The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) is pleased to present the CyberExhibit, This Isn’t Right!: Women Reform Leaders from 1847-1952. It portrays women who had the moral courage and intellectual bravery to think independently and to stand up when they were told to sit down. The women in this exhibit were extraordinary in their fight to change the nation and even the world.
As exhibit developer Jeanne Schramm summarized: “The dominant theme that unites the women in this exhibit is that each recognized societal conditions that they believed were intolerable. Despite the odds, the obstacles, the dangers and the ridicule, they set about to change things.”
Among the exhibit’s highlights are documents from Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott – founders of the movement to grant civil rights, including the vote, to women. It features Sojourner Truth, a former slave who became a mighty advocate against slavery and for women. Later came Helen Keller, who although deaf and blind, transformed the public perception of people with disabilities. Her resolve was reflected in her speech and writings: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Lydia Maria Child, an abolitionist and feminist who wrote dozens of profoundly thoughtful books, observed of herself and other women who appear in the exhibit: “Belief in oneself is one of the most important bricks in building any successful venture.” Few of these women were able to go to college and did not have the credentials to do what they nonetheless did. Several were such original thinkers that, had they been male, they would have been considered philosophers. Indeed, John Stuart Mill attributed basics of his great On Liberty to some of these women.
NWHM hopes to inspire similar thoughtfulness and self-esteem in today’s young women – and men. Even older adults will be revitalized by the stories of these women who succeeded against odds so much greater than ours. Issues that concerned our foremothers continue today, however, and their determination to change the world for the benefit of its majority remains important