Monday, May 21, 2018

Inventions and Innovations in the Second Industrial Revolution

Hello readers. The previous blog post was about immigration in the Second Industrial Revolution; now, we're moving into the inventions, innovations, and advancements made during the era.

In the late 1800s, numerous enterprising Americans created a flood of new inventions meant to make life easier for others. In 1897, the U.S. government issued more patents than in the decade before the Civil War and would become known the world over as the land of inventions and innovations.

This wouldn't be a post about inventions and innovations without mentioning Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Nikola Tesla was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and physicist best known for his contributions to the knowledge of alternating current (AC) electrical supply system. Tesla emigrated to the U.S. in 1884 from Austria. He worked at Edison Machine Works in New York City for a time before going his own way; he would establish laboratories and companies where he would develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices such as his famed alternating current induction motor. Tesla was also famous for his experiments with wireless technology--from wireless lighting and wireless electrical power to wireless communication. Without Tesla's experiments, there would be no basis for cell phones or WiFi today. In 1876, Thomas Edison set up a research laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey where numerous scientists worked to produce products such as the electric light bulb, phonograph motion picture camera, and more. With most of the inventions produced by Edison's crew requiring electricity, Edison would open the first electrical power plant in New York City in 1882; soon, power plants would spring up in other cities all over the country, providing electricity to homes businesses, and schools. Today, the electrical inventions of Tesla and Edison, and the availability of electricity in the home are often taken for granted.

The period of the Second Industrial Revolution/Technological Revolution would lead to a rise in communications technology just as the Market Revolution had. In 1866, Cyrus Field had laid an underwater telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean between the U.S. and Europe. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell further improved communication with the successful invention of the telephone; by 1885 more than 300,000 telephones had been sold, mostly to businesses, and Bell would go on to organize the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (or AT&T today). Other devices would go on to make the work life and home life simplified. In 1868, Christopher Sholes invented the typewriter; George Eastman's Kodak Camera was introduced in 1888 and its light weight replaced the use of huge cameras and hundreds of pounds of chemicals; and the costs of the typewriter and the Kodak Camera were low enough that ordinary people could buy them and use them in their daily lives.

The time period also brought about a change in how people traveled. In the late 1800s, Europeans invented the automobile and it would make its way to the U.S. In 1902, only 8,000 Americans owned an automobile; in 1913, Henry Ford developed the assembly line, which allowed him to churn out vehicles at a quickened pace making the automobile more widely available to the American public in both quantity and price. Ford even began churning out his own automobiles such as the Ford Model A and the Ford Model T--both available in every color you could long as that color was black. Roadways were built and expanded upon and today the name Ford continues to live on.

One final mode of transportation that came about because of the Second Industrial Revolution was the aeroplane, or airplane as we say now. In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright tested a gas-powered airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. On its first flight, the plane stayed in the air for 12 seconds and flew 120 feet. at the time, no one could see a practical use for these flying machines, and it wasn't until World war I broke out when their potential military use was realized. By the 1920s, travel by airplane began to "take off" and Boeing would begin the move from manufacturing military aircraft to commercial fleets.

Many of these inventions and innovations remain in use today while others have not stood the test of time and our modern technological revolution, but these inventions and innovations would propel America forward and make us known the world over as a technological powerhouse.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Immigration in the Second Industrial Revolution

The Second Industrial Revolution was well-known for the influx of immigrants who came from Europe to the United States. Between 1865 and 1915, some 25 million immigrants entered the U.S. There were many reasons for this increase in immigration--some European immigrants were escaping pogroms and political turmoil, others were seeking religious freedom, others were facing famine in their own countries, others were seeking spouses, and others were seeking employment and economic gain. The decision to leave one's country may have been difficult for some, and not all immigrants chose to stay in the United States for a variety of reasons. Many Americans were not pleased with the arrival of these Europeans coming to their country and made their opinions known. This post will examine the impact of immigration and nativism on the United States during the Second Industrial Revolution.

In the later 1800s and the early 1900s, immigrants arrived in the U.S. on ships. Ocean travel was very popular at the time, but it was a luxury for many people as it was expensive. The immigrants were crammed into large compartments below decks known as steerage, typically where cattle would be stored on a transatlantic voyage. To deal with the influx of immigrants into the U.S. there were multiple receiving centers in various parts of the country--in 1892 the most famous of these receiving centers, Ellis Island in New York, opened and took in European immigrants and at the same time Angel Bay, a receiving center in San Fransisco, California took in Asian immigrants.

The path to becoming an American citizen back then was much different than it is today. In order to become an American citizen in the 1880s, immigrants had to say they wanted to become citizens, study American history and the laws, pass a naturalization exam, and promise loyalty only to the United States. Finally, if everything was sufficient, the individual was given naturalization papers. This was not the case for many of the immigrants--many arrived in the U.S. as temporary workers, where they would work in the U.S. for a time to earn money and return to their home country to buy property and get married. For others, coming to the U.S. was a permanent move to escape political turmoil or famine. However, one-third of immigrants who had initially arrived in the U.S. had determined after a time that their situation in their home country was not as bad as what they experienced in the U.S. and would return to their home country.

Not everyone was pleased with the wave of immigrants coming into the country. Nativist, those who wanted to preserve the U.S. for native-born Americans citizens. They attempted to do this by creating "scientific" tests based on a series of measurements and physical exams to prove intelligence, strength, and other "worthy" characteristics. Nativists would also spread the beliefs that these newcomers would not assimilate to the culture of the U.S., that they would take jobs from "real" citizens, that they would bring rampant crime and violence, and that they would bring undesirable beliefs into the country such as anarchy, communism, and socialism to the country. Despite the exams and the spread of these xenophobic beliefs, millions of people were allowed entrance into the United States.

