April 15 , 2020 I www.ggrwhc.org   I 616-574-7307
Masking Minnie & Unmasking Jane Austen
A Grand Salute . . . continued
Used in January to launch our plans for a year-long centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment, GGRWHC icon Minnie R. Mickel is now masked in solidarity with coronavirus victims, essential workers, and citizens doing their duty by staying home. This woman, whose photo was rescued from a 21st-century garage sale, was so thoroughly forgotten by family that they had guessed her name as “Grace Kelly Freehouse.” 

But she stands with us today as we announce, sadly, that our festive celebration planned for August 26th, 2020, will not occur on the centennial day when universal voting rights became the law of the land. Minnie R. Mickel also stands as reminder that, while we are appropriately masked, we are not muffled. She was forgotten and misremembered, but is now an inspiration for GGRWHC to repurpose its activities for the current environment and continue sharing the early and vibrant history of Grand Rapids women, like Minnie, usually assigned to oblivion in formal twentieth-century city histories. 

To catch up with more women’s history than Minnie’s, you could do worse than to cruise through our archive of hard copy and electronic newsletters !
Women’s History Wednesdays!
Despite the “pinking” of Jane Austen, begun during the 1940s and continued in most movie adaptations today, her work has not only been read by men as well as women, it has been championed for feminist political causes. News flash! Jane Austen was NOT the meek, self-effacing, strictly domestic creature often depicted. In fact, the banner above was carried in a June 1908 parade of the British National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Austen’s name was taken to the streets in the company of other intellectually capable women—this time by “suffragists”! 

The terms “suffragist” and “suffragette” were used in both the US and the UK to specify different periods and wings of their suffrage movements. Today, “suffragist” is generally used of US organizations and individuals; “suffragette,” of the UK. But read on!
Suffrage Sisters Across the Pond
The banner bearers above led a 1908 procession of 10,000 women in response to a challenge from the British Parliament to  prove  that they wanted to vote. For decades the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett , had lobbied for the vote through peaceful, constitutional campaigning: “suffragists.” 

Frustrated, in 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst founded a rival organization, the  Women's Social and Political Union  (WSPU). It was limited to women members and dedicated to suffrage advocacy using "deeds, not words." At first, “suffragette” was used as a derogatory term to insult this more radical group that famously smashed windows, assaulted police officers, and conducted hunger strikes during prison sentences. Later, the WSPU used “suffragette” as a badge of honor.

In summary, we honor the NUWSS “suffragists” for their persistence and increasingly creative tactics, like parading, in the early twentieth century. And we honor the later, bolder tactics of the WSPU for focusing greater attention on the movement and providing a necessary counterpoint to the more conservative movement’s efforts. Still, near the end of WWI in 1918, only women over 30 were enfranchised in the UK. The rest had to wait another decade.
In an upcoming edition of Women’s History Wednesdays, we will focus more on two similar movements in the US. For now we note, that less than a month before her death in 1906, early Michigan “suffragist” leader from Grand Rapids, Emily Burton Ketcham, wrote an admiring letter to British radical Christabel Pankhurst:

"The report which comes to America of your fearless devotion to principle, the consequent stirring events in parliament, and the undeserved suffering of reputable and honored English women who asked only for what President Theodore Roosevelt calls a 'square deal' has touched our sympathy, awakened our admiration for your courage and thrilled us with the possibilities of a common cause."

***Please read more about suffrage history during this lockdown, but be careful. There is a lot of misinformation flying around--and not only about terminology!
Once again, 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 please stay tuned. And, for now, please stay home and stay safe. 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, watch for our monthly features in Women’s Lifestyle Magazine , and click here to receive our hard-copy newsletter and become a supporting member of GGRWHC!
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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Thank you for your interest in preserving and celebrating the history of the many phenomenal women who've helped to shape West Michigan!  If you aren't already a supporter of the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council, consider investing in our work as a volunteer or with an annual donation .  Visit our  website  for more information and the ability to donate online.