In honor of Independence Day, we remember the words of Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Jennie Loitman Barron who presented her speech titled “Freedom for All” at the Independence Day exercises at Faneuil Hall in Boston in 1960. She wrote in part:
“In planning this oration, I looked into my own heart and I speak as an American, giving you my personal experiences as a woman, as a Jewess and as a Judge.
“It appears appropriate for a woman speaker to discuss the effects of the Declaration of Independence upon women. Hope soared in their hearts as they heard the enunciation of its principles of equality for all men, not a particular class or sect, but all men....
“The Declaration of Independence further asserted that ‘All men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ It was assumed that ‘men’ was used in the generic sense, including all mankind—which means women as well as men. But in spite of the proclamation of the principles of freedom enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, one half of the population of the nation, namely women, were not equal to men before the law. Women were denied equal opportunity with men to develop their inherent capacities, and their freedoms were largely curtailed.
“Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams in 1776 ... ‘If particular care and attention are not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound to obey any laws in which we have no vote or representation.’
“This was almost the first gun fired in a campaign for Women’s Freedom....
“I had the great privilege as a young girl at college and thereafter to participate in this battle for equal rights for women. Accompanied by the great immortal pioneers amongst whom were Carrie Chapman Catt, Maud Wood Park, Alice Stone Blackwell, Anna Howard Shaw, in Boston, New York, and throughout New England, I brought my plea for votes for women. I spoke from soapboxes at corners of streets, and from open automobiles, at times dodging such missiles as stale eggs and overripe tomatoes, hurled by alcoholic listeners. I brought my message at noontime to factory meetings and spoke at theatres during intermissions between the acts, by special permission of liberal managers. I marched in suffrage parades, organized and became president of the first equal suffrage college association at Boston University.
“The ‘ferment’ worked because of the hard work of liberal men and women who brought a ‘realization’ of the ideas of the Declaration of Independence for women as well as men. We, the women of today, are the successors of those courageous trail blazers of history, those heroic pioneers who fought and won and opened the doors of freedom to women of our generation....”
For more about Jennie Loitman Barron, please see the finding aid to the Jennie Loitman Barron papers at the Schlesinger Library.