Immigrants would cause numerous changes in the country as they lived and worked their daily lives. Cities such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco grew in population and immigrants took jobs in factories, as street vendors, as farmers, brewers, and as various skilled laborers such as masons and seamstresses/tailors who wanted to try their hand at their own businesses. While some immigrants would become extremely successful and their names are still known today--such as Frederick Pabst, Frederick Miller, Adolphus Busch, Eberhard Anheuser, Levi Straus, Andrew Carnegie, and others--many others would live a life of poverty that they were unable to escape. In the 1900s, the book The Jungle by Upton Sinclair described what life was like for many immigrants who lived in the meatpacking districts and were just trying to make a living for themselves and their families.

Immigration in the U.S. has always had a vexed history, and it is a history that cannot be stated in just one blog post as it played such a major role in the Second Industrial Revolution and the Progressive Era. Upcoming posts will be about the Second Industrial Revolution will include inventions and innovations; captains of industry, robber barons, and the rise of unions; and yellow journalism and muckracking.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Second Industrial Revolution/Technological Revolution

Hello readers! In recent days (and weeks...and months) this blog has seen some special posts to commemorate events like Women's History Month and the sinking of the RMS Titanic; however, we're going to be getting back on track with posts going in chronological order. Before I begin this post, the first of a series of posts about the Second Industrial Revolution, I would like to point out that I'm looking for guest bloggers. You can read the call for submissions here. I'll also be posting videos on The Half-Point Historian Facebook page again soon, so make sure to "like" the page to see content that doesn't make its way here on the blog. Okay, enough shameless plugging, let's get to it.

Over the course of the Reconstruction Era, technology began to change the way Americans lived and worked. The period of time from around 1830 to the end of the Reconstruction Era would lay the groundwork for the Second Industrial Revolution, which would span from around 1850 until the end of the First World War.

As the nation expanded westward in the mid-1800s, government policy began to favor industrial growth over an agrarian society; Congress gave generous land grants and other subsidies to railroads and other businesses and the government kept high tariffs on imported goods which made foreign goods more expensive to boost American manufacturing. Also at this time, vast deposits of coal, iron, copper, and lead were being mined and forests were being leveled for lumber; these raw materials would propel the United States into the Second Industrial Revolution, which would also be known as the Technological Revolution for its rapid growth and expansion of different forms of technology.

One of the most important factors that spurred the Second Industrial Revolution in the United States was the Bessemer process. Developed sometime in the 1850s, the Bessemer process allowed steel to be manufactured so it would be stronger, in larger quantities, and at a low cost to manufacturers. Steel would come to replace iron as a basic building material and is still used today. In 1859, workers near Titusville, Pennsylvania discovered oil; this oil would initially be refined into crude oil and used to lubricate machinery in various industrial plants. Later, this oil would be used to power automobiles much like today. Steel and gasoline would launch the Technological Revolution forward.

Due to the boom in steel manufacturing, the use of railroads began to increase over time. Trains were used to ship people and goods around the country and helped to fuel industrial growth. The railroad system allowed for raw materials to be shipped from the mid-west and the west to the northern east coast where those raw materials would be manufactured into various products; the railroad system would allow people to traverse the ever-expanding nation, which would, in turn, lead to the growth of towns and cities.

The manufacturing of steel, and the continued manufacturing of textiles from the era of the Market Revolution, would lead to the rise of urbanization, particularly on the east coast.

The rate of urbanization was astonishing during this era; in 1860 only one in five Americans lived in cities but by 1890 one in three Americans lived in cities. The reason for this rapid rate of urbanization was due to farmers, immigrants, and African-Americans from the South would migrate to cities like New York and Chicago for economic opportunities--cities attracted manufacturing plants and other industries, and industry attracted potential workers. The rise of urbanization and the growth of cities would also lead to the rise of public transportation and the suburbs; so if you really think about it, we have the Second Industrial Revolution/Technological Revolution to blame for reality T.V. shows like "The Real Housewives of"...wherever. In any case, the new suburban areas meant that people could commute to work in the cities and were not forced to live in the cities and suffer through tenement housing and other ills. In the 880s, such public transportation as elevated trains, electric streetcars, electric subway trains, and steel bridges were appearing in many of the cities of the era, with the most famous of these being the Brooklyn Bridge which opened in 1883 and linked Manhattan to Brooklyn.

The growth of urbanization would also mean cities had to find new ways to utilize the space they had available to them, so the skyscraper was created. In 1885, Chicago architects constructed the 10-story building and by 1900 steel-framed skyscrapers towering at 30-stories loomed over cities.

Rapid urbanization would bring countless problems. Fire was a huge threat to city life and to the tightly packed neighborhoods within. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire leveled three square miles of the downtown area, killed 300 people, and left 18,000 people homeless. Rapid urbanization would also lead to the rise of slums and tenement housing, where people who were poor lived in small apartments without heat, windows, or indoor plumbing and were at great risk of contracting cholera and other diseases. As a result, settlement houses like Jane Addams's Hull House and organizations like the Salvation Army were established to help the urban poor.

The topic of the Second Industrial Revolution is a long one and would be better explained if broken up into multiple posts. This post was largely about the rise of the Technological Revolution and of urbanization; other posts in this series will include inventions and innovations, the transportation boom, the rise of businesses and unions, immigration, and education reform. So, make sure you follow along here at the blog or "like" the Facebook page for notifications of when new content gets posted for more information on American history!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Sinking of the Titanic

Hello readers! Tomorrow, April 15, 2018, marks 106 years since the sinking of the ocean liner the RMS Titanic, so I thought I would take the time to write a special post about the history of the Titanic.

