페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

talking about women's rights, took the rights without saying anything about them.” Mrs. Jones, it appears, occupies the pulpits all over the country five days out of seven in lecturing on science. What she wanted, however, was the right to cote, which included all other rights. She wanted " to go into the legislative hall, sit on the judicial bench, and fill the chair of the Executive." Universal applause and energetic movement of fans followed this bold flight of feminine ambition.'

• After the Rev. Miss Antoinette Brown had cited some cases that bore on this question, Mrs. Davies returned to the wider field of discussion, and iystanced many lady-lecturers and preachers that drew largely wherever they went, and whom St. Paul bimself would not have commanded to cover their faces in the assembly. “ Woman's sphere," she observed, “is now wherever she makes it." Miss Lucy Stone went as far as the rest, but saw a practical difficulty. It was not so easy to go and take their rights; and sbe mentioned that Miss Harriett K. Hunt went to claim her right in the college where she had obtained permission to study from the heads of it, but the students “sacrificed” her. The lady herself, a jolly looking woman, upwards of forty-fat, but not fair, resented this rather ambiguous espression. It is evident, however, that whatever conquest she might have made among the heads of the college, the students were blind to her attractions, and Miss Hunt experienced some ungallant usage.'

That the ladies whose names are here recorded are distinguished amongst the party, we gather from the independent witness of Mr. Thos. Wentworth Higginson, whose essay on

Woman and her Wishes ’ is one of our subjects, where we find many of them placed in his list of worthies. The test of sphere,' he says, 'is success. If Miss Millar can walk the quarter-decksif Madame Grange can argue cases in court—if Mrs. W

can conduct the complex business transactions of a great Paris house-if Maria Mitchell can discover comets, and Harriett * Hosman carve statues—if Apollonia Jagiello can fight in one • European revolution, Mrs. Putnam vindicate another (besides 'having the gift of tongues)—if Harriet Hunt can really cure • diseases, and Lucretia Mott and Antoinette Brown can preach good sermons, and Mrs. Swisshelm and Mrs. Nichols edit suc• cessful newspapers, then all these are points gained for ever,

and the case is settled so far ’ (p. 8). And to Miss Lucy Stone he elsewhere gives this eloquent-we must not say gallanttestimony (p. 20): Often at conventions of men, amid the • roughness and the gruffness of tone, the stammering and the 'hesitating, when I have recalled to memory the clear delicious

voice of Lucy Stone, “gentle and low,- an excellent thing • in woman,” yet penetrating with its quiet fascination to the sutmost corners of the largest hall-never loud to the nearest, * never faint to the furthest, bearing in its quiet current all pure 'womanly thoughts and noble aspirations, I have almost won• dered at the tolerance of Paul in suffering a man to speak in public.' But to return

6

6

6

[ocr errors]

66

• The ladies now retired, and assembled again in the afternoon, when Mrs. Paulina W. Davis delivered an eloquent address on marriage, the conclusion of which was, woman was “the redeeming agency” of the world, and therefore now was the time for ber to do “ her proper work, and contribute to the peculiar elements of the new civilization now opening upon the world, in which love shall overrule force, and equal liberty and justice shall replace the degradation of castes and the oppression-of individuals.".'

Here followed • A magnificent burst on the wrongs of woman and the tyranny of man by Mrs. Ernestine Rose, a Polish Jewess by birth, who, after denouncing husbands, household duties, and tobacco, proceeded : “Her imagination was not large, but she had enough of it to see how the sexes could be united, that the wbole might be regarded as man in the highest title that the race is capable of. Kings, and priests, and archbishops, and other titles, invented to amuse children, are nothing compared to the title man, and that includes woman.” Mrs. Lucretia Mott then showed the degrading character of the marriage relation, and the false vow of obedience on the part of the woman made in some churches. Yes, woman was degraded by the times and by the monopoly of the church. According to a “Commen tary on Blackstone," the law made both man and wife one, but the man was that one.

It was from Lucy Stone she first learnt the degradation of women, even after her husband's death. She was called “the relict," or what remained of him. After a Mrs. Rose, Mrs. Nichols was announced as the editor of the “Wyndham County Democrat," and said, “So, you see, I am a politician." She entered at great length, and with much ingenuity and tact,” as we are told, into the legal wrongs of woman in regard to property. She had no legal existence. In the words of “ Blackstone," “ her existence is suspended during coverture."

