Kathryn S. Gardiner

Author and visionary of this LWV series “Forgotten Foremothers”

Kathryn S. Gardiner received her bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications from Ball State University and her master’s degree in Screenwriting from Hollins University in Roanoke, Va. From 2007 to 2015, Kathryn was the editor of special products for the Hoosier Times in Bloomington, In. There, she spearheaded The South-Central Indiana Wedding Guide, H&L, INstride, BizNet, and Adventure Indiana. She spent more than three years as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter, “retiring” in 2011 with a record of 2-2 (or 3-2, if you count her Muay Thai bout in Las Vegas, which she likes to). Kathryn became a member of the League of Women Voters in 2016, joining her parents who have been members since her childhood. She currently teaches screenwriting at Ball State and lives with a marvelous tabby cat named Cairo.

 

 

 

 

Fannie Lou Hamer

“If this is a Great Society, I’d hate to see a bad one.”

In 1962 – August 31 to be precise – Fannie Lou Hamer, at the age of 45, traveled with other activists to Indianola, Miss., determined to register to vote. Upon arriving, Hamer and the other black women and men were quizzed on the facts of de facto law. “I knowed as much about a facto law as a horse knows about Christmas Day,” Hamer said. When they couldn’t answer the questions, the would-be voters were turned away.

 

“I didn’t try to register for you,” Hamer told the man. “I tried to register for myself.” 

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By Photographer not named in original source. – “Shadows of Light” The Crisis (November 1917): 24., Public Domain,  Link

Coralie Franklin Cook

The Women Suffrage Association, she wrote, “had turned its back on the woman of color.”

“Rochester has been proud of the citizenship of Frederick Douglass, it has honored Booker T. Washington, and now it is to have an opportunity of responding to a claim on its interest and consideration from a woman of the same race of these men,” declared the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, New York on Nov. 28, 1902. Coralie Franklin Cook was to speak at the Unitarian Church for their Political Equality Club. She was an active and notable member of the National American Women Suffrage Association, alongside Susan B. Anthony and other leaders of the day.

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Rose Pengelly @ the Women’s Hall exhibition @ Tower Hamlets Local History Library 

Rose Pengelly

With her bravery, youth, and activism, she earned the nickname “Little Sylvia” after notable suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst.

At age 14, Rose Pengelly led her fellow workers at the Backs Asbestos Pipe Factory in a strike. Her red hair at the head of the procession, she blazed the trail all the way to the Women’s Hall. Conditions at the factory were unacceptable. Men and women were expected to haul equally heavy loads, though women were paid a third of the wage the men received. In addition, women were expected to perform domestic duties for the boss, tasks that were never assigned to the men despite their greater pay.

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Rose Pengelly @ the Women’s Hall exhibition @ Tower Hamlets Local History Library 

Nannie Helen Burroughs

“Who’s that girl?” a man in the audience is quoted as saying. “Why don’t she sit down? She’s always talking. She’s just an upstart”

In the late 1890s, Nannie Helen Burroughs was unable to find a teaching position in the District of Columbia Public Schools, despite her thorough education and preparation. While the school system did hire black teachers at the time, it preferred light-skinned ones. Burroughs, she was told, was “too dark.” By 1909, Burroughs had founded The National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls, Inc., a vocational school catering specifically to African-American women who were denied other opportunities.

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Rosa May Billinghurst

Billinghurst, in her three-wheeled chair, was a frequent sight at peaceful protests organized by the WSPU. However, she was no stranger to the more militant protests—and the police.

“I remember hearing startling stories of her running battles with the police,” said a veteran suffragette of Rosa May Billinghurst. “Her crutches were lodged on each side of her self-propelling invalid chair, and when a meeting was broken up or an arrest being made, she would charge the aggressors at a rate of knots that carried all before her.”

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Celia, A Slave by Melton A McLaurin

Celia,
A Slave

Asserted Control Over Her Own Body

In August of 1855, Celia, an enslaved woman of 18, stood before a jury of 12 white men accused of the murder of Robert Newsom. Newsom was a successful Missouri farmer who had purchased Celia four years earlier. Facts not in dispute were that Newsom had sexual relations with Celia frequently since purchasing her at the age of 14 (fathering two children by the teenager) and that Celia had bludgeoned Newsom to death. The question before the jury was whether Celia’s actions were murder or self-defense.

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Melvina Walker and Nellie Cressall. Photograph: Norah Smyth/Institute of Social History

Melvina Walker

“She seemed to me like a woman of the French Revolution,” Sylvia Pankhurst said of Walker’s fiery speaking style.

“…keep your eyes open,” Melvina Walker said to her fellow poor and working-class women. “…Organize yourselves, don’t be led away by people with ‘superior brains,’ we have something more than that; we have practical experience.”

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Daisy Bates

“You’re filled with hatred. Hate can destroy you, Daisy,” Orlee said to her as he lay on his deathbed. “Don’t hate white people just because they’re white. If you hate, make it count for something.”

Millie Riley lived a short, brutal life. Only months after giving birth to her daughter in 1914, she was raped, murdered, and her body disposed of in a millpond by three white men. At eight years old, her daughter Daisy Lee Gatson learned what had happened to her mother. She also learned that the men had faced no punishment. At eight years old, she learned that local law enforcement didn’t consider her mother’s murder worth investigating.

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