<![CDATA[W.E.L.L. Women Empowered and Loving Life - W.E.L.L. Blog]]>Mon, 04 Jan 2016 11:11:04 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Mary Yuriko Nakahara]]>Mon, 02 Nov 2015 16:30:02 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/mary-yuriko-nakaharaBorn Mary Yuriko Nakahara on 19th May 1921, Ms Kochiyama was raised in a San Pedro, California. Ms Kochiyama had a safe and protected upbringing which has been described as ‘sheltered’;  she stayed in a predominately white neighbourhood with a lifestyle that included sports and Sunday school.  Ms Kochiyama herself has described her community as being free of most of the racisms inherent across the US.  Her ambitions were to be a teacher, and she had expressed little interest in political activity or life outside the middle-class environs in which she was raised.  However, she was active in her community as a volunteer, in the Girl Scouts and for the YWCA, and these experiences translated to her later political activism.

Ms Kochiyama’s life changed on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Within weeks, over 120,000 people of Japanese heritage were interned by the US government in internment camps; over 70% of these people were born in the US.  Soon after the bombings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Ms Kochiyama’s father Seiichi Nakahara, who they considered a “suspect” that could threaten national security, and interned him in the Terminal Island Federal Prison. During her father’s time at a federal prison, he was denied medical care and was only moved to San Pedro Hospital after much pleading; he was placed in a room with injured marines where his bed was clearly labelled “Prisoner of War”.  At the same time this occurred, Ms Kochiyama’s brother had been accepted into the US Army and was fighting for the US.  By the time Seiichi was released in January, he was too sick to speak, and he died the day after his release.

Right after the death of her father, the U.S. government ordered Ms Kochiyama, her mother and brother to leave their home in San Pedro. They were moved into a horse stable in Southern California for a couple months and then moved yet again to Jerome, Arkansas, a Japanese internment camp where they stayed for the next three years. While interned, she met her future husband, Bill Kochiyama, a Nisei (the official description of a second generation Japanese American person) Soldier fighting for the United States in the all-Japanese America 442nd regimental combat team.  Ms Kochiyama wrote so many letters to her husband whilst he was in the army he grew embarrassed as his fellow soldiers were receiving little or none.  He suggested Ms Kochiyama might wish to write to other soldiers, and from this suggestion Ms Kochiyama helped to found The Crusaders, an organisation which provided letters and support for Nisei soldiers in the US Army.

The couple got married right after the war.  The experiences of her youth and during the war inspired Ms Kochiyama to become a vocal and active human rights activist, and she drew correlations between the experiences of her family and the treatment of other minority groups in US society.  Her activism had been awaked, and since this time, she has been active in many civil rights organisations.

In 1960, Ms Kochiyama and her husband Bill moved to Harlem in New York City and joined the Harlem Parents Committee, which campaigned for street lighting amongst other things – an aspect of life often little thought about but vital to creating a safe community for all. She became acquainted with Malcolm X and was a member of his Organization of Afro-American Unity, following his departure from the Nation of Islam.  She and Malcolm eventually grew to be good friends and often worked together.  She was present at his assassination on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and held him in her arms as he lay dying.
In 1977, Ms Kochiyama joined the group of Puerto Ricans that took over the Statue of Liberty to draw attention to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.  Ms Kochiyama and other activists demanded the release of five Puerto Rican nationalists that were jailed in the United States for more than 20 years. Despite a strong movement, they all “had planned to give up peacefully when the police came, but we seized the statue for nine hours,” according to her.  The five Puerto Ricans were eventually released.

Ms Kochiyama also became a mentor during the Asian American movement that grew during and after the Vietnam War protests. Many young activists came to her for help for several of the Asian American protests. Due to her experience and her skill in connecting Black and Asian issues, Ms Kochiyama and her husband were able to get reparations and government apologies for some injustices against Asian American , like the Japanese internments. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988 which, among other things, awarded $20,000 to each internee still alive. The process of issuing cheques still continues to this day.

Over the years, Ms Kochiyama has dedicated herself to various causes, such as the rights of political prisoners, freeing Black Panther activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, the campaign for nuclear disarmament, and the campaign to provide reparations to Japanese Americans who were interned during the war.  In 2005, Ms Kochiyama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize through the “1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005” project.  Ms Kochiyama passed away peacefully age 93 on 1st June 2014.
Biography first published in the This is What a Feminist Looks Like facebook group, and adapted by the same author.


Sources:
http://www.learntoquestion.com/seevak/groups/2004/sites/kochiyama/main.html
http://www.enotes.com/immigration-biographies/kochiyama- Ms Kochiyama
http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/06/02/318072652/japanese-american-activist-and-malcolm-x-ally-dies-at-93
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/05/us/yuri-kochiyama-civil-rights-activist-dies-at-93.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Ms Kochiyama_Kochiyama


Blog by Tina Price-Johnson 
http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/
tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net]]>
<![CDATA[Famous Feminists: Shulamith Firestone ]]>Tue, 14 Jul 2015 01:23:03 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/famous-feminists-shulamith-firestoneShulamith Bath Shmuel Ben Ari Firestone was born on 7th January 1945 in Ottawa, Canada, to Saul Firestone and Kate Firestone nee Weiss, part of a practicing Orthodox Jewish family. Originally Feuerstein, Saul ‘americanised’ the family name when the family moved to the United States and she was raised in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA, as the second of six children.  Ms Firestone’s relationship with her father was fraught with anger and occasional violence as she rebelled against the traditional roles expected of her, and she left the home aged 16. There was very strict gender delineation in the home which was strictly and violently enforced, and all the children save for one rebelled against.

Ms Firestone attended Yavneh (Rabbinical college) of Telshe Yeshivah, near Cleveland, soon switching to Washington University in St. Louis and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she earned a Fine Arts in painting.  While living in Chicago, Ms Firestone joined with Jo Freeman to organize the Westside Group, a group which would evolve to become the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, often called the first women’s liberation group in the US.

 

In October 1967, Ms Firestone moved to New York and co-founded New York Radical Women and published three essays: “Women and the Radical Movement”, “The Jeanette Rankin Brigade: Woman Power”?, and “The Women’s Rights Movement in the U.S.A.: New View”.  When NYRW dissolved due to ideological differences between liberal and radical feminist approaches to activism and theory, Ms Firestone and Ellen Willis co-founded the radical feminist group Redstockings, named after the Blue Stockings Society which was a women’s intellectual group founded by Elizabeth Montagu in mid-18th century Britain.  Red was chosen as the colour of revolution and socialist upheaval. Ms Firestone left Redstockings after less than a year to co-found New York Radical Feminists with Anne Koedt, but was only involved for a year, as schisms again developed, this time between older and younger activists.

