Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Gadsden Land Grab Made a New Border With Mexico

In 1853 a lot of Mexicans woke up to discover that they were living in another country in which at best they were third class citizens and at worst considered vermin to be erased at the earliest opportunity.  A shady international real estate scheme pushed the Mexican/US boarder south, deep into the deserts of the future states of New Mexico and Arizona.  Without that land grab desperate Central American refugees would have had a hell of a lot longer walk to seek asylum and Trump’s Wall even more useless.
The boundaries of the continental United States were expanded for a final time when President Franklin Pierce signed the agreement for the Gadsden Purchase on June 29, 1853.  The purchase added 29,670 square miles south of the Gila River and west of the Río Grande to what was then New Mexico Territory.  The land included the Mesilla Valley which had been identified as the logical route for a southern transcontinental railway which the slave holding South hoped would tie them to California and bring that state, or a divided southern half of it, into the slave holding orbit.  
Negotiations with the Mexican government, first initiated by the James Buchanan administration, were also meant to clear up boundary issues left unresolved the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo that ended the Mexican War and resulted in the acquisition of much of the Southwest and California by the United States.  The Mexican government was also interested in large compensation from America for failing to live up to the terms of the treaty by stopping wide spread raiding into Mexico by Apache and Comanche tribes from U.S. Territory.  
President Franklin Pierce, a Northern man of Southern principles.

Democrat Pierce, though a New Englander, was Doughface, was a “Northern man with Southern sympathies”. At the suggestion of his Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, Pierce selected South Carolina born southern firebrand James Gadsden as Ambassador to Mexico with instructions to reach an agreement on border issues and to secure permission to build a railroad or canal across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
But Gadsden had no interest in furthering the scheme for an Isthmus railroad.  Instead he was a promoter of, and had a financial interest in, a potential railroad through the Mesilla Valley
Gadsden was a former Army officer who had served with Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812 and against Indians in Florida.  In 1832 he resigned from the Army to accept appoint by President Jackson as one of the Commissioners in charge of Seminole removal from Florida and Georgia, a job he perused with ruthless enthusiasm.  He broke with his old commander and political sponsor, however, during the South Carolina Nullification crisis in 1831 and was a supporter of John C. Calhoun.  
Gadsen as a young Army Lieutenant, his only known image
As a member of the South Carolina legislature in 1850, he advocated secession from the Union because of the admission of California as a free state.  At the time he was also President of the South Carolina Canal and Railway Co. and was engaged in plans to connect all southern railroads into a unified network.  In 1847 he had helped convene a convention of southern railroads in Memphis to that end. The convention endorsed establishing the southern transcontinental route although it failed to agree on how to finance it. 
After California was admitted, Gadsden entered a scheme with Southern sympathizers in the state to divide it in two, with the southern half embracing slavery, including the use of slave labor to build the southern railroad.  He proposed importing 1200 settlers from South Carolina and Florida along with “not less than Two Thousand of their African Domestics” to populate a special rural district that would ape the Southern plantation economy by raising cotton, rice, and sugar cane.  Although this proposal died in the state legislature, it was well known in Washington, as was Gadsden’s financial interests in the southern railroad project. 
None the less, Gadsden was tapped as negotiator.  Secretary of State William L. Marcy gave him clear instructions to secure the Mesilla Valley for the purposes of building a railroad through it, convince Mexico that the US had done its best regarding the Indian raids, and elicit Mexican cooperation in efforts by US citizens to build across the Tenhuantepec isthmus.  
Santa Anna in 1853, President of Mexico for the 7th and final time.
Gadsden arrived in Mexico City to find General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had been returned to the Mexican Presidency for the seventh and final time.  As an ardent nationalist Santa Anna was opposed to territorial concessions to the U.S. and determined to get reparation for continued Indian raids.  Moreover, he was deeply offended by Gadsden’s brusque, insulting demeanor.  Gadsden blithely told the President that “the spirit of the times” would inevitably lead to the secession of Mexico’s northern states and demanded that he sell most or all of the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Baja California.  
Mexico, as usual, was in political and financial turmoil at the time.  Gadsden soon realized that Santa Anna desperately need cash to revive and rearm the Mexican Army in defense of expected aggression by the American government and from Filibusterers like William Walker who had recently tried to capture Baja California with 50 men.  
After informing Marcy of the Santa Anna’s desperation, he received new instructions to negotiate for the sale of six large parcels of land and that the price for them would include reparations for the Indian raids and absolution from any U.S. responsibility for future raids.  Prices ranged from $50 million for Baja California and large swaths of the northern Mexico states to $15 million for the main proposed railroad corridor along the Mesilla Valley.  
