Missouri: A land of firsts

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I love history. Not necessarily the big stories: the world wars, and tales of kings and queens and daring do. No, I like the stories of people who do acts of normalcy that end up creating waves that ripple from small to large to larger until an ocean of change sweeps across the age and the land; leaving the debris of old ways, fractured customs tumbled about like the broken pieces of concrete that are left when the Mississippi swells its banks.

Did you know that the first formalized woman’s suffrage movement in the US originated in Missouri? That Missouri was the last state to be admitted to the Union as a slave state, but the first state to free slaves, even before the 13th Amendment was passed? That the first woman lawyer practiced law in this state? Her name was M. Lemma Barkeloo. She was also the first woman lawyer to participate on a case in Federal court.

The James gang plied its nefarious trade in Missouri; the Pony Express started here, as did most treks west. The first steel bridge was created here, the first steamboat race ended here.

The worst earthquake in history, in terms of strength and potential damage, as well as sheer impact on the geology of the area happened here. Luckily it was before all these red brick buildings were built.

The first woman to sue to be allowed to vote was Virginia Minor here in 1872.

On October 15, 1872, Virginia Minor tried to register to vote in the upcoming election, but was refused by St. Louis’ sixth district registrar, Reese Happersett. Happersett refused to register Minor because she was female, thus provoking a civil suit brought by Virginia and her lawyer husband, Francis Minor. Minor’s action was part of a nationwide pattern of civil disobedience, in which hundreds of women across the country attempted to vote. Susan B. Anthony led a small delegation of women to the polls in Rochester, New York, and was successful in casting her vote for Ulysses S. Grant. Three weeks later, however, on Thanksgiving Day, Anthony was arrested on the charge of voting fraud. Anthony was a celebrity who was used by the judicial system as an example and a warning to all women in the United States. When Anthony’s case came to trial early in 1873, the judge had written his opinion before the trial started, and directed the jury to find a guilty verdict. Anthony was ordered to pay a fine of $100, which she refused to do.

The list goes on an on. In terms of sheer social upheaval, Missouri is literally the epicenter of change in our history.

It’s the little facts I like. The ones that make great stories. The best possible event that can happen to a history buff like me is discovering a historical fact that has the potential to be a great story, and to realize that no one has told it yet. No, not even Wikipedia.

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