 

In late 1968 she edited Notes from the First Year, followed by Notes from the Second Year (1970), and Notes from the Third Year (1971).  By the time The Dialectic of Sex was published in 1970, when Ms Firestone was still only 25 years old, she had largely ceased to be politically active outside of her writing. She was incensed by the sexism she and all women experienced whilst campaigning for Civil Rights and for emancipation, and would continue her activism within what became known as ‘radical feminism’.

 

In The Dialectic of Sex, Ms Firestone united theories expounded by the likes of Wilhelm Reich, Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Sigmund Freud and Simone de Beauvoir amongst others into a radical feminist theory of politics.   Ms Firestone also acknowledged the influence of Lincoln H. and Alice T. Day’s Too Many Americans (1964) and the 1968 best-seller The Population Bomb by Paul R. Ehrlich. It became a classic text in second-wave feminism in the United States.




Ms Firestone argued that gender inequality originated in the patriarchal societal structures imposed upon women through their biology; the physical, social and psychological disadvantages imposed by pregnancy, childbirth, and subsequent child-rearing. She advocated the use of cybernetics to carry out human reproduction in laboratories as well as the proliferation of contraception, abortion, and state support for child-rearing; enabling them to escape their biologically determined positions in society. Firestone described pregnancy as “barbaric”, and writes that a friend of hers compared

labour to “shitting a pumpkin”.

 

Throughout the book Ms Firestone addressed the issue of raising children after their incubation period by imagining a communal living arrangement in which biological parents would not be solely responsible for their offspring; instead a household of eight to ten adults would raise a child. Such units could apply for a license to have a child artificially, Ms Firestone theorized, or a female member could carry the child by natural means but would not be its only parent.




Her book was also radical in urging the unrestricted free access to contraception and government-subsidized child care in order to free women and, she argued, the human race, from what she termed “the tyranny of the biological family.... For unless revolution uproots the basic social organisation, the biological family—the vinculum through which the psychology of power can always be smuggled—the tapeworm of exploitation will never be annihilated.” Among the reproductive technologies Ms Firestone predicted in her text were sex-selection and in-vitro fertilization.

 

The book met with widespread criticism and reviews were largely antagonistic in the mainstream media, but The Dialectic of Sex became a part of the reading lists for many women’s studies/gender studies courses and was a bestseller.

Ms Firestone withdrew from politics in the early seventies, moved to Saint Marks Place and worked as a painter. By 1987 she began to suffer with mental illness which was later diagnosed as schizophrenia. In 1998 she published a haunting account of life, in and out of psychiatric hospitals, titled Airless Spaces, which was to be her last publication.  However, because of the impact and far-reach of her book, she is considered one of the key figures in radical feminism and what became termed the second wave.

 

During her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago Ms Firestone was the subject of a documentary film which was never released. The film was rediscovered in the 1990s by experimental filmmaker Elisabeth Subrin, who did a frame-for-frame reshoot of the original documentary. It was released in 1997 as Shulie, winning the 1998 Los Angeles Film Critics Association award, Experimental 1999 US Super 8, a Film & Video Fest-Screening Jury Citation 2000 New England Film & Video Festival and Best Experimental Film Biennial 2002. 




Ms Firestone died in around July/August 2012 in New York, where she had been living a reclusive life in relative poverty. It is not known what the exact cause of her death may have been and when she was discovered on 28th August she had been dead some time.




http://www.notablebiographies.com/supp/Supplement-Ca-Fi/Firestone-Shulamith.html

http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/firestone-shulamith

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/04/15/death-of-a-revolutionary

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/feminism/a/shulamith_firestone.htm

http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-01379.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shulamith_Firestone







Blog by Tina Price-Johnson 
http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/
tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net

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<![CDATA[Alice Dunbar-Nelson]]>Mon, 08 Jun 2015 21:31:32 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/alice-dunbar-nelsonAlice Ruth Moore Dunbar-Nelson was born on 19th July 1875 in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.  Her mother Patricia Wright was a freed slave who worked as a Seamstress, and her father Joseph Moore was a Merchant Marine.  They were part of a vibrant Creole community and enjoyed a comfortable, although not rich, lifestyle.  Her racial heritage featured African, native American, white English as well as Creole, and as a child of mixed race heritage, Ms Nelson faced hostility which would fuel her creativity. As an adult she wrote an autobiographical piece called “Brass Ankles” in which she recalled the isolation and separation she felt as a child  She often faced insults and intolerance yet her perceived exoticism in her looks also opened doors to her and she found herself in the peculiar position of being admitted into all of society whilst not being allowed the status of being a part of it.

 

After graduating high school Ms Dunbar-Nelson attended Straight University in New Orleans (now known as Dunbar University) which was founded by the American Missionary Association for African American scholars.  She graduated in 1892 and went on to become a teacher in the public school system, editing the women’s page of a New Orleans paper in her spare time.

 

In 1895 her first collection of poems “Violets and Other Tales” was published in The Monthly Review and around the same time she moved to New York to co-found and teach at the White Rose Mission in Brooklyn.  She began a correspondence with Paul Laurence Dunbar, a fellow poet and journalist, and when he proposed in 1898 they married in New York, and she moved to Washington DC to be with him.  After four years they parted. Ms Dunbar-Nelson was attracted to and had relationships with women during the marriage and the relationship was volatile due to Mr Dunbar’s drinking. At one point Ms Dunbar-Nelson almost died as a result of his violent attacks.  Mr Dunbar died in 1906 leaving Ms Dunbar-Nelson a widow.

 

Ms Dunbar-Nelson moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where she lived for more than a decade.  She worked at Howard High School as a teacher and administrator, and also ran summer classes at the State College for Colored Students and Hampton Institute whilst continuing her writing. Throughout this time she had relationships with men and women including Henry A. Callis whom she met whilst working at the Institute and who worked as a physician. They wed 1910 but this marriage ended in divorce after only one year.