He was also instructed to keep pressing for the Tenhuantepec isthmus route.  Gadsden soon abandoned all pretext of seeking the isthmus route, which would have been in competition with the proposed southern transcontinental route.  He also quit pressing for wider land concessions in order to quickly secure his railroad route.  
In the end Santa Anna was glad to sell mostly wasteland which would also serve as a buffer between Mexico and the hostile tribes to the U.S. for $15 million.  
The U.S. Cabinet began reviewing the treaty in January of 1854 and although Jefferson Davis was disappointed that further territorial concessions were not obtained and others were upset by the loss of the Isthmus route, the treaty was sent to an uncertain fate in Congress in February. 
There it immediately became ensnared in sectional conflict over the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the extension of slavery to new western territories.  Many Northern senators were particularly concerned about the possibility of the southern railroad, which would have both conflicted with their own interests in a northern route and possibly become a “conduit of chattel slavery into the West.”  On April 17 the Senate voted 27 to 18 in favor of the treaty, falling three votes short of the necessary two-thirds required for approval. 
The final version of the Gadsden Purchase overlaid on a map of modern Arizona and New Mexico.
Davis urged that the President save the treaty by accepting several modifications including re-opening the possibility of the Isthmus route, giving the U.S. the right to use  “when it may feel sanctioned and warranted by the public or international law” in protection of construction of a canal or railroad across the Isthmus, and a reduction of territorial concession by 9,000 square miles with a corresponding drop in purchase price of $10 million.  The changes were enough to secure additional northern votes and the treaty finally passed by a vote of 32 to 12.  
Gadsden presented the amended treaty to Santa Anna who reluctantly agreed.  No progress was ever made on securing concessions for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec project.  In the end, the treaty only really secured a real estate deal covering some very inhospitable desert land. 
Santa Anna’s popularity in Mexico declined because of agreeing to what was seen as yet another humiliating concession to the U.S. and because he squandered the infusion of hard cash from the purchase.  He was removed from power for the final time by the Ayutla Rebellion of 1854.   
The official hand-over of the Gadsden Purchase in a ceremony a Mesilla, New Mexico, right where Gadsden and his cronies wanted to run their transcontinental railroad to California.  
n the U.S. the political fallout over the ratification debate and hardening sectional hostilities meant that the railroad through the Mesilla Valley would never be built.  During the Civil War most of the purchase ended up in the newly created Territory of Arizona.  When the Southern Pacific Railroad finally built a southern route in the 1880’s it did not follow the Mesilla Valley, but went further north along a line only partially within the Gadsden Purchase.  
Today the land includes Tucson, Bisbee, and Yuma Arizona but is otherwise sparsely populated and mostly owned by the Federal Government as Indian reservations, conservation land, and military reservations.  The in the last census the total population in the Purchase area was about 1,373,000 with three-quarters of the people residing in the Tucson metropolitan aria.
Many of the brown skinned residents of the area descend from folks who were there when it was Mexican territory.  Yet in modern Arizona they were often  swept up in the anti-immigrant hysteria that was codified in that state’s draconian laws several years ago before much of their content was declared Unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  Today when they are stopped by Border Patrol Agents and required to show identification, they complained loudly—and rightly—that “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”  Several U.S. Citizens have been swooped up anyway and spent days, weeks, even months in custody.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Reprising Emma and Helen Birthday Sisters—Murfin Verse

A young Emma Goldman  in her mug shot after her arrest for conspiring with her lover Alexander Berkman  in an assassination attempt on steel baron Henry Clay Frick.

