Jessie: In New Hampshire feeling grateful for handknit wool socks.
Since March is Women’s History Month I wanted to ask each Wicked which is her favorite historical female figure and why?
Edith: So many women to choose from, so little time! I’m going with Lucretia Coffin Mott. A nineteenth century Quaker born on Nantucket, she was a leader in both the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements. At a hundred pounds and barely five feet tall, she founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and also co-wrote the Declaration of Sentiments in 1848 for the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, which ignited the fight for women’s suffrage. She risked life and reputation living as a risky Friend even while raising five children. I can only wish to be so brave.
Liz: As a former journalist I’ve always been fascinated by Nellie Bly, the investigative journalist who went undercover in a mental institution to expose abuse and mistreatment. She was a pioneer in the investigative journalism field, and her book about what happened on Blackwell’s Island caused major reform.
Julie: Liz, your post brings Ida B. Wells to mind–another reporter, civil rights activist and amazing woman. For so long, too long, women’s stories (and stories of people of color) have not been part of the narrative, so I love this topic. Abigail Adams was an amazing woman, close advisor to her husband John, mother of John Quincy. When I was very young I read a biography of Deborah Sampson, a woman who disguised herself as a man so she could fight in the Revolutionary War. BTW, the History Chicks is a great podcast on this subject.
Jessie: One of my favorites is Victoria Woodhull. She ran for POTUS before women had won the right to vote. She opened the first female owned stock brokerage in the history of the nation. She fought for reproductive rights for women in a time when printing educational information about contraception was considered immoral and by the Comstock Law illegal. But she wasn’t a saint, by any means. She was a con artist and a grifter who was not above using any means necessary to further her own interests. She was complex, whip-smart and someone I wish I oculd have met. I highly recommend a book about her life and that of her beloved sister Tennie, The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suggrage and Scandal in the Gilded Age by Myra MacPherson.
Sherry: I’m going with Louisa May Alcott. I read Little Women while I was in elementary school and immediately fell in love. After we moved to Massachusetts visiting Orchard House, where Louisa lived the longest, became one of my favorite things to do. While Louisa is widely know for Little Women she wrote thirty books. She also was a nurse during the Civil War and adopted May’s daughter after May died. When Louisa was fifteen she vowed to save her family from poverty and she did.
Barb: I am loving “Overlooked,” The New York Times column telling the stories of accomplished people who didn’t receive obituaries in the Times when they died. Many of them were women and/or people of color. They are almost uniformly fascinating. People truly are amazing. Given my previous life working in software startups, I find myself most drawn to the stories of female entrepreneurs. Here are two of them.
- Mary Ellen Pleasant was born into slavery. She said she wrote the note found in John Brown’s pocket when he was hanged, and she contributed $30,000–$900,000 in today’s money–to fund the attack on Harper’s Ferry. And that’s just a small part of her remarkable life. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/obituaries/mary-ellen-pleasant-overlooked.html
- Bette Nesmith Graham was an artist who earned a living as an executive secretary. She combined those skills to invent Liquid Paper, and built the company that produced it until she sold it to Gillette for $47.5 million. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/obituaries/bette-nesmith-graham-overlooked.html
Readers, which historical female figure do you most admire?