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Photo above is from February, 2017 "College Day." Hazel is in the U of MO sash. Photo below is a profile of Hazel . Both photo's courtesy of Library of congress.
by Diane Larson
“Twenty six of America’s finest women are accompanying me to jail. It’s splendid, don’t worry, love Hazel stop,” reads a Western Union Telegram dated August 15, 1918 sent from Washington DC to Billings, MT.
In January of 1917 the National Women’s Party (NWP) began a silent picket at the White House, the Silent Sentinels as they were called. According to Women of Protest time-line on Library of Congress website this was the first suffrage picket line leaving Congressional Union headquarters to march to the White House.
One hundred years later women are still picketing and marching. The Women’s March that took place the day after Trump’s inauguration in January of 2017 was just the most recent exercise in the fight for equality and women’s rights.
In the United States there is a long and dark history of inequality for women during the suffrage movement. The women who fought for the right to vote suffered crowds of people yelling hate speech while they protested. Their banners were ripped from their hands and torn to pieces. They served prison time for protesting. In prison they were mistreated and so on, nevertheless, they did persist. Progress has been made; battles have been won, but the fight is not over.
This past election year taught us that we have some distance to achieve in this fight for women’s rights. Among the issues that women are fighting for is, equal pay. Women still earn only 78 cents on the dollar compared to what men earn. Regardless of the 1963 Equal Pay Act there is still a ‘gender gap.’
The fight includes, according to Advocate.com these issues. Lack of paid family leave, violence against women, products and services targeted to women are priced higher and access to reproductive health care is challenging.
The January 21, 2017, women’s march saw much controversy. If you were anywhere near social media you may have seen more than one person remark or question that they just didn’t understand what these women were marching for or why they felt a need to protest. Comments with this sentiment came from women as well as men. Maybe issues seem milkier now, however in the past they were not so.
March is Women’s history month. A time set aside to look at and celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture and society. It has been observed in the United States since 1987. In March we remember and celebrate the women who throughout time have contributed greatly to women’s causes.
The suffrage movement spanned many years. So many women fought hard and struggled against all odds so that a woman’s voice in the form of a vote can be heard.
Women like American suffragist, social activist and abolitionist; Elizabeth Cady Stanton. American social reformer, women’s rights activist and pivotal figure in the suffrage movement, Susan B. Anthony. We also celebrate Montana’s own Jeanette Rankin who was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress and helped pass the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
We know these women and we celebrate them. However, there are many more out there who need a shout out because they dedicated their lives to women’s causes. One of those women is Montana’s own, Hazel Hunkins-Hallinan. Hazel worked for 70 as an activist for women’s rights in America and abroad.
The telegram message in the opening sentence was written by Hazel in 1917. She was in Washington at the time picketing in front of the White House with little more than 2 dozen women from the National Women’s Party. They were attempting to get the attention of President Woodrow Wilson and secure his support a national suffrage for women.
Hazel was born June 6, 1890 in Aspen, Colorado. Her family moved to Billings, MT where Hazel attended Senior High School. According to Kevin Kooistra, Executive Director of the Western Heritage Center in Billings, MT Hazel was a good student. She graduated the valedictorian of her class and in her annual it said of Hazel, that “she was voted most popular, second smartest and third most conceited.”
After high school in 1908, Hazel went on to study chemistry. She received her A.B. from Vassar College in 1913. She worked for several years in chemistry labs. In 1916 Hazel was called back home to care for her ailing mother. When her mother recovered, Hazel decided it was time to go back to work.
Because of her gender, Hazel was denied positions in her chosen field of chemistry. According to Kooistra she was told at job interviews that, “You are qualified, but we really don’t want a woman working in our labs.” One such place where she was turned down for employment was the Western Sugar Cooperative in Billings.
Being rejected because she was a woman was the tipping point; she decided that her attention and energy needed to be aimed at women’s causes. Right away Hazel joined the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1916.
Hazel quickly became deeply involved in the suffrage movement. She actively took part in the NWP attempts to put pressure on President Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Party to get support for the proposed federal suffrage amendment.
