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.