The story of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass packed a full house tonight, the opening of “The Agitators.” Rochester’s famous reformers really showed their mettle at this fine play at GEVA Theater. Actors Madeleine Lambert and Cedric Mays delivered the pair’s famous arguments with conviction and humor against a massive timeline that resembled the double arches of the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge in Rochester.
“Agitation is the spark of all change”
This is one of my favorite quotes from the play, and served as the theme to portray the lifelong friendship between these reformers. Especially moving were the scenes where the pair toured Frederick’s burned-out home; where they fought over the enfranchisement of black men before women; and where he begged Susan not to hold a women’s rights convention in a southern state where black women were not welcome.
Personally, I enjoyed the proslavery mob scene and the final vignette about Ida Wells, which both figured prominently in my book Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All.
Want to read more about these two revolutionaries? Get your own copy of this easy read that portrays Susan’s entire life. Great for students, too!
John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry shook the Anthony family’s roots when on this day in 1859 he broke into a federal arsenal in Virginia and was captured.
Lucy and Daniel Anthony had raised Continue reading
It’s so rewarding when a professional book reviewer “gets” the book that you’ve worked on for several years. That happened recently when Midwest Book Review praised The Truth About Daniel. And to celebrate, we made the book available on Kindle! Click here to get a copy on your own device. And PLEASE review it. Reviews convince Amazon that it’s worth publicizing.
Here’s what Midwest had to say:
Jeanne Gehret became acquainted with Susan B. Anthony’s family in 1992 when she docented at the reformer’s house museum. After writing Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All in 1994, she curated an exhibit at the Rochester, NY museum and began portraying Susan in costume. She blogs at http://SusanBAnthonyFamily.com
In “The Truth About Daniel” she turns her talents to writing the first volume of what promises to be an impressively entertaining new series of historical novels called ‘The Dauntless”.
Annie Osborn was fascinated by everything about Daniel Read Anthony including his service as a Civil War colonel who battled slavery; his courage and endurance settling the wild West; and his family ties to Susan B. Anthony, Annie’s own heroine. Nevertheless, she has doubts about his suitability as a husband. Did he risk his life for unselfish reasons or because he enjoyed danger?
From the fiery conflict of Kansas to the prim parlors of Martha’s Vineyard, “The Truth About Daniel” portrays lovers who forge new bonds through their willingness to take chances as author Jeanne Gehret deftly weaves historical strands about D.R. Anthony to delve into his improbable choice of a bride, a socialite half his age from the whaling capital of Martha’s Vineyard.
As a novelist, Jeanne Gehret has a genuine flair for deftly creating memorable characters and embedding them into an original and consistently entertaining story. The descriptive writing brings a bygone era in American History to vivid life. An impressively crafted and consistently entertaining read from beginning to end, “The Truth About Daniel” is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library Historical Romance collections and the personal reading list of the dedicated Antebellum romance fan.
In Charlottesville young white nationalists tossed verbal grenades against blacks and Jews that quickly exploded into injury and death. Sadly, it coincided with the August 1863 Lawrence Massacre, which I discussed in my last post. Then, a band of racist ruffians killed 180 men and boys. Unlike this month, the 1863 officials made a historic mistake by upping the ante on revenge.
They may have felt justified in attacking Lawrence. After all, the two states had been duking it out on their common border for almost a decade in the escalating conflict over slavery. Those who launched the Lawrence Massacre wanted revenge. And they got it. But like the young demonstrators of Charlottesville, they didn’t bargain for all that they received.
In the wake of Charlottesville, other cities are hastening to remove their Civil War statues to preclude more violence. If what the nationalists really wanted was their statues and their symbolism, they ended up worse than they started.
Upping the ante on revenge
The Missouri ruffians’ satisfaction, like that of the marchers in Virginia, must have been short-lived. On August 25, 1863, General Ewing retaliated by issuing the infamous Order No. 11, which authorized the depopulation of the Missouri farmland where the Confederate raiders resided, foraged and took shelter. Not only that, but Union soldiers burned the very land. They, too, got worse that they gave.
Who started it?
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act (drafted by Senator Stephen Douglas and President Franklin Pierce) decreed that the Kansas Territory could decide by popular vote whether it entered the Union as a slave or free state. Whenever a vote was taken, proslavery Missourians squatted on the land and stormed the ballot boxes.
In response, eastern abolitionists (including D.R. Anthony) emigrated to the territory, founding an abolitionist stronghold at Lawrence. Anthony later led Jennison’s Jayhawkers to defend Kansas and conduct counter-raids on Missouri.
You could say that the ill-conceived Kansas-Nebraska Act began the border wars in Kansas and Missouri, which escalated into a nationwide Civil War. Let us hope that our legislators respond more wisely than Stephen Douglas and Franklin Pierce in laying down decisions with far-reaching effects. And that those involved in Charlottesville realize that violence begets violence, and that everyone loses.
As a nation, we should treat Charlottesville as a warning and do what we must to heal before it escalates into a tragedy on the scale of the Lawrence Massacre and Order No. 11.
Click here to read more about the artist and painting above.
A band of 400 proslavery ruffians–many teenagers–led by a madman named Quantrill conducted the Lawrence Massacre in 1863 in Kansas on this day. Most of the the town’s men were off fighting for the Union. As a result, 180 died and the town became ashes.
