A Project by Sharon Presley, Ph.D.
A book in progress to be titled
"They Said No: American Women Resisters to Authority"
(Vol. 1: 19th century)


For more information about this web site, see Home Page.

For more information about brave women who have resisted unjust authority throughout
history and in modern times as well, see the Facebook page "Women Resisters to Authority"
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American Women Resisters to Authority:
Heroic Women in the Struggle for Liberty

I. Background: Some definitions 
  • Resistance = protest, standing up for rights of oppressed, whether male or female, free or slave. 
  • Authority = institutionalized arbiter of law, religion, custom or culture, i.e., Church and State.
  • Resistance to authority = Protesting and standing up to authority perceived as unjust and oppressive.

II.    A Few 17th & 18th century forerunners

Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643)
Religious Dissenter

First female “heretic” speaking for religious freedom for the individual

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814)
Historian, Author of History of the Rise,
Progress and Termination of the American Revolution

Abigail Adams (1744-1818)
Feminist writer, Full partner of husband John Adams
"Remember the Ladies" letter. Condemned slavery.

III.    19th Century Resistance
19th century America was a hotbed of political, cultural and social turmoil and change:

A. Abolitionism (and feminism)
Anti-slavery movement, 1830s-1860s

Most of the volunteers in the anti-slavery movement were women. Mixed women’s rights with slaves’ rights. Saw the parallels: Both slaves and women “manacled” and suppressed.

Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)
Underground Railway

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)

Speaker and activist
"Ain't I a woman?" speech


Sarah Grimke (1792-1873)
and Angela Grimke (1805-1875)

Writers and Activists.
Angela - first woman to speak before legislative body in 1838
Sarah "Letter on the Equality of the Sexes & Conditions of Women"


Abbey Kelly (1810-1887) Speaker.

B. Freethought (and feminism)
Advocating the use of reason, rather than faith, to think about religion.
Includes deists, agnostics, atheists, Early 1800s to present.

Saw the 19th c. mainstream churches as antithetical to women’s rights and freedoms. Most churches extremely traditional in views of women. Clergy attacked idea of women’s rights.

Frances Wright (1795-1852)
First women to speak publicly from podium to both men and women

First American woman to publicly advocate women's rights
First to question utility of religion

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)
Speaker, Editor of The Dial  (Transcendentalist journal)
First book on American feminism, Women in the 19th Century


Lucy N. Colman (1818-1906)
Contributer to the Truth Seeker
Left her church because of its complicity with slavery

Ernestine Rose ((1810-1892)

First canvasser for women's rights
Wrote "In Defense of Atheism" 1861

C. Women’s Rights/Suffrage
Challenging laws that restricted women’s freedom, fight for vote for women.  Early phase from 1880s to 1920 and 19th Amendment.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton  (1815-1902)

Abolitionist, suffragist, women's right,
National Woman Suffrage Assn.
Author of The Woman's Bible condemning religious oppression of women



Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
Suffragist, feminist, agnostic, National Woman Suffrage Assn.

Lucretia Mott (1793-1880)
Quaker abolitionist, feminist, suffragist

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898)
Suffragist, Freethinker,
Author of Women, Church & the State, a condemnation of religion's role in oppressing women


Lucy Stone (1818-1893)
Lucy Stone League slogan = “Keep Your Own Name”

D. Free Love
Free choice in sexual relationships for both men and women unencumbered by Church or State.
   Freedom to love whomever one chose, without interference from or permission of Church and State. Mid 1800s.

Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927)
and Tennessee Claflin (1845-1923)
Founded Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly
Victoria - first woman to run for US President

Victoria                                     Tennesse

Angela Heywood

Anarchist feminist, co-editor The Word,
Helped write Cupid's Yoke and
Uncivil Liberty with her husband Ezra

Lillian Harman (1860?-?)
Anarchist feminist, writer for Lucifer
Jailed for non-state non-church wedding
Did not change her name when she married

Co-editor Fair Play
Daughter of Moses Harman, founder of Lucifer

E. Anarchism
The belief sthat no one has a right to rule another without their consent; that coercion is always wrong, whether individual or institutional; primacy of individual rights. First wave: Early 1800s-1917. Continues to present.

Anti-state, anti-authority, decentralist. Feminists promoted economic independence of women, freedom from sex roles, sexual freedom of women.

Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912)
Feminist, Freethinker, Writer and Speaker
Selected Works of Voltairine de Cleyre 1914
Most prominent woman individualist anarchist



Florence Finch Kelly (1858-1939)

Journalist for Boston Globe and Writer for Liberty

Dr. Gertrude Kelly
Surgeon,Contributer to Liberty


Sarah Holmes
Anarchist feminist, Printer, Contributer to Liberty
Published "Three Dreams in a Desert" by Olive Schreiner

Lois Waisbrooker (1826-1909)
Contributer to and sometime Editor of Lucifer, Novelist

Emma Goldman (1866-1940)
Feminist, Atheist, Writer and Speaker
Most prominent communist anarchist in the U.S.
Editor of Mother Earth
Advocate of birth control, colleague of Margaret Sanger



Lucy Parsons (1853-1942)
Speaker, Writer, Labor organizer
Anarchist and socialist activities, including the IWW
Wife of Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons



F. People of Color Rights

Ida Wells (1862-1931)
Campaign against lynching, Orator

Sarah Winnemucca (1844-1891)
Peace and Native American Rights Activist
Author of Life Among the Piutes



IV.   Early 20th Century (very briefly)

A. Socialist Feminism

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)
Celebrated Feminist
nfluential book Women and Economics
Feminist utopian novel


Mother Jones (1830-1930)
Labor organizer 

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964)
 “Rebel Girl”

Labor organizer for IWW
Founding member ACLU.

B. Reproductive Rights
Legalize birth control, availability of contraceptives. Mid 1800s to present.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
Advocate of modern contraceptives
Founder of Planned Parenthood,
Publisher of The Woman Rebel
Jailed for her birth control activities


C. Only a few of the many other women who have contributed to liberty in the 20th century  

Alice Paul (1885-1977)
National Women's Party, 19th Amendment, ERA

Mollie Steimer (1897-1980)

Communist anarchist activist

Suzanne La Follette (1893-1982)

First libertarian feminist book, Concerning Women
Editor of The New Freeman

(see www.alf.org/papers/LaFollette.shtml)

Dorothy Day (1897-1980)
Catholic anarchist pacifist, founder Catholic Worker movement


Vashti Cromwell McCollum (1912-)
Won Supreme Court suit against release-time for religious education in public schools
as a violation of the separation of church and state


D. Three Women Who Launched  a Movement: Modern Libertarianism
   (anti-state, pro-civil liberties)
See www.cato.org/special/threewomen/index.html

Isabel Paterson (1886-1981)
God of the Machine (1943)
Discusses the historical emergence of property rights, civil liberties and representative government


Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968)
Discovery of Freedom (1943)
The preconditions for liberty.


Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
The Fountainhead  (1943)
Individualism and liberty


Part II of 20th century yet to come (1950+)

This project will continue...

For more information about women resisters,  see
www.alf.org  and www.zetetics.com/indfem/

Copyright 2005 and 2007 by Sharon Presley