Category: Women’s History

Plymouth & Women’s Suffrage: Tea Toast

Part 1 of a special series to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment

The campaign for women’s suffrage began in earnest after the Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848. Plymouth abolitionist Zilpha Harlow (1818-1891) attended the first national Woman’s Rights Convention in Worcester, MA in 1850. Also in attendance was Nathaniel Bourne Spooner of Plymouth. The couple married in 1851 and worked diligently for the anti-slavery cause over the next decade.

After the Civil War, the Spooners shifted their focus to the expansion of women’s rights, often hosting lectures and other gatherings in Plymouth. In November 1870 Margaret W. Campbell (1827-1908) led a two-week speaking tour of Plymouth County for the American Woman Suffrage Association. Born in Maine, Campbell was one of the most popular public speakers on suffrage and campaigned across the nation. She reported in The Woman’s Journal, “We had a very good meeting in Plymouth, although not a large one, for the conservative element is strong there.”

On November 24, 1873 Plymouth’s Woman Suffrage Political Club was formed. Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone, co-founders of the American Woman Suffrage Association, attended the assembly held in Davis Hall on Main Street with an audience of about 500. The Club began meeting regularly in the home of Zilpha H. and Nathaniel B. Spooner on North Street.

An unsigned toast in the Plymouth Antiquarian Society’s archival collection envisions an extension of the liberty won in the American Revolution “When women in power, alive to the hour,/Shall crown their hearts’ faith at the polls.” The toast is undated, but was probably printed around 1873. (The author proclaims “a century’s past o’er the sea/Which they filled with defiance”, an allusion to the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773.) It is likely that the toast was used at an early gathering of the Woman Suffrage Political Club in Plymouth.

Tea Toast

We pour a libation, before the whole nation,
Of tea, sparkling tea, joyous tea,
Our fathers unfrighted, their efforts united,
And so we are free, we are free!
We thank their brave resistance,
To writs of forced assistance;
Their struggles true and loyal
Against a despot royal;
And now that a century’s past o’er the sea
Which they filed with defiance, we’re free.

A cup more refreshing, more potent in blessing,
Shall Liberty give to all souls;
When women in power, alive to the hour,
Shall crown their hearts’ faith at the polls.
The day of weak aspirants,
And cruel, cunning tyrants
Is past, a state of freeman
Claims equal men and women.
God calls us, who guided our sires o’er the sea,
Let the mothers of freeman be free!

(PAS Archival Collection 2009.5.11)

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Cooking Tips from Rose T. Briggs

Part 4 in a special series on the Pilgrim Breakfast

No series on Pilgrim Breakfast traditions would be complete without a few cooking tips from Rose T. Briggs. (We mentioned her in our first post and you can see a photograph of her in our third post.)

Rose Thornton Briggs, daughter of George R. and Helen Taber Briggs, was born in Plymouth on May 26, 1893, in what is now the Mayflower Society House on North Street.  She lived most of her life at Indian Brook, her parents’ home in Manomet, where her father had built many acres of cranberry bogs. Her mother helped found the Plymouth Antiquarian Society in 1919 and served as its President (1927-29). Rose was Assistant to the Directors and later Curator of the Antiquarian Society (1932-73). She was also active in the Pilgrim Society, serving as its first Director. She was considered a national authority on 17th-century Pilgrim life and an expert in historic clothing. She worked tirelessly to understand the past and to preserve Plymouth’s history. On September 23, 1981, Rose T. Briggs died and was buried at Vine Hills Cemetery in Plymouth. In his eulogy at her memorial service, the late Rev. Peter J. Gomes stated, “She labored night and day for the Pilgrims and was one of them in spirit and in fact.  She illuminated a time and a place far removed from us by her skillful and creative scholarship, and, in doing so, she added much light and joy to our own time.”