Daniel Read Anthony knew the town of Lawrence like his own child because he helped to establish it. Therefore, he suffered its loss. In this excerpt from The Truth About Daniel, he visits just a few days after the attack:
Early on their fourth day in Lawrence, D.R. and Chas rode by the homestead of Martin Townsend, a farmer from Vermont who had settled in ’fifty-four. They found him pouring water from a bucket into a stone trough for a pair of oxen.
“Marty!” D.R. hailed him before swinging down from the saddle.
As the man turned, D.R. took in his friend’s face covered with grime and a four-day stubble. He asked Townsend how he had escaped.
“The day before the raid, I took my team a few miles outside of town to help my cousin. On my way home, I saw the town on fire and heard that Quantrill was singling out men old enough to bear arms. So I hid in the ravine where raiders wouldn’t go.
“I felt like a coward leaving my wife and children inside, but how would they have farmed if I turned up dead?” His house was ablaze, he said, but he was relieved to see his family out front. He gestured to a crude tent partially supported by a scorched tree. “We all survived, thank God, but this is all I have left of my home.”
D.R. wanted something to do, but there were no tools, not even an extra bucket. “Apparently Quantrill’s raiders didn’t come to fight, but to murder and steal.”
“They never would’ve gotten away with it if so many of our men weren’t off to war.”
“So what happened when the army finally did come?” asked Chas.
Townsend leaned on his shovel and gestured toward the road. “The ruffians turned tail and ran south. Cavalry followed them right through town and out again.”
D.R. pictured how he would’ve handled the operation. The Jayhawkers and the Seventh Kansas were trained to grip their horses with their knees and shoot with both hands at once. Having faced Quantrill’s raiders in Missouri, he knew many of them to be teenagers with no training at all. At least the army will have extracted its toll on them, he consoled himself. Hopeful of a good report, he asked, “How many did Quantrill lose?”
Townsend sighed deeply. The anger blazing from his eyes contrasted with his dusty face. “One,” he replied.
“One!” roared D.R. “They caused all this damage and got away with only one casualty? What the hell was the army doing?”
Next time: Read how the Lawrence Massacre of 1863 fueled a Union retaliation.
Read more about this fateful day in Lawrence at History.com.
Susan LaFlesche Picotte, a Nebraska doctor and and reformer, had credentials that wowed me and reminded of Susan B. Anthony. Google saluted her yesterday; Continue reading
Why was D.R. Anthony so fiercely abolitionist? Events such as the following would have fueled his anger. Today’s post gives us a typical example of how proslavery forces treated John Brown, an antislavery man whom Anthony revered and probably knew. (D.R.’s brother Merritt had fought with Brown several years earlier in southern Kansas.)
Living only 25 miles away from the following tense encounter between a proslavery posse and Brown, Anthony might have stood with the guards who protected the famous hero. Even if Anthony didn’t, he certainly would have followed the news with as much anxiety as did New Hampshire emigrant Julia Louisa Lovejoy, whose letter back east gives us this riveting account.
For the death of John Brown, the Missouri governor and others offered $5,500. Lured by this “bait,” Lovejoy reported, a pro-slavery posse headed by Marshal J.P. Wood tracked “our champion” (Brown) to a cabin where the abolitionist holed up with a dozen African-Americans.
This cabin he had strongly barricaded, and told his pursuers “he would never yield, neither would he be taken alive.” The Marshal and his force surrounded the cabin and ordered Brown to “surrender!” Brown replied, “Come and take me.” The officer dared not undertake the job, and one hundred more like him could not capture those indomitable spirits that well knew what would follow if they were taken prisoners.1
A stand-off occurred. Brown’s group, armed with Sharpes rifles, was guarded by a company of twenty-five antislavery supporters. Giving voice to the bodyguard, Lovejoy wrote, “Take care, sir, if one gray hair on that venerable head is singed, your whole party will be riddled with balls!”
The Marshal’s posse sent for reinforcements to Atchison (about four miles away) and rumored that two cannons would soon arrive to explode the cabin. In an oddly turned phrase, Lovejoy wrote that United States Army troops who engaged in “pretended pursuit” seem to have sufficiently distracted the posse, during which time:
Brown sallied forth and took three of the Atchison men prisoners (one of them, it is affirmed, he recognized as the miscreant who shot his own son, F. Brown, at the “Ossawottamie battle.”) He also took four of their horses that they had secreted in the timber, and then with his freed slaves and party pulled for Iowa, taking prisoners and horses along with him!
Thus Brown escaped from Kansas in February 1859, just eight months before his fateful raid on the arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, WV. In a summary of this western event, Lovejoy correctly predicted the manner of Brown’s death, saying, “We fear now that Brown and his party will be intercepted by an overwhelming force, but he cannot be captured alive.” “
Photo courtesy of Kansas Historical Society
- Bell, Sarah. “Lovejoy, Julia Louisa” Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854-1865. The Kansas City Public Library. Accessed Mar, 31, 2017 at http://www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/encyclopedia/lovejoy-julia-louisa
During the Civil War, Union Spy Elizabeth Van Lew lived in Richmond, VA, the very heart of the Confederacy. A wealthy churchgoing woman, she cited simple compassion for prisoners as her reason for visiting Libby Prison, six blocks from her home. Meanwhile, she was was exchanging valuable war secrets disguised in the soles of shoes and casserole dishes with secret compartments.
Even her rebel sister-in-law and neighbors did not realize she was against the politics of her city.