Who Am I Thinking About on Presidents' Day?
What do these items have in common: a chicken, a race horse, baby girls, towns, a merchant marine ship, a United States Postage Stamp, a bobblehead doll, and a boutique inn?
All of the above are namesakes of Belva Lockwood, a 19th century celebrity lawyer, educator, women's rights and peace activist, the first woman to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, and a two-time official candidate for President of the United States.
Born in 1830, Belva Lockwood was indomitable and bold. As a young widow with a small child, she refused to be dependent on anyone except herself. Managing to get educated she taught school before moving to Washington, D.C. where she married Ezekiel Lockwood, an elderly Civil War veteran and set about earning a living to support her family.
When a law school refused to bestow the law degree she had earned, Belva Lockwood got the ex officio head of the school, President Ulysses Grant, to do so in 1873. "Noting was too daring for me to attempt, she once wrote. In 1876, at the age of forty-nine years old, she was admitted to practice before the highest court in America, the U.S. Supreme Court. But first she had had to write a bill admitting women to practice and relentlessly lobby Congress for three years until the bill was passed. "I have never stopped fighting," she said. "My cause was the cause of thousands of women."
Belva Lockwood died at age of 85 in 1917, three years before the 19th Amendment enfranchising women was added to the U.S. Constitution. The heading and sub-headings in The New York Times (May 20,1917), that rarely published women's obituaries, read: "BELVA LOCKWOOD, LAWYER, DIES AT 85/Only Woman Who Ran for Presidency and First to
Practice In Supreme Court/A PIONEER IN SUFFRAGE/She Fought Case of Cherokee Indians Against the Government and Won $5,000,000 Settlement."
Unlike Virginia Woodhull, who the popular culture typically credits as the first woman to run for President, but who, in fact, was too young to be on the ballot, Belva Lockwood officially ran
two—1884 and 1888— full-scale presidential campaigns with her running mate Marietta L. Stow. Her goal wasn't about winning, it was about showing that women could run a campaign. She published a 15-point-position statement on foreign affairs, equal political rights, judicial appointments, and more; "If we always talk and never work we will not accomplish anything,"she said.
Fewer that 5, 000 men, (women were denied the vote) voted for her in 1884 and fewer still in 1888. But that was enough because Belva Lockwood's goal was not about winning but about proving that women could run for president. And that she did—twice. So Belva Lockwood is who I am thinking about on President's Day.
The top image caption (Library of Congress) published in 1884 reads: "Belva A. Lockwood: The Presidential Candidate of the Woman's National Equal Rights Party." The middle image is: "First known printed presidential ballot for a woman picturing Belva Lockwood with her running mate." (Women's Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study by Kenneth Florey, p. 20) The bottom image is a ship's figurehead on display at the Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, CT. When I saw it I thought--"Belva Lockwood??" My hunch was confirmed by the wall label: It is one of the most unusual women's landmark in my collection.