This week’s featured Woman of History was a reader suggested choice. Mary Bowser was a civil war spy, missionary and educator. Unfortunately she is also a mystery.
This week we are going have a double feature, the first two women to ever serve in the US Senate: Rebecca Felton and Hattie Caraway. Women having the right to vote was passed with the 19th amendment to the constitution in 1920, but it would be quite a while before women started taking office in the highest offices in the government. In fact, Rebecca Felton was appointed to be a Senator for a day in 1922, but Hattie Caraway, the first woman to be elected to the Senate was sworn in November 1931, almost a full decade after Rebecca served her day.
Several of the next female Senators would be widows of Senators who died in office. The first time more than 2 women served at once wouldn’t be till the 1990s. Even in the current congress, women only make up 22 percent of the elected body. Only 29 states have ever had a female senator, and only 51 women have ever served in Congress. The current congress is actually the highest percentage ever of women.
Rebecca Felton was born Rebecca Ann Latimer on June 10, 1935. She grew up in Decatur, Georgia with three siblings. Her father was a general store owner and merchant, and was able to afford to send his daughter to live with relatives in Madison so that she could attend Methodist Female College, where she graduated at the top of her class in 1852 at 17. The college at the time was set up to provide a foundation education for the women who would one day be the wives of the businessman and planters. However, the war between the states would soon see the educational facility closed down.
A year later Rebecca married William Felton and moved with him in Cartersville, Georgia. William was, like her father, a planter and owned a plantation. Her experiences during the civil war, both as a resident of Georgia who saw the results of Sherman’s march and her life as a slave owner influenced her later political life. She saw slavery as mainly economical, a investment. However, she felt that she would have rather have given up ‘domestic slavery’ then have seen the detriment of the war on Georgia.
After the war,both she and her husband became more politically active. Rebecca herself focused on prison reform and women’s suffrage. However, she was not a intersectional feminist by any means. She pushed against the right to vote for black citizens, claiming education and voting would lead to more black crime. She was in favor of lynching and was otherwise a supremacist in attitude.
Her time in the senate arrived as an appointment. in 1922, Sen. Thomas E. Watson died. The governor of Georgia, Thomas Hardwick, decided to appoint Rebecca as a placeholder till a special election could take place. However, congress didn’t meet again until after the special election was held. Hardwick had been running for the position, but ended up losing to Walter F. George. George decided to allow Rebecca to be sworn in on November 21, 1922. She was the Senator from Georgia for 24 hours, as George was sworn in on November 22.
Rebecca continued her activism after she left office. She passed away on January 24, 1930 at the age of 94. It would be another year before another woman would take office in the US Senate.
Hattie Caraway would be the first woman elected into the Senate, but like Rebecca it would start as an appointment.
She was born Hattie Ophelia Wyatt on February 1, 1878 in Bakersville, Tennessee. Like Rebecca, she was the daughter of a farmer who owned a store. The family as a whole moved to Hustburg when she was four. She would remain there till her college years when she would transfer from Ebenezer College to Dickson Normal College where she would earn her bachelors of Arts degree in 1896.
She went on to teach for about eight years prior to her marriage to Thaddeus Caraway. She had met Thaddeus in college, but the pair didn’t marry until 1902. The pair would move to Jonesboro, Arkansas with their three children and set up a legal practice for Thaddeus and cotton farm.
In 1912, the couple made a second home in Maryland after Thaddeus was elected to the US House of Representatives for Arkansas. He would hold that position for 9 years before he was elected senator in 1921. In 1931, Thaddeus died suddenly from a blood clot while the couple was back home in Arkansas. The governor decided to appoint Hattie to hold the seat till an election could be held. She won the special election to finish out her husband’s final term. She won an election on her own right in 1932, and then proceed to hold her seat until 1945.
During her time in office, she became the first woman to preside over the Senate, to chair a committee and to win a re-election. She was given the responsibility of presiding over the senate twice. Once in 1932 (although it was not officially noted down) and again in 1943. She was a great supporter of Franklin Roosevelt and his new deal programs, although she, like Rebecca before her, was against any anti-lynching bill. She was focused on issues dear to her state, requesting to serve on the agricultural committee. She earned a reputation as “Silent Hattie” for her lack of speeches made on the floor. She tended to reserve her opinions for committee meetings and rallies instead.
After loosing her re-election campaign in 1944, she served both Roosevelt and Truman on their Employees’ Compensation committees. She suffered a stroke in early 1950 while still serving on the Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board , and died later that year on December 21.
