August Dates in Women's History
by Susan G. Butruille
- August 1 Lammas Pagan Harvest Festival, also known as Witches' Sabbath, related to Druidic and Christian European lore. Dates are moveable.
- August 1, 1910 Birth of R.J. Greffenius, Ph.D., father of Susan G. Butruille.
- August 1, 1923 Birth of Beatrice Medicine, Standing Rock Sioux anthropologist, author, and advocate for Lakota women.
- August 3, 1905 Birth of Maggie Kuhn, senior rights advocate and founder of the Gray Panthers.
- August 4, 1944 Teenager Anne Frank and her family, hiding from Nazis in German-occupied Holland, were discovered, leading to her death and that of most others in her family. Her posthumously-published Diary of Anne Frank remains a testament to Anne's courage and longings, and the unspeakable cruelty she faced.
- August 5, 2014 Russian-American WNBA star Becky Hammon became the first female full-time coach in the National Basketball Association, hired by the San Antonio Spurs.
- August 6, 1886 Birth of Inez Milholland Boissevain, lawyer, actor, activist who led the 1913 Washington, D.C. suffrage parade riding astride her white horse. She died, exhausted, while campaigning for women's right to vote.
- August 6, 1926 Gertrude Ederly became the first woman to swim the English Channel, breaking the previous record by two hours. A ticker-tape parade in New York honored the young woman who wasn't yet 20 years old.
- August 6, 1945 The U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.killed an estimated 140,000 women, men, and children, and left untold numbers of hibakusha ("atomic bomb-affected people"), many still living with the effects of injuries, burns and radiation. As the first U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, Barack Obama in 2016 added two paper cranes to a memorial to Sadako Sasaki, who was two years old at the time of the bombing. The girl became famous for folding paper cranes, inspired by a legend that anyone folding 1,000 cranes will be granted their wish. Sadako Sasaki was 12 years old when she died of leukemia. Paper cranes now are an important symbol worldwide to those who strive for an end to bombings.
- August 6, 1965 Suffrage fully extended to African Americans with passage of the Voting Rights Act.
- August 8, 2009 Sonia Sotomayor sworn in as the first Latinex Supreme Court Justice.
- August 9, 1945 The U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan.
- August 10, 1993 Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a front line fighter for gender justice, appointed as the second woman to the Supreme Court.
- August 12, 1867 Birth of Edith Hamilton, acclaimed scholar of Greek and Roman literature.
- August 13 Festival of Diana (protector of the living) and Hecate (protector of the dead), forerunner of the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15.
- August 13, 1818 Birth of Lucy Stone, feminist, abolitionist and suffragist who insisted on keeping her own name in marriage. She inspired the title of "Lucy Stoner," applied to other women who kept their names.
- August 15 Festival of Isis, when stalks of grains are carried in procession to honor the Grain Goddess.
- August 18, 1893 Birth of Ragini Devi, American-born ethnologist, dancer, and author of Dance Dialects of India.
- August 15 Festival of Isis, when stalks of grains are carried in procession to honor her as Grain Goddess.
- August 18, 1902 Birth of Mardy Murie, author and conservationist. Known as Mother of Wilderness, Murie worked tirelessly through her life of more than 100 years for wilderness preservation, including the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge, which remains endangered.
- August 18, 1927 Birth of Rosalynn Carter, First Lady, activist, author, and cofounder of the Carter Center.
- August 19, 1814 (Possible date of) Birth of Mary Ellen Pleasant, who as a former slave helped thousands of slaves escape to freedom as a "slave rescuer" and as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. She migrated to California, where she became wealthy, sued a streetcar company for discrimination , and became known as the "mother of civil rights in California."
- August 22, 1964 Fannie Lou Hamer, civil rights activist, testified before the Credentials Committee at the Democratic Convention, recounting the attacks and harassment she suffered after simply registering to vote.
