The 17th century was a time of great change. Art, music, dance, and poetry became more elaborate and dramatic. During the 1600’s, differences of opinion were discussed and argued about between the Catholics, Protestants and other denominations. But were men the only ones who freely gave their opinion?
There were some women throughout history who spoke up for their beliefs but most were not taken seriously. When a woman spoke in public, it was considered “unwomanly.” But that didn’t stop my ancestor, Dorothea Scott.
Dorothea was of a spiritual nature and had a strong belief in God. She was a countess from Kent, England and married Major Daniel Gotherson. I learned that she was brought up as a Protestant, but she felt something lacking so she joined the Quakers. Feeling the need to bring people to God, she wrote a book named A Call to Repentance and it was published in 1661. Then she promptly took it to King Charles II as a gift, hoping to bring about more righteousness. This copy is in the Library of The Society of Friends, Devonshire House, in London. Then she went about preaching the gospel and gained a large following. They referred to her followers at Scott’s Congregation.
On March 4, 1655, a relative reported that Dorothea was giving lectures about religion and felt it was disgraceful. That was a man’s duty and not a woman’s. She wrote: “As for the countess, I can tell you heavie news of her, for she is turned Quaker and preaches every day on a tubb.” (This letter is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.)
In her journal, Dorothea wrote: “Then began I to be led by the Spirit of God out of darkness into His marvelous light … and where I have known Him most is too hard to be uttered.”
This was just the beginning for women to stand up for what they believed. In the late 1700s, Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams who was the second president of the U.S., encouraged her husband to “remember the ladies” as they made their new laws. She believed in women’s rights, women’s education, and was against involuntary servitude. It was said that he respected her opinions and she advised her husband in several decisions.
During the 1800s, more and more women spoke up and let their opinions be heard. When these women took a stand, their actions were looked down upon. Speaking publicly was considered improper for a woman. Even though it wasn’t accepted, Elizabeth Stanton still gave her opinions. Both she and her husband were abolitionists. When they went to a convention in England that was against slavery, she tried to give her opinion but was put down and told that women were not permitted to give speeches or their opinions. It was solely a man’s place to speak publicly. That experience made her all the more determined to speak out for what she believed.
Susan B. Anthony was another who spoke out against inequality. She encouraged women to stand up for their rights. And that was exactly what she did and was arrested for it. On November 5, 1872 in a presidential election, the authorities were summoned and Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting illegally. When she was fined $100, she refused to pay it. Susan said firmly, “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”
Eighteen years later, one state after another began allowing women to vote. The first four states were Wyoming (1890), Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), and Idaho (1896). In fact, Wyoming and Utah actually gave women the right to vote before they were states and when they were just territories. Women in these states immediately began running for office and won the vote.
These courageous women were an important part of history but that was just the beginning. It wasn’t until March 22, 1972 that the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by the U.S. Senate and it was sent to the states for ratification. In this amendment, women were not to be discriminated against when it came to jobs or equal pay.
This subject was the inspiration for my new book, A Mississippi Sunset. In this historical romance set in 1844, Laura McBride is a liberated and courageous young lady who is convinced that she can help others in her crusade for equality. She encourages women to fight for their beliefs and be heard. But she soon finds out that women who speak publicly are looked down upon. But that wasn’t how Deputy William Davies felt. When he met Laura McBride, he was intrigued with her independent nature. He admired her spunk and determination to fight against slavery and involuntary servitude.
Watch a book trailer of the Women of Courage series on YouTube.
A Mississippi Sunset is available on Amazon as a paperback, ebook, and as an Audible Audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Schmidt.