Photo by Bill Cannon,
On April 10, 1912, the ocean liner the RMS Titanic, one of the largest in its class, left Southampton, England on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic was designed by Irish shipbuilder William Pirrie and was considered unsinkable due to having 16 watertight compartments, four of which could fill with water without the ship losing buoyancy. On its maiden voyage, the ship carried 2,200 passengers and crew.

Apart from England, the RMS Titanic also picked up passengers from Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland before heading full-speed towards its destination of New York City.

Just before midnight on April 14, 1912, the Titanic was unable to be steered away from a sizeable iceberg and scrapped its side, which caused five of the 16 watertight compartments in the ship's hull to take on water. Distress signals sent from the Titanic were not picked up by other ships because other ships in its vicinity did not have a telegraph operator on duty at the time. As the compartments filled with water they pulled down the bow (front) of the ship; other compartments began to fill with water because they were not capped at the top, which caused the bow to sink and the stern (back) to be raised vertically out of the water. Around 2:20am on April 15th, the Titanic broke in half and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada.

Of the 2,200 passengers and crew of the ship only about 700 people, mostly women and children, survived. The 1,500 who passed did so due to a lack of lifeboats necessary for the number of people on the ship, a lack of proper emergency procedures, and due to freezing/hypothermia from the icy waters of the Northern Atlantic. A number of notable individuals died during the sinking of the Titanic, including the heirs of the Astor, Guggenheim, and Straus fortunes.

More than an hour after the sinking, the liner Carpathia arrived and would rescue the people in the lifeboats and would pull several survivors out of the water.

As a result of the sinking, rules were adopted requiring every ship have enough lifeboat space for everyone aboard, that lifeboat drills be held so everyone aboard would know what to do in the case of an emergency, that ships maintain a 24-hour security watch, and the establishment of an Internation Ice Patrol to monitor icebergs in the North Atlantic shipping lines. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018


The Half-Pint Historian is looking for guest bloggers to share their love of history! The Half-Pint Historian blog was founded in 2011 to highlight the importance of American history; the blog garners an average of 2,000 unique views per month with an all-time readership of 97,000 individuals worldwide.

All topics will be considered for publication, with preference given to posts within a time period of 1870 to the present. Post length is at the discretion of the author, with a minimum length of 300 words. Posts should be submitted via email to the following address: as a .doc or .docx file; posts can also be submitted via a shareable, edit-able link as a Google Doc to the same email address. Posts do not have to be original to this blog and are allowed to have appeared elsewhere, but if your post has been published elsewhere you must hold the rights to your piece. Authors who submit guest posts to The Half-Pint Historian will maintain the rights to their work(s).

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Backtracking: Back to the Revolution in New York

Hello readers! For the past 15 weeks, I've been engaged in researching and writing my graduate thesis. My thesis is about the social changes that the general public had to endure during the throws of the Revolution in New York State. During my time spent researching and writing, I've uncovered some little-known pieces of my local history, and I'm going to take the time here to share it with you. I hope you all enjoy this post about the murder of Jane McCrea.

John Vanderlyn's "Death of Jane McCrea", 1804

In Upstate New York, few tragedies have the cache that the Jane McCrea murder has obtained. This infamous tragedy would have a major effect on the American Revolution as it happened in New York and would also have an impact on the war in general.

New York would declare independence from Britain in 1776, but Upstate New York would not truly feel the effects of the war until 1777 when the British and the Continental armies found themselves heading towards Saratoga. For this reason, the people in Upstate New York were content to live their lives as if there was no war. The revolutionary fervor that was present in Manhattan was not present in the frontier lands of Upstate New York; however, in the summer of 1777, the armies of General Burgoyne and his Iroquois mercenaries were pressing southward from Canada through New York with the goal to divide the American colonies.

On July 27, 1777, a young woman named Jane McCrea was scalped in the vicinity of Fort Edward, New York. There are different stories about what happened that day. The first story is that Burgoyne’s Iroquois mercenaries were ravaging towns in the area and stopped near the garrison town of Fort Edward; upon seeing the mercenaries, Jane and her friend Sara McNeil hid in a closet or the basement of their house but the mercenaries found them and scalped them both. The second story and the most well-known was that Jane and Sara were making a journey north to a British camp to meet Jane’s fiancĂ© David Jones so the pair could wed. Burgoyne heard about this and sent a pair of scouts to escort the women to the camp; however, as the scouts were escorting the women to the camp another set of mercenaries appeared and the Iroquois argued over who should bring the women to the camp. In the fighting, Sara was taken to the camp alone and Jane was scalped; when the mercenaries returned to the camp with the scalps, Sara recognized Jane’s distinctive hair and told Burgoyne what had happened. Burgoyne ordered an inquest and that Jane’s killer be brought to him; Wyandot Panther was brought to Burgoyne and told a different story than these: that Americans had ambushed the group and Jane had been killed by an American musket ball. David Jones recovered Jane’s body and she was buried near Fort Edward; however, her body would be moved a few times and examined by archaeologists before finally resting in the Union Cemetery in the Village of Fort Edward.

          The murder of the young Loyalist bride Jane McCrea would cause controversies between both sides of the Revolutionary conflict and on both sides of the Atlantic, changing the public perceptions of the home front war. The American leader General Gates would write Burgoyne a scathing letter, blaming him for the tragedy that befell Jane McCrea. Even Sir Edmund Burke, a Whig member of British Parliament, would use the tragedy to rail against the policies of the Crown, particularly when it came to allowing their generals and Native mercenaries run amuck. The Iroquois were seen as being indiscriminate killers and struck fear into everyone as it was unsure where their true loyalties lie if they were killing those who sided with the British cause, an act that would be repeated at the Cherry Valley Massacre in November 1778. The murder of Jane McCrea was used as propaganda against the British who had claimed that they would protect Loyalists from violence.

