ANONYMOUS NO MORE
By: Toni Kief
For most of history anonymous was a woman - Virginia Wolfe.
History has been remiss in honoring women. If men were changing history, it can be guaranteed the delicate sex was also there. So many names and triumphs have vanished to the Mrs.
Sofonisba Anguissola was one of the first women, to be allowed art lessons, only because her father was an artist. A 16th-century portraitist, she was praised for her detail, warm colors, and expressive eyes. Michelangelo sent his drawings to her for critique and copying. She was artistically anonymous.
Right after the Mayflower dropped anchor in Chesapeake Bay, Susanna White bore a child. Her husband William White died in the first year. Susanna was alone with a toddler and a newborn at the Plymouth colony. She wed Edward Winslow months later and was one of only four adult women who survived to the first Thanksgiving. Her early history has been lost and her personal story of survival absorbed into myth. History knows of her husbands, but not of Susanna. She was nuptially anonymous.
In 1647, Margaret Brent of Maryland colony was able to vote as a property owner. She voted twice, the second time for Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore. Shortly thereafter, the governor decided it was an oversight and women would not regain the privilege until 128years later. Disenfranchised anonymous.
Sybil Ludington rode the same night as Paul Revere. She was 15, traveled twice as far, fought off bandits and didn’t fall from her horse. She was able to muster the troops in time to face the British. Since her name didn’t rhyme, Revere is singularly credited. Independently anonymous.
Women and wives were never strangers to the battlefield. Mary Ludwig Hays was at the Battle of Monmouth; she carried pitchers of water to the soldiers. When her husband collapsed, she took over the cannon. She was one of the many women who became Molly Pitcher. Even Martha Washington traveled with the Revolutionary army. Every battle George was in, she was there. Washing clothes and preparing food. Would we know her name if she wasn’t our original - first lady? Anonymous under fire.
Catherine Littlefield Greene did the initial design and with the help of a plantation slave, whose name has disappeared, and a handyman, Eli Whitney, they developed the cotton gin. She financed the production and registration but because women weren’t allowed to hold patents, Eli is honored in classrooms today, and no one discusses Catherine or the slave’s involvement. Innovatively anonymous.
Annie Jump Cannon was the curator of astronomical photographs at Harvard Observatory. She was astoundingly efficient and was able to classify up to three stars a minute and Cannon cataloged several hundred thousand stars to the 11th magnitude. She discovered 300 variable stars, in addition to 5 novae. Astronomically anonymous.
Born in Warsaw on November 7, 1867, the daughter of a secondary-school teacher. She received a general education in local schools and some scientific training from her father. Would we remember Marie Curie if Pierre had not complained when her name was left off of the first Nobel Prize nomination? She received a half prize for physics in 1903 with Pierre, and 1911 a solo prize in Chemistry. Impossible to ignore but radio-active.
The first US Congress met in 1789. One hundred and twenty-eight years later, Janette Rankin was the first woman to represent over half of the US population. She was elected 3 years before she could vote. Women still have not reached parity, but they are working on it. Unequally anonymous, but changing the rules.
Margaret Knight was one of the most prolific inventors of the 20th century. She started at 12 with a stop action device for industrial looms. One of the machinists she hired to complete her prototype for the flat bottom paper bag machine submitted her design for a patent. After a bitter court battle, she was able to obtain her first patent, followed by 87 more. She improved shoe manufacturing, window frames, the spit for skewering meat, and improvement of the rotary engine. Anonymous by imagination.
The moral of the story-ladies all together-anonymous no more!