You might remember a post from awhile back about my hunt for the first American woman to get a passport. (The answer: we don’t know, but she was probably listed as “and wife” on her husband’s passport.)
Well, over the past couple of months, that post evolved into a piece for Atlas Obscura, which went live yesterday. Here’s the lead:
The 1920s Women Who Fought For the Right to Travel Under Their Own Names
The current U.S. passport includes 13 inspirational quotes from notable Americans. Only one belongs to a woman, the African-American scholar, educator, and activist Anna J. Cooper. On pages 26-27 are words she wrote in 1892: “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class—it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.”
If equality is a journey, then it should come as no surprise that passports have helped American women to cross some of society’s most entrenched cultural borders for more than a century.
Today, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s words ring as true now as they did a hundred years ago: “The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality.”
If nothing else, Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy has sparked a renewed enthusiasm for talking about America’s suffragettes. Much of that interest is tied to Hillary Clinton’s “white pantsuit,” a conscious nod to the color that was most associated with the Votes for Women movement, along with the mass uptick in Election-Day pilgrimages to Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite in Rochester, New York.
The suffragettes learned a lot of lessons the hard way, but perhaps chief among those lessons is that change is a journey — a journey that includes crossing lots and lots of borders in pursuit of a more equal world.
To be literal about it, Clinton traveled to 112 countries during her time as secretary of state, a number that makes her the most widely traveled U.S. state secretary ever. But long before Clinton’s miles of experience landed her the Democratic nomination for president, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton went to London in 1840.Read More »