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The political conscience of First Lady: promoting women's rights in personal letters to her President

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Women in Politics Abigail Adams 1744-1818 Abigail Adams was the wife of one president and wife of another. She was not just a mother and a wife, she was also very concerned with politics. Abigail often corresponded with her husband through letters, as they were often separated. The most famous of these letters was entitled Remember the Ladies. In this letter, Abigail advocated women’s rights to her husband. She urged him to push the removal of legal codes which discriminated against women, lift laws that denied women their property rights, and pushed for womens liberation. Abigail will always be remembered as one of the first female activists. Fanny Wright 1795-1852 Fanny Wright was the first American woman to speak publicly against slavery, and for the equality of women. In 1852, she published an article which stated a plan for the gradual emancipation of slaves. She also established a settlement in Tennessee, which trained slaves for freedom. Wright did not live by the standards of society, she was a free thinker, who, long before her time believed in equality for all.

Courageous throughout her life, her tombstone in Cincinnatti reads I have wedded the cause of human improvement, staked on it my fortune, my reputation and my life. Susan B. Anthony 1820-1906 & Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815-1902 Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked together for the cause of anti-slavery and women’s rights. In 1869, they formed the National Womens Suffrage Association, through which they hoped to spread their ideas, and eventually gain the right to vote. Through pamphlets, posters, and other literature they gained many female supporters . Anthony and Stanton were some of the first women to fight for their rights. Their work and life has made it possible for women to vote and held up the principle that God created men and women as equals. Harriet Tubman 1820-1913 Harriet Tubman was a slave, who in her youth escaped to freedom. Tubman became a radical abolitionist, and formed the Underground Railroad. The Railroad helped thousands of slaves in the south escape to freedom. Harriet alone was responsible for helping more than 300 of these escapees. When slavery was outlawed after the American Civil War, Tubman devoted herself to helping form black schools, fighting for women’s rights, and caring for orphans. She will always be remembered for her efforts in the fight for equality.

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Martha Wright Griffiths 1912- Martha Wright Griffiths, throughout her career ( legislator, judge , Congresswoman, Lt. Governor, attorney) has fought to gain and preserve Civil Liberties. She entered Congress in 1955, and was best known for adding sex discrimination as a prohibited act in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many say she has opened the door for gender equality. Griffiths also worked for positive changes on behalf of Social Security and education. Now retired, she is held in high esteem by her colleges for her determination and commitment to equal treatment for all. Sandra Day OConnor 1930- Sandra Day OConnor has always been interested in politics in 1965, at the age of 35, she began her term as assistant attorney general in Arizona. During the next 15 years, she began to climb the political ladder in that state. By 1980, she had become a judge for the Arizona Court of Appeals. One year later, on July 7, 1981, she was nominated by president Ronald Reagan to fill a position on the United States Supreme Court. In September of that year, she became the 102nd Supreme Court Justice, and its first female member. Her votes are generally conservative, but she is a determined woman who blazed new trails for her women. Geraldene Farraro 1935- Geraldene Farraro started her career as an attorney and a teacher, but in 1978, she was elected into Congress from New Yorks 9th District. In Congress she served as a womens and human rights advocate, working for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and the Womens Economic Equity Act. In 1984, she was picked to run as Vice President on the Democratic Party ticket, with Walter Mondale as the Presidential Candidate.

Although they did not win that year, Geraldenes nomination will undoubtably open doors for women in the future. Kathleen Hanna 1969- While attending school at Evergreen State College in Washington, Kathleen Hanna was moved by a professors comment that likened women to slaves. From that day on she has been active politically and socially concerning any and all feminist issues. Kathleen later formed the punk rock band, aptly named Bikini Kill. Through the bands message of feminism and equality, she attracted thousand of young female followers across the country known as riot girls. In the early 90s Kathleen urged women everywhere to stand up for their rights, and held several protest rallies. Kathleen and her supporters also lobbied Congress on such issues as sexual harassment in the work place.

Although the band Bikini Kill has broken up, their international success has spread her message of feminism to thousand of young females worldwide. Hillary Rodham Clinton 1947- Hillary Clinton is not only the current 1st Lady, throughout her life she has made incredible contributions to education and reform. In 1973, she worked for the Arkansas Children’s Defense Fund, and later founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She has also made contributions to the Arkansas School systems, and is responsible for instituting programs for underprivileged families. In 1994, the President appointed her to head the Task Force on National Healthcare reform. She recently won a seat in Congress from New York state and will continue her contributions through that forum.


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