Strong Women Past and Present

The National Citizen and Ballot Box was a monthly journal deeply involved in the roots of the American feminist movement. It was owned and edited by Matilda Joslyn Gage, American women’s rights advocate, who helped to lead and publicize the suffrage movement in the United States.

This recurring segment highlighted the strength and influence of women in the past. This list is from the December 1880 issue.

Women Past and Present

ALLAQUIPPA was a celebrated savage queen residing near Pittsburg, Pa., before the Revolution. Washington is said to have called upon her when a young subaltern of the English army he was sent out to ascertain the designs of the French. Her name has been preserved in a countryseat near Pittsburg.

Miss Delia Bacon

Miss Delia Bacon

MISS DELIA BACON, a highly intellectual and eloquent woman, was the first to call in question the authorship of the plays ascribed to Shakspeare. Some twenty-five years ago she made her public appearance in Boston as a lecturer on history. Graceful and dignified in bearing, a fine reader and speaker, lecturing entirely without notes, she produced a marked impression in Boston and Cambridge. In course of her historical studies she became thoroughly convinced that Lord Bacon was the author of the plays attributed to Shakspear. In search of proof she visited England, remaining a year at St. Albans, where Lord Bacon lived in retirement, and where she supposed he wrote those matchless plays. She passed through many humiliations in behalf of her work, and poverty so great that she wrote in bed in order to keep warm, being unable to pay for fire. Hawthorne, then consul at Liverpool, helped her secure the publication of her book. It brought her a storm of abuse and adverse criticism, which following so closely upon her prolonged and exhausting literary labor, drove her insane. She was brought back to America where she soon died. But the theory she started as to the real authorship of Shakspeare’s plays, did not die with her. It has ever since continued to be the most interesting of all literary discussions; the authorship of the Junius letters pales before it. Miss Bacon, during her stay in England, wished, despite the curse, to open Shakspeare’s grave, believing she would there find the most convincing proof as to the authorship of these world renowned literary gems, but this she was not permitted to do. But the doubt she threw upon their Shakspearian authenticity is perennial. In the August Appleton’s Journal, Mr. Appleton Morgan, in a scholarly and convincing article, sustained Miss Bacon’s views. He deems it impossible that Shakspeare could have written the plays, and unhesitatingly ascribes their authorship, where Miss Bacon placed it, i. e., with Lord Francis Bacon.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

Emily Parker

Emily Parker

EMILY PARKER, another English lady swimmer, exceeded the distance made by Agnes Beckwith down the Thames, by swimming from London Bridge to Blackwall. These feats of woman go far to disprove her physical inferiority to man, when trained the same; as did the feats of the Spartan women, or of those other Greek women who sometimes took part in the races, distancing all competitors. “Environment,” is scarcely secondary to heredity in its effect upon habits and character.

CATALINA was a singer of great brilliancy. Her first reputation came to her while she was a novice in the convent of Santa Lucia, where her singing attracted throngs to the chapel from miles around, so that the religious services were transformed into a sort of theatrical entertainment. The Bishop ordered the lady Abbess to abate the scandal, and Angelica Catalina was no longer permitted to sing alone. But genius defies priestly restrictions, and the child left the convent for musical instruction, and after a course of several years made her debut upon the stage at the age of sixteen. She soon became prima donna. Her voice was considered unparalleled and in addition she was very beautiful. Tall, of majestic presence, large, beautiful blue eyes, features of ideal symmetry, she was one to entrance the eye as well as the ear. For years her name was a household word among lovers of music over all Europe. When about fifty years of age she retired permanently from the stage going to live on the banks of Lake Como, where she founded a school for the gratuitous instruction of girls. She died of the cholera at the age of sixty-nine.

Agnes Beckwith

Agnes Beckwith

AGNES BECKWITH, who in 1875, swam down the Thames, amid the crowded shipping of that part of the river from London Bridge to Greenwich, has since that time remained afloat in a tank for thirty hours without touching ground or the sides of the tank, singing, reading a newspaper, and eating to pass the monotony of the time.

MISS MINNA WILLIAMS is the only woman in this country engaged in stipple and line portrait engraving. The generality of woman engravers do their work on wood. Steel engraving is slower, more delicate and requires a fine artistic skill to which even few men have attained. It is for woman a comparatively new and rare industry, but one other lady engraving upon steel, and that in the mezzotint which is not as difficult as stipple and line engraving. Miss Williams exhibited a taste for etching, at an early age, and has been under instruction and at work for a number of years. Though possessing a natural taste for the work, her success has been brought about by the most determined perseverance, without which genius proves of little value.

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