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101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History
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December 1987 | Volume 38, Issue 8
(1925–65), born Malcolm Little, was a “hustler” who was converted to the Black Muslim faith while in prison. Having become one of the most radical Muslim critics of white America, a black nationalist who opposed integration of any sort on the ground that white people were devils, he began to moderate his position after extensive travels in the Middle East and Africa. His career was cut short when he was assassinated after he had begun to criticize other Muslim leaders.
“[Men] denied us the means of knowledge and then reproached us for the want of it.…They doomed the sex to servile or frivolous employment on purpose to degrade their minds, that they themselves might hold unrivalled the power and preemptions they usurped.” Priscilla Mason, 1793.
“There is no foundation in reason or expediency, for the absolute and slavish subjection of the wife to the husband, which forms the foundation of the present legal relations. Were woman, in point of fact, the abject thing which the law, in theory, considers her to be when married, she would not be worthy the companionship of man.” Lucretia Mott, 1849.
“Men call us angels, and boast of the deference they pay to our weakness! They give us their seats in church, in cars and omnibusses, at lectures and concerts, and in many other ways show us great respect where nothing but form is concerned. … but at the same time they are defrauding us of our just rights by crowding us out of every lucrative employment, and subjecting us to virtual slavery.” Amelia Bloomer, 1851.
“The reason why women effect so little & are so shallow is because their aims are low, marriage is the prize for which they strive, if foiled in that they rarely rise above the disappointment.…But we feel this so keenly we now demand an equal education with man to qualify us to become coworkers with him in the great arena of human life.” Sarah Grirnke, “Education of Women,” 1852–57.
“Southern women are I believe all at heart abolitionists. I will stand to the opinion that the institution of slavery degrades the white man more than the Negro and exerts a most deleterious effect upon our children.” Ella Thomas, a Georgian, writing in her journal, 1858.
“Women have the same invaluable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that men have. Why have they not this right politically as well as men? Women constitute a majority of the people of this country—they hold vast portions of the nation’s wealth and pay a proportionate share of the taxes.…The American nation, in its march onward and upward, cannot publicly choke the intellectual and political activity of half its citizens by narrow statutes.” Victoria Woodhull, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, 1871.
“A Woman’s body belongs to herself alone. It does not belong to the United States of America or any other government on the face of the earth.” Margaret Sanger, Woman Rebel, 1914.
“Even the woman movement we have called feminism has not succeeded by and large in giving women any control over men. It has only changed the distribution of women…removing vast numbers of women from the class supported by men to the class working for them.” Elsie Clews Parsons, Social Rule, 1916.
“With women as half the country’s elected representatives, and a woman President once in a while, the country’s machismo problems would be greatly reduced.…I’m not saying that women leaders would eliminate violence. We are not more moral than men; we are only uncorrupted by power so far.” Gloria Steinern, 1970.
In an intensely competitive political society where 55 percent is a sweeping victory and 60 percent a landslide, success in politics often depends upon the art of compromising. American history is therefore full of wheeling and dealing, where one group agrees to something it dislikes in order to get something that it wants very much or, to put a better face on the practice, where politicians take into account the needs of others as well as themselves and try to do what is best for the entire country. Apart from the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850 (see last December’s issue), here are some examples: