In looking over the speeches of Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Abby Kelly Foster, Clarina Howard Nichols, Antoinette Brown, and Lucy Stone, and the well-digested reports by Paulina Wright Davis on Education, Abby Price on Industry, and William Henry Channing on the Social Relations, comprising the whole range of woman's rights and duties, we feel that the report of one of these meetings settles the question of woman's capacity to reason. At every session of this two days' Convention Brinley Hall was so crowded at an early hour that hundreds were unable to gain admittance. Accordingly, the last evening it was proposed to adjourn to the City Hall; and even that spacious auditorium was crowded long before the hour for assembling. It may be said with truth, that in the whole history of the woman suffrage movement there never was at one time more able and eloquent men and women on our platform, and represented by letter there, than in these Worcester Conventions, which called out numerous complimentary comments and editorial notices, notably the following:
[From the New York Christian Inquirer, Rev. Henry Bellows, D.D., editor.]
THE WOMAN'S RIGHTS CONVENTION AT WORCESTER.
We have read the report of the proceedings of this Convention with lively interest and general satisfaction. We confess ourselves to be much surprised at the prevailing good sense, propriety, and moral elevation of the meeting. No candid reader can deny the existence of singular ability, honest and pure aims, eloquent and forcible advocacy, and a startling power in the reports and speeches of this Convention. For good, or for evil, it seems to us to be the most important meeting since that held in the cabin of the Mayflower. That meeting recognized the social and political equality of one-half the human race; this asserts the social and political equality of the other half, and of the whole. Imagine the difference which it would have made in our Declaration of Independence, to have inserted "and women" in the first clause of the self-evident truths it asserts: "that all men and women are created equal." This Convention declares this to be the true interpretation of the Declaration, and at any rate, designs to amend the popular reading of the instrument to this effect. Nor is it a theoretical change which is aimed at. No more practical or tremendous revolution was ever sought in society, than that which this Woman's Rights Convention inaugurates. To emancipate half the human race from its present position of dependence on the other half; to abolish every distinction between the sexes that can be abolished, or which is maintained by statute or conventional usage; to throw open all the employments of society with equal freedom to men and women; to allow no difference whatsoever, in the eye of the law, in their duties or their rights, this, we submit, is a reform, surpassing, in pregnancy of purpose and potential results, any other now upon the platform, if it do not outweigh Magna Charta and our Declaration themselves.
We very well recollect the scorn with which the annual procession of the first Abolitionists was greeted in Boston, some thirty years ago. The children had no conception of the "Bobolition Society," but as of a set of persons making themselves ridiculous for the amusement of the public; but that "Bobolition Society" has shaken the Union to its center, and filled the world with sympathy and concern. The Woman's Rights Convention is in like manner a thing for honest scorn to point its finger at; but a few years may prove that we pointed the finger, not at an illuminated balloon, but at the rising sun.
We have no hesitation in acknowledging ourselves to be among those who have regarded this movement with decided distrust and distaste. If we have been more free than others to express this disgust, we have perhaps rendered some service, by representing a common sentiment with which this reform has to contend. We would be among the first to acknowledge that our objections have not grown out of any deliberate consideration of the principles involved in the question. They have been founded on instinctive aversion, on an habitual respect for public sentiment, on an irresistible feeling of the ludicrousness of the proposed reform in its details. Certainly social instinct has its proper place in the judgments we pass on the manners of both sexes. What is offensive to good taste—meaning by good taste, the taste of the most educated and refined people—has the burden of proof resting upon it when it claims respect and attention. But we should be the last to assert that questions of right and rights have no appeal from the bar of conventional taste to that of reason.
And however it may have been at the outset, we think the Woman's Rights question has now made good its title to be heard in the superior court. The principles involved in this great question we can not now discuss; but we have a few thoughts upon the attitude of the reformer toward society, which we would respectfully commend to attention. If the female sex is injured in its present position, it is an injury growing out of universal mistake; an honest error, in which the sexes have conspired, without intentional injustice on one side, or feeling of wrong on the other. Indeed, we could not admit that there had been thus far any wrong or mistake at all, except in details. Mankind have hitherto found the natural functions of the two sexes marking out different spheres for them. Thus far, as we think, the circumstances of the world have compelled a marked division of labor, and a marked difference of culture and political position between the sexes.
The facts of superior bodily strength on the masculine side, and of maternity on the feminine side, small as they are now made to appear, are very great and decisive facts in themselves, and have necessarily governed the organization of society. It is between the sexes, as between the races, the strongest rules; and it has hitherto been supposed to be of service to the common interest of society, that this rule should be legalized and embodied in the social customs of every community. As a fact, woman, by her bodily weakness and her maternal office, was from the first, a comparatively private and domestic creature; her education, from circumstances, was totally different, her interests were different, the sources of her happiness different from man's, and as a fact, all these things, though with important modifications, have continued to be so to this day. The fact has seemed to the world a final one. It has been thought that in her present position, she was in her best position relative to man, which her nature or organization admitted of. That she is man's inferior in respect to all offices and duties requiring great bodily powers, or great moral courage, or great intellectual effort, has been almost universally supposed,—honestly thought too, and without the least disposition to deny her equality, on this account, in the scale of humanity.
For in respect to moral sensibility, affections, manners, tastes, and the passive virtues, woman has long been honestly felt to be the superior of man. The political disfranchisement of women, and their seclusion from publicity, have grown out of sincere convictions that their nature and happiness demanded from man an exemption from the cares, and a protection from the perils of the out-of-door world. Mankind, in both its parts, may have been utterly mistaken in this judgment; but it has been nearly universal, and thoroughly sincere,—based thus far, we think, upon staring facts and compulsory circumstances.
In starting a radical reform upon this subject, it is expedient that it should be put, not on the basis of old grievances, but upon the ground of new light, of recent and fresh experiences, of change of circumstances. It may be that the relative position of the sexes is so changed by an advancing civilization, that the time has come for questioning the conclusion of the world respecting woman's sphere. All surprise at opposition to this notion, all sense of injury, all complaint of past injustice, ought to cease. Woman's part has been the part which her actual state made necessary. If another and a better future is opening, let us see it and rejoice in it as a new gift of Providence.
And we are not without suspicion that the time for some great change has arrived. At any rate, we confess our surprise at the weight of the reasoning brought forward by the recent Convention, and shall endeavor henceforth to keep our masculine mind,—full, doubtless, of conventional prejudices,—open to the light which is shed upon the theme.
Meanwhile, we must beg the women who are pressing this reform, to consider that the conservatism of instinct and taste, though not infallible, in respectable and worth attention. The opposition they will receive is founded on prejudices that are not selfish, but merely masculine. It springs from no desire to keep women down, but from a desire to keep them up; from a feeling, mistaken it may be, that their strength, and their dignity, and their happiness, lie in their seclusion from the rivalries, strifes, and public duties of life. The strength and depth of the respect and love for woman, as woman, which characterize this age, can not be overstated. But woman insists upon being respected, as a kindred intellect, a free competitor, and a political equal. And we have suspicions that she may surprise the conservative world by making her pretensions good. Only meanwhile let her respect the affectionate and sincere prejudices, if they be prejudices, which adhere to the other view, a view made honorable, if not proved true, by the experiences of all the ages of the past. We hope to give the whole subject more attention in future. Indeed it will force attention. It may be the solution of many social problems, long waiting an answer, is delayed by the neglect to take woman's case into fuller consideration. The success of the present reform would give an entirely new problem to political and social philosophers! At present we endeavor to hold ourselves in a candid suspense.
Judging Dr. Bellows by the above editorial, he had made some progress in one year. A former article from his pen called out the following criticism from Mrs. Rose:
After last year's Woman's Convention, I saw an article in the Christian Inquirer, a Unitarian paper, edited by the Rev. Mr. Bellows, of New York, where, in reply to a correspondent on the subject of Woman's Rights, in which he strenuously opposed her taking part in anything in public, he said: "Place woman unbonneted and unshawled before the public gaze and what becomes of her modesty and her virtue?" In his benighted mind, the modesty and virtue of woman is of so fragile a nature, that when it is in contact with the atmosphere, it evaporates like chloroform. But I refrain to comment on such a sentiment. It carries with it its own deep condemnation. When I read the article, I earnestly wished I had the ladies of the writer's congregation before me, to see whether they could realize the estimation their pastor held them in. Yet I hardly know which sentiment was strongest in me, contempt for such foolish opinions, or pity for a man that has so degrading an opinion of woman—of the being that gave him life, that sustained his helpless infancy with her ever-watchful care, and laid the very foundation for the little mind he may possess—of the being he took to his bosom as the partner of his joys and sorrows—the one whom, when he strove to win her affection, he courted, as all such men court woman, like some divinity. Such a man deserves our pity; for I can not realize that a man purposely and willfully degrades his mother, sister, wife, and daughter. No! my better nature, my best knowledge and conviction forbid me to believe it.
