Thursday, September 14, 2017

Founding Mothers and the Stamp Act by J. A.

Founding Mothers and the Stamp Act
            Dr. Rosemarie Zigarri was a history professor at George Mason University, as well as the Thomas Jefferson chair of American Studies at the University of Amsterdam in 1993. In her lecture that was posted on Canvas, she speaks about the women and slaves that contributed to founding era. Her argument discusses how the women of history struggled to get credit for the many contributions they put towards the colonies that affected them beneficially. Zigarri speaks about how through the 18th and 19th century, women were politically invisible. Women were unable to vote or have any say in political matters and could not run for public office. If women were widowed or single and owned land, they could vote but even that, many men did not like whatsoever.
Once the revolutionary war took place, many husbands were enlisted to serve and left their wives at home to take care of the businesses that the men had to leave behind. This was very scary for most wives considering they were most likely never taught the proper way to care for a business. This is because women were strictly to care for the home and children.  Zigarri explains that without the participation of the women, male revolutionaries couldn’t have been successful in their fight against Britain. The evidence she provided for her argument were three specific historic women; Ester Reed, Phylis Wheatley, and Elizabeth Stevens. Each of these ladies struggled to be heard yet contributed to the history of the nation. The revolution enlisted women’s support, made them politically conscious, and encouraged men to think of women as political agents. Because of this, educational opportunities expanded for women as institutions opened offering to educate women.
            The purpose of Zaggari’s lecture was to inform the listeners of the struggles and obstacles that women, specifically Reed, Wheatley, and Stevens, faced in the 18th and 19th century when it came to political and social issues. She wants to enlighten people on the beneficial contributions the women gave to our country and prove that not only men were the founders of liberty. She wants to credit the women and prove they were capable of making positive impacts on the colonies. Back in the days of Reed, Wheatley, Stevens, and other women from the 18th century, men did not want to credit women pretty much anything besides house work and raising the children because men felt that women were not smart enough to pretty much do any manly thing. Zaggaris purpose was to acknowledge and credit the women and enlighten the viewers of the issue the women faced.
            In class we discussed the lecture and our understanding on the topic. Many of us asked questions on what we needed clarified and Ms. Arrowsmith kindly explained the answer to us. I believe as a class that has both men and women, having a group discussion on the topic was extremely important. Both the men and women in the class had their own thoughts, opinions, and questions. Hearing certain questions or comments raised other questions or comments. Trying to connect the issues of that time to our modern lives we live shows how much has drastically changed since then. And I think a lot of us can say we are grateful for having the opportunities we have now. It shows us how important equality really is to us Americans.
            Some of the questions discussed in class included; How were women affected by the Revolutionary War? The conclusion we drew was that the women faced many hardships. They were unable to vote or have any political say in the colonies. Yet, they were left alone to take over businesses and farms while their husbands were at war. This was an issue because women were not properly educated to handle certain businesses and companies. This led to many businesses going out of business, and in result to that, many families became poor. Mothers struggled to make enough money to feed their babies. Another question was; How did women contribute during the Revolutionary War. The conclusion we drew was that the women, specifically Reed, wanted to do more direct gestures for the continental army. She organized a group of women to help her fundraise money for the army in 1780. They went door to door asking people to contribute to the cause. They collected over $7,000. When they tried to give the gold coins to the army Washington would not allow it in fear of the men using the money for alcohol to get drunk rather for things they really needed. Instead, the ladies spun their own cloth and made shirts and socks for the members of the continental army with their names on them as a personal gesture.
Some questions that still remain after watching the lecture and having our in-class discussions are; Were there cases of men who tried to stand up for women’s rights in the 18th and 19th century? If so, how did other men who didn’t support women’s rights react to the men who did support women? Were women ever sentenced to death or imprisonment if trying to stand up for what they believed in? If so, what kind of punishments did they face? I found this topic to be very interesting and I would love to learn more!