EMBCA’s Event on the Hellenic Revolution & American Women’s Suffrage Movement

NEW YORK – The East Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) presented the Hellenic Revolution and its Effects on the American Women’s Suffrage Movement on May 23. The fascinating online discussion via Zoom highlighted the bicentennial of the Hellenic Revolution and the centennial of Woman’s Suffrage in the United States by exploring the connections between American Philhellenism and the Suffrage Movement.

EMBCA's President and Founder and Chairman of AHEPA's Hellenic Cultural Commission, Louis Katsos gave the welcoming remarks and introduced the panel discussion which was moderated by EMBCA’s Executive Vice President, Marina A. Belessis Casoria. The distinguished panel included Northern Virginia Community College Professor Maureen Santelli, author of The Greek Fire: American-Ottoman Relations and Democratic Fervor in the Age of Revolutions, and Villanova University Professor Angelo Repousis, author of Greek-American Relations from Monroe to Truman.

American Philhellenic women include a veritable Who’s Who of the Women’s Suffrage/Women’s Rights Movement: Julia Ward Howe, Emma Willard, Lucy Stone, Almira Phelps, Eliza Snow, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joseph Gage, Ida Husted Harper, Amelia Jenks Bloomer, Sarah Arms Miller, Harriet Hosmer, Lydia Maria Child, Frances Mulligan Hill, among others.

As Katsos noted, the significant linkages of Philhellenic women to the Women’s Suffrage/Women’s Rights movement are not only missing pieces of American and Hellenic histories, but missing from Women’s History.

American Philhellene Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney made her remarks via video, noting that she represents the large diaspora Greek community in Astoria and that she does not take her nickname “the American Bouboulina” for granted recalling the heroine of the Greek War of Independence as well as American Philhellenes including Emma Willard and Sarah Arms Miller, who inspire her work in Congress every day as she tries to live up to their legacy. Maloney is the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Hellenic Congressional Caucus; Chair, Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Lead House Sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and author of the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act, which was recently signed into law in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Professor Santelli began her presentation with a slide featuring The Greek Slave (1844), a sculpture by artist Hiram Powers, which resonated for women in the United States concerning their own legal status and the status of slaves. She mentioned efforts by American Philhellenes to raise funds and collect clothing for Greek woman and children and the establishment of American-run schools in Greece which began in 1828. Santelli cited an 1819 letter by Emma Willard to the New York State legislature which noted that “how a nation educated its women was a reflection of how civilized the society was as a whole” and “from an American perspective, the Ottoman Empire was not civilized and therefore in order for the Greeks to become a free nation, education was the key.”

Professor Repousis also spoke about Willard and her efforts in education, founding the first institution of higher learning for women in the United States, Troy Female Seminary, in 1821. Willard was also instrumental, along with her sister, Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps, in forming a female society to collect subscriptions to help support the Greek cause. Willard “became one of the first to use this rhetoric of ‘social uplift, Christianity, and civilization’ to extend women’s public activity onto the international stage,” Repousis said.

He noted that American philhellenes at the time had a sense that they were recreating Periclean Athens in the United States in democracy, but Willard and her contemporaries, including her sister, Phelps, hoped to create “a brighter Hellas” in America which would include women.

Katsos concluded by thanking the participants and referring to the upcoming EMBCA events. More information is available online: https://embca.com.

Video of the event is available on YouTube: 


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