 

In 1913 Ms Dunbar-Nelson began writing for AME Review, an influential political publication put out by the African Methodist Episcopalian Church.  In 1916 she met and married the poet and political activist Robert J. Nelson, and she herself became more politically active. Her reputation as a fighter for African American emancipation, for the rights of women and against the revolting practice of lynching grew, and she was dedicated to the advancement of educational opportunities for non-White Americans.

 

From 1920, Ms Dunbar-Nelson co-edited the Wilmington Advocate, a progressive black newspaper. She also published The Dunbar Speaker and Entertainer, which was a literary anthology for a black audience.   At this point however, she found a lot of her writing was rejected because of the overt themes of oppression and racism.   She found few mainstream publications would publish her writing deeming it unmarketable. Ms Dunbar-Nelson was able to publish her writing, however,

when the themes of racism and oppression were more subtle and as her writing developed. Even as she was addressing the issues, the systemic discrimination proved to be a block to her.

 

Ms Dunbar-Nelson’s activism became more pronounced after 1920 and into the 1930s.  She continued to author stories and poems but also began to write articles and journalism on national social issues and political topics. In 1915, she was field organizer for the Middle Atlantic States for the woman’s suffrage movement. In 1918, she was field representative for the Woman’s Committee of the Council of Defense.

 

From 1920 onwards, Ms Dunbar-Nelson dedicated herself to a career in journalism and public speaking.  She had highly successful syndicated columns in various periodical, and published articles, essays and reviews in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals.  She was a popular speaker and had an active schedule of lectures through these years. This period of flourishing African American literature became known as the Harlem Renaissance.   However, as an African American woman she met with hostility also.  She met with problems both in being paid and in being refused recognition for her work.

 

In 1924 Ms Dunbar-Nelson campaigned for the passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill but the Southern Democratic block in Congress defeated it.  From 1928 to 1931 she served as executive secretary of the American Friends Inter-Racial Peace Committee.  Throughout this time she continued to write and lecture, producing poems, stories, novels and plays.

 

In 1932 Ms Dunbar-Nelson moved to Philadelphia when her husband joined the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission.  Ms Dunbar-Nelson’s health was in decline during the final decade of her life and she died on 19th September 1935. 




Ms Dunbar-Nelson’s diary was published in 1984 and covered her life during 1921 and the period from 1926 to 1931.  This document is cited by many as providing vital insight into the complex lives of African American Women so often then and still silenced by mainstream society in its inherent racism.

 

Selected bibliography:

Violets & Other Tales (1895)

The Goodness of St Rocque & Other Stories (1899)

Give Us Each Day: The Diary of Alice Dunbar-Nelson. ed. Gloria T. Hull, New York: Norton, 1984.




Sources:

http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dunbar-nelson/about.htm

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/harlemrenaissance/p/dunbar_nelson.htm

http://www.blackpast.org/aah/dunbar-nelson-alice-ruth-moore-1875-1935

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/nelsonAlice.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Dunbar_Nelson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlem_Renaissance




Blog by Tina Price-Johnson 
http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/
tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net




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<![CDATA[Famous Feminists: Valerie Solanas]]>Wed, 11 Mar 2015 01:30:26 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/famous-feminists-valerie-solanasValerie Jean Solanas was born on 9th April 1936 to Louis Solanas and Dorothy Marie Biondo Solanas, the elder of two girls. The family lived in Ventor, New Jersey, USA where her father worked as a Bartender and her mother was employed as a Dental Assistant; and it was not a happy childhood and her father was sexually abusive towards her. In the 1940s Valerie moved with her mother to Washington DC and the marriage ended in divorce.

Ms Solanas’ mother married Red Moran. Ms Solanas was reported to be a rebellious, independent spirit who clashed with her stepfather and mother. She was sent to live with her grandparents, but this was not a happy home as her grandfather was an alcoholic and physically abusive. As a result of her refusal to attend a Catholic school she was whipped by her grandfather.

Ms Solanas left home at 15 to live with a family called Blackwell. She became pregnant, reportedly by a US sailor, and the baby boy born on 31st March 1953 was named David and brought up by the Blackwells as their own child. Ms Solanas was never to have a relationship with her son, who was her only child.

Ms Solanas returned to High School, and upon graduating took up a place at the University of Maryland, College Park. During her time she publicly identified as lesbian and began to identify as a radical feminist. She gained a Psychology Degree and began a Masters at the University of Minnesota. She dropped out of this course, believing it held no relevance to her or any woman.

On relocating to Berkeley, California, Ms Solanas started to write what would became her most famous piece, the SCUM Manifesto, intended as a satirical and hard-hitting criticism of patriarchy, and which advocates the genocide of the male gender and self-propagation of women by test tube, thus stamping out patriarchal heirarchy and ending collusion with the system by passive women.

In the 1960 Ms Solanas moved to New York, where she supported herself through street sex work, writing and begging. She met Andy Warhol, in early 1967, who she hoped would promote her writing and who had intimated he may be interested in doing so. The play she gave him, “Up Your Ass”, was never produced. Warhol has since said he found it too profane and dirty, and that he suspected Ms Solanas might have been a police officer intent on entrapment. He cast Ms Solanas in his film “I’m A Man” for a fee of $25, and despite her attempts to regain the script, claimed he either lost or misplaced it.

Ms Solanas was happy with her acting performance, but Mr Warhol proved to be a cruel person persuading his friend Viva to homophobically abuse her in public. When Ms Solanas told of her abusive childhood, she was abused because of this also.

In late 1967 Ms Solanas began self-publishing the completed SCUM Manifesto. She has also stated she wrote erotic novels and continued in sex work to support herself. Her friend Maurice Goriadis, whom she had taken to the viewing of “I’m A Man”, was a publisher and offered to publish her work. Ms Solanas was becoming paranoid and convinced herself that Goriadis and Warhol were conspiring to steal her work. In spring 1968 she purchased a gun, and on 3rd June 1968 after finding Goriadis was away for the weekend, she went to the Factory where Warhol


worked and shot at him three times, wounding him with one bullet. She also fired at art critic Mario Amaya and tried to shoot his manager Fred Hughes at point blank range, but the gunned jammed.


