Monday, July 21, 2014

New York painter James Henry Cafferty (1819–1869)



  James Henry Cafferty (American artist, 1819–1869) Preparing to Fish

James Cafferty, one of the 7 children of an Albany tailor, was in New York by 1839, working as a sign painter. In 1841, he began 2 years of study in New York's National Academy school's antique class. His work was shown in a National Academy annual exhibition in 1843. That same year he was elected vice-president of the newly founded New-York Sketch Club.  During the 1840s and 1850s, Cafferty worked as a portrait, landscape, & genre painter. He also did book illustrations. For a period during these years he supplemented his income by selling artists' supplies. The American Art-Union purchased many of his landscapes for its annual lotteries, & he was a consistent exhibitor in Academy annuals, showing portraits & an occasional landscape through the 1850s. During the last decade of his life, still lifes - especially fish & game subjects - dominated his work.




 James Henry Cafferty (American artist, 1819–1869) A Young Girl



 James Henry Cafferty (American artist, 1819–1869) Midday Rest



James Henry Cafferty (American artist, 1819–1869) The Sidewalks of New York



 James Henry Cafferty (American artist, 1819–1869) News of the Day 1860



 James Henry Cafferty (American artist, 1819–1869) Newsboy selling the New York Herald 1857



James Henry Cafferty (American artist, 1819–1869) Portrait of Robert Fulton, 1852


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Abby Kelley Foster 1811-1887


“Go where least wanted, for there you are most needed.”  A major figure in the national anti-slavery and women’s rights movements, she spent more than twenty years traveling the country as a tireless crusader for social justice and equality for all.



Foster was born into a Quaker family in Pelham, Massachusetts in 1811, and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts at a time when society demanded that women be silent, submissive and obedient.  After attending boarding school, she held teaching positions in Worcester, Millbury and Lynn, Massachusetts.

In Lynn, she joined the Female Anti-Slavery Society, where she became corresponding secretary and later, a national delegate to the first Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in 1837.  The following year, Foster made her first public speech against slavery, and was so well received that she abandoned her teaching career and returned to Millbury.  There, she founded the Millbury Anti-Slavery Society and began lecturing for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

During the next two decades, Foster served as a lecturer, fundraiser, recruiter and organizer in the fight for abolition and suffrage.  In 1850, she helped develop plans for the National Women’s Rights Convention in Massachusetts.  There, she gave one of her most well-known speeches, in which she challenged women to demand the responsibilities as well as the privileges of equality, noting “Bloody feet, sisters, have worn smooth the path by which you come hither.”

In 1854, Foster became the chief fundraiser for the American Anti-Slavery Society, and by 1857, she was its general agent.  Through the American Anti-Slavery Society, Foster continued to work for the ratification of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments.

In her later years, once slavery was abolished and the rights of freedmen were guaranteed, Foster focused her activism primarily on women’s rights.  She held meetings, arranged lectures, and called for ‘severe language’ in any resolutions that were adopted.  In 1868, she was among the organizers of the founding convention of the New England Woman Suffrage Association, the first regional association advocating woman suffrage.  Foster’s efforts were among those that helped lay the groundwork for the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Sarah Grimke 1792-1873 & Angelina Grimke Weld 1805-1879


The Grimke Sisters


wood cut of Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) date of image is unknown.
Library of Congress

Two early and prominent activists for abolition and women’s rights, Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimke Weld (1805-1879) were raised in the cradle of slavery on a plantation in South Carolina. The Grimke sisters, as they were known, grew to despise slavery after witnessing its cruel effects at a young age. Sarah later recalled that her father, the wealthy Judge John Fauchereaud Grimke, held his 14 children to the highest standards of discipline and sometimes required them to work in the field shelling corn or picking cotton. She observed, “Perhaps I am indebted partially to this for my life-long detestation of slavery, as it brought me in close contact with these unpaid toilers.” 

At the age of 12 Sarah became godmother to her baby sister Angelina, promising “to guide and direct [this] precious child.” This commitment foreshadowed the lifelong bond the sisters had with one another and strengthened Sarah’s determination to fight for social justice. In 1819 Sarah accompanied her father to Philadelphia so he could receive medical treatment. There she encountered members of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, who helped her care for her dying father. After her father’s death she returned to Charleston, where her feelings of fierce opposition to slavery were quickly renewed: “…after being for many months in Pennsylvania when I went back it seemed as if the sight of [the slaves’] condition was insupportable…can compare my feeling only with a canker incessantly gnawing…. I was as one in bonds looking on their sufferings I could not soothe or lessen….” Much to the chagrin of her family, Sarah converted to Quakerism and moved to Philadelphia in 1821; by 1829 Angelina had also become a Quaker and decided to move north to be with her sister.


Angelina Grimke Weld (1805-1879) date of image is unknown.
Library of Congress

The sisters’ conversion to Quakerism and subsequent move to Philadelphia made them virtual outcasts in the South, but they also found themselves at odds with many northerners after William Lloyd Garrison published a personal letter Angelina wrote to him in The Liberator. In her letter Angelina encouraged Garrison to stand his ground even in the face of mob violence: “If persecution is the means which God has ordained for the accomplishment of this great end, emancipation, then…I feel as if I could say, let it come; for it is my deep, solemn deliberate conviction, that this is a cause worth dying for….” Angelina chose not to recall the letter despite the outrage it caused among fellow Quakers who believed she was a radical abolitionist. Despite the disapproval they faced from fellow Quakers and from a society that did not accept women as public speakers on such controversial topics as slavery, the Grimke sisters found themselves caught up in the antislavery movement.

In 1836 Angelina wrote her Appeal to the Christian Women of the South imploring white southern women to embrace the antislavery cause. She wrote, “I know you do not make the laws, but I also know that you are the wives and mothers, the sisters and daughters of those who do; and if you really suppose you can do nothing to overthrow slavery, you are greatly mistaken.” Her writing drew the ire of southerners who opposed its abolitionist message and northerners who felt that women had no business writing or speaking about something as controversial as slavery. This outcry over women abolitionists prompted Sarah to write Letters on the Equality of the Sexes. By the late 1830s the Grimke sisters were known not only as abolitionists but also as proponents of women’s rights.

Although Sarah and Angelina did not attend the First Woman’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls in 1848, Sarah received an invitation to the event from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as evidenced by this letter to Elizabeth M’Clintock:

Grassmere [Seneca Falls] Friday morning [14? July 1848]
Dear Lizzie,
Rain or shine I intend to spend Sunday with you that we may all together concoct a declaration I have drawn up one but you may suggest any alterations & improvements for I know it is not as perfect a declaration as should go forth from the first woman’s rights convention that has ever assembled. I shall take the ten o’clock train in the morning & return at five in the evening, provided we can accomplish all our business in that time. I have written to Lydia Maria Child Maria Chapman & Sarah Grimke, as we hope for some good letters to read at the convention. Your friend
Elizabeth Cady Stanton

The Stantons were good friends of the Grimkes: Elizabeth’s husband Henry served as best man at the wedding of Angelina Grimke and Theodore Weld, sent their oldest sons to the Grimke-Weld boarding school, and, in honor of Angelina’s husband, named their fourth son Theodore Weld Stanton.

National Park Service

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Connection between the Women's Rights movement & the Anti-Slavery movement


Neither Ballots nor Bullets: The Contest for Civil Rights

"Women can neither take the Ballot nor the Bullet . . .therefore to us, the right to petition is the one sacred right which we ought not to neglect." Susan B. Anthony, Address to the American Anti-Slavery Society,1863

Susan B Anthony 1820-1906

"It is, perhaps, too late to bring slavery to an end by peaceable means, -- too late to vote it down. For many years I have feared, and published my fears, that it would go out in blood. These fears have grown into a belief." Gerrit Smith, Utica Daily Observer,1859

Gerrit Smith 1797-1874

Two great early 19th-century social movements sought to end slavery and secure equal rights for women. Gerrit Smith and Susan B. Anthony helped shape these two movements. The anti-slavery movement grew from peaceful origins after the American Revolution to a Civil War, or War Between the States, that effectively ended slavery while severely damaging the women's rights movement.

Wielding the ballot and the bullet as well as the petition to win the legal, political, and military contest of the Civil War, abolitionists decided the fate of slavery with the 1865 passage of the 13th Amendment. Seeking their own rights, women used more peaceful tactics but suffered long delays. Not until 1920 did women add the ballot to their arsenal of political tools.

The women's rights movement was the offspring of abolition. Many people actively supported both reforms. Several participants in the 1848 First Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls had already labored in the anti-slavery movement. The organizers and their families - the Motts, Wrights, Stantons, M'Clintocks and Hunts - were active abolitionists to a greater or lesser degree. Noted abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass attended and addressed the 1848 Convention.

Both movements promoted the expansion of the American promise of liberty and equality - to African Americans and to women. How did these two movements develop and how were they related to each other? How did each develop strategies and deal with the contradiction of violence and war that results from the advocacy of peaceful change?

"...the flagrant injustice and deep sin of slavery"
Preamble to the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Constitution, 1833

After the American Revolution, northern states began to abolish slavery. Many slaveholders in the upper South also freed slaves. In 1817, the American Colonization Society formed to resettle freed slaves in Africa. However, the South depended on slave labor as cotton production expanded after the 1793 invention of the cotton gin. Repressive laws and public justification of slavery followed southern slave revolts in the 1820s and 1830s.

Religious revivals during the Second Great Awakening intensified anti-slavery activity after 1830. Seeking to perfect society, adherents targeted slavery as an evil that destroyed individual free will as moral beings. Abolitionists began to demand immediate, uncompensated emancipation of slaves.

In 1833, William Lloyd Garrison, editor of The Liberator, Quaker Lucretia Mott, and several others formed the American Anti-Slavery Society. Women were a large part of the general membership and formed separate, local female anti-slavery branches. Mott also helped found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, an organization, noted for its promotion of racial and gender equality, that included African American and white women as leaders and members.

Many anti-slavery reformers, like the Quakers, came from pacifist backgrounds or espoused nonviolent social reform. They shaped public opinion by distributing newspapers and tracts, sending out organizers and lecturers, and hosting fundraising fairs. Garrison, who saw the U.S. Constitution and federal government as pro-slavery forces, observed Independence Day as a day of mourning. Lucretia Mott and Thomas M'Clintock helped form the Philadelphia Free Produce Society, which boycotted slave-made products.

Between 1838 and 1840, the American Anti-Slavery Society split in three, in part over the issue of women's leadership, specifically Abby Kelley's appointment to the business committee. Radical abolitionists and women's rights supporters, known as "Garrisonian" abolitionists, remained in the American Anti-Slavery Society. The newly formed American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society restricted membership to males, with auxiliaries for females. The politically minded formed the Liberty Party, limiting women's participation to fundraising. The discrimination of women in abolition and other reform movements led them to advocate for women's rights.

Timbuctoo: Gerrit Smith’s Experiment.  From 1846 through 1853, Gerrit Smith developed a plan to give away 120,000 acres of Essex and Franklin County New York, farmland to 3,000 free black men. He hoped to qualify the men to vote. Although Smith's supporters promoted the project in churches and conventions, the plan eventually failed due to poor soil, harsh Adirondack winters, and the inexperience of the farmers themselves.

"Justice and Equality:" Antislavery and Women's Rights 

"…this is the only organization on God's footstool where the humanity of woman is recognized, and these are the only men who have ever echoed back her cries for justice and equality…. All time will not be long enough to pay the debt of gratitude we owe these noble men…who roused us to a sense of our own rights, to the dignity of our high calling."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Address to the American Anti-Slavery Society, 1860.

At the 1848 First Women's Rights Convention, the Declaration of Sentiments, drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Elizabeth and Mary Ann M'Clintock, was read and signed by 100 men and women. Claiming that "all Men and Women are created equal," the signers called for extending to women the right to vote, control property, sign legal documents, serve on juries, and enjoy equal access to education and the professions.

Arguments for women's rights came from experiences in the anti-slavery movement. Angelina and Sarah Grimké of South Carolina were Quakers and effective anti-slavery speakers, although it was considered improper for women to speak before "promiscuous" audiences composed of both men and women. During a petition drive in Massachusetts in 1837, male listeners thronged to female-only lectures. While condemning slavery, the Grimkés upheld "the cause of woman as a moral being." "Sister Sarah does preach up woman's rights most nobly and fearlessly," reported Angelina to a friend. Rebuked by Congregational ministers and others for speaking to promiscuous audiences, they held their ground. To do otherwise would have been "…a violation of our fundamental principle that man & woman are created equal, & have the same duties & the same responsibilities as moral beings."

As reformers, women developed organizational skills necessary for a successful social movement. They learned to write persuasively, raise funds, organize supporters and events, and speak to large groups of men and women about important political and social issues. In the service of anti-slavery, women found their voices. Between 1850 and 1860, women's rights advocates held state and national conventions and campaigned for legal changes.

The Emergence of Violence

By 1848, the Liberty Party, which had earlier split from the American Anti-Slavery Society, joined a coalition to create the Free Soil Party. Free Soilers sought to limit slavery by denying it to new territories entering the union. In July, 1848, a Free Soil Convention was held in Seneca Falls, just before the Women's Rights Convention. Some male village residents attended both conventions. Jacob P. Chamberlain and Saron Phillips, who signed the Declaration of Sentiments, were chosen as delegates to the Free Soil Party's national convention.

The 1850 passage of the Fugitive Slave Law authorized federal marshals to seize and return fugitive slaves. Northern free blacks had little protection against false claims by southern slaveholders. While many free blacks fled to Canada, previously neutral northerners were enraged at the injustice.

As the U.S. expanded, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, allowing each new area to decide whether it would allow slavery. Slavery and anti-slavery supporters rushed into Kansas to claim it for their side. In 1856, after anti-slavery settlers died during an attack in Lawrence, Kansas, John Brown led a raid against pro-slavery homes along Pottawatomie Creek, killing five men in retaliation.

With a warrant out for his arrest, John Brown returned east to plan a daring raid. He hoped to create a large slave insurrection in Virginia. Brown sought support among prominent abolitionists like Frederick Douglass. Elizabeth Cady Stanton's cousin, Gerrit Smith, provided financial support. A decade earlier, he had sold Brown a parcel of land in a settlement for free blacks in the Adirondacks. Now, Brown asked Smith to help finance his scheme. Smith agreed, becoming one of the "Secret Six" financiers of John Brown's raid.

On October 16, 1859, John Brown and twenty-one followers launched an attack on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. When the anticipated slave revolt failed to materialize, the raid ended in dismal failure. Brown and his men were tried, convicted, and hanged. A letter in Brown's possession incriminated Smith, who went insane as a result of the publicity and threat of prosecution. A martyr in the eyes of non-violent abolitionists, Brown became a symbol of escalating violence in pursuit of emancipation.

