Join us as we take a deeper dive into the dirty laundry basket of Jane Swisshelm. Often venerated in Minnesota history as a feminist and abolitionist, Jane was also a down and dirty racist and settler who advocated for "extermination" of her Native neighbors. In this minisode, Katy teaches us about the US-Dakota War of 1862, the largest mass execution in U.S. history, Swisshelm's response and her continued demonization of Native people even as she worked for (white) women's rights and the abolition of slavery. Jane deserves her spot in history—not not as a hero, but rather as a study of human contradiction. Even when good contributions are made, if damage is not acknowledged, let alone redressed, it lurks and it rots. Thanks to Sally Jo Sorensen for reminding us to "effing google" these figures and for Bryan Stevenson for reminding us that we're all more than the worst thing we've ever done. When it comes to white women, however, we need to make sure we're held to account for those things and don't just keep getting swept under the rug.
We take our discussion of suffrage to the end of the 19th century! Huzzah! It might take us as long to discuss this topic as it took to actually get the 19th amendment passed. Main takeaway from this episode: whyte (yes, whyte) women really don't get intersectionality. But basically, we took our one-issue concern—getting the vote—and said a big "sorry, maybe later" to basically every other concern out there, but especially to the topic of racism. Before anyone gets apologetic about "well, that's the way it was back then..." Stop. Stop right there. As you will learn, women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton knew what they were doing. They had a choice to make and they made the wrong one. It's a choice we are still dealing with, over 120 years later.
In this episode, we take down Jane Grey Swisshelm, and shout out the Zinn Education Project's Teach Reconstruction Campaign as well as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. In particular, check out her Truth-with-a-capital-T speech, "We Are All Bound Up Together" (1866).
"I do not believe that white women are dew-drops just exhaled from the skies. I think that like men they may be divided into three classes, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. The good would vote according to their convictions and principles; the bad, as dictated by prejudice or malice; and the indifferent will vote on the strongest side of the question, with the winning party. You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs."
—Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1866)
Goldilocks: the original Dirty Britch. In this minisode, we dive into why the stories we tell ourselves and our kids matter and why we need to be better at taking a critical lens to the values they impart—implicitly or explicitly. They stick in the subconscious part of your brain, and the next thing you know, you're grabbing someone's breast when you come out of anesthesia. (Just listen to the minisode, it all comes together.) Shout outs to Luvvie Ajayi Jones' "Goldilocks Was Criming While White" and to three-year-old Thea for her retelling that ends with Goldilocks dead. Oh, and Dr.Seuss was racist. Thanks to Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens for their research on that... we'll get into it more soon. And Megyn Kelly has no imagination... or understanding of race. Tangents!
We had the great fortune to sit down with historian, activist, and all-around badass Sally Roesch Wagner for our first special guest conversation. We hear more about what brought her from Aberdeen, South Dakota to Seneca Falls, the white girl time-outs she gives herself, her FBI file, and why she doesn't cut Susan B. Anthony any slack. Sally recommends checking out the Akwesasne Freedom School, Rematriation Magazine, and the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation—and so do we.
"As much as I try to rid myself of settler exceptionalism, it's so deep in me. I keep pulling out more and more pieces of it like friggin' tapeworm."
—Sally Roesch Wagner
Have you seen Rachel Lindsay's interview of Chris Harrison as he defended Rachael Kirkconnell after photos of her surfaced at an Old South ball? Did we already confuse you? Hang in there. In a nutshell, this Bachelor Nation scandal is an example of a white person getting outed for doing something racist (e.g., sexy slavery cosplay, wearing Blackface, etc.) and then other white people defending them, getting up in arms about the "woke police," etc. thus making it even worse. Mandy dishes on her frustration with the term "antebellum" and its glorification (check out this article by Tamara Winfrey Harris) and Katy directs us to an article by Jen Harvey (author of Raising White Kids) that reminds us to hold people accountable AND not to "individualize" this incident in ways that let young white people off the hook for racism: "This is what happens when white children and youth are under-supported in learning to develop anti-racist values. White silence—pervasive even among those of us who believe abstractly or wholeheartedly in equity, fairness, and justice—has therefore done its work. It’s we white adults who are collectively responsible for the outcomes showing up in these next generations."
Check out the next phase of our look at the petty, dirty britches of the women's suffrage movement. We dive into the anti-slavery societies out of which radical interracial women's groups arose... and then fell apart thanks to that good ol' toxic blend of racism and sexism. FFS, GYST.
The books inspiring this episode include :
We also mentioned Sandy Grande's work, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Maria Miller Stewart, Sarah Mapps Douglass, and the Colored Conventions. And, shout out to Koa Beck's (2021) recently published book, White Feminism, that we eagerly scooped up and are excited to start reading. If listeners want to start a book group, shoot us an email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch for minisodes to drop on Tuesdays so we can take stock of especially dirty britches in our laundry basket right now. Our inaugural minisode takes a look at U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)—not to be confused with 90s teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and not to be compared in a false equivalency of "extremists" with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
In this episode, we try to figure out even where to begin the story of women's suffrage... spoiler alert: it doesn't start with white women! Join us in learning about the powerful "uterine voice" of the Haudenosaunee women (shout out to Louise Wahkehrakats:te Herne, Mohawk Clan Mother of the Bear Clan, for that incredible turn of phrase) and the ancient political power of Native women that inspired white suffragists... many of whom then ignored the U.S. government's systematic disavowal of Native sovereignty and abuse of Native Peoples as their own rights expanded. So much toxic white lady-ness, so little time.
Resources mentioned in this episode include:
We wrap up our focus on the white women who were opposed to women's suffrage by calling for a seance therapy session. Nothing like a little unresolved family drama to reproduce systemic oppression for generations...
References for this episode include: