Ernestine L. Rose and Andrew J. Graham put the Proceedings together. Mrs. Rose was a major figure in antebellum reform circles, a well-known orator and advocate of woman's rights. Andrew Jackson Graham was the creator of the Standard American system of phonography (shorthand). He was an abolitionist, temperance advocate, and supporter of woman's rights.
We know, both from the news accounts (See Documents 16, 17A-B, 19A-B) and from the Proceedings, that "rowdies" attempted, and with a good deal of success, especially during the closing session, to disrupt the Convention. Because of the uproar, several speakers could not make themselves heard. It may be that Rose and Graham, the Convention's Committee for Publication, were able, in these cases, to learn directly from those speakers what they had attempted to say. But, given the chaos of that last session, we need to read that portion of the Proceedings with considerable care.
The disruptions are, as several speakers pointed out, evidence that woman's rights could no longer be dismissed with the mix of sarcasm and disdain that had greeted the first woman's rights meetings. In addition to those who attempted to disrupt the convention were those who directly challenged the speakers. One, who rose at the very close of the evening session of the first day, called on Lucy Stone and her colleagues to provide three good arguments in favor of woman's rights. The great majority of the speakers on the following day explicitly prefaced their remarks with an announcement of their intention to do precisely that. Their challenger, unsurprisingly, declared himself not persuaded. Instead of arguments, he complained, they had given him stories. The stories, when they could be heard, echoed those recounted the week before at the Whole World's Temperance Convention and told of women whose brutal, often drunken, husbands abused them and their children.
In the minds of the woman's rights advocates, as the Rev. Antoinette Brown put it during the evening session of the first day, "the Temperance movement, and that for Woman's Rights are, in some respects, one."
WOMAN'S RIGHTS CONVENTION,
THE BROADWAY TABERNACLE.
IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK,
Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 6th and 7th. 1853.
PUBLISHED FOR THE COMMITTEE.
NEW YORK: FOWLERS AND WELLS, PUBLISHERS. CLINTON HALL, 131 NASSAU STREET. 1853.
K. O. JENKINS, PRINTER AND
First Day: Morning Session
HELD at the Broadway Tabernacle, in the City of New York, on Tuesday, Sept. 6th and 7th, 1853. A large body of women and men assembled at the appointed time. Shortly after 10 o'clock, Lucy Stone called the meeting to order, and said that, at a preliminary meeting held the previous evening, the following officers were nominated, which were accepted by the Convention: —
ERNESTINE L. ROSE, New York.
PAULINA W. DAVIS, Rhode Island.
C. J. H. NICHOLS, Vermont.
MARY JACKSON, England.
CATHARINE M. SEVERANCE, Ohio.
S. M. BOOTH, Wisconsin.
WM. LLOYD GARBISON, Massachusetts.
MRS. J. B. CHAPMAN, Indiana.
CHARLOTTE HUBBARD, Illinois.
RUTH DUGDALE, Pennsylvania.
C. C. BURLEIGH, Connecticut.
ANGELINA G. WELD, New York.
MADAME ANEKA, New York.
MRS. LYDLA F. FOWLER.
ANTOINETTE L. BROWSN.
WM. H. CHANNING.
HARRIET K. HUNT.
MARY ANNE W. JOHNSON.
MARTHA J. TILDEN.
ERNESTINE L. ROSE.
ELIZABETH OAKES SMITH.
SUSAN B. ANTHONY.
LYDIA A. JENKINS.
EDWARD A. STANBURY.
MRS. MOTT then took the chair, and remarked:
"It is customary to open a Convention of this kind by verbal prayer, or a discourse suited to the occasion."
A prayer was then offered by Wm. H. Channing. MRS. MOTT then remarked:
"It has been proposed that this Convention should last two days, and that there should be three sessions each day: the first commencing at 10 A. M., closing at half-past 12 P. M.; the second commencing at 3 P. M., closing at 5 P. M.; and the third commencing at half-past 7 P. M., and closing at half-past 9 P. M."
[This proposition was accepted by the Convention, after which MRS. MOTT remarked as follows:]
"It may be well, at the outset, to declare distinctly the objects of the present Convention. Its purpose is to declare principles, not to descend into the consideration of details: the principles, namely, of the co-equality of woman with man, and her right to practice those arts of life for which she is fitted by nature. Those are our great principles, and the assertion of them is our only present purpose. When they shall have been well recognized, then it will be quite time enough to speak of the proper mode of carrying them into universal practice. Already, some of the rights of woman have been conceded to her; but many yet remain, from the enjoyment of which she is most unjustly restrained. But let us take courage; although we are met by ridicule, through the newspaper press, magazines, and periodicals, let us rely on the inherent justice of our cause and our own exertions. The community are already beginning to see that there are many occupations which woman can fill with efficiency and propriety, that were, until lately, closed against her. A generous feeling has befriended woman to this extent; but now, when it is perceived that she, and those who aid her,
[p. 5]for the sake of the justice of her cause, claim for her the full exercise of her faculties in the various walks of life to which men alone are now admitted; when her high and just aim is perceived — naturally, perhaps, there is a great deal of opposition to her, perhaps the more in proportion as she the more completely fits herself for pursuing those heretofore forbidden paths. We are prepared for a great deal of religious prejudice and even hostility; that is, prejudice and hostility claiming the name of religious. No wonder, for it is something new for woman to aim at the highest office — that which places her in the pulpit. But already has her voice been heard there, and to her credit.
We have obstacles to encounter, but let them not dismay us, for they are not insurmountable. In the Temperance Reform, as well as in many others, it has been seen what difficulties can be overcome by vigorous and systematic efforts, based on inherent truth and justice. We came here full of hope, and prepared to prove that our cause is just. Woman has long been the mere slave of social custom, the unreasoning victim of conventional cruelty. Her voice has been suppressed, or fixed down to the slenderness of her cambric needle. But I was pleased to hear her, on some late occasions, use it in all the harmonious fullness with which the Creator has endowed it; and here, I trust, she will make it heard in the furthest corners of this hall.
I have not come prepared to open this Convention with an address worthy of the principles we advocate, and I could wish that the Chair were filled by some other. To one thing I particularly request notice, namely, that the Convention shall give its undivided attention to whatever subject shall at the time be before it. Otherwise we shall be led into devious paths, and the time that should be devoted to a definite aim will be wasted on irregular and useless subjects. We are now organized and prepared for business. I introduce to the Convention Lucy Stone."
LUCY STONE. — "As a proper mode of commencing our proceedings, I will read the following Resolutions, which were prepared at the preliminary meeting of our Business Committee."
1. Resolved, That this movement for the rights of women makes no attempt to decide whether woman is better or worse than man, neither affirms nor denies the equality of her intellect with that of man — make no pretence of protecting woman — does not seek to oblige woman any more than man is now obliged, to vote, take office, labor in the professions, mingle in public life, or manage her own property.
2. Resolved, That what we do seek is to gain these rights and privileges for those women who wish to enjoy them, and so to change public opinion that it shall not be deemed
indecorousfor women to engage in any occupation which they deem fitted to their habits and talents.
3. Resolved, That the fundamental principle of the Woman's Rights Movement is — that every human being, without distinction of sex, has an inviolable right to the full development and free exercise of all energies; and that in every sphere of life, private and public, Functions should always be commensurate with Powers.
4. Resolved, That each human being is the sole judge of his or her sphere, and entitled to choose a profession without interference from others.
5. Resolved, That whatever differences exist between Man and Woman, in the quality or measure of their powers, are originally designed to be and should become bonds of union and means of co-operation in the discharge of all functions, alike private and public.
6. Resolved, That the monopoly of the elective franchise, and thereby of all the powers of legislation and government, by men, solely on the ground of sex, is a monetrous usurpation — condemned alike by reason and common sense, subversive of all the principles of justice, oppressive and demoralizing in its operations, and insulting to the dignity of human nature.
7. Resolved, That we see no force in the objection, that women's taking part in politics would be a fruitful source of domestic dissension; since experience shows that she may be allowed to choose her own faith and sect without any such evil result, though religious disputes are surely as bitter as political — and if the objection be sound, we ought to go further, and oblige a wife to forego all religious opinions, or to adopt the religious as well as the political creed of her husband.
8. Resolved, That women, like men, must be either self-supported and self-governed, or dependent and enslaved; that an unobstructed and general participation in all the branches of productive industry, and in all the business functions and offices of common life, is at once their natural right, their individual interest and their public duty; the claim and the obligation reciprocally supporting each other; that the idleness of the rich, with its attendant physical debility, moral laxity, passional intemperance and mental dissipation, and the ignorance, wretchedness and enforced profligacy of the poor, which are every where the curse and reproach of the sex, are the necessary results of their exclusion from those diversified employments which would otherwise furnish them with useful occupation, and reward them with its profits, honors and blessings; that this enormous wrong cries for redress, for reparation by those whose delinquency allows its continuance.
Whereas, The energies of Man are always in proportion to the magnitude of the objects to be obtained; and whereas, it requires the highest motive for the greatest exertion and noblest action; therefore,
9. Resolved, That Woman must be recognized politically, legally, socially and religiously the equal of man, and all the obstructions to her highest physical, intellectual and moral culture and development removed, that she may have the highest motive to assume her place in that sphere of action and usefulness which her capacities enable her to fill.
10. Resolved, That this movement gives to the cause of education a new motive and impulse; makes a vast stride towards the settlement of the question of wages and social reform; goes far to cure that wide spread plague — the licentiousness of cities; adds to civilization a new element of progress; and in all these respects commends itself as one of the greatest reforms of the age.
The Resolutions were adopted by the Convention. It was moved and carried that they should be open to discussion as a whole.
C. C. BURLEIGH. — "In undertaking this great and Christian cause, in entering on this noble enterprise, we anticipated just the kind of opposition which we have met. We knew that men of narrow understandings, of limited intellects, of minds not broad enough to grasp a principle, to view it in all its luminous phases, and apply its light to all the things on which Heaven designed it should cast illumination; — we knew that men of this confined cast of soul would meet us with the weapons most consonant to their minds — pointless ridicule and vulgar obloquy. We knew more; we knew that what is new is always doubtful or dreaded. We knew that even good men would oppose us; but the opposition of even the good does not show the badness of the cause nor the unsoundness of the principle which they assail or resist. We knew that the prejudices of education, not the conclusions of reason, would make us many enemies. We knew that this movement would be unpopular, for it shocks that cautious conservatism which always dreads a change. But is this any proof against us? No! — for there is nothing venerable or even popular in the institutions of our own or of any country, that was not at one time the butt of obloquy and reproach. The very name of Christian was once a term of revilement; that name in which the proudest and best of the earth now glory as their brightest pearl, was once a by-word for scorn and for shame — as much so as any low phrase with which the blind and hard of heart of this day express a vulgar contempt for their brothers, whose color differs a little from their own. Ay! the time was when many who now unworthily bear the name of Christians would have been ashamed to be reckoned among the followers of Jesus: those worshippers of a base expediency would have trampled on the truth and prostrated themselves before their darling idol.
Let us take an instance from that Divine Faith which knows neither barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, male nor female; and lift our hearts with joy in the light which it sheds upon our cause. Our boasted Republicanism, that which is so loud on the tongues of men who have only self at heart, the day was when these very men would have denounced
[p. 8]it as fanaticism, or reviled it by whatever other name came first to the tongue of the reviler. We encounter no more than the opposition which has been met in every step of the world's progress. We are assailed by the cowardly and the unprincipled. Men generally employ such weapons as they think they can most effectually use; and this tendency is shown in the course pursued by a large portion of the newspaper press of this city. Those who cannot command arguments have recourse to ridicule; but the attempt to deride does not prove the power to do so; for that purpose some wit is required; and as this latter quality is wofully deficient in these assailants, their ridicule fails for want of it, and their malevolence only remains exposed to view.
Now, notwithstanding all this opposition, all those assaults from men who fear a full and candid discussion of the validity of that superiority they have hitherto usurped — there is a feeling growing that woman has some rights, that she has some reason to complain of the present relation in which she is placed to her brother. In this country we congratulate ourselves that woman here occupies a higher position than elsewhere, although some think it would be a fearful calamity to improve her condition still further, and mere fanaticism to raise her still higher. Ah! it was well when our fathers, in their time, made some innovations and proved them to be improvements; it would be well if we would make some innovations too, and also prove them to be improvements. If America of the last century went a step in advance of Europe, why should not America of this day go a step in advance of the last century? The only question between us and the intelligent part of our opponents, is one of degree: it is not, shall we concede to woman any rights, but, how far shall we concede them? That is the only question; and all (whose opinions are worth dwelling on) admit that woman is not rewarded for her labor.
The cry is — ‘unnatural!’ The aspiration of woman for a better lot, say her oppressors, is not natural, it is abnormal! So they say; but why not hear her on the matter? Is she, the most interested party, to have no voice in the solution of a question which is to her of such overwhelming interest? I ask, did God give woman aspirations which it is a sin for her to gratify? Abnormal! No, it is to be found everywhere. The man whose soul is so callous that he can hold his fellowmen as a slave, cries out (as in excuse) that the slave is contented. The autocrat exclaims that it is only a turbulent Kossuth or a factious Mazzini who feels that uneasy discontent which preys not on the hearts of his millions of legal slaves. Will that be, to us, an argument that
[p. 9]the tyrant is in the right? No! the aspirations to liberty and justice are universal, and ever though the volcanic blaze breaks into the air only through the loftiest mountain peaks, the volcano is in itself an index to the ocean of molten fire that boils inaudibly beneath it. And so the deep discontent of humble millions breaks through the mountain-minds of their great leaders.
Let only these tyrants of the New World, as well as of the Old, change places with their serfs, and then they will know the bitterness of slavery, and the unnatural upheaving of the human soul against it.
Yes; there is in the minds of women the germ of a reform which will produce great and enduring results. Our adversaries say it does not exist, save among an abnormal few. No; the germ is universal; and how is it shown to be so? Just by manifesting itself in the most enlightened of the sex. Precisely those whose enlarged minds prepare them best to shape intelligently, and express adequately, the great wants which all their sisters feel — those precisely are the women who stand forth to declare them, and assert their universality. Besides, even if women, as a general rule, do not desire the enlargement of their sphere, as it is termed, does that by any means prove that God does not design its enlargement, and that such enlargement will not take place in God's good time? Surely not! And the very agitation we see around us is a symptom of what is in store.
Many, no doubt, have perused, as I have, the travels of an American tourist — one of those who travel over all the world — in which he describes the state of the women in the interior of the oriental harem. They (poor caged slaves of a master's lust!) pity the women of the west. who are obliged to appear with unveiled faces before men. So do they feel; but how do the people of this country feel? Do they not persist in believing that the women of America are more highly favored than these poor slaves? Is not the life of the American woman more in accordance with religion and reason? Those poor women of the East are not competent witnesses. Open the doors of their harem; let the rays of reason, of truth, of justice, stream into that dark place, and they will never return to it; they will acknowleege that the humblest woman here is happier than the Sultana. And so, even if our women do not now know their rights, let them learn them; let the truth shine upon their souls, and they will never rest satisfied without them.
The deference we pay to the sex is the glory and pride of the American people. Here her claims are, to some extent, recognized, though far from fully: and in this recognition we find one of our best arguments.
[p. 10]We say — you admit the principle thus far — why not apply it throughout and consistently. ‘But,’ they say, ‘having gone thus far, you are now about to break down the partition wall erected by nature between the sexes; you would blend them both under the common term of manhood.’ Now, this is an entire mistake as to our position, or a most unfair representation of it. We recognize the feminine element in the human creation, and it is precisely because that element exists, that it should be allowed what we claim for it, — a participation in determining social rights and duties. It is there — an element created by the AllWise; what right have we to shut our eyes upon it, to exclude it from that in which a common interest gives it a full claim to participation? The rights of woman, and the sphere of woman can be settled only by a full understanding of her nature. Who has that understanding? Man knows himself by experience, but woman he can only know by evidence, on hear-say. Therefore, I maintain, man is not competent to fix the sphere of woman (to adopt the expression). Woman is a part of the human commonwealth; why deprive her of a voice in its government? Woman herself, a component part of the community, must be called into the councils which direct it, else a wrong is done her, the responsibility of which lies heavily on those who do it. We ask rights for woman, because she has a human nature, and it is not only ungenerous and unmanly, but in the highest degree unjust to banish her from the discussion of questions which so nearly and dearly concern her, and in which nature, reason, and God have announced that she should have a voice.
Either there is a distinction between the sphere of man and that of woman, or there is not. If there is, it is unfair to have one determine both; if there is not, why does tyrannous custom separate her? The dilemma is clear and cannot be escaped. Both should be called into counsel, every note in the scale of harmony should be sounded; and to say that hers, because an octave higher, should not be heard, is most downright nonsense.
We claim for woman simply the right to decide her own sphere, or, in conjunction with man, to determine what should be the relative position of both."
MRS. JENKINS, of Geneva, was then introduced to the Convention, and spoke thus: —
"I come before you this morning to address you, upon the subject of human rights. No one will deny that it is a subject of vast importance. A desire for liberty has glowed within the bosom of the greatest, the wisest and the best in every age, diffusing more or less of a genial
[p. 11]warmth, according to their distance from the realms of bigotry and oppression. For the love of liberty many have endured the tortures of the rack, the fires of the stake, or the pestilential air of dark, gloomy, and filthy prisons. For the love of liberty our pilgrim fathers bade adieu to the land of their nativity — the land of their prosperity — the land to which they were bound by tender ties. A mere allusion to the American Revolution brings before our minds many scenes of noble daring, of patriotic valor, the endurance of hardships and privations almost unparalleled — and all endured to prove how highly those who died and suffered, valued the priceless blessings of liberty. Recent convulsions on the European Continent prove that this desire has not faded from the world in our days — that, indeed, it is inherent in the human mind. The masses of the nations endured oppression, and repressed the native aspirations which burned in their souls, as they do in the humblest human souls — till, a force being applied more powerfully crushing than any they had felt before, a burst-forth took place which cannot be suppressed, upheavals commenced which cannot be forced down. Thus a mighty power has been elicited by the very pressure of tyranny itself; and though for a time the power may be kept at bay, still the great agitation has begun, and is going on silently; and, pent up as it may be, it will eventually burst forth with a force so wholly irresistible as to hurl despotism to the ground.
What has called us together here this day? Just this same desire for a greater freedom. For woman feels and knows that her sphere of action is most unjustly circumscribed — her real wants and her true nature misrepresented and misunderstood. We stand together here, because woman sees the necessity for a wider field wherein to develop the energies which God in his wisdom and goodness has deemed it well to endow her.
Everywhere, throughout the length and breadth of the country, at every Fourth of July oration, she hears it proclaimed loudly and boastfully that man is endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which are the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ‘What!’ she asks herself, "are these self-evident facts? Why then am I deprived of these axiomatic rights? Instead of the right to life (in the full scope and bearing of the term) being enjoyed by me. I am simply allowed to stay in the world. My liberty: what is it? Just as much as, and no more than, he who claims to be my lord and master sees fit in the wisdom of his councils to allow me. My happiness: what is it? Alas! when analyzed, it is found to be largely diluted with the waters of bitterness.'
These facts being self-evident, it is useless and super-erogatory to dwell
here on the proof of the rights described being inalienable. All the
reasoning and arguments necessary to an understanding of what constitutes
human rights have been, from time to time, abundantly produced.
I therefore beg to be excused from an attempt (which would be superfluous)
to reason on the subject. From time immemorial, it has been
said of woman, that she was incapable of reasoning. Therefore, I presume,
it is not expected that we will be so foolish as to attempt to do what
every one is sure we are incapable of accomplishing. But, with all due
courtesy, we beg leave to express our heartfelt thanks to those who, with
strength of mind and with wisdom, have settled for us this question of
human rights, leaving to us the room and the ground for demanding them
as our common inheritance. But we know only too well that any demand
of the nature will be wholly useless without a corresponding action
on the part of woman. She must reconnoitre with a scrutinizing eye the
ground she means to take; she must array her forces in order; she must
make her onset judiciously and firmly, supported by the feeling that her
cause is just. And then, as she makes battle upon the enemy of her
rights, she must guard well every post she takes; she must not lose
by remissness anything she has gained by valor; she must press onward
till victory crowns her efforts — well assured that
"Who would be free themselves, must strike the blow."
We have not come here to fill the ears of our audience with flowery
sentiments, nor to pour the oil of ease upon their minds, to lull them
to repose; but we have come to animate you all, and especially to animate
woman, with a desire for greater freedom and a better life, to
awaken her to a sense of the injustice which is done her, and to cheer
her with the hope of attaining her proper position by means within her
own power. If we succeed even to a slight degree in the accomplishment
of this object, we shall feel encouraged for the success of our
cause, for the final triumph of true political, social, and intellectual principles.
The little that any one may be able to do, may be as a pebble
on the sea-shore; but let us
Scorn not the slightest word nor deed,
Nor deem it void of power;
There's fruit in each wind-wafted seed,
Waiting its natal hour;
No act falls fruitless; none can tell
How Fast its power may be,
Nor what results, unfolded, dwell
Within it silently.
Let each then say,
‘I will work
And not despair, but give my mite,
Nor care how small it be;
God is with those who serve the right,
The holy, true, and free.’
Now, we do not ask of man an amendment in this or that matter, a propping up of tottering systems. We go at once to the root of the whole subject. Let principles be established, then will particulars adjust themselves. Let the true nature and destiny of woman be ascertained; let her see the prospect of a realization of her legitimate hopes; let her have a standard with herself; then will all other relations, all subjects of minor importance, come by degrees to harmonize with these.
The views upon these subjects are exceedingly erroneous. There exists in men's minds a feeling of the same nature as that which modulates their feelings towards slaves, the idea of inferiority — the idea that the infinite soul can, in their case, operate within limits already ascertained; that the gift of reason, man's highest prerogative, is allotted to them in a lower degree; that they must be restrained from mischief and diverted from melancholy by being kept constantly engaged in active labor, which is furnished and directed by those who are better able to think; with many other ideas of this sort of which we need not multiply instances. What woman can review the experience of a single day without recalling some word which implies, whether in jest or in earnest, views containing the bitterness of degradation which pervades those just adverted to? With this knowledge we must arrive at the conclusion that there is small likelihood of measures being taken in behalf of women, unless their wishes and requirements are publicly represented by women. * * * * * * * * *
Men seem not to know that the only reason why woman ever assumes that which is more appropriate to them, is because they prevent her from finding out what is more fit for herself. When women become free, when they become wise, fully to develop the strength and beauty
[p. 14]of their nature, they will never wish to be men nor like men. No, for then they will know that one law rules them, and that they are adapted to one universe alike. In a state of perfect, of milenial freedom, each is purified, an intelligent, an enfranchised soul, and nothing less.