For sixty years Rose Briggs played a major role in shaping the interpretation of colonial life at the Harlow House. Her influence extended to the techniques used for preparing food at the Pilgrim Breakfast. Many thanks to local historian James W. Baker for sharing the following clipping from around 1957. The newspaper is unknown, but the title says it all: “Fireplace Cooking is Test of Real Culinary ‘Know How’”. The author, Margaret Clark, describes a lesson on making fishcakes from Rose.

Miss Rose T. Briggs of Plymouth is an expert on preparing meals in Pilgrim style, so we asked her for helpful suggestions after we went to the Pilgrim breakfast at the Harlow Old Fort House, Plymouth, and had eaten heartily of the fishcakes she cooks so perfectly in the ancient fireplace.

“Use a kettle well smudged from previous fires,” Miss Briggs recommended. “It is all right to scour the inside but leave the outside sooty, then it won’t smoke when you hang it over the fire.

“Before immersing the fishcakes in the hot cooking oil, I put them in this antique skimmer, so I won’t lose them in the depths of the kettle while they are cooking.

“Fireplaces are dark except where the fire is and it is impossible to see in cooking pots even if you sit down on a chunk of wood the right height, or a stool. We had to improvise a modern fry basket from our old skimmer. Cooks of the period may have used skimmers this way, too, though I haven’t yet found any drawing to authenticate our fry-basket skimmer as has been the case with some of our other improvisations.

“Fireplace cooking has made us realize how sensible the Pilgrim women were to wear caps. When you hang pots on hooks inside a fireplace your topknot goes inside the sooty interior as well as your hangs. If you don’t have a cap on, your hair would look like a hearth broom in no time.”

 

Celebrate the 19th Amendment Centennial: Spring 2020 Events

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The 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women’s right to vote, was ratified in 1920. As an organization founded by women, the Antiquarian Society is proud to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this landmark legislation.

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH EVENTS
Presented by the Plymouth Area League of Women Voters & Plymouth Public Library
Film Showing: Iron Jawed Angels
Friday, March 6, 1 pm
Fehlow Room, Main Library, 132 South Street
This 2004 film tells the story of a group of passionate and dynamic young women, led by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, who put their lives on the line to fight for the right to vote. Discussion to follow; light refreshments will be served. Free.
Reenactment: Susan B. Anthony
Saturday, March 14, 2 pm Canceled due to public health concerns
Fehlow Room, Main Library, 132 South Street
Meet reformer and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) in this engaging performance that brings history to life. Co-sponsored with Cape Cod Bank. Light refreshments will be served. Free.
Book Discussion: The Woman’s Hour
Saturday, March 21, 11 am Canceled due to public health concerns
Board Room, Main Library, 132 South Street
In The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote Elaine Weiss recounts the battle over ratification of the 19th Amendment and the final push in Tennessee. Light brunch fare served. Copies of the book are available one month in advance. Free.
For more information on these events, please contact Jennifer Jones, Assistant Library Director, 508-830-4250 ext. 230, jjones@townhall.plymouth.ma.us.

Plymouth 400 Opening Ceremony Procession
Postponed from Friday, April 24 to Friday, June 26 (details here)
March with the Antiquarian Society in the parade that will kick off Plymouth 400’s first Signature Event of 2020. Dress as early 20th-century suffragists to commemorate the 19th Amendment centennial. Marchers will gather at Stephens Field at 8:30am, step off at 10:30 am, and march from Lincoln Street to Memorial Hall.  For more information or to enlist as a marcher, please contact Executive Director Anne Mason at director@plymouthantiquarian.org or 508-746-0012.

Suffrage Sing-Along
Wednesday, May 6, 7 pm
Fehlow Room, Main Library, 132 South Street
Music united and rallied the women who campaigned for the right to vote. PAS Executive Director Dr. Anne Mason will teach the songs of the women’s suffrage movement and provide historical context. Song sheets will be provided so that everyone can lift their voices together – no musical expertise required! Free. This event is part of ArtWeek – a unique annual celebration of arts, culture and creativity.