Document 18: Phoebe Patterson, Letter to the Editor, New York Times, Sept. 10, 1853, p. 2.


   Many women opposed woman's rights. Indeed its advocates often admitted that they were a minority within their sex. Phoebe Patterson's letter to the editor of the Times gave voice to these women. Editor and publisher Henry Raymond published her letter, perhaps in an effort to remind his readers that it was not only men who felt women should remain within their own "sphere."

[p. 2]

A Woman on the Woman's Rights Convention

To the Editor of the New-York Daily Times:

    In your paper of Wednesday, ABBY PRICE, the agent and factotum of Mrs. DAVIS's paper, is reported to have said, that the "Women's Rights" journal was printed by me and other girls. She did say so, but allow me to state that it was an unmitigated falsehood, and that every "strong-minded" man and woman on the platform knew it to be so. Mrs. DAVIS'S paper is not printed by me or any other woman. Why the cruel lie was uttered I will explain.

    For two years I have carefully read the speeches, watched the programs, and perused the remarks of the press upon the doctrines of "Woman's Rights," and I concluded to try the truthfulness and sincerity of all by a practical test. I visited each strong-minded man and woman separately, and then addressed them collectively upon the recent exposures of the miserable pittance paid to seamstresses and tailoresses, with a plan by which such crying wrongs might be remedied. In fact, my proposition was to offer a wider scope for woman's faculties--to teach women the right to "labor and to live," at remunerative prices. I regarded the right to labor and to live as the basis of all other rights, and on behalf of twelve American females, I appealed to LUCRETIA MOTT, LUCY STONE, Mrs. NICHOLS, ANTOINETTE BROWN, ABBY PRICE, Mrs. DAVIS, Mrs. FOWLER, Mr. BARNUM, and Mr. BURLEIGH to give us their countenance and commitment to aid our undertaking. I carefully noted the replies of each, and found them a just index of their countenances. The first four cared nothing for women's efforts, except for political or pantaloon [?] rights, and gave a flat-footed refusal to either allowing me to read my prospectus or say a few words from the rostrum on behalf of those women who only wish the right to labor and to live. Three were willing to broach the subject, provided I allowed the sympathy of the audience, and the profits of my girls' labor to go to the "Woman's Rights Paper." BURLEIGH was candid enough to tell me, that women who had no spirit but begging for leave to toil, were but mean-hearted creatures, who deserved their fate. BARNUM's reply (by letter) insinuated, that when we needed no assistance, and were likely to repay him by a public notice of his philanthropy, and advertise his Museum, why then he might cumber us with his help. ABBY PRICE and Mrs. DAVIS took advantage of my absence to state the falsehood reported in Wednesday's paper, and endeavored, and are now endeavoring, to obtain sympathy and money by professing that I and other women are printing her paper.

    Such are the Women's Rights folks as I found them. I had fair opportunity of measuring their real intellect and morality, and both I found questionable. I gathered from each that most were disappointed in their schemes and hopes, and, like gamblers were now living on the excitement of vanity, acquisitiveness, and scandal. These three from their bond of union:--their motives, duties, and hopes I found confined to money, praise, and excitement. From the Miss of middle-age to the octogenarian, I found each saturated with stories of the folly,, and wickedness of the others, and I was positively bored with flat and insipid disquisitions on each other's personal frailties. As to assisting industrious females to a better competence for their labor, they have a horribly unconquerable antipathy to the idea, lest it detract from their own agitation or profits. Their zeal is for themselves. Their dry, hard souls, were perfectly unaffected by my description of the wrongs of needle-women; and, the spirit of truth be my witness, I never found the subject treated with such malignant apathy or theatrical flippancy before. I endorse the sentiments of your paper about the vanity and selfishness of these women and men, and now know them to be as destitute of benevolence, tenderness of heart, and love of truth, as their persons are unattractive. But, while scorning their sentiments and aims, I weep at their want of the commonest of virtues.


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