There is no more beautiful, no more truthful sentiment known to mankind, than that the highest idea man forms of himself, is that which he is destined to attain. My sisters! you whose hopes are high, you whose thoughts are often turned to an inward searching of the heart, be cheered by this reflection! Press on unto perfection! This high position woman may not attain in your day; but what transports will fill your bosoms to be able to look down from your home on high, and see the perfecting of a good work begun by you on earth. Whatever the soul knows how to seek is laid in store for it by a beneficent Father, and cannot fail of being obtained. This is but a demonstration of the promise, "Seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." The sculptor of a pure ideal needs not to carve in marble alone, nor needs the artist paint it in a picture glowing with life and beauty on the canvas; for the form may be chiseled in the living soul, the picture painted upon the tablet of the mind. The fact is of universal, unceasing revelation. Then let the life be a sermon from the text, "Be ye perfect." Be not disheartened that the tree cannot blossom till the cankering worm be removed from its root, and the noxious vapors swept away by air and light. The means are now within our reach. Let us gather from every growth of life its seal of thought. Let us establish ourselves in the rights of immortal beings. The shining names of many noble women have cast light upon our path. Let us look to their examples, and find therein encouragement. But we must remember that truth, moral and divine, flourishes only in the soil of freedom. There it spreads its branches for the repose of the people, while they eat the fruit thereof. Happy will be the nations that experience the benefits of good government, unburthened by oppression. This freedom, individually, this freedom, as one-half of the nation, we must attain. We want political, social, and intellectual equality, and the freedom to develop and exercise all the powers of the mind. By this means alone will it be ascertained to what peculiar sphere of action each one is adapted. Until this is done, all your arbitrary rules will be of no avail, for nature will never subscribe to them. In the physical world, decisions formed before experiments were made, have always proved worthless. One practical demonstration that steam will propel a locomotive, is of more utility to physical science than volumes of theoretical
[p. 15]speculations. The same is true in moral science. A single fact, illustrative of the powers of woman, under favorable circumstances, with no time-worn restraints, no musty conventionalities to hamper her, is of more practical worth than all the arguments that were ever adduced to show what woman ought and is able to do. Under all the disadvantageous circumstances in which women have been placed, we are not going to attempt the futile argument in support of our claims that woman can reason so profoundly as "God-like man," that she would dignify the Senate Chamber of the metropolis of this vast republic like him, or that she would there wield so skillfully as he would, the convincing argumentative weapons, as, for instance, that potent arm with a fist upon the end of it, or, if need be, the bowie-knife. It is enough that she knows better than he does or can, the needs of woman, and would, therefore, more fully represent her wants. * * * * *
We must not fear investigation. If we are forced to opinions opposed to those we have long held dear, remember that truth is all-important, and that the object of our investigations should never be the establishment of opinions or hypotheses, but the attainment of truth, however much it may conflict with what we have previously cherished as truth. One great impediment to the progress of true principles has been an excessive reverence for time-honored customs and opinions. Many of us are kept from advancement, because our fear of the opinion of the world is paramount to our desire for truth. The time has never been in the world's history that the true reformer has been appreciated in his or her day. While living, they have received the epithets — "fanatics," "heretics," "monomaniac," — and the world has refused to look through the telescope of a Galileo, for fear it should be forced to an acknowledgement of the truth. As the world has advanced to the point where it was able to appreciate each new truth, the memory of the discovery has been immortalized; monuments have been erected over their remains; while some poor Columbus, for no other crime than that of living in advance of his age, pined away his existence in prison. How many such lessons has the world received! and yet it is unwilling that truth should take the place of the darkness of its accumulated ages. They only are in the path of happiness, whose life attests their singleness of purpose, — a desire for truth, which, like a vast mountain, lifts its head with exalted dignity. It stands unmoved, and will not bow to the caprice of men, but man may attain its very summit. Ignorance and error cannot remove its foundation, nor prevent, though they may retard, the progress of mental
[p. 16]and moral attainment. In ages past men have tried to set bounds to the sea, and to chain the waves; the waters have heeded them not, but, with a steady and fearless progress, have ebbed and flowed as in derision of their power. Thus it is with the ocean of human progress. Urged by that great impetus, the love of truth, it will flow on until it subdues all that is of an opposite nature, and the world will be renovated, and man will appear in the brightness and beauty of his nature. There will be diffused from this source, a universal good, constituting one principle, one thought, one action, — the embodiment of a grand and lofty aspiration for freedom!
In all our investigations, therefore, we should have the single object in view, — to learn the truth. Let it be the pole star of our existence! Do not attempt to distort it by endeavoring to make it harmonize with some theory which we have inherited from barbarism. I remember a thought of Mrs. Child's, that under the weight of conventionality men and women are obliged to suppress their noblest aspirations. The fear of public opinion is a tyrannous master. It compels us to surround ourselves with a false necessity, — a circle that never expands, — whose iron never changes to ductile gold. Under the intolerable restraint and despotic influence of conventional form, men and women check their best impulses, suppress their noblest feelings, and conceal their highest thoughts. This slavery of feeling should be supplanted by a single desire, — the desire to know and to do what is right.
We find ourselves so beautifully and harmoniously united, that the happiness of one effects that of all. As, in imparting knowledge to others, we expand our own minds, and increase our own store of information, so, in inviting others to share our liberties, in aiding them to obtain an enlarged freedom, we become more free ourselves. Then, a philosophy, based on human rights, dictates nothing short of that great motto — "All rights to all!"
Let woman's heartfelt thanks gush forth in pure and reverent gratitude for the triumphs already attained for her moral nature, for the change already noticeable in the public mind. The watchmen on the tower proclaim the dawning of a glorious day; soon it will burst forth with a brightness as of the meridian sun, with a beauty sweet and benignant as an angel's dream."
LUCY STONE. "I am truly glad to stand here and be able to say that we, who advocate the principles on which this Convention has been assembled, have reason to congratulate ourselves on the progress of our
[p. 17]cause. It is now only five years since we first met, in Central New York, a mere handful of friends to the reform we seek, and of our little meeting we thought nothing was heard. That meeting was presided over by the President of this Convention, Mrs. Mott."
Mrs. MOTT. "I must ask leave to make a correction. The president of the meeting adverted to, was not Mrs. Mott, but Mrs. Mott's husband: our first meeting was not prepared — had not yet acquired sufficient moral courage — to place a woman in the chair."
LUCY STONE. "I accept the correction with pleasure — it gives me another proof of the progress we have made; for I am now happy to see that a woman can occupy the chair, — and occupy it well too. Shortly after that first meeting we had another; we have since had several; and now we are here. In each we have done much good; and much, very much, still remains to be done.
We have not had these meetings without objections, and some obloquy. It has been stated that we, women, were not fit for anything but to stay in the house! I look over the events of the last five years, and almost smile at the confutation of this statement which they supply. Let it not be supposed that I wish to depreciate the value of houseduties, or the worth of the woman who fitly discharges them. No! I think that any woman who stands on the throne of her own house, dispensing there the virtues of love, charity, and peace, and sends out of it into the world good men, who may help to make the world better, — occupies a higher position than any crowned head. However, we said women could do more: they could enter the professions, and there serve society and do themselves honor. We said that women could be doctors of medicine. Well — we can now prove the statement by fact. Harriet K. Hunt is among us to day, who, by recognized attainment and successful practice, has shown that women can be physicians, and good ones. You have in your city two women who are good physicians; there are female medical colleges, with their classes, as well ordered, and showing as good a proficiency, as any classes of men. Thus, that point is gained. It was said women could not be merchants. We thought they could; we saw nothing to prevent women from using the power of calculation, the knowledge of goods, and the industry necessary to make a successful trader. Here again we have abundant examples. Many women could be pointed to, whose energy and ability for business have repaired the losses of their less competent husbands. I will mention a particular case. Mrs. Tyndal, of Lowell, Mass., has for years carried on business in a quiet way; — she has made herself
[p. 18]rich by conducting a ladies' shoe store in Lowell. She said to herself — ‘What is to hinder me from going into this business? I should know ladies' shoes, whether they were good or bad, and what price they can bring. The ladies should support me.’ And so they did, and that woman has given a proof that her sex does not incapacitate for successful mercantile operations.
It was said, women could not be ministers of religion. Last Sunday, at Metropolitan Hall, Antoinette L. Brown conducted Divine Service, and was joined in it by the largest congregation assembled within the walls of any building in this city. (Hisses.) Some men hiss who had no mothers to teach them better. But I tell you that some men in New York knowing that they can hear the word of God from a woman, as well as from a man, have called her to be their pastor, and she is to be ordained in this month. Some of you, reporters, said she was a Unitarian; but, it is not so; she is among the most orthodox, and so is her church.
We have all caused woman's right to address an audience, to be more fully recognized than before. I once addressed an assemblage of men, and did so without giving previous notice, because I feared the opposition of prejudice. A lady who was among the audience said to me afterwards, — ‘How could you do it? My blood ran cold when I saw you up there among those men!’ ‘Why,’ I asked, ‘are they bad men?’ ‘Oh, no! my own husband is one of them; but to see a woman mixing among men in promiscuous meetings, it was horrible.’" That was six or seven year ago, last fall; and that self-same woman, in Columbus, Ohio, was chosen to preside over a temperance meeting of men and women; yes, and she took the chair without the least objection! In Chicago, a woman is cashier of a bank; and the men gave her a majority of three hundred votes over her man-competitor. In another State, a woman is register of deeds. Women can be editors; two sit behind me, Pauline W. Davis, and Mrs. Nichols. Thus we have an accumulation of facts to support our claims and our arguments.
We are here to ask you to make the public sentiment by which woman may be allowed to do, as easily as man, what she is fit to do. We ask this not on selfish grounds; it is for the good of all. The race will be benefited, for the development which is the result of the use of all the powers, is gain to the race, as much as to the individual.
We do not want to reserve this platform for those only who agree with us. We want those who can, to come and give a good reason for
[p. 19]opposing us; and we want them, as long as it appears good, to stick to it. But, if we can take their reason from under their feet, we want them to admit it fairly, and thenceforth to support us, like true men and women. We are to have five sessions more, the ticket to which is twenty-five cents; or, to a single session, twelve and a half cents. We have unavoidable expenses to meet, but the price has been made as low as possible, so that the poorest sewing-girl in New York can hear us. It has been proposed that speakers be limited as to time; the limitation is twenty minutes, or half an hour: the design is, that all who have something to say, and wish to say it, may have time to do so."
OLIVER JOHNSON. — "The limitation proposed was this; twenty minutes during the morning and afternoon sessions, and half an hour during the evening session."
LUCY STONE. — "Mr. Johnson is right. I stand corrected."
Mrs. MOTT. — "I think it well here to ask speakers to bear in mind, as much as possible, the Resolutions that have been read, so as, as far as possible, to make the remarks they shall offer bear on these Resolutions. This is called a ‘Woman's Rights Convention,’ but, I apprehend, the phrase, ‘Human Rights’ would more appropriately express its principles and its aims, as I am glad to find they have been set forth by the speakers here this morning. However, let us not be misunderstood. This Convention does not arrogate to itself the power of settling the propriety of a woman's choosing any particular profession. The idea of the leaders of this movement is not that women should be obliged to accept the privileges which we demand should be open to her. There are, no doubt, many women who have no inclination to mingle in the busy walks of life; and many would, in all probability, feel conscientious scruples against voting, or taking any office under the present constitution of this country, considering some of its provisions. That, however, supplies no objection to the co-equality which we assert. This we mean to attain and keep. The unwillingness of some to vote (assuming such to exist), does not destroy the right of a class. Elizabeth Jones, in a Convention at Waterloo, when asked what women wanted, replied, ‘I want to vote, and be voted for.’ In such circumstances, it is not beyond the reach of possibility, that the law might be purged of its inconsistencies and its hardness to be understood: and perhaps thus came within the assumed feeble intellect of woman. So in theology, Even the liberal Dr. Channing maintained that its mysteries were too intricate, its difficulties too numerous and formidable, for the female
[p. 20]mind to overcome them. Perhaps this science too might be simplified until it came within our reach. I concur fully in the wish that those who are against, as well as those who are for us, will come here and speak their sentiments. I hope and believe they will be courteously received, and earnestly desire that they may give themselves up to the guidance of the truth which may be here elicited, no matter how much it may jar with their preconceived opinions. In conclusion, I hope there will be no long speeches, but that all that may be said shall be terse, and directed plainly to the subjects before the Convention."
OLIVER JOHNSON. — "I move that the limitation of time be adopted by the Convention."
(Motion seconded and passed.)
The Session closed at 12 ½ p. m.
First Day: Afternoon Session
The Session opened at 3, p. m.
The Resolutions adopted at the last Session being read, WM. LLOYD GARRISON spoke thus:
"In view of the many able and earnest spirits assembled at this Convention, I am glad that it has been resolved that speakers shall occupy no more than twenty minutes; and yet it is obvious, that in the brief space of twenty minutes, it is utterly impossible to begin and complete an argument in regard to the great question which has thus brought us together.
But, having no time for preliminaries, the first pertinent question here is, what has brought us together? Why have we come from the East and from the West, and from the North? I was about to add, and from the South; but the South, alas! is so cursed by the spirit of slavery, that there seems to be no vitality left them in regard to any enterprise, however good, and the South cannot be represented on an occasion like this. It is because justice is outraged. We have met to protest against proud, rapacious, inexorable usurpation. What is this usurpation? What is this oppression of which we complain? Is it local? Does it pertain to the City of New York, or to the Empire State? No! It is universal — broader than the Empire State — broader than our national
[p. 21]domains — wide as the whole world, weighing on the entire human race. How old is the oppression which we have met to look in the face? Is it of to-day? Is it young in years, or is it not as old as the world itself? In all the ages of ages men have regarded women as inferior to themselves, and have robbed them of their co-equal rights. We are, therefore, contesting hoary tyranny — universal tyranny. And what follows, as a natural result? That the land is beginning to be convulsed. The opposition to the movement is assuming a malignant and desperate satanic character; every missile of wickedness that can be hurled against it is used. The pulpit is excited, the press is aroused; Church and State are in arms to put down a movement on behalf of justice to one half of the whole human race. The Bible, revered in our land as the inspired Word of God, is, by pulpit interpreters, made directly hostile to what we are endeavoring to obtain as a measure of right and justice; and the cry of infidelity is heard on the right hand and on the left, in order to combine public opinion so as to extinguish the movement.
Now, beloved, let us not imagine that any strange thing has happened to us. We are but passing through one of the world's great crises; we, too, in our day, are permitted to contend with spirititual wickedness in high places — with principalities and powers. What reform was ever yet begun and carried on with any reputation in the day thereof? What reform, however glorious and divine, was ever advocated at the outset with rejoicement? And if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household?
I have spoken of the press which gives the state of public opinion, which symbolizes the intellectual and moral condition of the nation. What is its character? Go where you may, particularly in all the great cities, and the papers which have the largest circulation are those, almost without exception, which are the most profligate and diabolical in spirit and purpose; and yet not profligate and diabolical gratuitously, but caterers to the popular appetite, understanding the condition of the national heart. The whole head is sick — the whole heart is faint, and we are full of wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores. It is not so across the Atlantic. In England, wherever a meeting is held, however radical or infidel, or in any way exceptionable, I believe it is the invariable custom of the press, on the part of the reporters, to make a fair report of the sayings and doings of the meeting. Whatever may be be said editorially in condemnation, the meeting is allowed to be fairly reported, and people judge for themselves. How is it in this country? Is it possible to get a fair report of a reform movement? Read the New
[p. 22]York papers of this morning, generally, and see how utterly lost to all decency, and animated by the very spirit of hell, these journals are, which endeavor to have all law and order trampled under foot, and "chaos come again." That men should come to these meetings with brows of brass, audacious to the last degree, unmatched in impudence, and sit here to caricature, blackguard, defame and misrepresent, as though they were doing something which would bring to them wreaths of laurel to bind around their brows, would exceed belief, but that we know this work is done, because there is a demand for it — because the nation is utterly rotten — because we are given up to believe a lie — an awful symptom of national degradation.
How is this question to be settled? By an appeal to law books — to a political party — to the past? No; but, like every good thing, on its own merits — on the very nature of woman, which is human nature, and therefore broad enough to sustain every position we assume. I have been called derisively, a ‘Woman's-Rights man.’ I know no such distinction. I claim to be a HUMAN RIGHTS MAN, and wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being, whatever may be the sex or the complexion. Our rights are equal, and whoever tramples on them is either a ruffian or a tyrant, unwilling that justice should reign in the world. Women of America, be not discouraged! — it is well you should find a cross at the outset. Only have the grace to bear it; bide your time, and the victory is yours!
You have the argument conceded to you at the beginning. ‘All government arises from the consent of the governed.’ Any government which has it not, is not a just government, and the people have a right to overturn it and put it aside. Our fathers held that doctrine as evident; therefore, the men of this country have conceded the whole ground to you. It is for you to occupy and maintain it, come what may. What I claim for myself, I concede to every other human being, and if I refused it, I should know myself to be a villain. I ask liberty for myself, and I concede it to all. I claim the right to protection and safety, and demand the same for every other human being. I claim the right of exercising political power, and ask that the same right shall be extended to all others. We must either make our government conform to the Declaration of Independence, or else abolish it and establish a new government. Those who are ruled by law should have the power to say what shall be the laws, and who the lawmakers. Women are as much interested in legislation as men; they are under the same laws and government as men. Every woman is a
[p. 23]political entity, and as such, entitled to representation in legislative and congressional assemblies. Women, you must demand your political rights. The great issue in this country, is that in which they are involved. It is for `you to be in Congress, and in State-Assemblies, wherever laws are made and government executed, co-ordinately with man; and anything short of that is a deprivation of your just and natural rights. What is necessary for these purposes? Certainly not physical strength, and, (apparently, taking the examples men have given,) no great amount of intellectual power or moral worth. The vilest, the most ignorant, and most profligate men, are entitled to march to the polls, and give their votes. Why not women as well, or better? They have enough of intellect; they have consciences and hearts pure and enlightened enough to enable them to give votes, when the vilest and most profligate and drunken men are permitted to do so. What is required of a legislator? Nothing morally, nor intellectually, which cannot be found in the women of our country; they are, in both these respects, fully competent to take a place side by side with our men.
Some seem to think that, were women to vote, and be voted for, there would not be a sufficient number left at home to prepare the dinner, and mind the children. How many women would be required to devote their time so exclusively to political concerns? How many men sit in Congress and in the State Legislatures? Could not one woman be spared out of a large number, as easily as one man is, without there being any dread that enough would not be left to boil the kettle and darn the stockings? The objection is a foolish one, and is presented on the part of our opponents, — the spirit of foolishness. When you stand on a political equality with men, when you have the power to maintain and protect your rights, they will be maintained and protected, but never until then. I know that this will be regarded by some who are willing to give women a higher position than she now occupies, as going too far; but the struggle now going on is a governmental struggle; and rightly as it seems to me: the first thing to be contended for is, the political and legislative right of woman, since it is only through that, that any of her rights can be secured.
To the excellence of the movement God has given witnesses in abundance, on the right hand and on the left. Show me a cause anathematized by the chief priests, the scribes, and the pharisees: which politicians and demagogues endeavor to crush, which reptiles and serpents in human flesh try to spread their slime over, and hiss down, and I will show you a cause which God loves, and angels contemplate
[p. 24]with admiration. Such is our movement. Do you want the compliments of the satanic press, the New York Times, Express, and Herald? If you want the compliments of such journals, you will be bad enough to take a place among the very vilest and lowest of the human race. They are animated by a brutal, cowardly, and devilish spirit. Let us rejoice at the manifestation! Not for the wickedness, but at the evidence thus afforded by God, that our cause is of Heaven, and therefore, has on its side all the power and might of God, and in due season, is destined to have a glorious triumph!"
PACLINA WRIGHT DAVIS, being introduced to the convention, spoke in these words: —
"The phrase ‘Woman's Movement’ has come to be used for designating the demands and designs, the advocacy and efforts, of our enterprise. A movement and an advance movement, indeed, it is, and whether described as a woman's, a man's, or a world's movement, is of little consequence. It equally deserves either and all of these titles, whether we regard the agencies or the objects concerned in it. Its history is marked by every circumstance that can prove it natural, necessary, and providential, and its fortunes abundantly show that it is ‘prospering and to prosper.’
‘It is barely five years old, yet it is of age and can speak for itself.’ Of the lights that have arisen in its sky, it may justly be said that ‘there is no speech, nor language, where their voice is not heard; their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.’ All that could be reasonably hoped from agitation and discussion within a period so brief has been fully realized. Never in the history of public opinion has propagandism been more successful. The criticism of first impressions has entirely exhausted itself; the stage of serious investigation has fairly set in; the ‘movement’ has a recognized existence and a standing among the things that are, and are to be; and the argument is narrowed down already to certain differences about points and policies, means and measures. The principles, and the right and opportunity to press them, being sufficiently established and admitted; to all intents and purposes, we have become, in the language of an eminent advocate of human liberty, a ‘power upon earth,’ and it is now our business to press our advantages in the direction of practical success, corresponding to that attained in the sphere of theoretical speculation.
We are indeed not done with conventions, discussion, and agitation; but the parallel line of ACTION now pressingly invites our next attention.
[p. 25]While we still continue to urge our claims to all the rights of citizenship, and all the liberties of members of the civil state — to all the functions of freedom, and all the offices which it opens for our rightful ministration — the duty and expediency of the time, point to the BUSINESS AVOCATIONS of society as the most immediately available avenues to our ultimate and complete success.
A very high authority says, ‘to my mind the BREAD problem lies at the base of all the desirable and practical reforms which our age meditates. Before all questions of Intellectual Training or Political Franchise for woman, I place the question of enlarged opportunities for work — of a more extended and diversified field of employment.’
Without stopping to settle the relative value of the different lines of action which our cause demands, or admitting any pre-eminence among them, it is my purpose to offer some thoughts, both to those within and those without the movement, upon the justice and necessity of industrial liberty and enlargement for women; intending my remarks not more as a remonstrance to our opponents than as an exhortation to ourselves.
The enemy disputes the possession of the ‘good land’ with us, and there are giants in the field against us, and the victory is not to be achieved by battles fought on this side of its borders. We must invade the disputed territory — we must go up individually and possess it.
The abstract justice of the demand that all business and professional avocations, of which we are any wise capable, shall be freely opened to us, seems to me sufficiently vindicated by the mere statement of it. For nothing can be clearer than, that wherever a faculty is given, its employment is warranted, and the objects and opportunities for its action are irresistibly implied.
Free use is the charter written by the finger of God upon every power conferred upon his rational creatures.
Arguments from inconvenience, ill-consequence, and impropriety, are properly against the institutions, the prejudices, the wrongs of artificial systems, which forbid; for they are little better than rebellion and blasphemy when directed against the economy of the divine order; and are gross injustice against his creatures, claiming their rights and liberties under it.
But let us take a nearer and more familiar view of the point — a view of it which may perhaps commend our demand to a more earnest consideration than is usually given to the requirements of abstract principles applied in the practical conduct of life.
In the age of semi-barbarism, and that period of civilization which preceded the era of steam as a mechanical power, manufacturing industry was to so large an extent in the hands of women, and society depended so much upon their domestic industry, that, however wretched the pecuniary remuneration which it afforded them, the family and the community awarded them useful, and so far, honorable employment; which, if it did but little for the improvement of the intellect, it nevertheless satisfied the impulses of affection, and the requirements of duty; and so far, filled up the life with occupation, if not parallel, and equal to the current engagements of the other sex; yet, in some tolerable measure, proportioned to them.
When the whole life of one-half of the race was required in the indispensable service of the other half, such devotion had its honors as well as its uses, and the brain and heart, ever busy in the service which occupied the hands, were not tortured with a constant sense of suffering, of vacancy, idleness, and worthlessness.
In those times all labor was slavish, and comparatively unproductive. The learned professions, the profession of arms, and, at last, commerce and merchandise were the only avocations open to the enterprise of men which afforded wealth or honor in the pursuit. The toils and rewards of labor were divided between women and the mass of men, and there was not much real difference between the political and civil liberties of the bulk of the two sexes. Women were then not only much and well occupied, but were honored in their functions.
Their infirmities, incapacity, and inferiority, were not then the themes of philosophy and poetry, but their praise was the burden of song and sermon and scripture, as well as of sonnets, love-letters, and elegies. The summary of her excellencies, and the register of her offices, in the service of society, are given in fond and admiring detail by the author of the Proverbs which have been held sacred for nearly a thousand years. Says the wise man: ‘Who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies? The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She bringeth her food from afar. (The products of her industry are the exchanges of foreign commerce.) She riseth while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household and a portion to her maidens. (Lady in old Saxon, signified bread giver, and her house, it seems, was the ancient factory in which the hands were employed.)
‘She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet,’ or rather, as the margin has it, ‘with
[p. 27]double garments. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.’
‘She considereth a field and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard." (Among the Greeks, Ceres, the sister of Jupiter, taught the art of husbandry, and was the first that made laws for civil rights, and their systematic regulation arose necessarily out of agriculture, and the industrial interests which she created.
‘Ceres was she who first our furrows ploughed,
Who gave sweet fruits, and pleasant food allowed;
Ceres first tamed us with her gentle laws;
From her kind hand the world subsistence draws.’)
‘She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.’ (Mental and bodily imbecility were not then either her fault or her flattering distinction.) ‘She perceiveth that her merchandize is good. She letteth her hands hold the distaff. She maketh fine linen and selleth it, and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.’ (Minerva, the goddess and feminine type of wisdom, who sprang directly from the head of Jove, was called ‘the work-woman,’ because she invented divers arts, especially the art of spinning; and the distaff is ascribed to her.) ‘She openeth her mouth with wisdom. She stretcheth out her hands to the poor, and in her tongue is the law of kindness; yea, she reacheth forth her hand to the needy.’ (For is she not herself a dependent and beggar, living upon poetry and pin-money?) ‘She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness,’ concludes the character, with as much of honor to the lady of the olden time, as of reflected sarcasm upon the model women of modern conservation.
Thus, inspiration, both sacred and profane, concur in their ideal of woman, in the conditions to which the description applied.
But the changes of the times have robbed womanhood of its function, and given her instead a mission, which is our reproach with the undiscerning.
Agriculture, with all its labors, cares, and concerns, passed from her hands, first, into hands better fitted to the earlier labor-saving instruments, and is now rapidly becoming a matter of machinery and brute and chemical power merely. Manufactures, in like manner, have departed from the fireside and the homestead, and installed themselves in vast workshops, where science directs, and steam accomplishes, the work of fabricating the food and clothing of the community. Machinery has not only snatched the distaff and the loom from her hands, but the
[p. 28]needle, also, in all its ordinary uses, is fast following the wool-cards and the knitting-pins. In the middle ages she was the surgeon and doctress, also, as well as the nurse of the sick. The learned profession of leechcraft has taken these from her, too — even to the branch that most concerns her own dignity and delicacy, until, stripped at last of all her reliances and uses, by which her worth might be proved or her independence secured, her wages have sunk to the starvation point, her industry has ceased to be a virtue — having ceased to be a service or a support — and, in the broadest sense of the word, we may say, her ‘occupation's gone.’ The factory and the school-room, at slave wages, remain to her; but every one incapable of these, and every one forbidden by position to enter them, is put aside from the uses of life, and thrown upon the charity and indulgence of the industry that supports the welfare of the world.
But still another change has happened that embitters and aggravates her losses by sharpening the sensibilities which endure the injury. In the middle ages — the time of her honors and usefulness, the time when the poetical praise of pudding and shirt-making had some meaning, and when nursing the sick had still a little science left to redeem it from slavish degradation — there was no cheap literature, no science for the million, for children and women, no daily newspaper, with its gossip of the higher style, to provoke interest and awaken sympathy — to arouse the soul and make it know its larger powers and feel its higher wants; no public opinion engaged with the conversion of the heathen, the revolutions of China, the wrongs of the slave, and the fortunes of the isles of the ocean. The telegraph that ‘puts a girdle around the earth in twenty minutes’ had not been substituted for the tattle of the kitchen, nor the phonograph, for the hear-say reports of sermons and speeches; and, especially, there was no idle time, or time cheaper unoccupied than employed in work, that nobody wants and nobody will pay for; but the soul of the world has been awakened into new life. The wants of all souls have been enhanced, and those of women demand their just share of life in due adjustment to the changes that have occurred.
When the reaper went out with the obsolete sickle, the hand-loom weaver with his reed and shuttle, other occupations replaced them. The scythe and cradle are already doomed to extinction along with all slow coaches and processes known to our fathers; and their sons rightfully expect the substitution of functions which the new times supply. But women according to conservatism must accept flattery and marriage now in lieu of all their natural offices of usefulness and honor, because
[p. 29]their old time ministry has fallen before the march of modern improvement. Here then we stand amid the wreck of our fortunes, amid the ruins which the years have wrought, and cry for redress. We ask that the avocations which progress and improvement have substituted for all that we have lost be fairly opened to us. We appeal to the age which has deprived us of our functions and fortunes for restitution. You have taken away all that was ours of the old world. Give us therefore the position which belongs to us in the new. In the days of Solomon we bought wool and flax and manufactured them into cloth and "our husbands had need of no other spoil" than our industry supplied. You have swallowed up a thousand household workshops in every great factory, and we demand our place at the power loom with wages up to the full value of our services. We re-claim also our right of merchandize and its profits as of yore. In the middle ages we practised surgery, medicine and obstetrics. The healing art was ours, by prescription. Restore it to us. In the middle ages, copying manuscripts was a profession providing employment for thousands of women. Give us our place at the press, that has displaced the lost art. For the ruder labor, from which we have been taken and from which the world is now forever delivered, give us the use of those arts of modern birth to which we are so much better adapted than the usurping sex. Dentistry, daguerreotyping, designing, telegraphing, clerking in record offices, and a thousand other engagements which ask neither larger bones nor stronger sinews, and which touch neither the delicacy, nor the retirement, that you harp upon as the propriety of our sex.
For shame! Surrender these to us, or, at least, open them fairly to our even handed competition. The sovereignty of free citizens, even in this republic, is denied to us; but of this I do not speak, for it is not within the range of the present subject. I am now urging only our first claim to the privileges and facilities for earnest and useful recompensing and self-supporting work. Add not the unblushing selfishness of a refusal of this, to the insincere considerateness that you profess in despoiling us of our inherent right of self-government. Your Anglo-Saxon common law — the glory of modern freedom — took away our legal existence, merging it in that of our husbands, when we have any, to absorb our property and receive our earnings, and, suspending the civil rights of maidenhood and widowhood, when we had none. Your arts and sciences, have taken away that which supplied our animal existence and gave us position and power in the community; and now,
[p. 30]are we not justified at least in demanding useful occupations and the blessings which belong to them? The civil subjection of the past was bad enough, but it was mitigated by our social, domestic, and industrial consequence. All this is gone, or going, and you offer us only the cuance of genteel pauperism and dependence, under pretty names, that do not even conceal your own comtempt, much less, our shame.
Such considerations as these, and their like, we would address to those who resist us with reasoning against reason, right, and truth.
But there is instruction for ourselves, and direction invaluable for our own use, in the facts of our past and present condition. History teaches us something in this wise. The masses of our modern societies have been emancipated from serfdom, by the power that there is in usefulness, and the inherent force that there is in available capability.
With the rise of productive industry to greater control over the elements which support life, and those things which enlighten and refine societary existence, the agents, actually employed in the liberalizing work, have been carried up with it until, in our freer communities, every man of full age has a voice in his own government, and, to that extent, a control over the distribution and appropriation of his own products. Liberty is seldom aohieved by victory in arms, but it is always acquired by the might of arms in useful industry.
Whoever can pay for himself, and support himself, may be free. When a man's intrinsic manhood is really worth as much as he will bring in the market he may be his own purchaser, and pass even under the laws of slavery from the condition of bondage to that of freedom. Bones, muscles and latent capacities may be shackled, but efficient force can never be.
Poverty is essentially slavery if not legal yet actual. The women of the time, the women worthy of the time must understand this and they must go to work! They must press into every avenue, every open door that custom and law leaves unguarded, aye, and themselves withdraw the bolts and bars from others still closed against them that they may enter and take possession. They must purchase themselves out of bondage. Let those who are chosen and called begin the enterprise: let them select the points of attack, address themselves to the task, and they will carry them by the peaceable force of all-conquering industry.
The occupations now generally accorded to us are essentially menial, and we are compelled to take the character of servants to enter most of them; and then, in the language of this progressive and calculating age, they ‘don't pay.’ We must take the reputation which courtesy gives
[p. 31]the sex in our hands, and put it at risk, while we put the prejudice and selfishness that restrains us to the question. In a word, we must endeavor to establish our PERSONAL independence, and we must no longer be content with the position and the limits which opinion assigns. It needs but to set a good example, in every promising department, of self-supporting industry to carry our point, and effect our emancipation.
In professional authorship women have accomplished wonders already; in the practice of medicine, though the first female diploma is not yet five years old, the way is opened, and widening every day. The practice without the parchment did much to prepare the way, but now, even the regular study is well provided for, or in process of rapid preparation.
Prejudice goes down without an argument before success. The world does not look so sharply into the titles of persons in possession as upon mere claimants who stand outside and ask for it. The arts, the handicrafts, the shops and various offices are open wide enough now for an energetic woman's admittance. Women now administer their deceased husbands' estates. They are just as capable of administering those of strangers, and should not be passed by when your last wills and testaments are made. Nor should we be negligent of that preparation which would fit us to be selected for such appointments. But it is not my present purpose to indicate the specialities of the vast range of business and professional engagements to which the principle directs us.
My principal thought has been presented imperfectly, but I hope, suggestively, and to useful ends. Indeed, when I reflect upon the untold evils, the unfathomed depths of wretchedness and crime, to which want of profitable and suitable occupation exposes my sisters of all conditions, I could almost wish the ages men call dark were restored to us. The healthy, vigorous, earnest, busy, honorable women, whose children could rise up and call blessed, and husbands could render homage to as their crown of honor, were a good exchange, methinks, for the imbecile and incapable body of fashion, who divides her time pretty evenly between her dressmaker, her physician and her clergyman. But how much more touching the sufferings of those hosts of honorable, truly honorable women who would, but cannot find a day's work that justifies their living through it. And what shall be said of similar helplessness oppressed with poverty and dependency — whose daily struggles are environed by starvation on the one side, and profligacy on the other? Crowned and guarded by his natural freedom, no honest man is held so close between the choice of sin and suffering, for a thousand worthy means of livelihood
[p. 32]invite his energies, and reward his efforts. This evil must be amended. The virtuous and noble womanhood of the times must open the way. They must take up the BREAD QUESTION AND SOLVE THE PROBLEM of industrial independence. by extending and enriching the varieties of work that women shall do in this busy world, and so carry on their personal emancipation, while their civil and social enfranchisment makes its way in the sentiments of men. In a word, we must buy ourselves out of bondage, and work our way into liberty and honor. For just as long as the world stands, its government will go with its cares services and responsibilities.
Children and women, till they can keep themselves, will be kept in pupilage by the same power which supports them."
W. L. GARRISON. — "I wish to make an explanation. I had occasion to speak, in terms of merited severity, in regard to certain false, foul, and Satanic reports of the Whole World's Temperance Convention, and the Anti-Slavery Meetings of Sunday last. I simply mean to say that I did not intend to cast any reflection on the reporters at this Convention. They are strangers to me, and ‘sufficient to the day’ will be their report of our proceedings. I condemn no man in advance, and trust we will to-morrow find a fair and accurate report, as far as practicable, of the doings of to-day. We only ask to be honestly reported, and not basely and foully caricatured. I will cherish the hope till to-morrow, that we will be fairly reported. I wish to add to the papers I have alluded to in terms of condemnation, another, strangely misnamed ‘The National Democrat,’ edited, I am told, by a Rev, or ex-Rev. gentleman, the Rev. Chauncey C. Burr. I will read as a specimen, a single paragraph, referring to the Anti-Slavery Meeting at Metropolitan Hall:
Time was when a full-blooded nigger meeting in New York would have been heralded with the cry of "tar and feathers;" but, alas! in these degenerate days, we are called to lament merely over an uproarious disturbance. The Tribune groans horribly, it is true, because a set of deistical fanatics were interrupted in their villainous orgies; but it should rather rejoice that no hareher means were resorted than "tufts of graes." Talk about freedom! Is any land so lost in self respect — so sunk in infamy — that God-defying, Bible-abhorring sacrilege will be tacitly allowed! Because the bell-wether of the Tribune accompanied by a phalanx of blue peticoats, is installed as the grand-master of outrages, is that any reason for personal respect, and public humiliation! In view of all the aggravating circumstances of the case, we congratulate the fool-hardy fanatics upon getting off as easy as they did; and we commend the forbearance of the considerate crowd in not carrying their coercive measures to extremes, because, the humbug
[p. 33]being exploded, all that is necessary now is to laugh, hiss, and vociferously appland. When men make up their minds to vilify the bible, denounce the constitution, and defame their country, (although this is a free country) they should go down in some obscure cellar, remote from mortal ken, and even there whisper their hideous treason against God and Liberty.
CYRUS M. BURLEIGH. — Our age is called progressive, and I suppose this extract which you have just heard, is an illustration of the progress of our age. Our friend who last spoke has told you that the paper he quoted from is edited by a Rev. Mr. Burr. I had the opportunity of an acquaintance with the Rev. gentleman some six years ago, as a very prominent lecturer on anti-capital punishment, and anti-slavery. He then held the audiences of Philadelphia fascinated by the spell of his eloquence, as he drew glowing pictures of the horrors of slavery, and the rights of the colored people to the privileges of freemen in Pennsylvania. He was also an equally devoted advocate of Women's Rights; but I suppose he has made the same progress in this direction as he has in the anti-slavery question. Let him only progress for six years more at the same ratio he has advanced during the last six, and I leave it to your imagination to depict the state of excellency at which he shall have arrived."
Mrs.MOTT. — "It may, perhaps, be as well to say no more, in the way of anticipation, as to how the newspapers will act in reporting these proceedings. The better way will, probably, be to hope for the best. When the sittings of the Convention shall have ended, then all will be able to judge how the journals have acted, whether fairly or otherwise."
Mr. S. M. BOOTH, of Wisconsin, (Editor of the Milwaukie Free Democrat), spoke in allusion to the injustice of "The World's Temperance Convention" towards woman, and expressed himself as strongly in favor of the Woman's Rights movement.
JNO. C. CLUER, of Boston, then made some remarks disapproving of the proceedings of "The World's Temperance Convention" with reference to the participation of women in their meetings, and also spoke of the efficiency of Elizabeth Jackson, of England, in the Temperance movement, for twenty years past.
Dr. J. E. SNODGRASS, of Baltimore, made some remarks in reply to Mr. Cluer; and Mr. Cluer having spoken briefly in answer, and Miss Lucy Stone having made a short speech with reference to the subject of the colloquy between these gentlemen,
ABBY H. PRICE, of Hopedale, came forward and spoke as follows: "At this late hour of the Session I can only offer a few remarks. The
[p. 34]justice of the cause, we assert, cannot, I conceive, be disputed by any candid and reasonable mind. An equality of rights among those on whom the laws press with an equality of weight, seems a demand founded on first principles so obvious, that the only matter of surprise is, how it can be denied for a moment; or rather, that would be matter of surprise, did we not know how little, hitherto, the world has been guided by rationality, and how completely spell-bound have the customs of society become under the frost of prejudice and old habit. I can fancy this frost dissolved; indeed. I already see the sun of progress play on its cold surface. I hail the light of progression. Indeed, history teaches us that we have progressed a little way. In the savage state of human communities, woman was the poorest slave, in the coarsest and most corporeal sense, of her tyrant. She has never been disenthralled, but the advance of refinement has removed some of the more tangible and disgraceful badges of her servitude. She has become the toy of man, an ornament with which he was glad to deck the halls of his leisure and recreation; but not the less a slave. Indeed, perhaps the latter condition is the more insupportable of the two; for when woman was released from the coarser brutality of her serfdom; when her hands were relieved from the merest drudgery, and her mind became thus unoccupied and given over to that absence of sordid care, which, while to some it became vacuity, was still improved by others into a means of culture and progression; then the awakened mind, starting from a lethargy only to find itself in fetters, felt the ‘entering of the iron into the soul’ with an acuteness of sensation of which it was incapable in its dormant state. The evil, however, will, must provide its own remedy, and I hail from this platform the advent of a better day. My object now is merely to make mention of a journal edited by PAULINA W. DAVIS, of Providence; it is called the ‘Una,’ and is devoted to the elevation of woman; the price is a dollar a year, payable in advance. I may also mention a school for teaching women to print, which has been opened. Phœbe Patterson is now a practical printer, and the design is to have the paper printed entirely by women, when a large enough number can be found to do this work. The undertaking of Mrs. Davis is patronised by Horace Greeley, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and other."
LUCY STONE. — "I wish to say one word as to an item which fell from the lips of Mrs. Davis. She makes woman say to man, ‘Give, give us the opportunity, &c.’ I would say to woman. ‘Take, take, &c.’ She also speaks of woman's ‘going in at the doors that are open.’ Now, I would rather say, ‘women, open the doors for yourselves.’"
Mrs. DAVIS. — "There is a slight misapprehension of what I said. I did say, go through the open doors; but I added a recommendation to open the doors that are not open."
LUCY STONE — "I would give three cheers for that sentiment, and I am glad of what I have said, as it has procured a repetition of the idea. Women, we must not wait for men to give; we must do our own work: if we do not, we will never get men to help us. This is the fact, speaking in a general way. My father and brothers give me their aid in the good work I have undertaken; but all are not like them. There is a kind of half-grown manhood, which glories, as in its chief prerogative, in denying to woman her rights, and humiliating her. It is a wretched specimen in natural history; but such as it is, we have to deal with it; and, as yet, it includes the larger number of men. We may ask indeed: but shall we receive? Better far for us to adopt the shorter method, and take. Women, you must all work in this matter; nothing can be accomplished without your labor."
Mrs. MOTT. — "I feel much regret that the debate of the present session took so wide a range. Our time is limited, and it is earnestly requested that all speakers will strictly confine themselves to the matter under discussion. There has been, perhaps, too much time given to debating the subject of hissing, and such other disturbances. These matters would, most probably, be better left in the back ground on the present occasion. We expect to hear some speakers of note at the session of this evening; we shall probably be favored with addresses from Antoinette L. Brown, Rev. Wm. H. Channing, and Mrs. E. L. Rose, among others."
PHILIP D. MOORE, of Newark, N. J., expressed his sympathy with the movement in a few words. He had belonged to the Friends' Society, from which he had been excommunicated lately on account of that sympathy. The session closed at 5 P. M.
First Day: Evening Session
THE session opened at 7 ½ P. M. The President again spoke of the necessity of each speaker keeping close to the subject, which should be found in some one of the resolutions of the Convention, and observing
[p. 36]the limitation of time. It would also be well, as far as possible, to avoid bringing into discussion the actions of any other body. She then introduced
W. H. CHANNING, who spoke thus: — "When I was returning from the first Woman's Rights Meeting, at Worcester, a friend said to me, ‘I intend getting up a Man's Rights Society; you misunderstand the matter; all the efforts of Society are for the elevation of woman, and man has to perform the drudgery. The consequence is, the women are far better educated than the men.’ The answer was obvious: — ‘If women are, according to your admission, fitted for the higher plane, why keep them on the lower?’ My friend then went on to say, that the whole of this scheme was considered to be of the most morally visionary character, and the proof of this feeling was the slight opposition it met, ‘for,’ said he, ‘if it were looked on by society as serious, it would be at once, and forcibly, opposed in the church, by the press, in all public assemblies and private circles.’ Now, the object of this, and all such conventions, is to prove that we have made up our minds as regards operation and method; that we have looked clearly into the future; and that we have at heart this movement, as we have no other of the day, believing that out of this central agitation of society will come healthful issues of life. The inhabitants of Eastern India speak of a process for gaining immortality, namely, churning together the sea and the earth. They say the gods had the serpent by the head, and the devils had it by the tail, and out of the churning of the foam came the waters of immortality. The movement we are engaged in, may be typified by the Indian allegory; and out of the commotion we make shall be drawn a new principle which shall be one of immortal growth to all society.
I ask you first to consider the radical principle which gives life and motion to this cause. We do not assert that, morally or intellectually, man is higher than woman, or woman higher than man; we merely assert, that all human beings, without distinction of sex, have an equal right to the development of their energies, and their free exercise, in all useful pursuits; and we challenge any man of sound reason and upright conscience, to show the falsity of the position, and to prove why a limit of development should be placed to woman which should not be to man.
In the next place, we bring this principle to bear on all the relations of society as they exist, and maintain that it is only by the carrying out of this principle that justice can be done to woman. This fact,
[p. 37]also, stares us in the face, that, in all woman's actions, she is conscious of a latent energy and character, which comes not into external existence; and we perceive that, it is not owing to the want of those qualities in her, but to the want of justice in man, that her depressed position is to be ascribed; and bringing this principle also to bear, we demand that those, her energies, shall be developed as God designed that they should be, that they may be effective in stamping her image upon life.
Thus much for the fundamental principle. In the next place, as regards the differences between men and women, we say, that out of them grows union, not separation. Every organ of the body is double; in the pulsations of the heart a double machinery is used, — there is a double auricle and a double ventricle. It is so in the inspirations which flow from God to society; they must pass twice, — once through the heart of man, once through the heart of woman; they must stream through the reforming and through the conservative organ; and thus, out of the very difference which exists between man and woman, arises the necessity for their co-operation. It has never been asserted that man and woman are alike; if they were, where would be the necessity for urging the claims of the one? No; they differ, and for that very reason it is, that only through the action of both, can the fullness of their being find development and expression. We know that woman exerts an influence on man, as man does on woman, to call forth his latent resources. In the difference, we find a call for union. And to this union we perceive no limit; on the contrary, whatever necessity there is for the combination in the private, there is the same necessity for it in the public sphere.
In the next place, we assert that our view of this principle is justified by all the experience of history, and especially by the history of this Christian civilization of which we are members, and amid which we were bred. To bring out its full moral tone, — to make the law of love the law of life, — the full influence of woman must be evolved; and, coming to our own form of civilization, which is republican, we ask any man of honor and of common sense, — should not the government grow out of the consent, judgment, and conscience of the whole people? Should there be a systematic exclusion of one half? Should taxation press equally on the whole, and yet representation be accorded only to one half?
It is said man is the representative of woman. Then let him give a double vote; let him carry with him the meaning and the requirements
[p. 38]of woman, and shape one of his votes accordingly. This is only common sense, and all else is prejudice. Thus much I have said as to the historical view of the question.
And now I will meet the two great objections made. It is not objectionable, it is said, that woman, in some spheres of life, should give an expression of her intellect; but, on the platform, she loses her character of woman, and becomes incidentally masculine. Just observe the practical absurdities of which society is guilty. The largest assemblies greet with clamors Jenny Lind, when she enchains the ear and exalts the soul with the sublime strain, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth;’ but when Mrs. Mott, or Miss Brown stands with a simple voice, and in the spirit of truth, to make manifest the honor due to our Redeemer, rowdies hiss, and respectable Christians veil their faces! So, woman can sing but not speak, that "our Redeemer liveth." Again; the great men of our land do not consider it unworthy of their character to take from Ellsler what she makes by the mere movement of her limbs, by a mere mechanical action, to aid in erecting a column to commemorate our struggle for liberty. The dollars are received and built into the column; but when Mrs. Rose, or Mrs. Foster, who feels the spirit of justice within her, and who has felt the injustice of the laws, stands up to show truth and justice, and build a spiritual column, she is out of her sphere! and the honorable men turn aside, and leave her to be the victim of rowdyism, disorder, and lawlessness! It is not out of character that Mrs. Butler should read Shakspere on the stage, to large circles. The exercise of the voice on the stage is womanly, while she gives out the thoughts of another; but suppose (and it is not unsupposable) a living female Shakspere to appear on a platform, and utter her inspirations, — delicacy is shocked, decency is outraged, and society turns away in disgust! Such are the consistencies of society!
This is simply and merely prejudice, and it reminds me of the proverb, "If you would behold the stars aright, blow out your own taper." I say there is a special reason why woman should come forward as a speaker; because she has a power of eloquence which man has not, arising from the fineness of her organization, and the intuitive power of her soul; and I charge any man with arrogance, if he pretend to match himself in this respect, with many women here, and thousands throughout our country. (Hissing.) I take it, the hissing comes from men who never had a mother to love and honor, a sister to protect, and who never knew the worth of a wife. Woman's power to
[p. 39]cut to the quick, and touch the conscience, is beautifully accompanied by her unmatched adaptation to pour balm into the wound; and though the flame she applies may burn into the soul; it, also, affords a light to the conscience, which never can be dimmed.
There is an exquisite picture by Retsch, which represents angels showering roses on devils; to the angels they are roses, but the devils writhe under them as under fire. On sinful souls, the words of women fall as coals from the altar of God. And here let me offer my humble gratitude to the women who have borne the brunt of the test with the calm courage which the woman alone can exhibit; to the women who have taught us that, as daughters of God, they are the equals of his children everywhere on earth.
Let me add another word upon this interference, or rather, entrance, of woman into the sphere of politics. As a spiritual being, her duties are like those of man; but, inasmuch as she is different from man, man cannot discharge them; and if there be any truth in holding, (as our institutions do,) that the voice of the whole is the nearest approach we can make to eternal truth, we, of course, cannot arrive at it, till woman, as well as man, is heard in the search for it.
God, not man, nor herself, made her woman: there is nothing arbitrary in the distinction; and let the true woman go where she may, she will retain her womanhood. We wish to see her enter into politics, not to degrade herself, but to bring them up to her own level of simple-heartedness and purity of soul. Can man ever raise them to that lofty height? Never! woman alone can do it — it is a work reserved for her, and by her and her alone will it be done.
Whose exploits leave the brightest lines of moral courage on the historic page? Those of woman! When the French had broken through the barriers, the maid of Saragossa rushed to the breach. The demand of the invader came to Palafox, and he trembled: but what the heart of man was unequal to, the courage of woman could perform, and the answer of the heroic maiden was, ‘War to the knife!’ And so, always when man has faltered, woman, earnest and simple-hearted, has answered, War to the knife with evil! (A frightful yell from the gallery.) I perceive my friend is anxious to hear a woman speak to him as only a woman can. I will soon give way and let him be gratified: but, first, I will tell him an anecdote. A woman once told me she never saw a horse so wild that she could not tame him. I asked her how, and she answered, ‘simply by whispering in his ear.’ Our wild friend in the
[p. 40]gallery will probably receive some benefit from listening to the voice of a woman — if his ears be only long enough to hear her."
MRS. MOTT. "I will again request the speakers to adhere strictly to the subjects presented in our Resolutions, and to the questions under discussion, and not to allow themselves to be diverted by any demonstration either of approval or disapproval, made among the audience. I would request of them not to reply to, or take any notice of, any such demonstration: I will now introduce to the Convention the Rev. Antoinette L. Browne."
MISS BROWNE spoke thus: "It is a very common idea that this movement is antagonistic to the rights of men. It is a mistaken and unfortunate idea: all rights are consistent and eternal, and therefore never can clash with one another. That which is mine is not my neighbor's; that which belongs to woman cannot belong to her brother. We ask the rights which we concede to him, the rights which are (and there are no other) inherent in humanity, and which belong to woman as woman, and to man as man. We do not attempt to decide if men and women are like or unlike. This is an open question. We do not wish women to go forth and pick up masculine qualities and engraft them as her own. Some do not believe the two natures are so homogeneous as to make such a horticultural experiment even tolerably successful. Were woman illiberal and unfair as man has but too long shown himself to be, then indeed there might be a retaliatory conflict of rights: but when woman asks only what she is ready to grant, when she is guided by the golden rule. ‘Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you,’ all objections which the ignorance of some and the evil designs of others might seek to throw as stumbling-blocks in our way, as we seek for truth, must vanish into thin air.
This morning I went to the Temperance Convention sitting at Metropolitan Hall, and brought with me my credentials as a delegate from a Temperance body. I refer to this subject now, as I understand it has become the origin of some discussion in this Convention. It was with reluctance I went there. Had we known that that body was fully ready to endorse the proceedings which took place in the Brick Church, I would never have gone to ask the rights which had been refused to my sisters. I did not know they would endorse them, and they did not. They have taken a higher and nobler position; they stand as a ‘Whole World's Temperance Convention;’ although I think the first word is altogether unnecessary, and the phrase would be sufficiently explicit and comprehensive without it. The are which measures the
[p. 41]circumference of that meeting is no longer a broken sphere; and man may with confidence array himself under the arch, for it has a firm foundation. Were it otherwise, then should we believe that those persons who form the Convention were no more than the decomposed lights of the present century, and looking up to them we should expect to behold all the variety of the prismatic colors; but it is not so; now we can look them frankly in the face, and find there the pure light whose very purity manifests the universality of its composition.
A question, I am told, has been raised here as to my having been hissed when I first appeared upon the platform. Certainly there was no such hissing. When we went in, there was a resolution before the body. The organization had not been completed at the time, and a temporary chairman was presiding. The resolution was, to receive all persons without distinction of color or sex. I went to the secretary, and inquired of him who was the proper person to present my credentials to. A person was pointed out, and I asked him whether he was the President of the Committee on Credentials. He said he was not, but that he was to receive them, and told me what was under discussion, and that it would be decided in a few minutes. The decision was, to lay the resolution on the table. I went again on the platform, and there was no hissing; I took my seat and there was no hissing. In the meantime, while waiting until the appointment of a President, it was said that, by the call of the convention, any one who came as a delegate, whether man or woman, with proper credentials, would be received. After the officers were appointed, I rose and asked the President if I was received. He replied that I was, and the audience cheered. There might have been, at one time, when I rose and waited for an opportunity of speaking, some hissing; and it might have been for me, but ignorance is bliss. It might have been for others, as there was plenty of hissing in the house. I did not wish to stand on the platform, but sat, as it seemed to me I made myself too conspicuous by walking across the platform. Afterwards it was moved that none but officers should sit there. This was said to be for the purpose of excluding ladies. One member said he came to the World's Temperance Convention hoping not to be annoyed by women and negroes. Several amendments were proposed, among others one that none but officers and invited guests should sit on the platform. This was carried. I have not yet been invited; perhaps I may be. Before the resolution was passed, I arose to go away, when one gentleman said he had no objection to receive gentlemen on the platform, provided they wore the
[p. 42]garb of gentlemen. You may gather your own inference from that very gentlemanly remark.
The Temperance movement, and that for Woman's Rights are, in some respects, one; but let me now leave the temperance movement, and talk of some matters which may come up before us this evening. Our cause is progressing triumphantly; and yet it is not without some to oppose it. Who are they? Persons utterly ignorant of the claims which its advocates advance, ignorant alike of the wrongs existing, and of the remedy proposed. They suppose that a few mad-cap reformers are endeavoring to overthrow dame Nature, to invert society, to play the part of merciless innovators to imperil religion, to place all civil and religious freedom in jeopardy, that if our ends were accomplished all the public and private virtues would be melted as in a crucible, and thrown upon the ground, thence to cry aloud to heaven like the blood of righteous Abel. Were it not that curiosity is largely developed in this class, they would go down to their graves wholly uninformed of our true principles, motives, and aims. They look upon us as black beetles or death's heads, to be turned away from with horror; but their curiosity overcomes their repugnance, and they would investigate some of our properties, as a naturalist does those of a noxious animal.
There is another class, that of genuine bigots, with hearts so ossified that no room can be found for one noble and expensive principle within those little stony cells. Many of this class may be persons of excellent intentions; they would do us good if they could, but they approach us with somewhat of the feeling with which Miss Ophelia regarded Topay, the abhorrence that is experienced on drawing near a large black spider. They try to show us our errors, but if we attempt to justify by argument the ground we have taken, they cry aloud that we are obstimate and unreasonable, especially when we quote text for text, as Christ did when talking with a certain person of old. They can give us no toleration: we leave our own dark and contracted cells, and crawl into domains in which we have not the privilege to appear. We are mere black spiders, disgracing the walls of a regal palace, and we must be mercilessly swept away. Thus all their benevolence vanishes, and we are subdued, not by reason, but by unreasoning denunciation.
But the most hopeless and spiteful of our opponents is that large class of women whose merits are not their own; who have acquired some influence in society, not by any noble thoughts they have framed and uttered, not by any great deed they have done, but by the accident of having fathers, brothers, or husbands, whose wealth elevates them to
[p. 43]the highest wave of fashion, and there enables them to roll in luxurious and indolent pomp, like Venus newly risen from the ocean. They feel how much easier it is to receive the incense of honor and respect, (however insincerely paid to them) without any effort of their own, than to undergo the patient toil after excellence which wrings from the heart of all that homage of true honor which cannot be denied to it. They, unused to any noble labor, (as all labor is,) either physical or mental, will be careful, to a degree of splenetic antagonism, how they will allow the introduction, into the acknowledged rights and duties of their sex, of a new element which may establish the necessity of their being themselves energetic and efficient. We need never hope to find any of this class change, until compelled to do so by public sentiment. The opposition here is really rabid. Intellectual women! — oh, they are monsters! As soon allow wild beasts to roam at large as these to be let loose on society. Like lions and tigers, keep them in their menagerie; perhaps they needn't be actually chained, but see that they are well secured in their cages!
These are far more bitterly hostile than the men of small proportions, who are willing to have a great woman tower above them from time to time — such as a Madame de Stael. Such a case, however they would rank as an exception, not admit as a rule. To allow women to stand every day in the foremost lines of intellect and ability, is a thought altogether too expansive to be entertained by them.
Such are the oppositions we meet; but they are all melting down like frost-work before the morning sun. The day is dawning when the intellect of women shall be recognized as well as that of men, and when her rights shall meet an equal and cordial acknowledgement. The greatest wrong and injustice ever done to woman is that done to her in-intellectual nature. This, like Goliath among the Philistines, overtops all the rest. Drones are but the robbers of the hive; — educated ladies are but surfeited, to a dronish condition, on the sweets of literature. Such minds are not developed, but moulded in a fashionable pattern.
I know much is said about the proper education of our daughters; but the girls ask languidly: "What is our education for?" A natural enough inquiry; for where there is no prospect of a use to which, in after life, the discipline of the mind is to be applied, how truly useless that discipline must appear! The salt of intellect thus loses its savor. You may heap on their memories piles that oppress them: but is that true discipline, the preparing of a mind for an active course of usefulness? No; this course they must open for themselves. Many women
[p. 44]already ask, ‘What have we been educated for?’ To leave on the hearts of their children the earliest impress of a mother — to fix there those holiest characters, the trace of which should endure for ever? Alas! no; as society now directs, the child is taken from the mother at that too early age when the sensibilities alone are touched. while the intellect is scarcely yet awakened. Is it to suit her to be a companion to her husband? A few years in a popular or fashionable finishing school are thought to be quite enough for that purpose, What, then, is woman to be educated for? Alas! to have her intellect left, like the sword of Hudibras,
‘To eat into itself for lack
Of something else to hew and back.’
She will not be an early riser to brush the dew off the flowers of learning — to search for the gems of pure philosophy — to work the iron veins of logic — unless her labors are to turn to some practical utility. Could we make gold of no value, do you suppose hundreds and thousands would sacrifice themselves to that Moloch in the placers of California, or among the mines of Australia? No! these would be soon deserted, and their populousness become as a tale that is told. And even so is the intellect of woman undeveloped, because the treasures it contains are held of little price. No wonder that, when women's aspirations rise high, they fall back, and she is crushed to the earth! No wonder woman is as weak as she is; and yet the world taunts her with the weakness which the world has caused! She has not as many achievements to point to as man has! What are her great works? I cannot pause to answer. But if there be a barrenness of these, behold the cause! Let her attempt any intellectual feat, and straightway there is a cry, ‘a masculine mind!’ This is either a sneer, or, at best, a very equivocal compliment.
What, then, is woman to do? Must she suffer her emotions to be stifled? God has created the human race male and female. She hears the voice of God in her own soul. There was One who went about speaking truth and doing good. He was bitterly and mercilessly persecuted — persecuted even unto death. Let woman hear his voice — ‘Follow me!’ — and she dares not be silent. Can she look the oppressed of ages in the face — can she hear the voice within her, and
[p. 45]then shrink from her task, and dishonor her great responsibility? No. Let no indefinite nonsense about her sphere seduce or shame her from her glorious calling. Let her do her work with true womanly dignity, and every true heart will give her its ‘farewell!’ — every heart capable of appreciating the sublime, will be with her, and she need not fear."
Mrs. MOTT. — "Perhaps the speaker is not aware of the rule limiting her to half an hour."
Miss BROWNE. — "I am aware of the rule, but did not suppose I had occupied anything near that space of time."
W. H. CHANNING. — "I desire to say a word about a paper which is the organ of this Convention. and one of the best newspapers in the United states. It is the Una, published by Mrs. Paulina W. Davis, and I recommend all here to subscribe to it. The lady will go about to receive subscriptions. The cost is one dollar a year."
ERNESTINE Q. ROSE being introduced to the Convention, spoke in these words:
"Madam PRESIDENT — My friends, the wrongs of woman, against which we stand up here to protest, are not of recent date: they are hoary-headed with age; they are sanctified by superstition: they are engrafted by prejudice, and supported by ignorance and injustice. We know, therefore, the contest we have to maintain, the amount of obstacles we have to encounter; but we are supported by a reliance on that Justice in whose balance all these obstacles are but as a feather's weight. In claiming our rights, we demand no more than what no human being ought to be deprived of — our natural and inalienable rights. In times past, every introducer of a new idea had to pay the penalty of arousing conservatism out of its accustomed repose and inaction; and thus, every step of freedom had to be wrung from the stronghold of tyranny and usurpation; every step of human progress has been made through channels of human blood; every demand for an accession of human rights had to be first heard in the solemn protest of martyred patriotism, or the loud cries of crushed and starving labor. Humanity has ever had to fight its way against the despotism of kings and the bigotry of priests. It is no argument, therefore, to say that the whole social fabric of the past is against this last and greatest struggle of humanity for the equal rights of all her children. It is rather a stimulus for persevering exertion, for in every step of progress we read, in language not to be misunderstood, that the whole rotten fabric of the past, which is based only on tyranny and usurpation, must crumble to the dust, and give way to a new order of things based on the immutable laws of justice and humanity. Nor need
[p. 46]we go to the past to learn this lesson, for even at this day, where tyranny and usurpation claim divine right to oppress the people — where no one is yet considered free, we could not stand up and demand our rights, for there no human being has any.
Before Nicholas of Russia, of Francis Joseph of Austria, who reign by the grace of God; before Napoleon the little, who reigns by the grace of the Pope; or before the Pope, who reigns by the grace of French bayonets, we dare not, we could not, stand up and claim our rights. But, thank fortune, we are not there, but here, in a land of freedom; a republic that has recognized the immutable principle, that the only rightful power of government is derived from the consent of the governed; which has proclaimed the eternal truth, that all men are created equal, and are endowed with inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: a declaration wafted, like the voice of hope, on the breezes of heaven to the remotest parts of earth, to whisper freedom and equality to the down-trodden children of men. In a country that has proclaimed individual rights pre-eminent over all things, and subjected the governing power to the sovereignty of the people, there is no need to apologise for our claims, for the principles and declarations of this country have theoretically recognized them in those of humanity.
[A portion of the audience caused a great deal of confusion at this point of Mrs. Rose's address, by indecorous conduct, and impertinent voices; but order being partially restored, (although, through the whole of her address, she was more or less interrupted in the same way,) she continued thus:]
But we do stand here to call upon the law-makers and law-breakers of the nation, to defend themselves for so grossly violating these fundamental principles. Restore to us our rights, or disprove their validity. For this nation stands arraigned, not only before the bar of injured womanhood, but also before the bar of moral consistancy; for, wherever human rights are claimed for man, moral consistency points to the equal rights of woman. And yet, in the very face of the declarations and principles of human equality, woman, the mockingly so called better-half of man, has yet to plead for her rights, nay, for her life, for what is life without liberty? And what is liberty without equality of rights? And as for the pursuits of happiness, no choice is left to woman. She is not allowed to decide what might best promote it. Oh, no! she must only thankfully accept what man in the plenitude of his wisdom and generosity decides as best for her to do, namely, what
[p. 47]he does not choose to do himself. Thus is this glorious country, which has written on its banners, ‘The equal rights of man!’
[The speaker was here interrupted by another disturbance, which lasted several minutes. Mrs. Rose preserved the utmost calmness during the uproar, and several times requested her friends to be seated, saying, she would continue her discourse. At length, she resumed in these words:
I ask the simple question, — why should woman not be entitled to her inalienable rights, as well as man? Is it simply because she is woman? Humanity recognizes no sex; mind recognizes no sex; virtue and vice, pleasure and pain, happiness and misery, life and death recognize no sex. Like man, woman comes involuntarily into existence; like him she has physical, intellectual, and moral powers, on the proper cultivation of which depends her happiness. Like him she is liable to all the vicissitudes of life; like him she has to pay the penalty for infringing Nature's laws; like him she desires happiness, and fears pain; like him she enjoys or suffers with her country; and yet, in the laws for the violation of which she suffers the same penelty as man, she has no rights! In government, to whose power she is subject, she has no voice! And though we are told that taxation and representation are inseperable, yet, she is taxed, without being represented! From the cradle to the grave she is subject to the power and control of man, — father, guardian, husband, master still, — one conveys her like some piece of merchandise over to the other. At marriage she loses her entire identity. According to Blackstone, the husband and wife are one; andthat one is the husband, except, indeed, when she violates some law, the penalty of which is imprisonment, or death then the one-ness falls asunder. Blackstone's husband is not the one to suffer; the elements separate, — ‘Richard is himself again,’ and the wife, the woman, has to bare her neck to the stroke of the man-made law!
But, I am told, that it has reference to the interest of husband and wife; the interest ought to be one. With all my heart and mind do I respond to this noble idea. Degrading and wretched is that married state which known no one-ness of interests! But what does it mean, the interest of husband and wife being one? In my imperfect knowledge of the English language, that phrase conveys to my mind this idea of perfect equality; no difference of interest; no jarring between them of mine and thine; all is ours, their interests, rights, privileges, enjoyment, happiness, are identical, the same, no more and no less but perfect equality! Is that a true definition of the term? This is
[p. 48]a definition to my mind. Have you a better? Give it to me, and I will gladly accept; but, if you have not, let us take this as the right one, and proceed to see how far the law, which pronounces this identity of interest carries out in practice. At marriage, all the personal pro-property and the rent and the interest of the real estate, of the woman, goes to her husband. By a recent statute, a woman may hold real estate in her own name; but, if she wishes to have it sold, and empowers her husband to sell it, (as whom else would a wife intrust with her business? as she herself has not been brought up so as to understand the transaction of such business, and even if she did understand it, it would not be lady-like to do it!) the moment the money touches his hand he can claim it as his own, and she has no redress in law. I may be told, that this is a fraud which no man of honor or honesty, — no man deserving the name of husband would commit. Perfectly true!
But, please remember that, unfortunately, not all men are possessed of the noble qualities of honor and honesty, nor is every man worthy of the sacred title of husband; and laws are not required for those who are a ‘law unto themselves,’ but for the lawless, who abide by no law, external or internal. Laws are to protect the inexperienced innocent against the designing guilty. I hope you will take notice of these nice points of law, particularly you, my sisters, because the time, I trust, is coming when we shall be our own lawyers and our own judges; yes, and (as is suggested by Mr. Channing,) our own jury too. It is true, my hope goes far even beyond, and in the vista of the future, my hope extends to the time when we shall require no lawyers at all; when man and woman will understand the simple law of justice and humanity, which requires no lawyer to interpret. But until that glorious time comes, we must be acquainted with the laws which exist, and know how to claim justice, and how to defend it, for it is only thus that we shall ever obtain it.
By the same laws, a girl of sixteen may devise property in a last will and testament; but if she marries afterwards, her husband can revoke the will. (If there are here any young ladies who have a desire to make wills, I hope they will take notice of this.)
When the husband dies intestate and leaves a house, the law very magnanimously allows the widow to remain in it forty days without paying rent. In addition, the law allows the widow during her life, an interest in one-third of the real estate. Thus suppose the estate worth one thousand dollars, she would have a life interest in three hundred
[p. 49]and thirty-three dollars, thirty-three cents and one-third, which, at six per cent, would amount to the incredible sum of twenty dollars and two cents!
