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Collection Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

Women in Ephemera

The activities and contributions of women are themes that can be traced over time in this collection. With patriotic spirit, Esther De Berdt Reed, the Revolution-era first lady of Pennsylvania, calls on her sisters in "Sentiments of an American Woman" to live simply and make personal sacrifices in order to save money to send to the soldiers. Her plan for organizing a nation-wide fund-raising campaign, which was printed by John Dunlap in June 1780, was widely circulated. The Philadelphia ladies' systematic house to house canvassing of the city and suburbs was so successful that Reed could report in her July 4, 1780, letter to General Washington that they had raised more than $300,000 in paper currency. Although they had hoped that their contributions could be used to provide "an extraordinary bounty" beyond the food and clothing due to soldiers by the government, Washington insisted that it was shirts that would provide the greatest comfort to his men. So in late August, Esther Reed began purchasing linen. Its transformation into shirts unfortunately fell to other hands, for Esther Reed died suddenly on September 18, 1780, of a fever.

Despite the contributions of many women to the revolutionary cause and Abigail Adams' famous admonition to the founding fathers to "Remember the Ladies," women still did not enjoy the rights of full citizenship promised by the Declaration of Independence as the nation prepared to celebrate its one hundredth anniversary in 1876. In "Declaration and Protest of the Women of the United States," the National Woman Suffrage Association lists wrongs and oppressions against women that violate the fundamental principles of government and are, in their eyes, grounds for impeachment of the nation's rulers. The signers, including Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Olympia Brown, Frances Watkins Harper, Virginia Minor, and Belva Lockwoood, ask for no special privileges or legislation, just the guarantee of equality, justice and full citizenship.

In the 20th century, as the banner for woman suffrage was passed to another generation of leaders, their efforts to reach a wider variety of constituencies is evident in fliers generated by the National American Woman Suffrage Association. "Woman Suffrage Co-Equal with Man Suffrage" features supportive quotes from Samuel Gompers and other labor leaders demanding votes for women. When woman suffrage was finally achieved, women were quick to make use of their new political tool. The Federation of Colored Women's Clubs urges their black sisters and brothers to "vote against those who voted to protect the lynching industry" in a 1922 flyer poignantly depicting "A Terrible Blot on American Civilization." Lest women should be inclined to rest from activism, a 1922 membership leaflet of the National Woman's Party lists all the demands of the first Equal Rights Convention of 1848 that still remain to be won. "How long will women wait for Liberty?" urges women to work for equal rights with men in all laws and customs, including equal control of children and property and equal opportunities in education and employment.