MORE STORIES: STRENGTH WITHOUT COMPROMISE by Teri P. Gay
There are stories that seem to demand that we stop, listen and say thank you.
There is a story in my family that tells of my great-grandmother, who when presented with a petition in the early years of the Twentieth Century supporting a woman’s right to vote, said, “Indeed! I will sign yes to that.” (They Came To North Tama by Janette Stevenson Murray p. 238.) She rose from her sick bed to attend to that task. It was one of her last acts, and in many ways a symbol of the courageous life she led.
In the nineteenth century Scotch community in Iowa that is the setting for my novel, women were often involved in business: making cheese and partnered in family enterprises. Some women attended high school in nearby cities, and even college such as Grinnell or Coe, located within a hundred miles of their home. We know that at least some among them were interested in community issues such as a woman’s right to vote.
I love to read about women who took the lead in past times in shaping our society. Then, and now, courage is required to work for social change. I’m especially interested in women who did this in rural settings.
Whether I am visiting in Arizona, Minnesota, or New York, I am likely to find interesting local history, and often some of it has to do with women’s efforts to support issues they felt important to their quality of life such as the right to vote. Rather than viewing these turn-of-the-century women as similar to the 1960’s female revolutionaries, we might see them as more interdependent and cooperative with their community. But there is little doubt that for many, voting rights for women was an issue dear to their hearts.
On a recent trip to New York, my friend gave me a book that examines women’s work in the 1890’s in this context. The book is titled Strength Without Compromise: Womanly Influence and Political Identity in Turn-of-the-Twentieth Century Rural Upstate New York. The author is Teri P. Gay. The book is available through www.amazon.com and at www.terigay.com. In this book the author tells the interesting story of the Easton Political Equality Club.
The women of that group were willing to address equal rights and women’s suffrage. Many women’s lives at that time were centered on home, family, marriage and motherhood, but politics, education and business were important to them, too. They combined these different elements of their lives in cooperative endeavors focused on creating a better life for themselves and their families. The women of tiny Easton used their bonds and their community to effectively influence for the rights of women. Whether producing plays, presenting speakers, making ice cream or decorating floats for parades, their collective actions made a difference. I’m grateful they persisted and today we take women voting as the norm. It is a right and responsibility all citizens of our country enjoy.
A post connected to this one can found on the Writing Page, “Where Do Stories Come From?” Most of us have family stories about our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents stepping up to take actions that influenced our present. This is an appropriate month to take a moment to say thank you.
Send us your stories. Say thank you to those who went before you.