As to the personal property, after all debts and liabilities are discharged, the widow receives one-half of it; and, in addition, the law kindly allows her, her own wearing apparel, herown orn aments, proper to her station, one bed, with appurtenances for the same, a stove, the Bible, family pictures, and all the school-books; also all spinning wheels and weaving looms, one table, six chairs, ten cups and saucers, one tea-pot, one sugar dish, and six spoons. (Much laughter.) But the law does not inform us whether they are to be tea or table spoons; nor does the law make any provision for kettles, sauce-pans, and all such necessary things. But, the presumption seems to be, that the spoons meant are, tea-spoons; for, as ladies are generally considered very delicate, the law presumed that a widow might live on tea only; but spinning wheels and weaving looms are very necessary articles for ladies now a days. (Hissing and great confusion.) Why you need not hiss, for I am expounding the law. These wise law-makers, who seem to have lived somewhere about the time of the flood, did not dream of spinning and weaving by steam power. When our great-great grand mothers had to weave every article of apparel worn by the family, it was, no doubt, considered a very good law to allow the widow the possession of the spinning wheels and the weaving looms. But, unfortunately for some laws, man is a progressive being; his belief, opinions, habits, manners, and customs change, and so do spinning wheels and weaving looms; and, with men and things, law must change too, for what is the value of a law when man has outgrown it? As well might you bring him to the use of his baby clothes, because they once fitted him, as to keep him to such a law. No. Laws, when man has outgrown them, are fit only to be cast aside among the things that were.
But, I must not forget, the law allows the widow something more. She is allowed one cow, all sheep to the number of ten, with the fleeces and the cloth from the same, two swine, and the pork therefrom. (Great laughter.) My friends, do not say that I stand here to make these laws ridiculous. No; if you laugh, it is at their own inherent ludicrousness; for I state them simply and truly as they are; for they are so ridiculous in themselves, that it is impossible to make them more so. Nor, indeed, is it a subject for laughter it is too serious a matter; far too deeply does woman suffer from its consequences. Who can fathom the depth of misery and anguish woman has to bear from these
[p. 50]unjust and cruel laws. My object is to make woman acquainted with these laws before they fall with crushing weight on her heart; and man, too, must be familiar with them, so as to know, in case of death, under what protective care he would leave her he swore to protect.
But, look at woman in any position in life, and you will find her wronged and oppressed, and as one wrong always leads to another, so she has her best and tenderest feelings and affections outraged too. When the wife dies, all that is left, is her husband's; there is no interference of the law, no change is made, no stranger intrudes on his home and his affliction; no one dares to ask a question concerning the things which she, whom he loved, has left behind her. But it is otherwise when the husband dies; not only is she, as is but too often the case, deprived of all, or at best receives but a mere pittance, but, no sooner has the husband been taken from her, than strangers assume authority denied to the wife and mother; the sanctuary of affliction and sorrow must be desecrated; everything ransacked and assessed by the agents of the law; the most cherished memento of earlier and happier days must pass through their hands; indifferent, calculating, and, but too often, mercenary lips must pass judgment whether the wife should be allowed to retain some sacred pledge of affection from him she will see no more. No! no man can realize the outrage thus done to the lacerated feelings and affections of woman. Man gives woman credit for feelings and affections, to the exclusion of everything else; and yet, when her best feelings and tenderest affections have received the severest shock, when she requires the most sympathy and kindness, her feelings are the most outraged. But enough of this at present, for to contemplate the violence done to the lacerated feelings and affections of a wife immediately after loosing the partner of her existence, would be enough to draw tears of pity and indignation from the heart of the most hardened. And there is no longer time for tears; tears of blood have been wrung from her heart, and all to no purpose; woman has wept long enough, till it has become a stigma and a by-word against her. It is time, then, that she is aroused out of her slumber, to protest against, yes, in spite of all opposition, to protest against such injustice. (Cheers and disturbance.) The time will come when those very men (whom from my heart I pity) will know how to act better. I fear they never can have known the happiness which is found in the affection of a doting mother, the solicitude of a fond sister, the blessing of a tender and affectionate wife. If they had realized these tender emotions, if they received these wholesome examples, they never would permit them to
[p. 51]outrage the rights of the sex to which those belonged. But while man does act so, we see the greater necessity for energy and perseverence in our good cause. As for hissing, what are hisses? it tells us that woman must assert her right, unflinchingly, fearlessly, and in spite of all opposition, knowing well that her cause is just; and the beneficial result will not be for herself alone, but for such men as these!
LUCY STONE. "Madam President, we laugh at the items of the law as we have just heard them repeated; but, I tell you, friends, what you laugh at, is the source of bitter, bitter suffering to thousands of your sisters. A husband dies and his property falls into fragments; of which a few are doled out to his widow. Thus speaks the law; and we hear its edict; and, if we try to depict the scene that follows — the scene of grief, of outrage, perhaps of destitution, we make but a picture to be looked at, it passes before us, fills up a vacant moment, and is forgotten. But ah! friends, remember that this, which is to you a picture, is to thousands a terribly reality, which weighs down their hearts like a mountain of iron. Nor is this the sole instance on which the hand of the Law presses with barbarous inequality on women. In Massachusetts, a few months ago, we were speaking of the law which gives the husband the custody of his wife's person; when a man said to me — ‘In that house there is a wife who, for three years, has not set her feet out of doors. Every time her husband goes out, he nails down the windows, locks the door, and puts the key in his pocket. That woman,’ said my informant, ‘has not yet reached the mid-day of existence, yet her hair is gray and her face full of wrinkles; and because the law gives that man the right of custody, and she cannot show any bruises, and has no friend to take up her cause, she lives on in that helpless and bitter wrong.’ We call this a Woman's Rights — but I always feel it ought to be called a Woman's Wrongs movement, for there is not a single position or relation sustained by woman in which she is not made to feel the pressure of inequality. Man does not know this, nor feel it in his own person, as I wish he never may! When I look into the faces of my brothers I feel that, as men, they never can know the crushing power which through all our lifetime burdens us, so that reach upwards as we may to the noble and the good, we forever find ourselves hindered, clogged, fettered.
Educationally, a girl goes to school; she studies for weeks, months, or years. Can she amass treasures of knowledge — can she pick up gems from which her intellect may flash with a brightness that will guide her to further researches, and place in her hands new wealth to be
[p. 52]passed into the treasury of the world? No! Let her lamp be brighter than any of which Eastern story ever told us, it is useless still, for an iron door bars her progress — she cannot, cannot advance.
In the tract here, called ‘Woman and her Wants,’ I read an anecdote which appears appropriate. Two girls were leaving school. One of them said, ‘I am sorry my school days are over!’ ‘Sorry!’ exclaimed her companion, in surprise, ‘Why should you be sorry? I am very glad, for my part.’ ‘I am sorry.’ replied the first, ‘because I shall have nothing to do.’ ‘Nothing to do,’ was the answer; ‘can't you sit at home and make little pretty things to wear?’ Pretty little things to wear! This is the limit assigned to woman's intellect! She is to stitch, hem, plait, embroider, make ruffles and trifles, ‘pretty little things to wear,’ until her mind becomes a reflex of the work she does! The great difficulty is, that she has been so long accustomed to this servitude to trifling, that, like the girl in the story, she is lowered to the expectation of this, as the end of her existence. But such cannot be her ultimate destiny. God has given her powers which live on and on — powers capable of infinite expansion. Woman, who is capable of all, is compelled to this nothingness, unless, indeed, she has force of character to break from her bondage, and moral elevation of soul sufficient to enable her to bear hisses and sneers — the weak replies of those who can make no better. The girl goes to school, studies and studies, and then — has no more to do! Practically, society denies her the fruit of the very tree she has herself planted; and, in the growth which brings her within view of the earnest purposes of life, she finds an end of her existence, unless it be existence enough for her to come back and sit down to make ‘little pretty things,’ which never can satisfy an immortal soul. The little girl, joyous and free, whose childish laugh of delight rings through the welkin, who sees in herself nothing but the purest thoughts, the most exalted yearnings, when a few brief years have passed away, seeks in vain the recognition of what she was, and beholds only a Gorgon image, which dries up in her soul all lofty aspirations. And the being who was formed by God's hand to scatter gems of beauty over the earth, sits down to work little toys in perforated paper. In the name of humanity and of God's intent I protest against it! It curses us with a curse deeper than you can know; but the evil stops not there (although, Heaven knows that were sufficient!) it curses you too. You starve down woman's capacity, till it can pass through the eye of her cambric needle, and then you would have her educate your sons: but the stream can rise no higher than the fountain; and the shallowness to which you condemn
[p. 53]her is perpetuated to yourselves. Thus, educationally, woman has no motive. The true motive to any acquirement is, that when acquired, it may be used. This is taken away, and woman left to dull vacuity.
And oh! religiously — but I can hardly trust myself to speak. I am sorry I have not here a vote, passed seventy years ago, in a church in Massachusetts. It said, ‘a woman shall not speak in the church, but she may unbosom herself to the church members in private, and tell her sorrows there.’ She shall not speak in the church, but unbosom herself privately! It is late now, and I cannot say all that burns to find a vent from my bosom. I will perhaps have an opportunity on another day; but so it is, in every one regard — educationally, politically, socially, religiously — oppression every where. There is not a man before me who, if abused as we are, would not, like our fathers of the Revolution, make protest, not with words but with bullets; but we are not going to do it, because we know that thoughts are mightier than bullets. We will protest before audiences, wherever we can gather men and women together: we will tell them the wrongs we suffer. We know that we shall not appeal in vain to the heart and intellect of humanity. We know that all brothers, fathers, and husbands, who are honorable men, all mothers, sisters, and wives, who are really worthy of these names, will be found at our side. They will join their hearts to ours — their hands to ours. With earnest purpose and vigorous thoughts, we will change that disorder which is now called order, into a system based upon right. No longer shall the halls of science be closed against one half of the human family; and the world will come to know that wherever it is right for one half to go, thither it is right that they should stand to welcome the other half. Then will those who are fellow-voyagers through life learn to take all their steps together. There shall not be (as Mrs. Rose has shown us there is) for the widow a corner of the house, and a third of the goods; there shall be no separation of interests; the wife shall be heir to the husband, as the husband to the wife; they shall stand in a scale whose beam is equal and nothing out of equipoise. The interests, objects, hopes, of man and woman, the two immortal beings, shall be one, and, knowing that ‘life is earnest,’ and gives a mission that we cannot flee from; ‘they will stand together, in a high, holy, and noble purpose. Then will the morning stars sing again for joy, and the old paradise be regained.
Again, this Woman's Rights or Woman's Wrongs movement, makes but the claim which our fathers made, and which we are proud to repeat, and asks for it a practical effect. It asserts the sovereignty of the people,
[p. 54]and asks that it be not merely held in theory, but recognized in practice. Let there be no aristocracy of sex or color, but humanity be the only aristocracy, God our father, and all men and women brethren! To that end, we ask you to come here and work with us; we ask your assistance to-morrow, through the sessions of the day, We ask this from you, as honest men and women, in a grand and noble cause which God and angels bless! Let there be, as you are reasoning beings, no hisses, no reproaches. If you dissent, it should be in a language that is Saxon, with no base subterfuge, but man to man, and woman to woman, fairly, openly, honestly. I guarantee, that whoever dissents in this way, shall be allowed a hearing as we are. If he wants twenty minutes, he shall have it; if he wants half an hour he shall have it; and we will give all the security we can, that he shall not be greeted with hisses. And, when he has finished his word, if we can prove him mistaken, and he be a loyal seeker for the truth, he will thank us for showing hin his error. And, as the object of us all is to find the truth, we shall thank every one who aids us in the search. Let us be our own police and our own care-takers; and let every man and woman so conduct himself and herself, that each can go away, carrying in his heart its best treasure, — self respect." (Great applause.)
A MR. ELLIOT rose in his place, and amid much confusion, contrived to make himself understood, as challenging any one to produce three solid arguments, to prove the right of woman to vote.
The Session closed at half-past nine, p. m.
Second Day: Morning Session
The Session opened at 10 a. m.
MRS. MOTT. "The uproar and confusion which attended the close of our proceedings of last night, although, much to be regretted, as indicating an unreasonable and unreasoning disposition on the part of some, to close their ears against the truth, or rather, to drown its voice by vulgar clamor, yet, when viewed aright, and, in some phases, present to us matter of congratulation. I do suppose, that never, at any meeting, was public propriety more outraged, than at ours of last evening.
[p. 55]I suppose, no transactions of a body assembled to deliberate, were ever more outrageously invaded by an attempt to turn them into a mere tumult; yet, though voices were loud and angry, and the evil passions exhibited themselves with much of that quality to affright, which usually, if not always, attends their exhibition, — not a scream was heard from any woman, nor did any of the ‘weaker sex’ exhibit the slightest terror, or even alarm, at the violent manifestations which invaded the peace of our assemblage.
I felicitate the women on this exhibition of fortitude; of calm moral courage. Should not our opponents, if they have any reason among them, reflect, that these exhibitions are, in reality, some of the strongest arguments that can be offered to support the claims which we stand here to advocate? Do they not show, on the one hand, that men, by whom such an overpowering superiority is arrogated, can betimes demean themselves in such a way as to show that they are wholly unfit for the lofty functions which they demand as their exclusive right? And, on the other hand, do they not conclusively show, that women are possessed of, at least, some of those qualities which assist in calmness of deliberation, during times of excitement and even danger! I think it was really a beautiful sight to see how calm the women remained during last evening's excitement; their self-possession, I consider something truly admirable. I know that, in the tumult and noise, it would have been vain for any woman to raise her voice in an attempt to check it. Indeed, I am satisfied, the outrage was predetermined, and I regret that the aid of the police had to be called in to quell it. Had there been here a company of women who were taught to rely upon others, they would, doubtless, have felt bound to scream for ‘their protectors;’ but the self-reliance displayed, which must have its basis in a consciousness of the truth and justice of our cause, and which kept the members of the Convention unmoved, amid all the prevailing confusion, gives us matter of real congratulation. Let us rejoice in this, my friends; and let us remember, that, when we have a true cause — while our cause rests on the basis of right — we have nothing to fear, but may go on unmoved by all these petty circumstances, by which we may be surrounded.
A request was made last night by some person, I don't know who, or rather a challenge was offered, that three good reasons should be given why women should vote. Perhaps, had the person making this demand had this question put to him, namely, ‘What reasons are there why men should vote?’ he would have considered the reasons so self-evident
[p. 56]as to make any answer superfluous. Yet it would be found difficult, I apprehend, to assign any reason why man should vote, which would not be found to be an equally good reason for extending the elective franchise to women. He asked, however, why women should be allowed to take a part in the civil government of the country. This question will, I doubt not, be answered to-day by some one more able than myself; and if the person who asked it be present, and open to conviction, he will hear reasons sufficient to convince him that women have the right to vote. I only repeat the question now, as one of the subjects claiming consideration to-day.
As to woman's occupying a high position in the social state, the very scriptures, to which our antagonists point in ill-founded triumph, as determining the matter against us, supply instances in abundance of the high estimation in which women were held. Nor is there any need of citing instances (so well are they known) of the part which woman took in the propagation of the true faith, and the ministration, too. In that passage wherein mention is made of the wives of deacons, (as the vernacular version gives it,) a reference to the original text, and a true rendering of it will show that the real expression is, the female deacons. This single fact is a sufficient commentary on the fairness of some of the means employed to conceal the rights which really belong to women.
A good deal of stress is laid on the command given to women (as it is said) to be silent in the Church. The text is to be found in 1st Corinthians, ch. xiv., v. 34 and 35. But has this text the force and application which is demanded for it by our opponents? A calm and thorough investigation will show that it has not. It was one of those ordinances, or recommendations, the character of which was merely local, or confined to a certain place, and appropriate to a certain time. The same apostle who spoke thus, gave directions as to women prophecying, preaching or praying, and attiring themselves. But all these injunctions are as binding, and have as wide an application, as that relating to woman's being silent. Are these now observed? Manifestly not; and thus, is the admission made, that such commands referred to, and were meant to have cogency in, only a certain place and at a certain time. They are to be taken in a modified sense, and to be referred only to the customs of a time that has long passed away. What were the real circumstances under which the words, ‘it is not permitted to them to speak,’ were applied to women? Circumstances of disagreement and tumult in the Church, where many men spoke together, and loudly, so that scarcely any voice could be distinctly heard. In such circumstances
[p. 57]it was but a reasonable counsel to women to hold their peace for the time. It is added that ‘if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home,’ which was also the reasonable proceeding as matters stood, and showed this, that women were enjoined to have an interest in the affairs of the Church, and also to take counsel on the same.
All such commands, (like that relating to attire, which so plainly contemplates an oriental and ancient mode of dress,) must, to be reasonably taken, be received only as local, and suited to a particular time; and when these conditions of locality and time are withdrawn, the command ceases to have any cogency."
PAULINA W. DAVIS. — "Alluding to some remarks made yesterday
by Mr. Channing, I feel bound to say that my paper, the Una, cannot
lay claim to be what he represented it, the organ of the Woman's Rights
movement. I have no literary pretensions, and all that I can
Mrs. C. J. H. NICHOLS, editress of the Windham County Democrat being introduced, spoke thus: — To establish women's right to vote, should not, it might naturally be supposed, be a matter of so much difficulty, when we consider the extent to which, in matters of weighty importance, that right has been already conceded to her. In our country we have many private corporations, bank, stock companies, railroad companies, manufacturing companies, in which women are shareholders, and thus have the right, which none dispute, to vote upon questions affecting the interests of those companies. The same is the case in the Bank of England, that great money institution, which could, with a breath, shake every European throne. There, women, as share holders, have an equal right to vote with men. In the East India company, which holds in its hands the destinies of the millions of Hindostan, woman's pecuniary interest gives her a like control with man over these countless human beings. Inasmuch, then, as woman, where her pecuniary interests are concerned, has found a way that is admitted to be womanly enough of expressing her feelings, I also take it for granted that she will find a right womanly way of expressing her feelings on those great questions which involve her moral, intellectual, and social, as well as her commercial interests.
Now I will state my reason for desiring to vote — my reason for maintaining that women should have the right to vote; and it is this,
[p. 58]that she may have a due control over her own moral, intellectual, and social interests. I want to have this power, because, in not having it, I am deprived of the power of protecting myself and my children, because I do not possess the power which ought to belong to me as a mother.
It is an undisputed fact that, if women were allowed to vote, the best measures for the good of the community would be carried. As it is, when a petition goes up to a legislature, the signatures are reckoned, and it is said, "so many are voters, and so many are women." No one denies that, if women had votes on temperance laws, and such moral reforms, the majority of women would be in favor of them. Friends, I want the right to vote, so that my name, when it appears on a petition, may be reckoned as that of a voter, whether or not I exercise the franchise.
Through the affections of the mother men have controlled the actions of woman. Woman stands before you, with all the wants of man, and also with all the capability of man to provide for these wants; but the present laws have disowned the capacity of woman from her necessities. From woman all the sphere for the development of her capacities has been taken away; by law and custom she is regarded as dead, she has been legally executed. It is said woman should not go to the polls — she would meet rowdies, the purity of her nature would be sullied by the base contact into which the exercise of political rights would bring her. I maintain, on the contrary, that her going there would have a good effect, and instead of her purity being soiled by the place, the place would receive a purification from her presence. How is it in all the walks where woman now meets man? Whether is she lowered, or he raised by the contact? In the railroad car, the steamboat, are not the rudenesses of man's nature laid aside when woman enters? Do not courtesy and refinement enter with her, and sanctify the place while she remains? No; the argument is a fallacy, and what it urges as an objection, would really be a strong recommendation. I think I have shown it is not good for men and women to be alone.
[Cheers, apparently ironical, and meant to create a disturbance, here interrupted the speaker.]
As I have only twenty minutes to speak, may I beg that you will be good enough to spare your plaudits. I will better occupy my time in explaining my views, than in receiving your demonstrations of applause.
Woman's property is given by the laws to her husband; her children belong to, and can be claimed by, their father, however brutal and degraded
[p. 59]that father may have become. Man takes from her her right in property — her right over her own earnings, and offspring and services, and then, to compensate her for the robbery, enacts that she shall be held under no obligation to support her children. Women are not permitted to be, are not, by the law, regarded as fit to be, the guardians of their children, after the death of their husbands; if there be any person to offer opposition to their being so, the guardianship is taken from them. But when a wife dies, the husband becomes, as a matter of course, the legal guardian of the children. If a women marries a second time, she has no power to support her children by a former marriage. Let her bring to her second husband a dower ever so princely, and she cannot claim support for her offspring by her former marriage; nay, the second husband can, if he choose, demand a compensation for supporting them.
As widows, too, the law bears heavily on women. If her children have property, she is adjudged unworthy of their guardianship; and although the decree of God has made her the true and natural guardian of her children, she is obliged to pay from her scanty means to be constituted so by the law.
I have conversed with judges and legislators, and tried to learn a reason for these things, but failed to find it. A noblemen once gave me what he probably thought was a good one. ‘Women,’ he said to me ‘cannot earn as much as men!’ We say they should be allowed to earn as much. They have the ability, and the means should not be shut out from them. I have heard of another man who held woman's industrial ability at a low rate. ‘His wife, he said, ‘had never been able to do anything but attend to her children.’ ‘How many have you?’ he was asked; and the answer was — ‘Nine.’ Nine children to attend to! — nine children cared for! — and she could do nothing more, the wife of this most reasonable man. Now, which is of more importance to the community, the property which that reasonable husband made, or the nine children whom that mother brought, with affectionate and tender toil, through the perils of infancy and youth, until they were men and women? Which was of more importance to this land — the property which the father of George Washington amassed, or the George Washington whom a noble mother gave to his country? The name of Washington, his glorious deeds, and the enduring benefits he secured for us, still remain, and will, long after the estates of Washington have passed from his name for ever!
In the Stat Vermont, a wife sought a divorce from her husband
[p. 60]on the ground of his intemperance. They were persons moving among our highest circles — wealthy people; and the wife knew that she could, through the aid of her friends and relations, with the influence and sympathy of the community, obtain a divorce, and a support for her children. That father carried away into Canada one child, a little girl, and paid three hundred dollars to a low, vile Frenchman, that he might keep her from her mother and friends. Three times her almost heart-broken mother went in search of her; twice in vain, but, the third time, she was found. So badly had the poor child been treated in the vile hands in which her father had placed her, that, when recovered, she was almost insensible; and when, by her mother's nursing care, her intelligence was at length restored, her joy at seeing her mother was so violent, that it was feared its excess might prove fatal. The cause came into Court, and the judge decided that the two daughters should be given to their mother, but that the custody of the son should be given to the father. She was acquitted of the least impropriety or indiscretion: yet, though the obscenity and profanity of her husband in his own family was shocking; and it was in the last degree painful to that high-minded woman to see her son brought up under the charge of such a man, the law decided that the unworthy father was the more proper guardian for the boy!