Ms Solanas escaped but handed herself in to the police later that evening. Her Defence Team, led by Florence Kennedy, a radical feminist lawyer, fought the incarceration in Bellevue Hospital to which Ms Solanas was initially subjected but the argument failed and MS Solanas was recommitted. Ms Solanas received support from many feminists and organisations across the country as her writing had gained her a large underground reputation; Ti-Grace Atkinson, President of the New York Chapter of N.O.W. was one who attended her trial to give support. Ms Solanas pleaded guilty to a charge of ‘reckless assault with intent to harm’ and was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, served in various institutions both psychiatric and penal. Warhol’s refusal to testify against her helped in the handing down of such a light sentence.

Ms Solanas was subsequently diagnosed as suffering with paranoid schizophrenia, and committed over the next few years to a variety of psychiatric institutions. Her mental health was up and down; she would be productive as a writer and campaigner for some time then be institutionalised.




Throughout the reminder of Ms Solanas’ life she would promote her SCUM Manifesto She and her supporters would claim constant press misrepresentation and demonisation, with some justification. The acronym the publication became famous for “Society for Cutting Up Men” does not appear in the publication and was first promoted by the publisher of her book, who was Goriadis. Friends assert she never intended this acronym, but she herself was ambiguous on the subject. It is undeniable she did express violent thoughts and actions towards males. She would sporadically support herself through sex work, moving around the country to promote her feminist work.

Ms Solanas moved in the late 1970s to the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, California, residing in a welfare hotel. She dropped out of public view until 1987, and died on 25th April 1988 of complications due to pneumonia, during a depressive period when she was living in poverty. She was interred in Virginia, taken home to be near her mother Dorothy.




http://www.warholstars.org/warhol/warhol1/andy/warhol/can/solanas17.html

http://www.poemhunter.com/valerie-solanas/biography/

http://www.womynkind.org/valbio.htm

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/mar/08/news4

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerie_Solanas

http://www.newstatesman.com/node/148311

http://www.interviewmagazine.com/culture/breanne-fahs-valerie-solanas/#_




Blog by Tina Price-Johnson 
http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/
tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net



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<![CDATA[Famous Feminists: Rev Dr Pauli Murray]]>Mon, 02 Mar 2015 02:27:52 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/famous-feminists-rev-dr-pauli-murray
Anna Pauline Murray was born on 20th November 1910 in Baltimore , Maryland , United States of America and was raised in Durham , North Carolina , by her mother’s parents and her Aunt Pauline Fitzgerald Dame  after the age of four.  This was due to her mother Agnes Fitzgerald Murray’s early death from a cerebral haemorrhage and her father William H. Murray developing emotional and mental health problems after suffering typhoid fever.  Her father died in 1923 at the hands of a guard in the secure hospital he was confined to.

 

Rev Dr Murray  came from a very mixed race background, including African-American, Native American, white Irish and white American.  When she was 16 she moved to stay with her cousin Maude in New York to finish studies at Hillside High School graduating in 1926. Her visible ethnicity caused problems as her cousin’s family had been ‘passing’ as white.  She had a brief marriage to a man only known as ‘Billy’, which was annulled after a few months.

 

Upon graduating High School Rev Dr Murray  enrolled at Hunter College, having been rejected by Columbia University because of her gender and Barnard college due to lack of funding.  In 1933 she graduated with a BA in English, and a portfolio of published works from the college paper including poems and articles.

 

Rev Dr Murray  worked for a short time for the National Urban League selling subscriptions for their paper Opportunity, but ill health forced her to move to work at a conservation camp called Camp Tera .  Whilst at camp she began a relationship with Peg Holmes, and this coupled with her refusal to stand to attention when the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended to inspect and her possession of materials which intimated communist leanings led to clashes with her superiors.  Eventually she and Ms Holmes left the camp to travel the United States .

 

In 1938 Rev Dr Murray  applied to study at the University of North Carolina but was rejected due to her race; this became widely publicised throughout the country in all media.   Rev Dr Murray  became a known activist in the civil rights movement.  However, the NAACP declined to pursue the case and it was strongly believed this was due to her openness about her sexuality and non-gender conformity.  She herself believed she may have been born with male genitalia within her, even at one point asking for an exploratory operation to test this theory.  It is possible that she might have identified as transgender if she had been born at a later time, but did identify as female although one who preferred male clothing and had many typically masculine traits.

 

By 1940 Rev Dr Murray  was suffering mental health problems and was hospitalised for a short while at Bellevue Hospital for treatment.  She left to join her then girlfriend Adelene McBean, and the couple moved to Virginia .  Whilst there, the pair refused to move from the whites only section and were arrested, but when they were charged with disorderly conduct rather than violating segregation laws, the NAACP again refused to support them.  She was imprisoned in March 1940, and the fines levied were eventually paid by socialist workers organisation the Worker’s Defense League. Later that year Rev Dr Murray  took a job with them on their administrative committee.

 

Through Rev Dr Murray ’s work for the WDL, which involved touring the country seeking support for disenfranchised workers, she became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, and this lasted until the


latter’s death.  In 1941 she enrolled at Howard University law school, inspired to help more where she could, and it was here that she experienced gross sexism.  In 1942 she joined the Congress of Racial Equality, challenging segregation wherever she saw it.

 

Rev Dr Murray  was very successful at University, graduating top of her class and being elected Chief Justice of the Howard Court of Peers.  Despite this she was rejected by Harvard University based on her gender.  A letter in support of her application from President Franklin D. Roosevelt held no sway.  Instead she moved to Berkeley , California to attend the Boalt Hall School of Law  where her Master’s thesis The Right to Equal Opportunity in Employment was published in the California Law Review

 

In 1945 Rev Dr Murray  passed the California Bar exam and the following year became the first Black deputy attorney for the State.  She became renowned for writing legal articles examining the prejudice inherent in systems and the racial and gender bias faced by many in law.   In 1950 she published States’ Laws on Race and Color, which became the basis of legal recourse for legal practitioners throughout the country.

 

From 1960-1961 Rev Dr Murray  lived in Ghana , serving on the faculty of the Ghana School of Law, but returned to the United States to study at Yale and become the first Black person to receive the JSD (Doctor of Juridicial Science) in 1965.  During this time she was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to the Presidential Committee on the Status of Women.  Throughout the 1960s she became a voice for women suffering sexism within the civil rights movement and in 1965 her article co-authored with Mary Eastwood, entitled Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII and published in the George Washington Law Review, opened the eyes of many.  In 1966 she was a co-founder of the National Organisation of Women and in the same year was instrumental in winning the right for women to sit on juries in equal status with men as board member of the ACLU.

