For those following the controversy surrounding Leslie Morgan's new book about "the Mommy Wars", I learned something rather interesting while watching Ken Burns' documentary Not For Ourselves Alone about Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony started agitating together for women's rights in the 1850's. At that time, Stanton was homebound with seven small children and Anthony was something almost unthinkable for the 19th Century -- a single career woman, more devoted organizing, speaking, and agitating for "the struggle" than ever marrying and having a family of her own.
It turns out that even though Stanton was a brilliant writer and speaker and felt like "a caged predator" when she was stuck in the house, she felt bound and determined to stay home and care for her children. Indeed, she even felt compelled to have more children after she and Anthony met and began working in common cause together. She only stopped having children because she was no longer able to do so; her last child was born when Stanton was 44. That's having a child at 44 in the 1850's people. She was really taking her life into her hands.
It also turned out that Susan B. Anthony resented Stanton and some of her other key allies when they chose the life of marriage and children over the commitment to the movement that she exhibited. When two of her trusted lieutenants left the equal rights movement to marry a pair of brothers who were Ministers in Ohio in spite of previously promising to never do this, Anthony was livid. Stanton had to console her by more or less saying "let them go and do this, they'll be back". The two women evidently also had some advise for Susan as well: "find a good husband -- it makes all the difference in the world."
No matter what else you might think about "the Mommy Wars" (a term I actually find objectionable), the debate between women over what their "proper" roles should be is one that has been with for a long, long time.
on 2006-03-24 at 2:24 p.m.
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