Isabella Beecher Hooker was a woman who didn’t take “no” for an answer. After taking a considerable amount of time weighing out what a woman’s role in political arenas should be, she drafted a bill that gave married women property rights. The bill was rejected. Isabella presented it every year until it finally passed in 1877.
Isabella was born in Connecticut on this day in 1822. As the daughter of a reverend, she spent her youth watching him from the sidelines while he lead his various congregations, which were scattered throughout New England and the Midwest. Her mother died the same year the all-female school she was attending closed as a result of the 1837 Market Crash.
This culmination of the events that shaped her early life left a lasting impression. As a one of the earliest women suffragists, Hooker, like her father, began traveling to speak before crowds of people, most of whom happened to be women. She was motivated by the conviction that women’s role in politics was necessary in order to sustain a high moral code. She believed women were endowed with motherly wisdom that would be very useful to government.
At the onset of her activism as a suffragist, she noted focus was on voting alone. This was the impetus of her desire to think more broadly about the issue of voting. Not only did she believe woman should be able to vote, she believed laws protecting the rights of woman should be enacted. The 1870s were dedicated to these issues. Hooker along with her colleagues were able to meet with Congress. Despite a sound argument, Congress said no, resting the bulk of their reasons on the excuse they simply did not want to in any way alter election laws.
It was as if Congress knew the women were correct but were devoid of resolve to do anything about it. The unstoppable Hooker continued to campaign; her vigorous focus was on a larger sphere. So certain was her belief women should get the vote, her mind on issues women should be voting on. Women’s voting rights in the United States took several more decades to pass. Hooker made the ground fertile for the change come. With the passage of the Bill she drafted to allow married woman property rights, she set the stage. As a property owner, a woman’s role in society was tied to the economy in new and empowering ways.