          Jane McCrea's murder would inspire New Yorkers to take up the Patriot cause and would grow the ranks of the Continental Army at a time when desertion was otherwise high; the death of this young Loyalist woman was highly sensationalized in the media that existed at the time, and the outrage surrounding her death grew so strong that many people in Upstate New York would choose sides when they were known for not having chosen sides earlier in the conflict—going from Loyalist or neutral parties to Patriots; to them, the Loyalist cause was no longer a cause worth supporting. This rush of enlistments would lead, in part, to the many Continental victories within the Saratoga Campaign.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Post for Women's History Month: Women's Suffrage, Racism, and Nativism in the Progressive Era

Hello readers! I know it's been a while since I last posted. I'm hard at work finishing up work for graduate school, but with March being Women's History Month I wanted to make sure I could post something. Here is a paper I wrote as an undergrad, which was used as part of my admissions to graduate school. It's about women's suffrage, racism, and nativism in the Progressive Era--looking at the women's suffrage movement not from the perspective of the well-known feminist leaders but of little-known and unknown women who were considered racial minorities in the Progressive Era and the struggles they faced in fighting for suffrage.

The Progressive Era was a time period in American history that lasted from the 1890s through the 1920s. This period is associated with the Progressives wanting to reform New York City by eliminating corruption and vice, undercutting political machines such as Tammany Hall and the bosses who ran those machines, and prohibition as well as the continued rise of urbanization and industrialization and the second half of the women’s suffrage movement. On February 3, 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified to the Constitution. This amendment granted African-American males the right to vote by stating that “the rights of citizens of the United States, or any State, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. From then on, what would be known as the women’s suffrage movement (and will be known as the First Wave Feminist Movement later) would get its start. Many women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Smith Miller would rise to prominence as leaders during the first half of the movement and speak out about women’s roles in society and how their voices were not being heard or how their desires were not being reflected in government actions. However, after their deaths, the movement slowed. In 1902, Harriot Stanton Blatch, the daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, wanted to rejuvenate the suffrage movement and would later go on to form the Women’s Political Union and recruit working class women into the suffrage movement. In the 1910s, other women such as Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt joined the movement to enfranchise women.
These women and others were not just working towards enfranchisement; these women were also working on issues related to sexuality, marriage, and childbirth. This was another movement within the larger movement and was to ensure that women could access birth control information and devices, to raise the consent age in the state, to censor pornography, to abolish prostitution and human trafficking, promoted sexual education, asserted the rights of women to refuse sex within the marriage, and worked to hold men to the same sexual standards as women. An important figure to step out of this movement was Margaret Sanger, a nurse who would go on to open the first birth control clinic in New York City in 1916, which would eventually become Planned Parenthood.
The Progressive Era also saw many important changes in the lives of African-American women. Thousands had migrated from the South to the North and from rural settings to urban settings. These women went from being employed in agricultural jobs to working in the factories and as domestic servants. Slavery had been over for quite some time, but these women continued to feel its effects in New York City during this era. In addition to “peaceful” racism, where segregation and other Jim Crow laws were in effect but no physical harm came to these people, these women faced violent acts such as lynching. From race based issues such as segregation and lynching, and others, sprung another movement, one in which African-Americans such as Anna Arnold Hedgeman, Cecilia Cabaniss Saunders, W.E.B. Du Bois, and other men and women founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to not just help the African-American men but to help the women as well.
During the Progressive Era, a lot of changes were occurring, but there was no change that was quite as controversial as the women’s suffrage movement. This movement encompassed more than just the right for women to vote, it also encompassed a sexual revolution in an era where women were supposed to be pure and many other reform movements such as education reform, health reform, housing reform, and labor reform. This was the movement that started it all; this was the movement that propelled women to finally be considered as citizens and showed everyone what women can do when they come together as an unrelenting force. However, this movement also showed that although minorities wanted the same things, many were not included or allowed to take part in the larger movements and had to develop their own clubs and organizations and create their own movement. This paper will highlight the different movements within the larger movement and will show that African-American women, as well as immigrants fighting to have the same rights as those born in the United States, succeeded in their fight for rights despite hardships they faced along the way and without help from those involved in the larger suffragette movement. This paper will also show the different forms of racism, such as segregation and discrimination, within the larger movement and what whiteness and citizenship meant in the early twentieth century.
At the turn of the twentieth century in New York City, immigration was increasing the number of inhabitants in the city (and the country as a whole). One question, though, is who was considered a citizen? Naturalization laws were different in the early twentieth century compared to what they are today in the twenty-first century. In the early 1900s, there were three steps in the naturalization process. The first step was to file a declaration of intent, these were either filed immediately upon arrival or two years after the person had been in the country. Certain groups like women, children under the age of 21, and men who served and were honorably discharged from the United States military after 1862 were exempt from this first step. The second step was to file a naturalization petition, which was a set of formal applications submitted to the court by individuals who had met residency requirements and who declared their intent to become citizens The final step was to receive the certificate of naturalization, which contained the name of the individual, the name of the court, and the date of the issue. What is interesting to note is that “derivative” citizenship was granted to wives and children as long as the children were under 21 years of age, of naturalized men. This meant that they became citizens, but also meant that if an alien woman married a U.S. citizen then she would be granted citizenship, and if an American woman married an alien that her citizenship would be revoked. The status of citizenship was truly through the man, and this fact will be looked at in detail throughout this paper.
What did this mean in terms of whiteness? Many people who we consider to be white today were not considered white during this era because of where they came from, not strictly based on the color of their skin. According to the Bureau of the Census, “in 1900 about one out of eight Americans was of a race other than white”. Who was white in the 1900s and why does it matter? Anyone who fit the standard of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) was white, and those who didn’t fit the description were not white. This includes, among others, those of African descent, those of Italian descent, and those of Jewish descent. This matters because many people know what white women have done in regards to suffrage and other rights we take for granted but not many know what the “minorities” have done, and that is what I want to show in this paper.
During the Victorian Era, which was roughly between 1837 and 1901, coverture was the law of the land. Coverture was the practice of treating women as property, and many of the laws that were encompassed into coverture are still traditions that we continue to have in our society today, such as taking the husband’s name in marriage. Others include the wife’s property becoming her husband’s property, including the money she earned if she had a job during their marriage, and even property that the woman into the marriage with her became the property of her husband. In his work Commentaries on the Laws of England, William Blackstone described the laws that were in place in England’s common law, as well as the common law here in the United States when it was in place. Blackwell states, “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything; and is therefore called into our law--French a feme-covert; is said to be covert-baron, or under the protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord; and her condition during her marriage is called her coverture”. These laws lasted well into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and affected the lives of the women in the United States.
