[quote]This heralds a turn in the tide of benevolence, when, instead of building churches and monuments to great men, and endowing colleges for boys, women will make the education and enfranchisement of their own sex the chief object of their lives.[/quote]
The labors of those who have edited these volumes are not only finished as far as this work extends, but if three-score years and ten be the usual limit of human life, all our earthly endeavors must end in the near future. After faithfully collecting material for several years, and making the best selections our judgment has dictated, we are painfully conscious of many imperfections the critical reader will perceive. But since stereotype plates will not reflect our growing sense of perfection, the lavish praise of friends as to the merits of these pages will have its antidote in the defects we ourselves discover. We may however without egotism express the belief that this volume will prove specially interesting in having a large number of contributors from England, France, Canada and the United States, giving personal experiences and the progress of legislation in their respective localities.
Into younger hands we must soon resign our work; but as long as health and vigor remain, we hope to publish a pamphlet report at the close of each congressional term, containing whatever may be accomplished by State and National legislation, which can be readily bound in volumes similar to these, thus keeping a full record of the prolonged battle until the final victory shall be achieved. To what extent these publications may be multiplied depends on when the day of woman’s emancipation shall dawn.
For the completion of this work we are indebted to Eliza Jackson Eddy, the worthy daughter of that noble philanthropist, Francis Jackson. He and Charles F. Hovey are the only men who have ever left a generous bequest to the woman suffrage movement. To Mrs. Eddy, who bequeathed to our cause two-thirds of her large fortune, belong all honor and praise as the first woman who has given alike her sympathy and her wealth to this momentous and far-reaching reform. This heralds a turn in the tide of benevolence, when, instead of building churches and monuments to great men, and endowing colleges for boys, women will make the education and enfranchisement of their own sex the chief object of their lives.
The three volumes now completed we leave as a precious heritage to coming generations; precious, because they so clearly illustrate—in her ability to reason, her deeds of heroism and her sublime self-sacrifice—that woman preeminently possesses the three essential elements of sovereignty as defined by Blackstone: “wisdom, goodness and power.” This has been to us a work of love, written without recompense and given without price to a large circle of friends. A thousand copies have thus far been distributed among our coadjutors in the old world and the new. Another thousand have found an honored place in the leading libraries, colleges and universities of Europe and America, from which we have received numerous testimonies of their value as a standard work of reference for those who are investigating this question. Extracts from these pages are being translated into every living language, and, like so many missionaries, are bearing the glad gospel of woman’s emancipation to all civilized nations.
Since the inauguration of this reform, propositions to extend the right of suffrage to women have been submitted to the popular vote in Kansas, Michigan, Colorado, Nebraska and Oregon, and lost by large majorities in all; while, by a simple act of legislature, Wyoming, Utah and Washington territories have enfranchised their women without going through the slow process of a constitutional amendment. In New York, the State that has led this movement, and in which there has been a more continued agitation than in any other, we are now pressing on the legislature the consideration that it has the same power to extend the right of suffrage to women that it has so often exercised in enfranchising different classes of men.
Eminent publicists have long conceded this power to State legislatures as well as to congress, declaring that women as citizens of the United States have the right to vote, and that a simple enabling act is all that is needed. The constitutionality of such an act was never questioned until the legislative power was invoked for the enfranchisement of women. We who have studied our republican institutions and understand the limits of the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the government, are aware that the legislature, directly representing the people, is the primary source of power, above all courts and constitutions. Research into the early history of this country shows that in line with English precedent, women did vote in the old colonial days and in the original thirteen States of the Union. Hence we are fully awake to the fact that our struggle is not for the attainment of a new right, but for the restitution of one our fore-mothers possessed and exercised.
All thoughtful readers must close these volumes with a deeper sense of the superior dignity, self-reliance and independence that belong by nature to woman, enabling her to rise above such multifarious persecutions as she has encountered, and with persistent self-assertion to maintain her rights. In the history of the race there has been no struggle for liberty like this. Whenever the interest of the ruling classes has induced them to confer new rights on a subject class, it has been done with no effort on the part of the latter. Neither the American slave nor the English laborer demanded the right of suffrage. It was given in both cases to strengthen the liberal party. The philanthropy of the few may have entered into those reforms, but political expediency carried both measures. Women, on the contrary, have fought their own battles; and in their rebellion against existing conditions have inaugurated the most fundamental revolution the world has ever witnessed. The magnitude and multiplicity of the changes involved make the obstacles in the way of success seem almost insurmountable.
The narrow self-interest of all classes is opposed to the sovereignty of woman. The rulers in the State are not willing to share their power with a class equal if not superior to themselves, over which they could never hope for absolute control, and whose methods of government might in many respects differ from their own. The annointed leaders in the Church are equally hostile to freedom for a sex supposed for wise purposes to have been subordinated by divine decree. The capitalist in the world of work holds the key to the trades and professions, and undermines the power of labor unions in their struggles for shorter hours and fairer wages, by substituting the cheap labor of a disfranchised class, that cannot organize its forces, thus making wife and sister rivals of husband and brother in the industries, to the detriment of both classes. Of the autocrat in the home, John Stuart Mill has well said: “No ordinary man is willing to find at his own fireside an equal in the person he calls wife.” Thus society is based on this fourfold bondage of woman, making liberty and equality for her antagonistic to every organized institution. Where, then, can we rest the lever with which to lift one-half of humanity from these depths of degradation but on “that columbiad of our political life—the ballot—which makes every citizen who holds it a full-armed monitor”?
THE CENTENNIAL YEAR—1876.
The Dawn of the New Century—Washington Convention—Congressional Hearing—Woman’s Protest—May Anniversary—Centennial Parlors in Philadelphia—Letters and Delegates to Presidential Conventions—50,000 Documents sent out—The Centennial Autograph Book—The Fourth of July—Independence Square—Susan B. Anthony reads the Declaration of Rights—Convention in Dr. Furness’ Church, Lucretia Mott, Presiding—The Hutchinson Family, John and Asa—The Twenty-eighth Anniversary, July 19, Edward M. Davis, Presiding—Letters, Ernestine L. Rose, Clarina I. H. Nichols—The Ballot-Box—Retrospect—The Woman’s Pavilion.
During the sessions of 1871-72 congress enacted laws providing for the celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of American independence, to be held July 4, 1876, in Philadelphia, the historic city from whence was issued the famous declaration of 1776.
The first act provided for the appointment by the president of a “Centennial Commission,” consisting of two members from each State and territory in the Union; the second incorporated the Centennial Board of Finance and provided for the issue of stock to the amount of $10,000,000, in 1,000,000 shares of $10 each. It was at first proposed to distribute the stock among the people of the different States and territories according to the ratio of their population, but subscriptions were afterward received without regard to States. The stockholders organized a board of directors, April 1, 1873. The design of the exhibition was to make it a comprehensive display of the industrial, intellectual and moral progress of the nation during the first century of its existence; but by the earnest invitation of our government foreign nations so generally participated that it was truly, as its name implied, an “International and World’s Exposition.”
The centennial year opened amid the wildest rejoicing. In honor of the nation’s birthday extensive preparations were made for the great event. Crowds of people eager to participate in the celebration, everywhere flocked from the adjacent country to the nearest village or city, filling the streets and adding to the general gala look, all through the day and evening of December 31, 1875. From early gas-light upon every side the blowing of horns, throwing of torpedos, explosion of fire-crackers, gave premonition of more enthusiastic exultation. As the clock struck twelve every house suddenly blossomed with red, white and blue; public and private buildings burst into a blaze of light that rivaled the noon-day sun, while screaming whistles, booming cannon, pealing bells, joyous music and brilliant fire-works made the midnight which ushered in the centennial 1876, a never-to-be-forgotten hour.
Portraits of the presidents from Washington and Lincoln laurel-crowned, to Grant, sword in hand, met the eye on every side. Stars in flames of fire lighted the foreign flags of welcome to other nations. Every window, door and roof-top was filled with gay and joyous people. Carriages laden with men, women and children in holiday attire enthusiastically waving the national flag and singing its songs of freedom. Battalions of soldiers marched through the streets; Roman candles, whizzing rockets, and gaily-colored balloons shot upward, filling the sky with trails of fire and adding to the brilliancy of the scene, while all minor sounds were drowned in the martial music. Thus did the old world and the new commemorate the birth of a nation founded on the principle of self-government.
The prolonged preparations for the centennial celebration naturally roused the women of the nation to new thought as to their status as citizens of a republic, as well as to their rightful share in the progress of the century. The oft-repeated declarations of the fathers had a deeper significance for those who realized the degradation of disfranchisement, and they queried with each other as to what part, with becoming self-respect, they could take in the coming festivities. Woman’s achievements in art, science and industry would necessarily be recognized in the Exposition; but with the dawn of a new era, after a hundred years of education in a republic, she asked more than a simple recognition of the products of her hand and brain; with her growing intelligence, virtue and patriotism, she demanded the higher ideal of womanhood that should welcome her as an equal factor in government, with all the rights and honors of citizenship fully accorded. During the entire century, women who understood the genius of free institutions had ever and anon made their indignant protests in both public and private before State legislatures, congressional committees and statesmen at their own firesides; and now, after discussing the right of self-government so exhaustively in the late anti-slavery conflict, it seemed to them that the time had come to make some application of these principles to the women of the nation. Hence it was with a deeper sense of injustice than ever before that the National Suffrage Association issued the call for the annual Washington Convention of 1876:
Call for the Eighth Annual Washington Convention.—The National Woman Suffrage Association will hold its Eighth Annual Convention in Tallmadge Hall, Washington, D. C., January 27, 28, 1876. In this one-hundredth year of the Republic, the women of the United States will once more assemble under the shadow of the national capitol to press their claims to self-government.
That property has its rights, was acknowledged in England long before the revolutionary war, and this recognized right made “no taxation without representation” the most effective battle-cry of that period. But the question of property representation fades from view beside the greater question of the right of each individual, millionaire or pauper, to personal representation. In the progress of the war our fathers grew in wisdom, and the Declaration of Independence was the first national assertion of the right of individual representation. That “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” thenceforward became the watchword of the world. Our flag, which beckons the emigrant from every foreign shore, means to him self-government.
But while in theory our government recognizes the rights of all people, in practice it is far behind the Declaration of Independence and the national constitution. On what just ground is discrimination made between men and women? Why should women, more than men, be governed without their own consent? Why should women, more than men, be denied trial by a jury of their peers? On what authority are women taxed while unrepresented? By what right do men declare themselves invested with power to legislate for women? For the discussion of these vital questions friends are invited to take part in the convention.
Matilda Joslyn Gage, President, Fayetteville, N. Y.
Susan B. Anthony, Ch’n Ex. Com., Rochester, N. Y.
At the opening session of this convention the president, Matilda Joslyn Gage, said:
I would remind you, fellow-citizens, that this is our first convention in the dawn of the new century. In 1776 we inaugurated our experiment of self-government. Unbelief in man’s capacity to govern himself was freely expressed by every European monarchy except France. When John Adams was Minister to England, the newspapers of that country were filled with prophecies that the new-born republic would soon gladly return to British allegiance. But these hundred years have taught them the worth of liberty; the Declaration of Independence has become the alphabet of nations; Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the isles of the sea, will unite this year to do our nation honor. Our flag is everywhere on sea and land. It has searched the North Pole, explored every desert, upheld religious liberty of every faith and protected political refugees from every nation, but it has not yet secured equal rights to women.
This year is to be one of general discussion upon the science of government; its origin, its powers, its history. If our present declaration cannot be so interpreted as to cover the rights of women, we must issue one that will. I have received letters from many of the Western States and from this District, urging us to prepare a woman’s declaration, and to celebrate the coming Fourth of July with our own chosen orators and in our own way. I notice a general awakening among women at this time. But a day or two since the women of this District demanded suffrage for themselves in a petition of 25,000 names. The men are quiet under their disfranchisement, making no attempt for their rights—fit slaves of a powerful ring.
The following protest was presented by Mrs. Gage, adopted by the convention, printed and extensively circulated:
To the Political Sovereigns of the United States in Independence Hall assembled:
We, the undersigned women of the United States, asserting our faith in the principles of the Declaration of Independence and in the constitution of the United States, proclaiming it as the best form of government in the world, declare ourselves a part of the people of the nation unjustly deprived of the guaranteed and reserved rights belonging to citizens of the United States; because we have never given our consent to this government; because we have never delegated our rights to others; because this government is false to its underlying principles; because it has refused to one-half its citizens the only means of self-government—the ballot; because it has been deaf to our appeals, our petitions and our prayers;
Therefore, in presence of the assembled nations of all the world, we protest against this government of the United States as an oligarchy of sex, and not a true republic; and we protest against calling this a centennial celebration of the independence of the people of the United States.
Letters were read and a series of resolutions were discussed and adopted:
Resolved, That the demand for woman suffrage is but the next step in the great movement which began with Magna Charta, and which has ever since tended toward vesting government in the whole body of the people.
Resolved, That we demand of the forty-fourth congress, in order that it may adequately celebrate the centennial year, the admission to the polls of the women of all the territories, and a submission to the legislatures of the several States of an amendment securing to women the elective franchise.
Resolved, That the enfranchisement of women means wiser and truer wedlock, purer and happier homes, healthier and better children, and strikes, as nothing else does, at the very roots of pauperism and crime.
Resolved, That if Colorado would come into the Union in a befitting manner for the celebration of the centennial of the Declaration of Independence, she should give the ballot to brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and thus present to the nation a truly free State.
Resolved, That the right of suffrage being vested in the women of Utah by their constitutional and lawful enfranchisement, and by six years of use, we denounce the proposition about to be again presented to congress for the disfranchisement of the women in that territory, as an outrage on the freedom of thousands of legal voters and a gross innovation of vested rights; we demand the abolition of the system of numbering the ballots, in order that the women may be thoroughly free to vote as they choose, without supervision or dictation, and that the chair appoint a committee of three persons, with power to add to their number, to memorialize congress, and otherwise to watch over the rights of the women of Utah in this regard during the next twelve months.
Belva A. Lockwood presented the annual report: The question of woman suffrage is to be submitted to the people of Iowa during the present centennial year, if this legislature ratifies the action of the previous one. Colorado has not embodied the word “male” in her constitution, and a vigorous effort is being made to introduce woman suffrage there. In Minnesota women are allowed to vote on school questions and to hold office by a recent constitutional amendment. In Michigan, in 1874, the vote for woman suffrage was 40,000, about 1,000 more votes than were polled for the new constitution. The Connecticut legislature, during the past year appointed a committee to consider and report the expediency of making women eligible to the position of electors for president and vice-president. The committee made a unanimous report in its favor, and secured for its passage 82 votes, while 101 votes were cast against it. In Massachusetts, Governor Rice, in his inaugural address, recommended to the legislature to secure to women the right to vote for presidential electors. An address to the legislature of New York by Mesdames Gage, Blake and Lozier upon this question, was favorably received and extensively quoted by the press. At an agricultural fair in Illinois the Hon. James R. Doolittle advocated household suffrage. In the Senate of the thirteenth legislature of the State of Texas, Senator Dohoney, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, made a report strongly advocating woman suffrage; and in 1875, when a member of the Constitutional Convention, he advocated the same doctrine, and was ably assisted by Hon. W. G. L. Weaver. The governor of that State, in his message, recommended that women school teachers should receive equal pay for equal work. The word “male” does not occur in the new constitution. In the territories of Wyoming and Utah, woman suffrage still continues after five years’ experiment, and we have not learned that households have been broken up or that babies have ceased to be rocked.
Women physicians, women journalists and women editors have come to be a feature of our institutions. Laura De Force Gordon, a member of our association, is editing a popular daily—the Leader—in Sacramento, Cal. Women are now admitted to the bar in Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Utah, Wyoming and the District of Columbia. They are eligible and are serving as school superintendents in Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Illinois allows them to be notaries public. As postmasters they have proved competent, and one woman, Miss Ada Sweet, is pension agent at Chicago. Julia K. Sutherland has been appointed commissioner of deeds for the State of California. In England women vote on the same terms as men on municipal, parochial and educational matters. In Holland, Austria and Sweden, women vote on a property qualification. The Peruvian Minister of Justice has declared that Peru places women on the same footing as men. Thus all over the world is the idea of human rights taking root and cropping out in a healthful rather than a spasmodic outgrowth.
The grand-daughter of Paley, true to her ancestral blood, has excelled all the young men in Cambridge in moral science. Julia J. Thomas, of Cornell University, daughter of Dr. Mary F. Thomas, of Indiana, in the recent inter-collegiate contest, took the first prize of $300, over eight male competitors, in Greek. The recent decision in the United States Supreme Court, of Minor vs. Happersett, will have as much force in suppressing the individuality and self-assertion of women as had the opinion of Judge Taney, in the Dred-Scott case, in suppressing the emancipation of slavery. The day has come when precedents are made rather than blindly followed. The refusal of the Superior Court of Philadelphia to allow Carrie S. Burnham to practice law, because there was no precedent, was a weak evasion of common law and common sense. One hundred years ago there was no precedent for a man practicing law in the State of Pennsylvania, and yet we have not learned that there was any difficulty in establishing a precedent. I do not now remember any precedent for the Declaration of Independence of the United Colonies, and yet during a century it has not been overturned. The rebellion of the South had no precedent, and yet, if I remember, there was an issue joined, and the United States found that she had jurisdiction of the case.
The admission of women to Cornell University; their reception on equal footing in Syracuse University, receiving in both equal honorary degrees; the establishment of Wellesley College, with full professorships and capable women to fill them; the agitation of the question in Washington of the establishment of a university for women, all show a mental awakening in the popular mind not hitherto known. A new era is opening in the history of the world. The seed sown twenty-five years ago by Mrs. Stanton and other brave women is bearing fruit.
Sara Andrews Spencer said it was interesting to pair off the objections and let them answer each other like paradoxes. Women will be influenced by their husbands and will vote for bad men to please them. Women have too much influence now, and if we give them any more latitude they will make men all vote their way. Owing to the composition and structure of the female brain, women are incapable of understanding political affairs. If women are allowed to vote they will crowd all the men out of office, and men will be obliged to stay at home and take care of the children. That is, owing to the composition and structure of the female brain, women are so exactly adapted to political affairs that men wouldn’t stand any chance if women were allowed to enter into competition with them. Women don’t want it. Women shouldn’t have it, for they don’t know how to use it. Grace Greenwood (who was one of the seventy-two women who tried to vote) said men were like the stingy boy at school with a cake. “Now,” said he, “all you that don’t ask for it don’t want it, and all you that do ask for it sha’n’t have it.”
Rev. Olympia Brown, pastor of the Universalist church in Bridgeport, Conn., gave her views on the rights of women under the constitution, and believed that they were entitled to the ballot as an inalienable right. In this country, under existing rulings of the courts as to the meaning of the constitution, no one appeared likely to enjoy the ballot for all time except the colored men, unless the clause, “previous condition of servitude,” as a congressman expressed it, referred to widows. That being true, the constitution paid a premium only on colored men, and widows. If the constitution did not guarantee suffrage, and congress did not bestow it, then the republic was of no account and its boast devoid of significance and meaning. Its life had been in vain—dead to the interests for which it was created. She wanted congress to pass a sixteenth amendment, declaring all its citizens enfranchised, or a declaratory act setting forth that the constitution already guaranteed to them that right.
Hon. Frederick Douglass said he was not quite in accord with all the sentiments that had been uttered during the afternoon, yet he was willing that the largest latitude should be taken by the advocates of the cause. He was not afraid that at some distant period the blacks of the South would rise and disfranchise the whites. While he was not willing to be addressed as the ignorant, besotted creature that the negro is sometimes called, he was willing to be a part of the bridge over which women should march to the full enjoyment of their rights.
Miss Phœbe Couzins of St. Louis reviewed in an able manner the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Virginia L. Minor.
Mrs. Devereux Blake spoke on the rights and duties of citizenship. She cited a number of authorities, including a recent decision of the Supreme Court, to prove that women are citizens, although deprived of the privileges of citizenship. Taking up the three duties of citizenship—paying taxes, serving on jury, and military service—she said woman had done her share of the first for a hundred years; that the women of the country now contributed, directly and indirectly, one-third of its revenues, and that the House of Representatives had just robbed them of $500,000 to pay for a centennial celebration in which they had no part. As for serving on jury, they did not claim that as a privilege, as it was usually regarded as a most disagreeable duty; but they did claim the right of women, when arraigned in court, to be tried by a jury of their peers, which was not accorded when the jury was composed wholly of men. Lastly, as to serving their country in time of war, it was a fact that women had actually enlisted and fought in our late war, until their sex was discovered, when they were summarily dismissed without being paid for their services.
Hon. Aaron A. Sargent, of California, in the United States Senate, and Hon. Samuel S. Cox, of New York, in the House of Representatives, presented the memorial asking the enfranchisement of the women of the District of Columbia, as follows:
In the Senate, Tuesday, January 25, 1876.
Mr. Sargent: I present a memorial asking for the establishment of a government in the District of Columbia which shall secure to its women the right to vote. This petition is signed by many eminent ladies of the country: Mrs. Matilda Joslyn Gage, President of the National Woman Suffrage Association, and the following officers of that society: Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Henrietta Payne Westbrook, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Mathilde F. Wendt, Ellen Clark Sargent; also by Mary F. Foster, President of the District of Columbia Woman’s Franchise Association; Susan A. Edson, M. D.; Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth, the distinguished authoress; Mrs. Dr. Caroline B. Winslow; Belva A. Lockwood, a practicing lawyer in this District; Sara Andrews Spencer, and Mrs. A. E. Wood.
These intelligent ladies set forth their petition in language and with facts and arguments which I think should meet the ear of the Senate, and I ask that it be read by the secretary in order that their desires may be known.
The President pro tempore: Is there objection? The chair hears none, and the secretary will report the petition. The secretary read:
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled:
Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the decision of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia in the cases of Spencer vs. The Board of Registration, and Webster vs. The Judges of Election, and has decided that “by the operation of the first section of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, women have been advanced to full citizenship and clothed with the capacity to become voters; and further, that this first section of the fourteenth amendment does not execute itself, but requires the supervision of legislative power in the exercise of legislative discretion to give it effect”; and whereas the congress of the United States is the legislative body having exclusive jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, and in enfranchising the colored men and refusing to enfranchise women, white or colored, made an unjust discrimination against sex, and did not give the intelligence and moral power of the citizens of said District a fair opportunity for expression at the polls; and whereas woman suffrage is not an experiment, but has had a fair trial in Wyoming, where women hold office, where they vote, where they have the most orderly society of any of the territories, where the experiment is approved by the executive officers of the United States, by their courts, by their press and by the people generally, and where it has “rescued that territory from a state of comparative lawlessness” and rendered it “one of the most orderly in the Union”; and whereas upon the woman suffrage amendment to Senate bill number 44 of the second session of the forty-third congress, votes were recorded in favor of woman suffrage by the two senators from Indiana, the two from Florida, the two from Michigan, the two from Rhode Island, one from Kansas, one from Louisiana, one from Massachusetts, one from Minnesota, one from Nebraska, one from Nevada, one from Oregon, one from South Carolina, one from Texas, and one from Wisconsin; and whereas a fair trial of equal suffrage for men and women in the District of Columbia, under the immediate supervision of congress, would demonstrate to the people of the whole country that justice to women is policy for men; and whereas the women of the United States are governed without their own consent, are denied trial by a jury of their peers, are taxed without representation, and are subject to manifold wrongs resulting from unjust and arbitrary exercise of power over an unrepresented class; and whereas in this centennial year of the republic the spirit of 1776 is breathing its influence upon the people, melting away prejudices and animosities and infusing into our national councils a finer sense of justice and a clearer perception of individual rights; therefore,
We pray your honorable body to establish a government for the District of Columbia which shall secure to its women the right to vote.
Mr. Sargeant: Even if this document were not accompanied by the signatures of eminent ladies known throughout the land for their virtues, intelligence and high character, the considerations which it presents would be worthy of the attention of the senate. I have no doubt that the great movement of which this is a part will prevail. It is working its progress day by day throughout the country. It is making itself felt both in social and political life. The petitioners here well say that there has been a successful experiment of the exercise of female suffrage in one of our territories; that a territory has been redeemed from lawlessness; that the judges, the press, the people generally of Wyoming approve the results of this great experiment. I know of no better place than the capital of a nation where a more decisive trial can be made, if such is needed, to establish the expediency of woman suffrage. As to its justice, who shall deny it? I ask, for the purpose of due consideration, that this petition be referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia, so that in preparing any scheme for the government of the District which is likely to come before this congress, due weight may be given to the considerations presented.
The President pro tempore: The petition will be referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia.
In the House of Representatives, Friday, March 31, 1876.
Mr. Cox: Mr. Speaker, I am requested to present a memorial, asking for a form of government in the District of Columbia which shall secure to its women the right to vote; and I ask the grace and favor to have this memorial printed in the Record.
Mr. Banks: Mr. Speaker, I beg the privilege of saying a few words in favor of the request made by the gentleman from New York who presents this memorial. It is a hundred years this day since Mrs. Abigail Adams, of Massachusetts, wrote to her husband, John Adams, then a member of the continental convention, entreating him to give to women the power to protect their own rights and predicting a general revolution if justice was denied them. Mrs. Adams was one of the noblest women of that period, distinguished by heroism and patriotism never surpassed in any age. She was wife of the second and mother of the sixth president of the United States, and her beneficent influence was felt in political as well as in social circles. It was perhaps the first demand for the recognition of the rights of her sex made in this country, and is one of the centennial incidents that should be remembered. It came from a good quarter. This memorial represents half a million of American women. They ask for the organization of a government in the District of Columbia that will recognize their political rights. I voted some years ago to give women the right to vote in this District, and recalling the course of its government I think it would have done no harm if they had enjoyed political rights.
Mr. Kasson: I suggest that the memorial be printed without the names.
Mr. Cox: There are no names appended except those of the officers of the National Woman Suffrage Association; and I hope they will be printed with the memorial.
Mr. Hendee: I trust the gentleman will allow this petition to be referred to the committee of which I am a member: the Committee for the District of Columbia. There being no objection, the memorial was read and referred to the Committee for the District of Columbia, and ordered to be printed in the Record.
At the close of the convention a hearing was granted to the ladies before the committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on the District of Columbia.
Matilda Joslyn Gage, of New York, said: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee: On behalf of the National Association, which has its officers in every State and territory of the Union, and which numbers many thousands of members, and on behalf of the Woman’s Franchise Association of the District of Columbia, we appear before you, asking that the right of suffrage be secured equally to the men and women of this District. Art. 1, sec. 8, clauses 17, 18 of the Constitution of the United States reads:
Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such district as may become the seat of government of the United States, to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.
Congress is therefore constitutionally the special guardian of the rights of the people of the District of Columbia. It possesses peculiar rights, peculiar duties, peculiar powers in regard to this District. At the present time the men and women are alike disfranchised. Our memorial asks that in forming a new government they may be alike enfranchised. It is often said as an argument against granting suffrage to women that they do not wish to vote; do not ask for the ballot. This association, numbering thousands in the United States, through its representatives, now asks you, in this memorial, for suffrage in this District. Petitions from every State in the Union have been sent to your honorable body. One of these, signed by thirty-five thousand women, was sent to congress in one large roll; but what is the value of a petition signed by even a million of an unrepresented class?
The city papers of the national capital, once bitterly opposed to all effort in this direction, now fully recognize the dignity of the demand, and have ceased to oppose it. One of these said, editorially, to-day, that the vast audiences assembling at our conventions, the large majority being women, and evidently in sympathy with the movement, were proof of the great interest women take in this subject, though many are too timid to openly make the demand. The woman’s temperance movement began two years ago as a crusade of prayer and song, and the women engaged therein have now resolved themselves into a national organization, whose second convention, held in October last, numbering delegates from twenty-two States, almost unanimously passed a resolution demanding the ballot to aid them in their temperance work. We who make our constant demand for suffrage, knew that these women were in process of education, and would soon be forced to ask for the key to all reform.
The ballot says yes or no to all questions. Without it women are prohibited from practically expressing their opinions. The very fact that the women of this District make this demand of you more urgently than men proves that they desire it more and see its uses better. The men of this District who quietly remain disfranchised have the spirit of slaves, and if asking for the ballot is any proof of fitness for its use, then the women who do ask for it here prove themselves in this respect superior to men, more alive to the interests of this District, and better fitted to administer the government. Women who are not interested in questions of reform would soon become so if they possessed the ballot. They are now in the condition we were when we heard of the famine in Persia two years ago. Our sympathies were aroused for a brief while, but Persia was far away, we could render it no certain aid, and the sufferings of the people soon passed from our minds.
Our approaching centennial celebration is to commemorate the Declaration of Independence, which was based on individual rights. For ages it was a question where the governing power rightfully belonged; patriarch, priest, and monarch each claimed it by divine right. Our country declared it vested in the individual. Not only was this clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence, but the same ground was maintained in the secret proceedings upon framing the constitution. The old confederation was abandoned because it did not secure the independence and safety of the people. It has recently been asked in congressional debates, “What is the grand idea of the centennial?” The answer was, “It is the illustration in spirit and truth of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and of the constitution.”
These principles are:
First—The natural rights of each individual.
Second—The exact equality of these rights.
Third—That rights not delegated are retained by the individual.
Fourth—That no person shall exercise the rights of others without delegated authority.
Fifth—That non-use of rights does not destroy them.
Rights did not come new-born into the world with the revolution. Our fathers were men of middle age before they understood their own rights, but when they did they compelled the recognition of the world, and now the nations of the earth are this year invited to join you in the celebration of these principles of free government.
We have special reasons for asking you to secure suffrage to the women of the District of Columbia. Woman Suffrage has been tried in Wyoming, and ample testimony of its beneficial results has been furnished, but it is a far distant territory, and those not especially interested will not examine the evidence. It has been tried in Utah, but with great opposition on account of the peculiar religious belief and customs of the people. But the District of Columbia is directly under the eye of congress. It is the capital of the nation, and three-fifths of the property of the District belongs to the United States. The people of the whole country would therefore be interested in observing the practical workings of this system on national soil. With 7,316 more women than men in this District, we call your special attention to the inconsistency and injustice of granting suffrage to a minority and withholding it from a majority, as you have done in the past. If the District is your special ward, then women, being in the majority here, have peculiar claims upon you for a consideration of their rights. The freedom of this country is only half won. The women of to-day have less freedom than our fathers of the revolution, for they were permitted local self-government, while women have no share in local, State, or general government.
Our memorial calls your attention to the Pembina debate in 1874, when senators from eighteen States recognized the right of self-government as inhering in women. One senator said: “I believe women never will enjoy equality with men in taking care of themselves until they have the right to vote.” Another, “that the question was being considered by a large portion of the people of the United States.” When the discussion was concluded and the vote taken, twenty-two senators recorded their votes for woman suffrage in that distant territory. During the debate several senators publicly declared their intention of voting for woman suffrage in the District of Columbia whenever the opportunity was presented. These senators recognize the fact that the ballot is not only a right, but that it is opportunity for woman; that it is the one means of helping her to help herself. In asking you to secure the ballot to the women of the District we do not ask you to create a right. That is beyond your power. We ask you to protect them in the exercise of a right.
Mrs. Sara Andrews Spencer, Secretary of the District of Columbia Woman’s Franchise Association, said: For no legal or political right I have ever claimed in the District of Columbia do I ask a stronger, clearer charter than the Declaration of Independence, and the constitution of the United States as it stood before the fourteenth amendment had entered the minds of men. A judicial decision, rendered by nine men, upon the rights of ten millions of women of this republic, need not, does not, change the convictions of one woman in regard to her own heaven-endowed rights, duties, and responsibilities.
We have resorted to all the measures dictated by those who rule over us for securing the freedom to exercise rights which are sacredly our own, rights which are ours by Divine inheritance, and which men can neither confer nor take away. We are not only daughters of our Father in heaven, and joint heirs with you there; but we are daughters of this republic, and joint heirs with you here. Every act of legislation which has been placed as a bar in our way as citizens has been an act of injustice, and every expedient to which we have resorted for securing recognition of citizenship has been with protest against the existence of these acts of unauthorized power.
When any man expresses doubt to me as to the use that I or any other woman might make of the ballot if we had it, my answer is, What is that to you? If you have for years defrauded me of my rightful inheritance, and then, as a stroke of policy, or from late conviction, concluded to restore to me my own domain, must I ask you whether I may make of it a garden of flowers, or a field of wheat, or a pasture for kine? If I choose I may counsel with you. If experience has given you wisdom, even of this world, in managing your property and mine, I should be wise to learn from you. But injustice is not wont to yield wisdom; grapes do not grow of thorns, nor figs of thistles.
Born of the unjust and cruel subjection of woman to man, we have in these United States a harvest of 116,000 paupers, 36,000 criminals, and such a mighty host of blind, deaf and dumb, idiotic, insane, feeble-minded, and children with tendencies to crime, as almost to lead one to hope for the extinction of the human race rather than for its perpetuation after its own kind. The wisdom of man licenses the dram-shop, and then rears station-houses, jails, and gibbets to provide for the victims. In this District we have 135 teachers of public schools and 238 police officers, and the last report shows that public safety demands a police force of 900. We have 31,671 children of school age; 31,671 reasons why I want to vote. We have here 7,000 more children of school age than there are seats in all the public schools, and from the swarm of poor, ignorant, and vagrant children, the lists of criminals and paupers are constantly supplied. To provide for these evils there is an annual expenditure of $350,000, not including expenses of courts, while for education the annual expenditure is $280,000.
Will you say that the wives and the mothers, the house and homekeepers of this small territory, have no interest in all these things? If dram-shops are licensed and brothels protected, are not our sons, our brothers, tempted and ruined, our daughters lured from their homes, and lost to earth and heaven? Long and patiently women have borne wrongs too deep to be put into words; wrongs for which men have provided no redress and have found no remedy. When five years ago, with our social atmosphere poisoned with vices which as women we had no power to remove, men in authority began a series of attempts to fasten upon us by law the huge typical vice of all the ages—the social evil—in a form so degrading to all womanhood that no man, though he were the prince of profligates, would submit to its regulations for a day; then we cried out so that the world heard us. We know the plague is only stayed for a brief while. The hydra-headed monster every now and then lifts a new front, and must be smitten again. Four times in four successive years a little company of women of the District have appeared before committees and compelled the discussion and defeat of bills designed to fasten these measures upon the community under the guise of security for public health and morality. The last annual report of the board of health speaks tenderly of the need of protecting vicious men by these regulations, and says:
The legalization of houses of ill-fame for so humane a purpose, startling as it may be to the moral sense, has many powerful advocates among the thoughtful, wise, and philanthropic of communities.
The report quotes approvingly Dr. Gross, of Philadelphia, who says in behalf of laws to license the social evil:
The prejudices which surround the subject must be swept away, and men must march to the front and discharge their duty, however much they may be reproached and abused by the ignorant and foolish.
Aside from the higher ground of our inherent right to self-government, we declare here and now that the women of this District are not safe without the ballot. Our firesides, our liberties are in constant peril, while men who have no concern for our welfare may legislate against our dearest interests. If we would inaugurate any measure of protection for our own sex, we are bound hand and foot by man. The law is his, the treasury is his, the power is his, and he need not even hear our cry, except at his good will and pleasure.
