Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 3 entries for this date: Aldo Leopold , Alice Paul and G.W. Foote
Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold

On this date in 1887, internationally renowned wildlife ecologist Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa. Aldo was oldest of four in a family of Lutherans who rarely attended church. Leopold obtained his Master of Forestry from Yale University in 1909, worked in the Southwest, then transferred to Forest Products Laboratory, in Madison, Wis. He became professor of Game Management at the University of Wisconsin in 1933 and chair of its new Department of Wildlife Management in 1939. Leopold married a Roman Catholic, Estella Bergene, in 1912, and they had five children. His churchgoing was limited to being married in a church and attending his daughter Nina's wedding in a church. Beyond that, he believed "there was a mystical supreme power that guided the Universe, but to him this power was not a personal God. It was more akin to the laws of nature," according to biographer Curt Meine (Aldo Leopold: His Life and work, 1988). In the 1930s Aldo acquired a worn-out farm near Baraboo, Wis., dubbed "the Shack," as a weekend retreat. He applied his respect for living lightly on the land and for "harmony between people and the land" to restore it. It remains the only "chicken coop" listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While helping a neighbor put out a grass fire, Leopold suffered a heart attack. His influential book, The Sand County Almanac, composed of sketches of nature and philosophical essays, was published posthumously. Several collections of essays and books remain in print. D. 1948.

“He thought organized religion was all right for many people, but did not partake of it himself.”
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—Aldo Leopold, remark to his daughter Estella, cited in A Fierce Green Fire by Marybeth Lorbiecki (1996)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Alice Paul

Alice Paul

On this date in 1885, feminist Alice Paul was born in Moorestown, N.J., to a Quaker family (Hicksite Friends) which believed in the equality of the sexes. The brainy young woman attended Swarthmore College, then spent a year as a student at the New York School of Philanthropy, while working at a settlement house. Paul earned a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in economics and sociology, then won a fellowship to study in England. She took courses at the University of Birmingham and London School of Economics and worked in the British settlement movement. She was thrilled by the militant suffrage activism of the Women's Social and Political Union, led by the Pankhursts. Paul was arrested and imprisoned several times in England, joined in brick-throwing at government buildings, and in hunger strikes. Returning to New Jersey in 1910, she lectured in favor of adopting the British militancy. That year she stopped speaking to Quaker groups after her views were repudiated by them, and transferred her allegiance to pure feminism.

Teaming up with New York friend Lucy Burns, Paul talked the National American Woman Suffrage Association into letting them take over its congressional committee, with help from Jane Addams, in 1912. They set up shop in Washington, D.C., organizing a historic parade of suffragists on March 3, 1913, upstaging the inauguration of President Wilson. Peacefully parading women were attacked by a violent mob, which created huge headlines, and reinvigorated the suffrage campaign. Throughout WWI, Paul and supporters picketed the White House, their placards asking: "How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?" When mobs attacked, police arrested more than 100 suffragists, many of whom were sentenced to notorious workhouses. Paul and other hunger-strikers were forcefed, and she was even transferred to a psychiatric hospital. Public outrage forced President Wilson to unconditionally release the women. Demonstrations continued, and Congress finally enacted the suffrage amendment, ratified by the states in 1920. Paul went to law school, earning three degrees, then began promoting the Equal Rights Amendment, which she called the Lucretia Mott Amendment. Many women's groups of the time, such as the League of Women Voters and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, opposed the ERA on the grounds that women needed protective legislation. Iron-willed Paul never gave up. The amendment was first introduced into Congress in 1923. Paul lobbied for it in every successive session of Congress. In 1972, it finally passed. The combined forces of the tax-exempt religious lobbies of the Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and Mormon churches defeated the ratification process in 1982. Like Quaker-raised Susan B. Anthony, Paul became an agnostic, according to Warren Allen Smith in Who's Who in Hell. Her story inspired the HBO film, "Iron-Jawed Angels." D. 1977.

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

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—Alice Paul. Body of proposed Equal Rights Amendment. For more about Paul, read

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

G.W. Foote

G.W. Foote

On this date in 1850, British atheist activist G.W. Foote was born in England. In 1876, George William Foote began co-editing a weekly newspaper, the Secularist, with Jacob Holyoake, then became the premiere editor of the National Secular Society's Freethinker. Foote edited the Freethinker, which is still published today by the NSS, for 35 years. He was prosecuted for blasphemy in 1882, and was jailed for a year. Foote's plight brought reform, making future criticism of Christianity lawful in Great Britain. Foote launched several other freethought journals, publishing companies and presses, devoting his life and career to the advancement of secularism. His books include Flowers of Freethought, and, with W.P. Ball, The Bible Handbook. D. 1915.

“Who burnt heretics? Who roasted or drowned millions of 'witches'? Who built dungeons and filled them? Who brought forth cries of agony from honest men and women that rang to the tingling stars? Who burnt Bruno? Who spat filth over the graves of Paine and Voltaire? The answer is one word--CHRISTIANS.”

—G.W. Foote. "Are Atheists Wicked?," chapter from Flowers of Freethought (1894)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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