Note—I have posted this before, as recently as last year but the two women are particular favorites of mine and I immodestly think that the poem is one of my better efforts.
Emma Goldman, whose grave I have visited on pilgrimages to the Haymarket Memorial in Forest Home Cemetery, and Helen Keller, who has fascinated me since seeing The Miracle Worker and reading a paperback biography I ordered from a Scholastic Book Club flyer shared a common birthday on June 27.
Helen Keller as a student at Radcliffe was already world famous for her astounding achievements overcoming blindness and deafness.
You know, if you have visited here before, that such calendar coincidences trigger an inexplicable urge to commit poetry.
Most people recognize Goldman’s name as America’s most famous anarchist.  They may be surprised to learn that she was also a famous lecturer whose talks on theater, religion, women’s rights, and free love drew as much attention in their day as her calls to smash the state and end capitalism.
Goldman was such a compelling writer and public figure that even the capitalist press was eager to publish her fiery essays.
Keller’s profound advocacy of Socialism and the IWW has largely been white washed from her public image.  But that is changing as folks on the left slowly become aware that she was a comrade and fellow worker.
Helen Keller as a Joan of Arc type hero leading the working people of the world to triumph in an allegorical scene from her 1919 silent film Deliverance
In these dark times it is good to remember our sheroes.  

Birthday Sisters Emma and Helen

Emma Goldman June 27,1869, Konvo, Imperial Russian Lithuania
Helen Keller, June 27, 1880, Tuscumbia, Alabama, USA

If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution—Emma Goldman

…there is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.—Helen Keller.

You might not suspect that they were sisters.

Emma with her square jaw and carelessly attend hair,

            gray eyes peering through

            those old fashion pinze nez spectacles

            perched upon her nose,

            the urban smells of coal fire,

delivery horse dung and workman’s sweat

clinging to her frumpy clothes,

speech meticulously enunciated

barely betraying here and there

a Yiddish trace.

Helen, who would have been a delicate beauty

            in her youth

            were it not for those disconcerting,

            unfocused eyes,

            Confederate grace and slave cotton wealth

            a mantle on her delicate shoulders,

            the sweet lilt of a gentlewoman

            lost to grunts and moans.

But wait….    

            These two knew what it was like

            to be a stranger, an exile,

            an alien other

            and ultimately what it was like

            to be a celebrated curiosity.

They learned as a Jew

            and as a side show freak,

            as women, after all,

            what oppression was

            but also that they

            were not alone—

They swam in a sea of oppression

            and learned early

            of the solidarity of the school

            against the sharks

            that would consume them.

Maybe the world expected little else

            from the Jewess

            who threw her lot early

            with the filthy anarchists

            who made bombs

            and plotted  attentats

            like that job she pulled

            passing the pistol

            to her lover, for god sake,

            to plug Henry Clay Frick.

But the world was aghast

            when the delicate Radcliffe flower

            who had charmed Mark Twain,

            Alexander Graham Bell,

            and Teddy Roosevelt,

            raised the Red Flag

            and fell side by side

            with the laborers,

            the unemployed,        

            the despised—even the Negros!

The atheist anarchist

            and the Socialist Wobbly

            who dabbled in Swedenborgism

            and a mystic Red Jesus

            did not agree on details,

            they might have enjoyed

            a friendly debate

            each being a master

            of the platform.

But each in her own way

            was steadfast to the end

            of her long life

            for a revolution of liberation

            and the ultimate triumph

            of beauty.

I imagine sometimes

            that as they each

            traversed the country

            on lecture tour or

            vaudeville circuit

            if they ever crossed paths

            in say, a railway station

            in Omaha or a

            hotel lobby in Akron

            and fell into each other’s arms


“Sister, sister, I have found you!”