If man had legislated justly and wisely for the interests of this District, if its financial condition was sound, its social and moral atmosphere pure, and all was well, there would be some show of reason in your refusing to hazard a new experiment, even though we could demonstrate it to be founded upon eternal justice. But the history of the successive forms of government in the District of Columbia is a history of failures. So will it continue to be until you adopt a plan founded upon truly republican principles. When, a few years ago, you put the ballot into the hands of the swarming masses of freedmen who had gathered here with the ignorance and vices of slaves, and refused to enfranchise women, white or colored, you gave this District no fair trial of a republican form of government. You did not even protect the interests of the colored race. You admitted that the colored man was not really free until he held the ballot in his hand, and therefore you enfranchised him and left the woman twice his slave. I know colored women in Washington far the superiors, intellectually and morally, of the masses of men, who declare that they now endure wrongs and abuses unknown in slavery.
There is not an interest in this District that is not as vital to me as to any man in Washington—that is not more vital to me than it can be to any member of this honorable body. As a citizen, seeking the welfare of this community, as a wife and mother desiring the safety of my children, which of you can claim a deeper interest than I in questions of markets, taxes, finance, banks, railroads, highways, the public debt and interest thereon, boards of health, sanitary and police regulations, station-houses (wherein I find many a wreck of womanhood, ruined in her youth and beauty), schools, asylums, and charities? Why deny me a voice in any or all of these? Do you doubt that I would use the ballot in the interests of order, retrenchment, and reform? Do you deny a right of mine, which you will admit I know how to prize, because there are women who do not appreciate its value, do not demand it, possibly might not (any better than men) know how to use it? What a mockery of justice! What a flagrant violation of individual rights! I would cry out against it if no other woman in the land felt the wrong. But among the 10,000,000 of mothers of 14,000,000 of children in this country, vast numbers of thoughtful, philanthropic, and pure women have come to see this truth, and desire to express their mother love and home love at the ballot-box!
Frederick Douglass once said: “Whole nations have been bathed in blood to establish the simplest possible propositions. For instance, that a man’s head is his head; his body is hisbody; his feet are his feet, and if he chooses to run away with them it is nobody’s business”; and all honor to him, he added, “Now, these propositions have been established for the colored man. Why does not man establish them for woman, his wife, his mother?”
Determined to surround the colored man with every possible guarantee of protection in the possession of his freedom, congress stopped the wheels of legislation, and made the whole country wait, while day after day and night after night his friends fought inch by inch the ground for the civil rights bill. During that debate Senator Frelinghuysen said:
When I took the oath as senator, I took the oath to support the Constitution of the United States, which declares equality for all: and in advocating this bill I am doing my sworn duty in endeavoring to secure equal rights for every citizen of the United States.
But where slept his “sworn duty” when he recorded his vote in the Senate against woman suffrage? With marvelous inconsistency, as a reason for opposing woman suffrage, during the Pembina debate, May 27, 1874, Senator Merrimon said of the relation of women to the Constitution of the United States:
They have sustained it under all circumstances with their love, their hands, and their hearts; with their smiles and their tears they have educated their children to live for it, and to die for it.
Therefore the honorable gentleman denies them the right to vote.
Upon the civil rights bill, Senator Howe said:
I do not know but what the passage of this bill will break up the common schools. I admit that I have some fear on that point. Every step of this terrible march has been met with a threat; but let justice be done although the common schools and the heavens do fall.
In reply to the point made by Mr. Stockton that the people of the United States would not accept this bill, Mr. Howe said:
I would not turn back if I knew that of the forty million people of the United States not one million would sustain it. If this generation does not accept it there is a generation to come that will accept it. What does this provide? Not that the black man should be helped on his way; not at all; but only that, as he staggers along, he shall not be retarded, shall not be tripped up and made to fall.
Brave and tender words these for our black brother; but see how prone men are to invert truth, justice, and mercy in dealing with women. During the Pembina debate, Senator Merrimon said:
I know there are a few women in the country who complain; but those who complain, compared with those who do not complain, are as one to a million.
As a literal fact, the women who have complained, have petitioned, sued, reasoned, plead, have knocked at the doors of your legislatures and courts, are as one to fifty in this country, as we who watch the record know; and even that is a small proportion of those who would, but dare not; who are bound hand and foot, and will be bound until you make them free. But if no others feel the wrong but those who have dared to complain; if the poor, the ignorant, the betrayed, the ruined do not understand the question, and the well-fed and comfortable “have all the rights they want,” do you give that for answer to our just demand? What do we ask? Not that poor woman “shall be helped on her way”—not at all; but only that, “as she staggers along, she shall not be retarded, shall not be tripped up, shall not be made to fall.”
And here on this national soil, for the women of this District of Columbia—your peculiar wards—I ask you to try the experiment of exact, even-handed justice; to give us a voice in the laws under which we must live, by which we are tried, judged and condemned. I ask it for myself, that I may the better help other women. I ask it for other women, that they may the better help themselves. As you hope for justice and mercy in your hour of need, may you hear and answer.
Rev. Olympia Brown, of Connecticut; Belva A. Lockwood, of Washington; and Phoebe Couzins, of St. Louis, also addressed the committees; enforcing their arguments with wit, humor, pathos and eloquence.
On her way home from Washington, Mrs. Gage stopped in Philadelphia to secure rooms for the National Association during the centennial summer, and decided upon Carpenter Hall, in case it could be obtained. This hall belongs to the Carpenter Company of Philadelphia, perhaps the oldest existing association of that city, it having maintained an uninterrupted organization from the year 1724, about forty years after the establishment of the colonial government by William Penn, and was much in use during the early days of the revolution. The doors of the State House, where the continental congress intended to meet, were found closed against it; but the Carpenter Company, numbering many eminent patriots, offered its hall for their use; and here met the first continental congress, September 5, 1774. John Adams, describing its opening ceremonies, said:
Here was a scene worthy of the painter’s art. Washington was kneeling there, and Randolph, Rutledge, Lee and Jay; and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. It was believed that Boston had been bombarded and destroyed. They prayed fervently for America, for the congress, for the province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston. Who can realize the emotions with which in that hour of danger they turned imploringly to heaven for Divine interposition. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of old, gray, pacific Quakers of Philadelphia.
The action of this congress, which sat but seven weeks, was momentous in the history of the world. “From the moment of their first debate,” said De Tocqueville, “Europe was moved.” The convention which in 1781 framed the constitution of the United States, also met in Carpenter Hall in secret session for four months before agreeing upon its provisions. This hall seemed the most appropriate place for establishing the centennial rooms of the National Woman Suffrage Association, but the effort to obtain it proved unavailing as will be seen by the following correspondence:
To the President and Officers of the Carpenter Company of Philadelphia:
The National Woman Suffrage Association will hold its headquarters in Philadelphia the centennial season of 1876, and desires to secure your historic hall for that purpose. We know your habit and custom of denying its use to all societies, yet we make our request because our objects are in accord with the principles which emanated from within its walls a hundred years ago, and we shall use it in carrying out those principles of liberty and equality upon which our government is based.
We design to advertise our headquarters to the world, and old Carpenter Hall, if used by us, would become more widely celebrated as the birth-place of liberty. Our work in it would cause it to be more than ever held in reverence by future ages, and pilgrimages by men and women would be made to it as to another Mecca shrine.
We propose to place a person in charge, with pamphlets, speeches, tracts, etc., and to hold public meetings for the enunciation of our principles and the furtherance of our demands. Hoping you will grant this request,
Matilda Joslyn Gage
President of the National Woman Suffrage Association.
I am respectfully yours,
Two months afterward, the following reply was received:
Hall, Carpenter Court, 322 Chestnut St., }
Philadelphia, April 24, 1876. }
Matilda Joslyn Gage, President of the Woman Suffrage Association:
Your communication asking permission to occupy Carpenter Hall for your convention was duly received, and presented to the company at a stated meeting held the 16th instant, when on motion it was unanimously resolved to postpone the subject indefinitely.
George Watson, Secretary.
(Extract of minutes).
It was a matter of no moment to those men that women were soon to assemble in Philadelphia, whose love of liberty was as deep, whose patriotism was as pure as that of the fathers who met within its walls in 1774, and whose deliberations had given that hall its historic interest.
In the midst of these preparations the usual May anniversary was held:
Call for the May Anniversary, 1876.—The National Woman Suffrage Association will hold its Ninth Annual Convention in Masonic Hall, New York, corner of Sixth avenue and Twenty-third street, May 10, 11, 1876.
This convention occuring in the centennial year of the republic, will be a most important one. The underlying principles of government will this year be discussed as never before; both foreigners and citizens will query as to how closely this country has lived up to its own principles. The long-debated question as to the source of the governing power was answered a century ago by the famous Declaration of Independence which shook to the foundation all recognized power and proclaimed the right of the individual as above all forms of government; but while thus declaring itself, it has held the women of the nation accountable to laws they have had no share in making, and taught as their one duty, that doctrine of tyrants, unquestioning obedience. Liberty to-day is, therefore, but the heritage of one-half the people, and the centennial will be but the celebration of the independence of one-half the nation. The men alone of this country live in a republic, the women enter the second hundred years of national life as political slaves.
That no structure is stronger than its weakest point is a law of mechanics that will apply equally to government. In so far as this government has denied justice to woman, it is weak, and preparing for its own downfall. All the insurrections, rebellions, and martyrdoms of history have grown out of the desire for liberty, and in woman’s heart this desire is as strong as in man’s. At every vital time in the nation’s life, men and women have worked together; everywhere has woman stood by the side of father, brother, husband, son in defense of liberty; without her aid the republic could never have been established; and yet women are still suffering under all the oppressions complained of in 1776; which can only be remedied by securing impartial suffrage to all citizens without distinction of sex.
All persons who believe republican principles should be carried out in spirit and in truth, are invited to be present at the May convention.
Matilda Joslyn Gage, President.
Susan B. Anthony, Chairman Executive Committee.
This May anniversary, commencing on the same day with the opening of the centennial exhibition, was marked with more than usual earnestness. As popular thought naturally turned with increasing interest at such an hour to the underlying principles of government, woman’s demand for political equality received a new impulse. The famous Smith sisters, of Glastonbury, Connecticut, attended this convention, and were most cordially welcomed. The officers for the centennial year were chosen and a campaign and congressional committee appointed to take charge of affairs at Philadelphia and Washington. The resolutions show the general drift of the discussions:
Whereas, The right of self-government inheres in the individual before governments are founded, constitutions framed, or courts created; and
Whereas, Governments exist to protect the people in the enjoyment of their natural rights, and when any government becomes destructive of this end, it is the right of the people to resist and abolish it; and
Whereas, The women of the United States, for one hundred years, have been denied the exercise of their natural right of self-government and self-protection; therefore,
Resolved, That it is the natural right and most sacred duty of the women of these United States to rebel against the injustice, usurpation and tyranny of our present government.
Whereas, The men of 1776 rebelled against a government which did not claim to be of the people, but, on the contrary, upheld the “divine right of kings”; and
Whereas, The women of this nation to-day, under a government which claims to be based upon individual rights, to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” in an infinitely greater degree are suffering all the wrongs which led to the war of the revolution; and Whereas, The oppression is all the more keenly felt because our masters, instead of dwelling in a foreign land, are our husbands, our fathers, our brothers and our sons; therefore,
Resolved, That the women of this nation, in 1876, have greater cause for discontent, rebellion and revolution, than the men of 1776.
Resolved, That with Abigail Adams, in 1776, we believe that “the passion for liberty cannot be strong in the breasts of those who are accustomed to deprive their fellow-creatures of liberty”; that, as Abigail Adams predicted, “We are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
Whereas, We believe in the principles of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution of the United States, and believe a true republic is the best form of government in the world; and
Whereas, This government is false to its underlying principles in denying to women the only means of self-government, the ballot; and
Whereas, One-half of the citizens of this nation, after a century of boasted liberty, are still political slaves; therefore,
Resolved, That we protest against calling the present centennial celebration a celebration of the independence of the people of the United States.
Resolved, That we meet in our respective towns and districts on the Fourth of July, 1876, and declare ourselves no longer bound to obey laws in whose making we have had no voice, and, in presence of the assembled nations of the world gathered on this soil to celebrate our nation’s centennial, demand justice for the women of this land.
Whereas, The men of this nation have established for men of all nations, races and color, on this soil, at the cost of countless lives, the proposition (in the language of Frederick Douglass) “that a man’s head is his head, his body is his body, his feet are his feet”; therefore,
Resolved, That justice, equity and chivalry demand that man at once establish for his wife and mother the corresponding proposition, that a woman’s head is her head, her body is her body, her feet are her feet, and that all ownership and mastery over her person, property, conscience, and liberty of speech and action, are in violation of the supreme law of the land.
Resolved, That we rejoice in the resistance of Julia and Abby Smith, Abby Kelly Foster, Sarah E. Wall and many more resolute women in various parts of the country, to taxation without representation.
Resolved, That the thanks of the National Woman Suffrage Association are hereby tendered to Hon. A. A. Sargent, of California, for his earnest words in behalf of woman suffrage on the floor of the United States Senate, Jan. 25, 1876; and to Hon. N. P. Banks, of Massachusetts, for his appeal in behalf of the centennial woman suffrage memorial in the United States House of Representatives, March 31, 1876.
Resolved, That the repeated attempts to license the social evil are a practical confession of the weakness, profligacy and general unfitness of men to legislate for women, and should be regarded with alarm as a proof that their firesides and liberties are in constant peril while men alone make and execute the laws of this country.
Whereas, There are 7,000 more women than men in the District of Columbia, and no form of government for said District has allowed women any voice in making the laws under which they live; therefore,
Resolved, That in this centennial year the congress of the United States having exclusive jurisdiction over that territory should establish a truly republican form of government by granting equal suffrage to the men and women of the District of Columbia.
Immediately at the close of the May convention Mrs. Gage again went to Philadelphia to complete the arrangements in regard to the centennial headquarters. Large and convenient rooms were soon found upon Arch street, terms agreed upon and a lease drawn, when it transpired that a husband’s consent and signature must be obtained, although the property was owned by a woman, as by the laws of Pennsylvania a married woman’s property is under her husband’s control. Although arrangements for this room had been made with the real owner, the terms being perfectly satisfactory to her, the husband refused his ratification, tearing up the lease, with abuse of the women who claimed control of their own property, and a general defiance of all women who dared work for the enfranchisement of their sex. Thus again were women refused rooms in Philadelphia in which to enter their protest against the tyranny of this republic, and for the same reason—they were slaves. Had the patriots of the revolutionary period asked rooms of King George, in which to foster their treason to his government, the refusal could have been no more positive than in these cases.
The quarters finally obtained were very desirable; fine large parlors on the first floor, on Chestnut street, at the fashionable west end, directly opposite the Young Men’s Christian Association. The other members of the committee being married ladies, Miss Anthony, as a feme sole, was alone held capable of making a contract, and was therefore obliged to assume the pecuniary responsibility of the rooms. Thus it is ever the married women who are more especially classed with lunatics, idiots and criminals, and held incapable of managing their own business. It has always been part of the code of slavery, that the slave had no right to property; all his earnings and gifts belonging by law, to the master. Married women come under this same civil code. The following letter was extensively circulated and published in all the leading journals:
National Woman Suffrage Parlors, }
1,431 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa. }
The National Woman Suffrage Association has established its centennial headquarters in Philadelphia, at 1,431 Chestnut street. The parlors, in charge of the officers of the association, are devoted to the special work of the year, pertaining to the centennial celebration and the political party conventions; also to calls, receptions, conversazioni, etc. On the table a centennial autograph book receives the names of visitors. Friends at a distance, both men and women, who cannot call, are invited to send their names, with date and residence, accompanied by a short expressive sentiment and a contribution toward expenses. In the rooms are books, papers, reports and decisions, speeches, tracts, and photographs of distinguished women; also mottoes and pictures expressive of woman’s condition. In addition to the parlor gatherings, meetings and conventions will be held during the season in various halls and churches throughout the city.
On July Fourth, while the men of this nation and the world are rejoicing that “All men are free and equal” in the United States, a declaration of rights for women will be issued from these headquarters, and a protest against calling this centennial a celebration of the independence of the people, while one-half are still political slaves.
Let the women of the whole land, on that day, in meetings, in parlors, in kitchens, wherever they may be, unite with us in this declaration and protest. And, immediately thereafter, send full reports, in manuscript or print, of their resolutions, speeches and action, for record in our centennial book, that the world may see that the women of 1876 know and feel their political degradation no less than did the men of 1776.
The first woman’s rights convention the world ever knew, called by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, met at Seneca Falls, N. Y., July 19, 20, 1848. In commemoration of the twenty-eighth anniversary of that event, the National Woman Suffrage Association will hold in —— hall, Philadelphia, July 19, 20, of the present year, a grand mass convention, in which eminent reformers from the new and old world will take part. Friends are especially invited to be present on this historic occasion.
Matilda Joslyn Gage, Chairman Executive Committee.
Susan B. Anthony, Corresponding Secretary.
From these headquarters numberless documents were issued during the month of June. As the presidential nominating conventions were soon to meet, letters were addressed to both the Republican and Democratic parties, urging them to recognize the political rights of women in their platforms. Thousands of copies of these letters were scattered throughout the nation:
To the President and Members of the National Republican Convention, Cincinnati, O., June 14, 1876.
Gentlemen: The National Woman Suffrage Association asks you to place in your platform the following plank:
Resolved, That the right to the use of the ballot inheres in every citizen of the United States; and we pledge ourselves to secure the exercise of this right to all citizens, irrespective of sex.
In asking the insertion of this plank, we propose no change of fundamental principles. Our question is as old as the nation. Our government was framed on the political basis of the consent of the governed. And from July 4, 1776, until the present year, 1876, the nation has constantly advanced toward a fuller practice of our fundamental theory, that the governed are the source of all power. Your nominating convention, occurring in this centennial year of the republic, presents a good opportunity for the complete recognition of these first principles. Our government has not yet answered the end for which it was framed, while one-half the people of the United States are deprived of the right of self-government. Before the Revolution, Great Britain claimed the right to legislate for the colonies in all cases whatsoever; the men of this nation now as unjustly claim the right to legislate for women in all cases whatsoever.
