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					                    Women Reformers of the 19th Century

Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1811-1896

       Harriet Stowe was born to one of the oldest families in New England and was
reared in the very cultured town of New Haven. Much of her education came from
her brilliant elder sister, Catherine, who had founded a school in Hartford. In 1832
Harriet moved to Cincinnati with her father, who had become President of the Lane
Theological seminary. Catherine joined them and founded a women‟s college in
Cincinnati, in which Harriet served as her assistant.
       For 18 years Harriet lived in Cincinnati, which was separated by only the
Ohio River from a large colony of slaves. It was here that she gathered the material
for the most influential book ever written by this time in America. In 1852 she
published her Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. The immediate
popularity of this book was extraordinary and soon led to its being translated into
twenty-three languages. The book, more than anything else, made slavery a topic
which the public could no longer ignore and clarified the moral purpose of the
subsequent Civil War.
       Stowe followed this book with another, A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which
consisted of documents and testimonials against slavery. She was now in great
demand as a speaker and her engagements included a tour of Europe.
       Her brother, the famous Henry Ward Beecher, founded, in 1857, the Atlantic
Monthly and the newspapers, Independent (New York) and Christian Union, which

offered her a permanent platform for her writing. From this time she also produced
novels and volumes of religious poetry.

Eliza W. Farnham, 19th Century

       The most powerful early voice for women‟s rights in the United States was
Eliza W. Farnham. In her book, Woman and her Era, published in 1864, she
contended that woman was not merely the equal of man, but far his superior. The
following will give some idea of the nature of her book:
              Life is exalted in proportion to the Organic and Functional
       Complexity; Woman‟s Organism is more Complex and her Totality of
       Function larger than those of any other being inhabiting our earth;
       Therefore her position in the Scale of Life is the most exalted -- the Sovereign
              The question of Rights settles itself in the true statement of Capacities.
       Rights are narrowest where Capacities are fewest -- broadest where they are
       the most numerous.... It is plain, then, as between masculine and feminine,
       where the most expanded circle of Rights will be found; and equally plain the
       absurdity of man, the narrower in Capacities, assuming to define the sphere
       of Rights for Woman, the broader.

       It was, in fact, Eliza W. Farnham who first made popular the term,
“Women‟s Rights.”

Malwida von Meyenburg, 19th Century

       Malwida was an outspoken advocate of the rights of the German woman,
whose liberal views caused a break with her own aristocratic family. She strongly
called for economic independence for women, because only an economically
independent woman is free to live according to her convictions, “liberated from the
threefold tyranny of dogmatism, convention and the ignoble bonds of forced

       Malwida was equally insistent on the role of women in the building of the
modern German nation.
               How could a nation regenerate itself and become free, if one-half of it
       is excluded from the careful, all-around preparation which true liberty
       demands for a nation as well as for individuals.

       She was also active in the support of a new university for women which had
been founded in Hamburg, whose aim was to include, “all the sciences which
practical, social and intellectual life in its highest spheres may require on the part of
cultured women.” When the university failed, for financial reasons, she was exiled
and moved to England.

Miss Laura Herford, 19th Century

       It was through the determined efforts of Miss Laura Herford that, beginning
in 1861, women were allowed to receive art education in the Royal Academy in
London. She attended a dinner in 1859 during which Lord Lyndhurst praised the
Academy for the benefits of its teaching. Miss Herford stood up and reminded him
that only half the English subjects profited from this education. This led to a
consideration by the Academy of the possibility of admitting women students, but
they decided not to because they could not imagine male and female students
working together in painting live (nude) studies.
       Failing this, Miss Herford sent one of her works with an application, signing
it “L. Herford.” A return letter, addressed to “L. Herford, Esq.,” admitted the
recipient to the Academy. Thus the question arose, can a woman who was accepted
as a man be allowed to enter? Finally, the Academy gave its approval.