• The evening session of this day was opened by Miss Lucy Stone reading a letter, addressed to her by Mr. Brigham, who had had the temerity to point out that man had his sphere and woman hers, and that they were equal in their several positions. Miss Lucy, who appeared to know a great deal about it, maintained, in reply, that the “arts and sciences were matters of genius, not of sex.” “She denied that there was any peculiarity in the male that distinguished him from the female. The sexes were both alike by nature.” Mr. Brigham, who chanced to be present, said in defence of his letter, “All the ladies wanted was better taste, and they would find their sphere at last in the domestic circle ;" whereupon a host of single ladies jumped up, and “Miss Dr. Harriett K. Hunt” became their spokes

“What was she to do?” She was living a life of single blessedness—what was to be her sphere? Mr. Brigham replied rather weakly, and soon found he had disturbed a hornet's nest. In the midst of the uproar, while, if not sticks and stones, at least very grave words were flying about, a vir pietate gravis, in the shape of the venerable Anne Partiman, mentioned above, rose up and plunged into the mysteries of the question. “A clergyman once said to her, that woman was the wickedest thing God ever made. Her reply to him was, that if the one rib taken from man was so awfully wicked, what must the whole body of man be?” This led the way to the Bible argument” in favour of the equality of the sexes, which was thereupon ably taken up by the Rev. Antoinette Brown. No sooner, however, had the clerical lady sat down, than the gentle Miss Rose gave her views on scriptural authority. “She did not want appeals to the Bible. Anything might be proved from that book. When the people of Boston turned their harbour into a teapot, there were plenty to quote Scripture to

man,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

prove them wrong. She wanted to appeal to no written authority for selfevident truths and natural laws.” After some remarks on the Emperor of Russia, the Pope, and other great personages, Miss Rose came down like a thunderbolt on our own excellent countryman, Mr. Roebuck, who, while acknowledging that to woman he was indebted for the formation of his mind and the consolation of his sorrows, nevertheless would not accede to the proposition for giving women the 51. franchise.'

Miss Rose, confident in the world-wide importance of the movement, boldly challenges Mr. Roebuck through the press, ' that mighty power, that will bring my words to him on the wings of the lightning, as quick as I speak them;' a daring prophecy, which we doubt not was fulfilled,

• This finished the evening session of the second day. We must make short work of the third day. Dr. Harriett K. Hunt took the lead by moving certain resolutions for the admission of female students into medical colleges, with a special view to raising the public morals and correcting certain abuses of the public press by " a new medical infusion of the woman element”- -a threat which, as it is directed against editors, perhaps we ought to understand. Miss Anthony, described as a slender girl, of about twenty years of age, never known to smile, then moved a resolution on her own hook, to sustain journals edited by women in preference to those edited by men. She instanced the Lily, edited by Miss Bloomer; the 'Genius of Liberty,' by Mrs. E. Aldridge; and the Democrat,' by Mrs. Nichols. Then ensued a very long debate about organization, both as a law of nature and a mode of diffusing opinions. The ladies took very strong views on this subject, for and against. Mrs. Rose thought all organizations Chinese bandages. They were the incubus of our nature. Others argued from the Jesuits, from the English Universities, and all conceivable analogies, that organization, though a bandage, was necessary to effect. The few gentlemen present were generally in favour of the principle, but did not gain much attention. Mr. James King, losing his temper at the clamour raised against him, shouted out, “ You would keep us out of your conventions if you could. The physical element rules the world, and it ever will; and the male being predominant”—No more was heard, and Mr. King ceased to predominate in that meeting. At the afternoon session the Rev. C. L. Hatch, of Massachusetts, congregational minister, asked leave to address the meeting, and did so from a paper. He began with much apparent tact, commenting in a mild and candid tone on certain published letters, and defending the ministerial order from the attacks of “ women's-rights' women.” Whether he was feeling bis way, or whether he was warming with his subject, certainly there was a progression in his remarks. “ Miss Stone,” he said, had asserted “ that men shut up their wives. Women have the same right, if they are able. I knew a woman who shut up her drunken busband, and sewed him up in the sheets, and wbipped him till he got sober.” This was received with roars of laughter, and “ Served him right, too !”. “ I hope she will always do the same!” After observing on the precedence given to women, he observed, “ Miss Stone has also said that nothing is peculiar to woman but her maternity;" and with that surplusage so common to clerical speakers, he proceeded to develop the idea of maternity with unnecessary distinctness. Receiving a check he drew in a little, but soon reminded his fair hearers that “if women run against horses they must expect to be betted on.” He then boldly contrasted the true feminine element with the sbrill clarion and the brazen trumpet” of the voices around him, and amidst a storm of indignation, sar

sexes.

women.

casm, and rebukes from the chair, he concluded, “ God fend the time when this feminine element shall be laid aside, and our sisters shall bustle in the crowd with their brothers and mix in the rough and trouble of life,:'' Continuing his offensive speech in terms which overwhelmed his hearers with indignation and confusion

He reiterated the idea with tedious minuteness and studied impropriety. Brought to a standstill by the blast of feminine execration, he humbly begged that he might be permitted to finish his paper—there were only three lines more. But considering the abyss he had been deliberately descending into, it is fearful to think what these three lines might have contained, and we must say the “women's-rights' women" were justified in refusing to hear them, and in expelling him in a storm of hisses. Do they not see, however, that such a finale exposes the absurdity of the convention? There is, then, a moral as well as a physical difference between the two

Even at Syracuse there are expressions that would fall unobserved and harmless in a company of men, but are intolerable in the bearing of

Mr. Hatch applied rather a coarse test, but it was sufficient to prove that his hearers were women in spite of themselves.'-Times, Dec. 30, 1852.

In this Report are included, either by express mention or implication, all the demands the movement party amongst American women are set upon obtaining. All that is understood by the rights of women :'-and these are briefly comprehended in an absolute equality between the sexes, and, in most senses, a subversion of all the preconceived notions of a natural division of duties. Women, as a sex, cannot help, it is true, being the mothers of the human race; but this is not admitted as any exemption from active public service. There. fore, they demand, first, an education which shall fit them for this sphere, and an admission to schools and colleges of men, and all the dignities and preferments annexed to these, at present, close foundations. Next, they claim political rights, not only the liberty of voting, but access to every public office. This naturally implies an assertion of equal fitness with men for every calling, clerical, professional, legal, medical; and for every art or craft they may incline to. “Let them,' exclaims Margaret Fuller, be sea-captains if they will.' It is needless to add, that in social life all ideas of subjection are boldly discarded. Especial stress is laid on the rights of property.

No woman shall forfeit her independence of action by marrying. She shall be at liberty to earn money by any calling, lay or clerical, she may choose, and her earnings shall be absolutely

The idea of obedience is, in fact, wholly disowned, as an antiquated figment; for submission to reason, which they substitute in its stead, proceeds from an entirely different principle from obedience to authority; the first is submission to self, the last to another. Woman is henceforth to be a 'self-sustaining

[ocr errors]

her own.

thing of power.' Nor does she want male advocates to support all these pretensions : Mr. T. W. Higginson thus sums up their case :

It would seem that, under the circumstances, the rising protest of American women, though it may annoy men, can hardly surprise them. I have chosen to begin with the consideration of education, because that is a point commonly conceded, and therefore a good fulcrum for the lever. But much more remains behind. It is not the sole grievance of woman that she has not even her full share of school-education.

• Nor is the complaint only, that any system of “education" is utterly imperfect which provides for women only schools, and not functions.

* Nor is it the whole of the grievance, that the employments easily accessible to women are few, unintellectual, and underpaid.

• Nor is it all, that the denial of equal political rights being an absolute wrong, must necessarily be in many ways a practical wrong. Is not each individual, male or female, a unit before God? Has not woman, equally with man, an individual body to be protected, and an individual soul to be saved? Must she not see, feel, know, speak, think, act, for herself, and not through another? We hear much said of the value of the “franchise of a freeman,” say women; but why should Franchise belong to Francis more than to Frances, when the three words are etymologically the same, and should be practically so,—all signifying simply, Freedom? Nay, as things now stand, Frank may grow up a vulgar, ignorant ruffian, and Fanny nay have the mental calibre and culture of Margaret Fuller or Mary Lowell Putnam,—the self-devoted energy of Dorothea Dix or Mary Ware: yet it will make no difference. The man must count as one in the State, the woman counts zero; a ratio, as mathematicians agree, of infinite inferiority.

• But this is not all. Nor is it all, that this exclusion is a thing done without “the consent of the governed.” “The body politic (says the Massachusetts Constitution) is formed by a voluntary association of individuals.” Accordingly, we think it a daring responsibility to hold a Constitutional Convention, or even to pass a Liquor Law, without a popular vote thereon. When was the popular vote taken, in which women relinquished even the rights conceded to them by their English ancestors ? At any given moment there is probably a clear majority of women over men in this commonwealth. Have this majority consented to their present subjection ? No, they have had no opportunity to consent; they have never been asked; they have only acquiesced, as the black majority in South Carolina acquiesce, because that very subjection has made them both ignorant and timid.

* Nor is it all, that we lose the services of the purest half of the human race from our public offices. Not one of these admirable women, whom I have just named, may have a direct voice in legislating for a hospital or a prison; not one of these accomplished ones can have a place in even a school-committee; to say nothing of those grander cares of state, which were yet freely granted to Elizabeth of England and to Maria Theresa.

• Nor is it all, that female labour thus loses its guarantee of protection, which political economy has always recognized as an important feature of free institutions. “To give energy to industrial enterprise,” says one American writer, unconscious of the covert satire, “the dignity of labour should be sustained; the franchise of a freeman should be granted to the humblest labourer who has not forfeited his right by crime. In the responsibilities of a freeman, he will find the strongest motives to exertion. Besides, so far as Government can by its action affect bis confidence of

[ocr errors]

a

« 이전계속 »