09 May 2009

Genealogy & the Women's Suffrage Movement

My blog yesterday discussed the idea that researching only the male lineage in a genealogy was a good thing and my thoughts on that. Today Studmuffin & I spent the day at The Henry Ford. For those of you who are not local The Henry Ford is a wonderful museum located here in Dearborn, Michigan. This museum features history in some of the most astonishing ways. We always enjoy going there, so we have a membership - its a great way to spend a few hours just wandering.

Today we happened to wander into the exhibit on the woman's suffrage. It brought to mind all the hardships that women had to endure prior to women getting the right to vote. To use a saying I saw on a poster in the exhibit, "Women in the 1800's had less rights than a male in a mental hospital." Pretty scary eh?

I found myself wondering about my female ancestors. I wondered, did they support the woman's suffrage movement? I wonder what they thought of those things? Did they say anything about what they believed or how they felt? I know that some of my female ancestors were very strong women, one comes to mind, her name was Elizabeth Wilson, she was my 10th great grandmother. She was quite a woman, and the court records in Surry County, Virginia attest to the fact that she was born way before her time. She was married to Daniell Regan -- read on....

17 Feb., 1676/7. Complaint being made to this Court that one Elizabeth Regan, the wife of Daniell Regan hath several times and in several places fomented many malignant and rebellious words tending to sedition, do hereby order that Samuell Judkins, Constable or his Headborough do forthwith carry the said Regan to the Common Whipping Place, and give her ten lashes on her bare back, well laid on.

Imagine that! A woman speaking her mind in 1676/1677, and this is not the only instance of her speaking her mind and getting into trouble. I imagine had she been around when the woman's suffrage was in process she would have been smack in the middle of the protests!

I guess the reason for my doing this little "excursion" into the past was that the attitude that researching only the male line continues the idea that women really don't count, that we don't matter. Seeing the display today of women being thrown to the ground, being arrested and harassed so that women like you & I can speak our mind, so we can vote - so that we can make a difference -- it really hit home, especially after my blog yesterday.

I can't say for a fact that any of my female ancestors marched in any of the suffrage movement marches or even thought about the suffrage movement, but knowing my strength, and my Independence, I'm sure I got it from somewhere. Knowing that my daughter and future female descendants(if I ever get a granddaughter!) have those rights, and use them sure makes me view those court records from Surry County, Virginia in a bit of different light!

Here's to all my female ancestors - Phyllis, Pauline, Annie, Margaret, Susan, Edna, Flora, Marietta, Jane, Francis, Mary Ann, Sarah, Rebecca, Mollie, Elmira, Margaret, Emeline, Amanda, Ann, Edna, Millie, Parmelia, Rebecca, Caroline, Sarah, Henrietta, Mariah, Hannah, Nancy, Anna, Magdalene and all the rest who came before me - I salute you, I thank you for your contributions to not only to me, but for your contributions to my descendants.

And to anyone who says the female ancestors don't count... GO TELL THAT TO YOUR MOM!

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