The Revolution, a weekly women’s rights newspaper, was the official publication of the National Woman Suffrage Association formed by feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to secure women’s enfranchisement through a federal constitutional amendment. Published between January 8, 1868 and February, 1872, it was edited by Stanton and Parker Pillsbury and initially funded by George Francis Train, a wealthy and eccentric Democrat, and David Melliss, financial editor of the New York World newspaper. Coincidentally, The Revolution was run out of a small office in the same building that housed the New York World.
~from the digital archives of The Revolution
In 1867, the American Equal Rights Association launched a campaign in Kansas in support of two state referenda—one that would enfranchise African American men, and one that would enfranchise women.
Ultimately, both were defeated, and the first issue of The Revolution was published two months later, on January 8, 1868.
The name of the original newspaper, according to Stanton and Anthony, was chosen because it spoke to the mission of the publication, which was to revolutionize. Stanton later said that it wasn’t just about the ballot, but all social systems – that it was about the entire reorganization of society.
Throughout the four years of its circulation, The Revolution featured articles on women workers, farmers, and activists, as well as pieces that promoted penal reform via agricultural and educational training. It took stances on higher education, advocating equal access for women as well as equal pay. But it also featured pro-temperance articles that decried women who visited taverns, and it offered a platform for officials who were denying claims that they had encouraged slaves to arm themselves and revolt from their masters.
Thus, some might argue that The Revolution was flawed, its ideology fractured, its sentiments inconsistent. But perhaps its editors were also concerned with showcasing a more nuanced display of the debates that were raging in antebellum America.
In fact, the Declaration of Sentiments, which formed the foundational ideology of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, was, according to Seneca Falls historian Judith Wellman, “the single most important factor in spreading news of the women’s rights movement around the country in 1848 and into the future,” and it wasn’t merely the product of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann M’Clintock. Stanton’s husband, abolitionist and lawyer Henry Brewster Stanton, added clauses about property rights. The support of the convention’s figurehead, Lucretia Mott, along with Quaker activist Amy Post and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, led to a unanimous adoption of the document by the delegates, resulting in its adoption by the National Women’s Rights Convention in 1851. Not only had the tenets of the first wave of American feminism been cemented in a document that was modeled after the Declaration of Independence, the practice of writing the feminist revolution was underway, and it wasn’t being inscribed exclusively by white women.
In the weeks immediately following a host of clinic closures and almost as many state bans on reproductive rights, not to mention the ongoing detention of infants and children by ICE, the original Revolution manifested on my laptop screen, the inadvertent result of a google search for Elizabeth Cady Stanton (I was curating sources for my summer session Women & Literature class).
Upon seeing The Revolution, I was immediately catapulted back to my childhood in Northern Missouri. The year was 1979. My father had gifted me a bicentennial pendant the year before, and in ’79, he handed me my first Susan B. Anthony coin. My father was a former Marine, a veteran of the Korean conflict, a staunch patriot. He would’ve never been mistaken for a progressive-minded supporter of the Women’s Liberation Movement. But I could feel him pressing the coin into my palm, and I could hear him saying something about “an important woman in American history.” My father has been dead for decades, so this visitation felt like a rare re-gifting of something I’d nearly forgotten.
Inarguably, The Revolution needed to be resurrected, and though it was already May, I wanted it to go live on July 4th, a day that signifies what so many of us believe to be restricted or selective freedom. As a practitioner of the creative arts (rather than political polemics), I wanted it to embody the concept of creative resistance; thus, the format of The Revolution (Relaunch) — the commingling of brief, accessible pieces of scholarship, social commentary, poetry, and creative nonfiction — was born. After the on-boarding of several editors from academia and the creative community, we expanded our neo-newspaper to include archival materials, interviews, profiles, social justice events, and book reviews.
The Revolution (Relaunch), or TRR as we like to call it, was born on July 4th 2019. The inaugural issue featured poetry, an interview with a member of the ERA task force in AZ, a current events piece, and an editorial entitled “On Declarations of Independence,” which was paired with an original sketch of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass, drawn for TRR by local artist, Gary Bowers.
As for the print version, I envisioned a pamphlet style publication, an 11×14 sheet folded in half, giving us four pages of 10-point text. It would not only be reminiscent of the 19th C newspaper that we wanted to maintain a connection to, it would also serve as a powerful symbol of 20th and 21st century zine culture, the radical spirit of the DIY movement that has garnered a new generation of devotees. I already ran one zine press (rinky dink press), so it seemed fitting for a multitude of reasons. Thus, the inaugural print issue made its debut at the Writers for Migrant Justice reading in Phoenix on Sept. 4th.
Regardless of the hours of curation that go into each web and print issue (12 issues/year and 4 issues/year respectively), it pales in comparison to the myriad voices that have been silenced and shamed into submission. TRR can’t right the wrongs of the past (or the present), but we can provide a platform for those voices and a means to creative resistance, perhaps even inspiring others to ignite their own revolutions along the way, in print or otherwise.