On this day in 1937, women in the Philippines receive the right to vote when 90% voted in the affirmative during a “special plebiscite” (Source). This occurred after the Constitution established in 1935 limited the right to vote to men only, but also stated that this right of suffrage could be extended to Filipino women if at least 300,000 voted in favor of it at a special plebiscite, within two years after the adoption of the new Constitution. (Source) When the plebiscite was finally held on April 20th, 1937, 447,725 women voted in favor of it, granting suffrage to all Filipino women.
The picture above shows the National Federation of Women’s Clubs of the Philippines, who lead the fight for women’s suffrage in the Phillippines. (Source)
On this day in 1429, a 17 year old Joan of Arc lead a French force to relieve the city of Orleans, which had been under attack by the English since October of 1428. Joan was a peasant girl who believed she was chosen by God to lead France to victory. Despite the fact that she had absolutely no military training at all, she managed to persuade crown prince Charles of Valois to let her lead the French army into the fight. With a French sortie (sudden attack) distracted the British troops on the western side, Joan of Arc entered the eastern gate unopposed. She brought troops and supplies into the city, but also in the process inspired the French, who began to fight back more passionately. The siege at Orleans was broken on May 8th. She lived long enough to see Charles crowned as King, before she was captured by Anglo-Burgundian forced and burned at the stake after being tried for witchcraft and heresy. She was only 19 at the time of her death, and was officially canonized as a saint in 1920. (Source)
Also on this day:
• The birth of Mary Brown Williams Ledbetter, better known as Brownie Ledbetter [what a great nickname!], in 1932. Brownie was a social justice crusader and political activist involved in the feminist, civil rights, environmental, and labor movements. She was focused especially in Arkansas, but supported the movements within the U.S. and worldwide.
• Na Hye-sok, a Korean poet, journalist, and artist, was born on this day in 1896. She wrote under the pseudonym of Jeongwol and was known as the first feminist writer in Korea, as well as the first female professional painter. ”
• In 1854, Ashmun Institute was founded in Pennsylvania as the first college for African-American students. Women, however, were not permitted to receive degrees until 1953.)
Today is one of those ones that makes you think: Why didn’t I learn this in school? On this day, April 28th, in 1915, the International Congress of Women convened in The Hague, in the Netherlands. Also referred to as the Women’s Peace Congress, it was created at the invitation of a Dutch women’s suffrage organization to women’s rights activists all around the woman. More than 1,200 female delegates from 12 countries (including the U.S., Britain, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Austria-Hungary), attended the Congress. Based on the idea that a peaceful international assembly of women could have a moral effect on “belligerent countries”, it was dedicated to advocating for peace and resolving World War 1. Some of of the woman present from the American delegation included Jane Addams (co-founder of the Hull House) and Emily Balch (a professor of Sociology at Wellesley College), both of whom later received Nobel Peace Prizes, and Alice Hamilton, who in 1919 became the first female faculty member at Harvard University. (Source)
The Congress resulted in the group adopting a plan for “continuous mediation with belligerent nations”. In line with this, they selected a delegation of women who met with government leaders in involved countries to discuss an end to the war. As women who held no political positions, they presented themselves as unofficial envoys, which allowed them more leniency in meeting a wide range of officials whom they had very frank, honest discussions with. Though their critics labeled them as “Peacettes” [eye roll], and said they couldn’t be taken seriously since they were woman [of course], they saw themselves as speaking on behalf of the women who had lost fathers, husbands, and children to the war. In the end, many of their proposals are still used as guidelines for negotiations between hostile nations to this day. In addition, many of their proposals and points could be found within President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, and their congress/delega tion sparked the eventual creation of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which still exists today. (Source)
Jane Addams and Alice Hamilton actually also published a first-hand report of this Congress, available to purchase as a book still today: Women at the Hague: The International Peace Congress of 1915.
(Picture source, also has another picture.)
On April 27th in 1992, Betty Boothroyd was the first woman to be elected Speaker of the British House of Commons. As a young girl who briefly worked as a dancer for the London West End Theatre, she got into politics serving as a secretary to politicians, trying five times before finally being elected into Parliament. When she served first as Deputy to the Speaker’s post (prior to becoming Speaker herself), she was asked (by all those confused men) how she wished to be addressed, and told them, “Call me Madam”. She refused to wear the traditional knee breeches and wig worn by her predecessors (solid choice tbh), and was known for calling ‘Times up’ at the end of the weekly question sessions. (To understand why this is “shocking”, the source explains it was: “a cry made familiar by barmaids in public houses and bars across the country”, gasp!) She has never married or had children, took up paragliding in her 60s (amazing), and was created a life peer in 2001, taking the title of Baroness Boothroyd. (Source.)
Also on this day in 1963, Margaret Annemarie Battavio’s single “I Will Follow Him” reached #1 on the U.S. Pop Charts. Margaret, who would come to be known as “Little Peggy March”, was barely 15 at the time, and as such became the youngest female performer to ever top the Billboard Hot 100– a title she still holds to this day. (Source)
On this day (April 26th) in 1777, 16 year old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles through the darkness to warn her father’s militiamen that the British troops were attacking and burning a supply depot in Danbury, CT. A messenger had come to warn her father at his farm, but the messenger refused to ride any further, and her father’s militiamen were spread out across their farms, having been given permission to return home and plant crops. Since her father could not leave his farm, Sybil volunteered to go. She rode alone through the rain and dark from 9pm until dawn, knocking on the door of every farmhouse she past, shouting out that the British were burning Danbury and to muster at her father’s farm. She rode until dawn, through the settlements of Carmel, Mahopac, Mahopac Mills, Kent Cliffs and Farmers Mills, even allegedly fighting off a highwayman with a long stick (according to some historians) and hiding from British soldiers. Because of her warning, the people of the are a (and Danbury) managed to escape mostly unharmed, and by the time she returned home at dawn, almost 400 soldiers were ready to march on the British; they couldn’t save Danbury from burning but managed to drive the British troops back in the Battle of Ridgefield. General George Washington came to thank Sybil in person for her bravery.
Despite the fact that she rode twice as far as Paul Revere did in his very well-known ride (which took place when he was 40, was less than half the distance, and took place on well-lit roads with stops for supper and relaxing), Sybil’s ride was barely spoken of. (Gee, I wonder why?) If it wasn’t for her grandson eventually re-telling her story, and the Daughters of the American Revolution eventually immortalizing her in a statue in 1961, her story might have become forgotten.