Celebrate the 94th Anniversary of women winning the right to vote on August 26, 1920–and the 154th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention which started the women’s rights movement in this country–by listening to this excerpted play by Women’s Liberation Movement pioneer Carol Hanisch. The play features the fiery speeches and debates of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many more. It focuses on how the powerful alliance that had grown up between the Anti Slavery and Women’s Rights movements during the Civil War was split asunder when the debate became centered on which was more urgent—enfranchising Black men or white women (with Black women not even in the picture). It presents the arguments that ensued–with many of the activists taking surprising positions; some advocating that the vote for Black men be granted immediately and others wanting the movement to hold out for Universal Suffrage–as well as the racism, sexism and class elitism that came out in the sometimes bitter struggle.
The play also features the modern debut of a song by 19th century feminist and author Charlotte Perkins Gilman, written in 1898, for which the music had been lost until singer/songwriters Bev Grant and Carol Hanisch created an original new melody for it–which Grant performs for the first time, as part of this play. Gilman wrote the song as a response to the bitter irony of the men of her time using the argument that women “did not really want the vote” as a reason for denying it, while claiming that they were doing this for the “good of women.” This ploy eerily reflects today’s rightwing arguments that women do not really want to have freedom and choices.
The performance is followed by Carol Hanisch’s original feminist song from the 1960’s movement: Fight On Sisters–and then excerpts from a passionate discussion that took place in the WBAI studios, after the play-recording, between the playwright and the actors (many of them also activists). In this discussion, Maretta Short questions the author about leaving out, in the condensed radio version, parts of her play that describe discrimination against Black women within the suffragist movement.Then everyone looks at the relevance–or lack thereof–of the vote today. “Promise and Betrayal” examines the question of whether the power of the ballot really changed what these freedom fighters thought it would–and what happens when political movements forfeit a larger vision of liberation for reform gains for a few.
“Right is of no sex. Truth is of No Color”: Masthead of the antislavery newspaper The North Star, edited by Frederick Douglas and Martin Delane
“Men their Rights and Nothing More; Women their Rights and Nothing Less”: Masthead of feminist newspaper The Revolution, edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Parker Pillsbury
Creator/Author: Carol Hanisch; Producer, Casting, Editing: Fran Luck; Direction: Ethel Michelson, Fran Luck; Music: Carol Hanisch, Bev Grant; Singer, Guitarist: Bev Grant; WBAI recording Engineers: Tony Ryan, DeLise Lum
Narrator: Pawnee Sills; Sojourner Truth, boy’s voice in motherhood sketch: Maretta J. Short; Frederick Douglas: Will Sales; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony: Ethel Michelson; Lucy Stone: Julie Weiner; Nebraskan Anti-Suffrage male: Bobby Hieger; Frances Ellen Harper: Vicki Ridley; Gertrude Bustill Mossel: Marcia M. Walker; Matilda Joslyn Gage, Rev. Olympia Brown: Jennifer Fasulo; Robert Purvis, Charles Remond, Labor Union statement: Ngoma; William Lloyd Garrison, Parker Pillsbury, voice of Blackstone: Pete Dolack; Abby Kelley Foster: Fran Luck