 

By 1968 Rev Dr Murray  moved to Brandeis University in Waltham , Massachussetts, as tenured Professor of American Studies, a position she held until 1973.  She continued to author and co-author articles examining legal precedent and impact of equality laws as they were fought for and enacted.

 

By the time she was in her 60s Rev Dr Murray  had been drawn to the Episcopalian church, through her strong relationships with many of the women within the church, and she enrolled in a seminary to become a reverend.  In 1977 she was the first Black woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest, and for the next seven years she ministered to the sick in a parish in Washington DC .

 

Rev Dr Murray died on 1st July 1985 after battling with pancreatic cancer.

 

Honours and Awards:

1946 – National Council of Negro Women “Woman of the Year”

1947 – Madamoiselle Magazine “Woman of the Year”

 

Publications:

1930s - Angel of the Desert

1956 – Proud Shoes (autobiography)

1970 – Dark Testament and Other Poems

1987 – Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage (autobiography) - re-released the


same year as “ Pauli Murray: The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest and Poet

 

References:

http://www.biography.com/people/pauli-murray-214111
http://paulimurrayproject.org/pauli-murray/biography/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauli_Murray

http://www.salon.com/2015/02/18/black_queer_feminist_erased_from_history_meet_the_most_important_legal_scholar_youve_likely_never_heard_of/

http://lgbthistorymonth.com/pauli-murray?tab=biography
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2015/02/19/387200033/the-black-queer-feminist-legal-trailblazer-youve-never-heard-of?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150219







Blog by Tina Price-Johnson 
http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/
tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net

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<![CDATA[Famous Feminists: Ms Shamima Shaikh]]>Tue, 02 Dec 2014 02:24:55 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/famous-feminists-ms-shamima-shaikhShamima Shaikh was born on 14th September 1960, the second of six children of Salahuddin and Mariama Shaikh. Her family moved from Louis Trichardt (now Limpopo Province), South Africa to Pietersburg (now called Polokwane), where she graduated from high school. Ms Shaikh then attended the University of Durban-Westville, at that time an institution listed by the apartheid government as reserved for students of Indian ethnicity.




Whilst studying Arabic and Psychology at University Ms Shaikh became involved with the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO), a political group which was inspired by the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) which was founded in the 1960s to fight apartheid in South Africa.




In 1985 Ms Shaikh was elected to the executive committee of her university’s Islamic Society. The society supported a call for a general boycott by the Federation of South African Trade Union through the Muslim Students Association of South Africa group. On 4th September Ms Shaikh was arrested for distributing pamphlets encouraging a boycott of Durban white-owned businesses. Ms Shaikh was held in a cell with the President of the MSA, Na’een Jeenah, and from this time they development a personal relationship. Neither were charged, and in 1987 they married and eventually had two children.




After her graduation in 1985 Ms Shaikh followed a career in education, taking a position as Teacher at Taxila Primary and Secondary School Pietersburg. In 1989 Ms Shaikh joined the Muslim Youth Movement and her activism increased; attending and speaking at numerous rallies and events against apartheid, notably the specific campaigns against the Tricameral Parliament elections for the "Indian" and "Coloured" race groups and the defiance campaign of the Mass Democratic Movement.




In 1993 she was elected MYM Chairperson for the Transvaal region, only the second woman to hold the position. In that year she began the campaign that was to make her famous; “Women in the Mosque”. Ms Shaikh and some other women within MYM encouraged women to attend the tarawih prayers at the 23rd Street Mosque in Fietas in Johannesburg. This led to clashes between her and in particular the male members of the mosque committee and gained much media coverage, the majority negative.




In the same year she became National Coordinator of the MYM Gender Desk, a position she held until 1996. Ms Shaikh organised various workshops, seminars and campaigns through her position with the MYM. She spearheaded the MYM’s "Campaign for a Just Muslim Personal Law", the "Equal Access to Mosques" campaign and various others. The organisation rapidly became the leading organisation in Islamic Feminism in South Africa. Although apartheid officially ended in 1990, it was not until 1994 elections were held. Ms Shaikh was active in campaigns to encourage voters to opt for parties which had always fought apartheid through the Muslim Forum on Elections.




By 1994 Ms Shaikh had helped found and become the first Chairperson of the Muslim Community Broadcasting Trust, a position she held until her death. She also helped establish the Muslim Personal Law Board of South Africa, which sought to apply Islamic law alongside South African law for Islamic people. The Board proved fraught, with divisions arising within it and clashes with South African law, and it was eventually closed down by the United Ulama Council of South Africa.




An eventful year, 1994 was the year Ms Shaikh was first diagnosed with breast cancer. After 12 months of


gruelling and invasive treatments she entered remission, but vowed not to be treated again if cancer came back, stating she preferred to live a life of quality and die with dignity at home. Whilst battling cancer Ms Shaikh became Managing Editor of Al-Qalam, which developed into a beacon of modern Islamic expression throughout South Africa.




In 1996 Ms Shaikh’s cancer came back. In 1997 Ms Shaikh completed a hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) with her husband, as part of her journey through living with cancer. The experience led to a book Journey of Discovery: A South African Hajj", published in 2000.




In August of 1997 Ms Shaikh was head of the newly-launched Muslim community radio station, The Voice. Ms Shaikh delivered a paper entitled "Women & Islam – The Gender Struggle in South Africa: The Ideological Struggle” at the 21st Islamic Tarbiyyah Programme of the Muslim Youth Movement, at the As Salaam Educational Institute, on 22nd December 1997. This was to be her final public engagement and on 8th January 1998, the 9 Ramadan 1418, Ms Shaikh passed away.



In her husband’s words: “Shamima’s mission in life was to struggle for justice; whether against white racists propping up apartheid or Muslim misogynists who wanted to ‘keep women in their place’."




Sources:

By her husband, filed under Al-Qalam: http://alqalam.co.za/remembering-shamima-shaikh/

http://persephonemagazine.com/2011/07/badass-ladies-of-history-shamima-shaikh/

http://remembered.co.za/shamima-shaikh-7011

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamima_Shaikh

http://www.aquila-style.com/focus-points/mightymuslimah/mad-courage-shamima-shaikh/82764/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mmw/2009/06/remembering-shamima-shaikh/

adapted from the author’s post at: https://www.facebook.com/notes/this-is-what-a-feminist-looks-like/fotw-11-feb-2013-shamima-shaikh/538682936171964




Blog by Tina Price-Johnson

http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/

tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net



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<![CDATA[Famous Feminists: Claudia Jones]]>Thu, 13 Nov 2014 01:35:54 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/famous-feminists-claudia-jonesClaudia Jones was born Claudia Vera Cumberbatch on 15th February 1915 in Belmont, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to Charles Bertrand Cumberbatch and Sybil Logan.  In 1921 her parents moved to Harlem, New York, USA in search of better life and two years later she and her four sisters joined them.  Harlem was a poor district rife with ill health which strongly affected Ms Jones.

