On March 31, 1776, as John Adams was representing Massachusetts at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Abigail Adams wrote to him from their home in Braintree, Massachusetts, and implored him to “remember the ladies”:
“I long to hear that you have declared an independancy—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.”
Here at ProQuest, as we wrap up our series of blog entries for Women’s History Month, we are drawing inspiration from Abigail Adams’s phrase and looking at women leaders since the 19th century.
The first group represents leaders of the women’s suffrage movement, national political leaders, and a leader in the fight for reproductive rights. The personal papers of these women are included in ProQuest History Vault Women’s Studies Manuscript Collections from the Schlesinger Library. Researchers will also find interesting coverage of these women in The Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs:
1. Lucy Stone (1818-1893): Suffragist and abolitionist who kept her own name after marriage
2. Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910): Author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and leader of several women’s organizations, beginning with the New England Woman Suffrage Association in 1868
3. Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898): President of the National Woman Suffrage Association and the New York State Woman Suffrage Association
4. Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919): Legendary speaker who served as vice president and president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA)
5. Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947): Succeeded Susan B. Anthony as leader of the NAWSA (1900-1904), was president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, and helped found the League of Women Voters
6. Nellie Nugent Somerville (1863-1952): Corresponding secretary of the Mississippi Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in 1894, organizer of the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association in 1897, and vice-president of NAWSA in 1915
7. Maud Wood Park (1871-1955): First president of the League of Women Voters (see essay below)
8. Mary Ware Dennett (1872-1947): Active in the women’s suffrage movement, she founded the National Birth Control League in 1915, which she reorganized as the Voluntary Parenthood League in 1919
9. Emma Guffey Miller (1874-1970): Helped organize the Pennsylvania Federation of Democratic Women, and was a Democratic National Committee member from Pennsylvania from 1932 until 1970
10. Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973): First woman elected to Congress in 1916, voted against U.S. entry into World War I, and was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. entry into World War II
This second group of women was born in the 20th century and achieved leadership positions after World War II or even into the 21st century. Documentation on these women can be found in GenderWatch™, ProQuest Congressional, as well as in The Vogue Archive:
1. Patsy Mink (1927-2002): First Asian American women elected to Congress in 1964 and president of Americans for Democratic Action from 1978-1981
2. Gloria Steinem (born 1934): Founder of Ms. Magazine and founding leader of the Women’s Action Alliance (the records of the Women’s Action Alliance are included in ProQuest History Vault, Women’s Rights Collection)
3. Geraldine Ferraro (1935-2011): Member of Congress from 1979-1985, in 1984 she became the first woman vice presidential candidate for a major national party
4. Nancy Pelosi (born 1940): Member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1987, in 2007 she became the first (and to date, only woman) Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
5. Billie Jean King (born 1943): Former professional tennis player, winner of 12 Grand Slam singles titles and 16 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, and recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009
6. Hillary Rodham Clinton (born 1947): U.S. Senator from New York from 2001-2009, Secretary of State from 2009-2013 and First Lady of the United States from 1993-2001
7. Michelle Obama (born 1964): Current First Lady of the United States, graduate of Harvard Law School
We invite you to explore the important impact of these and many other women throughout history during Women’s History Month in March.
In addition to GenderWatch™, History Vault Women’s Rights Collections, The Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs, ProQuest Congressional, and The Vogue Archive, we invite you to explore ProQuest Historical Newspapers™; Queen Victoria’s Journals; the Women’s Wear Daily Archive; and other great resources.