The History of Woman Suffrage Volume I Part 107
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It is into hands like these--to these who have calmly met the terrible emergencies of life--who, without the inspiration of glory, or fame, or applause, through long years have faithfully and bravely performed their work, self-sustained and cheered, that we commit our cause. We need not wait for one more generation to pa.s.s away, to find a race of women worthy to a.s.sert the humanity of women, and that is all we claim to do.
Affectionately yours, ELIZABETH CADY STANTON.
FRANCES D. GAGE'S REPLY TO GERRIT SMITH.
[From Frederick Dougla.s.s' paper].
FREDERICK DOUGLa.s.s.--_Dear Sir_:--In your issue of Dec. 1st, I find a letter from Hon. Gerrit Smith to Elizabeth C. Stanton, in reference to the Woman's Rights Movement, showing cause, through labored columns, why it has proved a failure.
This article, though addressed to Mrs. Stanton, is an attack upon every one engaged in the cause. For he boldly a.s.serts that the movement "is not in proper hands, and that the proper hands are not yet to be found." I will not deny the a.s.sertion, but must still claim the privilege of working in a movement that involves not only my own interest, but the interests of my s.e.x, and through us the interests of a whole humanity. And though I may be but a John the Baptist, unworthy to unloose the latchet of the shoes of those who are to come in _short skirts_ to redeem the world, I still prefer that humble position to being Peter to deny my Master, or a Gerrit Smith to a.s.sert that truth _can_ fail.
I do not propose to enter into a full criticism of Mr. Smith's long letter. He has made the whole battle-ground of the Woman's Rights Movement her dress. Nothing brighter, nothing n.o.bler than a few inches of calico or brocade added to or taken from her skirts, is to decide this great and glorious question--to give her freedom or to continue her a slave. This argument, had it come from one of less influence than Gerrit Smith, would have been simply ridiculous. But coming from _him_, the almost oracle of a large portion of our reformers, it becomes worthy of an answer from every earnest woman in our cause. I will not say one word in defense of our present mode of dress. Not I; but bad as it is, and c.u.mbersome and annoying, I still feel that we can wear it, and yet be lovers of liberty, speaking out our deep feeling, portraying our acc.u.mulated wrongs, saving ourselves for a time yet from that antagonism which we must inevitably meet when we don the semi-male attire. We _must own ourselves under the law first_, own our bodies, our earnings, our genius, and our consciences; then we will turn to the lesser matter of what shall be the garniture of the body. Was the old Roman less a man in his c.u.mbrous toga, than Was.h.i.+ngton in his tights? Was Christ less a Christ in His vesture, woven without a seam, than He would have been in the suit of a Broadway dandy?
"Moreover, to concede to her rights of property, would be to benefit her comparatively little, unless she shall resolve to break out of her clothes-prison, and to undertake right earnestly, as earnestly as a man, to get property." So says Gerrit Smith. And he imputes the want of earnestness to her clothes. It in a new doctrine that high and holy purposes go from without inward, that the garments of men or women govern and control their aspirations. But do not women _now_ work right earnestly? Do not the German women and our market women labor right earnestly? Do not the wives of our farmers and mechanics toil?
Is not the work of the _mothers_ in our land as important as that of the father? "Labor is the foundation of wealth." The reason that our women are "paupers," is not that they do not labor "right earnestly,"
but that the law gives their earnings into the hands of manhood. Mr.
Smith says, "That women are helpless, is no wonder, so long as they are paupers"; he might add, no wonder that the slaves of the cotton plantation are helpless, so long as they are paupers. What reduces both the woman and the slave to this condition? The law which gives the husband and the master entire control of the person and earnings of each; the law that robs each of the rights and liberties that every "free white male citizen" takes to himself as G.o.d-given. Truth falling from the lips of a Lucretia Mott in long skirts is none the less truth, than if uttered by a Lucy Stone in short dress, or a Helen Maria Weber in pants and swallow-tail coat. And I can not yet think so meanly of manly justice, as to believe it will yield simply to a change of garments. Let us a.s.sert our right to be free. Let us get out of our prison-house of law. Let us own ourselves, our earnings, our genius; let us have power to control as well as to earn and to own; then will each woman adjust her dress to her relations in life.
