Anna Dickinson – Eloquent Voice for Freedom

Anna Dickinson c. 1860 (source)

Anna Dickinson c. 1860 (source)

Anna Dickinson was a gifted orator and an avid supporter of the abolition of slavery and women’s rights. Born 28 October 1842 to Quaker parents, she was raised with not only staunch abolitionist leanings, but also with the idea that women who had something to say should speak out. When Anna was 14, she published a passionate anti-slavery essay in William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper “The Liberator,” and by the time she was 18 she was one of the first women to speak publicly to audiences for the cause. In addition to speaking against slavery, she campaigned for Republican candidates for political office and became the first woman to speak before the US House of Representatives in 1864 where she received a standing ovation.

Anna continued her speaking career after the Civil War speaking primarily on women’s rights and the rights of newly freed slaves. She had a complicated relationship with the women’s rights advocates of the day. She supported the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution without the inclusion of women, believing that inclusion of women would cause it to fail and deny African American men the right to vote.

As her speaking career waned, she published two books, a novel and a book about her experiences on the lecture circuit, before beginning a career as an actress and playwright. In 1891, her sister had her incarcerated in the Danville State Hospital for the insane. After winning her freedom, Anna won a legal battle against the people and newspapers which claimed she was insane. She spent the last 40 years of her life in obscurity and died on 22 October 1932, just a few days shy of her 90th birthday.

Find out what else happened on October 28 in Women’s History.

Alice Brown Davis – Seminole Chief

Alice Davis Brown c. 1902 (source)

Alice Davis Brown c. 1902 (source)

Alice Brown Davis was born on September 10, 1852, and became the first female Principal Chief of the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma. Alice’s parents were both part of the forced removal from Florida of the Seminole; her mother, Lucy Redbeard, was part of the Tiger Clan, and her father, Dr. John Frippo Brown, was a military surgeon who traveled with the tribe. They married during the trip and eventually had seven children.

Alice was well-educated for the time. She spoke both of her parents languages, Mikasuki and English, and attended the Ramsay Mission School. When she was 15, both of her parents died soon after the cholera epidemic in 1967 and she went to live with her brother John at Wewoka, the capital of the Seminole Nation. Alice completed her studies and taught school until she married George Davis in 1874.

Alice and George operated a trading post, with post office and general store, and a ranch. They had 11 children, some of which were still young when Alice became a widow in her 40s. After George died, she continued to run the trading post and the ranch, became the postmistress, and began to work with her brother Chief John F. Brown as an interpreter and assistant for the Tribe. This allowed her to gain knowledge of tribal issues, including the requirements for Oklahoma statehood. She also became superintendent of Emahaka, the Seminole Nation’s girls’ school.

In 1922, Alice’s appointment as Principal Chief by Warren G. Harding was initially controversial, but she won the people’s support and served until her death on June 21, 1935. She was inducted into the National Hall of Fame for Famous Native Americans as well as the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

Find out what else happened on September 10 in Women’s History.

Saint Matilda of Ringelheim, Queen of Germany

Heinricus rex and Methildis regina, Chronica St. Pantaleonis, 12th century (source)

Heinricus rex and Methildis regina, Chronica St. Pantaleonis, 12th century (source)

Matilda of Ringelheim, Saint Maltida, was born around 895 in the Duchy of Saxony. She was the daughter of Westphalian count Dietrich and Reinhild. As a girl, she went to the convent at Herford where her grandmother, also named Maltida, was abbess. She was beautiful and virtuous and she soon attracted attention. In 909, she married Henry the Fowler, son of Duke Otto I of Saxony. Henry succeeded his father as Duke of Saxony and was elected King of Germany in 919. They had five children live to adulthood, including Otto who would succeed his father and in 962 become Holy Roman Emperor.

When Henry died in 936, Matilda and her son Otto established Quedlinbury Abbey. (Later, her granddaughter, another Matilda, would become abbess.) Matilda was devoted to prayer and almsgiving. In addition to the convent at Quedlinbury, she established several others. This became a point of contention at court where Otto and his brother Henry were quarreling. The father, King Otto, had wanted his son Otto to succeed him, while Matilda favored the younger son Henry. About three years after his brother had been crowned, Henry tried unsuccessfully to claim power. He eventually submitted and reconciled with Otto and was made Duke of Bavaria.

After their reconciliation, both Otto and Henry accused Matilda of weakening the royal treasury with her lavish charitable gifts. She relinquished the possessions her husband had given her and retired to Enger. Later, when things weren’t going as well for the brothers, Matilda was called back to court, possibly at the urging of Otto’s wife Ædgyth of England and they begged her forgiveness.

Matilda supported and built many churches, but the primary ones were at Quedlinburg, Nordhausen, Engern, and Pöhlde. She died on March 14, 968 at Quedlinburg and was buried beside her husband. She was venerated immediately after her death.

Find out what else happened on March 14 in Women’s History.