The New York Times recently ran an article online about a wealth of new artifacts and letters from the original suffragists that has recently been discovered. Containing correspondence between Susan B. Anthony, Isabella Beecher Hooker and several other notable activists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, these letters are, according to Ann Gordon, a retired professor at Rutgers University and editor of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Papers Project, “A stunning collection.” According to the article, Ms. Gordon said it sheds light on a contentious period within the suffrage movement, while underscoring the degree to which the movement was driven by complex networks of on-the-ground activists. “We don’t pay enough attention to what a local movement this was,” Ms. Gordon said. “We’ve warped the story by only knowing the names of the national leaders.”
We think Ms. Gordon is onto something.
We also think that these letters illustrate the power of grassroots - YOUR power as on-the-ground activists and organizations.
Like so many movements today, the suffrage movement was a grassroots movement. The first feminists were grassroots activists. They were effective because they employed out-of-the-box grassroots strategies and tactics, even amidst the sometimes contentious relationships that they had with each other.
There is a lesson for us in this. An important lesson: there is power in concerted grassroots activism. Grassroots activists, when they employ strategies and use the tools available to them, can change history. They can MAKE history.
The suffragists may have worn sashes, written letters and distributed pamphlets, but their strategy was unique for their time and down-right effective. Today we don’t have sashes (I think we should – ha!) and hand-written letters but we have social media and so many technological tools at our service to assist and serve grassroots activism! We can be even more effective and efficient in fighting for our causes, and, through our clients, that is what Alice Paul Group is all about. We are passionate about empowering grassroots (and occasionally, for fun, we might still wear a sash).
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