—Patrick Murfin

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Night the Queers Fought Back—Stonewall and the Birth of a Movement

The Stonewall was a dive bar operated by the Mob in New York's Greenwich Village.  It's patrons were outcasts and the most flamboyant of a rough streets scene--young hustlers, drag queens, butch lesbians.  It was also an inter-racial scene that attracted police attention.  Wealthier and more respectable Gays gathered and partied more discretely in posh clubs that authorities usually ignored.
Fifty years ago on the night of June 27, 1969 something snapped when New York City Police made one of their regular raids on a Gay bar.  Instead of meekly submitting to arrest, the denizens  of the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village bar operated by the Mafia and patronized by the most marginalized of folks—homeless street kid hustlers, drag queens, butch dikes, and others resisted when police started to arrest them. 
The raid was conducted by a small team of detectives, uniformed officers including women led by Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine of the Public Morals Squad. 
For some reason patrons refused to follow the familiar procedure of such raids—allowing restroom inspections of individuals in women’s clothing to determine if they were men and providing identification upon request.  Dumfounded by resistance, police called for backup and patrol wagons.  There was some scuffling inside.  
The Stonewall Inn in 1969 looked just as seedy as it was.
Meanwhile some patrons who had been released were joined by passersby outside the bar.  The crowd quickly swelled.  Taunts and jeers were exchanged between the police and crowd.  The crowd began to interfere as drag queens were led to the wagons.  When a lesbian made several unsuccessful attempts to escape, she was beaten and cried out to the crowd, “Why don’t you guys do something?” 
That ignited the crowd which began pelting police with beer cans, coins, and rubble from a nearby construction site.  They attacked the wagons, freeing some of those arrested.  Police retreated into the bar and barricaded themselves.  They grabbed some members of the crowd as they went, including folk singer Dave Van Ronk who had been playing at a nearby club and came out to investigate the ruckus, and Howard Smith, a writer for the Village Voice. 
When a lesbian named Betty repeatedly tried to break away from custody and was roughly handled by several cops she famously pleaded, "Why don't you guys do something?"  It became the Remember he Alamo battle cry of a movement.
Observers reported that the most aggressive members of the crowd were the young street kids.  They used an uprooted parking meter as a ram to try and break down the doors of the bar and crashed through the plywood covered windows.  When they got in police drew their pistols and threatened to shoot while rioters used lighter fluid to start a fire
The Fire Department responded as the crowd outside grew to hundreds.  The Tactical Police Force (TPF) arrived in riot gear to rescue the besieged officers in the saloon.  They formed a phalanx and moved up the street being blocked and taunted by an impromptu kick line of drag queens and “sissies.”  
Drag queens played a leading role in the resistance after the police raid in the the nights that followed.
Rioters and police played a brand of violent tag around the narrow streets of the Village until after 4 AM.  
Later that morning the riots were front page news
And they were not over.  The next night even larger crowds gathered in front of the building and fighting continued.  Despite heavy rain there were sporadic eruptions the next two nights. 
Meanwhile the Gay community, which had been largely unorganized except for the small Mattachine Society which advocated a campaign to educate the public that Homosexuals were “normal,” began to meet and debate tactics.  Thousands of fliers were printed for a Wednesday march
The original rebellion, which had been entirely spontaneous, was already laying the groundwork for a new, open and defiant Gay movementTaking cues from the Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Movement, which were also confronting authorities with a new militancy, and taking advantage of the traditional anti-establishment radicalism of the Village, the beginning of a new movement was taking place. 
On Wednesday the Village Voice—the most liberal paper in New York, carried a harshly critical piece on the riots describing participants as “forces of faggotry.”  Angry demonstrators descended on the Voice offices that night and threatened to burn them down.  Other violent confrontations erupted in the neighborhood as police tried to stop marchers, this time for the first time carrying signs and “making demands.” 
That was the last night of disturbances, but things changed quickly over the next year.  Two new militant Gay organizations emerged in New York, the Gay Liberation Front, which allied itself with the broader radical movement, and the Gay Activists Alliance which advocated a focused campaign demanding an end to police harassment and for broader rights for Gays
Similar or allied groups sprang up in major cities and college towns across the country.  New Yorkers founded three new newspapers, Gay, Come Out!, and Gay Power which soon had press runs to 2000 to 2500.  Again, similar publications were founded across the country.  
The Christopher Street March on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion is considered the founding event of the Gay Pride marches now held internationally.
On June 28, 1970 the anniversary of what was now being called the Stonewall Rebellion was marked by Christopher Street Liberation Day and a 51 block march from the Village to Central Park with thousands of marchers filling the streets.  Marches were also held in Chicago and Los Angeles. 
These became the Gay Pride Marches and annual events across the country.  There was a huge march is scheduled this Sunday in Chicago.  An indication of how accepted and mainstream Gay rights have become, at least in big cities, is that there are official floats sponsored by the city’s sports teams. Politicians galore and all of the major media turn out to court the potent Gay vote and consumer demographic.  But there were still loads drag queens and all of the high camp fun that the carnival-like parades have become known for.
This year New York City will have competing Pride Parades on June 30.  The Heritage of Pride (HOP) Parade  has faced criticism in past years for over commercialization, dominant corporate  presence in  floats and units. campaigning politicians, the presence of uniformed police officers, and restrictive rules. The Reclaim Pride Coalition (RPC) will sponsor an alternative back to basic march “Eschewing the corporate-saturated, highly policed nature of recent parades, the March is a truly grassroots action that mobilizes the community to address the many social and political battles that continue to be fought locally, nationally, and globally.”  Local TV will lavishly cover the older, more respectable event.
But this year Gay Pride Parades  also reflect a community increasingly under siege by a well-oiled and funded backlash led by religious zealots and abetted by the radicalized Republican Party eager to pander to a big part of its base.  With Republicans in complete control of many governorships and State houses rafts of anti-Gay legislation have been enacted or proposed. 
And now the Cheeto-in-Charge, who in an earlier incarnation had proclaimed himself a “friend of the Gays,” has lent his full blather and bluster to stoking the fires of repression.  He let Gay Pride Month pass without even the most tepid acknowledgement and order U.S embassies abroad not to fly the Pride Flag—an order that was flouted at many of them.  Trump has worked to strip protections against discrimination in agency after agency. The Supreme Court recently smiled on so-called religious liberty grounds for refusing service to Gays, lesbians, and transgender folk.
So it was not a surprise that in the midst of the usual party, floats and marching units speak out.  Or that in several cities outright protests have broken  out around or in the parades.  50 years after the fact Pride Month has returned to its roots—Resistance!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