"How Glass Our House Is:" An Uneasy Truce with the War

"The death of my father, the worse than death of my dear cousin Gerrit, the martyrdom of that great and glorious John Brown, all conspire to make me regret more than ever my dwarfed womanhood.…in times like these, everyone should do the work of a full grown man."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony, 1859

Many nonviolent reformers, concluding that slavery could only be purged by war, welcomed the outbreak of the Civil War in April, 1861. Even Quaker pacifists reluctantly supported the war if it would bring an end to slavery. David Wright's support of the war brought no criticism from sister-in-law Lucretia Mott, considering, "how glass our house is." She hoped the war "would be prosecuted with energy and faith since it was founded on so good a cause." When Horace Greeley and others pointed out that these hardly seemed the words of a pacifist, she responded, "…as the natural result of our wrong-doings and our atrocious cruelties, terrible as war must ever be, let us hope it will not be stayed by any compromise which shall continue the unequal, cruel war on the rights and liberties of millions of our unoffending fellow beings.…"

Meanwhile, the national conventions for women's rights ended. In 1864, the National Woman's Loyal League, headed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, gathered 400,000 signatures on a petition for an immediate end to slavery. Having neither access to the vote nor military service, women used the petition to support the 13th Amendment.

The Civil War ended in 1865, followed by passage of the 13th Amendment which outlawed slavery. In 1870, the 15th Amendment gave African-American men the right to vote. Stanton and others fought, and lost, the battle to include women in expanded suffrage.

In victory over slavery, decades-long alliances were broken. The women's rights movement split and old friends in the abolition and women's rights movements parted company. Just as anti-slavery forces had divided, so too did organizations struggling for women's suffrage.

National Park Service


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Report of the Woman's Rights Convention 1848 Seneca Falls, New York


Report of the Woman's Rights Convention 1848



A Convention to discuss the SOCIAL, CIVIL, AND RELIGIOUS CONDITION OF WOMAN, was called by the Women of Seneca County, N.Y., and held at the village of Seneca Falls, in the Wesleyan Chapel, on the 19th and 20th of July, 1848...

Whereas, the great precept of nature is conceded to be; "that man shall pursue his own true and substantial happiness." Blackstone, in his Commentaries, remarks, that this law of Nature being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times; not human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid, derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their authority, mediately and immediately, from this original; Therefore,


Resolved, That such laws as conflict, in any way, with the true and substantial happiness of woman, are contrary to the great precept of nature, and of no validity; for this is "superior in obligation to any other."


Resolved, That all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature, and therefore of no force or authority.


Resolved, That woman is man's equal--was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.


Resolved, That the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation, by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, not their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.


Resolved, That inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is pre-eminently his duty to encourage her to speak, and teach as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies.


Resolved, That the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior, that is required of woman in the social state, should also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman.


Resolved, That the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in the feats of the circus.


Resolved, That woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.


Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.


Resolved, That the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.


Resolved, Therefore, That, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities, and the same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause, by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth, growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, and custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as self-evident falsehood, and at war with the interests of mankind...


Declaration of Sentiments


When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.


We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves, by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.


The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.


He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.


He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.


He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men - both natives and foreigners.


Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.


He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.


He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.


He has made her, morally, an irresponsible being, as she can commit many crimes, with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master - the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.


He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce; in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women - the law, in all cases, going upon the false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.


After depriving her of all rights as a married woman, if single and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.


He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration.


He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction, which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.


He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education - all colleges being closed against her.


He allows her in Church as well as State, but a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.


He has created a false public sentiment, by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated but deemed of little account in man.


He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and her God.


He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.


Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation, - in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.


In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country.


Firmly relying upon the final triumph of the Right and the True, we do this day affix our signatures to this declaration.




The text of this report is from the original tract produced after the Convention in the North Star Printing Office owned by Frederick Douglass, Rochester, New York. It was reprinted several times and circulated as a sales item at local and national women's rights conventions.

Held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., July 19th and 20th, 1848. Rochester: Printed by John Dick at the North Star Office


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lucretia Coffin Mott 1793-1880


One of 8 children born to Quaker parents on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880) dedicated her life to the goal of human equality. As a child Mott attended Nine Partners, a Quaker boarding school located in New York, where she learned of the horrors of slavery from her readings & from visiting lecturers such as Elias Hicks, a well-known Quaker abolitionist. She also saw that women & men were not treated equally, even among the Quakers, when she discovered that female teachers at Nine Partners earned less than males. At a young age Lucretia Coffin Mott became determined to put an end to such social injustices.



Lucretia Mott (1793 - 1880), by Joseph Kyle (1815 - 1863)

In 1833 Mott, along with Mary Ann M’Clintock & nearly 30 other female abolitionists, organized the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.  In 1840 she was one of several American women chosen as delegates to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London by the American Anti-Slavery Society & by other abolitionist groups. 

Arriving in England with her husband, she found the convention controlled by the rival American & Foreign Anti-Slavery Society -known to Garrisonians as the “New Organization” & its opposite number, the British & Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, both opposed to public activity by women.  Despite vigorous protests by Wendell Phillips & others, the American women delegates were refused recognition & assigned seats “behind the bar.”  Though Lucretia Mott was deprived of a voice in the proceedings, she was nevertheless described by a journalist as “the lioness of the Convention” (Liberator, Oct. 23, 1840, p. 170).  

It was there, that she 1st met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was attending the convention with her husband Henry, a delegate from New York. Mott & Stanton were indignant at the fact that women were excluded from participating in the convention simply because of their gender, & that indignation would result in a discussion about holding a woman’s rights convention. Stanton later recalled this conversation in the History of Woman Suffrage:  As Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton wended their way arm in arm down Great Queen Street that night, reviewing the exciting scenes of the day, they agreed to hold a woman’s rights convention on their return to America, as the men to whom they had just listened had manifested their great need of some education on that question. Thus a missionary work for the emancipation of woman…was then and there inaugurated.

Eight years later, on July 19 & 20, 1848, Mott, Stanton, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright, & Jane Hunt acted on this idea; when they organized the First Woman’s Rights Convention.


Two weeks after Seneca Falls,  a 2nd convention was held in the Unitarian Chapel at Rochester, N.Y.  From this time on, woman’s rights claimed as much of Lucretia Mott’s attention as any of the other reforms with which she associated herself.  In a closely reasoned Discourse of Woman (1850) she attributed the alleged inferiority of women to the repressions under which her sex had always labored -unequal educational opportunities, a lower standard of wages, restricted employment, & denial of political rights.  

Throughout her life Mott remained active in both the abolition & women’s rights movements. She continued to speak out against slavery; & in 1866, she became the first president of the American Equal Rights Association, an organization formed to achieve equality for both African Americans & women.


For nearly 20 years the Motts lived & reared their children in a red brick house at 136 North Ninth Street in Philadelphia.  In 1850, they moved to 338 Arch Street, a spacious house; where they entertained on a simple but generous scale during the Quaker Yearly Meeting & the annual sessions of the reform societies & where they sometimes harbored runaway slaves. Unlike some “strong-minded” female reformers, Mott was a conscientious housekeeper who never laid herself open to the charge, that she neglected her domestic duties.  In 1857 she & her husband, now retired from business, moved to Roadside, a plain, rambling country house on the Old York Road, north of Philadelphia, where Lucretia continued her efficient housewife concerns: sewing carpet rags, cooking Nantucket blackberry pudding, raising vegetables in her kitchen garden.

Always a strong believe in the Quaker peace testimony, she regularly attended meetings of the Pennsylvania Peace Society, of which she was vice-president.  She seldom missed a woman’s rights or suffrage convention & seldom failed to be called upon for an address.  At the 1st convention of the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, she was named president at the insistence of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  When in 1869, the movement split into rival factions, one led by Mrs. Stanton & Susan B Anthony, the other by Lucy Stone, Mary Livermore, & Julia Ward Howe, she sought earnestly but unsuccessfully to overcome the division.

During her last 12 years she was without the faithful support of her husband, for James Mott died on Jan. 26, 1868.  She herself lived to the age of 87,  active to the end, publicly & privately, in good causes.  

National Park Service


Monday, July 14, 2014

Martha Coffin Wright 1806-1875


Martha Coffin Wright (1806-75) was the youngest of 8 children; her sister Lucretia Coffin Mott was the second oldest. Throughout her life Martha worked in reform alongside her sister Lucretia Mott. Martha preferred to take a supportive role, frequently serving as secretary, while her more outgoing sister Lucretia was frequently the keynote speaker at public meetings.



In 1848, Wright was living with her husband David & 4 children in Auburn, New York, 10 miles to the east of Seneca Falls. Martha Wright was several months pregnant that summer, while Lucretia & James Mott were staying with Martha & her growing family. On July 19, 1848, the 1st day of the Seneca Falls First Women’s Rights Convention, Lucretia Mott & Martha Wright arrived by train from Auburn accepting Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s invitation to stay the night at her home before attending the 2nd day’s activities. At the afternoon session on the 1st day, the Report noted that “Lucretia Mott read a humorous article from a newspaper, written by Martha C. Wright.”

After helping organize the First Women’s Rights Convention, Martha Wright participated in many state & national women’s rights conventions in various capacities. She was secretary at the 1852 & 1856 National Women’s Rights Conventions, served as an officer at the 1853 & 1854 National Women’s Rights Conventions & presided over the National Women’s Rights Convention in 1855 in Ohio & the New York State Women’s Rights Convention held in Saratoga that year.

Martha C. Wright was also an ardent abolitionist & ran her home in Auburn as a station on the Underground Railroad, frequently allowing fugitive slaves to sleep in the kitchen. In a letter to her sister from Auburn, New York on December 30, 1860, Martha C. Wright wrote:  …We have been expending our sympathies, as well as congratulations, on seven newly arrived slaves that Harriet Tubman has just pioneered safely from the Southern Part of Maryland.--One woman carried a baby all the way and bro’t [sic] two other chld’n that Harriet and the men helped along. They bro’t a piece of old comfort and a blanket, in a basket with a little kindling, a little bread for the baby with some laudanum to keep it from crying during the day. They walked all night carrying the little ones, and spread the old comfort on the frozen ground, in some dense thicket where they all hid, while Harriet went out foraging, and sometimes cd not get back till dark, fearing she wd be followed. Then, if they had crept further in, and she couldn’t find them, she wd whistle, or sing certain hymns and they wd answer.

National Park Service


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Amelia Jenks Bloomer 1818-1894 & the real story of "bloomers"


Amelia Bloomer edited the first American newspaper for women, The Lily. It was issued from 1849 until 1853. The newspaper began as a temperance journal. Bloomer felt that as women lecturers were considered unseemly, writing was the best way for women to work for reform. Originally, The Lily was to be for “home distribution” among members of the Seneca Falls Ladies Temperance Society, which had formed in 1848. Like most local endeavors, the paper encountered several obstacles early on, and the Society’s enthusiasm died out. Bloomer felt a commitment to publish and assumed full responsibility for editing and publishing the paper. Originally, the title page had the legend “Published by a committee of ladies.” But after 1850 – only Bloomer’s name appeared on the masthead.




Although women’s exclusion from membership in temperance societies and other reform activities was the main force that moved the Ladies Temperance Society to publish The Lily, it was not at first a radical paper. Its editorial stance conformed to the emerging stereotype of women as “defenders of the home.” In the first issue, Bloomer wrote:  It is woman that speaks through The Lily…Intemperance is the great foe to her peace and happiness. It is that above all that has made her Home desolate and beggared her offspring…. Surely, she has the right to wield her pen for its Suppression. Surely, she may without throwing aside the modest refinements which so much become her sex, use her influence to lead her fellow mortals from the destroyer’s path.

The Lily always maintained its focus on temperance. Fillers often told horror stories about the effects of alcohol. For example, the May 1849 issue noted, “A man when drunk fell into a kettle of boiling brine at Liverpool, Onondaga Co. and was scaled to death.” But gradually, the newspaper began to include articles about other subjects of interest to women. Many were from the pen of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, writing under the pseudonym “sunflower.” The earliest Stanton’s articles dealt with the temperance, child-bearing, and education, but she soon turned to the issue of women’s rights. She wrote about laws unfair to women and demanded change.



Bloomer was greatly influenced by Stanton and gradually became a convert to the cause of women’s rights. Recalling the case of an elderly friend who was turned out of her home when her husband died without a will she wrote:  Later, other similar cases coming to my knowledge made me familiar with cruelty of the laws towards women; and when the women rights convention put forth its Declaration of Sentiments. I was ready to join with that party in demanding for women such change in laws as would give her a right to her earnings, and her children a right to wider fields of employment and a better education, and also a right to protect her interest at the ballot box.

Bloomer became interested in dress reform, advocating that women wear the outfit that came to be known as the “Bloomer costume.”  Actually the reform of clothing for women began in the 1850s, as a result of the need for a more practical way of dressing . The reform started in New England where the social activist Elizabeth Smith Miller (1822-1911), called Libby Miller. Mrs Miller  was the daughter of abolitionists Gerrit Smith and his second wife, Ann Carroll Fitzhugh. She was a lifelong of the women's rights movement. She  became famous when she  adopted what she considered a more rational costume: Turk trousers - loose trousers gathered at the ankles like the trousers worn by Middle Eastern and Central Asian women – worn under a short dress or knee length skirt. The outfits were similar to the clothing worn by the women in the Oneida Community, a religious commune founded  by John Humphrey Noyes in Oneida, New York in 1848.




This new fashion was soon supported by Bloomer, by then a women's rights and temperance advocate. Bloomer popularized Mr Miller’s idea in her bi-weekly publication The Lily. And this women's clothing reform soon was named bloomers.

The rebellion against the voluminous and constraining fashion of the Victorian period was both a practical necessity and a focal point of social reform. Stanton and others copied a knee-length dress with pants worn by Elizabeth Smith Miller of Geneva, New York. For some time the "Bloomer" outfit was worn by many of the leaders in the women's rights movement, then it was abandoned because of the heavy criticism in the popular press. In 1859, Amelia Bloomer herself said that a new invention, the crinoline, was a sufficient reform.  The bloomer costume returned later, adapted and modified, as a women's athletic costume in the 1890s and early 1900s.

Although Bloomer refused to take any credit for inventing the pants-and-tunic outfit, her name became associated with it because she wrote articles about the unusual dress, printed illustrations in The Lily, and wore the costume herself. In reference to her advocacy of the costume, she once wrote, “I stood amazed at the furor I had unwittingly caused.” But people certainly were interested in the new fashion. She remembered: “As soon as it became known that I was wearing the new dress, letters came pouring in upon me by the hundreds from women all over the country making inquiries about the dress and asking for patterns – showing how ready and anxious women were to throw off the burden of long, heavy skirts.”

In May of 1851 Amelia Bloomer introduced Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Stanton said, "I liked her immediately and why I did not invite her home to dinner with me I do not know."

