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Olympia Brown
Olympia Brown.jpg
Born (1835-01-05)January 5, 1835
Prairie Ronde Township, Michigan
Died October 23, 1926(1926-10-23) (aged 91)
Baltimore, Maryland
Nationality American
Spouse(s) John Henry Willis
Children 2
Parent(s) Asa Briggs Brown
Lephia Olympia Brown

Olympia Brown (January 5, 1835 – October 23, 1926) was an American suffragist. She is regarded as the first woman to graduate from a theological school, as well as becoming the first full-time ordained minister. Brown was also one of the few first generation suffragists who were able to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Homemade lava lamp - Science with children - ExpeRimental #2
  • The Promise of Liberty, Racine Choir Festival Finale 2013


Oh wow, look at that! Look at those big red bubbles. Looks beautiful doesn't it, mama? This is a home-made lava lamp. It's a bit different to the ones you buy in a shop but it works in a similar way. In the glass here I've got oil and water with red food colouring in it. To get the lava lamp effect you just drop pieces of alka-seltzer tablet into the glass. The alka-seltzer reacts with the water at the bottom to create bubbles of gas. Because the bubbles are less dense than both the oil and the water, they float to the top. When the bubbles burst at the top, the water sinks back down, which is what gives us this circulating effect. It's a great make just on its own, but you can also use it as part of a slightly longer activity investigating floating and sinking. So what do you think we're going to do with all this stuff today? Put it into the water, and see what happens? So, let's try... Tomato! Floating or sinking? It's sunk and it's turning around and making a different colour. This one's smaller, what do you think this one's going to do? I don't know let's see. Oh, but they're both spoons... It's because this one's a bit lighter and it's made of plastic. Ah, okay. And this one is made of metal and metal is really heavy. Viola's right that the metal spoon is heavier in the plastic one, but it's not always the case that light things float and heavy thing sink. Otherwise ships and boats wouldn't float. Whether or not an object floats depends on its density, and that depends on its mass and its volume. The mass of an object is a measure of how much stuff it contains. The volume is a measure of how much space it takes up. The density of an object is defined as the mass of the object divided by its volume. If something is more dense than water, it will sink. If it's less dense, it will float. Using tinfoil is a really great way to explore the idea of density in more detail. With the same size piece of foil, we can scrunch it up into a larger ball and it floats on the water, but if we really squish it down it will sink. You might have to have a bit of a bash at it first, though. So this is the same bit of foil, and we've really squashed it. What do you think... Sinks! Did you think it was going to sink or did you think it was going to float? Sink! Did you? Why did you think you it was gonna sink? Because it was squashed all together, And what were we squashing out? Water. Yes, there was water. What else? Air. Viola what would you like to drop in next? The big fruit! I'm not going to drop it. It floats! I thought it might sink! Why did you think it might sink? Because it's really heavy! If we peel the skin of the fruit what do you think is going to happen? It might sink. Why do you think it might sink? Because it'll be losing some of its air like the tinfoil. The first time I saw this I was really surprised! You can make an orange sink just by peeling it. The reason for that is because the skin of this orange, and most citrus fruits, has lots of trapped air inside it. When you take off the skin you're left just with the denser part of the fruit, which is why it sinks. So Vi-vi, we've got some oil here, and oil is less dense... Lighter? Yes you can also think of it as lighter than the water in the glass. It might go on top of the water. You think it's going to float on the water? Bubbles! Is that empty glass? No it's got water in. So what's this up at the top? Oil. Now I've got some red food colouring. Do you think it's going to float on top of the oil, float on top of the water, or just sink into the water? Um, maybe one of those three things. I think it might be one of those three things, yes. So you just pour it really slowly. That's enough, thank you. So what's it done? Mixing up with the water, it's made a few red bubbles in here. We've got here these tablets. These make bubbles. Can you break that one into a little bit? We just need them into quarters. Do you want to drop one in and see what happens? Oh now they're rising up through the oil! The red bubbles are travelling through the oil aren't they? It's pretty isn't it? What's falling back down, by the way? Air. No the air is floating to the top. Oh yeah, the water. That's it. It's not always obvious which things will float, and which things will sink, and the science behind it isn't always that straightforward. But activities like this are a great way to look at floating and sinking and introduce the idea density. They're also a really fun way to encourage children to look closely at the world around them and to expeRiment.



Early life and education

Olympia Brown was born on January 5, 1835 in Prairie Ronde Township, Michigan. Brown was the oldest of four children. Her parents, Lephia and Asa Brown, were farmers in what was then considered frontier land. They were the great-great-aunt and -uncle, respectively, of U.S. President Calvin Coolidge. Lephia raised her children in a household that regarded religion and education as very important. This is evident from the building of a schoolhouse on the Brown territory.

The drive for education instilled by Olympia's mother had compelled her to finish high school and advance to the university level. Olympia and her younger sister Oella decided to attend Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Mount Holyoke and a college education were what Olympia had hoped for. Her excitement was tempered by the restrictions placed on women at Mount Holyoke. These restrictions included a list of forty rules, the abolition of a literacy society founded by the Browns, and religious restrictions. Perhaps the best example of thinking were the words of a Chemistry professor, "You are not expected to remember all of this, but only enough to make you intelligent in conversation."[1] Olympia, who already knew she could meet the challenges of a higher education, looked elsewhere.