The call for your nominating convention invites the coöperation of “all voters who desire to inaugurate and enforce the rights of every citizen, including the full and free exercise of the right of suffrage.” Women are citizens; declared to be by the highest legislative and judicial authorities; but they are citizens deprived of “the full and free exercise of the right of suffrage.” Your platform of 1872 declared “the Republican party mindful of its obligations to the loyal women of the nation for their noble devotion to the cause of freedom.” Devotion to freedom is no new thing for the women of this nation. From the earliest history of our country, woman has shown herself as patriotic as man in every great emergency in the nation’s life. From the Revolution to the present hour, woman has stood by the side of father, husband, son and brother in defense of liberty. The heroic and self-sacrificing deeds of the women of this republic, both in peace and war, must not be forgotten. Together men and women have made this country what it is. And to-day, in this one-hundredth year of our existence, the women—as members of the nation—as citizens of the United States—ask national recognition of their right of suffrage.
The Declaration of Independence struck a blow at every existent form of government, by declaring the individual the source of all power. Upon this one newly proclaimed truth our nation arose. But if States may deny suffrage to any class of citizens, or confer it at will upon any class—as according to the Minor-Happersett decision of the Supreme Court—a decision rendered under the auspices of the Republican party against suffrage as a constituent element of United States citizenship—we then possess no true national life. If States can deny suffrage to citizens of the United States, then States possess more power than the United States, and are more truly national in the character of their governments. National supremacy does not chiefly mean power “to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce”; it means national protection and security in the exercise of the right of self-government, which comes alone, by and through the use of the ballot.
Even granting the premise of the Supreme-Court decision that “the Constitution of the United States does not confer suffrage on any one”; our national life does not date from that instrument. The constitution is not the original declaration of rights. It was not framed until eleven years after our existence as a nation, nor fully ratified until nearly fourteen years after the commencement of our national life. This centennial celebration of our nation’s birth does not date from the constitution, but from the Declaration of Independence. The declared purpose of the civil war was the settlement of the question of supremacy between the States and the United States. The documents sent out by the Republican party in this present campaign, warn the people that the Democrats intend another battle for State sovereignty, to be fought this year at the ballot-box.
The National Woman Suffrage Association calls your attention to the fact that the Republican party has itself reopened this battle, and now holds the anomalous position of having settled the question of State sovereignty in the case of black men, and again opened it, through the Minor-Happersett decision, not only in the case of women citizens, but also in the case of men citizens, for all other causes save those specified in the fifteenth amendment. Your party has yet one opportunity to retrieve its position. The political power of this country has always shown itself superior to the judicial power—the latter ever shaping and basing its decisions on the policy of the dominant party. A pledge, therefore, by your convention to secure national protection in the enjoyment of perfect equality of rights, civil and political, to all citizens, will so define the policy of the Republican party as to open the way to a full and final adjustment of this question on the basis of United States supremacy.
Aside from the higher motive of justice, we suggest your adoption of this principle of equal rights to women, as a means of securing your own future existence. The party of reform in this country is the party that lives. The party that ceases to represent the vital principles of truth and justice dies. If you would save the life of the Republican party you should now take broad national ground on this question of suffrage.
By this act you will do most to promote the general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty to yourselves and your posterity, and establish on this continent a genuine republic that shall know no class, caste, race, or sex—where all the people are citizens, and all citizens are equal before the law.
Matilda Joslyn Gage, Chairman Executive Committee.
Susan B. Anthony, Corresponding Secretary.
Centennial Headquarters, 1,431 Chestnut street, Philadelphia, June 10, 1876.
To the President and Members of the National Democratic Convention assembled at St. Louis, June 27, 1876:
Gentlemen: In reading the call for your convention, the National Woman Suffrage Association was gratified to find that your invitation was not limited to voters, but cordially extended to all citizens of the United States. We accordingly send delegates from our association, asking for them a voice in your proceedings, and also a plank in your platform declaring the political rights of women.
Women are the only class of citizens still wholly unrepresented in the government, and yet we possess every qualification requisite for voters in the several States. Women possess property and education; we take out naturalization papers and passports; we preëmpt lands, pay taxes, and suffer for our own violation of the laws. We are neither idiots, lunatics, nor criminals; and, according to your State constitutions, lack but one qualification for voters, namely, sex, which is an insurmountable qualification, and therefore equivalent to a bill of attainder against one-half the people; a power no State nor congress can legally exercise, being forbidden in article 1, sections 9, 10, of our constitution. Our rulers may have the right to regulate the suffrage, but they can not abolish it altogether for any class of citizens, as has been done in the case of the women of this republic, without a direct violation of the fundamental law of the land.
As you hold the constitution of the fathers to be a sacred legacy to us and our children forever, we ask you to so interpret that Magna Charta of human rights as to secure justice and equality to all United States citizens irrespective of sex. We desire to call your attention to the violation of the essential principle of self-government in the disfranchisement of the women of the several States, and we appeal to you, not only because as a minority you are in a position to consider principles, but because you were the party first to extend suffrage by removing the property qualification from all white men, and thus making the political status of the richest and poorest citizen the same. That act of justice to the laboring masses insured your power, with but few interruptions, until the war.
When the District of Columbia suffrage bill was under discussion in 1866, it was a Democratic senator (Mr. Cowan, of Pennsylvania) who proposed an amendment to strike out the word “male,” and thus extend the right of suffrage to the women, as well as the black men of the District. That amendment gave us a splendid discussion on woman suffrage that lasted three days in the Senate of the United States. It was a Democratic legislature that secured the right of suffrage to the women of Wyoming, and we now ask you in national convention to pledge the Democratic party to extend this act of justice to the women throughout the nation, and thus call to your side a new political force that will restore and perpetuate your power for years to come.
The Republican party gave us a plank in their platform in 1872, pledging themselves to a “respectful consideration” of our demands. But by their constitutional interpretations, legislative enactments, and judicial decisions, so far from redeeming their pledge, they have buried our petitions and appeals under laws in direct opposition to their high-sounding promises and professions. And now (1876) they give us another plank in their platform, approving the “substantial advance made toward the establishment of equal rights for women”; cunningly reminding us that the privileges and immunities we now enjoy are all due to Republican legislation—although, under a Republican dynasty, inspectors of election have been arrested and imprisoned for taking the votes of women; temperance women arrested and imprisoned for praying in the streets; houses, lands, bonds, and stock of women seized and sold for their refusal to pay unjust taxation—and, more than all, we have this singular spectacle: a Republican woman, who had spoken for the Republican party throughout the last presidential campaign, arrested by Republican officers for voting the Republican ticket, denied the right of trial by jury by a Republican judge, convicted and sentenced to a fine of one hundred dollars and costs of prosecution; and all this for asserting at the polls the most sacred of all the rights of American citizenship—the right of suffrage—specifically secured by recent Republican amendments to the federal constitution.
Again, the Supreme Court of the United States, by its recent decision in the Minor-Happersett case, has stultified its own interpretation of constitutional law. A negro, by virtue of his United States citizenship, is declared under recent amendments a voter in every State in the Union; but when a woman, by virtue of her United States citizenship, applies to the Supreme Court for protection in the exercise of this same right, she is remanded to the State by the unanimous decision of the nine judges on the bench, that “the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon any one.”
All concessions of privileges or redress of grievances are but mockery for any class that has no voice in the laws and lawmakers. Hence we demand the ballot—that scepter of power—in our own hands, as the only sure protection for our rights of person and property under all conditions. If the few may grant or withhold rights at their own pleasure, the many cannot be said to enjoy the blessings of self-government. Jefferson said, “The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time. The hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.” While the first and highest motive we would urge on you is the recognition in all your action of the great principles of justice and equality that underlie our form of government, it is not unworthy to remind you that the party that takes this onward step will reap its just reward.
Had you heeded our appeals made to you in Tammany Hall, New York, in 1868, and again in Baltimore, in 1872, your party might now have been in power, as you would have had, what neither party can boast to-day, a live issue on which to rouse the enthusiasm of the people. Reform is the watchword of the hour; but how can we hope for honor and honesty in either party in minor matters, so long as both consent to rob one-half the people—their own mothers, sisters, wives and daughters—of their most sacred rights? As a party you defended the right of self-government in Louisiana ably and eloquently during the last session of congress. Are the rights of women in all the Southern States, whose slaves are now their rulers, less sacred than those of the men of Louisiana? “The whole art of government,” says Jefferson, “consists in being honest.”
It needs but little observation to see that the tide of progress, in all countries, is setting toward the emancipation and enfranchisement of women; and this step in civilization is to be taken in our day and generation. Whether the Democratic party will take the initiative in this reform, and reap the glory of crowning fifteen million women with the rights of American citizenship, and thereby vindicate our theory of self-government, is the momentous question we ask you to decide in this eventful hour, as we round out the first century of our national life.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, President.
Matilda Joslyn Gage, Chairman Executive Committee.
Susan B. Anthony, Corresponding Secretary.
Centennial Headquarters, 1,431 Chestnut street, Philadelphia, June 20, 1876.
In addition to these letters delegates were sent to both the Republican and Democratic conventions. Sara Andrews Spencer and Elizabeth Boynton Harbert were present at the Republican convention at Cincinnati; both addressed the committee on platform and resolutions, and Mrs. Spencer, on motion of Hon. George F. Hoar, was permitted to address the convention. Mrs. Virginia L. Minor and Miss Phoebe W. Couzins were the delegates to the Democratic convention at St. Louis, and the latter addressed that vast assembly.
For a long time there had been a growing demand for a woman’s declaration to be issued on July Fourth, 1876. “Let us then protest against the falsehood of the nation”; “If the old Declaration does not include women, let us have one that will”; “Let our rulers be arraigned”; “A declaration of independence for women must be issued on the Fourth of July, 1876,” were demands that came from all parts of the country. The officers of the association had long had such action in view, having, at the Washington convention, early in 1875, announced their intention of working in Philadelphia during the centennial season, and were strengthened in their determination by the hearty indorsement they received. At the May convention in New York, Matilda Joslyn Gage, in her opening speech, announced that a declaration of independence for women would be issued on the Fourth of July, 1876. In response to this general feeling, the officers of the National Association prepared a declaration of rights of the women of the United States, and articles of impeachment against the government.
Application was made by the secretary, Miss Anthony, to General Hawley, president of the centennial commission, for seats for fifty officers of the association. General Hawley replied that “only officials were invited”—that even his own wife had no place—that merely representatives and officers of the government had seats assigned them. “Then” said she, “as women have no share in the government, they are to have no seats on the platform,” to which General Hawley assented; adding, however, that Mrs. Gillespie, of the woman’s centennial commission, had fifty seats placed at her disposal, thus showing it to be in his power to grant places to women whenever he so chose to do. Miss Anthony said: “I ask seats for the officers of the National Woman Suffrage Association; we represent one-half the people, and why should we be denied all part in this centennial celebration?” Miss Anthony, however, secured a reporter’s ticket by virtue of representing her brother’s paper, The Leavenworth Times, and, ultimately, cards of invitation were sent to four others,(10) representing the 20,000,000 disfranchised citizens of the nation.
Mrs. Stanton, as president of the association, wrote General Hawley, asking the opportunity to present the woman’s protest and bill of rights at the close of the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Just its simple presentation and nothing more. She wrote:
We do not ask to read our declaration, only to present it to the president of the United States, that it may become an historical part of the proceedings.
Mrs. Spencer, bearer of this letter, in presenting it to General Hawley, said:
The women of the United States make a slight request on the occasion of the centennial celebration of the birth of the nation; we only ask that we may silently present our declaration of rights.
General Hawley replied: It seems a very slight request, but our programme is published, our speakers engaged, our arrangements for the day decided upon, and we can not make even so slight a change as that you ask.
Mrs. Spencer replied: We are aware that your programme is published, your speakers engaged, your entire arrangements decided upon, without consulting with the women of the United States; for that very reason we desire to enter our protest. We are aware that this government has been conducted for one hundred years without consulting the women of the United States; for this reason we desire to enter our protest.
General Hawley replied: Undoubtedly we have not lived up to our own original Declaration of Independence in many respects. I express no opinion upon your question. It is a proper subject of discussion at the Cincinnati convention, at the St. Louis convention,, in the Senate of the United States, in the State legislatures, in the courts, wherever you can obtain a hearing. But to-morrow we propose to celebrate what we have done the last hundred years; not what we have failed to do. We have much to do in the future. I understand the full significance of your very slight request. If granted, it would be the event of the day—the topic of discussion to the exclusion of all others. I am sorry to refuse so slight a demand; we cannot grant it.
General Hawley also addressed a letter to Mrs. Stanton:
Dear Madam: I regret to say it is impossible for us to make any change in our programme, or make any addition to it at this late hour.
Yours very respectfully,
Jos. R. Hawley, President U. S. C. C.
As General Grant was not to attend the celebration, the acting vice-president, Thomas W. Ferry, representing the government, was to officiate in his place, and he, too, was addressed by note, and courteously requested to make time for the reception of this declaration. As Mr. Ferry was a well-known sympathizer with the demands of woman for political rights, it was presumable that he would render his aid. Yet he was forgetful that in his position that day he represented, not the exposition, but the government of a hundred years, and he too refused; thus this simple request of woman for a half moment’s recognition on the nation’s centennial birthday was denied by all in authority.(11)) While the women of the nation were thus absolutely forbidden the right of public protest, lavish preparations were made for the reception and entertainment of foreign potentates and the myrmidons of monarchial institutions. Dom Pedro, emperor of Brazil, a representative of that form of government against which the United States is a perpetual defiance and protest, was welcomed with fulsome adulation, and given a seat of honor near the officers of the day; Prince Oscar of Sweden, a stripling of sixteen, on whose shoulder rests the promise of a future kingship, was seated near. Count Rochambeau of France, the Japanese commissioners, high officials from Russia and Prussia, from Austria, Spain, England, Turkey, representing the barbarism and semi-civilization of the day, found no difficulty in securing recognition and places of honor upon that platform, where representative womanhood was denied.
Though refused by their own countrymen a place and part in the centennial celebration, the women who had taken this presentation in hand were not to be conquered. They had respectfully asked for recognition; now that it had been denied, they determined to seize upon the moment when the reading of the Declaration of Independence closed, to proclaim to the world the tyranny and injustice of the nation toward one-half its people. Five officers of the National Woman Suffrage Association, with that heroic spirit which has ever animated lovers of liberty in resistance to tyranny, determined, whatever the result, to present the woman’s declaration of rights at the chosen hour. They would not, they dared not sacrifice the golden opportunity to which they had so long looked forward; their work was not for themselves alone, nor for the present generation, but for all women of all time. The hopes of posterity were in their hands and they determined to place on record for the daughters of 1976, the fact that their mothers of 1876 had asserted their equality of rights, and impeached the government of that day for its injustice toward woman. Thus, in taking a grander step toward freedom than ever before, they would leave one bright remembrance for the women of the next centennial.
That historic Fourth of July dawned at last, one of the most oppressive days of that terribly heated season. Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Sara Andrews Spencer, Lillie Devereux Blake and Phoebe W. Couzins made their way through the crowds under the broiling sun to Independence Square, carrying the Woman’s Declaration of Rights. This declaration had been handsomely engrossed by one of their number, and signed by the oldest and most prominent advocates of woman’s enfranchisement. Their tickets of admission proved open sesame through the military and all other barriers, and a few moments before the opening of the ceremonies, these women found themselves within the precincts from which most of their sex were excluded.
The declaration of 1776 was read by Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, about whose family clusters so much of historic fame. The close of his reading was deemed the appropriate moment for the presentation of the woman’s declaration. Not quite sure how their approach might be met—not quite certain if at this final moment they would be permitted to reach the presiding officer—those ladies arose and made their way down the aisle. The bustle of preparation for the Brazilian hymn covered their advance. The foreign guests, the military and civil officers who filled the space directly in front of the speaker’s stand, courteously made way, while Miss Anthony in fitting words presented the declaration. Mr. Ferry’s face paled, as bowing low, with no word, he received the declaration, which thus became part of the day’s proceedings; the ladies turned, scattering printed copies, as they deliberately walked down the platform. On every side eager hands were stretched; men stood on seats and asked for them, while General Hawley, thus defied and beaten in his audacious denial to women the right to present their declaration, shouted, “Order, order!”
Passing out, these ladies made their way to a platform erected for the musicians in front of Independence Hall. Here on this old historic ground, under the shadow of Washington’s statue, back of them the old bell that proclaimed “liberty to all the land, and all the inhabitants thereof,” they took their places, and to a listening, applauding crowd, Miss Anthony read(12) the Declaration of Rights for Women by the National Woman Suffrage Association, July 4, 1876:
While the nation is buoyant with patriotism, and all hearts are attuned to praise, it is with sorrow we come to strike the one discordant note, on this one-hundredth anniversary of our country’s birth. When subjects of kings, emperors, and czars, from the old world join in our national jubilee, shall the women of the republic refuse to lay their hands with benedictions on the nation’s head? Surveying America’s exposition, surpassing in magnificence those of London, Paris, and Vienna, shall we not rejoice at the success of the youngest rival among the nations of the earth? May not our hearts, in unison with all, swell with pride at our great achievements as a people; our free speech, free press, free schools, free church, and the rapid progress we have made in material wealth, trade, commerce and the inventive arts? And we do rejoice in the success, thus far, of our experiment of self-government. Our faith is firm and unwavering in the broad principles of human rights proclaimed in 1776, not only as abstract truths, but as the corner stones of a republic. Yet we cannot forget, even in this glad hour, that while all men of every race, and clime, and condition, have been invested with the full rights of citizenship under our hospitable flag, all women still suffer the degradation of disfranchisement.
The history of our country the past hundred years has been a series of assumptions and usurpations of power over woman, in direct opposition to the principles of just government, acknowledged by the United States as its foundation, which are:
First—The natural rights of each individual.
Second—The equality of these rights.
Third—That rights not delegated are retained by the individual.
Fourth—That no person can exercise the rights of others without delegated authority.
Fifth—That the non-use of rights does not destroy them.
And for the violation of these fundamental principles of our government, we arraign our rulers on this Fourth day of July, 1876,—and these are our articles of impeachment:
Bills of attainder have been passed by the introduction of the word “male” into all the State constitutions, denying to women the right of suffrage, and thereby making sex a crime—an exercise of power clearly forbidden in article I, sections 9, 10, of the United States constitution.
The writ of habeas corpus, the only protection against lettres de cachet and all forms of unjust imprisonment, which the constitution declares “shall not be suspended, except when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety demands it,” is held inoperative in every State of the Union, in case of a married woman against her husband—the marital rights of the husband being in all cases primary, and the rights of the wife secondary.
The right of trial by a jury of one’s peers was so jealously guarded that States refused to ratify the original constitution until it was guaranteed by the sixth amendment. And yet the women of this nation have never been allowed a jury of their peers—being tried in all cases by men, native and foreign, educated and ignorant, virtuous and vicious. Young girls have been arraigned in our courts for the crime of infanticide; tried, convicted, hanged—victims, perchance, of judge, jurors, advocates—while no woman’s voice could be heard in their defense. And not only are women denied a jury of their peers, but in some cases, jury trial altogether. During the war, a woman was tried and hanged by military law, in defiance of the fifth amendment, which specifically declares: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases … of persons in actual service in time of war.” During the last presidential campaign, a woman, arrested for voting, was denied the protection of a jury, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a fine and costs of prosecution, by the absolute power of a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Taxation without representation, the immediate cause of the rebellion of the colonies against Great Britain, is one of the grievous wrongs the women of this country have suffered during the century. Deploring war, with all the demoralization that follows in its train, we have been taxed to support standing armies, with their waste of life and wealth. Believing in temperance, we have been taxed to support the vice, crime and pauperism of the liquor traffic. While we suffer its wrongs and abuses infinitely more than man, we have no power to protect our sons against this giant evil. During the temperance crusade, mothers were arrested, fined, imprisoned, for even praying and singing in the streets, while men blockade the sidewalks with impunity, even on Sunday, with their military parades and political processions. Believing in honesty, we are taxed to support a dangerous army of civilians, buying and selling the offices of government and sacrificing the best interests of the people. And, moreover, we are taxed to support the very legislators and judges who make laws, and render decisions adverse to woman. And for refusing to pay such unjust taxation, the houses, lands, bonds, and stock of women have been seized and sold within the present year, thus proving Lord Coke’s assertion, that “The very act of taxing a man’s property without his consent is, in effect, disfranchising him of every civil right.”
Unequal codes for men and women. Held by law a perpetual minor, deemed incapable of self-protection, even in the industries of the world, woman is denied equality of rights. The fact of sex, not the quantity or quality of work, in most cases, decides the pay and position; and because of this injustice thousands of fatherless girls are compelled to choose between a life of shame and starvation. Laws catering to man’s vices have created two codes of morals in which penalties are graded according to the political status of the offender. Under such laws, women are fined and imprisoned if found alone in the streets, or in public places of resort, at certain hours. Under the pretense of regulating public morals, police officers seizing the occupants of disreputable houses, march the women in platoons to prison, while the men, partners in their guilt, go free. While making a show of virtue in forbidding the importation of Chinese women on the Pacific coast for immoral purposes, our rulers, in many States, and even under the shadow of the national capitol, are now proposing to legalize the sale of American womanhood for the same vile purposes.
Special legislation for woman has placed us in a most anomalous position. Women invested with the rights of citizens in one section—voters, jurors, office-holders—crossing an imaginary line, are subjects in the next. In some States, a married woman may hold property and transact business in her own name; in others, her earnings belong to her husband. In some States, a woman may testify against her husband, sue and be sued in the courts; in others, she has no redress in case of damage to person, property, or character. In case of divorce on account of adultery in the husband, the innocent wife is held to possess no right to children or property, unless by special decree of the court. But in no State of the Union has the wife the right to her own person, or to any part of the joint earnings of the co-partnership during the life of her husband. In some States women may enter the law schools and practice in the courts; in others they are forbidden. In some universities girls enjoy equal educational advantages with boys, while many of the proudest institutions in the land deny them admittance, though the sons of China, Japan and Africa are welcomed there. But the privileges already granted in the several States are by no means secure. The right of suffrage once exercised by women in certain States and territories has been denied by subsequent legislation. A bill is now pending in congress to disfranchise the women of Utah, thus interfering to deprive United States citizens of the same rights which the Supreme Court has declared the national government powerless to protect anywhere. Laws passed after years of untiring effort, guaranteeing married women certain rights of property, and mothers the custody of their children, have been repealed in States where we supposed all was safe. Thus have our most sacred rights been made the football of legislative caprice, proving that a power which grants as a privilege what by nature is a right, may withhold the same as a penalty when deeming it necessary for its own perpetuation.
Representation of woman has had no place in the nation’s thought. Since the incorporation of the thirteen original States, twenty-four have been admitted to the Union, not one of which has recognized woman’s right of self-government. On this birthday of our national liberties, July Fourth, 1876, Colorado, like all her elder sisters, comes into the Union with the invidious word “male” in her constitution.
Universal manhood suffrage, by establishing an aristocracy of sex, imposes upon the women of this nation a more absolute and cruel depotism than monarchy; in that, woman finds a political master in her father, husband, brother, son. The aristocracies of the old world are based upon birth, wealth, refinement, education, nobility, brave deeds of chivalry; in this nation, on sex alone; exalting brute force above moral power, vice above virtue, ignorance above education, and the son above the mother who bore him.
The judiciary above the nation has proved itself but the echo of the party in power, by upholding and enforcing laws that are opposed to the spirit and letter of the constitution. When the slave power was dominant, the Supreme Court decided that a black man was not a citizen, because he had not the right to vote; and when the constitution was so amended as to make all persons citizens, the same high tribunal decided that a woman, though a citizen, had not the right to vote. Such vacillating interpretations of constitutional law unsettle our faith in judicial authority, and undermine the liberties of the whole people.
These articles of impeachment against our rulers we now submit to the impartial judgment of the people. To all these wrongs and oppressions woman has not submitted in silence and resignation. From the beginning of the century, when Abigail Adams, the wife of one president and mother of another, said, “We will not hold ourselves bound to obey laws in which we have no voice or representation,” until now, woman’s discontent has been steadily increasing, culminating nearly thirty years ago in a simultaneous movement among the women of the nation, demanding the right of suffrage. In making our just demands, a higher motive than the pride of sex inspires us; we feel that national safety and stability depend on the complete recognition of the broad principles of our government. Woman’s degraded, helpless position is the weak point in our institutions to-day; a disturbing force everywhere, severing family ties, filling our asylums with the deaf, the dumb, the blind; our prisons with criminals, our cities with drunkenness and prostitution; our homes with disease and death. It was the boast of the founders of the republic, that the rights for which they contended were the rights of human nature. If these rights are ignored in the case of one-half the people, the nation is surely preparing for its downfall. Governments try themselves. The recognition of a governing and a governed class is incompatible with the first principles of freedom. Woman has not been a heedless spectator of the events of this century, nor a dull listener to the grand arguments for the equal rights of humanity. From the earliest history of our country woman has shown equal devotion with man to the cause of freedom, and has stood firmly by his side in its defense. Together, they have made this country what it is. Woman’s wealth, thought and labor have cemented the stones of every monument man has reared to liberty.
And now, at the close of a hundred years, as the hour-hand of the great clock that marks the centuries points to 1876, we declare our faith in the principles of self-government; our full equality with man in natural rights; that woman was made first for her own happiness, with the absolute right to herself—to all the opportunities and advantages life affords for her complete development; and we deny that dogma of the centuries, incorporated in the codes of all nations—that woman was made for man—her best interests, in all cases, to be sacrificed to his will. We ask of our rulers, at this hour, no special favors, no special privileges, no special legislation. We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.(13)
The declaration was warmly applauded at many points, and after scattering another large number of printed copies, the delegation hastened to the convention of the National Association. A meeting had been appointed for twelve, in the old historic First Unitarian church, where Rev. Wm. H. Furness preached for fifty years, but whose pulpit was then filled by Joseph May, a son of Rev. Samuel J. May. To this place the ladies made their way to find the church crowded with an expectant audience, which greeted them with thanks for what they had just done; the first act of this historic day taking place on the old centennial platform in Independence Square, the last in a church so long devoted to equality and justice. The venerable Lucretia Mott, then in her eighty-fourth year, presided. Elizabeth Cady Stanton read the Declaration of Rights. Its reception by the listening audience proclaimed its need and its justice. The reading was followed by speeches upon the various points of the declaration.
Belva A. Lockwood took up the judiciary, showing the way that body lends itself to party politics. Matilda Joslyn Gage spoke upon the writ of habeas corpus, showing what a mockery to married women was that constitutional guarantee. Lucretia Mott reviewed the progress of the reform from the first convention. Sara Andrews Spencer illustrated the evils arising from two codes of morality. Mrs. Devereux Blake spoke upon trial by jury; Susan B. Anthony upon taxation without representation, illustrating her remarks by incidents of unjust taxation of women during the present year. Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke upon the aristocracy of sex, and the evils arising from manhood suffrage. Judge Esther Morris, of Wyoming, said a few words in regard to suffrage in that territory. Mrs. Margaret Parker, president of the woman suffrage club of Dundee, Scotland, and of the newly-formed Christian Woman’s International Temperance Union, said she had seen nothing like this in Great Britain—it was worth the journey across the Atlantic. Mr. J. H. Raper, of Manchester, England, characterized it as the historic meeting of the day, and said the patriot of a hundred years hence would seek for every incident connected with it, and the next centennial would be adorned by the portraits of the women who sat upon that platform.
The Hutchinsons, themselves of historic fame, were present. They were in their happiest vein, interspersing the speeches with appropriate and felicitous songs. Lucretia Mott did not confine herself to a single speech, but, in Quaker style, whenever the spirit moved made many happy points. When she first arose to speak, a call came from the audience for her to ascend the pulpit in order that she might be seen. As she complied with this request, ascending the long winding staircase into the old-fashioned octagon pulpit, she said, “I am somewhat like Zaccheus of old who climbed the sycamore tree his Lord to see; I climb this pulpit, not because I am of lofty mind, but because I am short of stature that you may see me.” As her sweet and placid countenance appeared above the pulpit, the Hutchinsons, by happy inspiration, burst into “Nearer, my God, to Thee.” The effect was marvelous; the audience at once arose, and spontaneously joined in the hymn.
Phoebe W. Couzins, with great pathos, referred to woman’s work in the war, and the parade of the Grand Army of the Republic the preceding evening; she said:
In such an hour as this, with my soul stirred to its deepest depths, I feel unequal to the task of uttering words befitting the occasion, and to follow the dear saint who has just spoken; how can I? I am but a beginner, and to-day I feel that to sit at the feet of these dear women who have borne the heat and burden of this contest, and to learn of them is the attitude I should assume. It is not the time for argument or rhetoric. It is the time for introspection and prayer. We have come from Independence Square, where the nation is celebrating its centennial birthday of a masculine freedom. You have just heard from Mrs. Stanton the reading of Woman’s Declaration of Rights; that document has already been presented in engrossed form, tied with the symbolic red, white and blue, to the presiding officer of the day, Senator Thomas W. Ferry, on their platform in yonder square; and the John Hampden of our cause, the immortal Susan B. Anthony, rendered it historic, by reading it from the steps of Independence Hall, to an immense audience there gathered, that could not gain access to the square or platform. (Great applause.) I cannot express to you in fitting language the thoughts and feelings which stirred me as I sat on the platform, awaiting the presentation of that document.
We were about to commit an overt act. Gen. Hawley, president of the centennial commission and manager of the programme, had peremptorily forbidden its presentation. Yet in the face of this—in the face of the assembled nation and representatives from the crowned heads of Europe, a handful of women actuated by the same high principles as our fathers, stirred by the same desire for freedom, moved by the same impulse for liberty, were to again proclaim the right of self-government; were again to impeach the spirit of King George manifested in our rulers, and declare that taxation without representation is tyranny, that the divine right of one-half of the people to rule the other half is also despotism. As I followed the reading of Richard Henry Lee, and marked the wild enthusiasm of its reception, and remembered that at its close, a document, as noble, as divine, as grand, as historic as that, was to be presented in silence; an act, as heroic, as worthy, as sublime, was to be performed in the face of the contemptuous amazement of the assembled world, I trembled with suppressed emotion. When Susan Anthony arose, with a look of intense pain, yet heroic determination in her face, I silently committed her to the Great Father who seëth not in part, to strengthen and comfort her heroic heart, and then she was lost to view in the sudden uprising caused by the burst of applause instituted by General Hawley in behalf of the Brazilian emperor. And thus at the close of the reading of a document which repudiated kings and declared the right of every person to life, to liberty and the pursuit of individual happiness, the American people, applauding a crowned monarch, received in silence the immortal document and protest of its discrowned queens!
Shall I recount the emotion that swayed me, as I thought of all that woman had done to build up this country; to sustain its unity, to perpetuate its principles; of its self-denying and heroic Pilgrim and revolutionary mothers; of the work of woman in the anti-slavery cause; the agony and death of her travail in its second birth for freedom; sustaining the nation by prayers, by self-sacrificing contributions, by patriotic endeavors, by encouraging words; and, reviewing the programme, and all the attendant pageants, remembered that in these grand centennial celebrations, when the nation rounded out its first century, not a tribute, not a recognition in any shape, form or manner was paid to woman; that upon the platform, as honored guests, sat those who had been false in the hour of our country’s peril; that upon this historic soil, stood the now freeman, once a slave, whose liberty and life were given him at the hands of woman; that the inhabitants of the far off isles of the sea, India, Asia, Africa, Europe, were gladly welcomed as free citizens, while woman, a suppliant beggar, pleaded of one man, invested with autocratic power, for the simple boon of presenting a protest in silence, against her degradation, and was denied!
I stood yesterday on the corner of Broad and Chestnut streets, watching the march of the Grand Army of the Republic. As the torn and tattered battle flags came by, all the terrors of that war tragedy suddenly rushed over me, and I sat down and wept. Looking again, I saw the car of wounded, soldiers; as in thought I was suddenly transported to the banks of the Mississippi I felt the air full of the horrors of the battle of Shiloh, and saw two young girls waiting the landing of a steamer that had been dispatched to succor the wounded on that terrible field. They were watching for “mother”—who for the first time had left her home charge, and hushing her own heart’s pleadings, heard only her country’s call, and gone down to that field of carnage to tenderly care for the soldier. As they boarded the steamer; what a sight met their eyes! Maimed, bleeding, dying soldiers by the hundreds, were on cots on deck, on boxes filled with amputated limbs, and the dead were awaiting the last sad rites. Like ministering angels walked two women, their mother and the now sainted Margaret Breckenridge of Kentucky, amid these rows of sufferers, with strong nerve and steady arm, comforting the soldier boy, so far from friends and home; binding up the ghastly wound, bathing the feverish brow, smoothing the dying pillow, and with tender mother’s prayer and tear, closing the eyes of the dead. The first revelation of war; how it burned our youthful brain! How it moved us to divine compassion, how it stirred us to even give up our mother to the work for years, as we heard the piteous pleading, “Don’t leave us, mother”—”Oh, mother, we can never forget.” But alas they did forget! This scene repeated again, and again, during that long conflict, with hundreds of women offering a like service in camp and floating hospital, leaving sweet homes, without money, price or thought of emolument, going to these battle-fields and tenderly nursing the army of the republic to life again; while back of them were tens of thousands other women of the great sanitary army, who, in self-sacrifice at home, were sending lint, bandages, clothing, delicacies of food and raiment of all kinds, by car-load and ship-load, to comfort and ameliorate the sufferings of the grand army of the republic, and yet as I watched its march in this centennial year, its gala day—not a tribute marked its gratitude to her who had proved its savior and friend, in the hour of peril.
Again, came the colored man in rank and file—and in thought I saw the fifteenth-amendment jubilee, which proclaimed his emancipation. As banner after banner passed me, with the name of Garrison, of Phillips, of Douglass, I looked in vain for the name of Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose one book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”—did more to arouse the whole world to the horrors of slavery, than did the words or works of any ten men. I searched for a tribute to Lucretia Mott and other women of that conflict, but none appeared. And so to-day, standing here with heart and brain convulsed with all these memories and scenes, can you wonder that we are stirred to profoundest depths, as we review the base ingratitude of this nation to its women? It has taxed its women, and asked the women, in whose veins flows the blood of their Pilgrim and Revolutionary mothers, to assist by money, individual effort and presence, to make it a year of jubilee for the proclamation of a ransomed male nationality. Zenobia, in gilded chains it may be, but chains nevertheless, marches through the streets of Philadelphia to-day, an appendage of the chariot wheels which proclaim the coming of her king, her lord, her master, whether he be white or black, native or foreign-born, virtuous or vile, lettered or unlettered. As the state-house bell, with its inscription, “Proclaim liberty—throughout the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof,” pealed forth its jubilant reiteration,—the daughters of Jefferson, of Hancock, of Adams, and Patrick Henry, who have been politically outlawed and ostracized by their own countrymen, here had no liberty proclaimed for them; they are not inhabitants, only sojourners in the land of their fathers, and as the slaves in meek subjection to the will of the master placed the crown of sovereignty on the alien from Europe, Asia, Africa, she is asked to sing in dulcet strains: “The king is dead—long live the king!”
And thus to-day we round out the first century of a professed republic,—with woman figuratively representing freedom—and yet all free, save woman.
