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Archive for '- Women’s Rights'

Changing the Boundaries: Women at Work in the Government

Today’s post comes from Samantha Payne, intern in the Center for Legislative Archives. in Washington, DC. 

On January 29, 1790, Mary Katherine Goddard sent the Senate a singular request: to be reinstated as postmistress of Baltimore. After running the post office for 14 years, and paying post-riders with her own savings during the American Revolution, she was infuriated to lose her position—especially when the stated reason was that “more traveling might be necessary” for the job “than a woman would undertake.” In her petition, Goddard accused the Postmaster General of dismissing her so he could give the lucrative title to his friend.

Petition from Katherine Goddard, January 29, 1790. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Petition from Katherine Goddard, January 29, 1790, page 1. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Goddard’s rise and fall as one of America’s first female public servants began in a printing shop. In 1774, she helped her brother William establish Baltimore’s first weekly newspaper. Within a year, she became the sole proprietor of the Maryland Journal and the Baltimore Advertiser. Her excellent reputation prompted Benjamin Franklin to appoint her as postmistress of Baltimore, making her the first woman to run a national government office. In 1777, the Continental Congress requested that she publish the first copy of the Declaration of Independence, complete with its signatories.

Goddard was proud of her work in the Post Office. When she lost her job … [ Read all ]

Failure of the Equal Rights Amendment: The Feminist Fight of the 1970s

Today’s post comes from Marisa Hawley, intern in the National Archives Strategy and Communications office.

As part of the “six weeks of style” celebration to recognize the Foundation for the National Archives’ partnership with DC Fashion Week, we are showcasing fashion-related records from our holdings. This week’s fashion theme is Get Your 1970s Groove On.

Women's Suffrage Day in Fountain Square, 08/1973. (National Archives Identifier 553307)

Women’s Suffrage Day in Fountain Square, 08/1973. (National Archives Identifier 553307)

After the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, suffragette Alice Paul felt that this right alone was not enough to eradicate gender discrimination in the United States. In 1923, she drafted the Equal Rights Amendment, which read:

Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

These seemingly simple words wielded enormous implications. Since its conception, the ERA has been a source of unremitting debate over whether or not total equality between men and women is worth the sacrifice of certain legislative protection. In fact, from 1923 to 1970, some form of the amendment was introduced in every session of Congress but was usually held up in committee and never put to a vote.

To get the ERA out of committee, Representative Martha Griffiths of Michigan filed a petition to demand that the amendment … [ Read all ]

They “Leaned In” and took action in federal courts

Happy Women’s History Month! Today’s blog post comes from Kristina Jarosik, education specialist at the National Archives at Chicago.

Recently, two powerful women in the Silicon Valley, (Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead and Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo) provided the media and the public the opportunity to re-examine the role of women in the workplace. These exchanges, the dawn of Women’s History Month, and the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act encouraged us to step back “historically” and to look in our stacks for stories of women fighting for equality in the workplace through the federal courts.

We discovered several cases. Alice Peurala’s is one.

As a single parent working night shifts at U.S. Steel’s South Works in southeast Chicago in the 1950s, Alice Peurala wanted a day job. She heard that product testers in the Metallurgical Division had this appealing schedule. But these positions were not posted, as others were, for bidding.

In 1967 (after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act), a male colleague that Alice had trained was moved up to be a product tester after only four years. Just before he started, she called the hiring director and inquired about being considered for one of these jobs. His response, “No, we don’t want any women on these jobs.”… [ Read all ]

Suffrage and suffering at the 1913 March

Today’s blog post comes from Jessie Kratz, archives specialist in the Center for Legislative Archives. If you are participating in the 100th anniversary of the parade on Sunday, stop by the National Archives to see the document that finally gave women the right to vote. The 19th Amendment is on display from March 1 to March 8.

As woman suffrage advocates marched along Pennsylvania Avenue on March 3, 1913, they were met with crowds of unruly men blocking their paths and shouting derogatory remarks.

While making preparations for the parade, organizers had made repeated attempts to secure police protection—they even contacted the Secretary of War seeking assistance from the U.S. military. Richard H. Sylvester, Chief of DC Police, had assured organizers that he could manage the situation without the military, but he ultimately failed to control the crowd.

Exhibit No. 36, View of the Woman Suffrage Parade from the Willard Hotel, Washington DC, from the Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee of the District of Columbia of the United States Senate, pursuant to S. Res 499, March 4, 1913, 63rd Congress (Y4.D63/2:W84); RG 287, National Archives

The poor treatment of the marchers sparked immediate outrage.

The day after the parade, the Senate passed a resolution authorizing the Committee on the District of Columbia to investigate the police’s handling of the incident. The committee … [ Read all ]

The 19th Amendment on display at the National Archives

The 19th Amendment is on display from March 1 to March 8 at the National Archives Building in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 1913 woman’s suffrage parade in Washington, DC. We will also be screening the 2004 film “Iron-Jawed Angels” at noon on March 2.

Today’s guest post is from curator Bruce Bustard.

The original caption reads: Bastille Day spells prison for sixteen suffragettes who picketed the White House. Miss Julia Hurlbut of Morristown, New Jersey, leading the sixteen members of the National Womans Party who participated in the picketing demonstration in front of the White House, Washington, District of Columbia, July 14, 1917, which led to their arrest. These sixteen women were sent to the workhouse at Occoquan, Virginia on July 17, 1917, upon their refusal to pay fines of $25 each, but were pardoned on July 19, 1917. (National Archives, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, ARC 533766)

The 19th Amendment guarantees American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation. Beginning in the mid-19th century, woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered radical change.

Between 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, and 1920, when it was ratified, champions of voting rights for women … [ Read all ]