McHenry County Jail Will be Target of a Lights For Liberty Vigil

The McHenry County Jail which rents space to Federal detention, will be the focus in the Chicago area and Northern Illinois for a Lights for Liberty Vigil to End Human Detention Camps on Friday July 12 from 7:30 to 9 pm.  It will be one scores protest vigils at detention camps on the border and other detention centers nationwide.
Light for Liberty describes itself as:
 A coalition of people, many of whom are mothers, dedicated to human rights, and the fundamental principle behind democracy that all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity. We are partnering with international, national, regional and local communities and organizations who believe that these fundamental rights are not negotiable and are willing to protect them.

According to Patrick Murfin, a lead organizer of the Woodstock event and co-chair of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation Social Justice Team, there was a groundswell of interest in the event especially “after disclosures of shocking conditions and abuse in holding facilities for children at the border and President Trump’s threat of massive round-up raids on  families across the country which has terrified whole communities.
“We will callout immigrant detentions camps for the shame of  what they really are—American concentration camps.”
The event will be held on the grassy area across from the jail along Route 47 in Woodstock between Ware Road and Russel Court.  Parking will be available in the Northwood Junior High School lot across Rt. 47.  A rally will begin at 7:30 featuring speakers from the Latino community, immigrant justice advocates, religious leaders, legal support groups, and personal witnesses.  A list of speakers will soon be forthcoming.
The Lights for Liberty rally and vigil at the McHenry County jail promises to be much larger than this Abolish ICE event last July.
At 9 pm the candle light vigil will begin, coordinating with other actions across the country.  Participants are urged to bring friends, signs, candles.
The event has been planned by concerned local residents and is officially co-sponsored by Indivisible Illinois and the Tree of Life UU Congregation Social Justice Team.  Several other co-sponsors are expected.
As a regional action the rally and vigil is expected to be the biggest yet held at the Jail or in support of immigration justice.
For more information visit the FacebookEvent, e-mail, or call 815 814-5645.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Breaking the Pastoral Glass Ceiling—Olympia Brown

Olympia Brown as a young woman.
On June 25, 1863 Olympia Brown was ordained as a minister by the St. Lawrence Association of Universalists in New York State.  She was the first woman in America ordained as a minister with full denominational authority.  A handful of other women had been ordained by individual congregations, been licensed to preach, or founded their own churches.  
The twenty-eight year old Brown came fully and formally educated in a denomination—Universalism—that had often relied on self-educated preachers to spread the liberal gospel of Universal Salvation.  
Brown was born to Vermont Yankee stock on a pioneer farm near Prairie Ronde, Michigan in 1835.  The family of devout Universalists placed a high value on education.  Her father built a school house on his farm and raised money from neighbors to hire a teacher.  Later Olympia, the eldest of four children, attended school in the nearby aptly named town of  Schoolcraft.  
But she craved more than semi-frontier schools could offer.  Her father agreed to enroll her in prestigious Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Massachusetts but the school’s strict Calvinism deeply offended her sensibilities.  
She was much happier at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, which was presided over by noted Unitarian social reformer and educator Horace Mann.  She sent such glowing reports of the school home that her parents relocated the whole family to Yellow Springs so the other children could benefit from the same fine education.  
Rev. Antoinette Brown, Olympia's inspiration.
While at Oberlin, Brown invited Rev. Antoinette Brown (Blackwell) to speak and preach.  As a young woman the then Antoinette Brown (no relation to Olympia, by the way) had struggled to become licensed to preach by the Congregationalists, was hired to serve a small New York church, and was irregularly ordained by a Methodist minister.  She was a staunch abolitionist and suffragist who became a noted lecturer after her brief pastorate.  Blackwell electrified the young Brown, “It was the first time I had heard a woman preach and the sense of victory lifted me up. I felt as though the Kingdom of Heaven were at hand.”  
She determined to enroll in a theological school and pursue the ministry herself.  That was easier said than done.  No theological school in the country then regularly admitted women to degree programs, though a handful allowed them to take classes.  Even such bastions of liberal theology as the Unitarian School of Meadville in Pennsylvania and Oberlin turned her down, although Oberlin said she could attend classes but “not participate in public exercises” or expect a degree.  
She took a somewhat ambiguously discouraging letter from the president of the Universalist Divinity School of St. Lawrence University as an acceptance and surprised him by appearing for the 1861 term.  Sheepishly, he had to admit her.  It was characteristic of Brown’s bold determination.  She afterward wrote, “I was told I had not been expected and that Mr. Fisher had said I would not come as he had written so discouragingly to me. I had supposed his discouragement was my encouragement.”  Brown efficiently completed her course of study in 1863 with distinction.  
Encountering resistance at every turn she doggedly convinced skeptical authorities to first ordain her, and then allow her to be called as a denominational minister.  Shortly after graduation the St. Lawrence Association ordained her.  After a period of pulpit supply preaching Brown was called as a minister to a Weymouth Landing, Massachusetts church.  While serving there she became deeply involved in the organized women’s movement
Antoinette Brown's sister in law, leading suffragist Lucy Stone recruited Olympia to rouse Kansas for a statewide referendum on giving women the vote.
In the summer of 1867 Lucy Stone, the sister-in-law of her old inspiration Antoinette Brown, urged her to travel to Kansas to lead a campaign in support of a state constitutional amendment to extend the franchise to women.  She arrived in the state to find no organization on the ground or any support.  She had to schedule her own appearances, book halls, make traveling and lodging arrangements and then speak to often hostile audiences.  Traveling relentlessly to all corners of the state she made over 300 speeches and attracted national attention.  Although the state’s male voters overwhelmingly rejected the amendment, Susan B. Anthony commended her work as “a glorious triumph.”  
Brown found herself in demand as a speaker, but yearned to return to parish ministry.  In 1870 she was called to the large, prosperous congregation in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the home church of active Universalist layman Phineas T. Barman.  She found the church far less progressive than her first pastorate and, although she enjoyed support of the majority of members, a persistent minority campaigned against her in favor of calling a man.  
During her service she married John Henry Willis in 1873.  While on maternity leave with their first child, agitation by the minority to permanently replace her increased.  By the end of 1874 she had enough and resigned her ministry.  The family remained in Bridgeport and added a second child, but Brown—who kept her maiden name—searched for another pulpit.  
She found one in Racine, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan just north of Illinois.  The church was in “unfortunate condition” after a series of failed pastorates, was demoralized, and was struggling to maintain membership and keep afloat.  Brown recognized that only churches in this condition were desperate enough to call a woman.  She eagerly accepted the challenge.  Her supportive husband closed his Bridgeport business to move with his wife.  Eventually he became part owner of the local newspaper in Racine which not only helped support the family financially but gave support to Olympia’s ministry. 

