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This Day in History: July 19

For your entertainment and enlightenment, here are five historical events that occurred on July 19. Follow the links in the text to Research Topics pages and other documents in eLibrary.

1. 1848: Seneca Falls Convention–Organized by Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others, this meeting was held “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.” A third of the attendees of the convention signed the Declaration of Sentiments, which laid out grievances about the standing of women in a male-dominated society. The convention, which an editorial at the time deemed “the most shocking and unnatural incident ever recorded in the history of womanity,” is considered the beginning of the women’s rights movement.

2. 1863: Battle of Buffington Island–Brigadeer General John Hunt Morgan‘s 1,700-strong group of Civil War “raiders” clashed with Union forces in Ohio, a battle that marked the beginning of the end of their Great Raid through four states. After having made raids and engaged the enemy a number of times in Tennessee and Kentucky in a campaign to distract Union forces, Morgan–disobeying an order from General Braxton Bragg not to cross the Ohio River–invaded Indiana and ransacked numerous towns before moving into Ohio. But, Morgan’s campaign ran into great trouble as he tried to evade Union pursuers by crossing into West Virginia. The Battle of Buffington Island, which included the involvement of the U.S. Navy ironclads, resulted in the capture of half of his men. The Great Raid was finally ended a week later with Morgan’s surrender after the Battle of Salineville, but not before striking fear into northerners and attaining mythical status.

3. 1864: Third Battle of Nanking Ends–The Taiping Rebellion, which raged from 1850 to 1864 was one of the bloodiest wars in history, resulting in between 20 million and 70 million deaths. The rebellion was waged by the Heavenly Kingdom of Peace, a Christian millenarian movement led by Hong Xiuquan, who claimed to be the brother of Jesus Christ, against the ruling Qing dynasty. While the Third Battle of Nanking resulted in a victory for the government and effectively ended the rebellion, China was changed forever. The imperial government was severely weakened and, having accepted assistance from France and Britain, had opened China to foreign influence.

4. 1870: The Franco-Prussian War Begins–Looking to regain prestige lost in the Austro-Prussian War a few years earlier and concerned about the power of an alliance between the German states and Spain, French emperor Napoleon III wanted war. The French Parliament voted for it on July 16, and hostilities commenced three days later. Napoleon’s advisers had been very confident that France could prevail, in part because of new weapons–the breech-loading chassepot rifle and early form of machine gun called the mitrailleuse. This confidence was mistaken, and the Germans won a stunningly quick victory in about 10 months. In the aftermath of the war, Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck achieved his goal of creating the German Empire.

5. 1903: The First Tour de France Concludes–The Tour de France was conceived as a way of boosting the sagging sales of the magazine L’Auto. The first race in 1903 comprised six stages averaging about 250 miles and saw favorite Maurice Garin lead from start to finish of the 1,509-mile contest. The race was a success, and L’Auto’s readership skyrocketed. Today, the Tour is even longer at around 2,100 miles, but it is made up of 21 shorter stages over 23 days. Of course, many of us know the Tour de France largely because of Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist who won seven consecutive Tours, only later to be stripped of them because of admitted doping, or use of banned performance-enhancing substances.

Remembering Those Who Dedicated Their Lives to Women’s Rights

At the core of any social movement are those who envision it, persuade others to join it, and propel it into social consciousness. The American women’s rights movement is no different. Many women contributed to its evolution and escalation throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. We can thank these women for its victories. We pay tribute to these women by continuing the struggle for women’s equality in the United States and around the world.

"Women Suffragists Marching, New York City, 1913" <br \> by Library of Congress, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

“Women Suffragists Marching, New York City, 1913”
by Library of Congress, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

There are many unnamed women who struggled for women’s rights in the 19th and 20th centuries. They contributed their time, efforts, and wisdom, and helped generate outcomes that we may take for granted today. We can’t know every name and honor them accordingly. But there are a significant few who are worthy of our attention, and their lives and accomplishments deserve to be celebrated in the classroom.

We all know the names and accomplishments of Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Mott was a passionate abolitionist and a strident forerunner of the women’s rights movement. She helped to organize the Seneca Falls women’s rights convention of 1848, and also presided over the American Equal Rights Association. She inspired Anthony and Stanton, who, with other likeminded women, worked tirelessly for the women’s rights movement after Mott’s death in 1880. These two pioneering women cofounded the National Woman Suffrage Association and jointly published the women’s newspaper, The Revolution. They enacted changes in laws that empowered women, including one that allowed women to own property in their name. Mott, Anthony, or Stanton did not live to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, but these three leaders played crucial roles in its development and approval.

“Women Suffragists Picketing in Front of the White House, 1917” by Library of Congress
via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher [Public Domain]

Sojourner Truth is a well-known advocate of both African American and women’s rights. She was a passionate abolitionist before and during the Civil War, speaking when and where she could against the inhumanity of slavery. When the Civil War concluded, she dedicated her life to obtaining rights for African Americans and for women. Despite her lack of formal education, her lectures powerfully impacted listeners and galvanized the women’s rights movement.

Julia Ward Howe may be best remembered for her Civil War folk song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” but she also was very active in the women’s suffrage movement, was an editor of the Commonwealth newspaper, wrote poetry, authored books, and was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She also helped to establish “Mother’s Day” in the United States in 1872.

Lucy Stone and her daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell, are 19th- and 20th-century women reformers, respectively, who made unique contributions to the movement. Not only did Lucy strive for slave emancipation, but she cofounded the American Woman Suffrage Association. She and her husband, also a fervent feminist, launched the weekly newspaper Woman’s Journal in 1870. Their daughter, Alice, continued their tradition of activism for women’s rights as a writer, editor, and suffragist.

Carrie Chapman Catt is a lesser-known, but no less important, figure in the women’s right’s movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1920, at the time of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, she was president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). One year later, she founded the National League of Women Voters, which prepared women for citizenship. Her accomplishments go beyond voting laws: she was the first woman to be a superintendent of schools and she was an avid antiwar advocate.

During the month of March, join SKS and SIRS Discoverer in honoring these and other remarkable women who made lasting contributions to women’s rights. The SKS Spotlight of the Month and the SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month feature articles, photos, and Web sites that emphasize the cultural, societal, and political influences of women today and throughout history.