In February, 1853, Paulina Wright Davis started a woman's paper called The Una, published in Providence, Rhode Island, with the following prospectus:
Usage makes it necessary to present our readers with a prospectus setting forth our aims and objects. Our plan is to publish a paper monthly, devoted to the interests of woman. Our purpose is to speak clear, earnest words of truth and soberness in a spirit of kindness. To discuss the rights, duties, sphere, and destiny of woman fully and fearlessly. So far as our voice shall be heard, it will be ever on the side of freedom. We shall not confine ourselves to any locality, sex, sect, class, or caste, for we hold to the solidarity of the race, and believe if one member suffers, all suffer, and the highest made to atone for the lowest. Our mystical name, The Una, signifying Truth, will be to us a constant suggestion of fidelity to all.
The Una could boast for its correspondents some of the ablest men and women in the nation; such as William H. Channing, Elizabeth Peabody, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Rev. A. D. Mayo, Dr. William Elder, Ednah D. Cheney, Caroline H. Dall, Fanny Fern, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Frances D. Gage, Hannah Tracy Cutler, Abby H. Price, Marion Finch, of Liverpool, Hon. John Neal, of Portland, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
For some time Mrs. Dall assisted in the editorial department. The Una was the first pronounced Woman Suffrage paper; it lived three years. Glancing over the bound volumes, one may glean much valuable information of what was said and done during that period. We learn that Lady Grace Vandeleur, in person, canvassed the election of Kilrush, Ireland, and from her ladyship's open carriage, addressed a large assemblage of electors on behalf of her husband, the Conservative candidate. She was enthusiastically greeted by the populace.
The Maine Age announces the election of a Miss Rose to the office of Register of Deeds, and remarks: "Before the morning of the twentieth century dawns, women will not simply fill your offices of Register of Deeds, but they will occupy seats in your Legislative Halls, on your judicial benches, and in the executive chair of State and Nation. We deprecate it, yet we perceive its inevitability, and await the shock with firmness and composure."
This same year, The Una narrates the following amusing incident that occurred in the town of P——, New Hampshire: It is customary in the country towns for those who choose to do so, to pay their proportion of the highway tax, in actual labor on the roads, at the rate of eight cents an hour, instead of paying money. Two able-bodied and strong-hearted women in P——, who found it very inconvenient to pay the ready cash required of them, determined to avail themselves of this custom. They accordingly presented themselves to the surveyor of the highway with hoes in their hands, and demanded to be set to work. The good surveyor was sorely puzzled; such a thing as women working out their taxes, had never been heard of, and yet the law made no provision against it. He consulted his lawyer, who advised him that he had no power to refuse. Accordingly the two brave women worked, and worked well, in spreading sand and gravel, saved their pennies, and no doubt felt all the better for their labor.
In the April Number, 1853, we find the following appeal to the citizens of Massachusetts, on the equal political rights of woman:
FELLOW-CITIZENS:—In May next a Convention will assemble to revise the Constitution of the Commonwealth.
At such a time it is the right and duty of every one to point out whatever he deems erroneous and imperfect in that instrument, and press its amendment on public attention.
We deem the extension to woman of all civil rights, a measure of vital importance to the welfare and progress of the State. On every principle of natural justice, as well as by the nature of our institutions, she is as fully entitled as man to vote, and to be eligible to office. In governments based on force, it might be pretended with some plausibility, that woman being supposed physically weaker than man, should be excluded from the State. But ours is a government professedly resting on the consent of the governed. Woman is surely as competent to give that consent as man. Our Revolution claimed that taxation and representation should be co-extensive. While the property and labor of women are subject to taxation, she is entitled to a voice in fixing the amount of taxes, and the use of them when collected, and is entitled to a voice in the laws that regulate punishments. It would be a disgrace to our schools and civil institutions, for any one to argue that a Massachusetts woman who has enjoyed the full advantage of all their culture, is not as competent to form an opinion on civil matters, as the illiterate foreigner landed but a few years before upon our shores—unable to read or write—by no means free from early prejudices, and little acquainted with our institutions. Yet such men are allowed to vote.
Woman as wife, mother, daughter, and owner of property, has important rights to be protected. The whole history of legislation so unequal between the sexes, shows that she can not safely trust these to the other sex. Neither have her rights as mother, wife, daughter, laborer, ever received full legislative protection. Besides, our institutions are not based on the idea of one class receiving protection from another; but on the well-recognized rule that each class, or sex, is entitled to such civil rights, as will enable it to protect itself. The exercise of civil rights is one of the best means of education. Interest in great questions, and the discussion of them under momentous responsibility, call forth all the faculties and nerve them to their fullest strength. The grant of these rights on the part of society, would quickly lead to the enjoyment by woman, of a share in the higher grades of professional employment. Indeed, without these, mere book study is often but a waste of time. The learning for which no use is found or anticipated, is too frequently forgotten, almost as soon as acquired. The influence of such a share, on the moral condition of society, is still more important. Crowded now into few employments, women starve each other by close competition; and too often vice borrows overwhelming power of temptation from poverty. Open to women a great variety of employments, and her wages in each will rise; the energy and enterprise of the more highly endowed, will find full scope in honest effort, and the frightful vice of our cities will be stopped at its fountain-head. We hint very briefly at these matters. A circular like this will not allow room for more. Some may think it too soon to expect any action from the Convention. Many facts lead us to think that public opinion is more advanced on this question than is generally supposed. Beside, there can be no time so proper to call public attention to a radical change in our civil polity as now, when the whole framework of our government is to be subjected to examination and discussion. It is never too early to begin the discussion of any desired change. To urge our claim on the Convention, is to bring our question before the proper tribunal, and secure at the same time the immediate attention of the general public. Massachusetts, though she has led the way in most other reforms, has in this fallen behind her rivals, consenting to learn, as to the protection of the property of married women, of many younger States. Let us redeem for her the old pre-eminence, and urge her to set a noble example in this the most important of all civil reforms. To this we ask you to join with us in the accompanying petition to the Constitutional Convention.
In favor of this Appeal Lucy Stone, Theodore Parker, Wendell Phillips, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, were heard.
We find in The Una the following report of Mr. Higginson's speech before the Committee of the Constitutional Convention on the qualification of voters, June 3, 1853, the question being on the petition of Abby May Alcott, and other women of Massachusetts, that they be permitted to vote on the amendments that may be made to the Constitution.
MR. HIGGINSON'S SPEECH.
I need hardly suggest to the Committee the disadvantage under which I appear before them, in coming to glean after three of the most eloquent voices in this community, or any other [Lucy Stone, Wendell Phillips, and Theodore Parker]; in doing this, moreover, without having heard all their arguments, and in a fragment of time at the end of a two hours' sitting. I have also the minor disadvantage of gleaning after myself, having just ventured to submit a more elaborate essay on this subject, in a different form, to the notice of the Convention.
I shall therefore abstain from all debate upon the general question, and confine myself to the specific point now before this Committee. I shall waive all inquiry as to the right of women to equality in education, in occupations, or in the ordinary use of the elective franchise. The question before this Committee is not whether women shall become legal voters—but whether they shall have power to say, once for all, whether they wish to become legal voters. Whether, in one word, they desire to accept this Constitution which the Convention is framing.
It is well that the question should come up in this form, since the one efficient argument against the right of women to vote, in ordinary cases, is the plea that they do not wish to do it. "Their whole nature revolts at it." Very well; these petitioners simply desire an opportunity for Massachusetts women to say whether their nature does revolt at it or no.