The circulation of The Lily rose from 500 per month to 4000 per month because of the dress reform controversy. At the end of 1853, the Bloomers moved to Mount Vernon, Ohio, where Amelia Bloomer continued to edit The Lily, which by then had a national circulation of over 6000. Bloomer sold The Lily in 1854 to Mary Birdsall, because she and her husband Dexter were moving again this time to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where no facilities for publishing the paper were available. She remained a contributing editor for the two years The Lily survived after she sold it.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Sold South" - Baltimore City Slave Trade


Baltimore City Slave Trade

The Baltimore Sun  20 June 1999, 
by Scott Shane

E. Sachse's view of Baltimore City looking west from Calvert Street on Market Street c 1850.

ON JULY 24, 1863, three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, Union officers freed the inmates of a slave trader's jail on Pratt Street near the Baltimore harbor. They found a grisly scene.

"In this place I found 26 men, 1 boy, 29 women and 3 infants," Col. William Birney of the U.S. Colored Troops wrote to his commanding officer. "Sixteen of the men were shackled and one had his legs chained together by ingeniously contrived locks connected by chains suspended to his waist." 

The slaves were confined in sweltering cells or in the bricked-in yard of "Cam- liu's slave-pen," where "no tree or shrub grows" and "the mid-day sun pours down its scorching rays," Birney wrote. Among those imprisoned was a 4-month-old born in the jail and a 24-month-old who had spent all but the first month of his life behind bars.

The liberation of the slave jails marked the end of a brutal Baltimore institution whose story remains unknown except to a handful of local historians.

For a half-century before the Civil War, more than a dozen slave traders operated from harborside storefronts along Pratt and adjacent streets. Some advertised regularly in The Sun and other papers, declaring "5,000 Negroes Wanted" or "Negroes! Negroes! Negroes!" In an 1845 city directory, "Slave Dealers" are listed between "Silversmiths" and "Soap."

Out-of-town dealers would routinely stop for a week at Barnum's or another downtown hotel and place newspaper advertisements declaring their desire to buy slaves.

A routine spectacle was the dreary procession of black men, women and children in chains along Pratt Street to Fells Point, where ships waited to carry them south to New Orleans for auction. Weeping family members would follow their loved ones along the route; they knew their parting might be forever, as there would be no way to know where slaves shipped south would end up.

The grim drama in Baltimore was part of a major industry. Though the United States banned the import of slaves in 1808, the domestic slave trade thrived, as the need for labor shrank in the Chesapeake area and boomed in the Deep South, where the cotton gin had revolutionized agriculture. Between 1790 and 1859, according to one scholar's estimate, more than 1 million slaves were "sold south," most of them from Virginia and Maryland.

The broken families and severed relationships resulting from this commerce were a human catastrophe that can be compared in scale, if not in violence or death toll, to the original tragedy of the Middle Passage. Scholars estimate that perhaps 11 million captured Africans survived the journey to the Americas, but most went to Brazil and the Caribbean; only about 650,000 came to the colonies that would become the United States.

Yet the story of the domestic slave trade has been swallowed in America's long amnesia about slavery in general.

"A dream of mine would be to have a little Baltimore tour -- not showing where Frederick Douglass worked in Fells Point or where Thurgood Marshall lived, but where the slave traders were, where the slaves were whipped," says Ralph Clayton, a librarian at the central Pratt library and a historian who has authored most of the few works on the city's slave trade. "But I've run into many people of both races who say, 'Why are you digging this up? Leave it alone.'"

Agnes Kane Callum, dean of Maryland's African-American genealogists, remembers seeing a still-standing slave jail as a girl in the 1930s. Her father would take the family on Sunday drives and point out a hulking brick building with barred windows at Pratt and Howard streets.

"He called it a slave pen," recalls Callum, 74, a North Baltimore grandmother who has researched slavery for 30 years. "He'd say, 'That was where my grandmother was held.'" The slave dealer sold Callum's great-grandmother, who had been snatched as a girl from a beach in the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa, to a plantation in St. Mary's County.

Camliu's and all the other physical evidence of Baltimore's once-thriving slave trade has been erased by demolition and redevelopment. But its history can be pieced together from surviving documents.

The slave jails served several purposes. Slave owners leaving for a trip could check their slaves into a jail to ensure they would not flee. Travelers stopping in Baltimore could lock up their slaves overnight while they slept at a nearby inn. Unwanted slaves or those considered unreliable because of runaway attempts could be sold and housed at the jail until a ship was ready to take them south, usually to New Orleans.

The slave ships anchored off Fells Point, which the traders' generally preferred because of fear of interference from the large number of free blacks working at the Inner Harbor, says Clayton. He has researched the story of an Amistad-style rebellion by slaves on one ship, the Decatur, southbound from Baltimore. The Sun carried ads for the ships' regular runs from Baltimore to New Orleans.

By the Civil War, while slaves outnumbered free blacks in Maryland, in Baltimore there were 10 free people of color for every slave. Yet the slave trade posed a constant threat to free African-Americans, who were in danger of being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

In fact, the warden of the Baltimore County jail ran regular newspaper notices listing black men and women he had arrested on suspicion of being runaways but who claimed to be free. Each notice would include a detailed description and the admonition, "The owner of the above described negro man is requested to come forward, prove property, pay charges and take him away, otherwise he will be discharged according to law."

In The Sun in 1838, Hope H. Slatter, a Georgia-born trader who succeeded Woolfolk as Baltimore's leading trafficker in human beings, announced under the heading "Cash for Negroes" the opening of a private jail at Pratt and Howard, "not surpassed by any establishment of the kind in the United States." Slatter offered to house and feed slaves there for 25 cents a day, declaring: "I hold myself bound to make good all jail breaking or escapes from my establishment."

To keep the supply flowing, Slatter added: "Cash and the highest prices will at all times be given for likely slaves of both sexes. ... Persons having such property to dispose of, would do well to see me before they sell, as I am always purchasing for the New Orleans market."

Facing complaints about the grim procession of chained human beings along Pratt Street, Slatter found a solution of sorts: He hired newfangled, horse-drawn "omnibuses" to move the slaves to the Fells Point docks. He would follow on horseback.

"The trader's heart was callous to the wailings of the anguished mother for her child. He heeded not the sobs of the young wife for her husband," wrote one abolitionist eyewitness whose account was discovered by Clayton.

"I saw a mother whose very frame was convulsed with anguish for her first born, a girl of 18, who had been sold to this dealer and was among the number then shipped. I saw a young man who kept pace with the carriages, that he might catch one more glimpse of a dear friend, before she was torn forever from his sight. As she saw him, she burst into a flood of tears, sorrowing most of all that they should see each other's faces no more," the abolitionist wrote.

Rogers' mother was particularly distraught, the flier said, because she had lost another daughter in the same manner four years earlier, "of whom she has never since heard." Rogers' stepfather, a free man, had offered to bind himself to service to work off the $850 necessary to buy her freedom. But the slave trader was unwilling to wait, so the preacher, identified as S. Guiteau, was trying to raise the necessary sum.

"Let mothers and daughters imagine the case their own," Guiteau wrote, "and they cannot but act with promptness."

Why have such spellbinding stories so rarely been told? Callum, the Baltimore genealogist, attributes it to the reluctance of both races to reopen the wound left by slavery.

"White people naturally don't want anyone to know their ancestors owned slaves," Callum says. But black people, too, have kept silent, she says. Callum's maternal grandfather was born into slavery, but when the subject arose, the old man would declare, "No man owned me!"

"His voice was so full of emotion, a hush would fall over the room," Callum recalls, sitting in her North Baltimore rowhouse surrounded by the tools of the genealogical trade.

"Some black people still feel that way today, six generations later," she says. "But we cannot let people forget our holocaust, the black holocaust of slavery."

(By Scott Shane, a reporter, for The Baltimore Sun.)


Friday, July 11, 2014

Lucy Stone 1818-1893


Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was an early advocate of antislavery and women’s rights. She was born in Massachusetts. After she graduated from Oberlin College in 1847, she began lecturing for the antislavery movement as a paid agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. She said in 1847, “I expect to plead not for the slave only, but for suffering humanity everywhere. Especially do I mean to labor for the elevation of my sex.”



Lucy Stone did not participate in the First Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, but she was an organizer of the 1850 Worcester First National Woman’s Rights Convention. She also participated in the convention and addressed the audience. It is her 1852 speech at the National Woman's Rights Convention in Syracuse, New York, which is credited for converting Susan B. Anthony to the cause of women’s rights. Lucy Stone participated in the 1852, 1853, and 1855 national woman’s rights conventions, and was president of the 1856 National Woman’s Rights Convention held in New York, New York.

In 1855 Stone married Henry Blackwell. At the ceremony the minister read a statement from the bride and groom, announcing that Stone would keep her own name. The statement said that current marriage laws “refuse to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being, while they confer on the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority, investing him with legal powers which no honorable man would exercise, and which no man should possess.” Women who followed her example called themselves "Lucy Stoners."

After the Civil War, Lucy Stone joined Frederick Douglass and others who supported the Fifteenth Amendment as a partial gain, as they continued to work for women’s rights. The passage of the Fifteenth Amendment outraged most women’s rights leaders’ because the word “male” was included for the first time in the Constitution. This debate divided the women’s rights movement. By 1869 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and others formed the National Woman Suffrage Association and focused their efforts on a federal woman’s suffrage amendment. Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe led others to form the American Woman Suffrage Association, which chose to focus on state suffrage amendments.

By 1871 Stone had helped organize the publication of The Woman’s Journal and was co-editing the newspaper with her husband Henry Blackwell.

National Park Service

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Susan B. Anthony 1820-1906


Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) is perhaps the most widely known suffragist of her generation and has become an icon of the woman’s suffrage movement. Anthony traveled the country to give speeches, circulate petitions, and organize local women’s rights organizations.



Anthony was born in Adams, Massachusetts. After the Anthony family moved to Rochester, New York in 1845, they became active in the antislavery movement. Antislavery Quakers met at their farm almost every Sunday, where they were sometimes joined by Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Later two of Anthony's brothers, Daniel and Merritt, were anti-slavery activists in the Kansas territory.

In 1848 Susan B. Anthony was working as a teacher in Canajoharie, New York and became involved with the teacher’s union when she discovered that male teachers had a monthly salary of $10.00, while the female teachers earned $2.50 a month. Her parents and sister Marry attended the 1848 Rochester Woman’s Rights Convention held August 2.

Anthony’s experience with the teacher’s union, temperance and antislavery reforms, and Quaker upbringing, laid fertile ground for a career in women’s rights reform to grow. The career would begin with an introduction to Elizabeth Cady Stanton.



On a street corner in Seneca Falls in 1851, Amelia Bloomer introduced Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and later Stanton recalled the moment: “There she stood with her good earnest face and genial smile, dressed in gray silk, hat and all the same color, relieved with pale blue ribbons, the perfection of neatness and sobriety. I liked her thoroughly, and why I did not at once invite her home with me to dinner, I do not know.”

Meeting Elizabeth Cady Stanton was probably the beginning of her interest in women’s rights, but it is Lucy Stone’s speech at the 1852 Syracuse Convention that is credited for convincing Anthony to join the women’s rights movement.

In 1853 Anthony campaigned for women's property rights in New York State, speaking at meetings, collecting signatures for petitions, and lobbying the state legislature. Anthony circulated petitions for married women's property rights and woman suffrage. She addressed the National Women’s Rights Convention in 1854 and urged more petition campaigns. In 1854 she wrote to Matilda Joslyn Gage that “I know slavery is the all-absorbing question of the day, still we must push forward this great central question, which underlies all others.”



By 1856 Anthony became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society, arranging meetings, making speeches, putting up posters, and distributing leaflets. She encountered hostile mobs, armed threats, and things thrown at her. She was hung in effigy, and in Syracuse her image was dragged through the streets.

At the 1856 National Women’s Rights Convention, Anthony served on the business committee and spoke on the necessity of the dissemination of printed matter on women’s rights. She named The Lily and The Woman’s Advocate, and said they had some documents for sale on the platform.

Stanton and Anthony founded the American Equal Rights Association and in 1868 became editors of its newspaper, The Revolution. The masthead of the newspaper proudly displayed their motto, “Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”

By 1869 Stanton, Anthony and others formed the National Woman Suffrage Association and focused their efforts on a federal woman’s suffrage amendment. In an effort to challenge suffrage, Anthony and her three sisters voted in the 1872 Presidential election. She was arrested and put on trial in the Ontario Courthouse, Canandaigua, New York. The judge instructed the jury to find her guilty without any deliberations, and imposed a $100 fine. When Anthony refused to pay a $100 fine and court costs, the judge did not sentence her to prison time, which ended her chance of an appeal. An appeal would have allowed the suffrage movement to take the question of women’s voting rights to the Supreme Court, but it was not to be.

From 1881 to 1885, Anthony joined Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage in writing the History of Woman Suffrage.


Susan B Anthonuy and Elizabeth Caty Stanton

As a final tribute to Susan B. Anthony, the Nineteenth Amendment was named the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. It was ratified in 1920.

National Park Service


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815-1902 - Solitude of Self - an address to US Congress 1892


Solitude of Self

Address Delivered by Mrs. Stanton before the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Congress, Monday, January 18, 1892 Reprinted from the Congressional Record


Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Born November 12, 1815 in Johnstown Died October 26, 1902 in New York City

Mrs. Stanton's Address

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee: We have been speaking before Committees of the Judiciary for the last twenty years, and we have gone over all the arguments in favor of a sixteenth amendment which are familiar to all you gentlemen; therefore, it will not be necessary that I should repeat them again.

The point I wish plainly to bring before you on this occasion is the individuality of each human soul; our Protestant idea, the right of individual conscience and judgment--our republican idea, individual citizenship. In discussing the rights of woman, we are to consider, first, what belongs to her as an individual, in a world of her own, the arbiter of her own destiny, an imaginary Robinson Crusoe with her woman Friday on a solitary island. Her rights under such circumstances are to use all her faculties for her own safety and happiness.

Secondly, if we consider her as a citizen, as a member of a great nation, she must have the same rights as all other members, according to the fundamental principles of our Government.

Thirdly, viewed as a woman, an equal factor in civilization, her rights and duties are still the same--individual happiness and development.

Fourthly, it is only the incidental relations of life, such as mother, wife, sister, daughter, that may involve some special duties and training. In the usual discussion in regard to woman's sphere, such as men as Herbert Spencer, Frederic Harrison, and Grant Allen uniformly subordinate her rights and duties as an individual, as a citizen, as a woman, to the necessities of these incidental relations, some of which a large class of woman may never assume. In discussing the sphere of man we do not decide his rights as an individual, as a citizen, as a man by his duties as a father, a husband, a brother, or a son, relations some of which he may never fill. Moreover he would be better fitted for these very relations and whatever special work he might choose to do to earn his bread by the complete development of all his faculties as an individual.

