President Obama today wove together three signal moments in the America sweep toward fair and equal treatment for all. From the full text of his Inaugural address:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
After the speech, Josh Greenman of the New York Daily News tweeted his paper's July 6, 1969, report on what happened at the Stonewall gay bar: "Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad." The New York Times carried this for the March 21, 1965, march for African-Americans' civil rights from Selma, Alabama: "The Big Parade: On the Road to Montgomery." That was the activists' third try.
Obama's reference to Seneca Falls, of course, would be the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention on women's rights, recorded this way in the local Oneida Whig:
Was there ever such a dreadful revolt? – They set aside the statute, "wives submit yourselves unto your husbands;" they despise the example of the learned Portia … when she, who was the lord of a fair mansion, master of her servants, queen over herself, committed herself to her husband, " to be directed," and her house, her servants, and the same herself were given to the care and keeping of her lord. This bolt is the most shocking and unnatural incident ever recorded in the history of womanity. If our ladies will insist on voting and legislating, where, gentleman, will be our dinners and our elbows? Where our domestic firesides and the holes in our stockings? ...
The lion's skin in history was not large enough to hide the timidity of the peaceful animal who thought to swagger.
The conveners at Seneca Falls were not in agreement about whether to ask for women's right to vote. Frederick Douglass, a freed slave and the only African-American there, argued that the demand should remain in the final set of resolutions, and it did. Seventy-two years later, American women got the franchise.