Between 1917 and 1919 the NWP organized and participated in several picket campaigns of the White House with Hazel at the forefront. During their June, 1917, campaign the NWP endured many attacks against them, but they persisted.
After the war started in April of 1917 those who opposed suffrage came out against them even stronger. They were painted at foolish women and unpatriotic. When a reporter from the Gazette asked Hazel why she would make such a laughing stock of herself, Hazel said, “We are taking advantage of the war situation to point out that if this war is for democracy, if we send our soldiers 3,000 miles into the trenches of a foreign land to fight for democracy it would not be amiss to have democracy extended at home.”
Hazel saw the inside of a jail several times for her activism. One such arrest took place on August 6, 1918 at the statue of Lafayette. According to a biography on the NWP website, Hazel jumps onto the pedestal of the statue and yells to the crowd, “Here, at the statue of Lafayette, who fought for the liberty of this country, and under the American flag, I am asking for the enfranchisement of American women.” She was then arrested.
Hazel’s determination did falter. When the 19th Amendment was adopted on August 26, 1920 her drive to see equality for women remained.
In 1920 Hazel moved to London, England and worked as a stringer for the Chicago Tribune. In England she married fellow journalist Charles Thomas Hallinan.
During her years in England Hazel involved herself in the Six Point Group. This was a British feminist group who were working for equality for women across the pond. Kooistra said that Hazel was the “first and only American to lead the group” in its history.
In the 1970s Hazel became active with the Women’s equality movement in America once again.
When President Jimmy Carter signed the ‘Women’s Equality Day’ proclamation, Hazel was there. He had this to say in his speech on that day in August 26, 1977, “Standing behind me is a woman, Ms. Hallinan, who in 1917 stood outside the gates of the White House when Woodrow Wilson was President, simply holding a sign in her hand that was photographed, saying, "How long will it be before women can have freedom?" She was convicted of a crime and jailed. Although we've come a long way since then, we still have a long way to go.”
That year the Salt Lake Tribune wrote the following describing Hazel, “She was a tiny gray haired woman with a feminist vocabulary, a notorious arrest record and a surprisingly sharp tongue.”
Today the fight for women’s causes continues. There are still battles to wage and fights to win. For all the women out there I say thank goodness for women with feminist vocabulary, possibly notorious arrest records for being jailed for the cause, and surprisingly sharp tongues.
Big Sky Connection
Budget Watchdog says Results will Impact States
March 1, 2017
HELENA, Mont. - President Donald Trump's call to increase military spending by $54 billion likely means cuts will be made to some politically-sensitive programs, from education and the environment, to science and fighting poverty. Trump first announced his plans Monday to the National Governors Association and shared more details in a speech to Congress last night.
Lindsay Koshgarian, the research director of the National Priorities Project, says it's unclear where the hike in defense funding would come from. She says this is the time for citizens to speak up, noting that cuts would have a trickle-down effect on states, cities and counties.
"There are a lot of reasons for members of Congress to care about this," she said. "The good news is that Congress actually has quite a large say in what the final budget looks like. So, the right thing to do is to contact your member of Congress and let them know what your concerns are."
President Trump has said the money will come from, in his words, a "revved-up economy." He has also said it's time for America to "start winning wars again." But the budget proposal has a long way to go, and some pushback from Congress is almost certain.
The U.S. spends 21 times more on the military than it does on foreign-aid programs, although in Koshgarian's view, foreign aid for causes like fighting hunger and disease does more to increase stability around the world.
"We actually get a lot in return for that money, in the form of added security for our country," she explained. "And if we don't spend that money, we will need to spend money on the other side fighting wars - and I don't think that's a choice that anyone would want to make."
Koshgarian thinks any new military funding should come first from ending wasteful spending within the Pentagon itself. She adds programs that make people's lives better shouldn't be raided when some believe the Pentagon isn't doing its fair share to combat waste.
March 1, 2017
This a.m. the Senate voted to confirm Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana to the Department of Interior, 68-31, reports CNN politics.