June 3 , 2020 I www.ggrwhc.org  I 616-574-7307
Women Fighting for Justice
Recent events evoke historical episodes of struggle against economic and political inequities in the American past. For the same reason that we have been looking to the flu pandemic of 1918 for lessons how to address the new coronavirus outbreak in 2020, we look to the past in this issue of Women’s History Wednesdays for context into which to place today’s protests, both peaceful and violent. 
First, substituting for year-long in-person acknowledgements, we rededicate ourselves to the virtual celebration of the long and costly battle of over 70 years for the Nineteenth Amendment. Today it is easy to forget the decades of petitions, protests, lobbying, and arrests on the way to a constitutional guarantee of the universal right of the vote for all citizens. 

Please honor the women and men who struggled against government policy and prejudice for this right—and use the resources on our suffrage history landing page as a start toward a deeper and broader awareness of the history of this particular struggle, on local and state stages, as well as the national.
Last week we unveiled the Women Legends Walking Tour , a look at downtown women’s history in bronze. Today we’re back to report that we missed a site, one pertinent to today’s theme. Meet the Spirit of Solidarity!
Spirit of Solidarity , statue
This monument commemorates the Grand Rapids Furniture Strike in 1911, when more than 6,000 workers walked out of fifty Grand Rapids furniture factories, protesting pay and working conditions. Our focus for the tour was on public representations of specific historical women from our city’s history—as opposed to sculptures of blind Justice gracing the tops of court houses. The woman featured in the Spirit of Solidarity sculpture is not an allegorical figure, but she is not a specific historical woman either. She represents the women of the movement, generally identified as wives in 1911, even though there also were women working in the city’s factories at the time. 

Visit the sculpture in its new home , and take a walk for women’s history! 
book cover, Strike: How the Furniture Workers Strike of 1911 Changed Grand Rapids
The 1911 clash between the furniture industry and its labor force had been coming for decades and brought the city to a standstill for four months. Scroll down for information about Viva Flaherty, supporter of the labor movement. For a compilation of resources about the strike itself, read on here .
Women’s History Wednesdays!
Although at Central High School in Grand Rapids Viva Flaherty had been a member of the Junior Suffrage Club, in her later life she dedicated herself wholly to corollary struggles, ones that she perceived as more pressing.
Viva Flaherty
Raised by first-wave feminists, Viva Flaherty (1884-1968) reinvested her Progressive Era education at Vassar College and the University of Michigan directly in the cause of social welfare and reform. In 1903 she took a position at the Bissell Settlement House in Grand Rapids. After work in New York with newly arriving immigrants, Flaherty took a position back in Grand Rapids as social outreach secretary at Fountain Street Baptist Church. She quit her job during the Furniture Strike of 1911 to protest church support for factory owners against labor demands, and then documented “facts hitherto unpublished” in a 29-page booklet.
book cover, History of the Grand Rapids Furniture Strike with Facts Hitherto Unpublished
She begins, “A strike is a public matter, and if the people are to know how another is to be avoided they should know all the inside facts of this one.” Her booklet documents daily wages (less than $2/day, even after prices of products had increased over 10%) and the consequences of protest prior to the strike. Take a look!
Viva Flaherty, standing triumphantly on a large rock
Viva Flaherty was not afraid to address difficult and unpopular situations, or to stand alone. She stood for labor, and then stood against American entry into World War I—which should not be confused with World War II. Protesting what she saw as unnecessary American military adventurism, Flaherty tested the 1917 Espionage Act and was arrested for handing out pamphlets informing men of their rights concerning the draft and the imperialist nature of the war. She was the only woman in a group tried for conspiring against the federal government—and found not guilty. 
Hats off to a woman with the courage of her convictions, Viva Flaherty!
  REMINDER of Annual Meeting!
Virtual annual meeting on Monday, June 8th, at 5:30 pm – watch for fuller Zoom instructions and a live link to the meeting to be sent on Sunday, June 7th to your mailbox! Anyone who has sponsored us financially is, according to our bylaws, a “member” and entitled to vote on board business. Join now, meet with us on the 8th, and participate in the election of this year’s board nominees! Read about nominees here ~
GGRWHC’s program year honoring the 19th Amendment centennial has been interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. We regret especially the loss of the August 26th celebration, but stay tuned. And, for now, please stay safe and exercise safely. Celebrate with the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council virtually and in print!

Watch for Women’s History Wednesdays via this electronic newsletter, follow us on Facebook, find our monthly features in  Women’s Lifestyle Magazine , and sign up for our hard-copy newsletter, if you haven’t already – at ggrwhc.org!
Stay home and stay safe--but celebrate with us virtually and in print! 
GGRWHC |   www.ggrwhc.org   | 616-574-7307
Hats off to the historical women who have shaped West Michigan!
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