Country Life in Georgia – Rebecca Felton (Ebook available free from Google Play)
Author’s Note: Catherine’s name in Russian (in English) is spelled in two ways: Yekaterina(which I choose to use here) and Ekaterina. I try my best to use the name closest to what they were actually called. Many times I have found foriegn monarchs names anglicised, so I try to find out what they would be called by their own people.
Also there is many Wikipedia sources in the Further Reading. While I enjoy Wikipedia, I use it only as a starting off point, and always suggest those who are interested in learning more to do the same. The same goes for any encyclopedia. There is so many sources out there, online and in print.
We travel slightly west in our pick this week, traveling to Imperial Russia and focusing on Catherine the Great (Yekaterina Alekseyevna), Empress of Russia and one of the more well-known of the Tsars despite the fact she did not inherit the throne, but took it by force and her son would attempt to take away her legacy.
Today’s Woman of history topic is one that was requested, and I actually was not aware of till it was mentioned. I found out quite a bit from my minor looking into her life. Emmeline Pankhurst was an early 19th century political activist in Great Britain. In particular she is known for her strong militant ways of promoting her cause and for helping bring along the vote for women in the UK as well as improve various other social problems she discovered through out her life.
Emmeline was born Emmeline Goulden on July 15, 1858 (according to her birth certificate, she always claimed the 14th) in a Manchester suburb. She was born into a family familiar with political activism for several generations. Her parents were active in their community and passed that down to their children. This included their interest in woman’s suffrage.
Her education was not as involved as her brothers, as at the time it was felt it was better she learn to be an attractive prospect as a wife rather than be educated on the scale of her brothers. However, she was an avid reader, and her time at Ecole Nomale de Neuilly helped her expand her influences and knowledge base. Continue reading
Yesterday, The United Kingdom held a general election for Parliament, called for by Prime Minister Theresa May. With the results in for the most part (one seat remains in the ether apparently) it appears that there is a “hung parliament.” For Americans (and non-parliamentarians) this may be a confusing phrase. So I decided today to look into it and write about it. If you happen to be british, and want to expand or correct something in my essay, feel free to leave a comment. I’m always willing to learn, and I’m using primarily online sources right now, which can be a bit vague or misleading at times. If you are not British or American, I apologise for the americentric viewpoint of this essay. I’m doing this from the viewpoint of an US citizen trying to understand British government. If you want to share how your government compares, I’m also interested in hearing it.
The UK is a democracy that works under a parliamentary model. Which the US does as well, although we added our own twists on things. There are some similarities between Parliament and Congress. For example, its bicameral, although how representatives are elected to both houses is different. Parliament’s two houses are the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords, as the title suggests is members of noble families and members of the clergy of the Church of England, and they are appointed, rather than elected. The House of Commons on the other hand is an elected body.
Within the House of Commons, there are several parties. Unlike in the US, the UK is not a two-party system in practice or theory. There are several parties, and 650 seats. A party with a majority of more than 50% of the vote is considered the head of the government. However, when there is no sure majority the parliament is known as a “hung parliament”. In this case, two or more parties will join together to form a coalition government.
This is different from the United States, which uses a simple Majority style. The party with the most seats is head of the house in which they are in(currently the Republican Party). They in turn elect the person who would hold the senior positions in the house (Speaker of the House; President Pro Tempore) In the UK, even if a party has more seats, it does not automatically give it power. They have to have a strong majority, with over half of the votes. Once that is settled (or a coalition/minority government is formed), the Queen will choose a Prime Minister from the party which holds the majority.
Its near impossible for the United States to have a similar situation. If the Senate (with 100 members) was equally divided) they would still have the President of the Senate – the Vice President. This would create a majority for one party or another. The House has 435 members, which makes it hard to really have a 50/50 vote. On the other hand the United States also has a hard-stuck two-party system which has denied many other views/parties into the mainstream campaigning.
Elections are held every five years as of 2011 in the UK unless a vote is taken to make a special election (as what happened this year) and receives a 2/3rd majority vote in the House of Commons. Prior to yesterday’s election, the Conservative party (sometimes known as Tories) had the majority, and thus their prime Minister was Theresa May. The Prime Minister appoints the rest of the cabinet as well, which is the government formed.
