Quelling Charlottesville Fury Avoids Historic Mistake

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defenseless town massacred

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.

Personal Experience

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.

 

 

Town Where Susan B. Anthony Was Convicted

 Ontario County is celebrating woman suffrage  at a fine exhibit in Canandaigua, NY,  the town where Susan B. Anthony was convicted for voting. It runs until April 1, 2018. In addition to great details about the women who campaigned hard for New York State suffrage, it also contains several beautiful period gowns and a reproduction of a bloomer costume. (To my surprise, the bloomer outfit was calico!)

The exhibit shows how the various cities and towns in New York State voted on its own woman suffrage amendment in 1917, three years before the federal amendment passed. I’m sorry to say that Rochester, the city where Susan lived her last 40 years, voted no. Thank goodness that neither she nor Mary Anthony were living in that year. Fortunately, the majority of the state endorsed the amendment, and it passed.

Susan’s Trial in Ontario County

Susan B. Anthony’s 1873 trial for “voting illegally as a woman” occurred in Ontario County. The museum that houses this exhibit sits just a few blocks away from the courthouse where the judge denied her a trial by jury and found her guilty.

Starting at the museum, I walked downhill past the courthouse toward the shopping district. Browsing the stores, I wondered whether these same buildings lined Canandaigua’s main street when Susan attended her trial. Since it’s about 30 miles away from her Rochester home, she probably stayed overnight . That evening, did she lodge with a friend or keep her nerves to herself in a hotel? Where did she take her meals during the days when her trial was in session?

The courthouse (pictured above during the 19th century) was considerably smaller in 1873 than it is now. I can imagine the number of carriages parked around it as people jammed the courtroom to hear Susan’s lawyer* and the district attorney square off. Even former president Millard Fillmore attended.

After receiving the guilty verdict, Susan stayed in town for a couple more days to witness the trial of the voting inspectors who allowed her to register and cast her ballot. I hope she got at least a glimpse of the beautiful lake at the bottom of the hill. When the inspectors were found guilty and jailed for a week, she made sure they had plenty of visitors and good food to pass the time.

*Henry Selden defended Susan. Interestingly, when Frederick Douglass had to flee Rochester because he was suspected of supporting John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, he borrowed Selden’s horse. Shows just what a good guy Selden was.

Dauntless Book Two, New Character

I am being teased by an elusive character who wants a role in Book Two of The Dauntless Series, and I don’t know what to do with her yet. Perhaps you will have a clue.

I imagine her in Leavenworth–a wild-haired woman dressed in lumpy, mismatched layers. One day she is sitting on a bench watching trains go by. Later she leans against the wall of the general store. One afternoon she enters an empty cafe and gets fed. No money changes hands. A couple weeks later, when she asks for a handout in a different restaurant, the owner tells her to come back after the rush hour. Everyone recognizes her but no one really knows her.

I smell tobacco on her clothes (a disgrace for 19th century women). I hear her humming under her breath and repeating snippets of the conversations around her. She makes pithy observations to herself. When she discovers that Annie has married Daniel, she takes an immediate dislike to both of them. I call her Iris.

Iris is a nuisance. I try to write about Annie, but Iris fills my field of vision. I need to deal with her, but I don’t have enough information. Yet.

How Elusive Character is Connected to the Story

At the end of The Truth About Daniel (Book One of the Dauntless Series), the new Mrs. Anthony leaves her familiar world with a husband she barely knows. When he confesses that there have been other women, she is disappointed but not surprised–after all, he is 40 and she is 20.

I have a feeling Iris wants to tell Annie Anthony something about Daniel’s past, but the message must be teased out of the cryptic one-liners of a wandering mind.

How did Iris get this way? Does Daniel have something to do with her disturbed condition?  Is her hatred of him justified? Or is someone trying to use Iris to destroy Daniel?

If you have any clues about Iris, chime in on the comment section of this blog. Or email me at Jeanne@Verbalimagespress.com. Your insights might give my overworked imagination a rest. Or your inspiration may find its way into Book Two!

 

 

Why She Should Vote: Susan B. Anthony

Last week, Perinton and Pittsford filled the halls to hear my “Failure is Impossible” reenactment of Susan B. Anthony. One of the highlights of that talk is a discussion of her arguments about why she should vote. It was great to have a full house and especially fun to entertain people’s thoughts and questions afterwards. Thanks to everyone who attended!

She probably would not have attempted voting had not the U.S. recently passed two equal rights amendments within the previous decade. Let’s talk about them now.

Today is the anniversary of the 1868 adoption of the 14th amendment,  the one that Susan B. Anthony claimed gave her the right to vote as a woman. Following on the boots of the Civil War, this law amendment gave African-Americans the rights of citizenship and decreed that all citizens should have their rights protected. Two years later, the 15th amendment passed, giving African-Americans the right to vote.

What the Amendments Say

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

However, the fine print said that adult male citizens should be protected; it did not specifically say that adult females should.

The Fifteenth Amendment  to the Constitution prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.

Why Susan B. Anthony Argued That She Should Vote

Studying these two amendments carefully with a noted Constitutional scholar, Susan deduced that they meant this:

  • Under the 14th amendment, she was a citizen and should have her rights protected.
  • The 15th amendment specifically protected her citizen’s right to vote. It did not say that she, as a woman, could not vote.

Unfortunately, as we know, the judge who ruled on her case did not agree with her interpretation, and found her “guilty of the crime of voting as a woman.”