The whole object of this Convention, as I heard stated by one of its firmest advocates, is simply this: to "make the Constitution of Massachusetts consistent with its own first principles." This is all these petitioners demand. Give them the premises which are conceded in our existing Bill of Rights, or even its Preamble, and they ask no more. I shall draw my few weapons from this source. I know that this document is not binding upon your Convention; nothing is binding upon you but eternal and absolute justice, and my predecessor has taken care of the claims of that. But the Bill of Rights is still the organic law of this State, and I can quote no better authority for those principles which lie at the foundation of all that we call republicanism.
I. My first citation will be from the Preamble, and will establish as Massachusetts doctrine the principle of the Declaration of Independence, that all government owes its just powers to the consent of the governed.
"The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic.... The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals; it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.... It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a constitution of government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation and a faithful execution of them," etc., etc.
Now, women are "individuals"; women are a part of "the people"; women are "citizens," for the Constitution elsewhere distinguishes male citizens. This clause, then, concedes precisely that which your petitioners claim. Observe how explicit it is. The people are not merely to have good laws, well administered; but they must have an equitable mode of making those laws. The reason of this is, that good laws are no permanent security, unless enacted by equitable methods. Your laws may be the best ever devised; yet still they are only given as a temporary favor, not held as a right, unless the whole people are concerned in their enactment. It is the old claim of despots—that their laws are good. When they told Alexander of Russia that his personal character was as good as a constitution for his people, "then," said he, "I am but a lucky accident." Your constitution may be never so benignant to woman, but that is only a lucky accident, unless you concede the claim of these women to have a share in creating it. Nothing else "is an equitable mode of making laws." But it is too late to choose female delegates to your Convention, and the only thing you can do is to allow women to vote on the acceptance of its results. The claim of these petitioners may be unexpected, but is logically irresistible. If you do not wish it to be renewed, you must remember either to alter or abrogate your Bill of Rights; for the petition is based on that.
The last speaker called this movement a novelty. Not entirely so. The novelty is partly the other way. In Europe, women have direct political power; witness Victoria. It is a false democracy which has taken it away. In my more detailed argument, I have cited many instances of these foreign privileges. In monarchical countries the dividing lines are not of sex, but of rank. A plebeian woman has no political power—nor has her husband. Rank gives it to man, and, also, in a degree, to woman. But among us the only rank is of sex. Politically speaking, in Massachusetts all men are patrician, all women plebeian. All men are equal, in having direct political power; and all women are equal, in having none. And women lose by democracy precisely that which men gain. Therefore I say this disfranchisement of woman, as woman, is a novelty. It is a now aristocracy; for, as De Tocqueville says, wherever one class has peculiar powers, as such, there is aristocracy and oligarchy.
We see the result of this in our general mode of speaking of woman. We forget to speak of her as an individual being, only as a thing. A political writer coolly says, that in Massachusetts, "except criminals and paupers, there is no class of persons who do not exercise the elective franchise." Women are not even a "class of persons." And yet, most readers would not notice this extraordinary omission. I talked the other day with a young radical preacher about his new religious organization. "Who votes under it?" said I. "Oh," (he said, triumphantly,) "we go for progress and liberty; anybody and everybody votes." "What!" said I, "women?" "No," said he, rather startled; "I did not think of them when I spoke." Thus quietly do we all talk of "anybody and everybody," and omit half the human race. Indeed, I read in the newspaper, this morning, of some great festivity, that "all the world and his wife" would be there! Women are not a part of the world, but only its "wife." They are not even "the rest of mankind"; they are womankind! All these things show the results of that inconsistency with the first principles of our Constitution of which the friends of this Convention justly complain.
II. So much for the general statement of the Massachusetts Bill of Rights in its Preamble. But one clause is even more explicit. In Section 9, I find the following:
"All the inhabitants of this Commonwealth, having such qualifications as they shall establish by their form of government, have an equal right to elect officers," etc.
As "they" shall establish. Who are they? Manifestly, the inhabitants as a whole. No part can have power, except by the consent of the whole, so far as that consent is practicable. Accordingly, you submit your Constitution for ratification—to whom? Not to the inhabitants of the State, not even to a majority of the native adult inhabitants; for it is estimated that at any given moment—in view of the great number of men emigrating to the West, to California, or absent on long voyages—the majority of the population of Massachusetts is female. You disfranchise the majority, then; the greater part of "the inhabitants" have no share in establishing the form of government, or assigning the qualifications of voters. What worse can you say of any oligarchy? True, your aristocracy is a large one—almost a majority, you may say. But so, in several European nations, is nobility almost in a majority, and you almost hire a nobleman to black your shoes; they are as cheap as generals and colonels in New England. But the principle is the same, whether the privileged minority consists of one or one million.
It is said that a tacit consent has been hitherto given by the absence of open protest? The same argument maybe used concerning the black majority in South Carolina. Besides, your new Constitution is not yet made, and there has been no opportunity to assent to it. It will not be identical with the old one; but, even if it were, you propose to ask a renewed consent from men, and why not from women? Is it because a lady's "Yes" is always so fixed a certainty, that it never can be transformed to a "No," at a later period?
But I am compelled, by the fixed period of adjournment (10 A.M.), to cut short my argument, as I have been already compelled to condense it. I pray your consideration for the points I have urged. Believe me, it is easier to ridicule the petition of these women than to answer the arguments which sustain it. And, as the great republic of ancient times did not blush to claim that laws and governments were first introduced by Ceres, a woman, so I trust that the representatives of this noblest of modern commonwealths may not be ashamed to receive legislative suggestions from even female petitioners.
On Tuesday, August 12, 1853, in Committee of the Whole, the report that "it is inexpedient to act on the petition" of several parties that women may vote, was taken up.
Mr. GREEN, of Brookfield, opposed the report, contending that women being capable of giving or withholding their assent to the acts of government, should upon every principle of justice and equality, be permitted to participate in its administration. He denied that men were of right the guardians or trustees of women, since they had not been appointed, but had usurped that position. Women had inherent natural rights as a portion of the people, and they should be permitted to vote in order to protect those inherent rights.
Mr. KEYES, of Abington, paid a warm tribute to the virtues and abilities of the fairer sex, and was willing to concede that they were to some extent oppressed and denied their rights; but he did not believe the granting of the privileges these petitioners claimed would tend to elevate or ameliorate their condition. Woman exerted great power by the exercise of her feminine graces and virtues, which she would lose the moment she should step beyond her proper sphere and mingle in the affairs of State!
Mr. WHITNEY, of Boylston, believed that the same reasoning that would deny the divine right of kings to govern men without their consent, would also deny a similar right of men over women. The Committee had given the best of reasons for granting the prayer of the petitioners, and then reported that they have leave to withdraw. He expatiated on the grievances to which women are subjected, and concluded by moving as an amendment to the report, that the prayer of the petitioners ought to be granted.
The Committee then rose, and had leave to sit again. Wednesday the first business of importance was the taking up in Committee of the report "leave to withdraw," relative to giving certain privileges to women. Question on the amendment of Mr. Whitney to amend the conclusion of the report, by inserting "that the prayer of the petitioners be granted." Debate ensued on the subject between Messrs. Marvin, of Winchendon; Kingman, of West Bridgewater; when the question was taken, and Mr. Whitney's amendment rejected. Mr. Marvin then moved to substitute "inexpedient to act" for "leave to withdraw"; which was adopted. The Committee then rose, and recommended the adoption of the report as amended, by a vote of 108 to 44.
The prejudices of the 108 outweighed all the able arguments made by those who represented the petitioners, and all the great principles of justice on which a true republic is based.
We find the following comments on the character and duties of the gentlemen who composed the Convention, from the pen of Mr. Higginson, in The Una of June, 1853:
To the members of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention:
The publication in our newspapers of the list of members of your honorable body, has won the just tribute of men of all parties to the happy result of the selection. Never, it is thought, has Massachusetts witnessed a political assembly of more eminent or accomplished men. And yet there are those to whom the daring thought has occurred, that to convoke such ability and learning, only to decide whether our Legislature shall be hereafter elected by towns or districts, is somewhat like the course of Columbus in assembling the dignitaries of his nation to decide whether an egg could be best poised upon the larger or the smaller end. A question which was necessarily settled, after all, by a compromise, as this will be.