- August 23 Festival of Nemesis, Greek Goddess, protector of relics and memory of the dead.
- August 23, 1899 Birth of Grace Chu, emigrant to the U.S. from Shanghai, teacher and author of Madame Chu's Cooking School Cookbook.
- August 24, 2014 Pitcher Mo'Ne Davis added to her list of firsts as the first Little League player on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She was also the first female to pitch a shutout, and the first African American girl to compete in Little League.
- August 26, 1920 Women's Equality Day, commemorates the passage, radification and signing of the Susan B. Anthony (19th) Amendment granting voting rights to most women in the U.S.. (The amendment did not apply to Native Americans, and many African Americans still were not allowed to vote.). Many women devoted their adult lives to the cause, and some
were jailed and force-fed after picketing the White House. The
"Iron-Jawed Angels,"narrates the last few years of the 72-year long struggle for
suffrage in the U.S. The movie focuses on the militant Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) while giving short shrift to the fierce and more moderate Carrie Chapman Catt (Angelica Huston).
- August 26, 1970 Betty Friedan, author of the groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique, led the Women's Strike for Equality on the 50th anniversary of the suffrage amendment.
- August 27, 2001 Actor Angelina Jolie, 26, named Goodwill Ambassador for Refugees by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
- August 29 Festival of the Nativity of the Egyptian Sky Goddess Hathor.
- August 30, 1797 Birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, British author of Frankenstein and other works.
- August 30, 1907 Birth of Luisa Moreno, emigrant to the U.S. from Guatemala, activist and organizer of El Congresso del Pueblo de Habla Espanola (the Spanish-speaking Peoples Congress).
- August 30, 1984 Judith Resnick became the second woman and the first Jewish American in space, as a mission specialist on the first voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery. The Renaissance woman of the flying hair, who turned down a career as a concert pianist, died in the 1986 explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
WOMEN'S EQUALITY DAY: AUGUST 26
by Susan G. Butruille, ©2019
Some called it the War of the Roses. Hundreds of women and men had gathered in the Tennessee Statehouse on August 18, 1920 to witness the legislative vote that would determine whether or not women across the country would have voting rights. Women's suffrage now depended on Tennessee. Congress had passed the amendment, and ratification required 36 states. Tennessee would be number 36.
The room was a sea of yellow roses worn by suffragists and red roses worn by antis. Tennessee was deadlocked, and the speaker had called for a third roll call vote. Harry Burn, the youngest legislator, wore a red rose as he stood to vote, glancing at a paper in his hand - a letter from his mother. It ended with "be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the 'rat' in ratification." Harry Burn voted - yes.
And, it changed everything. Harry Burn's "Yes" meant that women across the country could vote - just like men! After a momentary shocked silence, a riot broke out. According to legend, the anti-suffrage legislators chased Harry Burn out of the chambers, forcing him to hide. Shocked and furious foes convened a grand jury to charge Harry with bribery. The governor's wife called the letter a "fraud" and demanded that Harry's mother recant the letter. She refused.
Young Harry Burn had voted with the anti-suffragists before getting the letter from his mother, Phoebe (Febb) Ensminger Burn, a well-read college-educated teacher and landowner. Harry explained his change of heart. He thought about the fact that his college-educated mother couldn't vote, while any man could, regardless of education. "I knew that a mother's advice is always safest for a boy to follow," he said, and that "an opportunity seldom comes to a mortal man to free 17 million women from political slavery."
The "Mrs. Catt" in Febb Burn's letter was Carrie Chapman Catt, the general of the later years of the 72-year suffrage campaign. Catt, along with many others, marched legislation through Congress and convinced a resistant President Woodrow Wilson to support the suffrage amendment. On August 26, 1920, U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, freeing women across the country to vote.
A statue of Harry and Febb Burn, dedicated in 2018 and sponsored largely by the Suffrage Coalition, now stands in Knoxville, Tennessee's Market Square.
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