The women of the early suffrage movement undoubtedly felt the effects of coverture, however, many of these women did have amicable unions with men who fought for women’s suffrage alongside their wives, such as Henry Brewster Stanton, the husband of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the father of Harriot Stanton Blatch. However, many more women were not so lucky, and even many women were against the right to vote because they believed that their place was to be subservient to their husbands and to be in the home, as they were raised to believe. According to a March 1896 article by Henry B. Blackwell titled “Objections to Women’s Suffrage Answered” which was published in a women’s suffrage leaflet from Massachusetts, many men sided alongside the women who were fighting for the right to vote. Some of those men included: “Among others, Abraham Lincoln, Chief Justice Chase, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Samuel G. Howe, John G. Whittler, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Sumner, Henry Wilson, President Hayes, Governors Banks, Boutwell, Clatlin, Washburn, Talbot, Long, Butler, Brackett, and Greenhalge, U.S. Senators Geo. F. Hoar and Henry L. Dawes; John M. Forbes, Robert Collyer, Bishops Haven, Bowman and Simpson, Neal Dow, George William Curtis, the Republicans of Massachusetts in successive platforms since 1870. The national Republican conventions of 1872, 1876, and 1896”. Even W.E.B. Du Bois was a proponent of women’s suffrage, as is mentioned at the beginning of this paper. However, there were many anti-suffrage women and they proved to be more of an adversary than the men. If women couldn’t unite over this one cause, would they be able to unite at all? Let’s look at the evidence.
As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, there was a racial separation when it came to the women’s suffrage movement and larger First Wave Feminist movement. To prove this point, I will be highlighting the experiences of African-American women, Italian immigrants and their American-born daughters, and Jewish immigrants and their daughters.
In Talk with You Like a Woman: African American Women, Justice, and Reform in New York, 1890-1935, Cheryl D. Hicks describes the struggle of black working-class women in regards to racism and sexism in the twentieth century. She describes the reform programs of middle class white and black activists, the labor and housing markets, poverty, maternity, domestic violence, and police violence. In this book, Hicks brings to life the voices and the viewpoints of these working class women and how these women challenged views about black women and morality in the country.
African-Americans made their way from the South to the North in an event known as the Great Migration, which began during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and swelled during the years of World War I. Many migrant women felt that the move to New York City was beneficial and although they had to make sacrifices some women were able to make a better life for themselves that they would not have experienced if they had remained in the South. Eager to leave the South and its racial and economic limitations behind, these migrant women soon found out that the urban North had its own problems with race relations.
Blacks had always had a strong presence in New York City. They arrived as indentured servants and slaves when New York was under control of the Dutch in the 1600s and their labor and constant numbers contributed to the growth of the region. With this in mind, it should not be a surprise that these men and women would be at the forefront of several movements, such as the anti-lynching movements and early civil rights movements like eliminating voting restrictions like poll taxes and literacy tests. However, many of the new migrants were not welcomed to New York City with opened arms and many of the black activists and community leaders “were concerned that the influx of working class and poor southerners would impair their own social, political, and economic standing”.
As mentioned in previous pages, white middle class and wealthy women were fighting for the right to vote during the era of the Great Migration, and it is possible that African American women would hear the rhetoric these women were shouting and wanted to join their movements. The white suffragettes were handing out pamphlets and other literature, organized marches, and even picketed the White House. Through these grassroots campaigns, these women were able to get the right to vote, but what did the African American women do?
In Black Women and Politics in New York City, Julie A. Gallagher wrote about sixty years of politically active black women in New york City who dealt with struggles for rights, equality, and justice through formal politics rather than grassroots activism. Gallagher tells about black women activists who formed women’s clubs and organizations in New York City and broke out into national politics and how they dealt with race, gender, and the state itself as well as how those black women influenced the Democratic Party and its policies over time.
Many activists in New York City, like Anna Arnold Hedgeman and Cecilia Cabaniss Saunders, spent their lives pursuing for themselves and others the rights they believed they were entitled to as citizens of the state and country as a whole. Hedgeman, who was a migrant to New York City from the South, witnessed first-hand what black women could do because she was a part of the movement. Black women of different backgrounds and social status in New York stepped into the public sphere to fight for civil, economic, and political rights. Many of these women were middle class and college educated and they were sensitive to the struggles faced by poor and working class women. There were tensions between the middle class and the poor and working class women, as we saw with the white suffragettes, however the native New Yorkers had allies with the migrants. There was a myriad of challenges but they did not keep black women from trying to help create a more just society, in fact, those challenges increased the number of women who wanted to take part in the movement towards becoming enfranchised. Black women were involved in the suffrage movement with the white women at first but due to racial tensions they broke away and had to form their own movements. This movement started out through grassroots campaign but black women, and men, began to become more politically active and used their knowledge of the political system of the early twentieth century to get their points across, to mobilize women and men to their cause, and would eventually gain the right to vote alongside white women.  
White middle and upper class women and African-American women were not the only ones who fought for the right to vote and who would eventually be called feminists, Italian immigrant women and their daughters also fought for the right to vote.
More Italians have immigrated to the United States during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century than any other ethnic group. Italians were known for their close-knit families and were very community-oriented, and the rules of the family were law. Many Italians, men and women alike, worked in the garment industry when they arrived in New York City because that was what they did when they were in Italy, and it was no surprise when that the men and women would unionize, joining unions such as the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and would bring their radical ideas to fruition. Radical ideas, it is important to note, amounted to stricter fire safety codes, better and stronger fire escapes, and all around safer factories. However, these Italian men and women were also known for their social activism.
In “Transnational Feminism’s Radical Past: Lessons from Italian Immigrant Women Anarchists in Industrializing America”, author Jennifer Guglielmo examines the activism of working class Italian immigrant women in the United States with a focus on New York City.