In the Green Mountain State a great many sermons have lately been preached on the text, ‘Wives submit yourselves to your husbands.’ The remaining words, ‘in the Lord,’ are generally omitted; so that the text is made to appear like an injunction that the wives should submit to their husbands, whether they were in the Lord or in the devil. And the best of all is, that we are told that, although we should be submissive, we could change our husbands from devils into angels.
Dr. HARRIET K. HUNT spoke as follows: — Taxation without representation is tyranny! Taxation without representation is tyranny!! Taxation without representation is tyranny!!! My friends, do you wish to know why I desire to vote? I desire to vote that I may sit on school committees. You do not know, nor can you judge, my brothers, the feelings with which a woman perceives that influence on education, as well as political weight, is refused her. Women should sit on school committees, and see that women are as well educated as men. They should sit on school committees, to know the why and the wherefore of the education of girls; they should sit on school committees to order the education of their daughters. I wish to sit on committees where I can see to a better regulation of the healthfulness of our streets, and the introduction of a higher tone into the topics of our parlors. I wish to
[p. 61]vote that women may speak boldly, and on an equal footing, to men, instead of expecting from them the paltry incense of a little flattery, and a little wheedling. I wish to vote that women may have, by law, an equal right with men in property. In October, 1851, I went to pay my taxes in Boston. Going into the Assessor's office, I saw a tall, thin, weak, stupid-looking Irish boy. It was near election time, and I looked at him scrutinizingly. He held in his hand a document, which, I found on inquiry, was one of naturalization; and this hopeful son of Erin was made a citizen of the United States, and he could have a voice in determining the destinies of this mighty nation, while thousands of intellectual women, daughters of the soil, no matter how intelligent, how respectable, or what amount of taxes they paid, were forced to be dumb!
Now, I am glad to pay my taxes, am glad that my profession enables me to pay them — but I would like very much to have a voice in directing what is to be done with the taxes I pay. I meditated on what I had seen; and, in 1852, when paying my taxes I took to the Treasurer's office the following protest, which is addressed you will perceive, not only to the Treasurer and other officials, but also to the citizens generally.
To FREDERICK U. TRACY, Treasurer, and the Assessors and other Authorities of the City of Boston, and the citizens generally: —
Harriet K. Hunt, physician, a native and permanent resident of the city of Boston, and for many years a tax-payer 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 object 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 certainly cannot apply to women, natives of the city, all whose property and interest are here, and who have accumulated, by their own
segacityand 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, or 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 shools. 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, at 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 the public provision for 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 superiority or 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.
HARRIET K. HUNT.
Here, you perceive, I complained also of the educational advantages afforded to boys and girls. Such is the case in Boston. I ask, is it so in this city?
(Voices from the platform:) It is.
DR. HUNT. Then you, too, sexualize education. I have now to say to all my sisters, as a friend, consider this question deeply; and, when you find it a good one, as you must, give it all the sanction in your power. Women are debarred from voting and holding offices, while bad and licentious men are put into offices where their unfitness and misconduct result in the greatest injuries to women. This is a great question — a great moral question — the great moral question of the day.
We have, at this Convention, Lucy Stowe and Wendell Phillips, who were at our Constitutional Convention last year, in Boston. I was not present, but I sent to the convention a petition which I shall now read for you, that you may know who Harriet K. Hunt is, the woman who wants to vote: —
TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION NOW SITTING IN BOSTON. — Your petitioner
[p. 63]respectfully prays your honorable body to insert into the constitution a clause securing to females, paying town, county, and States taxes upon property held in their own right, and who have no husbands or other guardians to represent and act for them, the same right of voting possessed by male tax paying citizens; or should your honorable body not deem such females capable of exercising the right of suffrage with due discretion, at least to excuse them from the paying of taxes, in the appropriation of which they have no voice, thus carrying out the great principle on which the American Revolution was based, that taxation and representation ought to go together. All of which, &c.
My brethren, I leave this matter before you, and ask you to consider it as a most important question, not alone in a political view, but as a great moral subject, demanding deep, earnest, and religious investigation.
MRS. MOTT. I now introduce to the Convention Mrs. Frances D. Gage, of St. Louis, Mo., better known as "Aunt Fanny, the poet."
MRS. FRANCES D. GAGE. This morning, when I was leaving my boarding house, some one said to me, "So you are ready armed and equipped to go and fight the men." I was sorry, truly sorry, to hear the words — they fell heavily on my heart. I have no fight with men. I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mother, and in all these relations, I live in harmony with man. Neither I, nor any of the sisters with whom I am united in this movement, has any quarrel with men. What is it that we oppose? What do we seek to overturn? The bad laws and customs of society. These are our only enemies, and against these alone is any hostility which we feel directed. Although they be "hallowed by time," we seek to eradicate them; because the time for which they were suited if such ever existed, is long since gone by. The men, we may suppose, are above and beyond the laws, and we assail the laws only.
There is one law which I do not remember having heard any of my sisters touch upon, that is the Law of Wills, as far as it relates to married women, and as far as it allows a husband (which it fully does) along with his power to determine the lot of his wife while he is alive, also to control her when he is dead. Would any gentleman like to have that law con-versed? I will read a will after the old fashion, and, surely, it will fall with as loud a tone of injustice on all ears, as it does on mine.
[Here Mrs. Gage caused a great deal of amusement among the audience by reading a will, made by a husband as if it were made by his wife, interchanging the names. Thus the testatrix left to her son her horses, carriages, &c.; to her daughter, some valuable claims and
[p. 64]property; and to her husband, $100, 40 acres of wild land in Illinois, and their bed, as long as he remained her widower, &c., &c.]
Would any of you like such power as that to be placed in our hands? Yet, is it not as fair that married women should dispose of their property, as that married men should dispose of theirs?
It is true, the power thus given to husbands is not often used to the detriment of women, and this is frequently urged in support of the law. But I reply, that law is made for extreme cases; and while any such statutes remain on the books, no good man will cease to exert himself for their removal. I ask the right to vote, not because it would create antagonism, but because it would create harmony. I want to do away with antagonism by removing oppression, for where oppression exists, there antagonism must exist also. I feel unwell this morning; so much so, that I almost declined speaking at all. I will therefore extend my remarks no further.
ERNESTINE L. ROSE. In allusion to the law respecting wills, I wish to say that, according to the Revised Statutes of our State, a married woman has not a right to make a will. The law says, that wills may be made by all persons, except idiots, persons of unsound mind, married women, and infants. Mark well, all but idiots, lunatics, married women, and infants. Male infants ought to consider it quite an insult to be placed in the same category with married women. No, a married woman has no right to bequeath a dollar of the property, no matter how much she may have brought into the marriage, or accumulated in it. Not a dollar to a friend, a relative, or even to her own child, to keep him from starving. And this is the law in the nineteenth century, in the enlightened United States, under a republic that declares all men to be free and equal.
LUCY STONE. Just one word. I think Mrs. Rose is a little mistaken; I wish to correct her by saying that of some States in ——
MRS. ROSE. I did not say this was the universal law; I said it was the law in the State of New York.
LUCY STONE. — "I was not paying close attention, and must have been mistaken. In Massachusetts the law makes a married woman's will valid in two cases: the first is, where the consent of her husband is written on the will; the second, where she wills all she has to her husband — in which case his written consent is not deemed requisite."
C. C. BURLEIGH rose, amid a tempest of hisses, and said: — "There are some here whose conduct seems aimed at establishing (as it is well calculated to establish) a doctrine which goes further than the principles
[p. 65]which we assert would carry us. We demand for woman an equal right with man to appear in public assemblies; we claim that she be co-ordinate with him in social and political influence; we ask no more. But there are those here whose conduct goes far to prove that women alone should exercise those functions, by showing how utterly unworthy, at least, some men are to be entrusted with their use.
Last night, some one in the audience asked for those reasons why women should vote. Had he heard the addresses delivered in this Convention — had he, or any man, taken them into the laboratory of a rational mind, and there candidly, honestly, and in the spirit of truth, analyzed them, he would have found, not those, but ten times those reasons, for all the propositions which we of this Convention advance. The proof, both theoretical and practical, both on principle and in details, taken from the occurrences of every day life, and supplied by the records of well authenticated facts: the proof has been so full and abundant that there is no room left for doubting, not a corner or crevice remains in which the possibility of misapprehension (to a reasonable and fair mind), can secrete itself. This has been done; and will, I have no doubt, be done again before the sessions of this Convention shall have come to a close. Yet, as the demand was distinctly made, and, let us hope, in good faith, and proceeded from a mind anxious to obtain the truth, for the truth's sake, it may not be out of place for me to give those distinct reasons why woman should vote. I cannot produce any new argument; the ground has been well trodden, and the marks of powerful feet are there already.
But perhaps my words, simply arranged, may give the truth to be seen by some one who has not yet had it presented to him by others.
Why should woman vote? Why should man vote? I suppose our opponents will all be ready to answer the latter question; yet, I fancy, they would find it hard to assign any one reason for man's voting which will not be discovered to be an equally good reason for woman's voting. There is no single ground that can be taken on which to rest the right of the one, that is not equally well adapted to support all the claims of the other. And the cause of this will be easily detected by going back to first principles; in announcing these, in using the simple terms in which the sublimity of abstract truth must be clothed (for it will bear no other investiture), no fallacy can be introduced, no quirk or quibble grounded on the intricacy of details can find a place; and the simple truth stands forth, plainly applicable to all the human race, and not to be arbitrarily monopolized for the use of only half of it.
Why should woman vote? She should vote, first, because she has to bear her portion of the burdens imposed by the government which the voting makes. Is not this one reason amply sufficient for any honest minded man? Taxation and representation go hand in hand, says a principle of our body politic. Is woman represented? No. Is woman taxed? Yes. How is that? Is it consistent with the profession; and, if there were no profession, is it right, is it just? The burden falls equally on woman and her brother; but he has all the power of applying it; she must bear it to the end of the journey, and then know nothing, say nothing, as to how it is to be disposed of. What kind of justice is that? Were woman exempted from those burdens, why, then, the exemption would, so far, be an argument on the other side; although even that would fail, on investigation, because other equally immutable principles show that neither exemption nor representation is the condition in which any portion of the political body should be allowed to remain. But where there is no exemption, but a full apportionment of the burden, and, at the same time, no one representation, no representation, the absurdity of injustice has reached its climax.
In the second place, woman should vote, because she ought to be a sharer in those benefits which government is formed to confer upon the governed. She has property which the government must protect, a person which it must defend, and rights which it is bound to secure. Were the millenium arrived, were there no such thing as selfishness on earth; were simple truth and justice the prominent elements in all men's minds, and the informing spirit of all men's actions, then, indeed, might woman confide herself to man; then might she rely on man to secure to her those governmental benefits which are her due, as a portion of the general community. But, is this the state of things? Alas! not yet; and, until it is, the horrible injustice of the laws which exclude woman from a share in making them, while they are her only security for the advantages she ought to enjoy, will never cease crying aloud to all men for purification. One of the great aims of all government, one of the strong considerations which alone make its restrictions endurable, is the assurances which it gives the governed, that the sum of their happiness, and even of their liberty, shall, by individual restraints, become greater on the whole. It holds out a bonus to society, or rather, to its individual members, — ‘Give me this little, and I will give you in exchange this much.’ Thus, each individual puts a stake into the common fund, has an interest in the common weal, which demands careful watching. Can woman watch the large, the all-absorbing
[p. 67]interest she has at stake? She, above all, the most tender, the most sensitive of beings, the most keenly alive to wrong, to insult, to oppression, to aught that bruises her womanly and feeling heart, — can she give a careful eye to the disposal of those important questions which touch the very core of her heart? Why, when reduced to these, its naked dimensions, the injustice seems so horrible, as not to be credible, and did we not know the facts, we would find it hard to believe that man, made in the image of his Maker, could violate justice so barbarously. Surely woman lies under no moral obligation to any laws which, wanting her assent, yet assume to control her every action, word, and even thought. Her property, her person, all her rights, her most sacred affections, come within the province of those enactments; yet she can have no voice, no weight in determining what those enactments shall be.
In the third place, woman is entitled to vote, because she is liable to all the penalties imposed by government. Not only is it that she confides, or rather, that government compels her to confide to it, the custody of person, property, rights, and all dearest interests, but it goes a step further, and thus adds another link, (though quite a superfluous one,) to the adamantine chain of argument which it supplies to bind down its own injustice. It stands not merely in a passive or receiving relation to woman, it becomes the active arbiter of her doom; it declares itself competent to lay hands on her, to shut her up in prison, to take away her life, the life of one who has made with it no compact, — giving such awful power, — the life of one who never consented to the laws which assert over her so terrible a supremacy! All the principles already applied, come in here with, perhaps, renewed force, as being the arbiters of a question which may be regarded by some, as of a still more absorbing interest, although, to woman it may not be so, for when did she value life more highly than tenderness, domestic confidence, and affection?
Those are reasons based on principle alone. I could stand here, and consume all the time devoted to the sessions of this body, in multiplying practical examples, piling up arguments drawn from the little experience of daily life, which would speak, trumpet-tongued, to the most obdurate hearts, the story of woman's deep, and unendurable wrongs. But as the demand was made, so have I met it, and will now content myself with having given three reasons why woman should vote, which I pray all reasonable and honest men to receive as reasons, until they stand confuted."
DR. H. K. ROOT, of Broadway, New York, rose in his place, among the audience, and declared his intention of arguing against the principles and demands of the Convention. Being requested to take the rostrum, he did so, and spoke thus; —
"Mrs. President and Ladies; I do not come here with the slightest intention of offering to the ladies any opposition for mere opposition's sake. If they are proved to have more knowledge and intelligence than men, let them govern! My purpose, ladies, is to try and attain truth, which, I think, will not be found favorable to the views you express. I come, rather, as a matter of intelligence than opposition. I do not come here for the purpose of opposing the ladies too much; but as the question was not only open yesterday, but still is for discussion, I maintain that, if the ladies have more intelligence, and more energy, and science than the male sex, they should rule. I think I can give three reasons why men should vote, and one why woman should note vote.
My first reason is, because there was an original command fron God that man should rule. It may be supposed that we are in the garden of Eden now, as in the days of Adam and Eve; we may say this is the garden of Eden, and then we can go on; there are enough here to stand for Adam and Eve. Now, it will be remembered, in the original fall of man, when Adam and Eve fell, Adam, because Eve tempted him, now was placed in the garden as its keeper, and it was necessary in those days, as it is now, that woman should be a help meet for him; but you recollect that by the eating of the forbidden fruit, original sin came upon the world. Now, what was the expression of God to Adam? He says in the third chapter of Genesis, 17th verse: — "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." Now, permit us to be in the relation that Adam and Eve were originally. It behoves the male sex to answer the objections of the female sex — not that we wish to combat them in public: but it behoves us, as a matter of justice, to put the question on a right foundation. It may be necessary, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, that the ladies should be here, but in the hundreth it may be necessary that man should say, ‘Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.’ You see the original cause of sin was because sin was committed — because man, being placed in the garden, gave way to woman, and the curse fell upon man; the original cause of sin was because man gave up his judgment to woman; and it
[p. 69]may be, if we now give up our rights to woman, some great calamity may fall upon us. Had woman only sinned, perhaps we might still have been in Eden.
My second reason why man should vote is the law of physical force over the woman — because man's strength is greater than woman's.
The third reason is, because, if women enter the field of competition with men, it may lead not only to domestic unhappiness, but a great many other ill feelings. And I will give another reason why men should be dictators: If woman says she shall vote, and man says she shan't, he is in duty bound to maintain what he says. If he says she shan't, that is reason enough why she should not."
ALEXANDER PARKER, of Philadelphia, rose in his place, but, being invited to the platform, went on it, and spoke thus: —
"Adam was the first gardener in the world; he belonged to my business, for I am a gardener — a business I took up myself, so I should have something to say about the garden of Eden. Well, I have often thought about the fall, and I have often pictured it in this manner: — — the very moment the charge was given not to do such a thing, that was just the time they wanted to do it.
It is often said that woman has a great deal of curiosity, and no doubt it was whispered into her ear, that the moment she ate of the forbidden fruit she should become a god. Now, I have seen more reason this morning why women should vote than I have ever seen before. In Pennsylvania a man has got but one vote, while a woman has three — her husband's and her two sons'. I always thought the wrong cause was in the minority, and, if woman got authority, she would make as had a use of it as man. But Eve tried to get over the temptation, but she could not; and so, after many efforts, she clutched the apple she looked at, so, and so, and she reached out to it; afraid, at first, but at last she laid hold of it, and, seeing that her fear was over, she kissed its lovely cheek. Then she ran to Adam, and said it was good, and he ate of it. Then his eyes were opened, and he saw he was naked, and ran and hid himself. He tried to hide himself among the bushes, but he could not deny the eating of it, because the core was sticking in his throat, and it is sticking there still; but woman has not got the core sticking in her throat. Well, Adam pretended to be innocent, like all the rest of mankind, and said it was not he, but the woman, that did it. No, no; it was not his fault — it was the woman gave it to him. Oh, yes! he was not to blame, no more than any lord of creation or tyrant. Well, then, there was a curse upon him; but there was a promise to
[p. 70]woman that her seed should bruise the head of the serpent with his heel."
The Session closed at 12 ½, P.M.
Second Day: Afternoon Session
The session opened at 3 o'clock, P.M.
MRS. MOTT. — "Lucy Stone will endeavor to answer some grave objections advanced this morning against woman's right to vote."
LUCY STONE. — "I was very glad, this morning, to hear the objections to woman's voting, stated as they, no doubt, honestly existed in the mind of the objector and of others. At the first National Convention at Worcester, a woman arose and said that she felt there was something wrong in woman's position, but that she perceived a scriptural barrier in the way of her freedom, with which indeed she did not know how to reconcile the yearnings of woman's nature after something leftier; but there it was, a scriptural bar, for Saint Paul and the Old Testament, she said, were both against woman's rights. The objections made here embody the same idea, and I will endeavor to reply to them, briefly, as they were stated.
A superiority of intellectual strength in man, was urged as a reason why he alone should exercise the franchise; or rather, it was put, not so much by way of a reason, as by way of a question with regard to the amount of intelligence conferring a right to vote. If woman used her right to vote, her intelligence would not be called in question. The time will come when it will be sufficient to know she has the right, as it is with men at present. If the measure of intelligence be allowed to have consideration, a very nice question will arise as to what is the necessary amount of intelligence, and also as to this, namely, where is the intelligence to come from which is to decide on that amount? There are two interested parties, man and woman: which is to decide? I merely ask the question incidentally, and now come more directly to the objections which have been stated.
As to the first, the quotation from Genesis, (ch. iii., v. 16,) ‘thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee,’ I take the text. When I was a little girl, before I learned to read Hebrew, I used to muse on this text, and I felt sad at the servitude to which it represented
[p. 71]God as consigning the whole sex to which I belonged. But I grew up, and learned to read Hebrew; (and so must you, too, women; all those things that have been kept in sealed books to your eyes, must be thrown open to you; you must open them for yourselves, and read your birthright in the light they will afford you;) I then learned that, in Hebrew, the same word which means ‘shall,’ also means ‘will,’ and then I knew that the text might as correctly in language, and for more reasonably in fact and justice, be read thus: ‘thy desire WILL be to thy husband, and he WILL rule over thee,’ which is, true enough, a simple prophecy of what has happened, and what will continue to happen yet a little longer. Woman's desire has been to her husband, and he has ruled her, according to the very text, which is a statement of what was to happen, not a commandment to be obeyed.
But we can go further, and say this text is one under the old dispensation. A new dispensation has succeeded it, which tells us, that ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female,’ especially when we know that this teaching of Paul is only added to the great saying of Jesus himself — ‘Whatsoever ye would have others do unto you, the same do ye unto others.’ By the principle of that golden rule, any rule of man over woman is against the procept of the the Saviour himself.
The second objection to women's voting, if I remember might, was grounded on the superior physical strength of man. This, I incline to think, can hardly be maintained as a valid objection. What is the amount of physical strength required to exercise the elective function? I have seen the ballot: it is a little piece of paper; and I have never seen a woman who was not stout enough to take it up and put it into the ballot-box; yet this, one would suppose, should be the utmost amount of physical strength that should be deemed indispensable for voting. I have seen old decrepit men taken in carriages to the polls, and the person having charge of the ballot-bot would take it to the door, so that the old feeble man might deposit his ballot, without being obliged to leave his vehicle. There was an amount of physical debility beyond the average weakness of woman; and if that did not deprive the old man of his right to vote, I claim for woman the same right on a ground which this second objection does not invalidate.
The third objection to woman's voting was, that a competition between men and women would lead to domestic unhappiness, and many other ill feelings. This objection will appear very futile to those who have well considered the subject, and yet I know it is seriously brought forward
[p. 72]by some as a valid reason against our demands. Those who understand our movement, know that it will create happiness where happiness does not now exist. You remember that, ‘in Warsaw there was order, but not harmony.’ The argument is, that domestic happiness will be in danger if woman use the franchise; the opinions of her husband will differ from hers; and, with a diversity of party interests and ties, will there not be quarrels at home? I answered that objection before. I know its perfect groundlessness; and I will now answer it again. If a man have opinions which he wishes his wife not to differ from, he should say to the lady of his love, that his soul is so narrow, that he cannot endure any opinions which do not coincide exactly with his. Then, if she be willing to put her mind into the hands of a keeper who can afford it only so small a cell, let her do so. But, what do you think of such a man, and what of the woman who hands herself over, body and mind, to such a man? The good time is coming, when men and women will freely hold all the opinions they have good reason for. God has made us intelligent and immortal, not that we may hand our intelligence over to anothers' keeping; not that our immortality may be verged in that of another. If a husband can show a better reason for what he holds, then should his wife be convinced by the better reason; but his wife must not yield to him because he is a man and her husband, but because he gives the better reason. If he wish her to yield, not for a better reason, but because he thinks so and so, then he is an unreasoning man, (for there are such); and a reasonable woman (for such there also are) will not yield to him.
I think the "three objections" advanced this morning have been fully answered. The answers have been based on principles We can easily see how, in practise also, the denial to woman of her co-equality of rights, leads to results of bitter woe, shameful to the humanity which stands by, and sees them happen. A strong reason assigned, and much dwelt on, why woman should not vote, is based on the supposition, that God has given man a command to rule over his wife. If the old dispensation has passed away, this argument has no foundation. But it has passed away; there is a new dispensation, which teaches that none should oppress his fellow-being. I have before me, in a newspaper, a case which shows strongly the necessity for woman's legislating for herself. I mean, the case of the Honorable Mrs. Norton, which lately transpired in a court in London, and which fully proves that it is never right for one class to legislate for another. There are, probably, few here who have not been made better and wiser by the
[p. 73]beautiful things which have flown from the pen of that lady. In 1836, her husband obtained a separation from her on the charge of infidelity. Eighteen years of a blameless life since, and the conviction every pure mind must feel, that nothing impure could ever dwell in a mind such as her productions show hers to be, will fully relieve her of any suspicion that she ever was guilty of acts justifying that charge. She was a woman of transcendant abilities; and her works brought her in £1000 stl. a year, sometimes more, sometimes less. This her husband procured to be paid over to himself, by securing the profits of her copyrights; and this husband allowed her only £400 a year! and, at last, refused to pay her even this sum; so that, for her necessary expenses, she was obliged to go into debt, and her debtors brought a suit against her husband, which was taken into a court. In the court, she stood before her husband's lawyer, and said to him, "If you are afraid of what I may say, beware how you ask me questions!" Wealth and power were against her, and the lawyer did ask questions which wrung from her what she had concealed for seventeen long years, and the world at last knew how her husband had kept the money she earned by her pen. She stood in court, and said, ‘I do not ask for rights; I have no rights, I have only wrongs. I will go abroad, and live with my son.’ Her husband had proposed to take her children from her, but she said, ‘I would rather starve than give them up;’ and, for a time, she did starve. I will read for you her poem of ‘Twilight,’ and you will all see what kind of woman has been so wronged, and has so suffered.