 

Ms Jones did well I school, earning the Good Citizenship award in Junior High, but was frequently ill.  At 17 she suffered a terrible bout of tuberculosis, forcing her to leave Wadleigh High School and leaving her with a lifetime of weak, susceptible lungs and heart disease.  She finally graduated in 1935 and went to work in a laundry but began writing, publishing a column in a Harlem-based newspaper entitled “Claudia’s Comments”.

 

Ms Jones was politically aware from an early age and in around 1936 when her mother passed away, in part due to the terrible conditions she worked in, Ms Jones joining the American Communist Party.  This was a way of becoming active in the fight for equality as at the time the ACP was the only party advocating for this.

Ms Jones edited the ACP newspaper section devoted to race issues and spoke on civil liberties around the country.  After completing a six-month training course organised by the Young Communist League she was elected to the National Council of the YCL.  By 1938 she was editing the ACP’s Weekly Review paper and aged 25 she became Director of the YCL.   During the War the YCL changed its name to the American Youth for Democracy and Ms Jones served as the editor of the monthly journal “Spotlight”.


 

Ms Jones was reportedly married to Albraham Scholnick from 1940 to 1947 but had no children, and towards the end of her life was in a relationship with Abhi- manyu Manchanda.  Very little is written about her personal life.  In 1942 the FBI started surveillance and a file on her, reaching over a thousand pages in two volumes.  This research is now a valued resource for biographical information.

 

Ms Jones’ most well known piece “An End To the Neglect of the Problems of the Negro Woman” was published in 1949 in the Political Affairs magazine of the ACP; now hailed as one of the first iterations of intersectional ideology.  In 1953 she took over the editorship of Negro Affairs, which was devoted to race and equality.

 

Membership of the Communist Party was deemed a politically radical move in 1950s USA and following several short terms in prison and a year spent at Alderson Federal Reformatory for Women, all sentences for convictions regarding political activity.  She suffered further ill-health in prison, having her first heart attack in 1951 whilst inside and being diagnosed with hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

 

Although sentenced to deportation in December 1951, Ms Jones was not actually deported until  7 December 1955 for ‘Un-American Activities’ and for being an alien who was an avowed member of the Communist Party..  She was rejected by Trinidad as a potential liability to the Trinidadian government and eventually gained asylum on humanitarian in Britain as Trinidad was at the time still a British colony.  It was only upon confirmation of this asylum that Ms Jones ceased fighting the deportation order.

 

Ms Jones continued to speak at events across the globe as well as around Britain but chose not join the British Communist Party due to a culture of prejudice within it.  She did however retain affiliations with Black members of the BCP.  Instead, Ms Jones focused her attention on civil rights and racism and joined the West Indian Forum and Committee on Racism and International Affairs. Works for Caribbean Labour Congress and helped edit the Caribbean News.  In 1958 she founded and edited “The West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News”, which became a focus for the fight for equal rights.

 

1958 was the year of the Notting Hill (a suburb of London) Riots and Robin Hood Lane Nottingham Riots, which were a result of the increasing intensity of racist attacks suffered by the Black community combined with lack of action by the authorities.  There were no laws in the UK to specifically deal with racially based crime at the time, and discrimination was rife throughout housing and employment.  Six months later a racist murder of a young Black carpenter named Kelso Cochrane in London looked like it may ignite the situation again.  As a result, tensions were very high, and Ms Jones wanted to help address the negativity, racism and oppression suffered, and empower and celebrate Afrocaribbean culture.  She had been approached by many community leaders in this regard, and collectively they also wished to promote cultural diversity and bridge-building between cultures.  To do this, in 1959 she co-founded the Mardi Gras, a precursor to the internationally renowned Notting Hill Carnival which still goes on annually to this day attracting millions of party-goers.

 

In the early 1960s Ms Jones helped organise campaigns against the Immigration Act, which specifically regulated immigration into the UK on a skin colour basis amongst other regulations.  She was also active in the campaign to free Nelson Mandela from his politically-motivated imprisonment on Robben Island in South Africa.

 

Ms Jones continued writing, lecturing and being politically active, passing away from a heart attack on 25 December 1964, aged only 49.  Sadly her paper folded 8 months later.  She is buried next to the grave of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery, London, England.

 

References:

http://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/claudia-jones/4566344886

http://www.cumberbatch.org/index.php/stories/inspirations/mother-of-the-carnival

http://historicalgeographies.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/biography-claudia-jones.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claudia_Jones

http://caribbeanreviewofbooks.com/crb-archive/16-may-2008/excavating-claudia/

http://www.irr.org.uk/news/claudia-jones-and-the-west-indian-gazette/

www.politicalaffairs.net/claudia-jones-a-life-in-the-struggle

 

 

Blog by Tina Price-Johnson 
http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/
tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net


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<![CDATA[Famous Feminists: Rachel Maddow ]]>Wed, 08 Oct 2014 02:19:20 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/famous-feminists-rachel-maddow
Rachel Maddow was born on 1st April 1973 in Castro, California, USA.  Her father Robert B. Maddow is a former United States Air Force Captain who now works as a Attorney, and her mother Elaine Maddow nee Gosse is a School Programme Administrator.  Her family are quite strict Catholics, and she grew up in a very conservative community.

 

When a youngster, Ms Maddow showed a keen interest in current affairs and would read the newspapers from the age of seven, then ask many relevant questions to whomever she could find.

 

Ms Maddow attended Castro Valley High School where she was a keen athlete, but a shoulder injury forced her to give up the swimming, volleyball and basketball teams for which she was a member.  Her time was filled with volunteer work for a local AIDS clinic, but she did not let her parents know the type of volunteer work she was doing at this time.

 

After graduating Ms Maddow entered Stanford University to do a degree in Public Policy.  Whilst at Stanford, she was outed as a lesbian in an interview with her college paper as a freshman, unfortunately before she had been able to talk with her parents who are conservative Catholics.