For five long hours of that hot mid-summer’s day, that crowded audience listened earnestly to woman’s demand for equality of rights before the law. When the convention at last adjourned, the Hutchinsons singing, “A Hundred Years Hence,”(14) it was slowly and reluctantly that the great audience left the house. Judged by its immediate influence, it was a wonderful meeting. No elaborate preparations had been made, for not until late on Friday evening had it been decided upon, hoping still, as we did, for a recognition in the general celebration on Independence Square. Speakers were not prepared, hardly a moment of thought had been given as to what should be said, but words fitting for the hour came to lips rendered eloquent by the pressure of intense emotion.
Day after day visitors to the woman suffrage parlors referred to this meeting in glowing terms. Ladies from distant States, in Philadelphia to visit the exposition, said that meeting was worth the whole expense of the journey. Young women with all the attractions of the day and the exposition enticing them, yet said, “The best of all I have seen in Philadelphia was that meeting.” Women to whom a dollar was of great value, said, “As much as I need money, I would not have missed that meeting for a hundred dollars”; while in the midst of conversation visitors would burst forth, “Was there ever such a meeting as that in Dr. Furness’ church?” and thus was Woman’s Declaration of Rights joyously received.
The day was also celebrated by women in convocations of their own all over the country.(15)
An interesting feature of the centennial parlors was an immense autograph book, in which the names of friends to the movement were registered by the thousands, some penned on that historic day and sent from the old world and the new, and others written on the spot during these eventful months. From the tidings of all these enthusiastic assemblies and immense number of letters(16) received in Philadelphia, unitedly demanding an extension of their rights, it was evident that the thinking women of the nation were hopefully waiting in the dawn of the new century for greater liberties to themselves.
From “Aunt Lottie’s Centennial Letters to her Nieces and Nephews,” we give the one describing this occasion:
My Dears: I suppose I had best tell you in this letter about the Fourth of July celebration at the centennial city—at least that portion of it that I know about, and which I would not have missed for the exhibition itself, and which I would not have you miss for all the rest of my letters. I cannot expect you to be as much interested in it as was I, but it is time you were becoming interested in the subject; and, if you live a half century from this time (in less than that, I hope,) you will see that what I am about to relate was, as General Hawley admitted it would be, “the event of the occasion.”
At the commencement of the exhibition, Miss Susan B. Anthony and Mrs. Matilda Joslyn Gage came to Philadelphia and procured the parlors of 1,431 Chestnut street for the accommodation of the National Woman Suffrage Association. These rooms were open to the friends of the association, and public receptions were held and well attended every Tuesday and Friday evening. During these months these two ladies—assisted the latter part of the time by Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton—were engaged in preparing a history of the suffrage movement and a declaration of rights to be presented at the great centennial celebration of the Fourth of July, 1876. This document is in form like the first declaration of a hundred years ago, handsomely engrossed by Mrs. Sara Andrews Spencer, of Washington—a lady delegate to the Cincinnati Republican convention, June 12.
The celebration was held in Independence Square, just back of the old state-house where the first declaration was signed. There was a great crowd of people collected; a poem was read by Bayard Taylor and a speech delivered by William M. Evarts. But I knew it was useless to go there expecting to hear any portion of either; so I waited until twelve o’clock and then rode down in the cars to Dr. Furness’ church, corner of Broad and Locust streets, where these ladies were to hold their meeting. The church was full, and the exercises were opened by Mrs. Mott—the venerable and venerated president—a Quaker lady of slight form, attired in a plain, light-silk gown, white muslin neckerchief and cap, after that exquisitely neat and quaint fashion. Then the Hutchinsons sang a hymn, in which all were requested to join. Afterward Mrs. Stanton came to the front of the pulpit, the house was hushed, to a reverential stillness, and I never yet heard anything so solemn and impressive as her reading of the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States.
A printed copy had been given me the day before, when between the sessions of the New England American Association in the Academy of Music, where were Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, Rev. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Elizabeth K. Churchill and other pleasant-faced, sweet-voiced ladies, I had called at the rooms on Chestnut street and folded declarations, for half an hour with Mrs. Stanton, which they were distributing by post and in every way all over the land. When I read it at home that night I realized its importance, but as the next day (the Fourth) was excessively warm, I very nearly gave up going, and then I should have missed the impressiveness of her reading. When she first commenced, her voice seemed choked with emotion. She must have realized what she was doing, as we all knew it was the grandest thing that had been done in a hundred years. Thrill after thrill went through my veins, and the whole scene formed a picture that will yet be the subject of artists’ pencils and poets’ pens. I should have been contented to have had the meeting closed then with that best song of the Hutchinsons upon the progress of reform, where the young gentleman was so much applauded for his solo, “When Women Shall be Free.” Still we were all interested in Mrs. Spencer’s account of her interview with General Hawley, and his refusal to permit the silent handing-in of the declaration, which, after her persistence, assuring him “it would not take three minutes,” he was obliged to confess was because he was “very well aware it would be the event of the occasion.” “Immediately,” said Mrs. Spencer, “you cannot imagine what an inspiration we all had to do it; for,” added the slight, fair-haired, fluent lady, in a humorous manner that called forth laughter and applause, “I never yet was forbidden by a man to do a thing, but that I resolved to do it.”
We were also pleased to hear from that earnest woman, Susan B. Anthony, inspired by the immutable abstract truths of justice and equity. Reports say that she has the air of a Catholic devotee. She said that in defiance of “the powers that be” she took a place on that platform in Independence square, and at the proper time delivered the engrossed copy of the declaration to the Hon. T. W. Ferry, who received it with a courteous bow; and afterward on the steps of Independence Hall she read it to an assembled multitude. She had done her centennial day’s work for all time; and small wonder that mind and body craved rest after such tension. She is yet under a hundred dollars fine for voting at Rochester, and although from her lectures the last six years she has paid $10,000 indebtedness on The Revolution, she said she never would have paid that fine had she been imprisoned till now.
Mrs. Lucretia Mott, whom the younger Hutchinson(17) assisted into the pulpit—a beautiful sight to see cultured youth supporting refined old age—stated that she went up there, “not because she was higher-minded than the rest, but so that her enfeebled voice might be better heard.” The dear old soul is so much stronger than her body, that it would seem that she must have greatly overtasked herself; though an inspired soul has wonderful recuperative forces at command for the temple it inhabits. A goodly number of gentlemen were present at this meeting and that of the day before—three or four of them making short speeches. A Mr. Raper of England, strongly interested in the temperance and woman suffrage cause, told us that in his country “all women tax-payers voted for guardians of the poor, upon all educational matters, and also upon all municipal affairs. In that respect she was in advance of this professed republic. In England there is an hereditary aristocracy, here, an aristocracy of sex”; or, as the spirited Lillie Devereux Blake who was present once amusingly termed it, of “the bifurcated garment.” And now perhaps some materially-minded person will ask, “What are you going to do about it? You can’t fight!” forgetting that we are now fighting the greatest of all battles, and that the weapons of woman’s warfare, like her nature at its best development, are moral and spiritual.
Philadelphia, July 13, 1876.
The press of the country commented extensively upon the action of the women:
At noon to-day, in the First Unitarian church, corner Tenth and South, the National Woman Suffrage Association will present the Woman’s Declaration of Rights. The association will hold a convention at the same time and place, at which Lucretia Mott is announced to preside, and several ladies to make speeches. Most of the ladies are known as women of ability and earnest apostles of the creed they have espoused for the political enfranchisement of women. Their declaration of rights, we do not doubt, will be strongly enforced. These ladies, or some of them, have been assigned places upon the platform at the grand celebration ceremonies to take place in Independence Square to-day; and they have requested leave to present their declaration of rights in form on that occasion. They do not ask to have it read, we believe, but simply that the statement of their case shall go on file with the general archives of the day, so that the women of 1976 may see that their predecessors of 1876 did not let the centennial year of independence pass without protest.—(Philadelphia Ledger, July 4.
There was yet another incident of the Fourth, in Independence Square. Immediately after the Declaration of Independence had been read by Richard Henry Lee, and while the strains of the “Greeting from Brazil” were rising upon the air, two ladies pushed their way vigorously through the crowd and appeared upon the speaker’s platform. They were Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Hustling generals aside, elbowing governors, and almost upsetting Dom Pedro in their charge, they reached Vice-President Ferry, and handed him a scroll about three feet long, tied with ribbons of various colors. He was seen to bow and look bewildered; but they had retreated in the same vigorous manner before the explanation was whispered about. It appears that they demanded a change of programme for the sake of reading their address; but if so, this was probably a mere form intended for future effect. More than six months ago some of the advocates of female suffrage began in this city their crusade against celebrating the centennial anniversary of a nation wherein women are not permitted to vote. The demand of Miss Anthony and Mrs. Gage to be allowed to take part in a commemoration which many of their associates discouraged and denounced, would have been a cool proceeding had it been made in advance. Made, as it was, through a very discourteous interruption, it pre-figures new forms of violence and disregard of order which may accompany the participation of women in active partisan politics.—(New York Tribune.
The letter of a correspondent, printed in another column, describing the presentation of a woman’s bill of rights, in Independence Square on the Fourth of July, will interest all readers, whether or not they think with the correspondent, that this little affair was the most important of the day’s proceedings. We have not a doubt that the persons who were concerned in the affair enjoyed it heartily. Those of them who made speeches naturally regarded their eloquence as a thing to stir the nation. All persons who make speeches do. The day was a warm one, and imagination, like the fire-cracker, was on fire. In the heat of the occasion, of course, the women who want to vote and who desire the protection of the writ of habeas corpus against the tyranny of actual or possible husbands, felt that they were making great folios of history; but the sagacity of the press agents and reporters was not at fault. The gatherers of news know very well what they are about; and when they decided to omit this part of the proceedings from their reports, they simply obeyed that instinct upon which their livelihood depends—the instinct, namely, to write only of matters in which the public is interested.
The good women who wrote and published this declaration, fancying that they were throwing a bombshell into the gathered crowds of American (male) citizens, are very much in earnest, doubtless, and are entitled—we have platform authority for saying it—to “respectful consideration”; but their movement scarcely rises, as yet at least, to the dignity of a great historical event. There is a prevailing indifference to their cause which is against it. The public is not aroused to a fever heat of indignation over the wrongs which women are everywhere suffering at the hands of the tyrants called husbands. The popular mind is not yet awake to the fact that men usually imprison their wives in back parlors and maltreat them shamefully. The witnesses, wives to wit, refuse to bear testimony to this effect, and the public placidly accepts appearance for reality and believes that the gentlewomen who ride about in their carriages or haunt the shops of our cities in gay apparel are reasonably well contented with their lot in life. In a word, it is not hostility so much as calm indifference with which the advocates of woman suffrage have to contend, and unluckily for them the indifference is very largely feminine.—(New York Evening Post.
There is something awful in the thought that should the woman suffragists be continually refused a voice in the affairs of the nation they might at last in a fit of desperation, do what our fathers did, and frame a declaration of independence, No, 2. Just think of an army of crinolines willing to take arms against the tyrant man, and sacrifice their lives, if need be, to carry out their principles! It is easier to ridicule the woman suffrage movement than to answer the arguments advanced by some of the leading advocates of that question. It is only the innate mildness of the position of women in general that has prevented a revolution on this same subject long ago. One hundred thousand such fire-eaters as Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the land, could raise a rumpus which would cause the late unpleasantness to pale into insignificance. Armed and equipped, what a sight would be presented by an army of strong-minded women! There would be no considering the question of whether the cavalry should ride side-saddle, or a la clothes-pin. Such detail would be of too small importance to receive the slightest attention; the more vital questions would be, “How can we slaughter the most men?” “How can we soonest convince the demons that we have rights which must be respected?” The fact is, that if these down-trodden women would take a firm stand in any thing like respectable numbers, and assert their claims to suffrage at the point of the bayonet, they would be allowed everything they asked for. There is not a man in the land who would dare to take up arms against a woman. Such a dernier resort on the part of the women would be truly laughable, but the matter would cease to be a joke, if General Susan B. Anthony, in command of a bloomer regiment, should march into the halls of congress, armed cap-a-pie, and demand the passage of a law in behalf of woman suffrage, or the alternative of the general cleaning out of the whole body. There is no immediate prospect of such an event, but “hell hath no furies like a woman scorned.” Long and loud have been the appeals of the fair sex for recognition at the ballot-box. With that faithful zeal so truly characteristic of her sex, she has each time, for many years in the history of this country, presented herself before the curious gaze of our national conventions, asking, with no little stress of argument, for a woman’s plank in the platforms. If she has been heard at all in the framed resolutions of the parties, the feeling prevailing in the conventions has been rather to pacify and put her off, than to grant her request through motives of political policy. If perseverance is to be awarded, the agitators of the woman question will yet carry off the prize they seek. Death alone can silence such women as Susan B. Anthony and Cady Stanton, and their teachings will live after them and unite others of their sex into strong bands of sisterhood in a common cause. It is safe to say, if events march on in the same direction they have since the calling of the first National Woman’s Convention, another centennial will see woman in the halls of legislation throughout the land, and so far as we are concerned we have no objection, so long as she behaves herself.—(St. Louis Dispatch, July 13.
It is a curious anomaly that the movement for national woman suffrage in our country is most obstructed by women, and that even where the men have doubts, their natural admiration for the gentler sex almost converts them into champions. Certain it is that the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States that the National Woman Suffrage Association presented to the vice-president, Mr. Ferry, while he was surrounded by foreign princes and potentates and by the governors of most of the States of the union, faced at the same time by a countless mass of American and foreign visitors—certain it is, we repeat, that when this altogether unique paper was presented by Miss Susan B. Anthony and her sisters, it became a record in the minds and memory of all who witnessed the strange proceeding. And it is a very well written statement, and no doubt one hundred years hence it will be read with an interest not less ecstatic than the enthusiasm of its present pioneers; for, in the interval, these advanced women may have won for their withholding sisters the entire list of male prerogatives. What adds to the force of the present woman suffrage party is the dignity, intelligence and purity of its participants. The venerable Lucretia Mott; the honest, straightforward Susan B. Anthony; the cultivated Ellen Clark Sargent (wife of the California senator); the beloved Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and indeed all the names attached to the declaration command our respect. Whatever we may think of the points of the declaration itself, with all our sincere admiration of these gentlewomen, increased by the knowledge everywhere that they are ardent republicans, we fear that their weakness, to employ a paradox, consists in their strength, or, in other words, that it is difficult to induce even the most benevolent and sympathetic observer to believe that they are really as much persecuted and oppressed as they claim to be. When the colored man demanded his rights they were given to him because these rights in republican constitutions were regarded as inherent, and also because he had reciprocal duties to discharge, and heavy burdens to carry, and when the Southern confederate demanded restitution of his rights, he rested his claim upon the double basis that he had earned forgiveness by his bravery, and that political disfranchisement did not belong to a republican example. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is very different with the ladies; and so when they come forward insisting upon rights heretofore accorded to men alone, they must encounter all the differences created by the delicacy of their own sisters and the reverence and love of the men, and the hard fact that these two influences have made it heretofore impossible for women to descend to the arena of politics. Having said this much, we present a few of the cardinal points of the woman’s declaration of rights laid before the august memorial centennial celebration last Tuesday, July 4, 1876.—(Philadelphia Press, July 15.
On July 19, the Citizens’ Suffrage Association, of Philadelphia, joined with the National Association in commemorating the first woman’s rights convention called by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, at Seneca Falls, N. Y., July 19, 1848—thus celebrating the twenty-eighth anniversary of that historic event. The meeting was presided over by Edward M. Davis, president of the association, son-in-law of Lucretia Mott, and one of the most untiring workers in the cause. The venerable Lucretia Mott addressed the meeting, and Miss Anthony read letters from several of the earliest and most valued pioneers of the movement:
Tenafly, New Jersey, July 19, 1876.
Lucretia Mott—Esteemed Friend: It is twenty-eight years ago to-day since the first woman’s rights convention ever held assembled in the Wesleyan chapel at Seneca Falls, N. Y. Could we have foreseen, when we called that convention, the ridicule, persecution, and misrepresentation that the demand for woman’s political, religious and social equality would involve; the long, weary years of waiting and hoping without success; I fear we should not have had the courage and conscience to begin such a protracted struggle, nor the faith and hope to continue the work. Fortunately for all reforms, the leaders, not seeing the obstacles which block the way, start with the hope of a speedy success. Our demands at the first seemed so rational that I thought the mere statement of woman’s wrongs would bring immediate redress. I thought an appeal to the reason and conscience of men against the unjust and unequal laws for women that disgraced our statute books, must settle the question. But I soon found, while no attempt was made to answer our arguments, that an opposition, bitter, malignant, and persevering, rooted in custom and prejudice, grew stronger with every new demand made, with every new privilege granted.
How well I remember that July day when the leading ladies and gentlemen of the busy town crowded into the little church; lawyers loaded with books, to expound to us the laws; ladies with their essays, and we who had called the convention, with our declaration of rights, speeches, and resolutions. With what dignity James Mott, your sainted husband, tall and stately, in Quaker costume, presided over our novel proceedings. And your noble sister, Martha C. Wright, was there. Her wit and wisdom contributed much to the interest of our proceedings, and her counsel in a large measure to what success we claimed for our first convention. While so many of those early friends fell off through indifference, fear of ridicule and growing conservatism, she remained through these long years of trial steadfast to the close of a brave, true life. She has been present at nearly every convention, with her encouraging words and generous contributions, and being well versed in Cushing’s Manual, has been one of our chief presiding officers. And my heart is filled with gratitude, even at this late day, as I recall the earnestness and eloquence with which Frederick Douglass advocated our cause, though at that time he had no rights himself that any white man was bound to respect. I marvel now, that in our inexperience the interest was so well sustained through two entire days, and that when the meeting adjourned everybody signed the declaration and went home feeling that a new era had dawned for woman. What had been done and said seemed so preëminently wise and proper that none of us thought of being ridiculed, ostracised, or suspected of evil. But what was our surprise and chagrin to find ourselves, in a few days, the target for the press of the nation; the New York Tribune being our only strong arm of defense.