Mr. Smith speaks of reforms as failures; what can he mean? "The Temperance Reform still drags." I have been in New York thirty-seven days; have given thirty-three lectures; have been at taverns, hotels, private houses, and depots; rode in stages, country wagons, omnibuses, carriages, and railroad cars; met the ma.s.ses of people daily, and yet have not seen one drunken man, scarce an evidence that there was such a thing as intemperance in the Empire State. If the whole body has been diseased from childhood and a cure be attempted, shall we cry out against the physician that his effort is a failure, because the malady does not wholly disappear at once? Oh, no! let us rather cheer than discourage, while we see symptoms of amendment, hoping and trusting that each day will give renewed strength for the morrow, till the cure shall be made perfect. The acc.u.mulated ills of centuries can not be removed in a day or a year. Shall we talk of the Anti-Slavery Cause as a "failure," while our whole great nation is shaking as if an Etna were boiling below? When did the North ever stand, as now, defiant of slavery? Anti-slavery may be said to be written upon the "chariots and the bells of the horses." Our National Congress is nothing more or less than a great Anti-slavery Convention. Not a bill, no matter how small or how great its importance, but hinges upon the question of slavery. The Anti-Slavery Cause is no failure; RIGHT CAN NOT FAIL.
"The next Woman's Rights Convention will be, as has every other Woman's Rights Convention, a failure, notwithstanding it will abound in righteous demands and n.o.ble sentiments." So thinks Mr. Smith. Has any Woman's Rights Convention been a failure? No movement so radical, striking so boldly at the foundation of all social and political order, has ever come before the people, or ever so rapidly and widely diffused its doctrine. The reports of our conventions have traveled wherever newspapers are read, causing discussion for and against, and these discussions have elicited truth, and aroused public thought to the evils growing out of woman's position. New trades and callings are opening to us; in every town and village may be found advocates for the equality of privilege under the law, for every thinking, reasoning human soul. Shall we talk of failure, because forty, twenty, or seven years have not perfected all things? When intemperance shall have pa.s.sed away, and the four million chattel slaves shall sing songs of freedom; when woman shall be recognized as man's equal, socially, legally, and politically, there will yet be reforms and reformers, and men who will despair and look upon one branch of the reform as the great _battle-ground_, and talk of the failure of the eternal law of progress. Still there will be stout hearts and willing hands to work on, honestly believing that truth and right are sustained by no single point, and their watchword will be "Onward!" We can not fail, for our cause is just.
FRANCES D. GAGE.
ROCHESTER, _Dec. 24, 1855_.
The names of those who wore the Bloomer costume at that early day are: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Mrs. William Burleigh, Charlotte Beebe Wilbour, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Jarvis, Lydia Sayre Hasbrook, Amelia Williard, Celia Burleigh, Harriet N. Austin, Lydia Jenkins, and many patients at sanitariums, many farmers' wives, and many young ladies for skating and gymnastic exercises.
Looking back to this experiment, we are not surprised at the hostility of men in general to the dress, as it made it very uncomfortable for them to go anywhere with those who wore it. People would stare; some men and women make rude remarks; boys follow in crowds, or shout from behind fences, so that the gentleman in attendance felt it his duty to resent the insult by showing fight, unless he had sufficient self-control to pursue the even tenor of his way without taking the slightest notice of the commotion his companion was creating. No man went through the ordeal with the coolness and dogged determination of Charles Dudley Miller, escorting his wife and cousin on long journeyings, at fas.h.i.+onable resorts, in New York and Was.h.i.+ngton, to the vexation of all his gentleman friends and acquaintances.
AMELIA BLOOMER COMMENTS ON JANE G. SWISSHELM.
_To the Editor of the Nonpareil:_
Jane Grey Swisshelm thinks it is dare-devil independence that is ruining the women of this country.--_Nonpareil_.