 

On graduating in 1994 Ms Maddow was awarded the John Gardner Fellowship for public service.  She worked for a year after graduating with the AIDS Legal Referral Panel in San Francisco, and in 1995 became the first recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship to be openly gay.  With this scholarship, Ms Maddow moved to Lincoln College, Oxford University, England, and 2001 became a Doctor of Philosophy.  She had met her long-term partner Susan Mikula in 1999 whilst researching for her doctorate, when Ms Mikula hired her to do some gardening for her.  They now split their time between homes in Manahattan and western Massachussetts.

 

Ms Maddow broke into broadcast journalism shortly after graduating Oxford University by winning a contest to find a new on-air personality.  Ms Maddow then went on to work on a variety of panel shows, to host in fill-in spots for absent anchors and to co-anchor slots for radio and television.  In 2005 Air America appointmed Ms Maddow co-host of a breakfast-time show but this was cancelled after only one year.  Ms Maddow was then offered her own eponymous radio slot on Air America and despite frequent movement around the schedules she built up a loyal following.

 

By 2006 Ms Maddow had made the move to television, guesting frequently on The Situation with Tucker Carlson and The Paula Zahn Show.  In September 2008 Ms Maddow was given her own eponymous hour-long show at 9 pm on MSNBC.  Her show was partnered with the Keith Olberman show, and together and separately both have received widespread appreciation for their analysis of politics in the US. 

Ms Maddow analyses political issues rather than political candidates and refuses to be drawn as to whom she gives her support during elections.  She is identified as being politically liberal, and has defined her politics as: “I am a liberal. I'm not a partisan, not a Democratic Party hack. I'm not trying to advance anybody's agenda” (Washington Post article in 2008).  She has frequently addressed equality issues in her programme.  As a person who comments on the political issues of the day, it is important to maintain a sense of independence, and Ms Maddow is able to do this.

Ms Maddow has also taken up documentary production and her documentary “The Assassination of Dr Tiller”, about the Doctor and abortion provider who was assassinated by anti-choice activists, won the Walter Cronkite Faith & Freedom Award in 2010 and the Gracie Award in 2011.

A selection of other awards received by Ms Maddow include:

·         2008 – Top 10 Political Newcomers by politico.com

·         2008 – Breakout star by Washington Post

·         2009 - Nomination for "Outstanding Achievement in News and Information" by the Television Critics Association, the only cable news program accorded the honour

·         2009 - Gracie Award by the American Women in Radio, Television

·         2009 - Proclamation of Honour from the California State Senate

 

http://www.biography.com/people/rachel-maddow-20906341

http://feministing.com/2010/10/23/the-feministing-five-rachel-maddow/

http://www.rachelmaddow.com

http://usliberals.about.com/od/thepressandjournalist1/p/RachelMaddowProfile.htm

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26318771/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Maddow

Adapted from an article written by me and published in the “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” Facebook Group.

 


Blog by Tina Price-Johnson 
http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/
tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net


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<![CDATA[Famous Feminists: Millicent Fawcett]]>Sun, 03 Aug 2014 00:45:02 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/famous-feminists-millicent-fawcettMillicent Garrett was born on 11th June 1847 in the small country town of Aldeburgh, in the English county of Suffolk on the south coast.  Her father Newson Garrett was a wealthy merchant, owning both ships and warehouses, and she, her mother Louise Dunnell Garrett and her nine siblings enjoyed a very privileged upbringing.  All the children were sent to a private boarding school in Blackheath, south-east London, where they received a progressive education under the tutelage of Louisa Browning, Aunt to the Poet Robert Browning.

Both parents encouraged a lively questioning political atmosphere in their home, and as a result many of the daughters of the family including Millicent would be pioneers in gender issues.  Her older sister Elizabeth became the first qualified female doctor in the United Kingdom, and her sister Agnes was one of the first female professional interior designers.

Ms Fawcett herself left the school aged 16 and began to devote herself to the political issues she was interested in, having been immersed in school, home, during visits to her sister Elizabeth as she trained to be a GP, and through further visits to her sister Louise, who took her to reform church meetings run by Anglican preacher Frederick Maurice, an advocate of women’s emancipation and education and for poor relief and aid to the suffering.

Ms Fawcett defined herself as a moderate suffragist, and after attending a lecture by John Stuart Mill in 1865 dedicated herself to the fight for women’s rights.  The following year she was appointed Secretary of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage.  Through her friendship with Mr Mill she met Liberal Member of Parliament and suffragist Henry Fawcett (a former suitor of her sister Elizabeth, although they had not met) and the two were described by peers as being perfectly intellectually suited.  They wed in 1867 and had their only child Philippa the following year.  Ms Fawcett took on the role of Secretary to her husband, who was blind.

Their home became a hub of intellectual suffrage activity and they became members of the Langham Place Circle Women’s Suffrage Advocates.  Both before and after the birth of her daughter Ms Fawcett worked on the London Suffrage Committee.  In 1869 she gave her first speech at the inaugural pro-suffrage meeting held in London.  She became a popular speaker, renowned for her easy style and persuasive manner.  Ms Fawcett also began to write and in 1870 her short book Political Economy for Beginners met with widespread acclaim.  This book continued to be successful for the next 41 years.

By 1875 she and her husband had co-authored Essays & Lectures on Social and Political Subjects, and she had co-founded Newnham Hall, the second all-female College at Cambridge University which her daughter would later attend.  She continued her suffrage work and in 1883 was appointed President of the Special Appeal Committee of the NUWSS.

Ms Fawcett and her husband maintained homes in London and Cambridge, but in 1884 her husband passed away and she and her daughter moved to live with her sister Agnes, selling both homes.  Ms Fawcett withdrew from political and social activity for a while, coming back to join the Liberal Unionist party in 1886 on a ticket of opposing Irish Home Rule.  Her membership lasted until 1904 when she resigned over disagreements with the leadership.

In 1890 she became Leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) after the death of Lydia Becker.  Under her leadership the political factionism of left and right became more united to the cause and the NUWSS grew to be the largest organisation of its kind.  Her suffragism was always moderate and she separated herself from the more extreme activism of some of her fellow suffragists whilst expressing understanding for their actions.  She herself was a pacifist.   She would travel the country, giving talks in schools, clubs, adult education centres and anywhere where she could spread the word of suffrage.

