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Lowell Stories: Women's History

Helen Hanson Robinson (1825 – 1911)

Harriet Jane Hanson Robinson, frontispiece, Loom and Spindle, 1888, Boston Public Library.

Ratified August 16, 1920, Signed August 26, 1920

Harriet Hanson was born in Malden, Massachusetts the daughter of William Hanson and Harriett Browne. Hanson and her sisters arrived in Lowell in the early 1830s, when her widowed mother obtained a job as a Boardinghouse Keeper for the Tremont Mills. Harriet Hanson married William Stephenson Robinson in 1848. Harriet Hanson's autobiography,  Loom and Spindle (1898), portrayed the textile industrial City of Lowell in her childhood and youth as a time of great opportunity for young women from New England, who learned the discipline of labor, explored a wide of range of educational offerings, and gained broader ideas about the world from their experiences. The book continues to be read and used in history classes more than 120 years after it was published. 

From the Wikipedia

"Harriet Hanson Robinson and her daughter Harriet Lucy Robinson Shattuck organized the National Woman Suffrage Association of Massachusetts (NWSA) associated with Susan B, Anthony’s organization, and Harriet Robinson made the opening address at the 1881 Boston Convention of the organization. They also helped Julia Ward Howe to organize the New England Women’s Club.  Harriet Robinson corresponded extensively with the suffrage movement leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton  and Susan B. Anthony.  When the National Woman Suffrage Association opened May 26, 1881 at the Tremont Temple in Boston, Harriet Robinson welcomed the delegates and guests. At this session she offered the following resolution: ‘Whereas, We believe that it is not safe to trust the great question of woman's political rights solely to the legislature, or to the voters of the state, therefore Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of Massachusetts to organize an active work, to secure suffrage’ Harriet Robinson wrote enthusiastically in 1881. 

Never, in the history of civilization, has woman held the political, legal or social position that she does in Massachusetts today! New avenues of employment for her capacity are constantly being opened, and in every department of public trust to which she has been promoted, she has shown her ability. In this first hour of woman's triumph, it only remains for her to keep what she has gained and use faithfully the new privileges which have come into her life.... Trained leaders are needed—women strong of purpose, who are willing to confront the public as presiding officers, or as public speakers, and to guide wisely the large masses of their sex who have not yet learned to think for themselves..."

Robinson was a formidable advocate of suffrage in her writings and as a public speaker died at her home in Malden, Massachusetts in 1911.  

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