Tag Archives: Suffrage

International Women’s Day – Make it Happen with Kiva!

centredinternationalwomensday

 

Theme for IWD 2015

Theme for IWD 2015

International Women’s Day 2015 is on Sunday March 8th, with a theme this year of ‘Make it Happen’!  Unable to attend any of the very many events happening across the world, I wondered how I as an individual might ‘Make it Happen’.  No sooner had I begun wondering than an email arrived, announcing that I had received a repayment  on a loan I had made through Kiva. That’s it, I thought! By donating the money I saved through not attending a real live event, I can ‘Make it Happen’ for  women less fortunate than myself. Kiva is a microfunding, not for profit organization that facilitates loans to low-income entrepreneurs and students, male and female, in over 70 countries. It is possible for those of us with limited means to make a difference as the smallest loan amount is  25 USD . Kiva Zip,a sister organization granting interest-free loans to people in USA and Kenya, accepts loans from as little as $5. Ordinarily you will be repaid- it is such a thrill to get an email saying ‘You have received a repayment of 19 cents!’ When your loan is  repaid, you can claim back the money or relend it again to another person or project.  So for International Women’s Day, I have decided to focus my loans on women in underdeveloped countries, to ‘Make it Happen’ for them. Traditionally these women who have incomes, however small, are empowered to change their lives and educate their children, thereby benefiting their entire communities.

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in March 1911. It had its origins in America a few years earlier where women had come together to protest against poor working conditions, resulting in a National Women’s Day being declared by the Socialist Party of America. Subsequently at an International Conference for Working Women in Copenhagen, attended by delegates from 17 countries, and including the first 3 women elected to the Finnish Parliament, a proposal to have a special day each year to focus on women’s issues was met with unanimous approval.

Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark observed the first International Women’s Day in March 1911. More than a million men and women attended rallies in support of women’s right to work, right to vote, right to hold public office. In 1913, Russian women observed International Women’s Day campaigning for peace and in 1914, other European countries joined in.

In 1917, amid great unrest in Russia caused by millions of casualties, terrible food shortages, and with many women removed from farms to work in the factories, International Women’s Day prompted 90,00 workers to strike and the army at Petrograd to revolt. Attempts to end the unrest were not successful and Tsar Nicholas II abdicated some days later. The new provisional government granted universal suffrage with equality for women.

Down the decades, the movement has continued to grow and has become a worldwide event, celebrating social, political and economic changes for women, highlighting inequalities and raising money for charity.  In 25 countries it is an official holiday while in China Madagascar and Nepal it is an official holiday for women only. In many countries from Bangladesh to Guinea, from Vietnam to Iceland, from Afghanistan to Zambia, events will take place on March 8th to mark International Women’s Day. The top 5 countries for International Women’s day activity to mark the centenary on March 8th are the UK, Canada, Australia, the United States and Ireland. Details of events across the globe can be found on the International Women’s Day site here.

What better day to log in to  Kiva and make a small loan to help our sisters across the globe!

Happy Women’s Day!

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Filed under International Women's Day, Ireland, Significant World Events, Social Justice

Mother’s Day and The Battle Hymn of the Republic

John Brown Song. Image from Library of Congress

John Brown, an abolitionist determined to destroy the slavery system in America, led 21 supporters across the Potomac river from Maryland to Virginia, in October 1859. The aim was to seize weapons held at an arsenal in Harper’s Ferry that would  help further their cause to rid America of slavery. Brown’s mission came to an end two days later when the arsenal was stormed by U.S. troops, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee. Ironically,the first person killed by Brown’s men was a free black man named Heywood Shepherd and, of interest to us here in Ireland, the second person to die was an Irishman,Thomas Boerly, a native of County Roscommon who had arrived in the USA in 1844 in search of a better life. John Brown was seriously wounded in the fray and he was tried, found guilty of treason and hanged on December 2 1859. Very soon after his death his memory was preserved by the addition of new lyrics to an already established popular tune that became known as the John Brown Song. The John Brown Song was played in public for perhaps the first time on May 12, 1861 at a flag raising ceremony at Fort Warren, near Boston, very shortly after the start of the American Civil War. The song, better known as ‘John Brown’s Body‘, quickly became a hit in the Union army. New verses were added as its popularity grew, some of which were full of humour and mockery  – such as:

”We’ll feed old Jeff Davis sour apples/’til he gets the diarhee ” was a sung version, which in print became ‘We’ll hang old Jeff Davis /from a sour apple tree”. Apparently social niceties of the time meant that hanging was much more acceptable than mention of bodily functions.

In November 1861, Julia Ward Howe, a writer, poet and herself a social reformer and abolitionist, visited  Washington D.C. to meet with President Abraham Lincoln. While there, she attended a public review of troops at which the John Brown Song was sung. Julia’s companion asked her if she could improve on the rather ‘coarse’ lyrics and pen some words that would be more appropriate for fighting men.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Published 1862

Julia recalled:

‘I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, ‘I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.’ So with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper‘.

