Tuesday, February 20, 2018

1st vote by Danvers women

Here's a diary entry from a 10-year-old girl in Danvers in 1880:

Mar. 1. staid at home all day      mamma went to vote     cast the first vote buy the women in the town of Danvers

The "mamma" was Lizzie Nichols, my great-grandmother (Mrs. Andrew Nichols, living at Pine Knoll, 98 Preston Street, Danvers). Her maiden name was Elizabeth Perkins Stanley, and she lived from 1836 to 1929.

Was she really able to vote in March 1880?  What was the election?

My cousin Janet, who spent years reading old family diaries and documents as she chronicled family history, commented,

This is a most interesting entry because Lizzie had been actively involved in the vote for women, as well as prohibition, since her early twenties.

I have discussed this entry with the Danvers' archivist and it is not possible to research what she was allowed to vote on. Mr. Trask said it would have been a town election, and most probably a contest that involved the selectmen or school committee. He also said that many of the individual towns decided to allow the women to vote on local issues about that time, but there is nothing in the Danvers records to help me for that date.

Lizzie wouldn't have cared how the women got their foot in the door and it must have been a banner day at Pine Knoll because her husband was a kindred spirit to both of those causes.
The young girl? Her name was May (Mary Eliot Nichols), one of my grandfather's older sisters.  To our family in the 1940's-1950's, she was "Aunt May."  In 1880 she had just started her first diary. Her spelling was irregular, but her observations of life around her were quite clear.

Both Janet and I wish that Lizzie had also written a diary, but we understand that she was entirely too busy raising her large family. By March 1880, she had 7 living children, the youngest barely 19 months old. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Women's Rights 1870's

My great grandmother Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stanley Nichols (Mrs. Andrew Nichols, 98 Preston Street, Danvers) gave birth to her sixth child in May 1872.  Her unmarried sister-in-law Mary Ward Nichols, who lived in Salem, made frequent trips to Danvers, often by horse-car or train, to visit. Mary sometimes took the older children to Salem to spend days with their widowed grandmothers (Grandmother Stanley at 20 Andrew Street; Grandmother Nichols at 34 Summer Street, Salem).

I know these facts because I've been reading family history compiled years ago by my cousin Janet Nichols Derouin from old letters, Mary's diaries, Mary's mother's diaries, and other sources from the period. Last night I read this entry, quoted from Grandmother Nichols's 1873 diary:

Nov 18.  Mary went to the Woman's Rights Convention with K. Johnson & M. Stone.  

Janet had written these paragraphs to provide context:
There were two interests that Mary and Lizzie shared.  They both had a burning interest in the subject of women's rights and temperance and I imagine Nell Stanley was interested as well but I have no documentation of it.  As you remember in Part 1 before Lizzie was married, she was a member of The Band of Hope, a youth temperance organization. 
All of the woman's rights organizations grew out of temperance groups, which really began in England in the early eighteen hundreds.  As you know, the north-eastern part of the United States proved to be an early hot-bed of women asserting themselves on the subjects of slavery, temperance and woman's rights.  On a national level, there were over one-hundred-thousand females in various anti-slavery and temperance organizations by 1830. 
Both Lizzie and Mary read anything they could get their hands on concerning the on-going efforts for these causes and Lizzie subscribed to "The Union Signal" which was a publication of The Woman's Christian Temperance Union, organized in 1874.  The paper was published in Chicago, Illinois, it cost $1.50 a year for fifty-two issues of fifteen pages or more and it preached total abstinence from alcohol, including beer and hard cider.  
From that era on, through The Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the National Temperance Society, women were able to communicate their feelings to each other through the printed page, eventually gaining the largest political female clout in the history of mankind.
Wow! After reading pages and pages of domestic details, quaint facts about housekeeping in the 1870's, afternoon "teas" and social visits, frequent childhood sicknesses (scarlet fever killing Lizzie's 8-year-old daughter in February 1873), this page suddenly brought me up to 2018. Women's marches. Resistance movements. Activism against sexual harassment, against discrimination.

I looked up Woman's Suffrage history, attempting to learn exactly which convention Mary attended. I found Susan B. Anthony's 1873 address. (She had been arrested for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the 1872 presidential election.)  It is amazing how RELEVANT her words sound today. She gave this speech many times, and it is posted online in many forms. For a quick read, I recommend this short version:  www.historyplace.com/speeches/anthony.htm

Longer version:  Constitutional Argument: Speech After Being Convicted Of Voting In The 1872 Presidential Election, by Susan B. Anthony.  http://gos.sbc.edu/a/anthony.html