Women’s History Month: Ernestine Rose

Originally from Poland, Ernestine Rose was a nineteenth-century human rights advocate and atheist who was committed to the rights of women and the abolition of slavery. Below are excerpts from the many speeches she delivered during her time in the United States. She was one of the first women to advocate for property rights for women as well as one of the first women to speak publicly and forcefully about the morality of atheism.

On Women’s Rights:
“Humanity recognizes no sex—virtue recognizes no sex—mind recognizes no sex—life and death, pleasure and pain, happiness and misery recognize no sex. Like man, woman comes involuntarily into existence; like him she possesses physical and mental and moral powers, on the proper cultivation of which depends her happiness; like him she is subject to all the vicissitudes of life.” -1851

On Slavery:
“What is it to be a slave? Not to be your own, bodily, mentally, and morally—that is to be a slave. To work hard, to fare ill, to suffer hardship, that is not slavery; for many of us white men and women have to work hard, have to fare ill, have to suffer hardship, and yet we are not slaves.Slavery is, not to belong to yourself—to be robbed of yourself. There is nothing that I so much abhor as that single thing—to be robbed of one’s self.” -1853.

On Atheism:
“Truth, justice, charity, kindness and love, combined, make the creed of morality and virtue belonging to man, and necessary to this life; for it teaches him his duty to his fellow man, while religion, being a mystery, belongs wholly to some other unknown life, hence we can make no use of it in this. It teaches faith, blind, implicit faith, in things unseen and unknown; morality has nothing to do with religion, for a man may be ever so virtuous and moral, yet if he does not profess faith, he is called an Infidel.” -1859

Excerpts from Mistress of Herself: Speeches & Letters of Ernestine Rose, Early Women’s Rights Leader edited by Paula Doress-Worters.

Women’s History Month: Ida B. Wells-Barnett

“The more I studied the situation, the more I was convinced that the Southerner had never gotten over his resentment that the Negro was no longer his plaything, his servant, and his source of income. The federal laws for Negro protection passed during Reconstruction times had been made a mockery by the white South where it had not secured their repeal. This same white South had secured political control of its several states and as soon as white southerners came into power they began to make playthings of Negro lives and property.” —From Crusade For Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells was an anti-lynching advocate and journalist from Memphis. She asserted the innocence of black men who were lynched for allegedly raping white women and revealed that these accusations were never grounded in actual evidence. Often, white Southerners lynched the most successful and respected members of the community in order to terrorize black folks into submitting to white authority. Additionally, many men accused of rape were engaged in consensual relationships with white women, but white supremacists continued to circulate the narrative that white women needed protection from black rapists. Ida B. Wells took her fight to England in order to shame and pressure the U.S. government to stop ignoring the white terrorism faced by black people in the South.

Women’s History Month: Lucy Gonzales Parsons

On March 7, 1942, fire engulfed the simple home of 89-year-old Lucy Gonzales Parsons on Chicago’s North Troy Street, and ended a life dedicated to liberating working women and men of the world from capitalism and racial oppression. A dynamic, militant, self-educated public speaker and writer, she became the first American woman of color to carry her crusade for socialism across the country and overseas. Lucy Gonzales started life in Texas. She was of Mexican American, African American, and Native American descent and born into slavery. The path she chose after emancipation led to conflict with the Ku Klux Klan, hard work, painful personal losses, and many nights in jail.

…Lucy Parsons’ determined effort to elevate and inspire the oppressed to take command remained alive among those who knew, heard, and loved her. But few today are aware of her insights, courage, and tenacity.”

—From a profile of Lucy Gonzales Parsons (1853–1942). By William Loren Katz.

Click here to continuing reading the full profile at the Zinn Education Project!

Happy Women’s History Month


from top right:
Mary Brave Bird (aka Mary Crow Dog), Emma Goldman, Yuri Kochiyama, Shirley Chisholm
Tina Modotti, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Dolores Huerta, Ernestine Rose
Angela Davis, Mother Jones, Lucy Parsons, Harriet Tubman
Ella Baker, Dorothy Day, Claudia Jones, bell hooks

Check back throughout the month as we post more on revolutionary women!

For the Birds at Sarah Lawrence Women’s History Conference

This Saturday, members of For the Birds will present at Sarah Lawrence College’s 14th Annual Women’s History Conference. This year’s theme is “Women, The Arts, and Activism.” Here is our panel’s info!

Supporting the Scene: Creating and Curating A Feminist Safer Space
Saturday, March 3
4:30–6:30pm
Slonim Living Room
Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY

Feminist collective For the Birds will discuss the ways that gender informs their curatorial and activist practice, and their understanding of “safer spaces,” as well as how their scholarly journeys have been reflected in their own community-building experience.

Find out more about the amazing line-up by visiting the conference’s website.  And don’t forget to register! It’s free!

See you there.

Love,

For the Birds

The Big She-Bang turns 7

Today is the 7 year anniversary of the first-ever BIG SHE-BANG, organized by the Long Island Womyn’s Collective. For a history of the Big She-Bang, check out Beth Puma and Kate Wadkins’ “I Got a Proposition Goes Something Like This: A Brief History of the Big She-Bang.” To see how the festival has changed and grown through For the Birds, check out our archives.