|Eizabeth Cady Stanton|
Ms. Barton is an old friend.
Let me begin with Clara Barton, whose deserves a place on a bill without doubt. She left her native Massachusetts to care for men from her state when the Civil War broke out and, arriving on the battlefield where next to nothing had been planned for the care of casualties, she set about organizing the basics: bandages, nursing, all the things the men of the era had neglected. Oh, you say we are going into battle where some of our soldiers will be shot? And we ought to have some plan for what to do with these wounded? Well, why should we plan for that? That's like admitting we might be putting our brave soldiers in harm's way!
Eventually, she got President Lincoln's ear and the rest, as they say, is history.
Her house still stands today, in Glen Echo, Maryland, overlooking the Potomac, just down the road from where I once lived. Eventually, they named the parkway running along the Maryland side of the river "Clara Barton Parkway." It had been called the George Washington Parkway, but the parkway on the Virginia side of the river was also called the George Washington Parkway, which caused all sorts of confusion, so they gave Clara Barton the honor, and in a sense the precedent for replacing old, white male slave owner with a woman who actually worked to preserve the union and save a lot of young men in the process.
And she had to fight a whole lot of entrenched men, who had rank and position to protect, and she had to show they had neglected a basic responsibility to plan for misfortune and to allocate resources and she identified which resources would be needed and she fought relentlessly to get that accomplished. There was not much political ideology here, simply humanity and moral outrage that men in splendid uniforms and shiny epaulets could be so totally incompetent, when this humble woman in a brown dress could be so efficient and smart.
Then there is Alice Paul, who came along after Ms. Cady Stanton, and Ms. Paul had all the advantages, but she fought for the disadvantaged. A descendant of William Pitt, educated at Swarthmore and the University of Pennsylvania and British universities, she could have had a satisfying, comfortable life of wealth, but she joined demonstrations in England for women's voting and she brought that fire back to this country, where she organized, got arrested, paraded and risked a lot to get women's suffrage passed as the 19th amendment and once that passed, she went after an Equal Rights Amendment.
Her spirit lives today in women who campaign relentlessly to stop power plants from displacing more important things in the community, who do community organizing and political activism while men shrug their shoulders and go off to play golf.
These are people who make a difference, who pushed the country in the right direction, who were not only on the right side of history, but who made history into something better than it would have been without them.