But at that moment, there lay within the brain of the young Genoese a dream, which although denounced by prelates and derided by statesmen was yet destined to add another half to the visible earth; so there is brooding in the soul of this generation, a vision of the greatest of all political discoveries, which, when accepted, will double the intellectual resources of society, and give a new world, not to Castile and Leon only, but to Massachusetts and the human race.
And lastly, as we owe the labor and the laurels of Columbus only to the liberal statesmanship of a woman, it is surely a noble hope, that the future Isabellas of this Nation may point the way for their oppressed sisters of Europe to a suffrage truly universal, and a political freedom bounded neither by station nor by sex.
Elizabeth Oakes Smith, writing in The Una, says of this historical occasion:
The Massachusetts Convention did not deign to notice the prayer of these two thousand women who claimed the privilege of being heard by men who assert that we are represented through them. They decided that "it is inexpedient to act upon said petition." This is no cause for discouragement to those who have the subject at heart. Two thousand signers are quite as many, if not more, than we supposed would be procured. The believers in the rights of woman to entire equality with man in every department involving the question of human justice are entirely in the minority. The majority believe that their wives and mothers are household chattels; believe that they were expressly created for no other purposes than those of maternity in their highest aspect; in their next for purposes of passion, with the long retinue of unhallowed sensualities, debasements, and pollutions which follow in the train of evil indulgence. With others, women are sewers on of buttons; darners of stockings; makers of puddings; appendages to wash days, bakings, and brewings; echoes and adjectives to men for ever and ever. They are compounds of tears, hysterics, frettings, scoldings, complainings; made up of craftiness and imbecilities, to be wheedled, and coaxed, and coerced like unmanageable children. The idea of a true, noble womanhood is yet to be created. It does not live in the public mind. Now, in answer to the petition of these two thousand women, the Committee reply that all just governments exist by the consent of the governed. An old truism. We reply, women have given no such consent, and therefore are not bound to allegiance. But our sapient Legislators say, since there are two hundred thousand women in Massachusetts twenty-one years of age, and only two thousand who sign this petition, therefore it is fair to suppose that the larger part of the women of the State have consented to the present form of government. Now, this is assuredly a willful and unworthy perversion of the truth. These women are simply ignorant, simply supine. They have neither affirmed nor denied. They have not thought at all upon the subject. But there are two thousand women in Massachusetts who think and act, to say nothing of the thousands of intelligent men there who believe in the same doctrine. Now here is a little army in one State alone, and that a conservative one, while through the Middle and Western States are thousands thinking in the same direction. Here is the leaven that must leaven the whole lump. Here is the wise minority which will hereafter become the overwhelming majority of the country. The Committee remark on the fact that while 50,000 women have petitioned for a law to repress the sale of intoxicating liquor, only two thousand petition for the right to vote! While the multitude could readily trace the downfall of father, husband, brother, and son, to the dram-shop, only the thinking few could see the power beyond the law and the lawmaker that protects the traffic, the right to the ballot, with which to strike the most effective blow in the right place.
NEW ENGLAND WOMAN'S RIGHTS CONVENTION.
BOSTON, Friday, June 2, 1854.
This Convention assembled the day on which poor Anthony Burns was consigned to hopeless bondage; and though many friends of the woman movement remained in the streets to see his surrender, still at an early hour the hall was literally crowded with earnest men and women, whom a deep interest in the cause had drawn together. Sarah H. Earle, of Worcester, was chosen President; Lucy Stone, Chairman of the Business Committee, reported the resolutions, among which we find the following:
Resolved, That the Common Law, which governs the marriage relation, and blots out the legal existence of a wife, denies her right to the product of her own industry, denies her equal property rights, even denies her right to her children, and the custody of her own person, is grossly unjust to woman, dishonorable to man, and destructive to the harmony of life's holiest relation.
Resolved, That the laws which destroy the legal individuality of woman after her marriage are equally pernicious to man as to woman, and may give to him in marriage a slave, or a tyrant, but never a wife.
William Lloyd Garrison, Emma E. Coe, Josephine S. Griffing, Wendell Phillips, Dr. Harriot K. Hunt, Rev. S. S. Griswold, Sarah Pellet, Abby Kelly Foster, Mrs. Morton, and Lucy Stone took part in the debates. Letters were received from Thomas W. Higginson, Rev. A. D. Mayo, Paulina Wright Davis, Mrs. Nichols, and Sarah Crosby. Francis Jackson, of Boston, made a contribution of $50. Committees were appointed from each of the New England States to circulate petitions for securing a change in the laws regulating the property of married women, and limiting the right of suffrage to men. All the sessions drew crowded audiences, and the enthusiasm was sustained to the end. The sympathy for Burns intensified the feelings of those present against all forms of oppression. Those who had witnessed the military parade through the streets of Boston to drive the slave—a minister of the Baptist denomination in his southern home—from the land of the Pilgrims where he had sought refuge, were roused to plead with new earnestness and power for equal rights to all without distinction of sex or color.
WOMAN'S RIGHTS CONVENTION IN BOSTON.
Sept. 19 and 20, 1855.
This Convention was fully attended through six sessions, and gave great satisfaction to all engaged in it. After its close, its officers received such expressions of interest from persons not previously enlisted in the cause, as to convince them that a lasting impression was made. The attendance was the best that Boston could furnish in intelligence and respectability, and to a greater degree than usual clerical. Mrs. Paulina Wright Davis was again chosen President. Business Committee—Dr. William F. Channing, Caroline H. Dall, Wendell Phillips, and Caroline M. Severance. Among the Vice-Presidents we find the names of Harriot K. Hunt and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Caroline H. Dall, Ellen M. Tarr, and Paulina Wright Davis presented carefully prepared digests of the laws of several of the New England States. Mrs. Davis said:
In 1844 a bill was introduced into the Legislature of this State (Rhode Island) by Hon. Wilkins Updike, securing to married women their property "under certain regulations." The step was a progressive one, and hailed at that time as a bright omen for the future. Other States have followed the example, and the right of woman to some control of her property has been recognized. In 1847 Vermont passed similar enactments; in 1848-'49, Connecticut, New York, and Texas; in 1850-'52, Alabama and Maine; in 1853, New Hampshire, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa followed. But the provisions "under certain regulations" left married women almost as helpless as before.
Mrs. DAVIS further says: If in 1855, from the practical workings of these statutes, we find ourselves compelled to pronounce them despotic in spirit, degrading and tyrannical in effect, we do not the less give honor to the man who was so far in advance of his age as to conceive the idea of raising woman a little in the scale of being.
We have always claimed the honor for New York as being first in this matter, because the Property Bill was presented there in 1836, and when finally passed in 1848, was far more liberal than in any other State; and step by step her legislation was broadened, until 1860 the revolution was complete, securing to married women their own inheritance absolutely, to use, will, and dispose of as they see fit; to do business in their name, make contracts, sue, and be sued.
The speakers on the first day of this Convention were Wendell Phillips, Thomas W. Higginson, and Lucy Stone; on the second morning, Caroline H. Dall, Antoinette L. Brown, and Susan B. Anthony. The evening closed with a lecture from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and a poem by Elizabeth Oakes Smith. No report of the debates was preserved.
In a letter to her family Susan B. Anthony, under date of Sept. 27th, says:
I went into Boston on Tuesday, with Lucy Stone, to attend the Convention. We stopped at Francis Jackson's, where we found Antoinette Brown and Ellen Blackwell. A pleasant company in that most hospitable home. The Convention passed off pleasantly, but with none of the enthusiasm we have in our New York meetings. As this was my first visit to Boston, Mr. Jackson took Antoinette and myself round to see the lions; to the House of Correction, the House of Reformation, the Merchant's Exchange, the Custom-House, State House, and Faneuil Hall, and then dined with his daughter, Eliza J. Eddy, in South Boston, returning in the afternoon. Lucy and Antoinette left, one for New York and the other for Brookfield. In the evening, Ellen Blackwell and I attended a reception at Mr. Garrison's, where we met several of the literati, and were most heartily welcomed by Mrs. Garrison, a noble, self-sacrificing woman, the loving and the loved, surrounded with healthy, happy children in that model home. Mr. Garrison was omnipresent now talking and introducing guests, now soothing some child to sleep, and now, with his charming wife, looking after the refreshments. There we met Mrs. Dall, Elizabeth Peabody, Mrs. McCready, the Shakespearian reader, Mrs. Severance, Dr. Hunt, Charles F. Hovey, Francis Jackson, Wendell Phillips, Sarah Pugh, of Philadelphia, and others. Having worshiped these distinguished people afar off, it was a great satisfaction to see so many face to face.
