Category History’s Women

History’s Women from 600 B.C. to 1926 A.D.

The progress of women, socially as an individual, politically as a citizen, may be divided into four periods, covering more important part of world history – that is, from about 600 B.C. to the present day (1926). The first and longest period extends through the rise and decay of Greece, the power, decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the invasions of the Northern Barbarians, the Mohammedan Conquests, and the Dark Ages of Europe until about 1000 A.D. During those 1600 years woman has little more than a household drudge, or at best a plaything and ornament for man. She was regarded as of slight social importance, and her political and property rights were very limited. There was little opportunity for her intellectual advancement, and she sat in the background with her children and slaves, while the rude work of the world, the contest between nations, and the struggles of civilization with barbarism, were carried on by the men. There were, indeed, exceptional women like Sappho, the poet, Aspasia, the consort of Pericles, some of the noble Roman matrons, or queens like Cleopatra of Egypt, Zenobia of Palmyra, and occasional learned women like Hypatia of Alexandria. But these superwomen had only a transitionary influence, and the fact faces us that during this first period, the vast majority of women, partly because they had so little chance, and partly because they lacked the mental and executive powers, have left comparatively few records of accomplishment and achievement.

In the second period, the Middle Ages, from the year 1000 to about 1450, Chivalry arose, bringing with it a romantic attitude toward women, giving her a much higher social importance in the estimation of man. Though often idealized beyond her ability to respond, women became a more definite influence in the life of man, and she embraced the opportunity of giving a rough and violent world more character and morality, more grace and refinement of manner, a gentle hand and a loving heart. But her feminine power was only vaguely stirring, and she was still, to a large extent, either the drudge or plaything of man.

During the third period, from 1450 to 1775, woman became thoroughly awakened, and began to make her rightful place in the world’s history, and in the march of human progress. The great events of this period were the invention of printing, the Renaissance, the Spanish Queen Isabella’s encouragement of Columbus, leading to the discovery and settlement of America, the brilliant reign of Elizabeth in England with her patronage of Shakespeare, and the rise of women’s social, artistic and political importance in the French courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV. As an individual and social influence, woman had almost advanced to the side of man, but her intellectual growth was still retarded by limited opportunities for education, while her political power could only be exercised in secret, and she was denied the right to stand beside man and have a voice in regulating or deciding affairs.

The fourth period in woman’s history, extending to the time in which we now live (1923), has completed woman’s enfranchisement in the important civilized countries of the world, and she has at last secured her true position, withheld from her during so many centuries.

The chief factors in bringing about this great event were the American Revolution of 1776, the French Revolution of 1789, and the growth of woman’s education during the nineteenth century.

What woman will do with her power she now possesses, remains to be seen. Probably the chief task that lies before her is to succeed where man has failed – to banish from earth the three great evils that oppress life – war, selfishness, and hate. If women are able to abolish these evils, and substitute peace, justice and love, the men, who have ruled chiefly up to now, will join hands with the women, and the affairs of the world will be mutually directed by both sexes.


Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.

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    Education of Women in the United States

    The period of preparation from 1830 to 1865 was a time marked by a ferment of of new ideas both here and in Europe. In the United States it was a period of Jacksonian democracy and westward expansion, of transcendentalism in literature and thought, of the anti-slavery agitation and the early women’s rights movements. In Europe it was the period of the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, of the emancipation of the serfs in Russia, of the winning of Italian independence, and of wide political, economic, and social reforms in England. In such an age belief in the higher education of women was an outgrowth of other beliefs held to be far more important.


    Catherine BeecherThe substantial beginnings made in the United States are to be fully appreciated only when viewed against the background of the scattering and superficial education commonly given to girls of the day. Emma Hart WillardBefore 1830 Emma Willard and Catherine Beecher had made striking protests against the accepted type of education for girls, and had established schools to carry out their ideas. In 1834 Mary Lyon began her personal campaign throughout Massachusetts for funds with which to establish a seminary of a non-proprietary basis, governed by a board of trustees and buttressed by invested funds, and 1837, the year in which Mount Holyoke Seminary was opened by her, is a significant date in the history of higher education for women.

    From this time on, the founding of seminaries and academies for girls went on apace. The founding of Vassar College in 1865 fulfilled Mary Lyon’s dream and effort of thirty years before. In 1870 Wellesley College was chartered, and a year later Smith College, endowed by the will of Sophia Smith of Hatfield, MA, with nearly $400,000.