And what woman of them all has shown so much "dare-devil independence"
as Jane G. Swisshelm? One of the first women to wield the pen-editorial thirty years ago, she was so independent and fearless as to excite the wonder of her readers. The first woman admitted to the reporters' gallery in the Capitol of the nation, she astonished and shocked the country by her attacks upon Daniel Webster and other prominent senators at that day, and was expelled from the gallery for her "dare-devil independence." While publis.h.i.+ng a paper at St. Cloud, she was so outspoken and offensive in her personalities, that her press and type were destroyed by indignant politicians. After the war she obtained an office in one of the departments at Was.h.i.+ngton, and started a paper called the _Reconstructionist_ in that city. For her "dare-devil independence" as a writer in attacking President Johnson and charging that he had part in the a.s.sa.s.sination of President Lincoln, she was relieved of her office and her press destroyed.
And so in whatever she has part; to whatever she sets her hand, she ever displays a reckless independence that is truly a marvel to those who watch her uncertain course. She fearlessly attacks both friend and foe, if they go contrary to her views of right; and both people and measures that to-day have her countenance and approval, are liable to-morrow to receive an unmerciful las.h.i.+ng from her pen. No woman has set an example of more "dare-devil independence" before "the women of this country" than Jane G. Swisshelm, and if it is proving their ruin she has much to answer for. But we are not prepared to believe her a.s.sertion, and we can not think her a ruined woman, notwithstanding her many years of "dare-devil independence." The writer has known her long, has engaged in many a pen-tilt with her, but has never met her personally. She regards her as an able, outspoken defender of the wronged and oppressed, a fearless advocate of the right as she sees it, and an "independent dare-devil" writer on whatever subject she deems worthy of her pen.
COUNCIL BLUFFS, _July 30, 1880_.
NEW YORK STATE TEMPERANCE CONVENTION, ROCHESTER,
APRIL 20, 21, 1852.
LETTER FROM FRANCES DANA GAGE.
MCCONNELLSVILLE, O., _April 5, 1852_.
MY DEAR MISS ANTHONY:--Yours of March 22d, asking of me words of counsel and encouragement for the friends of temperance, who are to meet at Rochester on the 20th inst., is before me. Need I tell you how earnestly my heart responds to that request, and with what joy I hail every demonstration on the part of woman that evidences an awakening energy in her mind, to the great duties and responsibilities of her being!
If we examine the statistics of crime in the United States, we shall find that a very large proportion of the criminals of our land are the victims of intemperance. The records of poverty, shame, and degradation furnish the same evidence against the traffic and use of ardent spirits. Examine those same statistics, and another great truth stares us in the face--that nine-tenths of all the manufacturers of ardent spirits, of all the drinkers of ardent spirits, and of all the criminals made by ardent spirits, are men. But we find, too, in our search, a fact equally interesting to us, that the greatest sufferers from all this crime and shame and wrong, are women. Is it not meet, then, that women should lay aside the dependent inactivity which has. .h.i.therto held them powerless, and give their strength to the cause of reform which is now agitating the minds of the people?
What is woman? The answer is returned to me in tones that shake my very soul. She is the mother of mankind! The living providence, under G.o.d, who gives to every human being its mental, moral, and physical organism--who stamps upon every human heart her seal for good or for evil! Who then, but she, should cry aloud, and spare not, when the children she has borne--forgetting their allegiance to her and their duty to themselves, have a.s.sumed the power to rule over her, shutting her out from their counsels, and surrounding her, without her own consent, with circ.u.mstances which lead to misery and death; and, in their pride and strength, trampling upon justice, love, and mercy, withering her heart by violence and oppression, and yet compelling her, in her dependence as a wife, to perpetuate in her offspring their own depraved appet.i.tes and disorganized faculties?
It will not be denied that woman in all past ages has been made, by both law and custom, the inferior of her own children. Man has a.s.sumed to himself the power of being "lord of creation"; yet what has he done for his kind? Look at the present state of society and receive your answer! He has filled the world with madness, with oppression and wrong; he has allowed snares to be laid at every turn, to entangle the feet of our children, and lead them away into vice and crime. He has legalized the causes which fill the jails, the penitentiaries, the houses of correction, the poorhouses, and asylums with the blood of our hearts, even our children, and our children's children. There is not a drunkard in the land, not a criminal that has been made by strong drink, but is the child of a woman. Yet not one woman's vote has ever been given to legalize the sale of ardent spirits, that have maddened the brain of her child. No woman's vote ever sanctioned the rum-seller's bar, at which her husband has bartered away his manhood, and made himself more vile than the brutes that perish.
