Anna Howard Shaw
|Anna Howard Shaw|
February 14, 1847|
|Died||July 2, 1919
Moylan, Pennsylvania, United States
|Alma mater||Albion College, 1875
Boston University School of Theology, 1880
Boston University School of Medicine, 1886
|Occupation||Women's suffrage and temperance movement activist, minister and physician|
Anna Howard Shaw (February 14, 1847 – July 2, 1919) was a leader of the women's suffrage movement in the United States. She was also a physician and the first ordained female Methodist minister in the United States.
Shaw was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England in 1847. At the age of two, she and her family rode a ship to America and settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts. When Shaw was twelve years old, her father took “up [a] claim of three hundred and sixty acres of land in the wilderness" of northern Michigan "and sent [her] mother and five young children to live there alone.”
Her mother had envisioned their Michigan home to be “an English farm” with “deep meadows, sunny skies and daisies,” but was devastated upon their arrival to discover that it was actually a “forlorn and desolate” log cabin “in what was then a wilderness, 40 miles from a post office and 100 miles from a railroad.” Here the family faced dangers like attacks from Indians and wolves and had several laboring responsibilities such as plowing the land themselves. Shaw became very active during this period, helping her siblings refurbish their home and supporting her mother in her time of shock and despair. Shaw took on several physical tasks such as "digging of a well, chopp[ing] wood for the big fireplace, [and] fell[ing] trees"
Seeing her mother's emotional suffering, Shaw blamed her irresponsible father for "ha[ving] g[iven] no thought to the manner in which [their family was] to make the struggle and survive the hardships [now laid] before [them]." While her mother was "overburdened with meaningless household chores", her father in Lawrence could freely dedicate "much time to the Abolition cause and big public movements of his day."
The family's misfortunes grew worse over the years. After the Civil War, her sister Eleanor died giving birth, and her brother Tom was wounded. When Shaw was fifteen, she became a school teacher and used her earnings to help support her family. Yet with "every month of [the family's] effort the gulf between [their] income and [their] expenses grew wider.”
Call to preach
As Shaw matured, her drive to attend college became firmer. After the Civil War, she abandoned her teaching job and moved in with her married sister Mary in Big Rapids, Michigan. There she hoped to learn a “money-making trade," but she soon found that “the fields open to women were few and unfruitful.”
The onset of her preaching career began when she met Reverend Marianna Thompson who was the first person who supported her pursuit of an education. Thanks to Thompson's help, Shaw entered Big Rapids High School where she began reciting poetry to audiences and taking “speaking and debating classes”. At the age of twenty-three, Shaw was invited by Dr. Peck, a man looking to ordain a female Methodist, to give her first sermon. Shaw hesitated at first because her only previous experience had been “as a little girl preaching alone in the forest...to a congregation of listening trees.” With encouragement from Dr. Peck, Shaw agreed and, over the course of six months, prepared her sermon to be given.
Despite the success of her first sermon, her newfound passion to preach received disapproval from her classmates, friends, and family who agreed to pay for her college education only if she abandoned preaching. Despite such continual opposition and isolation from so many, Anna chose to keep on preaching. She was “deeply moved” by Mary A. Livermore, a prominent lecturer who came to Big Rapids. Ms. Livermore gave her the following advice: “if you want to preach, go on and preach…No matter what people say, don’t let them stop you!”
Struggles during college years
In 1873, Shaw entered Albion College, a Methodist school in Albion, Michigan. Since her family frowned upon her decided career path, they refused to provide any financial support. At that point, Shaw had been a licensed preacher for three years and earned her wages by giving lectures on temperance.
After graduating from Albion College, Shaw attended Boston University School of Theology in 1876. She was the only woman in her class of forty-two men, and she always felt "the abysmal conviction that [she] was not really wanted there." This attitude was furthered by her difficulty supporting herself financially. Already running on a tight income, Shaw found it unfair that the "male licensed preachers were given free accommodations in the dormitory and their board cost each of them $1.25 while it cost her $2 to pay rent of a room outside.” Additionally, she had trouble finding employment. Unlike in Albion where she was “practically the only licensed preacher available”, at Boston University there were many preachers that she had to compete with. As she lost money to pay the rent, she struggled to feed herself and felt “cold, hunger, and lonel[y].” Now Shaw started to question whether the ministerial profession was meant for her. In the face of these hardships, Shaw continued on. In 1880, she became the first woman in America to be ordained under the Methodist Protestant Church.