    An 1819 a treatise entitled “A Plan for Improving Female Education.” It was an able exposition of excellent ideas and found favor with Governor John Clinton, resulting in the establishment in that year of a seminary for girls at Waterford, NY, which was incorporated and was partially supported by the State. Mrs. Willard removed to Troy, NY, in 1821 where she was presented by the city with a suitable building, henceforth known as the Troy Female Seminary, which served as the Vassar College of New Your State a half century before the establishment of the institution at Poughkeepsie. The seminary not only gave women collegiate education, but it trained large numbers of women teachers. After conducting this school for seventeen years, Mrs. Willard resigned her duties into the hands of her son, and gave herself to educational missionary work. During the years 1845 and 1847 she travelled [sic] 8,000 miles by packet boat, stage coach, and private carriage through the States of the South and West, agitating and counseling in the matter of public education.

    Her European influence extended to the founding of a school for girls in Athens, Greece, and in 1854 she was present at the World’s Educational Convention in London.

    Emma Willard is one of the most prominent figures in the history of higher education for women in the United States. She was not only an advocate of advancement but a practical worker for it, and brought to her task great earnestness of purpose, coupled with high abilities and executive capacity. Her school books were widely used and were translated into European and Asiatic languages. She also wrote some excellent verse, which includes the famous Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep.

    A statue was unveiled to her memory at Troy in 1905.


    Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.


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      The Women Behind the Flag

      The Women Behind the Flag 
      by Patricia Chadwick

      June  14, 2000 marks the 223rd birthday of the U.S. Flag.  In 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes pattern for the national flag.   Often overlooked in the history of the flag are the contributions of  two women who have had a hand in making two of the most important flags in history:  Betsy Ross and Mary Young Pickersgill.

      Over the years there has been much controversy as to who indeed made the first American Flag.  While attempts have been made to disprove it, it is generally accepted by most Americans that the first American Flag was fashioned by Betsy Ross. While there is no historical record of Mrs. Ross being commissioned to make the first flag, there is a strong verbal record, handed down from generation to generation, beginning with Betsy’s own family.

      Tradition holds that about five months later, in June of 1776, Betsy Ross received a visit from a secret committee sent by the Continental Congress that was authorized to design a flag for the nation-to-be.  The committee included George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Colonial Army, Col. George Ross, Betsy’s uncle by marriage, and Robert Morris, a wealthy businessman.  They asked that Betsy make the flag according to a rough drawing they carried with them.  She consented to attempt the work after suggesting  some slight changes, one being a star of five-points instead of six. Washington redrew the flag design in pencil in her back parlor and Betsy spent the next few days sewing the flag in her home.

      When she was finished, she called for the committee who took it to the State House where Congress approved the design.  While the committee had gone to other seamstresses, Betsy Ross’ flag is the one the Continental Congress decided upon, and they gave her a standing order.  She continued making flags for the United States Government for the next fifty years.

      Next we will look at the flag that inspired the “Star Spangled Banner”. While many know the story behind Francis Scott Key penning the beloved “Star Spangle Banner”, not many know the story of the flag that was flown at Fort McHenry that inspired the Key to write the words that would become the National Anthem of the United States of America.  This flag was created by Mary Young Pickersgill.

      Mary Young Pickersgill was born in 1776 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the difficult period of the Revolutionary War.  Her family moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania during the war and later to Baltimore.  There she was married and was widowed.

      Mary took up the trade of flagmaking, needing to support herself and her daughter.  She became quite skillful at the trade and became well-known as a flagmaker. Therefore, during another critical time in U.S. History, she was selected to make the flag for Fort McHenry.  In 1813, Major George Armistead hired Mary Young Pickersgill to sew a flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes, the number of states then in the Union. Anticipating an attack on Fort McHenry by the British during the War of 1812, Major Armistead asked that the flag be made extra large so that it would be plainly visible to the English Fleet.  He had also hoped the large flag would lift the spirits of the Baltimoreans, allowing them to see this flag fly in defiance of the British.

      Mary and  her daughter Caroline, then only a mere 13 years-old, accomplished the task in six weeks. She took great care to make sure the flag was well constructed. The entire flag was sewn by hand with flat felled seams and tight stitching, so it would not come apart in the wind.  It required four hundred yards of wool material and the finished flag measured  30 by 42 feet.  The flag had to be assembled in a nearby malt house, because there was no other place large enough to assemble it.

