Monday, July 7, 2008

July 4 speaker, out, standing in her field?

New York Times columnist Gail Collins (who was the Times's first female editorial page editor) took a look back on July 5 at how women helped to change the ways we celebrate Independence Day and other political celebrations. Noting that political parades and celebrations were much rowdier before PlayStation and TV, Collins described how bringing women into the voting populace led to fewer election day (and July 4) parades ending in fistfights and drunken brawls. In Wyoming, people liked the change so much that the first speech given when Wyoming became a state was about suffrage. It was given by one Theresa Jenkins, who:
...got particular commendation for her delivery, which was so forceful she could be heard at the far reaches of a crowd that stretched back for four blocks. It turned out she had been practicing by standing out in the open prairie, giving her speech while her husband sat in a buggy, backing farther and farther away and yelling “Louder!”
Now that's what we call practice! Check out Collins's social history, America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, for more great stories about women's role in our society. She notes that "it's less a war against oppressive men than a struggle to straighten out the perpetually mixed message about women's role that was accepted by almost everybody of both genders."

Buy America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines

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