Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Augusta Hunt

Today’s WOD is Augusta Hunt (1830-1920) a crusader for women's rights in the U.S. and happens to be the great-great-grandmother of Helen Hunt.

Augusta was the wife of George Hunt, who was a very successful businessman (importer/exporter). Augusta used her wealth and influence to do very productive things in her community. She helped start a daycare, she helped women get elected to school boards, and assisted in putting female guards in women’s prisons, she was also a prominent member of the temperance organization. Augusta promoted the temperance movement to deal with alcohol abuse in Maine. Prohibition was enacted there in 1851 due to rampant drinking.The temperance movement came about as a response to an increase in domestic abuse because of alcoholism.

Augusta was part of the group who gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions when the women’s movement first tried to get women the vote.

The struggle for woman suffrage in Maine began rather quietly in 1854 but eventually was characterized by heated debates, with strong leaders and powerful groups on both sides of the argument. Maine's pro-suffrage efforts began with visits from some of the celebrated suffragists of the day. Susan B. Anthony spoke in Bangor in 1854. Lucy Stone followed in 1855, giving speeches on equal rights for women in both Augusta and Cornish.

That same same year, women in Portland started a women's rights society, but their efforts were soon eclipsed by the movement to end slavery. These earliest efforts were not forgotten, and the struggle for women's voting rights resumed after the Civil War.

More than 1,000 people attended the founding meeting of the pro-suffrage group Maine Woman Suffrage Association in Augusta in 1873.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Maine suffragists were repeatedly defeated by a strong opposition in both the community and in the Legislature.

In 1872, for instance, the Maine Legislature rejected a bill for woman suffrage, and in the following years continued to vote down all other suffrage bills, including those limiting women's right to vote to municipal elections.

Early suffragists in Maine like Augusta Hunt had to find solid arguments to convince their neighbors that votes for women would benefit everyone they printed postcards with Images that illustrated the idea that women were the real experts on food, children and household management, and therefore the most qualified people to be voting on important policy decisions in these areas.

Maine became the third New England state to ratify the federal amendment.

It took a very long time, but she was alive when it finally passed in Maine and not only did Augusta live long enough to vote; a newspaper article about Augusta’s 90th birthday indicates that she did, in fact, vote and even got to pass the first ballot. Augusta died ten days after the article was published.