[Miss Stone read the poem.]
That woman, gifted, noble, and wealthy, with such great yearnings in her soul, whose heart was so bound up in her children, was thus robbed, not only of her own rights, but also of theirs. Men! we cannot trust you! You have deceived us too long! Since this movement began, some laws have been passed, securing to woman her personal property, but they are as nothing in the great reform that is needed. I can tell you a case. A woman married a man, whom she did not love, because he had a fortune. He died, and she married the man whom she loved before her first marriage. He died too; and the fortune which was hers through her first husband, was seized on by the relatives of the second, and she was left penniless in the wide world. Here, as in England, women earn large sums by their literary fame and talents; and I know a man who watches the post-office, and, because the Law gives him the power, secures the letters which contain the wages of his wife's intellectual toil, and pockets them for his own use. But a week since,
[p. 74]I heard of a woman in your city whose husband was a drunkard and profligate. She went away from him, and by her industry and economy, made a few hundred dollars. Her husband came, and claimed, and got, all she had. A second and a third time she did likewise, and every time he came and took her little earnings. Hope died out; she said, ‘it is no use; the law binds me to him; I will not amass money which he can rob me of to squander in rum-houses, or on abandoned women.’ In a Court of Justice, woman never has a jury of her peers. Vulgar men, who can understand nothing of her wants, and her dues, are there to decide against her. Furthermore, she has no right to her children. I have said to my audiences that the woman whose child has no recognized father, has a right to her child, but she to whose maternity religion and law have give their sanction — has none. There is no town that I pass through in which I do not find some woman endeavoring to hide her children from being robbed from her by an iniquitous law. Last winter, in Massachusetts, a woman was obliged to leave her husband. She went to her fathers, and he went to her husband to get her wearing apparel. The husband refused to give it; he said, ‘it is mine!’ and the father paid to the husband two hundred dollars for that apparel, every portion of which he had purchased for his daughter two years before, for they were only two years married! Men! we cannot trust you! The woman took her child, because it was a nursing baby; the law allows it to remain with the mother as long as she is indispensable to it; but she took it, knowing well that her husband could claim it in due time. She sent a petition to the Legislature, asking that, when a divorce was obtained, she might keep her child; but, I understand from my friend Burleigh, the child was taken away from her before the petition had time to go before the Legislature. Thus that husband took the little thing which needed its mother's bosom and love; took it as a means to compel her to come back to him, because he knew the deep love of a mother makes anything endurable for the sake of her child.
While these things are so, or, if they were not so, if the law were never attended by any such results, yet while such a liability hangs over woman, I would feel bound to go up and down the length and breadth of the land, to speak to you, legislators, until, for shame's sake, you would be compèlled to do away with things so monstrous. No! one class never can legislate justly for another. I have said to the men, ‘Instead of asking woman to marry, go first and strike off the statute book those barbarous enactments — then come back and ask women to
[p. 75]be your wives; and, if all women were of my mind, they would make you wait till you had done so. If the law took from men their right to personal and real estate, forbade them to make wills, and classed them with fools and children, how would they bear it? While these things are so, we shall not speak of one, two, or three reasons why woman should vote; there are thousands and thousands of reasons, crying to us clamorously from every corner of the land.
I will conclude by reading a letter from an esteemed friend, Mr. Higginson. It proposes certain questions which I should wish to hear our enemies answer.
WORCESTER, Sept. 4, 1853.
DEAR FRIEND: You are aware that domestic duties alone prevent my prolonging my stay in New-York, during the session of the Woman's Rights Convention. But you know, also, that all my sympathies are there. I hope you will have a large representation of the friends of the great movement — the most important movement of the century; and that you will also assemble a good many of the opposition during the discussion. Perhaps from such opponents I might obtain answers to certain questions which have harrassed my mind, and are the following:
If there be a woman's sphere, as a man's sphere, why has not woman an equal voice in fixing the limits?
If it be unwomanly for a girl to have a whole education, why is not unwomanly for her to have even a half one? Should she not be left where the Turkish women are left?
If women have sufficient political influence through their husbands and brothers, how is it that the worst laws are confessedly those relating to female property?
If politics are necessarily corrupting, ought not good men, as well as good women, to be exhorted to quit voting?
If, however, man's theory be correct — that none should be appointed jurors but those whose occupations fit them to understand the matters in dispute — where is the propriety of empanneling a jury of men to decide on the right of a divorced mother to her child?
If it be proper for a woman to open her lips in jubilee to sing nonsense, how can it be improper for her to open them and speak sense?
These afford a sample of the questions to which I have been trying in vain to find an answer.
If the reasonings of men on this subject are a fair specimen of the masculine intellect of the nineteenth century, I think it is certainly quite time to call in women to do the thinking. Yours, respectfully and cordially,
Miss LUCY STONE. F. W. HIGGINSON.
MRS. NICHOLS. As to the text which says that woman must obey her husband, surely that is no reason why she should obey all the bachelors and other women's husbands in the community. My husband would have me advocate the claims I do, therefore, by the logic of our
[p. 76]ponents, as I should obey him, I should vote, and they should not hinder me.
SOJOURNER TRUTH, being introduced to the Convention, spoke thus: "Is it not good for me to come and draw forth a spirit, to see what kind of spirit people are of? I see that some of you have got the spirit of a goose, and some have got the spirit of a snake. I feel at home here. I come to you, citizens of New-York, as I suppose you ought to be. I am a citizen of the State of New-York; I was born in it; and I was a slave in the State of New-York: and now I am a good citizen of this State. I was born here, and I can tell you I feel at home here. I've been looking round and watching things, and I know a little mite 'bout Woman's Rights too. I came forth to speak 'bout Woman's Rights, and want to throw in my little mite, to keep the scales a-movin'. I know that it feels a kind o'hissin' and ticklin' like to see a colored woman get up and tell you about things, and Woman's Rights. We have all been thrown down so low, that nobody thought we'd ever get up again; but we have been long enough trodden now; we will come up again, and now I am here.
I was a-thinkin', when I saw women contending for their rights, I was a-thinkin' what a difference there is now, and what there was in old times. I have only a few minutes to speak; but in the old times, the kings of the earth would hear a woman. There was a king in old times, in the Scriptures; and then it was like the kings of the earth would kill a woman if she came into their presence: but Queen Esther came forth, for she was oppressed, and felt there was a great wrong, and she said I will die or I will bring my complaint before the king. Should the king of the United States be greater, or more crueller, or more harder? But the king, he raised up his sceptre and said, ‘Thy request shall be granted unto thee — to the half of my kingdom will I grant it to thee!’ Then he said he would hang Haman on the gallows he had made up high. But that is not what women came forward to contend. The women want their rights, as Esther. She only wanted to explain her rights. And he was so liberal that he said, ‘the half of my kingdom shall be granted to thee,’ and he did not wait for her to ask, he was so liberal with her. Now women do not ask half of a kingdom, but their rights, and they don't get them. When she comes to demand them, don't you hear how sons hiss their mothers, like snakes, because they ask for their rights; and can they ask for any thing less? The king ordered Haman to be hung on the gallows which he prepared to hang others; but I do not want any man to be killed, but I am sorry to see them so short minded.
[p. 77]But we'll have our rights; see if we don't: and you can't stop us from them; see if you can. You may hiss as much as you like, but it is comin'. Women don't get half as much rights as they ought to; we want more, and we will have it. Jesus says, ‘What I say to one, I say to all — watch!’ I'm a-watchin'. God says, ‘honor your father and your mother.’ Sons and daughters ought to behave themselves before their mothers, but they do not. I can see them a-laughin', and pointin' at their mothers up here on the stage. They hiss when an aged woman comes forth. If they'd been brought up proper they'd have known better than hissing like snakes and geese. I'm 'round watchin' these things, and I wanted to come up and say these few things to you, and I'm glad of the hearin' you gave me. I wanted to tell you a mite about Woman's Rights, and so I came out and said so. I am sittin' among you to watch; and every once and awhile I will come out and tell you what time of night it is."
REV. JOHN PIERPONT spoke thus: — "Ladies and gentlemen; a woman, at this hour, occupies the throne of the mightiest kingdom on the globe. Under her sway there are some hundred and fifty millions of the human race. Has she a right to sit there? (Several voices, ‘No!’) The vote here is — no; but a hundred and fifty millions vote the contrary. If woman can thus have the highest right conceded to her, why should not woman have a lower? Therefore, some women have some rights. Is not the question a fair one, — how many women have any rights? And, also, how many rights has any woman? Are not these fair subjects for discussion? I do not come here to advocate any specific right for women; I come merely for the consideration of the question, what right she has. What are the rights which cannot rightfully be denied her. Surely, some belongs to the sex at large, as part of the great family of man. We lay it down as the foundation of our civil theory, that man, as man, has, and by nature is endowed with certain natural, inviolable, indefeasible rights; not that men who have attained the age of majority alone possess those rights; not that the older, the young, the fair, or the dark, are alone endowed with them; but that they belong to all. These rights are not of man's giving; God gave them; and if you deny or withold them, you place yourself in antagonism with your Creator. The more humble and despised is the human being claiming those rights, the more prompt should be the feeling of every manly bosom, to stand by that humble creature of God, and see that its right is not witheld from it. Is it a new thing in this country, to allow civil rights to a woman? I can go back forty
[p. 78]years: and, forty years ago, when most of my present audience were not in, but behind their cradles, passing, as a stranger through the neighboring State of New Jersey, and stopping for dinner at an inn where the coach stopped, I saw at the bar, where I went to pay, a list of the voters of the town stuck up. My eye ran over it; and I saw, to my astonishment, the names of several women. ‘What!’ I said, ‘do women vote here?’ ‘Certainly,’ was the answer, ‘when they have real estate.’ Then, the question arose in my mind, ‘Why should women not vote?’ Laws are made regulating the tenure of real estate, and the essence of all republicanism is, that they who feel the pressure of the law, shall have a voice in its enactment. Taxation without representation was the very grievance which drove our fathers to make a stand against the power of Great Britain, to meet her in the face, and, at last, to humble her into submission. Now, in the making of laws, property is not the sole consideration. Personal protection and rights are also to be regarded. I maintain that, whenever any human being has attained the age at which, according to the law of development, he is of mature faculties, (and the period is established by men's laws,) that human individual has a right, — not a privilege, not a favor, but a right, — to a voice in the making of the law. Is not that so? And, if it is so, will you not listen to women who come to deliberate among themselves, and with their friends, upon this great question, namely, — what rights they have? Or, will you stop them, in limine, as the lawyers say, (that is, at the threshold,) and tell them, ‘Women have no rights?’ Does the law give your wife rights? No! God gives them, and the law recognizes some of them, not all. Your infant girls have rights, my friend, who are a father, as against you, which you dare not deny, and look a Christian and civilized community in the face. Your infant babe in the cradle has rights as against both father and mother, which, not all the voices of mankind can affect the least particle of.
Now comes the general question, — What are rights? And I take this ground, that that question is not to be settled by a vote of this Convention; but, by an appeal to the Author of all rights, that is, the Creator of all men. I do not pretend that He has given us any information upon that point, in any written characters, on parchment or paper, equivalent to a Declaration of Rights. But, has he left us without an expression of His will? It seems to me He has not. He has written His will in the animal organization of man. When He gives the locomotive organization, He says, in that gift, — "Move, move."
[p. 79]His will is the measure of right; therefore, I have a right to move; and, until I do another human being a wrong in moving, the whole human family has no right to deny me that right.
When, therefore, He gave to woman, hands competent to the exercise of the acts and performance of labor, he gave her, in that gift, a right to exercise art and perform labor. When He gave a man or woman a brain, the organ of thought and sentiment, whereby the human being holds communion with the Infinite One, He gave, at the same time, the right of reflection, investigation, philanthrophy, devotion; and no human being has a right to trench upon that right. When He gives woman a tongue, (as, thank God, He does!) in that gift He declares His will, that she should exercise the organ for her own good, the good of the race, and of the human family; and no man can trench upon that right.
But, the exercise of many of these rights is not usual! There are many usages ‘More honored in the breach than in the observance.’ Why should women be silent? Why should those hearts which are the kindest, the purest, the most tender, the most sympathetic, the most benevolent, not be allowed to appeal to other hearts through sympathetic tongues? Why should we hear only the loudest, those which come nearest to the thunder, or the volcano? How was it in the days of the old prophets, when the voice of the whirlwind was heard on the mountains? The Lord was not in the whirlwind! They behold a blaze of fire, but the Lord was not in the fire! Where was He heard? In the small, still voice! The presumption of some may be, that there is nothing of the spirit of Jehovah in the small voice of woman; but if we cannot hear His voice through her lips, the Lord have mercy upon us! We do not consider, that at this hour, more than one half of the Christian world address their prayers to a woman, — the mother of our Saviour; and yet, if the doctrine that woman may not speak in the assembly be true, when Saint Peter's is thronged with her devotees, you will not suffer the object to whom all those prayers are addressed, to open her lips and say, ‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee!’
I will not use all the time which the
CAROLINE E. SEVERANCE, of Ohio, presented an argument and appeal based upon the following propositions: —
"That as the manifest dissimilarities which causes the nations of the
earth to differ, physically, and in degree of mental and moral development
and cultivation, are not found justly to invalidate their claim to a place
in the vast brotherhood of man — to fulness of family communion and
rights; so there are no radical differences of the sexes,
The fundamental facts and faculties — the higher and more essential attributes which make up the accepted definition of humanity in our day, are identical in both — are no more confined or unduly allotted to one sex than to one nation.
On the broad basis of this philosophy, on the ground of woman's undeniable and equal humanity, proven by the possession of identical human faculties, and equal human needs, we claim for her the recognition of that humanity and its rights — for the freedom, protection, development and use of those faculties, and the supply of those needs. And we maintain that no accident of sex, no prejudged or proven dismilarity in degree of physical, mental, or moral endowment, or development, can at all stand in the way of the admission of such just claim; and no denial of such claim but must necessarily be fraught with evil, as subversive of the Creator's economy and design.
And in the maintenance of these views, the urging of these claims,
we offer no antagonisms, we seek no superiority — we aim only at justice,
and a wise harmony with nature. We have found, as we believe, the
causes of the wrongs which so greatly afflict woman, and necessarily
corrupt the race, and we ask only a benevolent and becoming application
of the remedy. We ask only that woman's individual sovereignty be
recognized as equally sacred with her brother's — that her humanity be
equally reverenced and cared for; that she be permitted to develop
and strengthen her nature, and work out her will, in a noble, heroic,
and useful life, under only the same restraints as her brother; that as
physical strength is no longer the distinctive characteristic or noblest
attribute of humanity; so the lack of its larger measure be no
longer urged as proof of woman's inferiority, or a disqualification for
the recognition and freedom of her humanity; and that as degree of
mental and moral endowment, or development, is
SUSAN B. ANTHONY spoke in these words: —
"During my attendance at the New York State Teacher's Convention, lately held in Rochester, my attention was attracted to the condition of that class of women who teach in our public schools. Five hundred delegates were enrolled as members of that Convention, of whom three hundred were women; and yet men alone occupied all the offices of the Convention; they constituted the business committees, prepared the reports, and were entrusted exclusively with the management of the various subjects which came before the Convention; nor did any of the reports, until the close of the second day, allude to women as having any interest whatever in the profession of teaching Nearly at the closeof the first day's proceedings, an appeal was made to the teachers present to sustain the ‘New York Teacher,’ which is the organ of the New York State Teachers' Association. Ladies were not then forgotten; their existence was at once recognized when the pecuniary aid was to be solicited, and they were appealed to to be liberal in contributing to the support of that paper.
On the morning of the third day, which was the last, the president, on taking the chair, remarked that it was frequently asked why women were not appointed on the Committees, to bring in reports, and take part generally in the business of the meeting. He said, ‘I will answer only for one.’ Then, standing in a very dignified position, meant to enforce every word he uttered, he said: ‘Look at this beautiful hall — behold each pilaster, each pedestal, each shaft, and each entablature, the crowning glory of the whole — all contributes, each in its proper place, to the strength, symmetry, and beauty of this magnificent structure. Could I aid in bringing this beautiful entablature from its proud elevation, and placing it in the dust and dirt which surrounds the pedestal? Never!’ Now, what do you suppose was the effect of this oration on the women present? There was a general look from woman to woman; and, as they surveyed their ribbons, laces, brooches, and pins, the look said, as plainly as possible, ‘beautiful! really beautiful!!’ They, no doubt, thought themselves sisters of the angels. Not a woman rose to speak till toward the close of the last session.
During the whole time, the great burden upon the souls of those men seemed to be their anxiety to take measures for elevating the profession of teaching to a level with the clerical, medical, and legal professions. The various details to this consummation were considered. The low
[p. 82]compensation of teachers, which had the effect in many instances of making the profession a mere stepping-stone to the others, was reviewed. At last a member remarked, that it seemed to her that the great obstacle was entirely overlooked. She said: ‘The public sentiment holds woman to be incapable of becoming acquainted with the mysteries of law, medicine, and theology; and yet, it is granted to her to fill the highest offices as a teacher. So long, then, as you, men teachers, consent to compete with women, you must be content to be considered as occupying no more than the level of her mental capacity.’ Next came the election of new officers. A motion was made that a lady should fill the office of Vice-President, but it was lost. There was an attempt made to have a lady chosen as Secretary, but this also failed. A few words spoken by one woman seemed to give others courage; and one of the teachers of our city rose and said that the Convention had been called in order that the teachers of the State might take counsel together, to aid the cause of education; but the result would seem to show that a few men came for the purpose of elevating themselves, while the large number of women present were entirely forgotten. ‘I am,’ she said, ‘teacher and principal of one of the free schools in this city, performing the same labor as gentlemen who fill a like office. I receive two hundred and fifty dollars a year, while my brother receives six hundred and fifty dollars a year, for the same services.’
While she was making these remarks, the President called her to order! I acknowledge she was out of order, there not being a motion before the house; but, it seems, women are always out of order; therefore, she might as well be standing as sitting. She had given resolutions to the Secretary: they were read, but not acted on; neither did there seem to be any disposition to call them up; and she judged, from that fact, that the Convention did not design paying attention to subjects interesting women. However, they were subsequently brought forward.
In this State there are eleven thousand teachers, and of these, four-fifths
are women. By the reports it will be seen that, of the annual
State fund of
[p. 83]Massachusetts’ Convention. Thus, because all were not in favor of it, none would be permitted to exercise the right."
PAULINA W. DAVIS read the following resolution:
Resolved, That inasmuch as this great movement is intended to meet the wants, not of America only, but of the whole world, a committee be appointed to prepare an address from this Convention to the women of Great Britain and the continest of Europe, setting forth our objects, and inviting their co-operation in the same.
WM. LLOYD GARRISON. — "I second the resolution, because it shows the universality of our enterprise. I second it heartily, for it manifests the grandeur of the object we are pursuing. There never yet was a struggle for liberty which was not universal, though, for the time, it might have appeared to be no more than loud. If the women of this country have to obtain rights which have been denied these, the women of England, of France, of the world, have to obtain the same; and regard this as a struggle for the race, subline as the world itself. It is right that this Convention should address the women of the whole world, in order that they should announce precisely how they regard their own position in the universe of God. What rights they claim are God-given; what rights they possess, and what rights they have still to achieve. It is time that the women of America should ask the women beyond the Atlantic to consider their own condition, and to co-operate with them in the same glorious struggle. There is not an argument that God ever permitted a human being to frame, that can be brought against this cause. This is a free convention, and we are willing that any man or woman who has ought to urge against its principles, should come here and freely urge it. And yet, with a free Convention, and a free platform, where is the human being who casts to argue the question? Where is the man who presents himself decently, and proffers a word of reasonable argument against our came? I have yet to see that man. Instead, we have blackguardian, defenition, rowdyism, profanity; we have all the indications that hell from beneath is stirred up against this divine Convention, for it is divine — it takes hold of heaven and the throne of God! (Hisses.) Hiss, ye serpents! ye have nothing else to offer. There is not one of you to whom God has given a brain to fashion an argument. But it goes on record, and all the journals of this city will themselves bear testimony, that no one takes the platform, like an honest and honorable man, to argue this cause down. Therefore, the whole ground is won, and we stand, as we have stood from the beginning, on the rock of victory."
DR. H. K. ROOT stood up, and announced that he was ready to do again what Mr. Garrison had said no man dared do.
The PRESIDENT decided that Mr. Root should be heard after Mr. Pray, who was anxious to address the convention briefly, and was pushed for time. [The first, however, put to the convention. Mrs. B. W. Davis read the following resolution, which was carried.)
RESOLVED, That inasmuch as this great movement is intended to meet the wants, not of America only, but of the whole world, a committee be appointed to prepare and address from this convention to the women of Great Britain, and the continent of Europe, setting forth our objects, and inviting their co-operation in the same.
ISAAC C. PRAY then addressed the convention thus: — For two years
I have been the incessant opponent of the persons on this platform, in
a leading journal in this city, which gives the cue to the hisses on that
gallery. I have myself given —— (applause.) Pray, spare your
plandits; I do not wish for them. In November, 1851, I retired from
that journal, and I have since applied myself to study. This movement,
among others, has come under my notice, and I have given it
much attention. The result is, that I have entirely changed any opinion
with regard to it. I know, not only that my farmer opinion
DR. ROOT now obtained the stand, and spoke thus: — I respect the ladies and their rights. The subject is capable of full and free discussion; but I want to show that there is at least one person to protest against the inalienable rights which they lay claim to. Now, it is certain that woman has, in this world, already turned things over. The curse of God rested on woman as well as on man; and I am sure this meeting will admit the right of females to protest against males, and of
[p. 85]males to protest against females. There are marks as certain in this day as the fiery cloud that led — (the remainder of the sentence was lost in the laughter of the audience.) I understand that there are to be lady lawyers, and lady judges; in fact, that the ladies would take the matter by storm. I am here to oppose any man or women who maintains that this movement is scriptural. Man was first forward, after which woman was formed for help-meet. Adam was placed keeper of the garden, and, therefore, he became right to his dictation, by his keepership of the garden, and by his first formation as ruller of mankind, as well as of beasts. The fall of man is to be attributed to Adam, by his yielding to an unjust request of Eve, (or, in other weeks, woman,) and then God said to Adam, ‘becomes then hast hearhoned unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thus, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it, earned is the ground for thy sales; is sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.’