“Italian immigrant women’s activism differed markedly from traditional models of “first wave” feminism, including forms of labor activism”. Some women involved in the movement used the word feminismo to describe themselves and what they were doing while others used the word emancipazione because it distinguished themselves from the “bourgeois feminism”. Italian women, although they did join movements later on as stated above, they were not quick to join the feminist movement or labor movement at first for a multitude of reasons, one of which was discrimination. Northern Italians tended to be lighter-skinned, and the Northern Italian elites would justify their treatment and exploitation of the Southern Italian women by racializing these women as “sexual and political deviants, pathetic beasts of burden” and as “dark, swarthy, and kinky-haired” and seeing the treatment of people who were dark-skinned in the United States, Southern Italians, men and women alike, came to learn that to be dark-skinned “was to be despised and degraded”. However, many more people believed that Italians were white, and Southern Italian immigrant women managed to rise up from the bottom of racial hierarchy in Italy to surpassing African-Americans, Chinese, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and others on the racial hierarchy here in the United States, mainly those who were seen as agents of social disorder rather than victims of it. Racialization, and nativism, play a major role in the treatment of others in this era. Due to the negative connotations connected to the Southern Italians, such as anarchism and the mafia, the women were looked down on as well. The Southern Italian women, already having been treated as lesser beings due to their darker skin, were thought of as terrorists, loose women, and “unruly subversives who threatened the fiber of the nation”.
During the Red Scare of World War I, and the execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, nativism and criminalization of dissent crippled Italian immigrant radicalism. As a result of this, Italians began to move away from anarchist and socialist movements and moved towards nationalism and whiteness. Later, the generation of Italian-Americans would embrace the ideas for economic justice, anarchism, socialism, and communism.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, Italian immigrant women entered into political activism through labor militancy. Italian immigrant women rarely held leadership positions in unions or strike committees but they were exceptional at mobilizing co-workers to win labor struggles. Since the majority of Italian immigrant women were unskilled workers who were concentrated in low-wage jobs they were not initially recruited by most United States labor and political organizations. Due to this, they formed mutual aid societies as a way of self-help and survival, and these groups would also create schools, libraries, churches, food cooperatives, theater troupes, and presses. It was through these mutual aid societies where immigrant women created spaces for feminist activism, especially in the years before World War I. “Between the 1880s and World War I, hundreds of these radical circles formed across the New York metro area. By 1914, there were over a dozen in the Lower East Side and Mulberry districts alone, and at least one in virtually every other Italian neighborhood. They flourished in Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, as well as across the Hudson River throughout New Jersey”. One such radical circle was formed by Sicilian anarchists and was called Club Avanti. Club Avanti “supported education, sponsored lectures on peace, religion, and sexual and family questions, on women’s emancipation, nationalism, imperialism, major immigrant strikes, the Mexican Revolution, the problems of political prisoners in Italy, and, more generally, current events”.
Women were very active in clubs but there were men who relied on masculine rhetoric to get what they wanted and who would put themselves in positions of power, thus not being what a real socialist was supposed to be.The men would also belittle the women, claim that they were weak and uneducated and did not have the drive to emancipate themselves. Women expressed their opinions in writing about how men reacted to them within the movement, but the women usually remained anonymous, used pen names, or just went by their first names in their writings.
These radical Italian women were not fighting for the right to vote, they were fighting for the changing of laws and to be free in an America that they did not see as a place for freedom, despite what the branding of the country was. These women declared: “We are not feminists in the manner of the bourgeoisie, who claim the equality or supremacy of our sex, and would be satisfied with the realization of these dreams...We want to tear down all the false prejudices that infest the world. It is not with changing certain laws that we can call ourselves free...You see, my sister workers, these laws are made by the bourgeoisie for their interests”. As anarchists, these women believed that the government, the church, and private property were harmful because they forced people to live within a set of rules which placed people on different levels of a social hierarchy which in turn put them on unequal terms with one another. Anarchists believed that no one was free until everyone was free, and these women, through their clubs, labor organizations, and through the literature they produced tried to make everyone equal. They were not fighting for the right to vote as others were, as previously stated, but despite this they managed to rally a large number of people to their causes and their abilities to mobilize people to a cause were used by other women who had the urge to mobilize others to causes they were fighting for, whether those causes were for voting rights or a host of other causes people were fighting for or against during the Progressive Era.
There are several historians who have written about the lives of the immigrant Jewish women and the first generation of American-born Jewish women and what they have accomplished during the early years of the twentieth century. This section will explore the lives of these women and their reform movements.
In “Assimilation in the United States: Twentieth Century” by Deborah Dash Moore, the author discusses the lengths that Jewish women went to in order to assimilate into the American culture. Just like with the Italians and other groups, assimilation began with immigration. Most of the immigrant Jewish women did not resist adapting to the language and the way of life in America, and those who had difficulty adjusting often returned to Europe. However, over 90% stayed in the United States and in their choice of paid employment, household labor, attitudes towards love and marriage, and their methods of child rearing all worked to establish the first models of American Jewish womanhood for their daughters.
American Jewish women grew up well integrated into their Jewish families, and many enjoyed the luxuries of middle-class families where mothers managed the household and the children went to school. Many families in the beginning of the Progressive Era did not feel the need to educate their daughters as they did with their sons. However, American Jewish women benefitted from the expanding education opportunities for American women, due to the many education reforms in New York City, and the country as a whole, in this era, and these American Jewish women were going to high schools and normal schools and even attending colleges. The advent of the women’s suffrage movement and the larger women’s rights movement undoubtedly opened many opportunities for white middle-class women, and this included the Jewish women as well. Even if these Jewish women were not radical enough to support the women’s suffrage movement, these women came to realize that they did not necessarily need to be married and/or have children. “Social feminism, the idea that women’s particular strengths in caring for the vulnerable required that she leave her home and enter public life, attracted many women and provided rationale for organizational activity”.
During the Progressive Era, many Jewish immigrants and American Jewish girls and women worked in the textile factories in New York City. Like the Italians who had always been involved in the textile trades, the Jewish women were often skilled in this particular trade as well, and Jewish women impacted this industry in a powerful way.
On November 23, 1909 more than 20,000 Yiddish-speaking immigrants, mostly young women who were in their early teens and twenties, began an 11-week general strike in New York’s shirtwaist industry. Known to historians as the Uprising of the 20,000, this was the largest strike by women to date in American history and began with the inability of women to organize, along with the grievances about wages, hours, workplace safety, and incidents such as sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances, threats, and invasions of privacy. The strikers only won a small portion of their demands, and many women did not win anything, but this uprising would spark a five year long revolt in which the garment industry would be transformed into one of the best-organized trades in the United States.
The shirtwaist, what we call a blouse today, was designed in the early 1890s and came at a time when the production of women’s clothing went from piecework being done in the home by the entire family to factories. By 1909, there were 600 shops operating in New York City and they employed 30,000 workers and produced $50 million in merchandise annually. New York City was the center of garment manufacturing in the United States during the Progressive Era, and would later become one of the fashion capitals of the world.
