The Power of Tea
Tea has been very good to women. Tea has been the commonality of opportunity to women throughout history, thus affording new horizons to women of the world.
Tea provided one of the few respectable working venues for women to earn a living. Whether the women worked on the tea plantations in the mountains of China and India, as tea blenders, as Lady Emma Hamilton did for King George lll of England prior to her marriage or in service to tea salons, tea provided a safe haven of support.
Tea influenced fashion by liberating women from the binding constraints of corsets. Serving afternoon tea in one’s home allowed ladies to entertain and to receive their guests un-corseted for the first time in centuries.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Ritz Hotel in London, England, was the first public establishment to allow unescorted women to gather together while having afternoon tea.
But the most important influence that tea had on behalf of women was the empowerment to vote.
On one hot day of July 09, 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton joined together with female friends Mary Ann McClintock, Lucretia Mott and Martha Wright at Jane Hunt’s house in Waterloo, New York, over tea and ginger cakes to express the voter-less plight of women. Ten days later, on July 19th and 20th, in Seneca Falls, NY, the first women’s rights convention was held at the Stanton home, attended by three hundred women.
The Declaration of Rights and Sentiments is signed as a resolution giving the women the right to vote.
“Had that tea party not taken place, there would have been no convention and without the Seneca Falls convention, there would have been continued muttering about women’s rights but little action,” said Judith Wellman, history professor at the State University of New York at Oswego. “ It led to the empowerment of fifty-one percent of the population and it resonated around the world.”
Three years later, the activist Amelia Bloomer introduces Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, thus creating a working partnership that endured for five decades.
Civil rights activists Sojourner Truth (1851, Ohio Women’s Rights Convention), Ida B. Wells-Barnett (May 1884 refused to give up her seat on a train in Tennessee, 71 years before Rosa Parks refusal to do the same on a bus in Alabama in December 1955) and Mary Church Terrell (1896 National Association of Colored Women, co-founder) organize thousands of African-American women to join in the suffrage for all women. Rising side-by–side, the women’s suffragette and civil rights movements were born.
The movement was funded with tea wares, as well as gold, peridot, garnet, citrine, pearls, diamonds and amethyst jewelry (1908 to 1914) sold at privately held tea parties. The colors representing green for hope (G), white for purity (W) and violet/ purple (V) for dignity creating a code of GWV for “Give Women Votes”. When worn in public, others were easily able to identify like mined supporters of the cause.
In 1914, Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and her daughter, Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough, hosted a tea at The Conference of Great Women in the Chinese tea pavilion on the grounds of their home, Marble House, in Newport Rhode Island. Tea wares were given to each attendee with the slogan VOTES FOR WOMEN.
Senator Aaron A. Sargent of California, thirty years later on January 10, 1878, introduces a resolution authored by Stanton and Anthony granting voting rights to women. This bill would be introduced and reintroduced in Congress for the next forty-five years.
On October 26, 1902, Elizabeth Cady Stanton passes away at age eighty-six. On March 13, 1906, Susan B. Anthony dies, also at the age of eighty-six.
It took seventy-two years from that first fateful tea party in Jane Hunt’s home for the 19th Amendment to be ratified on August 18, 1920, finally granting women the right to vote.
On the following November 02, 1920, eight million women legally went to the polls to vote. Only one signer of the original Seneca Falls Declaration, Charlotte Woodward, who as far as history can determine, was too old and ill to get to the polls herself but did live to see women cast their votes on that fateful day she had so tirelessly worked to see come to pass.
Honor the women who fought long and hard for civil and women’s rights with the true meaning of the tea party movement. Organize and give a voter registration tea party in your own home. Invite people to learn with an open mind about the process and candidates, both local and national. Help friends and neighbors with transportation to the polls, if needed.
On Tuesday, November 03, 2020, go to the polls and cast your vote for a candidate who will maintain and uphold the rights of all women. We are the majority! PINKIES UP LADIES—let your voice be heard, as each vote is an important vote.
©Ellen Easton 2000-2020 All Rights Reserved
Ellen Easton, author of Afternoon Tea~Tips, Terms and Traditions(RED WAGON PRESS), an afternoon tea authority, lifestyle and etiquette industry leader, keynote speaker and product spokesperson, is a hospitality, design, and retail consultant whose clients have included the Waldorf=Astoria, the Plaza and Bergdorf Goodman. Easton’s family traces their tea roots to the early 1800s, when ancestors first introduced tea plants from India and China to the Colony of Ceylon, thus building one of the largest and best cultivated teas estates on the island. For more of Ellen’s recipes, menus, click here.