In 1920, Tennessee ratified the amendment to the constitution with two-thirds majority vote, making it law. The women’s suffrage movement organized 70 years earlier worked to win the right to vote one state at a time. In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized 200 women to Seneca Falls, NY to speak on the importance of women to receive the right to vote. The most noted Seneca Falls Convention. The women’s suffrage movement was created.
I am an amateur historian intrigued with women in our history. I disagree with the historical notes of women deciding to take a stance on the right to be heard as early as 1848.
Today I’m going to step back further 282 years prior to 1920 to the 1600s, 1638 to be exact.
Lord Baltimore, the proprietor of Maryland, solicited the wealthy Brent Family to his colony with a promise of large land grants and to live free of anti- Catholic discrimination. The family consisted of two daughters and two sons. You have probably never heard of this family because the sons are not the power players in the settling of Maryland. The eldest sister Margaret however is.
Mistress Margaret Brent, Spinster ran her own plantation without the help of her brothers. Sister Mary also had her own. Business minded Margaret often handled the collection of monies due to her and her brothers. Before bar and medical associations anyone who had knowledge was considered a lawyer or doctor. Margaret Brent took 134 cases to court with the percentage of wins far exceeding losses.
Her knowledge of the law, quick wit and business savvy organization caught the attention of Lord Calvert, Maryland’s Governor. A strong friendship that lasted many years with Margaret often his political advisor. (What did she just write, a powerful woman behind a political figure. Before First Ladies women had great influence over political heads.) This friendship put Margaret center stage in an all male world of politics, what could they do but listen to her. She was appointed by the Governor of the colony. Can’t argue with that. To really topple society’s rules in 1647 on his death bed Lord Calvert with witnesses present made Margaret Brent his sole executrix.
Margret’s powerful political position wasn’t so widely accepted with the power players of the colonies. This did not bother her. She had a job to do and she did it. Maryland was in a state of unrest and she fulfilled her request as instructed by Lord Calvert. He appointed Thomas Greene to the governorship which Calvert’s enemies hoped to unseat and take over the colony and organized a revolt. Brent stepped it by selling of some of Baltimore’s cattle and paid the military their back wages. This ended the revolt. Many felt Brent should have been seated over Greene.
Although she did not seek the political position, she did as a first in the colonies and first in history, went before the Maryland Assembly asking for two votes. One, to be recognized as Calvert’s executrix and two, to be named as Lord Baltimore’s attorney. Greened denied both votes.
Margaret Brent completed her task as executrix and attorney sort of behind the scenes. Then selling her plantation and moving to Virginia and established a second plantation, named Peace. She continued successful business ventures, but refrained from becoming involved in politics.
It was later the assembly told Lord Baltimore,If it hadn’t been for Brent’s action “all would have gone to ruin.”
Today in history 91 years later, we celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment with the law giving women the right to vote and the right to hold office. As with all the women I write about in American history, the unrecognized, the forgotten ones who set the foundation for our accomplishments of today. I celebrate Margaret Brent for her outstanding tenacity and dedication in getting the job done. Standing for what her beliefs were regardless of the barriers before her. With the simple mindset of “I know what needs to be done, so let’s get it done.”
Happy Writings and readings,
Teresa L. Watts