Putting aside her experiences at Mount Holyoke, Olympia enrolled at Antioch College. Once Olympia began her education at Antioch, she realized she had to catch up to higher standards. Olympia also learned that despite the progressive nature at Antioch, there were still forms of discrimination. For example, in Olympia's English class, women were not required to have speeches memorized. In a defiant act, Olympia delivered her speeches from memory, just as the men had. Perhaps the crowning achievement of Olympia's time at Antioch was her ability to persuade her hero, Antoinette Brown, to speak at Antioch.

Once Olympia Brown finished her schooling at Antioch, she decided her calling was to be a minister. After countless rejections, she was accepted to the Theological School of St. Lawrence University. Once again, Brown faced opposition from many sides. This included fellow students and the wives of the faculty. Brown took it all as a challenge. After her first year, Brown had gained acceptance and finished her schooling.

Religious career

Despite finishing her schooling, and gaining a year of preaching experience with Congregations in Marshfield and Montpelier, Vermont, Brown still met opposition to her ordination. She believed to be ordained, she needed to appeal to the Universalist Council. Brown traveled to nearby Malone, New York, to present her case. Brown's appeal was a simple plea for equality. The board, which had already heard some of Brown's sermons, agreed with her. On June 25, 1863, Olympia Brown became the first fully ordained woman minister. She went on to pastor in churches at Weymouth, Massachusetts; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and most successfully in Racine, Wisconsin.

Women's suffrage

From Brown's childhood and the abolition movement to Brown's own experiences with discrimination, Brown had always been aware of the quest for equal rights. Due to Brown's strong speaking skills and beliefs, Susan B. Anthony continually sought the involvement of Brown. With the encouragement of Lucy Stone and her husband, Henry Blackwell, Brown decided to travel to Kansas in order to speak on women's rights. Over the course of the summer, Brown delivered more than 300 speeches despite facing many hardships. Even though this was a great experience, Brown decided to return to ministry, until a change of heart in 1887.

Now that Brown had dedicated her life to the movement, she looked to do all she could. This included forming the New England Women's Suffrage Association, leading the Wisconsin Suffrage Association and becoming the president of the Federal Suffrage Association from 1903 to 1920.

Despite all this action, Brown saw few changes take place. Brown believed that the second generation of suffragists suffered from poor leadership and erroneously focused their efforts at the state level. It was not until 1913 when Brown was invited to join the newly formed Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, which would later be called the National Woman's Party, by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. This group looked to pass an amendment at the federal level and also vowed to use a more radical approach.

These new tactics led to the women's right to vote amendment being presented to Congress and marches in front of the White House. President Wilson met the two marches in front of the White House with displeasure. As a result, these women were to be jailed. The mistreatment of these women coupled with the massive press exposure led to more support for the movement.

Eventually, Congress passed the bill. However, with ratification still needed, Brown along with others hit the campaign trail one last time. Olympia Brown's last march was at the 1920 Republican National Convention.[2] The 19th Amendment would finally be ratified on August 25, 1920, marking the first time that Olympia Brown along with countless other women were able to vote.

Marriage and children

Olympia Brown was married to John Henry Willis in 1873. Olympia, who chose to keep her maiden name, and Willis, reared two children: Henry and Gwendolyn. Both of their children grew up to become teachers.


Olympia Brown spent her last years with her family in Racine, Wisconsin. Brown continued to support women's rights and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Olympia Brown died in Baltimore on October 23, 1926.[3]

Published works

  • Woman's Suffrage (1907)
  • Democratic Ideals (1917)
  • Suffrage and Religious Principle: Speeches and Writings of Olympia Brown (1988, posthumous)


In 1963 to honor the centennial of Brown's ordination, the Theological School of St. Lawrence University mounted a plaque at the church she pastored at in Racine, Wisconsin. The inscription concludes, "The flame of her spirit still burns today." In 1989 the church was renamed the Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church.[4]

An elementary school in Racine was named in Brown's honor in 1975.

In 1999 she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.[5]

Olympia Brown's own papers and documents relating to her work are held at the Schlesinger Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and in the papers of the National Woman's Party at the Library of Congress.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Cote, Charlotte. (1988). Olympia Brown The Battle for Equality. Mother Courage Press, 34.
  2. ^ "BIG FAIR ASPECTS OF HISTORY MAKING; Noisy Crowds Surge About Chicago Hotels--First Convention Phase Quickly Passed". New York Times. 1920-06-09. p. 3. Olympia Brown, 80 years old; was the oldest picket in front of the Coliseum, and she stood in the hot 'sun with her little bonnet not covering one particle... 
  3. ^ "MRS. BROWN-WILLIS, SUFFRAGIST, DEAD; A Pioneer Campaigner for the Cause With the Late Susan B. Anthony". New York Times. 1926-10-24. p. E6. 
  4. ^ Helen Rappaport. Encyclopedia of women social reformers. 
  5. ^ a b "Olympia Brown". 1926-10-23. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 

External links

This page was last edited on 4 August 2017, at 01:31.
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