Monthly Archives: June, 2015

A New Face For #TheNewTen: The Case For Lucretia Mott

“I long for the day when my sisters will rise, and occupy the sphere to which they are called by their high nature and destiny.Lucretia Mott, 1840

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently announced a major change to US currency: in 2020, Alexander Hamilton will vacate his spot on the $10 note to make way for a woman.

It’s usually the Bureau of Engraving and Printing that comes up with recommendations and designs. In the Twitter Era, however, if it can be hashtagged, it can be turned into a social media campaign. #TheNew10 wants to know what you think. The only criteria are that the woman be “iconic,” a “champion for our inclusive democracy,” and dead. There are already some obvious candidates for the honor and many personal favorites.

Lucretia Mott (1793-1880)

One name that should be on the shortlist is was Lucretia Coffin Mott (1792-1880). Best known today for co-founding the suffrage movement with Elizabeth Cady Stanton at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, Mott was one of the most prominent social justice crusaders of the 19th Century.

A Quaker minister in her own right and wife of abolitionist James Mott, Lucretia spent more fifty years speaking out for the rights of others. Rare among her peers, she drew no line between women and people of color. All deserved equality and victory would be incomplete until all groups had attained it.

“I have no idea, because I am a non-resistant, of submitting tamely to injustice inflicted either on me or on the slave,” she once said. “I will oppose it with all the moral powers with which I am endowed. I am no advocate of passivity.”

A powerful extemporaneous speaker, she was a popular figure on the antislavery and women’s rights’ lecture circuits. She helped with countless petition drives and fundraisers and committees. Her husband helped found the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society, and when women were excluded from joining, she helped establish the racially-integrated Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. The Motts boycotted Southern-made goods in business and in their home. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, they made their home a stop on Underground Railroad and raised funds for escapees. She did all this while raising six children and running a large household. “She is proof,” wrote an admirer, “that it is possible for a woman to widen her sphere without deserting it.”

Her activism for women’s rights was sparked in her adolescence, when she realized that female students at her school paid the same amount for half the education, and female teachers were paid a third of what their male counterparts earned for the same amount of work. Along with suffrage, she fought for expanded legal rights for women and better access to education and the professions. In 1864, she helped establish Swarthmore College – on the condition that it incorporate as a coeducational school.

By the late 1850s, she had expanded her advocacy to economic justice and pacifism. “There is a need for preachers against the existing monopolies and banking institutions, by which the rich are made richer, and the poor, poorer,” she argued, 150 years before Elizabeth Warren. “It is contrary to the spirit of this Republic that any should be so rich.” It was not enough to simply give to charity, she once argued “The true philanthropist is compelled…to look beyond the bestowing of a scant pittance to the mere beggar of the day, to the duty of considering the causes and sources of poverty. We must consider how much we have done toward causing it.

Her pacifism was rooted in her Quakerism. “The cause of Peace has had my share of efforts, taking the ultra non-resistance ground that a Christian cannot consistently uphold, and actively support, a government based on the swords, or whose ultimate resort is to the destroying weapons.” After the Civil War, she served for several years as head of the Universal Peace Union, protesting everything from compulsory military training and war taxes to capital punishment, the lynching of African Americans, anti-Asian immigration policies, and denial of rights to native Americans.

Mott did not live to see women win the vote, but the victory arguably wouldn’t have happened without her. She was mentor to the first generation of female political activists. By the way she lived her own life, she showed that a woman could be a activist and a thinker while being a wife and a mother. Women had power, they had voice, they had political tools they could use to change the debate.

“When I first heard from the lips of Lucretia Mott that I had the same right to think for myself that Luther, Calvin, and John Knox had, and the same right to be guided by my own convictions, and would no doubt live a higher, happier life than if guided by theirs, I felt at once a new-born sense of dignity and freedom,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton said forty years after their fateful meeting. “It was was like coming into the rays of the noon-day sun, after wandering [in] the caves of the earth.”