Throughout all this time Ms Fawcett campaigned on other issues, such as “to curb child abuse by raising the age of consent, criminalizing incest, cruelty to children within the family, to end the practice of excluding women from courtrooms when sexual offences were under consideration, to stamp out the ‘white slave trade’and to prevent child marriage and the introduction of regulated prostitution in India”*.   Her husband’s work on global political issues meant her activism was worldwide, and she strongly advocated for the rights of workers wherever situated.

Ms Fawcett was also active in addressing the double standards of sexuality the genders faced, such as the prosecution of female prostitutes who were found to have sexually transmitted diseases whilst their customers faced no litigation.

Such was her reputation in 1901 she was selected to travel to South Africa during the Boer War to assess the conditions prisoners of war were living under.  Ms Fawcett served as leader of the advisory group of women, and this marked the first time women has been entrusted with such a political role.

Ms Fawcett continued as Leader of the NUWSS through the first World War, and unlike other organisations their campaigning continued from 1914-1918.  During the War Ms Fawcett took on a more active role in Indian suffrage, through her meetings with Indian campaigners such as Sophia Duleep Singh and Mithan Lam.

Ms Fawcett stepped down from her role in the NUWSS in 1919, one year after some women were first granted the right to vote, although not on an equal basis to men.  The NUWSS disbanded shortly afterwards but Ms Fawcett’s fight continued and in 1928 she was present in Parliament to witness women being given the right to vote on a equal basis with men.

In 1924 Ms Fawcett was awarded the highest honour available to women in the United Kingdom, that of GBE or “Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”, for her services to her country.  Ms Fawcett died on 5th August 1929.  The Fawcett Library in London and the feminist campaigning society, the Fawcett Society, both named in her honour, continue her work.

References:

* Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (Janet Howarth, 2004)

http://www.biographyonline.net/politicians/uk/millicent-fawcett.html

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/suffragists/p/fawcett.htm

http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/makingbritain/content/millicent-fawcett

http://spartacus-educational.com/WfawcettM.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millicent_Fawcett

Blog by Tina Price-Johnson 
http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/
tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net

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<![CDATA[Famous Feminists: Abigail Adams]]>Sat, 28 Jun 2014 14:07:06 GMThttp://womenempoweredandlovinglife.weebly.com/well-blog/famous-feminists-abigail-adamsAbigail Smith was born on 11th November 1744 to a fairly wealthy family living in Weymouth, Massachusetts, USA (then known as America), the second of five children.   Her father William Smith was a Congregationalist Minister (a church which advocated independence and progressive policies such as suffrage and abolitionism).  Her mother Elizabeth Quincy descended from a family long-involved in politics.  Ms Adams grandfather John Quincy was a member of the Colonial Governor’s council and held the post of Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly for 40 years.  Although Ms Adams did not attend school, her family were progressive and ensured she received a well-rounded home education most typically received by males.

In 1760 the family were visited by the 26-year-old John Adams, who was a long-standing acquaintance.  He and Ms Adams were instantly attracted to each other and formed a relationship which their letters show to have been passionate and based on compatibility and equality.  They would discuss all manner of topics and John Adams respected to and listened to Ms Adams.  In many ways it was recognised she was his intellectual superior, especially by him.  The couple married in 1764 and went on to have six children over the next decade although only four reached adulthood.  Their son John Quincy Adams would go on to be President.

Mr Adams’ work as a lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts, kept him away from the family farm they named “Peacefield”, in Braintree, Massachusetts, so they kept in touch through over 1,100 letters which now form part of the documents held at the Massachusetts Historical society archive. 

The American Revolution separated the couple even more when in 1774 Mr Adams career turned to politics and he became delegate for the colony and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for  the continental congresses (the governing body formed of delegates from the 13 existing colonies and which ran America at this time).  Ms Adams continued to push for more equality in education and property rights, suffrage for both women and African-American people, and abolition of slavery.

Ms Adams took charge of the home and continued her political influence and campaign through letters, most famously exhorting her husband and his colleagues to “Remember the ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands ... If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”  In 1775 she and the wives of two other prominent Massachusetts citizens were appointed by the Colony General Court to ensure the patriotism of their fellow women of the colony, a role seen by all as one of the first official political positions held by a woman.

The couple would  disagree but both felt it important to maintain their integrity and equal relationship.  Ms Adams was strongly outspoken and led by example.  She is known to have spoken with both President Washington and then Governor Thomas Jefferson concerning their continued support of slavery, to which she was strongly opposed, and her words were often quoted by the media.

When Mr Adams was appointed to Ministerial positions in the US Embassies in France and England in 1778 their correspondence took on new zeal, and in 1783 Ms Adams sailed to France to accompany him in his role.  When they returned to the United States in 1788 Ms Adams returned to their farm and their separation renewed but never affected the strength and commitment of their relationship.  She would travel to Philadephia when her husband was appointed Vice President, a position he held from 1789 to 1797, but did not reside there.

Ms Adams was politically active and campaigned in her own right, which led to critics utilising gender stereotype to malign both her and her husband politically.  When Mr Adams was elected to the Presidential office in 1797 detractors would label Ms Adams “Mrs President” to imply her influence was too strong.  Ms Adams continued to campaign and speak out for equality and to ensure this remained in the public and political conscious despite and because of this, and at this point lived part-time with Mr Adams, from 1800 in the newly built White House in the new capital of Washington, D.C.

Mr Adams retired in 1801 having lost the election to Thomas Jefferson, and they returned to the family home which was now at Quincy in Massachusetts.  His retirement was welcomed by Ms Adams whose failing health made it increasingly difficult for her to remain active and to cope with the constant derision she received.  She would continue corresponding with political figures but would no longer be actively involved in politics.  The couple lived happily until  Ms Adams passed away on 28th October 1818 from the affects of a stroke whilst suffered with typhus.

References:

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised a Nation, Robert Cokie (2004)

Abigail Adams, Phyllis Lee Levin (1987)

http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/letter/

http://womenshistory.about.com/cs/firstladies/p/p_abigailadams.htm

http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=2

http://www.history.com/topics/first-ladies/abigail-adams

http://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/abigail-smith-adams/

http://www.biography.com/people/abigail-adams-9175670

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abigail_Adams

Blog by Tina Price-Johnson 
http://fromthemindoftinapj.wordpress.com/
tinaprice-johnson@talktalk.net

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