      This flag was used as the garrison flag of Fort McHenry during the British siege of the fort during the War of 1812.  When Francis Scott Key saw the flag from a ship eight miles down the Patapsco River on September 14, 1814, the flag was still waving in the breeze after twenty-five hours of heavy bombardment by the British.  The British were very discouraged to see it still there, but Key was inspired to write the poem that became the our National Anthem.

      As we celebrate Flag Day this year, let’s take time to remember the great women BEHIND the flag!

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        History of Mother’s Day

        The History Behind Mother’s Day

        All across the world, over 46 countries honor mothers with a special day, but not all nations celebrate on the same day. We honor mothers with cards, candy, flowers and dinner out. But have you ever considered how this became a legal holiday in the United States?

        Mother’s day was first suggested in the United States by Julia Ward Howe, writer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. She suggested that this day be dedicated to peace. Miss Howe organized Mother’s Day meetings in Boston, Mass. yearly.

        In 1877, Mrs. Juliet Calhoun Blakely inadvertently set Mother’s Day in motion. On Sunday, May 11, 1877, which was Mrs. Blakely’s birthday, the pastor of her Methodist Episcopal Church left the pulpit abruptly, being distraught over the behavior of his son. Mrs. Blakely stepped to the pulpit to take over the remainder of the service and called for other mothers to join her. Mrs. Blakely’s two sons were so touched by her gesture that they vowed to return to their hometown of Albion, Michigan every year to mark their mother’s birthday and to pay tribute to her. In addition, the two brothers also urged business associates and those they met while traveling as salesman to honor their mothers on the second Sunday of May. They also urged the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion to set aside the second Sunday of each May to honor all mothers, and especially their own.

        While there were local celebrations honoring mothers in the late 1800’s, it was largely due to the efforts of Anna Jarvis that Mothers Day became a national holiday in the United States. Anna’s mother, Mrs. Anna M. Jarvis, had been instrumental in developing “Mothers Friendship Day” which was part of the healing process of the Civil War. In honor of her mother, Miss Jarvis wanted to set aside a day to honor all mothers, living and dead.

        In 1907, Miss Anna began a campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. She persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate Mother’s day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the 2nd Sunday of May. By the next year Mother’s Day was also celebrated in her own city of Philadelphia.

        Miss Jarvis and her supporters began to write to godly ministers, evangelists, businessmen, and politicians in their crusade to establish a national Mother’s Day. This campaign was a success. By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the official announcement proclaiming Mother’s Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the second Sunday of May.

        The one-woman crusade of Anna Jarvis is often overlooked in History books. Women during the early 1900s were engaged in many other reform efforts that t

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          History of Father’s Day

               In today’s world, Father’s Day seems like a tradition that has been around forever. The truth of the matter is, however, that Father’s Day is a relatively new institution, which became an official holiday only 29 years ago.

          While there is a discrepancy over who was actually the originator of the holiday, both people who are credited with the earliest Father’s Day celebrations were women. While some feel that the first Father’s Day observance was planned by Mrs. Charles Clayton of West Virginia in 1908, popular opinion credits Sonora Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington with the idea.

          Sonora Smart Dodd had lost her mother during the birth of her sixth child. For twenty-one years her father, William Jackson Smart, raised his six children on his own, making all the parental sacrifices that come with raising a family. To Sonora, her father was the perfect example of a selfless, loving, courageous man.

          In 1909, while listening intently to a Mother’s Day sermon extolling the virtues of motherhood, Sonora longed for a way to honor her father for all he had done for her and her siblings. It is then that she came up with the idea of holding a Father’s Day celebration to honor fathers everywhere.

          Mrs. Dodd was able to gain support for a local Father’s Day celebration from the town’s ministers and members of the local Y.M.C.A. The date suggested for the first Father’s Day was June 5, 1910, William Smart’s birthday. However, because of the time needed to prepare for the celebration, the date of the first Father’s Day celebration was moved to June 19, the third Sunday in June. The rose was selected as the flower to be worn in Father’s Day celebrations; the red rose for those whose father was living and the white rose for those whose father had passed away.

          Newspapers across the country that were endorsing Mother’s Day carried stories of the Father’s Day observance in Spokane. Interest in Father’s Day increased and local observances popped up across the nation. The state of Washington made Father’s Day an official holiday that same year.