Just so with woman. The education that will fit her to discharge the duties in the largest sphere of human usefulness will best fit her for whatever special work she may be compelled to do.

The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right, to choose his own surroundings.

The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear, is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself. No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency they must know something of the laws of navigation. To guide our own craft, we must be captain, pilot, engineer; with chart and compass to stand at the wheel; to match the wind and waves and know when to take in the sail, and to read the signs in the firmament over all. It matters not whether the solitary voyager is man or woman.

Nature having endowed them equally, leaves them to their own skill and judgment in the hour of danger, and, if not equal to the occasion, alike they perish.

To appreciate the importance of fitting every human soul for independent action, think for a moment of the immeasurable solitude of self. We come into the world alone, unlike all who have gone before us; we leave it alone under circumstances peculiar to ourselves. No mortal ever has been, no mortal over will be like the soul just launched on the sea of life. There can never again be just such environments as make up the infancy, youth and manhood of this one. Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another. No one has ever found two blades of ribbon grass alike, and no one will never find two human beings alike. Seeing, then, what must be the infinite diversity in human, character, we can in a measure appreciate the loss to a nation when any large class of the people in uneducated and unrepresented in the government. We ask for the complete development of every individual, first, for his own benefit and happiness. In fitting out an army we give each soldier his own knapsack, arms, powder, his blanket, cup, knife, fork and spoon. We provide alike for all their individual necessities, then each man bears his own burden.

Again we ask complete individual development for the general good; for the consensus of the competent on the whole round of human interest; on all questions of national life, and here each man must bear his share of the general burden. It is sad to see how soon friendless children are left to bear their own burdens before they can analise their feelings; before they can even tell their joys and sorrows, they are thrown on their own resources. The great lesson that nature seems to teach us at all ages is self-dependence, self-protection, self-support. What a touching instance of a child's solitude; of that hunger of heart for love and recognition, in the case of the little girl who helped to dress a christmas tree for the children of the family in which she served. On finding there was no present for herself she slipped away in the darkness and spent the night in an open field sitting on a stone, and when found in the morning was weeping as if her heart would break. No mortal will ever know the thoughts that passed through the mind of that friendless child in the long hours of that cold night, with only the silent stars to keep her company. The mention of her case in the daily papers moved many generous hearts to send her presents, but in the hours of her keenest sufferings she was thrown wholly on herself for consolation.

In youth our most bitter disappointments, our brightest hopes and ambitions are known only to otherwise, even our friendship and love we never fully share with another; there is something of every passion in every situation we conceal. Even so in our triumphs and our defeats.

The successful candidate for Presidency and his opponent each have a solitude peculiarly his own, and good form forbide either in speak of his pleasure or regret. The solitude of the king on his throne and the prisoner in his cell differs in character and degree, but it is solitude nevertheless.

We ask no sympathy from others in the anxiety and agony of a broken friendship or shattered love. When death sunders our nearest ties, alone we sit in the shadows of our affliction. Alike mid the greatest triumphs and darkest tragedies of life we walk alone. On the devine heights of human attainments, eulogized land worshiped as a hero or saint, we stand alone. In ignorance, poverty, and vice, as a pauper or criminal, alone we starve or steal; alone we suffer the sneers and rebuffs of our fellows; alone we are hunted and hounded thro dark courts and alleys, in by-ways and highways; alone we stand in the judgment seat; alone in the prison cell we lament our crimes and misfortunes; alone we expiate them on the gallows. In hours like these we realize the awful solitude of individual life, its pains, its penalties, its responsibilities; hours in which the youngest and most helpless are thrown on their own resources for guidance and consolation. Seeing then that life must ever be a march and a battle, that each soldier must be equipped for his own protection, it is the height of cruelty to rob the individual of a single natural right.

To throw obstacle in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property, like cutting off the hands. To deny political equality is to rob the ostracised of all self-respect; of credit in the market place; of recompense in the world of work; of a voice among those who make and administer the law; a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment. Shakespeare's play of Titus and Andronicus contains a terrible satire on woman's position in the nineteenth century--"Rude men" (the play tells us) "seized the king's daughter, cut out her tongue, out off her hands, and then bade her go call for water and wash her hands." What a picture of woman's position. Robbed of her natural rights, handicapped by law and custom at every turn, yet compelled to fight her own battles, and in the emergencies of life to fall back on herself for protection.

The girl of sixteen, thrown on the world to support herself, to make her own place in society, to resist the temptations that surround her and maintain a spotless integrity, must do all this by native force or superior education. She does not acquire this power by being trained to trust others and distrust herself. If she wearies of the struggle, finding it hard work to swim upstream, and allow herself to drift with the current, she will find plenty of company, but not one to share her misery in the hour of her deepest humiliation. If she tried to retrieve her position, to conceal the past, her life is hedged about with fears last willing hands should tear the veil from what she fain would hide. Young and friendless, she knows the bitter solitude of self.

How the little courtesies of life on the surface of society, deemed so important from man towards woman, fade into utter insignificance in view of the deeper tragedies in which she must play her part alone, where no human aid is possible.

The young wife and mother, at the head of some establishment with a kind husband to shield her from the adverse winds of life, with wealth, fortune and position, has a certain harbor of safety, occurs against the ordinary ills of life. But to manage a household, have a deatrable influence in society, keep her friends and the affections of her husband, train her children and servants well, she must have rare common sense, wisdom, diplomacy, and a knowledge of human nature. To do all this she needs the cardinal virtues and the strong points of character that the most successful statesman possesses.

An uneducated woman, trained to dependence, with no resources in herself must make a failure of any position in life. But society says women do not need a knowledge of the world, the liberal training that experience in public life must give, all the advantages of collegiate education; but when for the lock of all this, the woman's happiness is wrecked, alone she bears her humiliation; and the attitude of the weak and the ignorant in indeed pitiful in the wild chase for the price of life they are ground to powder.

In age, when the pleasures of youth are passed, children grown up, married and gone, the hurry and hustle of life in a measure over, when the hands are weary of active service, when the old armchair and the fireside are the chosen resorts, then men and women alike must fall back on their own resources. If they cannot find companionship in books, if they have no interest in the vital questions of the hour, no interest in watching the consummation of reforms, with which they might have been identified, they soon pass into their dotage. The more fully the faculties of the mind are developed and kept in use, the longer the period of vigor and active interest in all around us continues. If from a lifelong participation in public affairs a woman feels responsible for the laws regulating our system of education, the discipline of our jails and prisons, the sanitary conditions of our private homes, public buildings, and thoroughfares, an interest in commerce, finance, our foreign relations, in any or all of these questions, here solitude will at least be respectable, and she will not be driven to gossip or scandal for entertainment.

The chief reason for opening to every soul the doors to the whole round of human duties an pleasures is the individual development thus attained, the resources thus provided under all circumstances to mitigate the solitude that at times must come to everyone. I once asked Prince Krapotkin, the Russian nihilist, how he endured his long years in prison, deprived of books, pen, ink, and paper. "Ah," he said, "I thought out many questions in which I had a deep interest. In the pursuit of an idea I took no note of time. When tired of solving knotty problems I recited all the beautiful passages in prose or verse I have ever learned. I became acquainted with myself and my own resources. I had a world of my own, a vast empire, that no Russian jailor or Czar could invade." Such is the value of liberal thought and broad culture when shut off from all human companionship, bringing comfort and sunshine within even the four walls of a prison cell.

