Women have made history; they simply have not been given credit for it"
Unsung Heroines in American History
To all appearances, women have trod
lightly through the pages of American
history,,, and it is almost impossible at
times to pick up traces of their nearly
invisible footsteps. In most classroom
texts women have been either banished
to footnotes or omitted entirely. As we
celebrate our Bicentennial, therefore, we
should take time to question this treatment, to look again at our heritage and
see who the women were and why they
have been ignored for so long.
Even a cursory reexamination reveals
extraordinary female figures, women
who often ironically demonstrated many
of the characteristics for which the historical male figures are acclaimed. A few
examples will illustrate this fact.
• Volumes have been written on the
Puritans and their struggle for
freedom of religion, yet few of us
have heard of Anne Hutchinson.
ANNE HUTCHINSON? In 1631,
this courageous woman was
brought to trial for practicing her
religious beliefs by the very same
Massachusetts Puritans who had
insisted on their own right to worship as they pleased. Anne Hutchinson was found guilty of An-
tinomianism and banished from
Boston. She went to live in Rhode
Island where she continued to
champion the twin causes of freedom of speech and religion until she
died in 1653.
• Every schoolchild can tell the story
of Paul Revere's ride, but nobody
has ever heard of Sybil Ludington.
SYBIL LUDINGTON? This
sixteen-year old girl volunteered to
ride through the countryside on the
night of April 26, 1777, to rally the
neighboring militiamen in support
of the troops in Danbury, Connecticut. 2,000 British soldiers were
raiding the supply center but,
through the efforts of Ludington,
the American forces were able to arrive in time to turn away the attack
and drive the British back to their
ships on Long Island Sound.
Ludington rode 40 miles through
darkened countryside to spread the
All of us are familiar with the
military talents of William T.
Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant, but
who of has ever heard of Anna Ella
Carroll. ANNA ELLA CARROLL?
This woman was perhaps the military genius of the Civil War. She
was the unrecognized and unacknowledged member of Lincoln's
cabinet who planned the Tennessee
campaign. This campaign, based on
Carroll's maps and written plans
and faithfully executed by U.S.
Grant, is considered the turning
point of the war, giving the Northern troops its first important victory
and effectively marking the beginning of the end for the Southern
forces. Not unexpectedly, Anna Ella
Carroll was neither paid nor recognized for her achievement.
There are countless other women
who excelled, women who achieved
in the face of almost universal discrimination.
DR. MARY WALKER became the
first and only woman to win the
Congressional Medal of Honor, in
1866, for her courage and medical
care during the Civil War. When
she later became active in the Suffrage Movement, however, the
Medal was recalled and never again
given to a woman.
• IDA WELLS carried on a solitary
campaign after the Civil War
against the practice of lynching. As
co-owner of the Memphis Free
Speech, she wrote dramatic columns
about racial discrimination in the
South. In 1892, she published an attack on the white community of
Memphis for the lynching of three
black men who had committed no
crime. Because of her expose, her
newspaper offices were destroyed
and her life threatened. Wells continued her efforts, however, traveling the U.S. and Europe publicly
speaking on the issue.
• In 1896, DR. MARY HUNTLEY
was graduated at the top of her
class from the Department of
Medicine at the University of Buffalo, but she couldn't get a hospital
appointment because of her sex.
• EMILY BALCH was a World War I
pacifist who taught sociology and
economics at Wellesley College
until she was fired for her political
views. In 1946, she was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize.
In every period of our history, in every
field of endeavor, individual women
have realized their potential, yet they
remain largely unknown.
In the world of ART:
• MARY CASSATT was the only
American ever considered talented
enough to exhibit with the French
Impressionists. Her work was
acclaimed across Europe, yet Degas,
the leading male Impressionist,
said "I do not admit that a woman
can paint like that."
• VINNIE REAM, aged 18, sculpted
the full-scale marble statue of Lincoln for the Capitol Rotunda in
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