Dear Sir or Madam, website uses cookies, which are intended to record visits. This website does not use cookies that contain your personal information.

Do you allow the usage of cookies on this webpage?
Born on this day
Mary Ritter Beard
Mary Ritter Beard was an American historian and archivist.
32nd week in year
5 August 2020

Important personalitiesBack

Mary Ritter Beard5.8.1876

Wikipedia (24 Jul 2013, 13:16)

Mary Ritter Beard (August 5, 1876, Indianapolis, Indiana – August 14, 1958) was an American historian and archivist, who played an important role in the women's suffrage movement and was a lifelong advocate of social justice through educational and activist roles in both the labor and woman's rights movements. She wrote several books on women's role in history including On Understanding Women (1931), (Ed.) America Through Women's Eyes (1933) and Woman As Force In History: A Study in Traditions and Realities (1946). In addition, she collaborated with her husband, eminent historian Charles Austin Beard on several distinguished works, most notably The Rise of American Civilization (1927).

European influences

While in England Beard observed the plight of British industrial society, developed friendships with a wide variety of radicals and progressive leaders amongst the cooperative Socialists and the labor movement as well as the militant suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin and other influential European intellectuals. It was here that Beard began to read and write history and was deeply influenced by what she learned of the struggles of the working class, the urgency and passion of the women’s suffrage movement and the possibilities for social reform.

Suffrage movement

Beard became involved in the suffrage movement through her activism in labor organizations such as the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) where she hoped to improve the conditions under which women labored. She came to believe that suffrage would hasten governmental regulation of economic conditions which would improve the lives of the working class. In addition to WTUL, Beard worked for the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women (later the Women's Political Union) and became a leader within the New York City Suffrage Party (NYCSP) where she helped edit its publication The Woman Voter. She left the NYCSP in 1913 to join the Congressional Union (CU) (later the National Woman's Party) at the request of the young feminists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, where she became an executive member of its board and editor of its weekly magazine The Suffragist. As an important contributor to the CU, Beard helped plan strategy, organized and participated in demonstrations, lectured, wrote articles and testified before Congress on multiple occasions.

Developing ideas and changing tactics

With the successful passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution behind her, Beard began to concentrate more fully on her writing and to further develop her philosophy concerning women in history which frequently set her at odds with the feminist movement. Along with her husband Charles, she had been an active proponent of the “New History” movement which sought to include social, cultural and economic factors in written history—an important step towards including the contributions of women. Beard expanded on this concept, contending that the proper study of women’s “long history”, from primitive pre-history to the present would reveal that women have always played a central role in all civilizations. She emphasized that women were different from men but that did not make their contributions of any less value, their significance was simply not being recognized. Beard took issue with feminists of the era who she believed viewed their history as one of oppression and their goal as equality with men, which they worked toward through, among other things, their advocacy for an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). To Beard, that history was not only inaccurate but unhelpful and that striving to be like men was not an adequate goal, she felt, because women can and should offer something different and more socially beneficial to society, that women should be providers of “culture and civilization”. She attempted to educate women about their history through her writing and when she felt she wasn’t reaching her audience she changed tactics.

" Beautiful moments of our lives."