March 13, 2008

Here's to you, Lizzie


"The best protection any woman can have...is courage."
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Yesterday afternoon I asked Justin if he cared about the middle names of our future children.

He just shrugged. "Not really."

Then I asked if I could have the jurisdiction to choose the middle names for our kids.

"Well, what kind of names are you thinking about?" he asked, obviously curious.

"Elizabeth if we have a girl..." I paused. "After Elizabeth Cady Stanton."

Justin kind of chuckled. "Are you trying to pass on your radical feminist agenda onto our kids?" he joked.

This, of course, is only half true.

I recently watched Ken Burns' documentary "Not For Ourselves Alone," which chronicles the women's suffragist movement through the lives of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. These two women, who were friends for over fifty years, provided the fire and fuel for female suffrage in America. For five decades they worked tirelessly to give speeches, rally women, write books, and lobby Congress to give women the right to vote. Sadly, both women passed away before the 19th amendment was passed in 1920.

As I watched the documentary, I was struck at how different these two women were. On one hand there was Anthony---who never married and had no children, who was a Quaker and who traveled endlessly to further the cause of women. On the other hand was Stanton---who was married and had seven children, who was a gifted writer, who refuted Christianity and who was largely confined to her home while she raised her large brood. Yet their differences made for the perfect partnership. Stanton wrote the articles and speeches that Anthony went on to deliver across the country. Stanton was the brains of their operation while Anthony was the hands and feet.

While I admire both women profusely, I have a special place in my heart for Stanton (probably because I have a penchant for historical figures who have been largely forgotten by society). She was a woman who straddled both family life and political activism in a time when women were seen as secondary citizens. She was a woman who challenged popular notions of femininity and who fought against the injustices of her day. She was a woman who changed history because she wasn't afraid to speak her mind.

I can only hope that I can help carry the banner that Stanton herself created:

To promote equality in my community.
To fight against societal wrongs.
To speak my mind with courage.
And to pass along the message of feminism to my children.

To my future Elizabeth.

7 comments:

  1. What a great post! I can only hope that your future Elizabeth is as courageous and intelligent as you!

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  2. My plan is to name any future daughters after suffragists and/or mentally ill authors. Lucy, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Virginia, and Sylvie (just couldn't stomach Sylvia) are current favorites.

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  3. Haha. Sylvie is cute. Susan though is not. Although I love Susan B. Anthony too, I don't think I could name my daughter it. (Even as a middle name.) Thank goodness Elizabeth Cady Stanton wasn't named Agnes or Agatha!

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  4. Amira's middle name is Elizabeth, mainly because we just liked the way it sounded. When she gets older I'll send her to "Aunty Caroline" to tell her about why Elizabeth is a great middle name. Can I retroactively assign meaning to my daughter's name?

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  5. Why not give your kid(s) the best feminist middle name ever: Caroline or Tung?

    It's important to raise boys as feminists too!

    What are the first names gonna be?

    I think I'm going to give my daughter a Korean name.

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  6. Of course you can retroactively assign meaning to Amira's middle name! :o) She has a great name by the way. Amira is such a pretty name (and it acknowledges her Moroccan heritage). And she's named after a suffragist too!

    Allie, I'm definitely going to raise my boys as feminists too! And I also plan on exposing them to lots of art and music and culture. With a rugby-playing military dad, they will need all of the culture they can get!

    I'm not really sure what we'll name our kids. We have certain names we like (J really likes Ellie and Madeline for girls) but nothing set in stone. We probably won't be having kids for awhile so that will give us some time to mull this topic over...

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  7. On the subject of raising your sons as feminists... the managing editor where I used to work was telling me about a convo she had with her kindergarten-aged son. She was explaining that this could be the first time we have a woman president, to which he replied, "There's never been a mommy president? But mommies run EVERYTHING!!" ha! She was so proud.

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