Bay State Women

Bay State Women
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My recent trip to Boston included a stop at the Massachusetts State House and its statue of Mary Dyer. There is so much history in the area going back to colonial days. Many women with ties to Boston and Massachusetts have changed America; I profile just a few. Match the woman with her accomplishment:

____ 1. The first African-American woman to be freed from slavery in Massachusetts (in 1781) after she found a lawyer to take her case.

____ 2. The recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.

____ 3. Founder of what became the National Association of Colored Women and one of the founders of the Boston NAACP.

____ 4. The first woman to win a Tony for directing a musical.

____ 5. The only woman who died for the cause of religious freedom in the U.S.

A. Mary Dyer

B. Elizabeth Freeman

C. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

D. Emily Greene Balch

E. Julie Taymor

An emigrant to the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England in the 1630s, Mary Dyer was a Puritan who supported Anne Hutchinson and followed her to exile in what is now the state of Rhode Island when she was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for her religious beliefs. Subsequently, Dyer and her husband returned to England where they became adherents of the Quaker religion. The Massachusetts Bay Colony considered Quakers heretics and when the Dyers returned from England, she was arrested for efforts to spread Quakerism and to support Quakers who had been imprisoned. In the ultimate of ironies – since the Quaker faith strongly advocates peace – Dyer was hung in 1660; the only woman in the U.S. to die for religious freedom. Dyer has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Elizabeth Freeman, also known as Mum Bett, was a slave in Sheffield, Massachusetts at the home of John and Hannah Ashley. After hearing the reading of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780 which included the words “All men are born free and equal,” Freeman sought the advice of an attorney to sue for her freedom. The resulting court case, Brom and Bett v. Ashley, was heard in 1781 and resulted in freedom for Freeman, the first African-American woman to be set free under the Massachusetts State Constitution. The case served as a precedent for freeing all slaves in Massachusetts. She said “Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute's freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it—just to stand one minute on God's airth [sic] a free woman— I would.”

Born in Boston, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was active in the suffrage movement in the years following the Civil War, working with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She edited the Women’s Era during 1890-1897, the first newspaper published by and for African-American woman. Believing that a national organization for African-American women was needed, she organized a convention in 1895 and founded the National Federation of Afro-Am Women. This federation later merged with another organization and became the National Association of Colored Women. In 1910, she became one of the founding members of the Boston NAACP. St. Pierre Rubin has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

The recipient of the 1946 Nobel Peace Prize, Emily Greene Balch was born in Boston. A member of the first class to graduate from Bryn Mawr (1889), Balch spent many years on the faculty of Wellesley College where she rose to the rank of professor of economics and sociology (1913). After the outbreak of World War I, she became convinced that she needed to work on the cause of peace worldwide and became involved in a number of conferences and organizations including the Women’s International Committee for Permanent Peace. She worked with Jane Addams (another Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) to document the 1915 International Congress of Women at The Hague. In 1918, the Trustees of Wellesley College opted to terminate her contract instead of granting her request for an extension of her leave of absence and thereafter she devoted herself to advocating for peace.

The first woman to win a Tony Award for directing, Julie Taymor is best known for her work on The Lion King. Born in a Newton, a Boston suburb, Taymor’s involvement in theater started early; she was often the youngest member of theater groups and was staging productions at home by the age of seven. She studied in Paris after graduating from high school and then attended Oberlin College where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a major in mythology and folklore. In 1991, she won a MacArthur Fellowship and she has received other honors as well. In addition to her Tony for directing the theater production of The Lion King, she also won a Tony for best costume design. Costumes from The Lion King are now a part of the collection at the Smithsonian Museum as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. She has also worked extensively in film received an Academy Award nomination for costume design and many additional awards.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. All of these women with ties to the Bay State women are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell women’s stories and to write them back into history.

(Answers 1-B, 2-D, 3-C, 4-E, 5-A)

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