In the shops, there was definitely a hierarchy. On the bottom tier were the “learners”--the women who were unskilled and had the lowest paying jobs--even when they had mastered their tasks, they were still called “learners” and would earn three to four dollars per week. In the middle were the semiskilled “operators” who comprised about half of the workforce and earned seven to twelve dollars per week. On the top of the worker pyramid were the highly skilled sample makers, cutters, and pattern makers who earned fifteen to twenty-three dollars per week; they were almost exclusively male and they were most likely unionized before the uprising.
“The movement that culminated in the uprising of the 20,000 began with spontaneous strikes against the Leiserson Company, the Rosen Brothers, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Company--New York’s largest manufacturer of shirtwaists during the summer/fall busy season of 1909...The Rosen Brothers settled with their employees after five weeks, but Leiserson and Triangle remained intransigent”. Right from the start, the strikers faced opposition from the manufacturers, police, and the court system. Harris and Blanck, the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, hired thugs and prostitutes to abuse the strikers, either by beating them or by having them falsely arrested by being associated with street walkers, and with the aid of policemen, the strikers would often be arrested on over-exaggerated charges of assault. The Local 25 of the ILGWU, which represented shirtwaist makers, asked the Women’s Trade Union League to monitor the picket lines, but after police arrested Mary Dreier, the head of the WTUL for allegedly harassing a scab worker, the strikers won the sympathy of an indifferent public. By early November, the Local 25 was running out of money in its strike fund and many strikers chose to return to work instead of facing arrest, harassment and personal injury, but things were about to change later that month. “On November 22, thousands of young women packed into Cooper union to discuss Local 25’s recommendations. Samuel Gompers and Mary Dreier spoke, along with a number of luminaries of the Jewish labor movement...Frustrated after two hours, Clara lemlich Shavelson...In words now legendary, the impassioned twenty-three-year-old declared, “I am a working girl, one of those who are on strike against intolerable conditions. I am tired of listening to speakers who talk in general terms. What we are here to decide is whether we shall or shall not strike. I offer a resolution that a general strike be declared--now.” Lemlich ignited the audience. In unison, the crowd pledged support for the general strike by reciting a secularly adapted Hebrew oath chanted by [Benjamin] Feigenbaum [the meeting’s chair]. In one month of the general strike, 723 were arrested and 19 were sentenced to the workhouse; in a response to this, the WTUL organized mass rallies at places like Carnegie Hall and City Hall in which the plight of the strikers was connected to the suffragist cause--this alliance produced a new perspective that merged class consciousness with feminism and would later be called industrial feminism. “Though not a complete victory, the uprising achieved significant, concrete gains. Out of the Associated Waist and Dress Manufacturers’ 353 firms, 339 signed contracts granting most demands: a fifty-two-hour week, at least four holidays with pay per year, no discrimination against union loyalists, provision of tools and materials without fee, equal division of work during slack seasons, and negotiation of wages with employees. By the end of the strike, 85 percent of all shirtwaist makers in New York had joined the ILGWU. Local 25, which began the strike with a hundred member, now counted ten thousand”.
However, not everyone benefitted from the Uprising of the 20,000 and what happened on March 25, 1911 was proof of that.
On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory erupted into flames in the late afternoon. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was the deadliest industrial disaster in New York City history at that time, and this could have been prevented had Harris and Blanck agreed to some of the demands of the Local 25, such as stricter fire codes and more fire escapes. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers who died from being burned alive, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women in their teens and early twenties. This fire, documented in many newspapers from across the country, led to legislation which would improve factory safety standards.
According to a March 26, 1911 New York Tribune article, Harris and Blanck were warned that something like this would happen and that they were told a couple of weeks before that they were not up to code and had to do several things to get their factory up to code. Fire Chief Cocker was stated in the article as saying: “This calamity is just what I have been predicting. There were no outside fire escapes on this building. I have been advocating and agitating that fire escapes be put on buildings just such as this. This large loss of life is due to this neglect”.
On June 30, 1911, Governor John Dix signed legislation which created the Factory Investigation Commission (FIC). The FIC was established to investigate the various factories in New York City and would later pass laws through the state legislature ensuring safer conditions in factories, including stricter safety codes and child labor laws. Later, as a result of this, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, was established in 1971 to ensure that these Progressive Era laws would remain intact and that men, women, and young adults would remain safety in the workplace.
In 1958, Leon Stein interviewed survivors of the fire, and on September 4, 1958, he interviewed Rose Hauser, who was on the ninth floor of the building that housed the factory. Rose is quoted as saying: “When I began to go down to the 8th floor, I was choking. The fire was in the hall on the 8th floor. I put my muff around my head tightly and I ran right through the fire. The fur caught on fire. When we got down stairs they kept us in the hall and they wouldn’t let us go into the street because the bodies were falling down. The firemen finally came and took us out across the street and we stood numb in the doorway of a Chinese import store. I saw one woman jump and get caught on a hook on the 6th floor and watched how a fireman saved her”.
Women came together to fight for what they wanted, but unfortunately not everyone got what they were fighting for. While many women were fighting for various rights, primarily the right to vote, there were others who were working against them.
The Anti-Suffrage Movement was alive and well in New York City during the Progressive Era. The Anti-Suffrage Movement was a primarily female movement against women’s suffrage. One of the main arguments for not granting women the right to vote was that women belonged in their own private sphere, in the home, married, and taking care of the children; this was called “domestic feminism” and was used to argue that women had dominion over the home.The anti-suffragettes believed that the behavior of the suffragettes was becoming and chastised the suffragettes for their unfemininity, violence, sexual deviance, hysteria, unnaturalness, and threat to other women represented as exposing women to ridicule and insult.
“By 1916 almost all of the major suffrage organizations were united behind the goal of a constitutional amendment. When New York adopted woman suffrage in 1917 and President Woodrow Wilson changed his position to support an amendment in 1918, the political balance began to shift in favor of the vote for women”. Despite this, there was still a strong opposition to the women’s suffrage movement. In 1917, the Women Voters Anti-Suffrage Party of New York sent a petition to the United States Senate. This document declares that the fight for women’s suffrage was harassing the public men and was distracting the people from doing work for the war effort; this document urged the United States Senate to “pass no measure involving such a radical change in our government while the attention of the patriotic portion of the American people is concentrated on the all-important task of winning the war, and during the absence of the over a million men abroad”.
Even with the opposition, women were granted suffrage on May 18, 1919 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. The Nineteenth Amendment states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation”. With the passing and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, women were finally having their voices heard, but throughout this era it was not just the middle-class white women reformers who were fighting for their rights and making strides in different reform movements which would change the course of history and would lead to this ultimate goal; immigrant women and African-American women had their own movements so they could experience the full benefits of citizenship. When studying about women’s suffrage, it is imperative to recognize that more women, those whose names may be forever lost in history and those who were not native to New York City or the country as a whole, were involved in many of the reform movements of the Progressive Era and even influenced the suffrage movement. Despite the hardships that many of these women have faced, we can now enjoy a right that so many people take for granted.


Primary Sources

Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; ARC Identifier 596314/MLR Number A-1 5A (National Archives: Archival Research Catalog).

Petition from Carrie Chapman Catt of the National American Woman Suffrage Association Asking that a Committee on Woman Suffrage be appointed in the House of Representatives as in the Senate; ARC Identifier 306662 (National Archives: Archival Research Catalog).

Henry Blackwell, “Objections to Woman Suffrage Answered” (Boston, MA: Office of the Woman’s Journal, March 1896); ARC Identifier 306657.

Petition from the Women Voters Anti-Suffrage party of New York to the United States Senate (

Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (published 1765).

New York Tribune, March 26, 1911;

Leon Stein, “Interview with Rose Hauser, September 4, 1958”.

Secondary Sources

Julie Gallagher, Black Women and Politics in New York City (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2012).

Cheryl D. Hicks, Talk with You Lie a Woman: African-American Women, Justice, and Reform in New York, 1890-1935 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

Susan Goodier, No Votes for Women: New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement (Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2013).

Fran Hobbs and Nicole Stoops, U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Special Reports, Series CENSR-4, Demographic Trends in the 20th Century (U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, 2002).

Jennifer Guglielmo, “Transnational Feminism’s Radical Past: Lessons from Italian Immigrant Women Anarchists in Industrialized America” (Journal of Women’s History, spring 2010).

Deborah Dash Moore, “Assimilation in the United States: Twentieth Century” from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia (Jewish Women’s Archive, 2005).

Tony Michels, “Uprising of the 20,000 (1909)” from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia (Jewish Women’s Archive, 2005).

Inventions and Innovations in the Second Industrial Revolution

Hello readers. The previous blog post was about immigration in the Second Industrial Revolution; now, we're moving into the inventions,...