Chronicles of The Farm Woman: Freedom for Women

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    In commemoration of Women’s day in Emporia’s Rededication week activities, the Anthony Morse chapter, Daughters of Colonists has submitted the following article for publication.  It was written by Mary Francis McKinney, The Gazette’s Farm Woman: 

    The Freedom Train is “a moverin’” across the Kansas prairies today.  Coming out of the Rocky mountains it is coasting eastward with stops at Hutchinson and Wichita.

    The exhibits which the Freedom Train bears are as sacred in the traditions of the United States as was the Ark which the Israelites toted across the desert, centuries before Christ.  Only the high priest could view the inside of the Ark.     

    As many as can crowd in the train can gaze upon our sacred documents.  The Declaration of Independence in the fine handwriting of Thomas Jefferson with the signatures of men who were bold enough to assert their independence and form a new nation.  The Constitution and the Bill of Rights and later amendments is the framework within which free men have carved their destiny these last 16 or 17 decades.

    These documents would be mere scraps of paper if the ideas and ideals embodied in them did not continue to live in the hearts of men, women and children.  We are apt to take these privileges for granted and forget that responsibilities go with freedom.  “Eternal vigi-lance,” said one of the founding fathers, “is the price of liberty.

    It is a wonderful thing that a group of people over the nation conceived the idea of the Freedom Train and that civic-minded folk at every stop have made all local arrangements, including finances.

    In the week of dedication in Lyon county we are reminded of the place that women have taken in the civic life of the nation.  Martha Washington, Dolly Madison, Betsy Ross are familiar figures in the pages of history.  Then as now it was the spectacular, the unusual that made news.  What of the great mass of women of that era and of each succeeding generation?  Woman was right there alongside her mate, helping him to carve a home and civilization out of the wilderness.  In the century before the Declaration of Independence men and women had evolved a comfortable, cultured mode of country living which is still a dream of luxury and ease.

    Each plantation was a community within itself and vast store houses of food and staples that were secured in the markets at infrequent intervals.  The plantation mistress was teacher, household manager, nurse, community arbiter, and gracious hostess.  Hers was a responsible position.  As civilization pushed west-ward woman trudged along with man.  Cabins supplanted plantation mansions but dreams of a better day sustained the pioneer woman. 

    Trades and industry came in along with westward migration and the walls of the home were extended to the community or village.  Instead of each mother teaching her children, schools were established.  The village store replaced the plantation storehouse and today’s delicatessen may substitute for the kitchen range.  As all these activities have branched out and supplanted the plantation community.  It is the natural thing that woman has gone out of the home into teaching, clerking, into industry and the professions.  In the late war there was no discrimination against sex in industry.  It was equal pay for equal work.  One day that will be the rule in peace as in war.

    One hundred years ago a suffrage convention was held and articles drawn up demanding equal suffrage.  In 1920 this became an amendment to the constitution.  That victory was not won without a struggle but the objective was worth the persistent efforts expended.  Indeed each phase in the evolution of woman’s place in society has been met by resistance of the opposite sex.  Yet eventually man has given           in and accepted woman in a new sphere.  No doubt much of the objection has been due to the fact that man resists change, he objects to the things he does not know or understand.   

    Betty Co-ed strides across the college campus today in the new skirt length and soiled saddle oxfords, little realizing that it was the persistence of her great grandmother in pursuing a college education that broke down the barricades and made the pathway easy for her.  This Betty is carrying on the spirit of the pioneer woman who helped make America the nation that it is.            

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