          Though the holiday was popular as a local celebration in many communities, it wasn’t readily accepted nationally. In 1912, J.H. Berringer, of Washington conducted a Father’s Day service, choosing to wear a white lilac as the Father’s Day flower. In 1915, Henry Meek, president of the Lions Club of Chicago also began promoting Father’s Day celebrations. He gave several speeches around the United States supporting Father’s Day and in 1920 the Lions Clubs of America presented him with a gold watch with the inscription “Originator of Father’s Day”.

          Many famous people supported Father’s Day and attempted to secure official recognition for the holiday including William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, and Calvin Coolidge. In 1916 President Wilson observed the holiday with his own family and in 1924 President Coolidge gave his support to states wishing to hold their own Father’s Day observances believing that widespread observance of the holiday would draw families closer together. In 1957 Senator Margaret Chase Smith lobbied Congress for a national Father’s Day, but it wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day. In 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day to be held on the 3rd Sunday of June.

          Today, Father’s Day is celebrated across the globe. While it is not as widely celebrated as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is the fifth-largest card-sending occasion in America, with over 85 million greeting cards exchanged.


          This article may be re-published as long as the following resource box is included:
          Patricia Chadwick is a freelance writer and has been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. She is currently a columnist in several online publications as well as editor of two newsletters. Parents & Teens is a twice-monthly newsletter geared to help parents connect with their teens. Subscribe at History’s Women is weekly online magazine highlighting the extraordinary achievements of women. Subscribe at


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            The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement

            The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women's MovementThe Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement
            by Laura Swan
            Retail Price $13.56
            Amazon Price: $13.56

            Book Description: 

            The beguines began to form in various parts of Europe over eight hundred years ago, around the year 1200. Beguines were laywomen, not nuns, and thus did not take solemn vows and did not live in monasteries. The beguines were a phenomenal movement that swept across Europe yet they were never a religious order or a formalized movement. But there were common elements that rendered these women distinctive and familiar, including their common way of life, their unusual business acumen, and their commitment to the poor and marginalized. These women were essentially self-defined, in opposition to the many attempts to control and define them. They lived by themselves or together in so-called beguinages, which could be single houses for as few as a handful of beguines or, as in Brugge and Amsterdam, walled-in rows of houses (enclosing a central court with a chapel) where over a thousand beguines might live—a village of women within a medieval town or city. And each region of Europe has its own beguine stories to tell.Among the beguines were celebrated spiritual writers and mystics, including Mechthild of Magdeburg, Beatrijs of Nazareth, Hadewijch of Brabant, and Marguerite Porete, who was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake in Paris in 1310. She was not the only beguine suspected of heresy, and often politics were the driving force behind such charges. Certain clerics defended beguines against charges of heresy, while other women had to go undercover by joining a Benedictine or Cistercian monastery.Amazingly, many beguine communities survived for a long time despite oppression, wars, the plague, and other human and natural disasters. Beguines lived through—and helped propel—times of great transition and reform. Beguines courageously spoke to power and corruption, never despairing of God’s compassion for humanity. They used their business acumen to establish and support ministries that extended education, health care, and other social services to the vulnerable. And they preached and taught of a loving God who desired a relationship with each individual person while calling to reform those who used God’s name for personal gain.

            What strength of spirit protected the lives of these women and their beguinages? What can we learn from them? What might they teach us? The beguines have much to say to our world today. This book invites us to listen to their voices, to discover them anew.


            When I first received this book for review, it really piqued my interest.  I had never even heard of the Beguines before and I really wanted to find out what these ladies were all about.  Author Laura Swan did a fantastic job of researching and relaying their story in a very readable fashion.At the start of the 12th century, some women in Europe lived alone and devoted themselves to prayer and good works without taking vows. At first there were only a few of them, but in the course of the century, their numbers increased. These women lived in towns, where they attended to the poor. During the 13th century, some of them bought homes that neighbored each other, and finally formal living spaces for many women formed a community called a béguinage. Beguinages tended to be located near town centers and were often close to the rivers that provided water for their work in the cloth industry in the Low Countries.

            Beguines were not nuns; they did not take vows, could return to the world and wed if they chose and did not renounce their property. If one was without means, she neither asked nor accepted alms but supported herself by manual labor or by teaching.  Beguinages were not convents. There was no overarching structure and each beguinage adopted its own rule.

            This book brings to our attention a movement of women who wanted to make an difference in their sphere of influence in the Middle Ages.  It was truly inspirational!

            ~Reviewed by Allie B.

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