Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton's fervid hopes become reality. National women's rights conventions are held every year in the decade before the Civil War except 1857 (a severe economic depression forced cancellation that year)

19 April 1850
1st National Woman's Suffrage Convention to be held in Ohio is convened in Salem, home of Abby Kelly Foster and The Antislavery Bugle; Lydia Jane Pierson attends; this convention introduces a novel feature -- men are barred from speaking:

"Never did men so suffer. They implored just to say one word; but no; the President was inflexible -- no man should be heard. If one meekly arose to make a suggestion he was at once ruled out of order. For the first time in the world's history men learned how it felt to sit in silence when questions in which they were interested were under discussion."

Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, and Abby Kelly Foster call National Woman's Suffrage Convention in Worchester, Massachusetts.

18 September 1850
New Fugitive Slave Law is signed into law by President Millard Filmore; Abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner from Massachusetts is angered:

"Other presidents may be forgotten; but the name signed to the fugitive Slave Bill can never be forgotten....Better far for him that he'd never been born."

Law establishes $2,000 fine and 6 months in prison for anyone harboring fugitive slaves; permits kidnapping of free blacks in the north to "return" to bondage.

Thousands of free blacks flee to safety in Ontario, Canada within months after Fugitive Slave Bill becomes law.

Frances Ellen Watkins moves from Maryland to Ohio to teach at Union Seminary (an AME church north of Columbus); becomes depressed and horrified by slavery; is galvanized to become impassioned speaker on abolition circuit; writes emotional poetry; becomes known as "The Bronze Muse" for her eloquence.

Women's Rights Convention meets in Akron; Sojourner Truth delivers her "Ain't I a Woman?" speech.

At age 21, Frances Watkins publishes Forest Leaves -- a collection of verse and prose.

Kelton family moves to new home at 586 East Town Street, Columbus, Ohio; continues activity in cause of abolition; Kelton House becomes a safe-house on the Underground Railroad.

Massillon Women's Rights Convention.

Ravenna Women's rights Convention.

Cleveland, Ohio is the site of 4th National Convention on Women's rights.

State of Maryland passes law forbidding free people of color from entering state -- exiling Frances Watkins from her family.

Anthony Burns, an alleged fugitive slave, is kidnapped in Boston and returned in chains to slavery; church bells toll; Boston is draped in mourning crepe; thousands of disgusted citizens watch while contingents of police, 22 companies of Massachusetts soldiers, and a battery of artillery escort one fugitive slave at a cost of $100,000.

"Bleeding Kansas" -- the Civil War begins in Kansas with pro- and antislavery factions murdering each other.

Publication of Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects launches Frances Watkins' writing career.

Cincinnati is site of 5th National Convention on Women's Rights.

28 January 1856
Margaret Garner, her 4 children, and 17 other blacks escape slavery in Kentucky; are captured next day in Cincinnati; Margaret slits throat of her 3-year old daughter and severely wounds her sons rather than surrender them back to slavery.

Congressman Preston Brooks from South Carolina attacks staunch abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner (from Massachusetts) on the floor of the Senate, beating him senseless with a gold-headed cane. The beating is so severe that Senator Sumner requires more than two years to recover. Congressman Brooks resigns but is immediately reelected by his constituents and receives dozens of canes from people all over the south to replace the one he broke over Senator Sumner's head.

U.S. Supreme Court delivers Dred Scott decision: black men are property not citizens of U.S., they "have no rights which a white man was bound to respect"; Congress never had right to ban slavery in territories since slavery was protected by the Constitution.

Ohio almost becomes first state to grant woman suffrage when Ohio Senate casts a tie vote (44 to 44) to enfranchise women.

Frances Watkins becomes first African-American to publish a short story -- "The Two Officers"; she expresses her horror of slavery in her poetry: "A Slave Auction," "Bury Me in a Free Land," "The Slave Mother: A Tale of Ohio," and "A Double Standard" which protests the privilege and supremacy males enjoy in U.S. society.

16-18 October 1859
John Brown and his band of 18 men (5 blacks and 13 whites) attack U.S. Armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia.

2 December 1859
John Brown is hanged: "I believe that to have interfered as I have done--in behalf of [God's] despised poor was not wrong, but right."

NEXT: TIMELINE 1860 - 1869

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