And so, on the night of November 18th 1861, the words of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’, full of biblical references, were composed by Julia in a room in the Willard Hotel, Washington D.C . They were first published in the Atlantic Monthly in February of the following year. The song was highly acclaimed and quickly became the anthem of the Union army and the best known song of the Civil War. It has survived down the years  as a very stirring and moving patriotic hymn of the United States, and much loved by people beyond their shores.

Julia had witnessed first hand the horrors of the civil war. As a member of the Sanitary Commission, set up to promote healthy and clean conditions in the camps of the Union Army in an attempt to reduce the numbers dying from infection, she had witnessed the terrible results of conflict – death, disease, maiming, bereavement, poverty, destruction of towns and infrastructure.  She also worked to support and raise funds to help the widows and orphans on both sides.

At the same time, Ann Jervis, a devout church goer and social activist, was also actively involved in bringing relief of suffering to those affected by the war. She had worked tirelessly to try to mend the rift between both sides of the conflict, and when the war ended the tensions between the returning Confederate and Union soldiers in Virgina where she lived were running high. In 1865 she organized a Mothers Friendship Day to bring together soldiers and families of both sides. The event, to the surprise of many who had expected fighting to break out, was a great success and was repeated on an annual basis for some years.

Julia meanwhile used her celebrity status to promote  pacifism and women’s suffrage. As a much sought after speaker she  had a forum for the promotion of peace. In 1870 at the outbreak of another war between France and Prussia  and influenced by the work of Ann Jarvis, she called on women everywhere to come together to oppose war and to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts. Julia issued her Mother’s Day Proclamation and proposed an annual Mother’s Day, honouring Peace, Motherhood and Womanhood. The idea was taken up and the day was celebrated in some cities across the nation for many years, but it was not the great success that she had hoped.

After the death of Ann Jarvis, her daughter Anna Jarvis decided to commemorate her own mother’s memory and began a crusade to have a national day for all mothers. The first such day was celebrated in a church in 1907 where Anne Jarvis as a young woman, had taught Sunday school. The idea spread and soon was being celebrated in 45 states.

Julia died in 1910, at the age of 91. While she is best known as the author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, she is also recognized as a significant contributor to the establishment of a Mother’s Day.

Just a few years after her death, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the first National Mother’s Day and signed a Congressional Resolution declaring that the second Sunday in May would henceforth be a day to honour all mothers.

Julia Ward Howe c. 1861. Image Commons.Wikimedia.Org

Happy Mother’s Day to all readers who celebrate this day in May.  To see my post about Mothering Sunday in Ireland, click here.

References

Eyewitness to History – John Brown

James Fould, 2000. The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk

About.Com Women’s History: Julia Ward Howe

Joseph Barry. The Strange Story of Harper’s Ferry. Accessed at Project Gutenberg 

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Filed under American Civil War, Irish American, Irish Diaspora, Mother's Day, Social Change, Suffrage

Using Your Vote

Today in Ireland we are voting in a general election to elect  people we wish to represent us in the  Dáil.  Voting is something we take for granted.  As citizens of our country,  we are entitled to vote in our parliamentary elections.

That was not always so.  Many readers may be surprised to discover that they were probably personally acquainted with people who did not have the vote in this country, for it was only in 1922 that all citizens over the age of 21 were enfranchised.

From the early 1700’s voting  rights depended on the value of a person’s property holdings and their religion. Certain Protestant property holders with a freehold of 40 shillings (40 shillings = £2 )   were allowed to vote. In 1793 Catholics with a freehold of 40 shillings were included. Then in 1829 all freeholders with a freehold of less than  £10 lost the right to vote. Various reform acts were introduced that extended the eligibility to vote, but it was not until 1918 that  men aged over 21 years  were given the vote in the UK.  (Ireland was a part of the U.K at this time).  Some women over 30 were also given the right to vote at this time, and among those who availed of this franchise was Anna Haslam.  Anna was a Cork born  Quaker and a veteran suffragette aged 89 who, some  40 years earlier had started a women’s suffrage movement. Anna cast her first vote in the 1918 elections.

In 1922 , the Irish Free State constitution extended  the franchise to all citizens over  the age of 21.

As recently as 1967 in Northern Ireland, there were still calls for universal suffrage as the right to vote was still vested in property  ownership, which automatically excluded many poorer people, the majority of whom were catholics.

So  today, when you enter  your Number 1  and perhaps your Number 2  and 3 and 4 and 5 and so on, on  your ballot paper, you might pause to think that a couple of generations ago, you may not have had the privilege.  Your franchise has been hard-won, so use  it well !

You may read more about the amazing  Anna Haslam at this site.

For further reading see :

http://multitext.ucc.ie/d/Suffragette

http://www.progenealogists.com/ireland/freeholders.htm

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Filed under Elections, Right to Vote, Suffrage