With a hung Parliament we will have to see which parties will join to create the coalition government. Coalition governments usually come in two forms – a formal arrangement where the two parties join together to pass legislation and both hold roles in the cabinet/government, or an informal one where the smaller party agrees to support the larger parties agenda without a strong role in the government. Reports so far seem to be Conservatives (who have 49% of the vote and still a technical majority) and the Democratic Union party (who has 1.5) will be joining together to form an informal coalition of 50.5 percent of the vote. An unlikely but also possible scenario is that a re-election in August might be made if the Conservatives can not form enough of a working majority to push for their agenda.
It should be interesting to see what happens in the coming months as Brexit negotiations begin and the new government formed by Minster May gets working.
It also shows an interesting look into what may happen in the future elections in the US. The Conservative rule that seemed to be elected in the last few elections in various countries seems to be swinging to a more moderate stance. This could affect the United States too as it comes to mid-term elections next year.
Ratification & Repeal
Once drafted, the Articles of Confederation were sent, as a pamphlet, along with a letter from the President of the Continental Congress: Henry Laurens to the 13 states. They were all asked to look it over and be prepared to vote on it by March 10, 1778. Most of the states had requests for alterations so the date got pushed back to July. States started to send in their considerations for amendments to the Articles but in the end none of them were used. Continue reading
The Last Articles
It gives Congress the following powers.
- exclusive right to determine War/Peace (exceptions for Article 6)
- Foreign Affairs such as ambassadors, treaties, etc.
- Establishing courts to prosecute cases of piracy
- Giving out senior ranks during wartime
- The power to answer any disputes between states
It also creates a system for how Congress will work. They must meet often enough that no break between gathering is more than 6 months. They also must record in a journal all the votes cast unless it’s a top-secret operation that requires that it not be public knowledge yet. The idea was that Congress would be very open about what it did while in session. It would send out monthly reports, including the vote rolls. They also must put forth the journal should any delegate or state request it.
Congress was given very limited powers. Most of the powers went to the states. It reiterates this point by stating that no decision of congress on several matters (including war, debt and national security) shall be in effect unless 9 states (2/3) agree to it. At this point in time the colonists who were forming their own country were afraid that a stronger government would abuse their powers, such as they saw Britain having done.
Later they would find that having too weak a central government caused problems as well. One of the things the Constitution set out to do was correct the imbalance and make a stronger Federal government that wouldn’t be too strong to abuse its powers.
This article allows for the states to take the powers of Congress into their own hands should congress be in recess when need arose. It still required 9 states to agree to it, and if congress was in session, it would of course revert to Congress to have those powers. I’m not entirely sure how well this article would work out in practice. I tried researching this article to see if had ever been invoked but at the time of this posting, I haven’t found anything yet.
I think this is my favorite part of the Articles of Confederation. Article 11 is a side note to Canada letting them know they can come join the US if they get tired of Great Britain’s rule. It basically says that they can come and join us and we’d be okay with that, but after them, everyone has got to be agreed on by at least 9 states (effective 2/3rd majority).
Considering this is not in the Constitution, I guess in ten years they gave up on the idea of the State of Canada.
According to the National Constitution Center, the US actually attempted to get Canada ceded over to them by the British in the Treaty of Paris. As you can tell by the fact Canada is not part of the United States, the British did not agree. America tried to take over Canada twice – in the American Revolution (failed) and in the war of 1812 (Failed – and led to the White House being burned). There was a poll done relatively recently and it should come as no surprise that not a large group of people feel that America and Canada should be one. On either side of the border.
This is an article that makes its way into the Constitution. The US had lots of debts in its early years. While at war, they needed supplies, had to have a way to pay the soldiers who fought for independence and otherwise fund their government. This article pronounces that these debts will be recognized by the United States and the United States will pay them.
The Constitution notes that they will continue to recognize/pay these debts. It was important for the young nation to recognize what it owed to keep the allies it had made as well as keep the trust with any soldiers they may need to enlist in the future. Failure to accept the debt would make trusting them a bit harder.
This is the article that gives the document its power. The declares that all the states shall abide by what had been decided in this congress of their representatives. It does not allow for much change, which the Constitution does. The only way to alter the document is for Congress to agree to it and for every state to agree to it. The Constitution made a method for Amendments where Congress proposes/passes them, and a 2/3rd majority of the States can ratify them. So in that it is more flexible to changing needs of the Nation.
Articles of Confederation – University of Minnesota Human Rights Library
Articles of Confederation – Revolutionary War.Net
When Canada was invited to join the United States – Constitution Center Blog