The Universalist Society of Racine, Wisconsin as it looked when Olympia served there.

Under her leadership the church flourished, grew in membership, stabilized its finances and became a cultural center for Racine.  She sponsored regular speaking engagements by leading feminists and social reformers including Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Julia Ward Howe.  After nine successful years at age 53 Brown decided to dedicate more of her time to the cause of women’s suffrage.  The Racine congregation was on firm ground and continued thrive.  In the 20th Century the congregation took the name Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church in her honor.  
Brown continued to serve small Wisconsin Universalist congregations on a part time basis or as a pulpit supply preacher, but spent most of her time as President of the Wisconsin Suffrage Association and as Vice-president of the National Woman Suffrage Association.  She belonged to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton wing of the women’s movement which believed that reform on many issues in addition to obtaining the right to vote was essential for women’s equality.  She was particularly concerned about educational opportunities for women and campaigned for previously all male schools to admit womenand to encourage women to dare to seek higher education.  
By the 1890’s Brown was concerned that conservative leadership by Carrie Chapman Catt was sapping the strength of the movement.  In 1913 she was happy to embrace Alice Paul’s new militant and confrontational Women’s Party.  As a charter member she said, “I belonged to this party before I was born.”  At the age of 80 she was delighted to take to the streets.  She once burned Woodrow Wilson’s speeches in front of the White House because of his refusal to support suffrage.  She risked arrest time and again.  
After the 19th Amendment to the Constitution finally passed in 1919, Brown became one of the few veteran movement leaders to survive to cast her vote.  
Olympia Brown at a suffrage convention in her old age.  She was one of the few early leaders of the movement to survive to cast a vote in a Federal election.
Not content with that victory, she turned her energy to the peace movement becoming one of the founding members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.  
In old age she summered in Racine and spent the cold months with a daughter in Baltimore, where she let her opinions be known on a number of issues.  When she died there in 1926 at the age of 91 the Baltimore Sun wrote, “Perhaps no phase of her life better exemplified her vitality and intellectual independence than the mental discomfort she succeeded in arousing, between her eightieth and ninetieth birthdays, among the conservatively minded Baltimorans.”  
Brown’s body was returned to Racine where, after an overflow service at her old church, she was laid to rest next to her husband.