On Saturday morning, in company with Mr. and Mrs. Garrison and Sarah Pugh, I visited Mount Auburn. What a magnificent resting-place this is! We could not find Margaret Fuller's monument, which I regretted. I spent Sunday with Charles Lenox Remond; we drove to Lynn with matchless steeds to hear Theodore Parker preach. What a sermon! our souls were filled. We discussed its excellence at James Buffum's, where, with other friends, we dined. Visited the steamer Africa next day, in which Ellen Blackwell was soon to sail for Liverpool.
Monday Mr. Garrison escorted me to Charlestown; we stood on the very spot where Warren fell, and mounted the interminable staircase to the top of Bunker Hill Monument, where we had an extensive view of the harbor and surrounding country. Then we called on Theodore Parker; found him up three flights of stairs in his library, covering that whole floor of his house; the room is lined all round with books to the very top—16,000 volumes—and there, at a large table in the center of the apartment, sat the great man himself. It really seemed audacious in me to be ushered into such a presence, and on such a commonplace errand, to ask him to come to Rochester to speak in a course of lectures I am planning. But he received me with such kindness and simplicity, that the awe I felt on entering was soon dissipated. I then called on Wendell Phillips, in his sanctum, for the same purpose. I have invited Ralph Waldo Emerson by letter, and all three have promised to come. In the evening, with Mr. Jackson's son James, the most diffident and sensitive man I ever saw, Miss B—— and I went to the theater to see Dussendoff, the great tragedian, play Hamlet. The theater is new, the scenery beautiful, and, in spite of my Quaker training, I find I enjoy all these worldly amusements intensely.
Returning to Worcester, I attended the Anti-Slavery Bazaar. I suppose there were many beautiful things exhibited, but I was so absorbed in the conversation of Mr. Higginson, Samuel May, Jr., Sarah Earle, Cousin Dr. Seth Rogers, Stephen and Abby Foster, that I really forgot to take a survey of the tables. The next day Charles F. Hovey drove me out to the home of the Fosters, where we had a pleasant call.
Francis Jackson and Charles F. Hovey, though neither speakers nor writers, yet they furnished the "sinews of war." None contributed more generously than they to all the reforms of their times. They were the first men to make a bequest to our movement. To them we are indebted for the money that enabled us to carry on the agitation for years. Beside giving liberally from time to time, Francis Jackson left $5,000 in the hands of Wendell Phillips, which he managed and invested so wisely, that the fund was nearly doubled. Charles F. Hovey left $50,000 to be used in anti-slavery, woman suffrage, and free religion. With the exception of $1,000 from Lydia Maria Child, we have yet to hear of a woman of wealth who has left anything for the enfranchisement of her sex. Almost every daily paper heralds the fact of some large bequest to colleges, churches, and charities by rich women, but it is proverbial that they never remember the Woman Suffrage movement that underlies in importance all others.
HEARING BEFORE THE MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE, MARCH, 1857.
The Boston Traveller says: The Representatives Hall yesterday afternoon was completely filled, galleries and all, to hear the arguments before the Judiciary Committee, to whom was referred the petition of Lucy Stone and others for equal rights for "females" in the administration of government, for the right of suffrage, etc.
Rev. JAMES FREEMAN CLARKE was the first speaker. He said: Gentlemen, the question before you is, Shall the women of Massachusetts have equal rights with the men? The fundamental principles of the Constitution set forth equal rights to all. A large portion of the property of Massachusetts is owned by women, probably one-third of the whole amount, and yet they are not represented, though compelled to pay taxes. It has been said they are represented by their husbands. So it was said that the American colonies were represented in the British Parliament, but the colonies were not contented with such representation; neither are women contented to be represented by men. As long as we put woman's name on the tax-list we should put it in the ballot-box.
WENDELL PHILLIPS said: Self-government was the foundation of our institutions. July 4, 1776, sent the message round the world that every man can take care of himself better than any one else can do it for him. If you tax me, consult me. If you hang me, first try me by a jury of my own peers. What I ask for myself, I ask for woman. In the banks, a woman, as a stockholder, is allowed to vote. In the Bank of England, in the East India Company, in State Street, her power is felt, her voice controls millions.
Three hundred years ago it was said woman had no right to profess any religion, as it would make discord in the family if she differed from her husband. The same conservatism warns us of the danger of allowing her any political opinions.
LUCY STONE said: The argument that the wife, having the right of suffrage, would cause discord in the family, is entirely incorrect. When men wish to procure the vote of a neighbor, do they not approach them with the utmost suavity, and would not the husband who wished to influence the wife's vote be far more gracious than usual? She instanced the heroic conduct of Mrs. Patton, who navigated her husband's ship into the harbor of San Francisco, as an argument in favor of woman's power of command and of government. The captain and mate lying ill with a fever, she had the absolute control of both vessel and crew. Mrs. Stone's speech was comprehensive and pointed, and called forth frequent applause.
Dr. Harriot K. Hunt, a woman of wealth and position, protested every year against being compelled to pay taxes while not recognized in the government.
DR. HUNT'S PROTEST OF 1852.
To Frederick W. Tracy, Treasurer, and the Assessors, and other Authorities of the city of Boston, and the Citizens generally:
Harriot K. Hunt, physician, a native and permanent resident of the city of Boston, and for many years a taxpayer therein, in making payment of her city taxes for the coming year, begs leave to protest against the injustice and inequality of levying taxes upon women, and at the same time refusing them any voice or vote in the imposition and expenditure of the same. The only classes of male persons required to pay taxes, and not at the same time allowed the privilege of voting, are aliens and minors. The objection in the case of aliens is their supposed want of interest in our institutions and knowledge of them. The objection in the case of minors, is the want of sufficient understanding. These objections can not apply to women, natives of the city, all of whose property interests are here, and who have accumulated, by their own sagacity and industry, the very property on which they are taxed. But this is not all; the alien, by going through the forms of naturalization, the minor on coming of age, obtain the right of voting; and so long as they continue to pay a mere poll-tax of a dollar and a half, they may continue to exercise it, though so ignorant as not to be able to sign their names, or read the very votes they put into the ballot-boxes. Even drunkards, felons, idiots, and lunatics, if men, may still enjoy that right of voting to which no woman, however large the amount of taxes she pays, however respectable her character, or useful her life, can ever attain. Wherein, your remonstrant would inquire, is the justice, equality, or wisdom of this?
That the rights and interests of the female part of the community are sometimes forgotten or disregarded in consequence of their deprivation of political rights, is strikingly evinced, as appears to your remonstrant, in the organization and administration of the city public schools. Though there are open in this State and neighborhood, a great multitude of colleges and professional schools for the education of boys and young men, yet the city has very properly provided two High-Schools of its own, one Latin, the other English, in which the "male graduates" of the Grammar Schools may pursue their education still farther at the public expense. And why is not a like provision made for the girls? Why is their education stopped short, just as they have attained the age best fitted for progress, and the preliminary knowledge necessary to facilitate it, thus giving the advantage of superior culture to sex, not to mind?
The fact that our colleges and professional schools are closed against females, of which your remonstrant has had personal and painful experience; having been in the year 1847, after twelve years of medical practice in Boston, refused permission to attend the lectures of Harvard Medical College. That fact would seem to furnish an additional reason why the city should provide, at its own expense, those means of superior education which, by supplying our girls with occupation and objects of interest, would not only save them from lives of frivolity and emptiness, but which might open the way to many useful and lucrative pursuits, and so raise them above that degrading dependence, so fruitful a source of female misery.
Reserving a more full exposition of the subject to future occasions, your remonstrant, in paying her tax for the current year, begs leave to protest against the injustice and inequalities above pointed out.
This is respectfully submitted, HARRIOT K. HUNT, 32 Green Street, Boston, Mass.