Besides, my second reason is, because of the law of Nature; physically,
it gives man a superiority of strength to rule. The third reason
is, because, in woman's voting, and entering the carrier walks of life,
it brings her into competition with
Fourthly, and lastly, became man is naturally empowered with superiority as dictator, advises, and ruler. Therefore, if he declares that woman shall not vote, and enter the competing walks of life, it is sufficient reason why she should not do so; inasmuch as the has caused the original fall, man has been taught a serious lesson, and will ever fear a similar dilemma. I do not think any points have been answered reasonably."
Mrs. MOTT. — "The time for adjournment having now arrived, I must interfere to announce the fact. If the gentleman choose, he can have the rest of his half hour, or twenty minutes, at the evening session. I am sorry we cannot satisfy the gentleman by answering his objections as intelligently (to his mind) as he seems to think he has stated them. However, perhaps, even our dullness may be turned into an argument to give us the liberty we demand; because, if we received that liberty, it is possible we might use it in such a way as, after due time, to be able to answer so learned an opponent as he is. He must remember it is hard for weak woman to answer such solid arguments, and he must pity us if we do not come up to his standard of excellence. If he lay stress on his Scripture argument, that the wife must obey the husband, it may in some cases come to cut the other way; as in mine, for example, because
[p. 86]my husband wishes me to vote, and therefore, according to the Scripture, the gentleman must, even in his own reasoning, allow me the right to vote. In one place, the gentleman said that woman had already turned the world over; and that man must be cautions not to allow her to do so again. Perhaps, if he reconsidered these statements, he might be willing to retract the latter; because, if she turned the world over once, and put the wrong side up, he ought now to allow her to turn it back, that she may bring the right side up again."
Although the meeting was adjourned, a Mr. EARL mounted the platform, and addressed the dispersing assemblage thus:
"I want to be heard. This is the first time I ever spoke before an audience; and as I have a mother, a wife, and sisters, I have advocated woman's rights as far as they go. But I think you make a mistake at the commencement, when you speak of equality. There is no such thing as equality on this side of heaven, nor do I think there is any on the other side either. Philosophers tell us of a gradual progression from fish, reptiles, and so upwards; but there can be no equality as long as there is male and female. Women are not the equals of man in any respect. St. Paul desires women to ‘be in subjection.’ When this was mentioned to a lady of the same principles, I suppose, as the ladies of this platform, she said, ‘That's where St. Paul and I differ.’ I was sorry to hear my Rev. friend adduce idolatry as an argument for Woman's Rights."
Mrs. NICHOLS. — "I am sorry to have to correct our friend; but he rather misrepresents. We do not claim equality with men; such, for example, as cannot understand common sense, in a plain argument."
Mr. BOOTH, of Wisconsin. — "Mrs. President, I hope our friend Dr. Root will have a chance to follow out his argument this evening."[note]
Mrs. MOTT. — "Ah, certainly. He can have the balance of in time."
The session closed at 5 p. m.
Second Day: Evening Session
The session opened at 7 ½ o'clock, P. M.
Mrs. MOTT, the President, called the meeting to order, after which the resolution in favor of presenting an address to the ladies of England was passed unanimously.
The following were appointed on the committee:
Mrs. Lucretia Mott,
Mrs. E. L. Rose,
Marion C. Houton,
Caroline Heally Dale,
Mrs. P. W. Davis,
Dr. H. K. Hunt,
Matilda Francisca Arneke,
Mrs. ROSE now took the chair, and Mr. G. W. Clarke came forward, entirely regardless of the screeches with which he was greeted, and sung the following "song":
"The storm-wind wildly blowing,
The bursting billows mock,
As with their foam-crests glowing,
They lash the sea-girt rock.
"Amid the wild commotion —
The revel of the sea —
A voice is on the ocean:
Be free! Oh, man, be free!
"Behold the sea brine leaping
High in the murky air!
List! to the tempest sweeping
In chainless fury there.
"What moves that mighty torrent,
And bids it flow abroad!
Or turns the rapid current! —
What but the voice of God!
"Then answer, is the spirit
Lese noble or less free!
From whom does he inherit
The doom of slavery!
"When man can bind the waters
That they no longer roll,
Then let him forge the fetters
To clog the human soul.
"Till then a voice is stealing
From earth and sea and sky,
And to the soul revealing
"The swift wind chants the numbers,
Careering o'er the sea,
And earth, aroused from slumbers,
Re-echoes — MAN, BE FREE!"
MRS. MOT introduced to the Convention a German lady, the editor of a German Woman's Rights Newspaper, Madame Matilda Francisca Arneka, who would say a few words in German.
MADAME ARNEKA presented herself, and after many attempts, and with great difficulty, owing to the tumult and interruption by impertinent noises, spoke as follows, in German, Mrs. Rose translating her remarks into English, as she spoke: —
"I wish to say only a few words. On the other side of the Atlantic there is no freedom of any kind, and we have not even the right to claim freedom of speech. But can it be that here, too, there are tyrants who violate individual right to express our opinions on any subject. And do you call yourselves republicans? No; there is no republic without freedom of speech."
The tumult showing no signs of abatement, —
WENDELL PHILLIPS came forward, and said; —
"Allow me to say one word, purely as a matter of the self-respect which you owe to yourselves. We are citizens of a great country, which, from Maine to Georgia, has extended a welcome to Kossuth, and this New York audience is now looking upon a noble woman, who stood by his side in the battle fields of Hungary; one who has faced the cannon of Francis Joseph, of Austria, for the rights of the people. Is this the welcome you give her to the shores of Republican America? A woman who has proved her gallantry and attachment to principles wishes to say five words to you, of the feelings with which she is impressed towards this cause. I know, fellow citizens, that you will hear her."
The audience shewing a better disposition to hear Madame Arneka, she proceeded thus: —
"I saw this morning, in a paper, that the women of America have met in convention, to claim their rights. I rejoiced when I saw that they recognized their equality; and I rejoiced when I saw that they have not forgotten their sisters in Germany. I wished to be here with my American sisters, to tell them that I sympathize in their efforts; but I was too sick to come, and would probably not have been here, but that another German woman, a friend of this movement, came to Newark, and took me out of my sick bed. But it was the want of a knowledge of the English language which kept me away, more than sickness.
Before I came here, I knew the tyranny and oppression of kings; I felt it in my own person, and friends, and country; and when I came
[p. 89]here, I expected to find that freedom which is denied us at home. Our sisters in Germany have long desired freedom, but there, the desire is repressed as well in man as in woman. There is no freedom there, even to claim human rights. Here they expect to find freedom of speech, — here, for if we cannot claim it here, where should we go for it? Here, at least, we ought to be able to express our opinions on all subjects; and yet, it would appear, there is no freedom, even here, to claim human rights, although the only hope in our country for freedom of speech and action, is directed to this country for illustration and example. That freedom I claim. The women of my country look to this for encouragement and sympathy; and they, also, sympathize with this cause. We hope it will go on and prosper; and many hearts among the ocean of Germany are beating in unison with those here."
Madame Arneka retired amid a great uproar, which increased when Mr. W. Phillips presented himself again. He persisted against frequent clamorous interruptions in his purpose to speak, and addressed the meeting as follows: —
MR. PHILLIPS. "I am not surprised at the reception I meet. (Interruption.)
MRS. ROSE. "As presiding officer for this evening, I call upon the police. The Mayor, too, promised to see that our meetings shall not be disturbed, and I now call upon him, to preserve order. As citizens of New York, we have a right to this protection, for we pay our money for it. My friends, keep order, and then we shall know who the disturbers are."
MR. PHILLIPS. "You are making a better speech than I can, by your conduct. This is proof positive of the necessity of this Convention. The time has been when other Conventions have been met like this — with hisses. (Renewed hisses.) Go on with your hisses; geese have hissed before now. If it be your pleasure to argue our question for us, by proving that the men here, at least, are not fit for exercising political rights." (Great uproar.)
Mrs. ROSE. — "I regret that I have again to call upon the police to keep order; and if they are not able to do it, I call upon the meeting to help them."
Mr. PHILLIPS. — "You prove one thing to-night, that the men of New York do not understand the meaning of civil liberty and free discussion. We have invited you to this hall, to listen to the discussion of a great social question. We have offered to any man or woman the full use of our platform, to advance any reasonable argument that can be brought
[p. 90]against us. We will willingly yield the platform for that purpose. When you shall answer our arguments, then we will cease our agitation; but no amount of tumult or noise will ever turn from their purpose the men and women who have pledged themselves to this great enterprise. I warn you that the truth has often floated further on the shouts of a mob than from the lips of the most eloquent speaker. The very worst thing for us that you can do, is to hear us patiently and rationally; and (if you hate our cause) the very best thing you can do for us is to come here by thousands, and disgrace your own city. I have been, during the day, an attendant on another Convention. I came here tonight, certain that, in the men and women collected within these walls, I should find, at least by patient waiting, an audience ready to listen to the arguments which, as we think, conclusively shows the justice of our cause. Let me ask this question: Is it not a principle of American law, that no human being ought to be held responsible for a law to which that human being has not consented? Our revolutionary fathers fought for freedom. Was not that the very principle of our revolution? The aristocracy of the old world undertakes to say that the upper class can do all the voting, and govern for all the other classes. But, the democratic principle of American liberty is, that every one, of every class, is endowed with the political privilege of being able to protect himself. The moment you trespass on this principle, and lay down the maxim that the men have a right to make laws for the women, you grant all that the tories of the old world claim. While you undertake to hang, fine, and imprison women, as American democratic republicans, you are bound, by your own principles, to allow their voices in the making of the laws which exercise over them an authority so tremendous. I now repeat that the other principle of American liberty, from the days of our forefathers to the present, has ever been this: that taxation and representation go together; that they are co-extensive; that no man's property should be taxed unless he consented to the taxation.
I ask you now, as reasonable men, to consider a few facts. In Boston
there are nine millions of property in the names of women, and this
property is taxed as the property of women. I have myself paid into
the treasury at Boston
You say women are not competent to vote; but my principle is, that unless you allow woman a voice in the enactment of the laws, you have
[p. 91]no right to command her obedience to them. You say the women of America are not competent to vote. We should rejoice then, that the foreigners from Europe, who land here and remain five years, are fit to do what American women are not fit to do. But we must admit, with a sense of humiliation, that it is small credit to the schools of New York or Massachusetts, that they educate women so poorly, that an educated American woman, the finest product of our noble public schools, is not competent to decide on a political question, which a foreigner, who cannot read or write, is declared competent to determine.
And now, if there be in this audience, among the men who have made so free with their voices during the last hour, any man who wishes to take this stand, and, in a decent and manly manner, to give us reasons against our reasons, he is welcome to take it. And, in sitting down, I will add, that the men who have come here, and who are not willing even to attempt to answer any of our speakers, but content themselves with merely disturbing the session, prove, far better than we can do, that the political and civil education you have received, needs a new element, in order to make it worthy of American civilization and life. Mrs. Mott returned to the chair."
LUCY STONE presented herself, and spoke amid an uproar which made the first portion of her address, almost inaudible, but which diminished as she continued to speak, and at last subsided into earnest attention. She proceeded thus:
"Men, as men, show us here the ground we have taken is not a true ground! We had a right to hope that we would meet some respect, were it but for the memory of your mothers, perhaps cold in their graves to-day, whose hearts sympathize for the cause we plead for; some respect for a cause which claims to be that of the sex to which your mothers belong. Can there be a man here, who ever knew the sweet influence of a mother, that does not feel disgraced by what he sees? We have sat here for two days, and told you how woman is robbed of her children, her property, her rights; we have shown you how labor, remuneration enough to support her, is shut out from her, till many noble women are driven to shame because they have not a "sphere" wide enough to give them bread! We have shown you that when the same labor is performed by man and by woman, woman does hers no worse than man does his, but receives as her wages a paltry fraction only of that which is paid to man. We have pleaded, as best we could, in the fullness of our hearts, and as the justice of our cause, for your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, and your wives; and here is the result — the issue for the present!
But I turn to woman. What we see and hear, should be, to me and you, women, enough to make us plant our feet firmly, and pledge ourselves, each to another, and all to God, that the principles which we know to be true, the truth spoken here to-day, we will carry out in action, and in words too; wherever we can find an ear to hear, we will speak the wrongs of woman, remembering that the sneer which mocks a cause like ours, goes up to the ear of God, and sounds there, like sweet music, pleading in our behalf. The soul, animated with a noble purpose, is able to pass, all unheeding, such things as these.
Women, for all the wrongs we suffer, we must ourselves find a remedy.
I remember the words of a poet —
We draw a furrow through the fields of life, &c.
(Wholly inaudible in the confusion and noise.)
Woman must be loyal to woman; and when you see a plan set on foot to give woman a better means of livelihood, then you all should give it all the aid you can. We have seen a Shirt Sewer's Union, through all obstacles, come at last to some degree of operation. When you see women who try to protect themselves, I ask you, men, to assist them, and purchase from them what you want, which they have to sell. If there be a woman a physician, will not all women who need her services, employ her before a man? In this city, Mrs. Phœbe Patterson is a practical printer. Will not all women, all noble men, support her to the best of their power? Oh, woman! learn lessons of self-help, of self-reliance, and relieve your name of the meekness with which it has been belittled!
Daughters of the rich! The day may come when the hand that provides the luxuries in which you roll, shall be cold in the grave. Where then is the daughter who has grown so tenderly, — who has led so hampered and aimless a life, that she knows not how or where to look for bread? In the day of tribulation, she will feel the need of that aid which we claim, that her sisters should be able to extend to her. Women! we hold in our hands the rod with which, if we but smite, the waters of healing will gush forth, and we can heal ourselves. Let us leave no enterprise untried to gain the rights to which we have asserted our claim to-day. In the name of the convention, I thank those who have heard us; and you who have, I ask you, when you go to your homes, be they in the city, or in the country, let whatever words of truth you may have heard spoken here, find a lodgment in your head and in your heart. Whatever is worthy to be answered, speak it; whatever is fit to be done, do it: and we may, one day, call a convention in New York, when mothers shall have taught their sons
[p. 93]to do better than those who are here to-night. Oh! I have great hopes for those immortal souls whose existence runs on, parallel with the duration of Jehovah himself.
(Doubtful, owing to the noise.)
The time will come when men, calmed by the magic touch of natural love, will come here in quietude to listen — and not only to listen; but, as manly sons of noble mothers, they will say to woman — ‘we will stand by you whenever and wherever you speak the words of truth; we will stand by you, and add our words to your words, and our deeds to your deeds.’ And, friends! as God is true, and His eye is always keeping watch, I know the day will come when the very men who are here to-night, will blush for the things they have said and done, and go and make reparation by being worthy members of a grand Woman's Rights Convention. We will then have such a Convention, that, when we tell the deeds that were done here to-day, many will not believe them; and they will be listened to with the same incredulous ear which now receives the tales of the Salem witchcraft, and refuses to credit that men could have been so cruel and so blind as those tales tell us they have been. For each, his book of life is kept open, wherein angels daguerreotype his deeds; there each act is written in characters brighter or darker; and oh! how I wish that same pitying angel could step from his place, and brush away with his wing the record of these unworthy deeds, leaving the page of your book of life fair and unsullied! But, what is written by your deeds, — is written; and by your own acts you must stand. It is almost time to adjourn; but I will first ask you to provide yourselves with a document to scatter abroad, which will show the things we claim in their proper light. Pauline W. Davis announced, yesterday, a paper, not as the organ of the Woman's Rights Convention, but as her own paper advocating the cause of woman, and chronicling its progress; and, to-day, here on this platform, she received twenty dollars, as subscriptions to her paper. New York is not yet lost! The tract I wished to call your attention to, is, ‘Woman and her Wishes.’ It is beautifully written, by the Rev, Mr. Higginson, and is for sale at the door. Help us by circulating that document, that we may be understood by what we demand. Popular outcry sometimes drowns our voices. We want you to recognize the fact, that God makes no blunders; and when He gives to any man or woman the power to unveil error, He means that the error should be unveiled, and remedied. If the Truth is on the scaffold to day, it has always been there; and wrong has ever sat on a throne. For ourselves, we have perfect quietude. We stand on the right, and feel firm ground under our feet.
[p. 94]We have better words, better arguments than screeches and hisses. What we have said here, we will continue to say, nothing daunted. For you, great mass of the audience, who have given us an audience, I thank you; and let me announce that we will hold a National Woman's Rights Convention, in Cleveland, Ohio, on the 5th and 6th of October. It is a good time for travelling. Take a journey, and you will hear what you have not heard now. We will try the young cities of the West, and see if Cleveland be equal to New York — in some things."
The Rev. ANTOINETTE L. BROWNE addressed the Convention, (amid a scene of confusion and noise which made a great part of her address quite inaudible,) thus: — "A mother of three children, was the wife of a husband who had no care for the temporal or eternal welfare of those whom God had committed to his charge. He was a drunkard, who spent all his time in the dram shop, and let his family sink into the lowest depths of want; he left his wife penniless. Disease overtook him; he lay on his death-bed; and then he thought it was time he should make some amends for his misconduct, — what amends he could. His friends came around his bed, and said — "This is your best course; your children are all boys; will them to our charge; we will train them up, and their mother will be relieved from the burden of supporting ting them.’ The scheme was proposed to his wife; and what think you? Was she willing to have a heavy charge removed from her shoulders? No! that wife and mother was a heroine; and she said, — ‘I cannot give them up!’ They reasoned with her thus — ‘Think what you do; reflect to what you consign yourself, — incessant toil — toil early and late — toil that will wear out your strength and your endurance.’ But she answered, ‘I can labor before the sun is up until it is late at night: a mother can work for her children.’ Again they argued, — ‘A woman is not fit to take care of boys; you will do the children an injustice:’ and she replied, with true womanly dignity, ‘I have been accustomed to manage boys: my sons shall not want the knowledge of anything what it is fit that they should learn.’ These were cords of love going out from her own soul, and twining round those children. This was the spirit of a heroic mother — she did not know how the strong arm of the law could press upon it, and crush it!
Shortly after, her husband died. She went to the tomb, and wept earnestly and sincerely over the untimely grave of one whom she loved in spite of his faults. She returned to her home; and at night, as she pressed a sleepless pillow, wet with her tears, a new thought, a new hope, sprung into life within her soul — the sacrifice of self for the good of those who were dearer to her than her own life.
[p. 95]Great duties were before her; a great end was to be achieved. How should it be done? She would live to toil, but her toil would be for her children! Such were the sad, yet sweet and tender thoughts which occupied her mind through the weary watches of the night. Then morning came, and with it came those friends of her husband, who told her that her children were no longer hers! By his last will and testament their father had bequeathed two of her boys to two relatives: and they should go into the world where there would be no one to wipe the tears from their cheeks — no one to instil the lessons of virtue into their souls. One of her three children was a little one, and the babe was left with her; but, in a few weeks, the desolate mother wept over its little grave! And now let me tell the sequel of this sad story — the saddest of it all! She lived to see her eldest child a drunkard; in a world of temptation, he had no friendly hand to guide him; the first-born of her affections had fallen a prey to the tempter! And soon afterwards, they came and told her that her second boy had proved himself unworthy, had blighted his name for ever, and was confined in jail for theft! Then it seemed as if she had suffered too much of the agonies of life, and they laid her down in an early grave!
Think of these facts, and think of the law that caused them. I leave the thought with you. Remember, children can be torn from their mothers by the laws of this land. (Mocking groans.) Friends, we do not fear to have the shafts of ridicule turned against us. Why, think you do we come here? Do you suppose we love tumult such as this, for its own sake? No! But there is a moral power which enables us to stand, brave and true to our own hearts — a power which would make us strong enough to give up our lives for humanity."
Miss Brown ceased speaking amidst the most indescribable confusion.
Mr. ELLIOTT jumped on the platform, and, notwithstanding deafening cries from the audience, calling on him to desist, contrived, by bellowing at the top of his voice to make himself audible, as follows: — (When he appeared on the platform, a voice on it said, "Be silent; here is the champion of rowdies.")
Mr. ELLIOT. — "No, sir; I am not the champion of rowdies. This is the uncharitable judgment passed on strangers. I am not prejudiced. I reckon among my acquaintances several males and females who are friends of this movement. I, last night, asked the advocates of this cause to bring forward three solid arguments to support it. Now, all the attempts at argument (or nearly all) that I have heard or read, are merely stories, not arguments at all. (Interruption.) The rowdies are not all on one side, you perceive, ladies and gentlemen. Mrs. Rose laid down the law, giving us a new version of it; and saying a great deal
[p. 96]about spinning-wheels and spoons; but that is not argument. The strongest, indeed, the only argument, I heard advanced was this — that taxation without representation is robbery. Now, I am prepared to prove that it is a bad argument. If taxation without representation be robbery, then, robbery is right, and I am willing to be robbed. For twelve years I have paid taxes; and here and in other countries I have, in return, got protection. Robbery is, to take away property forcibly without giving an equivalent for it; but a good equivalent is given for taxation. In this and other countries, the property of individuals is taken from them, as when an owner of land is deprived of it by the State to make a rail-road through it: that is no robbery; an equivalent is given, and the owner is fairly dealt by. We have heard many instances of the tyranny inflicted on women; but is that a reason that they should vote? If it be, minors, who are under a double tyranny, that of father and mother —— ."
Here the audience seemed to have lost all patience, and Mr. Elliott's voice was completely drowned in the uproar. He retired, repeating that he had proved the rowdies were not all on one side.
The confusion now reached its climax. A terrific uproar, shouting, yelling, screaming, bellowing, laughing, stamping, cries of "Burleigh," "Root," "Truth," "shut up," "take a drink," "go to bed," "Greeley," "go it, Lucy," &c., prevented anything orderly being heard, and the Convention, on the motion of Mrs. Rose, was adjourned sine die; the following resolution having first been read by Dr. Harriet K. Hunt, and passed without dissent:[note]
Resolved, That the members of this Convention, and the audience assembled, tender their thanks to Lucretia Mott for the grace, firmness, ability and courtesy with which she has discharged her important and often arduous duties.
A letter was received from Caroline H. Doty, a delegate from the Woman's: Rights Association of Maquon, Knox Co., Illinois, which gives an account of the gratifying progress of public opinion in favor of the Woman's Rights movement in that region. The latter is not published on account of the lack of space.
Owing to shortness of time, we were not able to send the reports to the respective speakers for revision.
The copies of Mrs. Gage's and Mrs. Martin's speeches could not be obtained in time for publication, and therefore had to be omitted.
Committee for publication: ERNESTINE L. ROSE, ANDREW J. GRAHAM.