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Women’s History Fourth of July Story

A women’s history story for the Fourth of July:  For the centennial in 1876, patriotic events were scheduled to run from January through June, culminating with a gala event on the Fourth of July in Philadelphia. Noting that none of the events honored women’s contributions or even included women participants at the gala celebration, the National Woman Suffrage Association, (NWSA, founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in 1869) passed a resolution pointing out that “one-half of the citizens of this nation, after a century of boasted liberty, are still political slaves,” and demanding “justice for the women of this land.” NWSA set up headquarters in Independence Square in Philadephia, where Elizabeth, Susan & Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote the “Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States.” Five NWSA members, including Susan & Matilda, managed to get tickets to the gala event; (they were refused a seat on the platform).  On what was recorded as one of the most oppressively hot days in an already extremely hot summer, they took their seats in the audience with copies of the Declaration concealed in their bags.  Waiting until the Declaration of Independence had been read, Susan and the others rose to their feet, walked to the platform, and presented their Declaration to the presiding official, who accepted it in shocked silence.  Handing out copies as they made a dramatic exit, they walked to a platform in front of Independence Hall, where Lucretia Mott presided over a five-hour-long ceremony. Elizabeth and other women spoke. The Hutchinson Family Singers performed. Susan read the women’s Declaration of Rights while Matilda held an umbrella over her head to protect her from the broiling sun.  Clamorous applause sounded as Susan ended with the words: “We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.”

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