Harriot K. Hunt commenced the practice of medicine at the age of thirty, in 1835; twelve years after, was refused admission to Harvard Medical Lectures. She often said that as her love element had all centered in her profession, she intended to celebrate her silver wedding, which she did, in the summer of 1860. Her house was crowded with a large circle of loving friends, who decorated it with flowers and many bridal offerings, thus expressing their esteem and affection for the first woman physician, who had done so much to relieve the sufferings of women and children. The degree of M.D. was conferred on her by "The Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania," in 1853. Her biographer says she honored the title more than the title could her.
MARRIAGE OF LUCY STONE UNDER PROTEST.
It was my privilege to celebrate May day by officiating at a wedding in a farm-house among the hills of West Brookfield. The bridegroom was a man of tried worth, a leader in the Western Anti-Slavery Movement; and the bride was one whose fair name is known throughout the nation; one whose rare intellectual qualities are excelled by the private beauty of her heart and life.
I never perform the marriage ceremony without a renewed sense of the iniquity of our present system of laws in respect to marriage; a system by which "man and wife are one, and that one is the husband." It was with my hearty concurrence, therefore, that the following protest was read and signed, as a part of the nuptial ceremony; and I send it to you, that others may be induced to do likewise.
Rev. THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON.
While acknowledging our mutual affection by publicly assuming the relationship of husband and wife, yet in justice to ourselves and a great principle, we deem it a duty to declare that this act on our part implies no sanction of, nor promise of voluntary obedience to such of the present laws of marriage, as refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer upon the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess. We protest especially against the laws which give to the husband:
1. The custody of the wife's person.
2. The exclusive control and guardianship of their children.
3. The sole ownership of her personal, and use of her real estate, unless previously settled upon her, or placed in the hands of trustees, as in the case of minors, lunatics, and idiots.
4. The absolute right to the product of her industry.
5. Also against laws which give to the widower so much larger and more permanent an interest in the property of his deceased wife, than they give to the widow in that of the deceased husband.
6. Finally, against the whole system by which "the legal existence of the wife is suspended during marriage," so that in most States, she neither has a legal part in the choice of her residence, nor can she make a will, nor sue or be sued in her own name, nor inherit property.
We believe that personal independence and equal human rights can never be forfeited, except for crime; that marriage should be an equal and permanent partnership, and so recognized by law; that until it is so recognized, married partners should provide against the radical injustice of present laws, by every means in their power.
We believe that where domestic difficulties arise, no appeal should be made to legal tribunals under existing laws, but that all difficulties should be submitted to the equitable adjustment of arbitrators mutually chosen.
Thus reverencing law, we enter our protest against rules and customs which are unworthy of the name, since they violate justice, the essence of law.
(Signed), HENRY. B. BLACKWELL, Worcester Spy, 1855. LUCY STONE.
To the above The Liberator appended the following:
We are very sorry (as will be a host of others) to lose Lucy Stone, and certainly no less glad to gain Lucy Blackwell. Our most fervent benediction upon the heads of the parties thus united.
This was a timely protest against the whole idea of the old Blackstone code, which made woman a nonentity in marriage. Lucy Stone took an equally brave step in refusing to take her husband's name, respecting her own individuality and the name that represented it. These protests have called down on Mrs. Stone much ridicule and persecution, but she has firmly maintained her position, although at great inconvenience in the execution of legal documents, and suffering the injustice of having her vote refused as Lucy Stone, soon after the bill passed in Massachusetts giving all women the right to vote on the school question.
In 1858, Caroline H. Dall, of Boston, gave a series of literary lectures in different parts of the country, on "Woman's Claims to Education," beginning in her native city. Her subjects were:
Nov. 1st.—The ideal standard of education, depressed by public opinion, but developed by the spirit of the age; Egypt and Algiers.
Nov. 8th.—Public opinion, as it is influenced by the study of the Classics and History, by general literature, newspapers, and customs.
Nov. 15th.—Public opinion as modified by individual lives: Mary Wollstonecroft, Anna Jamieson, Charlotte Bronte, and Margaret Fuller.
In June 11th, of this year, Mrs. Dall writes to the Liberator of her efforts to circulate the following petition:
To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in General Court assembled:
WHEREAS, The women of Massachusetts are disfranchised by its State Constitution solely on account of sex.
We do respectfully demand the right of suffrage, which involves all other rights of citizenship, and one that can not justly be withheld, as the following admitted principles of government show:
1st. "All men are born free and equal."
2d. "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."
3d. "Taxation and representation are inseparable." We, the undersigned, therefore petition your Honorable Body to take the necessary steps to revise the Constitution so that all citizens may enjoy equal political rights.
NEW ENGLAND CONVENTION.
May 27th, 1859, an enthusiastic Convention was held in Mercantile Hall. Long before the hour announced the aisles, ante-rooms,, and lobbies were crowded. At three o'clock Mrs. Caroline H. Dall called the meeting to order. Mrs. Caroline M. Severance was chosen President. On taking the chair, she said:
This movement enrolls itself among the efforts of the age, and the anniversaries of the week as the most radical, and yet in the best sense the most conservative of them all. It bears the same relation, to all the charities of the day, which strive nobly to serve woman, that the Anti-Slavery movement bears to all superficial palliations of slavery. Like that, it goes beneath effects, and seeks to remove causes. After showing in a very lucid manner the difference in the family institution, when the mother is ignorant and enslaved, and when an educated, harmoniously developed equal, she closed by saying: It will be seen then, that instead of confounding the philosophy of the new movement with theories that claim unlimited indulgence for appetite or passion, the world should recognize in this the only radical cure.... No statement could better define this movement than Tennyson's beautiful stanzas:
The woman's cause is man's; they sink or rise Together, dwarfed or godlike, bond or free, If she be small, slight-natured, miserable, How shall man grow? The woman is not undeveloped man, But diverse.
Yet in the long years, liker must they grow; The man be more of woman, she of man: He gain in sweetness and in moral height— She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care, Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind.
And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time Sit side by side, full-summed in all their powers, Self-reverent each, and reverencing each; Distinct in individualities, But like each other, as are those who love.
Then comes the statelier Eden back to man; Then reign the world's great bridals, chaste and calm; Then springs the crowning race of humankind.
And we who are privileged with the poet to foresee this better Eden; we who have
The Future grand and great,— The safe appeal of Truth to Time,—
adopting the victorious cry of the Crusaders, "God wills it!" may listen to hear above the present din and discord, the stern mandate of His laws, bidding the world "Onward! onward!" and catch the rhythmical reply of all its movements, "We advance."
Mrs. Severance then read an appropriate poem from the pen of Mrs. Sarah Nowell, in which she eulogizes Florence Nightingale, Rosa Bonheur, Harriet Hosmer, and asserts the equality of man and woman in the creation.
Dr. Harriot K. Hunt made some pointed remarks on the education of woman.
The Rev. James Freeman Clarke was then introduced. He said:
I understand the cause advocated on this platform to be an unpopular one. It is a feeble cause, a misunderstood cause, a misrepresented cause. Hence, it seems to me, if any one is asked to say anything in behalf of it, and if he really believes it is a good cause, he should speak; and so I have come.
Certainly any interest which concerns one-half the human race is an important one. Every man, no matter how stern, hard, and unrelenting he may have become in the bitter strife and struggle of the world, every man was once a little infant, cradled on a mother's knee, and taking his life from the sweet fountains of her love. He was a little child, watched by her tender, careful eye, and so secured from ill. He was a little, inquiring boy, with a boundless appetite for information, which only his mother could give. At her knee he found his primary school: it is where we have all found it. He had his sisters—the companions of his childhood; he had the little girls, who were to him the ideals of some wonderful goodness and excellence, some strange grace and beauty, though he could not tell what it was. With these antecedents no man on the face of the round world can refuse to hear woman, when she comes earnestly, but quietly saying, "We are not where we ought to be;" "We do not have what we ought to have." I think their demands are reasonable, all of them. What are they? Occupation, education, and the highest sphere of work of which they are capable. These I understand to be the three demands.