Soon you can read all about it in my newly-revised book, Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All. I’ll be posting order information on this Suffrage Centennial edition of my 1994 biography of Susan.

 

 

 

 

 

New York State VoteTilla Celebration

Celebrating Susan B. Anthony and Woman Suffrage

What an exciting week it was in upstate New York as VoteTilla made its way from Seneca Falls to Rochester. I met up with the canal boats on a gorgeous day in Fairport (my hometown) and had a chance to greet several old friends who were traveling with the fleet in costume.

In addition to all the excellent programming done by VoteTilla itself, the libraries and town historical societies put on wonderful programs, including debates, author signings, children’s activities, and more. I had the privilege of presenting my reenactment of Susan B. Anthony to full houses at both the Fairport and Pittsford libraries. Thanks to all those who attended and asked great questions! And special thanks to Vicki Masters Profitt and Mary Ann

August Programs:

  • Saturday, August 12, Arnett Branch Library, “Failure is Impossible,” noon
  • Tuesday, August 29, 2017 Pittsford Seniors Lunch, “Failure is Impossible,” noon

 

 

Susan B. Anthony comes to life at VoteTilla

Join me as I portray Susan B. Anthony as part of the Votetilla celebration next week! Bring your school-age kids for living history!

Votetilla is a weeklong celebration of New York State’s ratification of the 19th (Susan B. Anthony) Amendment in 1917. I love that this event actually occurs on boats on the Erie Canal, since that is how the Anthony family arrived in New York State in 1845.

How Votetilla Works

Sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House and numerous other organizations, the boats get underway in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of women’s rights, and stop in numerous canal towns (including Fairport and Pittsford). After disembarking in Rochester, It culminates with a festive street parade to the Susan B. Anthony House on Madison Street.

I enjoy re-enacting Susan and have been doing it for more than 20 years, ever since I volunteered at her house as a docent. This talk covers the highlights of her life including her illegal vote and trial and her relationship with Frederick Douglass. Enjoy the talk against a wonderful backdrop of  authentic 19th century images.

Centennial Edition of Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All

In 1994, I published a children’s biography of Susan by the name of Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All. Watch this space for a special centennial edition with updates to commemorate the 19th amendment granting women the vote across all the states in the U.S.

Male Counterpart of Susan B. Anthony?


How similar was Susan B. Anthony to her brother Daniel? Why should serious students of our famous suffragist take note of him?

Despite the times Daniel went on trial for murder during a street fight, suffered court-martial, and was accused on horse-stealing, Susan admired her oldest brother D.R.. According to her authorized biography by Harper, (p. 1339),

She had the most profound admiration for his commanding intellect, his business ability, his courage, aggressiveness and determination, and a strong pride in his achievements and the place he had made for himself in the history of his adopted State. But far deeper than this was her love for him because of his long years of devotion to her . . . . She felt that always and under all circumstances she could depend on him for whatever she needed….

Did she always feel that way? When I consider that she she made this comment about him late in life, I have to wonder. There were surely moments when she agonized at the scrapes he got into during his younger years. (For example, there was no way to excuse his horse thefts.) Remember that Harper wrote this shortly after D.R.’s death at the age of 80. By then, Susan had the accumulated wisdom and tolerance of hindsight.

Two Apples From the Same Family Tree

Susan’s affection and respect for her brother Daniel Read Anthony demonstrates why he deserves more than a nod from people with a serious interest in the famous suffragist. Yes, they had many differences. He was male, she female. He married, while she remained single. He made his home in Leavenworth, KS while she made hers in Rochester, NY. He had a terrible temper while she could be quite diplomatic. Nevertheless, reflecting Susan’s generous viewpoint in old age, Harper sweeps away all these contrasts with this comparison of the two siblings:

He was much more like her than was any other member of the family and their similarity of characteristics had long been a matter of public comment. (ibid)

 

Taking Harper at face value, she implied the following: if you want to know a male counterpart of Susan B. Anthony, look to Daniel Read Anthony.

Some readers will be aghast at this comparison. Comments?

 

Historical fiction: when the research trail goes cold

Last time we discussed two kinds of historical fiction:

  • historical-era fiction that uses a few props from a previous timeframe as a general backdrop for fictional characters, and
  • fact-based historical fiction that contains authentic details from books, newspapers, and artifacts that reference real people who lived and breathed. This type of writing also brings in popular social movements, architecture, music, literature, technology, and fashion. Moving beyond the available printed materials, I also love to walk the actual streets where my characters spent their days.

Balancing Truth and Imagination in Historical Fiction

One I’ve done the research and mapped out the known events, it’s time to weave in some imaginary details. Here are two examples of when I fictionalize:

  • The trail goes dry and I am left with gaps. I know that a character arrived at a certain place and time–for example, D.R. Anthony married Anna Osborn on Martha’s Vineyard in 1864– but have no idea how or why. So I fashion a courtship that is plausible, based on what I know of his character, preferences, current interests, and financial situation.
  • The factual record gives too many examples of certain activities in a character’s life and none of other important aspects. For example, although D.R. Anthony was involved in several major fires and numerous shootouts, I do not report every one of those episodes. If I did, there would be no room to develop his life as a family man or strong supporter of his sister Susan’s activities. (She frequently used his home as a base to campaign for woman suffrage.) To round out the picture of the man’s everyday, private life, it behooves me to fill in the cracks of reported events with snippets of pure fiction. However, even in these most creative moments I try to match documented thought and speech patterns.

For another take on this fascinating genre of literature, click here.