As women of times share a similar fate, should they not have all the consolation that the most liberal education can give? Their suffering in the prisons of St. Petersburg; in the long, weary marches to Siberia, and in the mines, working side by side with men, surely call for all the self-support that the most exalted sentiments of heroism can give. When suddenly roused at midnight, with the startling cry of "fire! fire!" to find the house over their heads in flames, do women wait for men to point the way to safety? And are the men, equally bewildered and half suffocated with smoke, in a position to more than try to save themselves?

At such times the most timid women have shown a courage and heroism in saving their husbands and children that has surprise everybody. Inasmuch, then, as woman shares equally the joys and sorrows of time and eternity, is it not the height of presumption in man to propose to represent her at the ballot box an the throne of grace, do her voting in the state, her praying in the church, and to assume the position of priest at the family alter.

Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility. Nothing adds such dignity to character as the recognition of one's self-sovereignty; the right to an equal place, every where conceded; a place earned by personal merit, not an artificial attainment, by inheritance, wealth, family, and position. Seeing, then that the responsibilities of life rests equally on man and woman, that their destiny is the same, they need the same preparation for time and eternity. The talk of sheltering woman from the fierce sterns of life is the sheerest mockery, for they beat on her from every point of the compass, just as they do on man, and with more fatal results, for he has been trained to protect himself, to resist, to conquer. Such are the facts in human experience, the responsibilities of individual. Rich and poor, intelligent and ignorant, wise and foolish, virtuous and vicious, man and woman, it is ever the same, each soul must depend wholly on itself.

Whatever the theories may be of woman's dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life he can not bear her burdens. Alone she goes to the gates of death to give life to every man that is born into the world. No one can share her fears, on one mitigate her pangs; and if her sorrow is greater than she can bear, alone she passes beyond the gates into the vast unknown.

From the mountain tops of Judea, long ago, a heavenly voice bade His disciples, "Bear ye one another's burdens," but humanity has not yet risen to that point of self-sacrifice, and if ever so willing, how few the burdens are that one soul can bear for another. In the highways of Palestine; in prayer and fasting on the solitary mountain top; in the Garden of Gethsemane; before the judgment seat of Pilate; betrayed by one of His trusted disciples at His last supper; in His agonies on the cross, even Jesus of Nazareth, in these last sad days on earth, felt the awful solitude of self. Deserted by man, in agony he cries, "My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken me?" And so it ever must be in the conflicting scenes of life, on the long weary march, each one walks alone. We may have many friends, love, kindness, sympathy and charity to smooth our pathway in everyday life, but in the tragedies and triumphs of human experience each moral stands alone.

But when all artificial trammels are removed, and women are recognized as individuals, responsible for their own environments, thoroughly educated for all the positions in life they may be called to fill; with all the resources in themselves that liberal though and broad culture can give; guided by their own conscience an judgment; trained to self-protection by a healthy development of the muscular system and skill in the use of weapons of defense, and stimulated to self-support by the knowledge of the business world and the pleasure that pecuniary independence must ever give; when women are trained in this way they will, in a measure, be fitted for those hours of solitude that come alike to all, whether prepared or otherwise. As in our extremity we must depend on ourselves, the dictates of wisdom point of complete individual development.

In talking of education how shallow the argument that each class must be educated for the special work it proposed to do, and all those faculties not needed in this special walk must lie dormant and utterly wither for want of use, when, perhaps, these will be the very faculties needed in life's greatest energies. Some say, Where is the use of drilling series in the languages, the Sciences, in law, medicine, theology? As wives, mothers, housekeepers, cooks, they need a different curriculum from boys who are to fill all positions. The chief cooks in our great hotels and ocean steamers are men. In large cities men run the bakries; they make our bread, cake and pies. They manage the laundries; they are now considered our best milliners and dressmakers. Because some men fill these departments of usefulness, shall we regulate the curriculum in Harvard and Yale to their present necessities? If not why this talk in our best colleges of a curriculum for girls who are crowding into the trades and professions; teachers in all our public schools rapidly hiring many lucrative and honorable positions in life? They are showing too, their calmness and courage in the most trying hours of human experience.

You have probably all read in the daily papers of the terrible storm in the Bay of Biscay when a tidal wave such havoc on the shore, wrecking vessels, unroofing houses and carrying destruction everywhere. Among other buildings the woman's prison was demolished. Those who escaped saw men struggling to reach the shore. They promptly by clasping hands made a chain of themselves and pushed out into the sea, again and again, at the risk of their lives until they had brought six men to shore, carried them to a shelter, and did all in their power for their comfort and protection.

What especial school of training could have prepared these women for this sublime moment of their lives. In times like this humanity rises above all college curriculums and recognises Nature as the greatest of all teachers in the hour of danger and death. Women are already the equals of men in the whole of ream of thought, in art, science, literature, and government. With telescope vision they explore the starry firmament, and bring back the history of the planetary world. With chart and compass they pilot ships across the mighty deep, and with skillful finger send electric messages around the globe. In galleries of art the beauties of nature and the virtues of humanity are immortalized by them on their canvas and by their inspired touch dull blocks of marble are transformed into angels of light.

In music they speak again the language of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and are worthy interpreters of their great thoughts. The poetry and novels of the century are theirs, and they have touched the keynote of reform in religion, politics, and social life. They fill the editor's and professor's chair, and plead at the bar of justice, walk the wards of the hospital, and speak from the pulpit and the platform; such is the type of womanhood that an enlightened public sentiment welcomes today, and such the triumph of the facts of life over the false theories of the past.

Is it, then, consistent to hold the developed woman of this day within the same narrow political limits as the dame with the spinning wheel and knitting needle occupied in the past? No! no! Machinery has taken the labors of woman as well as man on its tireless shoulders; the loom and the spinning wheel are but dreams of the past; the pen, the brush, the easel, the chisel, have taken their places, while the hopes and ambitions of women are essentially changed.

We see reason sufficient in the outer conditions of human being for individual liberty and development, but when we consider the self dependence of every human soul we see the need of courage, judgment, and the exercise of every faculty of mind and body, strengthened and developed by use, in woman as well as man.

Whatever may be said of man's protecting power in ordinary conditions, mid all the terrible disasters by land and sea, in the supreme moments of danger, alone, woman must ever meet the horrors of the situation; the Angel of Death even makes no royal pathway for her. Man's love and sympathy enter only into the sunshine of our lives. In that solemn solitude of self, that links us with the immeasurable and the eternal, each soul lives alone forever. A recent writer says:

I remember once, in crossing the Atlantic, to have gone upon the deck of the ship at midnight, when a dense black cloud enveloped the sky, and the great deep was roaring madly under the lashes of demoniac winds. My feelings was not of danger or fear (which is a base surrender of the immortal soul), but of utter desolation and loneliness; a little speck of life shut in by a tremendous darkness. Again I remember to have climbed the slopes of the Swiss Alps, up beyond the point where vegetation ceases, and the stunted conifers no longer struggle against the unfeeling blasts. Around me lay a huge confusion of rocks, out of which the gigantic ice peaks shot into the measureless blue of the heavens, and again my only feeling was the awful solitude.

And yet, there is a solitude, which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice-cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self. Our inner being, which we call ourself, no eye nor touch of man or angel has ever pierced. It is more hidden than the caves of the gnome; the sacred adytum of the oracle; the hidden chamber of eleusinian mystery, for to it only omniscience is permitted to enter.

Such is individual life. Who, I ask you, can take, dare take, on himself the rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?