1st. Occupation. When your child steals on a busy hour and asks for "something to do," you feel ashamed that you have nothing for him—that you can not give him the natural occupation which shall develop all the faculties of mind and body. Is it not a reasonable request which women make, when they ask for something to do? They want to be useful in the world. They ask permission to support themselves and those who are dear to them. What can they do now? They can go into factories, a few of them; a few more can be servants in your homes; they can cook your dinner if they have been taught how. If they are women of genius, they can take the pen and write; but how few are there in this world, either men or women of genius. If they have extraordinary business talent, they can keep a boarding-house. If they have some education they can keep school. After this, there is the point of the needle upon which they may be precipitated—and nothing else.
We see the gloom that must fall on them, on their children, and on all they love, when the male protector is taken away. This demand for more varied occupation is not a new one. Many years ago, one of the wisest and truest men of this country, a philanthropist and reformer—Matthew Carey, of Philadelphia—labored to impress upon the people the fact, that what was wanted for the elevation of woman was to open to her new avenues of business. A very sad book was written a few months ago, "Dr. Sanger's work on Prostitution." It is a very dreadful book; not calculated, I think, to excite any prurient feeling in any one. In that book he says:
First, that the majority of the prostitutes of this country are mere children, between the ages of fifteen and twenty. That the lives of these poor, wretched, degraded creatures, last on an average about four years. Now, when we hear of slaves used up in six years on a sugar plantation, we think it horrible; but here are these poor girls killed in a more dreadful way, in a shorter time. And he adds that the principal cause of their prostitution is that they have no occupation by which they can support themselves. Without support, without resources, they struggle for a while and then are thrown under the feet of the trampling city. Give them occupation and they will take care of themselves: they will rise out of the mire of pollution, out of this filth; for it is not in the nature of woman to remain there. Give them at least a chance; open wide every door; and whenever they are able to get a living by their head or their hands in an honest way, let them do it. This is the first claim; and it seems to me that no one can reasonably object to it.
2d. Education. You say that public schools are open to girls as well as boys. I know that, but what is it that educates? The school has but little to do with it. When the boy goes there you say, "Go there, work with a will, and fit yourself for an occupation whereby you may earn your bread." But you say to the girls, "Go to school, get your education, and then come home, sit still, and do nothing." We must give them every chance to fit themselves for new spheres of duty. If a woman wants to study medicine, let her study it; if she wants to study divinity, let her study it; if she wants to study anything, let her have the opportunity. If she finds faculties within her, let them have a chance to expand. That is the second demand—the whole of it.
And the third claim is for a Sphere of Influence. "That is not it," do you say? "You want to take woman out of her sphere." Not at all, we wish to give her a sphere, not to take her from any place she likes to fill; to give her a chance to exercise those wonderful, those divine faculties that God has wrapped in the feminine mind, in the woman's heart.
As regards voting, why should not women go to the polls? You think it a very strange desire, I know; but we have thought many things stranger which seem quite natural now. One need not live long to find strange things grow common. Why not vote, then? Is it because they have not as much power to understand what is true and right as man? If you go to the polls, and see the style of men who meet there voting, can you come away, and tell us that the women you meet are not as able to decide what is right as those men? "Ah, it will brush off every feminine grace, if woman goes to the polls." Why? "Because she must meet rude men there." Very well, so she must meet them in the street, and they do not hurt her; nor will I believe that there is not sufficient inventive power in the Yankee intellect to overcome this difficulty. I can conceive of a broader and more generous activity in politics. I can see her drawing out all the harshness and bitterness when she goes to the polls. These three points are all I intended to touch; and I will give way to those who are to follow.
Mrs. CAROLINE H. DALL was then introduced. She said: I have observed that all public orators labor under some embarrassment when they rise to speak. Not to be behind the dignity of my position, I labor under a double embarrassment.
The first is the "embarras des richesses." There are so many topics to touch, so many facts to relate, that it is impossible to cover them in one half hour, and the second—perhaps you will think that an embarrassment of riches also; for it is an embarrassment of Clarke and Phillips. The orator needs no common courage who follows the one and precedes the other. It is my duty to speak of the progress of the cause; it is impossible to keep pace with it. You may work day and night, but this thought of God outstrips you, working hourly through the life of man. Yet we must often feel discouraged. Our war is not without; our work follows us into the heart of the family. We must sustain ourselves in that dear circle against our nearest friends; against the all-pervading law, "Thus far shalt thou come, and no farther."
What have we gained since 1855? Many things, so important, that they can not be worthily treated here. I have often mentioned in my lectures, that in his first report to the French Government, Neckar gave the credit of his retrenchments to his thrifty, order-loving wife. Until this year, that acknowledgment stood alone in history. But now John Stuart Mill, the great philosopher and political economist of England, dedicates his "Essay on Liberty" to the memory of his beloved wife, who has been the inspiration of all, and the author of much that was best in his writings for many years past. Still farther, in a pamphlet on "English Political Reform," treating of the extension of the suffrage, he has gone so far as to recommend that all householders, without distinction of sex, be adopted into the constituency, upon proving to the registrar's officer that they have a certain income—say fifty pounds—and "that they can read, write, and calculate."
A great step was taken also in the establishment of the Institution for the Advancement of Social Science. The sexes are equal before it. It has five departments. 1. Jurisprudence, or Law Reform; 2. Education; 3. Punishment and Reformation; 4. Public Health; 5. Social Economy.
The first meeting at Liverpool considered the woman's question; and, while it was debated, Mary Carpenter sat upon the platform, or lifted her voice side by side with Brougham, Lord John Russell, and Stanley. At the second meeting (last October), Lord John Russell was in the chair. The Lord Chancellor of Ireland presided over Law Reform; the Right Hon. W. F. Cooper, over the department of Education; the Earl of Carlyle—personally known to many on this platform—over that which concerns the Reformation of Criminals; the Earl of Shaftesbury over Public Health; and Conolly and Charles Kingsley and Tom Taylor and Rawlinson bore witness side by side with Florence Nightingale. Sir James Stephen presided over Social Economy. Isa Craig, the Burns poetess, is one of its Secretaries.
Ten communications were read at this session by women; among them, Florence Nightingale, Mary Carpenter, Isa Craig, Louisa Twining, and Mrs. Fison. Four were on Popular Education, two upon Punishment and Reformation, three on the Public Health in the Army and elsewhere, one upon Social Economy. Still another proof of progress may be seen in the examination of Florence Nightingale by the Sanitary Commission.
[In the establishment of The Englishwoman's Journal with an honorable corps of writers, in the passage of the new Divorce Bill, of the Married Woman's Property Bill in Canada, the cause had gained much; on each of which Mrs. Dall spoke at some length, especially this Property Bill, which some foolish member had shorn of its most precious clause—that which secured her earnings to the working-woman, lest, by tempting her to labor, it should create a divided interest in the family].
Do you ask me why I have dwelt on this Institution for Social Science, cataloguing the noble names that do it honor? To strengthen the timorous hearts at the West End; to suggest to them that a coronet of God's own giving may possibly rest as secure as one of gold and jewels in the United Kingdom. I wish to draw your attention to the social distinction of the men upon that platform. No real nobleness will be imperiled by impartial listening to our plea. Would you rest secure in our respect, first feel secure in your own. If ten Beacon Street ladies would go to work, and take pay for their labor, it would do more good than all the speeches that were ever made, all the conventions that were ever held. I honor women who act. That is the reason that I greet so gladly girls like Harriet Hosmer, Louisa Lander, and Margureite Foley. Whatever they do, or do not do, for Art, they do a great deal for the cause of Labor. I do not believe any one in this room has any idea of the avenues that are open to women already. Let me read you some of the results of the last census of the United Kingdom. Talk of women not being able to work! Women have been doing hard work ever since the world began. You will see by this that they are doing as much as men now. [Applause].
In 1841, there were engaged in agriculture, 66,329 women. In 1851, 128,418; nearly double the number. Of these, there are 64,000 dairy-women; women who lift enormous tubs, turn heavy cheeses, slap butter by the hundred weight. Then come market-gardeners, bee-mistresses, florists, flax producers and beaters, haymakers, reapers, and hop-pickers.
In natural connection with the soil, we find seven thousand women in the mining interest; not harnessed on all-fours to creep through the shafts, but dressers of ore, and washers and strainers of clay for the potteries. Next largest to the agricultural is one not to be exactly calculated—the fishing interest. The Pilchard fishery employs some thousands of women. The Jersey oyster fishery alone employs one thousand. Then follow the herring, cod, whale, and lobster fisheries.