Role in the women's suffrage movement
Joint effort with Susan B. Anthony
Beginning in 1886, Shaw served as the chair of the Franchise Department of Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Her task was "to work for woman suffrage and then to use the ballot to gain 'home protection' and temperance legislation.” However her focus on temperance subsided as she became more heavily involved in the suffrage movement by lecturing for the Massachusetts Suffrage Association and later the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA).
In 1888, Shaw attended the first meeting of the International Council of Women as a representative of both the WCTU and AWSA. At the meeting, Shaw met Susan B. Anthony who immediately encouraged her to join the National Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Having agreed, Shaw played a key role at NAWSA. In 1889, she "helped to persuade the AWSA to merge with Anthony's and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's NWSA, creating for the first time in two decades a semblance of organizational unity within the [suffrage] movement." Beginning in 1904 and for the next eleven years, Shaw was the president of NAWSA. Under her leadership, NAWSA continued to "lobby for a national constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote."
Resignation from NAWSA
During the early 20th century, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, NAWSA members, began employing militant techniques (e.g. picketing the White House during World War I) to fight for women's suffrage. They, like other members, were inspired by the success of the militant suffragettes in England. As president of NAWSA, Shaw was pressured to support these tactics. Nevertheless, Shaw maintained that she was "unalterably opposed to militancy, believing nothing of permanent value has ever been secured by it that could not have been more easily obtained by peaceful methods.” She remained aligned with Anthony's philosophy that was against any militant tactics. This problem within NAWSA brewed much aggression among NAWSA members toward Shaw. Despite her oratorical prowess, Shaw "lacked the administrative, organizational, and philosophical strengths necessary for leading the NAWSA". In 1915, she resigned as NAWSA president and was replaced by her ally Carrie Chapman Catt.
Later years and death
During World War I, Shaw was head of the Women's Committee of the United States Council of National Defense, for which she became the first woman to earn the Distinguished Service Medal. She continued to lecture for the suffrage cause for the remaining years of her life.
In 2000, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
"The Anna Howard Shaw Center at Boston University School of Theology promotes structures and practices that empower women and honor diversity. The Center is named after the Reverend Doctor Anna Howard Shaw, a Methodist minister, medical doctor, and suffragist. Ten years after its founding in 1978, the Shaw Center was designated as the women’s center for the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church."
The Anna Howard Shaw Junior High School in southwestern Philadelphia is named for her.
In popular culture
The thirteenth episode of the fourth season of the NBC television comedy series 30 Rock, and the 71st episode of the series overall, is named "Anna Howard Shaw Day". The name is based on the main character's hatred of Valentine's Day, which prompts the substitution for the birthday of a leader in the women's suffrage movement.
Anna Howard Shaw was portrayed in the 2004 TV movie "Iron Jawed Angels" by Lois Smith.
- Dr. Anna H. Shaw, Suffragist, Dies. New York Times, July 3, 1919.
- Shaw, Anna Howard; Jordan, Elizabeth Garver and Catt, Carrie Chapman (1915) The Story of a Pioneer, New York and London: Harper & Brothers.
- Whitman, Alden, ed. (1985). American Reformers. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company. pp. 734–735. ISBN 0-8242-0705-X.
- Bilhartz, Terry D. "Anna Howard Shaw." Great Lives from History: The Nineteenth Century. Ed. John Powell. 4 vols. Salem Press, 2007. Salem History Web. 26 Sep. 2011.
- Anna Howard Shaw (1847–1919). National Women's History Museum – NWHM
- Pennsylvania Commission for Women, Legendary Ladies, A Guide to Where Women Made History in Pennsylvania
- Shaw, Anna Howard; Elizabeth Garver Jordan (1915). The story of a pioneer. Harper & Brothers. p. 337. (autobiography)
- Pellauer, Mary D. Toward a Tradition of Feminist Theology: the religious social thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Anna Howard Shaw. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson, 1991.
- Works by Anna Howard Shaw at Project Gutenberg
- Anna Howard Shaw at Flickr
- Finding Aid for the Anna Howard Shaw Papers
- Anna Howard Shaw letter from the Anna Howard Shaw Papers, 1917–1919 at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- Anna Howard Shaw quotation from the Anna Howard Shaw Papers, 1917–1919 at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- The Anna Howard Shaw Center at Boston University School of Theology
- Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1908–1943. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.