Shall I be answered that woman's home influence must keep her children and her husband in the paths of virtue and honor? What! disfranchised woman--made by her law-maker an appendage to himself, her intellect shackled, her labor underrated, her physical power dwarfed and enfeebled by custom--is she expected to do this mighty thing? I hear again an answer--"Woman is responsible for the moral atmosphere that surrounds her." Is this indeed so? Men have taken from her every power to protect herself, even the dignity and respect which the right of suffrage confers upon the lowest man in the community, and which makes his opinion worth its price among men, is denied her. Men are in the daily habit of indulging in immoralities and vices, while they enjoin it upon woman--"poor, frail, weak woman," as they call us--to destroy the influence they have created. They place the temptation before the child, then sternly demand of its suffering mother her vigilance and care to control the appet.i.te, which he has, it may be, inherited from his fathers, back from the third and fourth generation. Perchance, even through her own breast, he has sucked the poison that is corrupting all the streams of his young life. She may have grappled with the tempter, and come off conqueror; but can she hold him, the drunkard's child--the drunkard's grandchild--with the twofold curse upon his brow, while men place this direful temptation ever within his reach, glaring out upon him in beautiful enticement at every corner of the street, and at every turn of his daily and nightly walks, and add their influence and example to draw him away from the counsels of a mother's love, and the endearments of home? Then, when, under the influence of men, he outrages society, and in his maniac madness violates the law of the land, and becomes a felon, wasting away his days in the gloomy prison, or expiating his crimes upon the gallows, they forget what they have done, and, turning to the poor, crushed, and bleeding heart, which they have pierced with a thousand sorrows, cry out, "You, O mother of that guilty man, have not done your duty, and society holds you responsible for all his suffering and for all his crimes. O G.o.d! is this not adding insult to injury? How can the weak control the strong? How can the servant, bound hand and foot by the master, do the bidding of the tyrant? But all men are not weak--all men are not oppressive--all men are not unjust. There is a strong force, ever in the field of battle, struggling for truth and right with earnest heart and firm resolve. Let us arouse, O my sisters, and add our strength to theirs. The time is coming, aye, now is, when we must shake off our dependence and inactivity, and live more true to ourselves; when we must refuse to live the wives of drunkards, perpetuating, as mothers, their vices and crimes, to pollute society.
Let us unite with the good and true among men, that our efforts may overcome the legions who have hitherto conquered on the side of wrong, and raise high the standard of love and humanity, where falsehood and hate have ruled rampant. Let every woman, everywhere, speak out her bold, free thought on the subject of temperance; and while we plead with our rulers to deliver our husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers from the temptations to sin, let us demand with earnestness the right hereafter to protect ourselves; that we may redeem ourselves from the unjust law that now taxes every woman, without her own consent, according to her property or ability to labor, to pay her proportion for the support of vice and crime--that hereafter, when such great moral questions are under public discussion, and we, as one-half of the people, send up our pet.i.tions to our law-makers for a redress of wrongs, or an abatement of evils, our voice of pleading shall not be spurned by the heartless sneer, "They are only women, and the voice of a woman can not affect us at the polls, or disturb the course of our political parties. What care we for her progress or her wrongs?" Thus have we too often been answered, and shall be again, if we do not prove worthy of the chaplet of freedom, by winning it for ourselves.
Let us then unite heart and hand in this great temperance reform--laying aside all local animosities, all sectional prejudices and sectarian jealousies--and, as it were, with one voice and one spirit, take hold of the work before us, resolved, if we fail to-day, to rise with renewed energy to-morrow, and "Never give up!" be our motto, till, without bloodshed, without hate, or uncharitableness, we gain the victory over those who cater to the most uncontrollable and destructive pa.s.sion that has ever cursed humanity--the pa.s.sion for strong drink--and then, and not till then, will we fold our arms and take our rest, amid the hallelujahs of the redeemed.
Yours, in the cause of humanity, FRANCES D. GAGE.
S. B. ANTHONY, _Chairman of Committee_.
LETTER FROM MRS. C. I. H. NICHOLS.
