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.