Looking over these twenty-eight years, I feel that what we have achieved, as yet, bears no proportion to what we have suffered in the daily humiliation of spirit from the cruel distinctions based on sex. Though our State laws have been essentially changed, and positions in the schools, professions, and world of work secured to woman, unthought of thirty years ago, yet the undercurrent of popular thought, as seen in our social habits, theological dogmas, and political theories, still reflects the same customs, creeds, and codes that degrade women in the effete civilizations of the old world. Educated in the best schools to logical reasoning, trained to liberal thought in politics, religion and social ethics under republican institutions, American women cannot brook the discriminations in regard to sex that were patiently accepted by the ignorant in barbarous ages as divine law. And yet subjects of emperors in the old world, with their narrow ideas of individual rights, their contempt of all womankind, come here to teach the mothers of this republic their true work and sphere. Such men as Carl Schurz, breathing for the first time the free air of our free land, object to what we consider the higher education of women, fitting them for the trades and professions, for the sciences and arts, and self-complacently point Lucretia Mott, Maria Mitchell, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Susan B. Anthony, to their appropriate sphere, as housekeepers with a string of keys, like Madam Bismark, dangling around their waists.
The Rev. J. G. Holland, the Tupper of our American literature, thanks his Creator that woman has no specialty. She was called into being for man’s happiness and interest—his helpmeet—to wait and watch his movements, to second his endeavors, to fight the hard battle of life behind him whose brain may be dizzy with excess, whose limbs may be paralyzed, or if sound in body, may be without aim or ambition, without plans or projects, destitute of executive ability or good judgment in the business affairs of life. And such sentimentalists, after demoralizing women with their twaddle, discourage our demand for the right of suffrage by pointing us to the fact that the majority of women are indifferent to this movement in their behalf. Suppose they are; have not the masses of all oppressed classes been apathetic and indifferent until partial success crowned the enthusiasm of the few? Carl Schurz would not have been exiled from his native land could he have roused the majority of his countrymen to the same love of liberty which burned in his own soul. Were his dreams of freedom less real because the stolid masses were not awake to their significance? Shall a soul that accepts martyrdom for a principle be told he is sacrificing himself to a shadow because the multitude can neither see nor appreciate the idea?
I do not feel like rejoicing over any privileges already granted to my sex, until all our rights are conceded and secured and the principle of equality recognized and proclaimed, for every step that brings us to a more equal plane with man but makes us more keenly feel the loss of those rights we are still denied—more susceptible to the insults of his assumptions and usurpations of power. As I sum up the indignities toward women, as illustrated by recent judicial decisions—denied the right to vote, denied the right to practice in the Supreme Court, denied jury trial—I feel the degradation of sex more bitterly than I did on that July 19, 1848, and never more than in listening to your speech in Philadelphia on the Fourth of July, our nation’s centennial birthday, remembering that neither years nor wisdom, brave words nor noble deeds, could secure political honor or call forth national homage for women. Let it be remembered by our daughters in future generations that Lucretia Mott, in the eighty-fourth year of her age, asked permission, as the representative woman of this great movement for the enfranchisement of her sex, to present at the centennial celebration of our national liberties, Woman’s Declaration of Rights, and was refused! This was the “respectful consideration” vouchsafed American women at the close of the first century of our national life.
May we now safely prophesy justice, liberty, equality for our daughters ere another centennial birthday shall dawn upon us!
Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Detroit, July 17, 1876.
To Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Ann McClintock and daughters, Amy Post, and all associated with them and myself in the first Woman’s Rights Convention, held in Seneca Falls, N. Y., July 19, 1848, as well as to our later and present associates, Greeting:
Not able to be with you in your celebration of the nineteenth, I will yet give evidence that I prize your remembrance of our first assemblage and of our earliest work. That is, and will ever be as the present is a memorable year; and may this be memorable too for the same reason, a brave step in advance for human freedom. I would that it could be a conclusive step in legislation for the political freedom of the women of the nation. For it is only in harmony with reason and experience to predict that the men as well as the women of the near future will rejoice if this centennial year is thus marked and glorified by so grand a deed.
We may well congratulate each other and have satisfaction in knowing that we have changed the public sentiment and the laws of many States by our advocacy and labors. We also know that while helping the growth of our own souls, we have set many women thinking and reading on this vital question, who in turn have discussed it in private and public, and thus inspired others. So that at this present time few who have examined can deny our claim. But we are grateful to remember many women who needed no arguments, whose clear insight and reason, pronounced in the outset that a woman’s soul was as well worth saving as a man’s; that her independence and free choice are as necessary and as valuable to the public virtue and welfare; who saw and still see in both, equal children of a Father who loves and protects all.
Men do not need to be convinced of the righteousness of entire freedom for us; they have long been convinced of its justice; they confess that it is only expediency which makes them withhold that which they profess is precious to them. We await only an awakened conscience and an enlarged statesmanship.
I bid you and the women of the republic God-speed, and close in the language of one who went before us, Mary Wollstonecraft, who did so much in a thoughtless age to bring both men and women back to virtue and religion. She says: “Contending for the rights of woman, my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge and virtue; for truth must be common to all or it will be inefficacious with respect to its influence in general practice. And how can woman be expected to coöperate unless she know why she ought to be virtuous; unless freedom strengthen her reason till she comprehends her duty and sees in what manner it is connected with her real good? If children are to be educated to understand the true principle of patriotism, their mother must be a patriot; and the love of mankind from which an orderly train of virtues spring, can only be produced by considering the moral and civil interests of mankind; but the education and situation of woman at present, shuts her out from such investigations.”
With the greatest possible interest in your celebration and deliberations, and assuring you that I shall be with you in thought and spirit, I am most earnestly and cordially yours,
Catharine A. F. Stebbins.
Rochester, N. Y., June 27, 1876.
My Dear Susan Anthony: I thank thee most deeply for the assurance of a welcome to your deliberative councils in our country’s centennial year, to reannounce our oft-repeated protest against bondage to tyrant law. Most holy cause! Woman’s equality, why so long denied?… I was ready at the first tap of the drum that sounded from that hub of our country, Seneca Falls, in 1848, calling for an assembly of men and women to set forth and remonstrate against the legal usurpation of our rights…. I cannot think of anything that would give me as much pleasure as to be able to meet with you at this time. I am exceedingly glad that you appreciate the blessings of frequent visits and wise counsel from our beloved and venerated pioneer, Lucretia Mott. I hope her health and strength will enable her to see and enjoy the triumphant victory of this work, and I wish you all the blessings of happiness that belong to all good workers, and my love to them all as if named.
Pomo, Mendocino Co., California, June 26, 1876.
July 4, 1776, our revolutionary fathers—in convention assembled—declared their independence of the mother country; solemnly asserted the divine right of self-government and its relation to constituted authority. With liberty their shibboleth, the colonies triumphed in their long and fierce struggle with the mother country, and established an independent government. They adopted a “bill of rights” embodying their ideal of a free government.
With singular inconsistency almost their first act, while it secured to one-half the people of the body politic the right to tax and govern themselves, subjected the other half to the very oppression which had culminated in the rebellion of the colonies, “taxation without representation,” and the inflictions of an authority to which they had not given their consent. The constitutional provision which enfranchised the male population of the new State and secured to it self-governing rights, disfranchised its women, and eventuated in a tyrannical use of power, which, exercised by husbands, fathers, and brothers, is infinitely more intolerable than the despotic acts of a foreign ruler.
As if left ignobly to illustrate the truths of their noble declarations, no sooner did the enfranchised class enter upon the exercise of their usurped powers than they proceeded to alienate from the mothers of humanity rights declared to be inseparable from humanity itself! Had they thrust the British yoke from the necks of their wives and daughters as indignantly as they thrust it from their own, the legal subjection of the women of to-day would not stand out as it now does—the reproach of our republican government. As if sons did not follow the condition of the mothers—as if daughters had no claim to the birthright of the fathers—they established for disfranchised woman a “dead line,” by retaining the English common law of marriage, which, unlike that of less liberal European governments, converts the marriage altar into an executioner’s block and recognizes woman as a wife only when so denuded of personal rights that in legal phrase she is said to be—”dead in law”!
More considerate in the matter of forms than the highwayman who kills that he may rob the unresisting dead, our gallant fathers executed women who must need cross the line of human happiness—legally; and administered their estate; and decreed the disposition of their defunct personalities in legislative halls; only omitting to provide for the matrimonial crypt the fitting epitaph: “Here lies the relict of American freedom—taxed to pauperism, loved to death!”
With all the modification of the last quarter, of a century, our English law of marriage still invests the husband with a sovereignty almost despotic over his wife. It secures to him her personal service and savings, and the control and custody of her person as against herself. Having thus reduced the wife to a dead pauper owing service to her husband, our shrewd forefathers, to secure the bond, confiscated her natural obligations as a child and a mother. Whether married or single, only inability excuses a son from the legal support of indigent and infirm parents. The married daughter, in the discharge of her wifely duties, may tenderly care and toil for her husband’s infirm parents, or his children and grandchildren by a prior marriage, while her own parents, or children by a prior marriage—legally divested of any claim on her or the husband who absorbs her personal services and earnings—are sent to the poor-house, or pine in bitter privation; except with consent of her husband, she can give neither her personal care nor the avails of her industry, for their benefit. So, to be a wife, woman ceases, in law, to be anything else—yields up the ghost of a legal existence! That she escapes the extreme penalty of her legal bonds in any case is due to the fact that the majority of men, married or single, are notably better than their laws.
Our fathers taught the quality and initiated the form of free government. But it was left to their posterity to learn from the discipline of experience, that truths, old as the eternities, are forever revealing new phases to render possible more perfect interpretations; and to accumulate unanswerable reasons for their extended application. That the sorest trials and most appreciable failures of the government our fathers bequeathed, to us, have been the direct and inevitable results of their departures from the principles they enunciated, is so patent to all Christendom, that free government itself has won from our mistakes material to revolutionize the world—lessons that compel depotisms to change their base and constitutional monarchies to make broader the phylacteries of popular rights.
Is it not meet then, that on this one-hundredth anniversary of American independence the daughters of revolutionary sires should appeal to the sons to fulfill what the fathers promised but failed to perform—should appeal to them as the constituted executors of the father’s will, to give full practical effect to the self-evident truths, that “taxation without representation is tyranny”—that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed”? With an evident common interest in all the affairs of which government properly or improperly takes cognizance, we claim enfranchisement on the broad ground of human right, having proved the justice of our claim by the injustice which has resulted to us and ours through our disfranchisement.
We ask enfranchisement in the abiding faith that with our coöperative efforts free government would attain to higher averages of intelligence and virtue; with an innate conviction, that the sequestration of rights in the homes of the republic makes them baneful nurseries of the monopolies, rings, and fraudulent practices that are threatening the national integrity; and that so long as the fathers sequester the rights of the mothers and train their sons to exercise, and the daughters to submit to the exactions of usurped powers, our government offices will be dens of thieves and the national honor trail in the dust; and honest men come out from the fiery ordeals of faithful service, denuded of the confidence and respect justly their due. Give us liberty! We are mothers, wives, and daughters of freemen.
C. I. H. Nichols.
London, Eng., July 4, 1876.
My Dear Susan: I sincerely thank you for your kind letter. Many times I have thought of writing to you, but I knew your time was too much taken up with the good cause to have any to spare for private correspondence. Occasionally I am pleased to see a good account of you and your doings in the Boston Investigator. Oh, how I wish I could be with you on this more than ordinarily interesting and important occasion; or that I could at least send my sentiments and views on human rights, which I have advocated for over forty years, to the convention.
This being the centenary day of the proclamation of American independence, I must write a few lines, if but to let the friends know that though absent in body I am with you in the cause for which, in common with you, I have labored so long, and I hope not labored in vain.
The glorious day upon which human equality was first proclaimed ought to be commemorated, not only every hundred years, or every year, but it ought to be constantly held before the public mind until its grand principles are carried into practice. The declaration that “All men (which means all human beings irrespective of sex) have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” is enough for woman as for man. We need no other; but we must reassert in 1876 what 1776 so gloriously proclaimed, and call upon the law-makers and the law-breakers to carry that declaration to its logical consistency by giving woman the right of representation in the government which she helps to maintain; a voice in the laws by which she is governed, and all the rights and privileges society can bestow, the same as to man, or disprove its validity. We need no other declaration. All we ask is to have the laws based on the same foundation upon which that declaration rests, viz.: upon equal justice, and not upon sex. Whenever the rights of man are claimed, moral consistency points to the equal rights of woman.
I hope these few lines will fill a little space in the convention at Philadelphia, where my voice has so often been raised in behalf of the principles of humanity. I am glad to see my name among the vice-presidents of the National Association. Keep a warm place for me with the American people. I hope some day to be there yet. Give my love to Mrs. Mott and Sarah Pugh. With kind regards from Mr. Rose,
Ernestine L. Rose.
A new paper, The Ballot-Box, was started in the centennial year at Toledo, Ohio, owned and published by Mrs. Sarah Langdon Williams. The following editorial on the natal day of the republic is from her pen:
The Retrospect.—Since our last issue the great centennial anniversary of American independence has come and gone; it has been greeted with rejoicing throughout the land; its events have passed into history. The day in which the great principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence were announced by the revolutionary fathers to the world has been celebrated through all this vast heritage, with pomp and popular glorification, and the nation’s finest orators have signalized the event in “thoughts that breathe and words that burn.” Everywhere has the country been arrayed in its holiday attire—the gay insignia which, old as the century, puts on fresh youth and brilliancy each time its colors are unfurled. The successes which the country has achieved have been portrayed with glowing eloquence, the people’s sovereignty has been the theme of congratulation and the glorious principles of freedom and equal rights have been enthusiastically proclaimed. In the magnificent oration of Mr. Evarts delivered in Independence Square, the spot made sacred by the signing of the Declaration of Independence which announced that “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” these words occur:
The chief concern in this regard, to us and the rest of the world is, whether the proud trust, the profound radicalism, the wide benevolence which spoke in the declaration and were infused into the constitution at the first, have been in good-faith adhered to by the people, and whether now the living principles supply the living forces which sustain and direct government and society. He who doubts needs but to look around to find all things full of the original spirit and testifying to its wisdom and strength.
Yet that very day in that very city was a large assemblage of women convened to protest against the gross wrongs of their sex—the representatives of twenty millions of citizens of the United States, composing one-half of the population being governed without their consent by the other half, who, by virtue of their superior strength, held the reins of power and tyrannically denied them all representation. At that very meeting at which that polished falsehood was uttered had the women, but shortly before, been denied the privilege of silently presenting their declaration of rights. More forcibly is this mortifying disregard of the claims of women thrust in their faces from the fact that, amid all this magnificent triumph with which the growth of the century was commemorated, amid the protestations of platforms all over the country of the grand success of the principle of equal rights for all, the possibility of the future according equal rights to women as well as to men was, with the exception of one or two praiseworthy instances, as far as reports have reached us, utterly ignored. The women have no country—their rights are disregarded, their appeals ignored, their protests scorned, they are treated as children who do not comprehend their own wants, and as slaves whose crowning duty is obedience.
Whether, on this great day of national triumph and national aspiration, the possibilities of a better future for women were forgotten; whether, from carelessness, willfulness, or wickedness, their grand services and weary struggles in the past and hopes and aspirations for the future were left entirely out of the account, certain it is that our orators were too much absorbed in the good done by men and for men, to once recur to the valuable aid, self-denying patriotism and lofty virtues of the nation’s unrepresented women. There were a few exceptions: Col. Wm. M. Ferry, of Ottawa county, Michigan, in his historical address delivered in that county, July Fourth, took pains to make favorable mention of the daughter of one of the pioneers, as follows:
Louisa Constant, or “Lisette,” as she was called, became her father’s clerk when twelve years old, and was as well known for wonderful faculties for business as she was for her personal attractions. In 1828, when Lisette was seventeen years old, her father died. She closed up his business with the British Company, engaged with the American Fur Company, at Mackinaw, receiving from them a large supply of merchandise, and for six years conducted the most successful trading establishment in the northwest.
Think of it, ye who disparage the ability of woman! This little tribute we record with gratification. Colonel Ferry remembered woman. Henry Ward Beecher, in his oration, delivered at Peekskill, is reported, to have said:
And now there is but one step more—there is but one step more. We permit the lame, the halt and the blind to go to the ballot-box; we permit the foreigner and the black man, the slave and the freeman, to partake of the suffrage; there is but one thing left out, and that is the mother that taught us, and the wife that is thought worthy to walk side by side with us. It is woman that is put lower than the slave, lower than the ignorant foreigner. She is put among the paupers whom the law won’t allow to vote; among the insane whom the law won’t allow to vote. But the days are numbered in which this can take place, and she too will vote.
But these words are followed by others somewhat problematical, at least in the respect rendered to women:
As in a hundred years suffrage has extended its bounds till it now includes the whole population, in another hundred years everything will vote, unless it be the power of the loom, and the locomotive, and the watch, and I sometimes think, looking at these machines and their performances, that they too ought to vote.
But Mr. Evarts approached the close of his oration with these words—and may they not be prophetic—may not the orator have spoken with a deeper meaning than he knew?
With these proud possessions of the past, with powers matured, with principles settled, with habits formed, the nation passes as it were from preparatory growth to responsible development of character and the steady performance of duty. What labors await it, what trials shall attend it, what triumphs for human nature, what glory for itself, are prepared for this people in the coming century, we may not assume to foretell.
