If you've logged on to Google today (as if it isn't 90 percent of the population's homepage), you've probably noticed that today's Google Doodle is in celebration of Ida B. Wells' birthday. Unless you've recently taken American history or are a fellow giant feminist nerd, though, chances are your memory on the subject is a little fuzzy. Luckily for you, Wells happens to be my historical wannabe-BFF, and I am all too happy to fill you in.
Born on July 16, 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Wells quickly became a prominent journalist and activist for civil rights and women's suffrage in a time when that kind of ideology could get you killed. After getting fired from her job as a teacher, she became an editor before age 25 of two papers in Memphis, which she continued to run even after her printing press was destroyed by an angry mob. "Fearless and uncompromising, she was a fierce opponent of segregation and wrote prolifically on the civil injustices that beleaguered her world," the Google Doodle reads. Later in life, she became editor of the Chicago Conservator and married Chicago attorney Ferdinand Barrett. She insisted on keeping her maiden name, which was exactly as radical for the time as it sounds. In 1909, she helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Still not convinced she was a complete and utter badass? Allow Wells to regale you of the time she got into a minor physical altercation with a train conductor who tried to move her from first-class to the car reserved for African Americans. From the Huffington Post:
The moment he caught hold of my arm I fastened my teeth in the back of his hand...I had braced my feet against the seat in front and was holding to the back, and as he had already been badly bitten he didn't try it again by himself.
YESSSSS. BITE HIS FRICKIN' HAND OFF, IDA.
Sorry. She has that kind of effect on people. If you're not halfway in love with her by this point, don't worry. That will be quickly rectified once you get a look at her eight most badass quotes. Let me tell you, it was a struggle to stick to just eight, because Ida B. Wells is just that amazing.
1. "No nation, savage or civilized, save only the United States of America, has confessed its inability to protect its women save by hanging, shooting, and burning alleged offenders."
2. "What becomes a crime deserving capital punishment when the tables are turned is a matter of small moment when the negro woman is the accusing party."
3. "The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press."
4. "Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so."
5. "I came home every Friday afternoon, riding the six miles on the back of a big mule. I spent Saturday and Sunday washing and ironing and cooking for the children and went back to my country school on Sunday afternoon."
6. "In fact, for all kinds of offenses - and, for no offenses - from murders to misdemeanors, men and women are put to death without judge or jury; so that, although the political excuse was no longer necessary, the wholesale murder of human beings went on just the same."
7. "The alleged menace of universal suffrage having been avoided by the absolute suppression of the negro vote, the spirit of mob murder should have been satisfied and the butchery of negroes should have ceased."
8. "I’d rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell the government that it had done a dastardly thing than to save my skin by taking back what I said."
Happy birthday to the fiercest lady of the 19th century!