Timeline of the Women's History Project
Worcester Women's History Project
Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice?
On a cold October morning, I strapped on my camera, and hopped in the Blue Bertha with Becky and headed for the Women 2000 Conference sponsored by the Worcester Women's History Project. I entered into a world where few men have traveled or ever will travel, and I truly did not know what to expect from this adventure. As I stepped onto the conference floor, I was greeted with stares of people who thought that I did not belong there and some smiles from a few who were more welcoming of my presence. I decided to pay attention to the smiles, and pulled out my big ole' sack of Odyssey love, and I was prepared to throw some on any skeptics.
"Equality before the law without distinction of sex or color."
Behind this bold statement lies a history of mistreatment of women by men that created a need for strong leadership among what some termed as the "fairer sex." The first Women's Conference was held in 1850 in Worcester, Massachusetts and it was the first national conference of its kind, and every year since, women from various fields and backgrounds have gathered at this forum to discuss the issues of the day. The first year of the conference took place during the Industrial Revolution during a time when women were not looked upon as being equal to men. The woman's role was to be supportive and submissive to her husband.
In addition, women were not allowed to speak in public because they were considered to be unintelligent. So despite the saying of boys are made of snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails, and girls are made of sugar and spice and every thing nice, bitter feelings were stirring in the hearts and minds of these "delicate and simple" women. Looking back today, it is easy to imagine that the men of that era would be stunned to discover that the National Woman's Rights Convention celebrated its 150th Anniversary this year.
During the conference I lost my wallet...
Since I love reaching the unreachable, I am speaking to all of you guys who have beating hearts, but dead
minds when it comes to thinking about women's rights because you may think that this issue is not important. However, Dr. Sybil Brown Lee, an Assistant Professor of History at Fitchburg State College wants young men and boys to understand that women played a significant role in the abolitionist and women's rights movements and persevered despite constant discouragement and violent threats. This knowledge is powerful because it may help to enlighten the minds of men and even the minds of some women about the role of women in our shared history. For you young women and girls, I also want to share the thoughts of Bonnie Anderson, a Professor of History at Brooklyn College, who encourages young women to "think globally and act locally," and also reminds young women that "a man of quality is not threatened by a woman of equality."
The conference also featured a beautiful production of a play about the early days of the Women's Rights movement called Angels and Infidels. One of the key characters portrayed in this production was Lucy Stone, the national leader in the woman's rights movement, who refused to change her last name after marriage. She attended Oberlin College in Ohio during a time when women did not attend college, and she challenged stereotypes that claimed that women could not become public speakers by becoming one of the central organizers of the Worcester Conference. Another featured character was Sojourner Truth who most know as an avid abolitionist, however, she was also a traveling preacher and author who delivered a spirited speech at the original conference. These two individuals represent the diversity of the conference at a time when diversity was CERTAINLY not appreciated. The current panelist and speakers reflect this diversity as well and included: Margaret Marshall the first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, Delores Huerta, the Co-founder and Secretary-Treasurer of the United Farm Workers of America, and Dr. Blenda J. Wilson, the first president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Foundation.
The Women 2000 Conference was a huge success. Yet, 150 years later, there is more to be done. Young men need to realize the significance of this conference, then and now. Young women should do the same, and in addition realize the backs on which they stand. These are the backs of women (and some men) who believed that just because things are a certain way, does NOT mean they are supposed to be that way or should continue to be that way. This is essential to understand because the next challenge may be your own.
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Links to Other Dispatches
Get out of the kitchen! It's time for equal rights! Or is it?
Teddy - Astronauts, judges, senators, truck drivers, TV producers - women rock!
Daphne - Stirring the cauldron of equality
Rebecca - What's got 7 layers of clothes and a broken rib?
Team - Depression, anxiety and irritability: the low down on being too thin