because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Maud Younger

Maud Younger was born in San Francisco in 1870 into a family so wealthy that two of her sisters married Austrian barons. Younger, on the other hand, went to New York City to be educated and then found her true calling as an in-your-face woman when she visited the New York College Settlement House and discovered the plight of working women. "I went to see it, stopped for a week, and stayed five years," she later said.

She took several jobs as a waitress herself to better understand what working women were dealing with, joined the New York Waitress Union and then returned to San Francisco to work as a waitress and organize a labor union there. She co-founded the San Francisco Wage Earners' Suffrage League to make sure working women's needs were considered in the rush to secure the vote. And she pushed for an eight-hour workday. Though Younger continued to work as a waitress to maintain her credibility as a union organizer and to keep her in touch with the women she organized, she used her family's money to fund many of the organizational projects with which she was connected.

After California recognized women's right to vote in 1911, Younger turned her organizing skills -- and the support of her money -- to the national arena in New Orleans, Nevada, New York, and in front of the White House with in-your-face woman Alice Paul's more militant suffragettes. Then, when women's right to vote was secured nationally, she turned to pushing for an Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a fight that is yet to be won. In-your-face women pick their fights based on what needs to be accomplished rather than the ease of its accomplishment. Younger could have married a baron, but she chose to marry a movement instead.

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