1948 Postage Stamp showing Elizabeth Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Carrie Chapman Catt

She’s been on a stamp. Why not #TheNew10?

 

 

Waterloo at 200: Peace for Friedrich Brandt

Two hundred years ago, a young soldier fell on the battlefield at Waterloo and lay undisturbed for the next 197 years.

The only intact skeleton found on the field at Waterloo

In June of 2012, he was unearthed during a project to create an overflow car park in preparation for this year’s observance of the bicentennial, the musket ball that killed him still embedded in his ribcage.

Even then, he was a curiosity: the only intact skeleton yet found on the battlefield. While more than 28,000 soldiers were killed at Waterloo, bone meal dealers are believed to have stripped the fields in the decades after the battle.

Near the body were 20 coins, totalling a month’s salary for a private, an iron spoon, and a stick carved with the faint initials ‘FB 1792.’ In April of this year, Waterloo historian Gareth Glover announced he had used these items to establish the soldier’s identity as Friedrich Brandt, a 23-year old private in the King’s German Legion.

The King’s German Legion was a unit within the British Army made up of ex-pats from the Electorate of Hanover in Lower Saxony. British monarchs also served as the Elector of Hanover; when its army was dissolved after Napoleon’s troops occupied the region in 1803, the British began recruiting Hanoverian soldiers into their own ranks. Continue Reading

This Unearthly Music: The Rebel Yell In Twilight

“I have never, since I was born, heard so fearful a noise as the rebel yell. It is nothing like a hurrah, but rather a regular wildcat screech. Each shell that burst over the heads of our men was followed by one of these yells, and the sound was appalling.”

The tactile experience of combat is the first thing to fade. Even when they wanted to, veterans could never recapture the sound and texture and chaos of the Civil War. No matter how eloquent or honest they tried to be, no matter how vivid their words, they could never quite bring the immediacy of it home to those who had not lived it. Continue Reading

‘Negative History:’ Korea and Japan Clash Over World Heritage Status For WWII Slave Labor Sites

Hashima Today

Update, 22 June: Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se have announced that Korea will withdraw its opposition to World Heritage status for the Meiji-era sites. Under the agreement, Japan will clearly mark sites where Korean slave labor was used during World War II. It will also support  Korea’s bid for World Heritage status for its Baekje historic area.  (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun )

 

Hashima lays nine miles off Nagasaki in the East China Sea. Perched over a rich underwater seam of coal, for nearly ninety years, the tiny island was a major contributor to Japan’s industrial might. At its height, Hashima – more commonly called Gunkanjima, or Battleship Island, for the way it appears on the horizon – had a population density six times that Manhattan, and boasted high-rise apartment blocks, a school, a gym, shrines, a cinema and a supermarket. Abandoned in 1974, it has become a ghost island, last seen as a background in the 2012 James Bond thriller, Skyfall.

In May, the International Committee on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), recommended Hashima and 22 other industrial sites across Japan be designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites as representatives of the Meiji Industrial Revolution, a period of rapid and innovative expansion stretching from 1868 to 1912. Supporters of the World Heritage bid argue that Japan was not only the first nation outside the West to industrialize, it did so through the fusion of “a wave of Western technology arriving in Japan and traditional Japanese culture.” Continue Reading

“Isn’t It Beautiful?” Robert Lincoln and the Dedication of the Lincoln Memorial

Early in May, 1922, Chief Justice William Howard Taft wrote a letter to his good friend Robert T. Lincoln to formally invite him and his wife as “guests of honor” at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial on May 30.

“We of course shall attend, but only on par with the general audience,” Abraham Lincoln’s son replied. “We prefer that no notice whatever be taken of us.”

Notice, however, was inevitable. Not only was he the President’s only surviving son, he was a former Secretary of War, a former Minister to the Court of St. James, and past president of the Pullman Palace Car Company. As much as he might have wanted to, Bob Lincoln was not going to be allowed to sit quietly among the hoi polloi. Continue Reading

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