Apart from the Christie Johnstones—the aristocrats of the trade—the sea nurtures an heroic class like Grace Darling, who stand aghast when society rewards a deed of humanity, and cry out in expostulation, "Why, every girl on the coast would have done as I did!" Then follow the kelp-burners, netters, and bathers. The netters make the fisherman's nets; the bathers manage the machines at the watering-places.
And, before quitting this subject, I should like to allude to the French fishwomen; partly as a matter of curiosity, partly to prove that women know how to labor. In the reign of Henry IV., there existed in Paris a privileged monopoly called the United Corporation of Fishmongers and Herringers. In the reign of Louis XIV. this corporation had managed so badly as to become insolvent. The women who had hawked and vended fish took up the business, and managed so well as to become very soon a political power. They became rich, and their children married into good families. You will remember the atrocities generally ascribed to them in the first revolution. It is now known that these were committed by ruffians disguised in their dress.
To return: there are in the United Kingdom 200,000 female servants. Separate from these, brewers, custom-house searchers, matrons of jails, lighthouse-keepers, pew-openers.
I have no time to question; but should not a Christian community offer womanly ministrations to its imprisoned women? Oh, that some brave heart, in a strong body, might go on our behalf to the city jail and Charlestown! Pew-opening has never been a trade in America; but, as there are signs that it may become so in this democratic community, I would advise our women to keep an eye to that. [Laughter].
There are in the United Kingdom 500,000 business women, beer-shop keepers, butcher-wives, milk-women, hack-owners, and shoemakers.
As one item of this list, consider 26,000 butcher-wives—women who do not merely preside over a business, but buy stock, put down meat, drive a cart even if needed—butchers to all intents and purposes. There are 29,000 shop-keepers, but only 1,742 shop-women.
Telegraph reporters are increasing rapidly. Their speed and accuracy are much praised. From the Bright Festival, at Manchester, a young woman reported, at the rate of twenty-nine words a minute, six whole columns, with hardly a mistake, though the whole matter was political, such as she was supposed not to understand!
Phonographic reporters also. A year ago there were but three female phonographers in America; and two of these did not get their bread by the work. Now hundreds are qualifying themselves, all over the land; and two young girls, not out of their teens, are at this moment reporting my words. [Cheers].
I hope the phonographers will take that clapping to themselves. I wish you would make it heartier. [Repeated cheers]. Now let us turn to the American census. I must touch it lightly. Of factory operatives, I will only say, that, in 1845, there were 55,828 men and 75,710 women engaged in textile manufactures. You will be surprised at the preponderance of women: it seems to be as great in other countries. Then follow makers of gloves, makers of glue, workers in gold and silver leaf, hair-weavers, hat and cap makers, hose-weavers, workers in India rubber, lamp-makers, laundresses, leechers, milliners, morocco-workers, nurses, paper-hangers, physicians, picklers and preservers, saddlers and harness-makers, shoemakers, soda-room keepers, snuff and cigar-makers, stock and suspender-makers, truss-makers, typers and stereotypers, umbrella-makers, upholsterers, card-makers.
Cards were invented in 1361. In less than seventy years the German manufacture was in the hands of women—Elizabeth and Margaret, at Nuremberg. Then grinders of watch crystals, 7,000 women in all.
My own observation adds to this list phonographers, house and sign painters, fruit-hawkers, button-makers, tobacco-packers, paper-box makers, embroiderers, and fur-sewers.
Perhaps I should say haymakers and reapers; since, for three or four years, bands of girls have been so employed in Ohio, at sixty-two and a half cents a day.
In New Haven, seven women work with seventy men in a clock factory, at half wages. If the proprietor answered honestly, when asked why he employed them, he would say, "To save money;" but he does answer, "To help our cause."
In Waltham, a watch factory has been established, whose statistics I shall use elsewhere.
In Winchester, Va., a father has lately taken a daughter into partnership; and the firm is "J. Wysong and Daughter." [Applause]. Is it not a shame it should happen first in a slave State?
Then come registers of deeds and postmistresses. We all know that the rural post-office is chiefly in the hands of irresponsible women. Petty politicians obtain the office, take the money, and leave wives and sisters to do the work.
[Here Mrs. Dall read an interesting letter from a female machinist in Delaware; but, as it will be published in another connection, it is here withheld].
Is it easy for women to break the way into new avenues? You know it is not.
[Here Mrs. Dall referred to the opposition shown to the employment of women in watch-making, by Mr. Bennett, in London; to the school at Marlborough House; to the employment of women in printing-offices—substantiating her statements by dates and names].
When I first heard that women were employed in Staffordshire to paint pottery and china—which they do with far more taste than men—I heard, also, that the jealousy of the men refused to allow them the customary hand-rest, and so kept down their wages. I refused to believe anything so contemptible. [Applause]. Now the Edinburgh Review confirms the story. Thank God! that could never happen in this country. With us, Labor can not dictate to Capital.
But the great evils which lie at the foundation of depressed wages are:
1st. That want of respect for labor which prevents ladies from engaging in it.
2d. That want of respect for women which prevents men from valuing properly the work they do.
Women themselves must change these facts.
[Mrs. Dall here read some letters to show that wages were at a starving-point in the cities of America as well as in Europe].
I am tired of the folly of the political economist, constantly crying that wages can never rise till the laborers are fewer. You have heard of the old law in hydraulics, that water will always rise to the level of its source; but, if by a forcing-pump, you raise it a thousand feet above, or by some huge syphon drop it a thousand feet below, does that law hold? Very well, the artificial restrictions of society are such a forcing-pump—are such a syphon. Make woman equal before the law with man, and wages will adjust themselves.
But what is the present remedy? A very easy one—for employers to adopt the cash system, and be content with rational profits. In my correspondence during the past year, master-tailors tell me that they pay from eight cents to fifty cents a day for the making of pantaloons, including the heaviest doeskins. Do you suppose they would dare to tell me how they charge that work on their slowly-paying customer's bills? Not they. The eight cents swells to thirty, the fifty to a dollar or a dollar twenty-five. Put an end to this, and master-tailors would no longer vault into Beacon Street over prostrate women's souls; but neither would women be driven to the streets for bread.
If I had time, I would show you, women, how much depends upon yourselves. As it is, we may say with the heroine of "Adam Bede," which you have doubtless all been reading:
"I'm not for denying that the women are foolish. God Almighty made 'em to match the men!" [Laughter].
Do you laugh? It is but a step from the ridiculous to the sublime; and Goethe, who knew women well, was of the same mind when he wrote:
"Wilt thou dare to blame the woman for her seeming sudden changes— Swaying east and swaying westward, as the breezes shake the tree? Fool! thy selfish thought misguides thee. Find the man that never ranges. Woman wavers but to seek him. Is not, then, the fault in thee?"
Mrs. Dall was followed by the Rev. JOHN T. SARGENT, who said:
MADAM PRESIDENT AND FRIENDS:—I appreciate the honor of an invitation to this platform, but my words must be few; first, because the call comes to me within a few hours, and amid the cares and responsibilities of the chair on another platform, and I had no time for preconcerted forms of address; second, because the general principles of this organization, and the subject matters for discussion, are so well sifted and disposed of by previous speakers, that nothing new remains for me to say; and, third, because we are all waiting for the words of one [Wendell Phillips] whose sympathies are never wanting in any cause of truth and justice, whose versatile eloquence never hesitates on any platform where he waves aloft "the sword of the spirit" in behalf of human rights. [Applause].
I may truly say, that this is my maiden speech in behalf of maidens and others [laughter]; and, if it amount to nothing else, I may say, as did my friend Clarke, I feel bound, at least, to take my stand, and show my sympathy for the noble cause. I come here under the pressure of an obligation to testify in behalf of an interest truly Christian, and one of the greatest that can engage the reason or the conscience of a community. I would that you had upon this platform and every other, more women speakers for the upholding and consummation of every righteous cause! And so far am I from being frightened to death or embarrassed, as our friend Mrs. Dall has intimated any one might be, at the prospect of either following James Freeman Clarke or preceding Wendell Phillips, I am much more concerned by the contrast of my speech with such speakers as your President, or Dr. Hunt, or Mrs. Dall herself.