BRATTLEBORO, Vt., _April 13, 1852_.
SISTERS AND FRIENDS OF TEMPERANCE:--In resorting to the pen as a medium of communication with your Convention, I feel, most sensibly, its inferiority to a _vis-a-vis_ talk--it tells so little, and that so meagerly! But, remembering that a single just thought, or vital truth, communicated to intelligent minds and willing hearts, is an investment sure of increase, I will bless G.o.d for the pen, and ask of Him to make it a tongue for humanity.
The limits of a written communication will forbid me to say much, and I would address myself to a single point broached in your Albany Convention, and a point that seems to me of the first importance; because a mistake in morals, a wrong perpetrated in the home relations, is the greatest of all wrongs to humanity. And marred, indeed, would be your triumph, if, in preventing the repeal of one unjust statute, you sanction the enactment of another. So true it is that one injustice becomes the source of another, I fear to contemplate the enactment of a trifling encroachment even upon inalienable rights or divinely sanctioned pursuits.
In addressing myself to the position that "drunkenness be made a good and sufficient cause for divorce," I am secured from any fear that you will regard me as warring with abstractions, since such a bill has found its way into your Legislature, proving that the popular sympathy for suffering women and children is already concentrating on divorce as the remedy. I have hesitated about addressing you on this subject, lest I might render myself obnoxious to the charge of diverting the objects of your meeting, to an occasion for the discussion of forbidden topics. But an irresistible conviction, that since the subject is already launched upon your reform, it is important that a just view of its bearings should be presented, impels me to throw myself upon your sympathy, trusting in the divine power of truth to commend both my motives and my positions to your judgments and your hearts.
And first, let me say, I would not be understood as opposed to emanc.i.p.ating the wretched victims of irremediable abuse. And if there be a benevolence, under the warm heaven of Almighty Love, it is the protecting of helplessness and innocence from the sufferings that result, inevitably, from the rum traffic. But while I fully agree with Mrs. Stanton, that no pure-hearted and understanding woman can innocently become the mother of a drunkard's offspring--while I rely upon the general diffusion of physiological truths to create a sentiment abhorrent to the idea of raising a posterity, the breath of whose life shall be derived from the animalized and morally tainted vitality of the drunkard--I differ with her in the remedy proposed.
If drunkenness were irremediable, and beyond the reach of legislation, then would I accept her remedy as the final resort. But regarding divorce as, at best, only affording a choice of evils, and drunkenness as equally within the power of legislation, I propose that drunkenness be legislated out of existence, and thus the necessity for divorce, which it creates, be avoided.
Let a thoroughly prohibitive law destroy the traffic, and the drunkard will be found "clothed" again and "in his right mind." It will come to this glorious consummation at last; and, though years may intervene, it becomes us to act with reference to the discerned future, and beware that transient evils do not betray us into planting life-long regrets. Allow me to ill.u.s.trate my idea by narrating incidents of a case in point, and which is inwoven with the recollections and tenderest sympathies of my whole life.
The young and lovely mother of five little ones procured a divorce from her husband, whose incompetency and unkindness was the result solely of intemperance, and that intemperance the consequence of his strong social bias and inability to resist the temptations of a period, when every man put the bottle to his neighbor's month as proof of his generosity, his friends.h.i.+p, and his good-breeding. His father, on whom the family were dependent for support, urged it upon the wife, as a duty to her children and due to her own self-respect, to procure a divorce, when, at last, the miserable husband had been sent to prison for a forgery, involving a small sum, and which he had thought to meet--before the note came to maturity--undetected.
She submitted, and, before the period of his imprisonment expired, married again, by the advice and persuasion of her kind father-in-law, to a wealthy and excellent man, who offered a father's care and home to her children, in proof of his affection for herself. But the heart never yielded its first love; and, when more than twenty years had pa.s.sed, she confessed to a friend "that, should he reform at the eleventh hour, she must be the most wretched of women." He did reform!
and for many years has exhibited those cheerful graces of the Christian, which, added to his naturally amiable disposition and unselfish deportment, make his three-score and tenth year seem rather the morning than the evening of a life, stretching far away into the glories of eternity.
The History of Woman Suffrage Volume I Part 107
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