“Give women more power in the government offices if the desire is for peace and prosperity."
- Gertrude Bustill Mossell
Become inspired by stories of perseverance and accomplishment this Women's History Month, by taking a moment to learn the names Gertrude Bustill Mossell, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Carrie S. Burnham.
Gertrude Bustill Mossell (1855-1948) was a dedicated suffragist, a member of the Sojourner Truth Suffrage League, and a journalist and editor who demonstrated how women’s increased political agency could amplify peace and prosperity for all. She wrote the first-ever woman’s column on the history of the Black press and urged women readers to educate themselves about the suffrage movement.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) was a poet, fiction writer, and reformer who raised awareness about the impacts of sexism, classism, and anti-Black racism in women’s movements. She lectured widely on the abolition of slavery and advocated for temperance in order to reduce violence against women.
Carrie S. Burnham (1838-1909) was the first woman to become a lawyer in Philadelphia. On October 10, 1871, she attempted to vote by casting a ballot at Thomas Rafferty’s liquor establishment at the corner of Broad and Wood Streets. She was arrested and ended up taking her case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1873. Her case became a rallying cry for the women’s suffrage movement.
These are just three of the pathbreaking women whose stories you can learn through the Free Library’s digital exhibition Making Her Mark: Philadelphia Women Fight for the Vote, that tells the stories of women who fought against disenfranchisement and voter suppression from the 1700s to today. To celebrate Women’s History Month, the Free Library is proud to highlight this exhibition alongside a number of other inspiring programs and resources.
- After checking out the online exhibition, sign on for Making Her Mark Spotlight: Black Sisterhood and Suffrage, a digital discussion about the essential role of Black sororities in expanding access to the vote and mobilizing people to the polls. Learn from Dr. Thelma Thomas Daley, a leader in the NAACP and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., about how Black sororities have made political history. (You can also check out Dr. Thomas’ story on The HistoryMakers oral history archive, newly available through our digital databases.)
- One of the influential figures featured in Making Her Mark is Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935), a queer pioneer, educator, writer, and activist. Alice Dunbar-Nelson is also the focus of I Am an American!: The Authorship and Activism of Alice Dunbar-Nelson, an online exhibition from The Rosenbach. Check out the exhibition page to learn about Dunbar-Nelson’s career as a writer and teacher, her influence on the Harlem Renaissance, her activism for suffrage and civil rights, and her survival of intimate partner violence. Be sure to listen to the Voices of Change podcast, which dives deeper into stories from Dunbar-Nelson’s life and the making of the exhibition.
- This month you can also indulge your literary history geek through The Rosenbach’s virtual course on Zora Neale Hurston, or get speculative with a discussion of Octavia Butler’s novel Fledgling. If Victorian literature is your jam, The Rosenbach also has you covered with a program on Mary Shelley’s relevance today and a free “Behind the Bookcase” virtual tour, Mary Shelley: The Godmother of Goth. For a contemporary take, don’t miss another of The Rosenbach’s virtual courses Writing Irish Women, which looks at recent Irish women writers who have changed the literary scene.
In addition to these exhibitions, resources, and programs, stay tuned to the Free Library’s blog and social media this month for profiles of changemakers, power brokers, story keepers, glass-ceiling-smashers, and unsung heroes who have shaped history.