Whether the wise (?) legislators see it or not—whether the undercurrent that is beating to the shore speaks with an utterance that is comprehensible to their heavy apprehensions or not, the coming century has in preparation for the country a truer humanity, a better justice of which the protest and declaration of the fathers pouring its vital current down through the departed century, and surging on into the future, is, to the seeing eye, the sure forerunner, the seed-time, of which the approaching harvest will bring a better fruition for women—and they who scoff now will be compelled to rejoice hereafter. But as Mr. Evarts remarked in his allusions to future centennials:
By the mere circumstance of this periodicity our generation will be in the minds, in the hearts, on the lips of our countrymen at the next centennial commemoration in comparison with their own character and condition and with the great founders of the nation. What shall they say of us? How shall they estimate the part we bear in the unbroken line of the nation’s progress? And so on, in the long reach of time, forever and forever, our place in the secular roll of the ages must always bring us into observation and criticism.
Shall it then be recorded of us that the demand and the protest of the women were not made in vain? Shall it be told to future generations that the cry for justice, the effort to sunder the shackles with which woman has been oppressed from the dim ages of the past, was heeded? Or, shall it be told of us, in the beginning of this second centennial, that justice has been ignored, that only liberty to men entered at this stage of progress, into the American idea of self-government? Freedom to men and women alike is but a question of time—is America now equal to the great occasion? Has her development expanded to that degree where her legislators can say in very truth, as of the colored man, “Let the oppressed go free”?
The woman’s pavilion upon the centennial grounds was an after-thought, as theologians claim woman herself to have been.(18) The women of the country after having contributed nearly $100,000 to the centennial stock, found there had been no provision made for the separate exhibition of their work. The centennial board, Mrs. Gillespie, president, then decided to raise funds for the erection of a separate building to be known as the Woman’s Pavilion. It covered an acre of ground and was erected at an expense of $30,000, a small sum in comparison with the money which had been raised by women and expended on the other buildings, not to speak of State and national appropriations which the taxes levied on them had largely helped to swell.
The pavilion was no true exhibit of woman’s work. First, few women are as yet owners of business which their industry largely makes remunerative. Cotton factories in which thousands of women work, are owned by men. The shoe business, in some branches of which women are doing more than half, is under the ownership of men. Rich embroideries from India, rugs of downy softness from Turkey, the muslin of Dacca, anciently known as “The Woven Wind,” the pottery and majolica ware of P. Pipsen’s widow, the cartridges and envelopes of Uncle Sam, Waltham watches whose finest mechanical work is done by women, and ten thousand other industries found no place in the pavilion. Said United States Commissioner Meeker,(19) of Colorado, “Woman’s work comprises three-fourths of the exposition; it is scattered through every building; take it away and there would be no exposition.”
But this pavilion rendered one good service to woman in showing her capabilities as an engineer. The boiler which furnished the force for running its work was under the management of a young Canadian girl, Miss Alison, who from a child loved machinery, spending much time in the large saw and grist mills of her father, run by engines of two- and three-hundred horse-power, which she sometimes managed for amusement. When her name was proposed for running the pavilion machinery it brought much opposition. It was said the committee would some day find the pavilion blown to atoms; that the woman engineer would spend her time reading novels, instead of watching the steam gauge; that the idea was impracticable and should not be thought of. But Miss Alison soon proved her own capabilities and the falseness of these prophecies by taking her place in the engine-room and managing its workings with the ease that a child spins a top. Six power looms on which women wove carpets, webbing, silks, etc., were run by this engine. At a later period the printing of The New Century for Women, a paper published by the centennial commission in the woman’s building, was also done by its means. Miss Alison declared the work to be more cleanly, more pleasant, and infinitely less fatiguing than cooking over a kitchen stove. “Since I have been compelled to earn my own livelihood,” she said, “I have never been engaged in work I liked so well. Teaching school is much harder, and one is not paid as well.” She expressed confidence in her ability to manage the engine of an ocean steamer, and said there were thousands of small engines in use in various parts of the country, and no reason existed why women should not be employed to manage them—following the profession of engineer as a regular business—an engine requiring far less attention than is given by a nurse-maid or mother to a child.
But to have made the woman’s pavilion grandly historic, upon its walls should have been hung the yearly protest of Harriet K. Hunt against taxation without representation; the legal papers served upon the Smith sisters when their Alderny cows were seized and sold for their refusal to pay taxes while unrepresented; the papers held by the city of Worcester for the forced sale of the house and lands of Abby Kelly Foster, the veteran abolitionist, because she refused to pay taxes, giving the same reason our ancestors gave when they resisted taxation; a model of Bunker Hill monument, its foundation laid by Lafayette in 1825, but which remained unfinished nearly twenty years until the famous French danseuse Fanny Ellsler, gave the proceeds of an exhibition for that purpose. With these should have been exhibited framed copies of all the laws bearing unjustly upon woman—those which rob her of her name, her earnings, her property, her children, her person; also, the legal papers in the case of Susan B. Anthony, who was tried and fined for seeking to give consent to the laws which governed her; and the decision of Mr. Justice Miller (Chief-Justice Chase dissenting) in the case of Myra Bradwell, denying national protection for woman’s civil rights; and the later decision of Chief-Justice Waite of the Supreme Court against Virginia L. Minor, denying to women national protection for their political rights, decisions in favor of state-rights which imperil the liberties not only of all women, but of every white man in the nation.
Woman’s most fitting contributions to the centennial exposition would have been these protests, laws and decisions which show her political slavery. But all this was left for rooms outside of the centennial grounds, upon Chestnut street, where the National Woman Suffrage Association hoisted its flag, made its protests, and wrote the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States.
To many thoughtful people it seemed captious and unreasonable for women to complain of injustice in this free land, amidst such universal rejoicings. When the majority of women are seemingly happy, it is natural to suppose that the discontent of the minority is the result of their unfortunate individual idiosyncrasies, and not of adverse influences in their established conditions.
But the history of the world shows that the vast majority in every generation passively accept the conditions into which they are born, while those who demand larger liberties are ever a small, ostracised minority whose claims are ridiculed and ignored. From our stand-point we honor the Chinese women who claim the right to their feet and powers of locomotion, the Hindoo widows who refuse to ascend the funeral pyre of their husbands, the Turkish women who throw off their masks and veils and leave the harem, the Mormon women who abjure their faith and demand monogamic relations; why not equally honor the intelligent minority of American women who protest against the artificial disabilities by which their freedom is limited and their development arrested? That only a few under any circumstances protest against the injustice of long established laws and customs does not disprove the fact of the oppressions, while the satisfaction of the many, if real, only proves their apathy and deeper degradation. That a majority of the women of the United States accept without protest the disabilities that grow out of their disfranchisement, is simply an evidence of their ignorance and cowardice, while the minority who demand a higher political status clearly prove their superior intelligence and wisdom.
Some suggested that the women in their various towns and cities, draped in black, should march in solemn procession, bells slowly tolling, bearing banners with the inscriptions: “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” “No just government can be formed without the consent of the governed,” “They who have no voice in the laws and rulers are in a condition of slavery.”
Others suggested that instead of women wearing crape during the centennial glorification, the men should sit down in sackcloth and ashes, in humiliation of spirit, as those who repented in olden times were wont to do. The best centennial celebration, said they, for the men of the United States, the one to cover them with glory, would be to extend to the women of the nation all the rights, privileges and immunities that they themselves enjoy.
Others proposed that women should monopolize the day, have their own celebrations, read their own declarations and protests demanding justice, liberty and equality. The latter suggestion was extensively adopted, and the Fourth of July, 1876, was remarkable for the large number of women who were “the orators of the day” in their respective localities.
Vice-Presidents—Lucretia Mott, Pa.; Ernestine L. Rose, England; Paulina Wright Davis, R. I.; Clarina I. H. Nichols, Cal.; Amelia Bloomer, Iowa; Mathilde Franceska Anneke, Wis.; Virginia L. Minor, Mo.; Catharine A. F. Stebbins, Mich.; Julia and Abby Smith, Conn.; Abby P. Ela, N. H.; Mrs. W. H. H. Murray, Mass.; Ann T. Greely, Me.; Eliza D. Stewart, Ohio; Mary Hamilton Williams, Ind.; Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, Ill.; Sarah Burger Stearns, Minn.; Ada W. Lucas, Neb.; Helen E. Starrett, Kan.; Ann L. Quinby, Ky.; Elizabeth Avery Meriwether, Tenn.; Mrs. L. C. Locke, Texas; Emily P. Collins, La.; Mary J. Spaulding, Ga.; Mrs. P. Holmes, Drake, Ala.; Flora M. Wright, Fla.; Frances Annie Pillsbury, S. C.; Cynthia Anthony, N. C.; Carrie F. Putnam, Va.; Anna Ella Carroll, Md.; Abigail Scott Duniway, Oregon; Hannah H. Clapp, Nevada; Dr. Alida C. Avery, Col.; Mary Olney Brown, Wash. Ter.; Esther A. Morris, Wyoming Ter.; Annie Godbe, Utah.
Advisory Committee—Sarah Pugh, Pa.; Isabella Beecher Hooker, Conn.; Charlotte B. Wilbour, N. Y.; Mary J. Channing, R. I.; Elizabeth B. Schenck, Cal.; Judith Ellen Foster, Iowa; Lavinia Goodell, Wis.; Annie R. Irvine, Mo.; Marian Bliss, Mich.; Mary B. Moses, N. H.; Sarah A. Vibbart, Mass.; Lucy A. Snowe, Me.; Marilla M. Ricker, N. H.; Mary Madden, Ohio; Emma Molloy, Ind.; Cynthia A. Leonard, Ill.; Mrs. Dr. Stewart, Minn.; Julia Brown Bemis, Neb.; Mrs. N. H. Cramer, Tenn.; Mrs. W. V. Tunstall, Tex.; Mrs. A. Millspaugh, La.; Hannah M. Rogers, Fla.; Sally Holly, Va.; Sallie W. Hardcastle, Md.; Mary P. Sautelle, Oregon; Mary F. Shields, Col.; Amelia Giddings, Wash. Ter.; Amalia B. Post, Wyoming Ter.
Corresponding Secretaries—Susan B. Anthony, Rochester, N. Y.; Laura Curtis Bullard, New York; Jane Graham Jones, Chicago, Ill.
Recording Secretary—Lillie Devereux Blake, New York.
Treasurer—Ellen Clark Sargent, Washington, D. C.
Executive Committee—Matilda Joslyn Gage, Fayetteville, N. Y.; Clemence S. Lozier, M. D., Elizabeth B. Phelps, Mathilde F. Wendt, Phebe H. Jones, New York; Rev. Olympia Brown, Connecticut; Sarah R. L. Williams, Ohio; M. Adeline Thomson, Pennsylvania; Henrietta Payne Westbrook, Pennsylvania; Nancy R. Allen, Iowa.
1876 Campaign Committee—Susan B. Anthony, N. Y.; Matilda Joslyn Gage, N. Y.; Phoebe W. Couzins, Mo.; Rev. Olympia Brown, Conn.; Jane Graham Jones, Ill.; Abigail Scott Duniway, Oregon; Laura De Force Gordon, Cal.; Annie C. Savery, Iowa.
Among those who took part in the discussions were Dr. Clemence Lozier, Susan B. Anthony, Helen M. Slocum, Sarah Goodyear, Helen M. Cook, Abby and Julia Smith, Sara Andrews Spencer, Miss Charlotte Ray, Lillie Devereux Blake and Matilda Joslyn Gage.
Letters were written to these conventions from different States. Mrs. Elizabeth L. Saxon, New Orleans, La.; Elizabeth A. Meriwether, Memphis, Tenn.; Mrs. Margaret V. Longley, Cincinnati, O., all making eloquent appeals for some consideration of the political rights of women.
(10)Mrs. Mott, Mrs. Stanton, Mrs. Gage, and Mrs. Spencer.
(11)On the receipt of these letters a prolonged council was held by the officers of the association at their headquarters, as to what action they should take on the Fourth of July. Mrs. Mott and Mrs. Stanton decided for themselves that after these rebuffs they would not even sit on the platform, but at the appointed time go to the church they had engaged for a meeting, and open their convention. Others more brave and determined insisted that women had an equal right to the glory of the day and the freedom of the platform, and decided to take the risk of a public insult in order to present the woman’s declaration and thus make it an historic document.—(E.C.S.
(12)During the reading of the declaration to an immense concourse of people, Mrs. Gage stood beside Miss Anthony, and held an umbrella over her head, to shelter her friend from the intense heat of the noonday sun; and thus in the same hour, on opposite sides of old Independence Hall, did the men and women express their opinions on the great principles proclaimed on the natal day of the republic. The declaration was handsomely framed and now hangs in the vice-president’s room in the capitol at Washington.
(13)This document was signed by Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Paulina Wright Davis, Ernestine L. Rose, Clarina I. H. Nichols, Mary Ann McClintock, Mathilde Franceska Anneke, Sarah Pugh, Amy Post, Catharine A. F. Stebbins, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Clemence S. Lozier, Olympia Brown, Mathilde F. Wendt, Adleline Thomson, Ellen Clark Sargent, Virginia L. Minor, Catherine V. Waite, Elizabeth B. Schenck, Phoebe W. Couzins, Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, Laura De Force Gordon, Sara Andrews Spencer, Lillie Devereux Blake, Jane Graham Jones, Abigail Scott Duniway, Belva A. Lockwood, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Sarah L. Williams, Abby P. Ela.
(14) One hundred years hence, what a change will be made, In politics, morals, religion and trade, In statesmen who wrangle or ride on the fence, These things will be altered a hundred years hence. Our laws then will be uncompulsory rules, Our prisons converted to national schools. The pleasure of sinning ’tis all a pretense, And the people will find it so, a hundred years hence. Lying, cheating and fraud will be laid on the shelf, Men will neither get drunk, nor be bound up in self, But all live together, good neighbors and friends, Just as Christian folks ought to, a hundred years hence. Then woman, man’s partner, man’s equal shall stand, While beauty and harmony govern the land, To think for oneself will be no offense, The world will be thinking a hundred years hence. Oppression and war will be heard of no more, Nor the blood of a slave leave his print on our shore, Conventions will then be a useless expense, For we’ll all go free-suffrage a hundred years hence. Instead of speech-making to satisfy wrong, All will join the glad chorus to sing Freedom’s song; And if the Millenium is not a pretense, We’ll all be good brothers a hundred years hence.
This song was written in 1852, at Cleveland, Ohio, by Frances Dana Gage, expressly for John W. Hutchinson. Several of the friends were staying with Mrs. Caroline M. Severance, on their way to the Akron convention, where it was first sung.
(15)Protests and declarations were read by Mrs. Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, in Evanston, Ill.; Sarah L. Knox, California; Mrs. Rosa L. Segur, Toledo, Ohio; Mrs. Mary Olney Brown, Olympia, Washington territory; Mrs. Henrietta Paine Westbrook, New York city. In Maquoketa, Iowa; Mrs. Nancy R. Allen read the declaration at the regular county celebration. Madam Anneke, Wis.; Elizabeth Avery Meriwether, Tenn.; Lucinda B. Chandler, N. J.; Jane E. Telker, Iowa; S. P. Abeel, D. C.; Mrs. J. A. Johns, Oregon; Elizabeth Lisle Saxon, La.; Mrs. Elsie Stewart, Kan.; and many others impossible to name, sent in protests and declarations.
(17)Henry Hutchinson, the son of John.
(18)A German legend says, God first made a mouse, but seeing he had made a mistake he made the cat as an afterthought, therefore if woman is God’s afterthought, man must be a mistake.
(19)Afterwards killed by the Indians in Colorado.
Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council is comprised of students, faculty, and staff from all divisions of Johns Hopkins, the DLC works to help Hopkins achieve its goals of diversity and inclusion. To be sure, Hopkins is a diverse community: people here bring with them not only their connections to social and ethnic groups but also their individual life experiences. From students to patients to faculty to support staff, ours is a rich and vibrant community. But that diversity means little without the second of these goals: inclusion. We see inclusion as active, thoughtful, and ongoing engagement with each other. When inclusion works, we better understand the people around us, better understand the complex ways that individuals interact within systems and institutions, and ultimately do our best work. Johns Hopkins is dedicated to the world of ideas and that world expands exponentially as those with different experiences and points of view share their knowledge and interpretations with one another. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion reflects both a recognition of the past and the promise of the future, something owed to everyone in the Hopkins community.
Susan B. Anthony was born February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts. She was brought up in a Quaker family with long activist traditions. Early in her life she developed a sense of justice and moral zeal. A fter teaching for fifteen years, she became active in temperance. Because she was a woman, she was not allowed to speak at temperance rallies. This experience, and her acquaintance with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, led her to join the women’s rights movement in 1852. Soon after, she dedicated her life to woman suffrage.
Ignoring opposition and abuse, Anthony traveled, lectured, and canvassed across the nation for the vote. She also campaigned for the abolition of slavery, the right for women to own their own property and retain their earnings, and she advocated for women’s labor organizations. In 1900, Anthony persuaded the University of Rochester to admit women.
Anthony, who never married, was aggressive and compassionate by nature. She had a keen mind and a great ability to inspire. She remained active until her death on March 13, 1906.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton(1815-1902) is believed to be the driving force behind the 1848 Convention, and for the next fifty years played a leadership role in the women’s rights movement. Somewhat overshadowed in popular memory by her long time colleague Susan B. Anthony, Stanton was for many years the architect and author of the movement’s most important strategies and documents. Though she became increasingly estranged from the mainstream of the movement, particularly near the end of her career, she maintained to the end her long time friendship with Anthony.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton died in 1902, and like Anthony and Gage, did not live to see women’s suffrage in the United States. She is nonetheless regarded as one of the true major forces in the drive toward equal rights for women in the United States and throughout the world. The statue of Stanton, Mott and Anthony housed in the U.S. Capitol was used as the symbol of the American Delegation to the 1995 Peking Conference.
One of the most radical, far-sighted and articulate early feminists, Matilda Joslyn Gage was deliberately written out of history after her death in 1898 by an increasingly conservative suffrage movement.