Miss Sophia Jex-Blake, 19th Century

       Miss Sophia Jex-Blake led the 19th century fight to allow women to study
medicine in London universities. Having been denied admittance to the University
of London, she went to court and eventually won the judgment, “Women shall be
admitted to the study of medicine in the university.”
       However, after she and several women enrolled, and were in their third year
of study, the university announced to them that they would not be allowed to
actually obtain a degree, but rather only a “certificate of proficiency.” She went
back to court and in 1876 won the right for all women to become doctors.

Mrs. Gulick, 19th Century

       A Mrs. Gulick, wife of an American missionary at San Sebastian during the
19thh century, played a leading role in promoting the higher education of women in
Spain. She founded and administered a school which, as she said, “proved the
intellectual ability of Spanish girls,” by having graduates advance to the National
Institute and University of Madrid with high success.

Betty Paoli, 19th Century

       Betty Paoli (born Elizabeth Glück) worked to counter the „modern woman‟
movement in Germany during the nineteenth century. In spite of her own unhappy
experience in love, she believed that woman could find happiness only in the faithful
love of one man. She wrote,
              God has not sent me out, and has not given me the strength to aspire
       gloriously with a consecrated hand for the palm of victory. Let him be
       immortalized in marble and in brass who won them: I am nothing but a
       heart that has loved much and suffered much; and all my poetry is but an
       audible revelation of all the quiet pains of which a woman‟s soul is capable.

Maria Edgeworth, 1767 -- 1849

       Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) wrote two novels, Castle Rackrent and The
Absentee, which described in such vivid terms the exploitation of Ireland by English
landlords, that England was stimulated to reform its policies.

Luise Otto, of Meissen, 19th Century

       Luise Otto, of Meissen, Saxony, was a strong 19th century advocate for the
education of women. She called for a national educational system, stressing history
and with the goal being the qualities of “solid moral strength, a religious mind,
German depth of feeling.” She also spoke out against the necessity of a degrading
marriage “for material caretaking only.”

Klementyna Tanska, 1798 -- 1845

       Klementyna Tanska an important Polish writer, was born in Warsaw at a
time when German influence was so strong that she was reared without learning her
native language. In her writings, which were published in 1877, in 12 volumes, she
sought to recreate a sense of the greatness of Poland. She did this by writing
historical studies of famous Polish figures, and of old Polish virtues, all of which
greatly influenced the educational system in Poland. She also wrote of the
responsibilities of Polish women, recognizing that due to the constant wars there
might result a far greater number of women than men.

Elise Orzeszko, born in 1842

       Elise Orzeszko was an influential Polish writer who campaigned for the
absolute emancipation of woman, whom she regarded as superior to man. She also
wrote two novels which had the purpose of improving the conditions of Jews, for
whom she predicted a better future. Her views resulted in her being imprisoned for
a time by the Russian government.

Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815 -- 1902

       Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an important early leader for promoting
women‟s rights. She addressed the New York legislature in 1854 on the rights of
married women and again in 1860 advocating divorce for the grounds of
drunkenness. In the following years she worked in Kansas and Michigan for
women‟s suffrage and in 1868 was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in Congress.

Lucy Stone, 1818 --1893

       Lucy Stone was an important American reformer, anti-slavery and woman‟s
rights leader. After her graduation from Oberlin College, she traveled on lecture
tours with respected eloquence. She founded the Woman’s Journal in 1870 in
Boston and campaigned for women‟s suffrage in a number of separate states.

Susan Anthony, 1820 -- 1906

       Susan Anthony was also an important American reformer. After teaching
school for fifteen years, she founded, in 1852, the first women‟s temperance society
and in the same year became an officer of the American Anti-slavery Society.

       From 1868 she turned her attention to women‟s rights and founded the
weekly paper, The Revolution, whose motto was,
              The true republic -- men, their rights and nothing more; women, their
       rights and nothing less.

The most important of these rights was the right to vote. She was the founding Vice
President of the National Woman Suffrage Association and in the presidential
election of 1872 she voted, which was illegal, and was fined $100.00.

Frances Elizabeth Willard, 19th Century

       Frances Elizabeth Willard had a long term impact on social life in the United
States as the President of the Woman‟s Christian Temperance Union, from 1879
until her death, and as founder of the World‟s Christian Temperance Union.