. 

Watch our new video footage with Gloria Jacobs, the executive director of the Feminist Press, speaking the words of Ernestine Rose at the New York meeting in 1853:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sisters of the Suffragist Struggle: Lucretia Mott and Martha Coffin Wright

Lucretia Mott
Lucretia Mott and Martha Coffin Wright had a lot in common—they were two sisters raised with similar Quaker ideals, and were both prominent suffragists and abolitionists throughout their lives, devoted to equal rights for all people. Their birthdays are also close together in date, making this time a perfect opportunity to honor their contributions to women’s history.

Lucretia Mott was born on this day in 1793 in Massachusetts, and is largely considered to be one of the first American feminists. She was an eloquent Quaker preacher and reformer, and in 1840 was selected as a delegate to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London. While sitting in the segregated female section, she met and spoke to Elizabeth Cady Stanton about the need to hold a mass meeting for women’s rights.

Martha Coffin Wright
Martha Coffin Wright, the youngest of the family’s seven children, was born on Christmas Day in 1806. As a biography about her life suggests, her neighbors considered her to be “a very dangerous woman” due to her political stances. She presided over numerous anti-slavery meetings and was active in the Underground Railroad, establishing a close relationship with Harriet Tubman.

Mott and Wright were among a small group of women that collaborated with Stanton to organize the Seneca Falls Convention in New York in 1848, where Mott and Stanton were the two primary writers of the Declaration of Sentiments. (Wright was pregnant at the time, as a statue in her image at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park now shows.) Mott and Wright both also previously attended the founding meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia in 1833. Mott later became the first president of the American Equal Rights Association.

Mott worked also to reconcile the strained relations between black male suffragists and women suffragists. She died in 1880. Wright died in 1875 at the age of 68, while still President of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA).