Editorial Note: This hypertext version of the Proceedings follows the basic order of the published text, but with links to help the reader jump to speeches and/or letters read aloud in the sequence in which someone attending the Convention would have heard them. The Proceedings do not contain transcriptions of the debates over the various resolutions put forward. Both the New-York Daily Tribune and the New York Herald published detailed accounts of each day's sessions, as did several Boston papers, which go a long way toward filling this gap. In addition, we have added published speeches, from the 1851 Convention, also held in Worcester, by Abby Kelley Foster and Wendell Phillips. We will, in the future, add additional published speeches by major figures at the 1850 Convention, such as Frederick Douglass and Lucy Stone so that the reader can supplement the newspaper accounts of their remarks with fuller statements of their basic views on the question of women's rights.
The Proceedings, as originally published, contained letters not read aloud during the Convention. These have been placed in a separate file as has an excerpted pamphlet. Our reason for putting these materials in their own files is to make this hypertext Proceedings as close to what someone at the Convention would have actually experienced as possible. We have added several portraits of Convention speakers, a gesture of good faith toward the creation of a separate Portrait Gallery in coming weeks. We have also added several notes which identify speakers and/or explain Biblical or other references in the text.
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Proceedings: A Session-by-Session Guide
Morning, October 23, 1850:
1) Nomination and election
2) Reading of the Call
3) Opening Address by Paulina Wright Davis
4) Speech of Lucretia Mott
5) Nominating Committee's recommendations for Business Committee
6) Letters from Elizur Wright, E.A. Lukens, L.A. Hine, and
Afternoon, October 23, 1850:
Evening, October 23, 1850:
Morning, October 24, 1850:
from Elizabeth C. Stanton and O.S. Fowler,and Samuel J. May
2) Additional resolutions, introduced by Wm. H. Channing for the Business Committee
3) Address by Dr. Harriet K. Hunt on the medical education of women
4) Introduction by Wendell Phillips of additional resolutions
Afternoon, October 24, 1850:
1) Discussion of the resolutions offered at the morning session
Evening, October 24, 1850:
List of Committees Established by the Convention with names and addresses of members
THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE WOMAN'S RIGHTS CONVENTION, HELD AT WORCESTER, 1850
Pursuant to a call previously issued, a Convention to consider the Rights, Duties, and Relations of Women met at Brinley Hall, Worcester, Mass., on Wednesday, October 23, at 10 o'clock.
The Convention was called to order by Sarah H. Earle, of Worcester.
On motion of Phoebe Goodwin, of Pennsylvania, Eliza J. Kenney, of Massachusetts, was chosen Secretary, pro tem.
On motion of Eliza Barney, of Massachusetts, a Nominating Committee was appointed by the Chair, namely: Eliza Barney, of Massachusetts; C.I.H. Nichols, of Vermont; Asa Foster, of New Hampshire; Charles C. Burleigh, of Connecticut; Lydia Dennett, of Maine; Pliny Sexton, of New York; M.A.W. Johnson, of Ohio; Rebecca Plumley, of Pennsylvania; Susan R. Harris, of Rhode Island.
The Call of the Convention was then read by the President, pro tem. . . .
The Committee on nominating Officers reported the following list, which
was adopted by the Convention:
* PAULINA W. DAVIS, of Rhode Island.
* VICE PRESIDENTS.
* WILLIAM H. CHANNING, of Massachusetts.
* SARAH TYNDALE, of Pennsylvania.
* HANNAH M. DARLINGTON, of Pennsylvania.
* JOSEPH C. HATHAWAY, of New York.
Usage assigns to the Chair of such Conventions as this, the duty of stating the objects of the meeting. But the published call under which we are convened presents such a summary of our objects as may suffice for mere statement; and the subject matters to be submitted, the points to be discussed, and the action contemplated by this Convention, are equally familiar to us all.
This leaves me at liberty to occupy your attention for a few moments with some general reflections upon the attitude and relations of our movement to our times and circumstances, and upon the proper spirit and method of promoting it. I do not even intend to treat these topics formally, and I do not hope to do it successfully; for nothing less than a complete philosophy of reform could answer such inquiries, and that philosophy, it is very certain, the world has not yet discovered.
Human rights, and the reasons on which they rest, are not difficult of comprehension. The world has never been ignorant of them, nor insensible to them; and human wrongs and their evils are just as familiar to experience and as well understood; but all this is not enough to secure to mankind the possession of the one, or to relieve them from the felt burden and suffering of the other. A creed of abstract truths, or a catechism of general principles, and a completely digested list of grievances, combined, are not enough to adjust a practical reform to its proper work, else Prophets and Apostles and earnest world-menders in general would have been more successful, and left us less to wish and to do.
It is one thing to issue a declaration of rightsor a declaration of wrong to the world, but quite another thing wisely and happily to commend the subject to the world's acceptance, and so to secure the desired reformation. Every element of success is, in its own place and degree, equally important; but the very starting point is the adjustment of the reformer to his work, and next after that is the adjustment of his work to those conditions of the times which he seeks to influence.
Those who prefer the end in view to all other things, are not contented with their own zeal and the discharge of their duty to their conscience. They desire the highest good for their follow-beings, and are not satisfied with merely clearing their own skirts; and they esteem martyrdom a failure at least, if not a fault, in the method of their action. It is not the salvation of their own souls they are thinking of, but the salvation of the world; and they will not willingly accept a discharge or a rejection in its stead. It is their business to preach righteousness and rebuke sin, but they have no quarrel with "the world that lieth in wickedness," and their mission is not merely to judge and condemn, but to save alike the oppressor and the oppressed. Right principles and conformable means are the first necessities of a great enterprise, but without right apprehensions and tempers and expedient methods, the most beneficent purposes must utterly fail. Who is sufficient for these things?
Divine Providence has been baffled through all the ages of disorder suffering for want of fitting agents and adapted means. Reformations of religion have proved but little better than the substitution of a new error for an old one, and civil revolutions have resolved themselves into mere civil insurrections, until history has become but a monument of buried hopes.
The European movement of 1848 was wanting neither in theory nor example for its safe direction, but it has nevertheless almost fallen into contempt.
We may not, therefore, rely upon a good cause and good intentions alone, without danger of deplorable disappointment.
The reformation which we purpose, in its utmost scope, is radical and universal. It is not the mere perfecting of a progress already in motion, a detail of some established plan, but it is an epochal movement-the emancipation of a class, the redemption of half the world, and a conforming re-organization of all social, political, and industrial interests and institutions. Moreover, it is a movement without example among the enterprises of associated reformations, for it has no purpose of arming the oppressed against the oppressor, or of separating the parties, or of setting up independence, or of severing the relations of either.
Its intended changes are to be wrought in the intimate texture of all societary organizations, without violence, or any form of antagonism. It seeks to replace the worn out with the living and the beautiful, so as to reconstruct without overturning, and to regenerate without destroying; and nothing of the spirit, tone, temper, or method of insurrection is proper or allowable to us and our work.
Human societies have been long working and fighting their way up from what we scornfully call barbarism, into what we boastfully call modern civilization; but, as yet, the advancement has been chiefly in ordering and methodizing the lower instincts of our nature, and organizing society under their impulses. The intellect of the masses has received development, and the gentler affections have been somewhat relieved from the dominion of force; but the institutions among men are not yet modelled after the highest laws of our nature. The masterdom of the strong hand and bold spirit is not yet over, for men have not yet established all those natural claims against each other, which seem to demand physical force and physical courage for their vindication. But the age of war is drawing towards a close, and that of peace (whose methods and end alike are harmony) is dawning, and the uprising of womanhood is its prophecy and foreshadow.
The first principles of human rights have now for a long time been abstractly held and believed, and both in Europe and America whole communities have put them into practical operation in some of their bearings. Equality before the law, and the right of the governed to choose their governors, are established maxims of reformed political science; but in the countries most advanced, these doctrines and their actual benefits are as yet enjoyed exclusively by the sex that in the battle-field and the public forum has wrenched them from the old time tyrannies. They are yet denied to Woman, because she has not yet so asserted or won them for herself; for political justice pivots itself upon the barbarous principle that "Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow." Its furthest progress toward magnanimity is to give arms to helplessness. It has not yet learned to give justice . For this rule of barbarism there is this much justification, that although every human being is naturally entitled to every right of the race, the enjoyment and administration of all rights require such culture and conditions in their subject as usually lead him to claim and struggle for them; and the contented slave is left in slavery, and the ignorant man in darkness, on the inference that he cannot use what he does not desire. This is indeed true of the animal instincts, but it is false of the nobler soul; and men must learn that the higher faculties must be first awakened, and then gratified, before they have done their duty to their race. The ministry of angels to dependent humanity is the method of Divine Providence, and among men the law of heaven is, that the "elder shall serve the younger." But let us not complain that the hardier sex overvalue the force which heretofore has figured most in the world's affairs. "They know not what they do" is the apology that crucified womanhood must concede in justice and pity to the wrong doers. In the order of things, the material world was to be first subdued. For this coarse conflict, the larger bones and stronger sinews of manhood are especially adapted, and it is a law of muscles and of all matter that might shall overcome right. This is the law of the vegetable world, and it is the law of the animal world, as well as the law of the animal instincts and of the physical organization of men; but it is not the law of spirit and affection. They are of such a nature as to charge themselves with the atonement for all evils, and to burden themselves with all the sufferings which they would remove.
This wisdom is pure, and peaceable, and gentle, and full of mercy and of good fruits.
Besides the feebler frame, which under the dynasty of muscles is degraded, there remains, even after justice has got the upper hand of force in the world's judgments, a mysterious and undefined difference of sex that seriously embarrasses the question of equality; or, if that is granted, in terms of equal fitness for avocations and positions which heretofore have been the monopoly of men. Old ideas and habits of mind survive the facts which produced them, as the shadows of night stretch far into the morning, sheltered in nooks and valleys from the rising light; and it is the work of a whole creation-day to separate the light from the darkness.
The rule of difference between the sexes must be founded on the traits which each estimates most highly in the other; and it is not at all wonderful that some of woman's artificial incapacities and slaveries may seem to be necessary to some of her excellencies; just as the chivalry that makes man a butcher of his kind still glares like a glory in the eyes of admiring womanhood, and all the more because it seems so much above and unlike her own powers and achievements. Nature does not teach that men and women are unequal, but only that they are unlike; an unlikeness so naturally related and dependent that their respective differences by their balance establish, instead of destroying, their equality.
Men are not in fact, and to all intents, equal among themselves, but their theoretical equality for all the purposes of justice is more easily seen and allowed than what we are here to claim for women. Higher views, nicer distinctions, and a deeper philosophy are required to see and feel the truths of woman's rights; and besides, the maxims upon which men distribute justice to each other have been battle-cries for ages, while the doctrine of woman's true relations in life is a new science, the revelation of an advanced age, - perhaps, indeed, the very last grand movement of humanity towards its highest destiny, - too new to be yet fully understood, too grand to grow out of the broad and coarse generalities which the infancy and barbarism of society could comprehend.
The rule of force and fraud must be well nigh overturned, and learning and religion and the fine arts must have cultivated mankind into a state of wisdom and justice tempered by the most beneficent affections, before woman can be fully installed in her highest offices. We must be gentle with the ignorance and patient under the injustice which old evils induce. Long suffering is a quality of the highest wisdom, and charity beareth all things for it hopeth all things. It will be seen that I am assuming the point that the redemption of the inferior, if it comes at all, must come from the superior. The elevation of a favored caste can have no other providential purpose than that, when it is elevated near enough to goodness and truth, it shall draw up its dependents with it.
But, however this may be in the affairs of men as they are involved with each other, it is clearly so in the matter of woman's elevation. The tyrant sex, if such we choose to term it, holds such natural and necessary relations to the victims of injustice, that neither rebellion nor revolution, neither defiance nor resistance, nor any mode of assault or defence incident to party antagonism, is either possible, expedient, or proper. Our claim must rest on its justice, and conquer by its power of truth. We take the ground, that whatever has been achieved for the race belongs to it, and must not be usurped by any class or caste. The rights and liberties of one human being cannot be made the property of another, though they were redeemed for him or her by the life of that other; for rights cannot be forfeited by way of salvage, and they are in their nature unpurchasable and inalienable.
We claim for woman a full and generous investiture of all the blessings which the other sex has solely or by her aid achieved for itself. We appeal from men's injustice and selfishness to their principles and affections.
For some centuries now, the best of them have been asserting, with their lives, the liberties and rights of the race; and it is not for the few endowed with the highest intellect, the largest frame, or even the soundest morals, that the claim has been maintained, but broadly and bravely and nobly it has been held that wherever a faculty is given, its highest activities are chartered by the Creator, and that all objects alike - whether they minister to the necessities of our animal life or to the superior powers of the human soul and so are more imperatively needed, because nobler than the bread that perishes in the use - are, of common right, equally open to ALL; and that all artificial restraints, for whatever reason imposed, are alike culpable for their presumption, their folly, and their cruelty.
It is pitiable ignorance and arrogance for either man or woman now to prescribe and limit the sphere of woman. It remains for the greatest women whom appropriate culture, and happiest influences shall yet develop, to declare and to prove what are woman's capacities and relations in the world.
I will not accept the concession of any equality which means identity or resemblance of faculty and function. I do not base her claims upon any such parallelism of constitution or attainment. I ask only freedom for the natural unfolding of her powers, the conditions most favorable for her possibilities of growth, and the full play of all those incentives which have made man her master, and then, with all her natural impulses and the whole heaven of hope to invite, I ask that she shall fill the place that she can attain to, without settling any unmeaning questions of sex and sphere, which people gossip about for want of principles of truth, or the faculty to reason upon them.
But it is not with the topics of our reform and the discussion of these that I am now concerned. It is of its position in the world's opinion, and the causes of this, that I am thinking; and I seek to derive hints and suggestions as to the method and manner of successful advocacy, from the inquiry. Especially am I solicitous that the good cause may suffer no detriment from the theoretical principles its friends may assume, or the spirit with which they shall maintain them. It is fair to presume that such causes as have obscured these questions in the general judgment of the governing sex, must also more or less darken the counsels of those most anxious for truth and right. If our demand were simply for chartered rights, civil and political, such as get acknowledgment in paper constitutions, there would be no ground of doubt. We could plead our common humanity, and claim an equal justice. We might say that the natural right of self-government is so clearly due to every human being alike, that it needs no argument to prove it; and if some or a majority of women would not exercise this right, this is no ground for taking it from those who would. And the right to the control and enjoyment of her own property and partnership in all that she helps her husband to earn and save, needs only to be stated to command instant assent. Her appropriate avocations might not be so easily settled that a programme could be completed on theoretical principles merely; but we need discuss no such difficulties while we ask only for liberty of choice, and opportunities of adaptation; and the question of her education is solved by the simple principle, that whatever she can receive is her absolute due.
Yet all these points being so easily disposed of, so far as they are mere matters of controversy, the advocates of the right need none the less the wisest and kindest consideration for all the resistance we must encounter, and the most forbearing patience under the injustice and insolence to which we must expose ourselves. And we can help ourselves to much of the prudence and some of the knowledge we shall need, by treating the prejudices of the public as considerately as if they were principles, and the customs of society as if they once had some temporary necessity, and so meet them with the greater force for the claim to respect which we concede to them. For a prejudice is just like any other error of judgment, and a custom has sometimes had some fitness to things more or less necessary, and is not an utter absurdity, even though the reason on which it was based is lost or removed. Who shall say that there is nothing serious, or respectable, or just, in the repugnance with which our propositions are received? The politician who knows his own corruption may be excused for an earnest wish to save his wife and daughter from the taint, and he must be excused, too, for not knowing that the corruption would be cured by the saving virtue which he dreads to expose to risk.
There may be real though very foolish tenderness in the motive which refuses to open to woman the trades and professions that she could cultivate and practice with equal profit and credit to herself. The chivalry that worships womanhood is not mean, though it at the same time enslaves the objects of its overfond care.
And it is even possible that men may deprive women of their property and liberties, personal and political, with the kindly purpose of accommodating their supposed incapacities for the offices and duties of human life. Harsh judgments and harsh words will neither weaken the opposition, nor strengthen our hands. Our address is to the highest sentiment of the times; and the tone and spirit due to it and becoming in ourselves, are courtesy and respectfulness. Strength and truth of complaint, and eloquence of denunciation, are easy of attainment; but the wisdom of affirmative principles and positive science, and the adjustment of reformatory measures to the exigencies of the times and circumstances, are so much the more useful as they are difficult of attainment. A profound expediency, as true to principle as it is careful of success, is, above all things, rare and necessary. We have to claim liberty without its usually associated independence. We must insist on separate property where the interests are identical, and a division of profits where the very being of the partners is blended. We must demand provisions for differences of policy, where there should be no shadow of controversy; and the free choice of industrial avocations and general education, without respect to the distinctions of sex and natural differences of faculty.
In principle these truths are not doubtful, and it is therefore not impossible to put them in practice, but they need great clearness in system and steadiness of direction to get them allowance and adoption in the actual life of the world. The opposition should be consulted where it can be done without injurious consequences. Truth must not be suppressed, nor principles crippled, yet strong meat should not be given to babes. Nor should the strong use their liberties so as to become a stumbling block to the weak. Above all things, we owe it to the earnest expectation of the age, that stands trembling in mingled hope and fear of the great experiment, to lay its foundations broadly and securely in philosophic truth, and to form and fashion it in practical righteousness. To accomplish this, we cannot be too careful or too brave, too gentle or too firm; and yet with right dispositions and honest efforts, we cannot fail of doing our share of the great work, and thereby advancing the highest interests of humanity.
Lucretia Mott spoke at length upon the condition of women, and the duties devolving upon this Convention, that it may do its part toward her elevation.
Lucy Stone and daughter
On motion of M.A.W. Johnson, the Nominating Committee were appointed to
nominate a Business Committee, who reported
the following names, which were approved by the Convention:
M.A.W. Johnson, of Ohio; Wm. Lloyd Garrison, of Massachusetts; Ernestine L. Rose, of New York; Harriet K. Hunt, of Massachusetts; Lucretia Mott, of Pennsylvania; Lucy Stone, of Massachusetts; W.H. Channing, of Massachusetts; E.W. Capron, of Rhode Island; Abby H. Price, of Massachusetts; Wm. Fish, of Massachusetts, Samuel May, Jr., of Massachusetts; Susan Sisson, of Rhode Island; Anna Q.T. Parsons, of Massachusetts; Frederick Douglass, of New York.
On motion of S.S. Foster, all persons present were invited to take part in the discussions, but those only who enrolled their names as members were allowed to vote.
On motion, adjourned.
The Convention met at 2 o'clock. The President, P.W. Davis, in the Chair.
The minutes of the morning session were read by H.M. Darlington, and adopted.
Abby H. Price then offered an Address.
Whereas, The very contracted sphere of action prescribed for woman, arising from an unjust view of her nature, capacities, and powers, and from the infringement of her just rights as an equal with man, - is highly injurious to her physical, mental, and moral development; therefore, Resolved, That we will not cease our earnest endeavors to secure for her political, legal, and social equality with man, until her proper sphere is determined, by what alone should determine it, her Powers and Capacities, strengthened and refined by an education in accordance with her nature.
P.W. Davis in the Chair.
Business of the Convention - the discussion of the preamble and resolution offered at the morning
[sic, but actually afternoon] session. Speakers - W.H. Channing and Lucretia
Mott. Wendell Phillips, on behalf of the Business Committee, reported several
resolutions, which were discussed by W. Phillips, E.L. Rose, L. Mott, A.K.
Foster, J.N. Buffum, and S.S. Foster. The resolutions were as follows:
Resolved, That every human being of full age, and resident for a proper length of time on the soil of the nation, who is required to obey law, is entitled to a voice in its enactments; that every such person, whose property or labor is taxed for the support of government, is entitled to a direct share in such government. Therefore,
Resolved , That women are clearly entitled to the right of suffrage, and to be considered eligible to office; the omission to demand which, on her part, is a palpable recreancy to duty; and the denial of which is a gross usurpation, on the part of man, no longer to be endured; and that every party which claims to represent the humanity, civilization, and progress of the age, is bound to inscribe on its banners, Equality before the law, without distinction of sex or color.
Resolved, That political rights acknowledge no sex, and therefore the word "male" should be stricken from every State Constitution.
Resolved, That the laws of property, as affecting married parties, demand a thorough revisal, so that all rights may be equal between them; - that the wife may have, during life, an equal control over the property gained by their mutual toil and sacrifices, be heir to her husband precisely to the extent that he is heir to her, and entitled, at her death, to dispose by will of the same share of the joint property as he is.
On motion, adjourned, to meet to-morrow morning, at half past nine.
Oct. 24. - The Convention met at half past nine, A.M.
The minutes of yesterday's afternoon and evening sessions were read by J.C. Hathaway, and adopted.
W.H. Channing, from the Business Committee, reported a
series of resolutions.
Resolved, That as women alone can learn by experience, and prove by works, what is their rightful sphere of duty, we recommend, as next steps, that they should demand and secure
* 1. Education in primary and high schools, universities, medical, legal, and theological institutions, as comprehensive and exact as their abilities prompt them to seek, and their capabilities fit them to receive;
* 2. Partnership in the labors, gains, risks, and remunerations of productive industry, with such limits only as are assigned by taste, intuitive judgment, or their measure of spiritual and physical vigor, as tested by experiment;
* 3. A co-equal share in the formation and administration of law, Municipal, State, and National, through legislative assemblies, courts, and executive offices;
* 4. Such unions as may become the guardians of pure morals and honorable manners - a high court of appeal in cases of outrage which cannot be and are not touched by civil or ecclesiastical organizations, as at present existing, and a medium for expressing the highest views of justice dictated by human conscience and sanctioned by Holy Inspiration.
Resolved, That a Central Committee be appointed by this Convention, empowered to enlarge their numbers: on (1) Education; (2) Industrial Avocations; (3) Civil and Political Rights and Regulations; (4) Social Relations; who shall correspond with each other and with the Central Committee, hold meetings in their respective neighborhoods, gather statistics, facts, and illustrations, raise funds for purposes of publication; and through the press, tracts, books, and the living agent, guide public opinion upward and onward in the grand social reform of establishing woman's co-sovereignty with man.
Resolved, That the Central Committee be authorized to call other Conventions, at such times and places as they shall see fit; and that they hold office until the next annual Convention.
Resolved , That since the prospect of honorable and useful employment, in after life, for the faculties we are laboring to discipline, is the keenest stimulus to fidelity in the use of educational advantages, and since the best education is what we give ourselves in the struggles, employments, and discipline of life; therefore, it is impossible that woman should make full use of the instruction already accorded to her, or that her career should do justice to her faculties, until the avenues to the various civil and professional employments are thrown open to arouse her ambition and call forth all her nature.
Resolved , That every effort to educate woman, until you accord to her her rights, and arouse her conscience by the weight of her responsibilities, is futile, and a waste of labor.
Resolved , That the cause we are met to advocate, - the claim for woman of all her natural and civil rights, - bids us remember the million and a half of slave women at the South, the most grossly wronged and foully outraged of all women; and in every effort for an improvement in our civilization, we will bear in our heart of hearts the memory of the trampled womanhood of the plantation, and omit no effort to raise it to a share in the rights we claim for ourselves.
On motion, adjourned till 2 o'clock, P.M.
The President, P.W. Davis, in the chair.
Business before the Convention - the discussion of the resolutions offered at the morning session. Speakers - W.A. Alcott, E.L. Rose, Sojourner Truth, A. Brown, L. Mott, Frederick Douglass, Wm. Lloyd Garrison, C.C. Burleigh, and A.K. Foster.
Adjourned, to meet at 7 o'clock, P.M.
Convened at 7 o'clock, P.M. President in the chair.
Channing read the resolutions presented in the morning meeting, and
accompanied the reading with remarks upon the measures proposed for the coming year, and the principles which should govern the movement for establishing woman's co-sovereignty with man.
Sarah Tyndale, of Philadelphia, spoke of the business capacities of women, and the necessity of engaging in active duties to promote their own development.
Martha H. Mowry, physician, of Providence, Lucy Stone, S.S. Foster, L. Mott, and A. Brown, occupied the floor till a late hour. The resolutions were unanimously adopted, and, with the other documents of the Convention, referred to the Central Committee for publication.
Proceeds of the contributions, $119.65.
Adjourned, sine die
* PAULINA W. DAVIS, Providence, R.I., Chairman .
* SARAH H. EARLE. Worcester, Mass., Secretary .
* WENDELL PHILLIPS, Boston, Mass., Treasurer .
* MARY A.W. JOHNSON, Salem, Ohio.
* WILLIAM H. CHANNING, Boston, Mass.
* GERRIT SMITH, Peterboro', N.Y.
* JOHN G. FORMAN, West Bridgewater, Mass.
* MARTHA H. MOWRY, Providence, R.I.
* LUCY STONE, West Brookfield, Mass.
* JOSEPH C. HATHAWAY, Farmington, N.Y.
* ABBY K. FOSTER, Worcester, Mass.
* PLINY SEXTON, Palmyra, N.Y.
* J. ELIZABETH JONES, Salem, Ohio.
* WILLIAM ELDER, Philadelphia, Penn.
* WILLIAM STEDMAN, Randolph, Stark Co., Ohio.
* EMILY ROBINSON, Marlborough, Mass.
* ABBY H. PRICE, Hopedale, Mass.
* WILLIAM L. GARRISON, Boston, Mass.
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION.
* ELIZA BARNEY, Nantucket, Mass., Chairman .
* MARIAN BLACKWELL, Cincinnati, Ohio, Secretary .
* ELIZABETH C. STANTON, Seneca Falls, N.Y.
* ELIZA TAFT, Dedham, Mass.
* C.I.H. NICHOLS, Brattleboro, Vt.
* CALVIN FAIRBANKS, Maine.
* HANNAH DARLINGTON, Kennet Square, Penn.
* ANN ELIZA BROWN, Brattleboro, Vt.
COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRIAL AVOCATIONS.
* CHARLES F. HOVEY, Boston, Mass., Chairman .
* PHILINDA JONES, Worcester, Mass., Secretary .
* HARRIET K. HUNT, Boston, Mass.
* ELIZABETH BLACKWELL, London, England.
* BENJAMIN S. TREANOR, Boston, Mass.
* EBENEZER D. DRAPER, Hopedale, Milford, Mass.
* PHEBE GOODWIN, Delaware Co., Penn.
* ALICE JACKSON, Avondale, West Chester Co., Penn.
* MARIA WARING, Dublin, Ireland.
COMMITTEE ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL FUNCTIONS.
* ERNESTINE L. ROSE, New York, Chairman .
* LUCY STONE, West Brookfield, Mass., Secretary .
* WENDELL PHILLIPS, Boston, Mass.
* HANNAH STICKNEY, Philadelphia, Penn.
* SARAH HALLOCK, Milton, N.Y.
* ABBY K. FOSTER, Worcester, Mass.
* CHARLES C. BURLEIGH, Plainfield, Conn.
* ELIZABETH C. STANTON, Seneca Falls, N.Y.
* WILLIAM L. GARRISON, Boston, Mass.
COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL RELATIONS.
* LUCRETIA MOTT, Philadelphia, Penn., Chairman .
* WILLIAM H. CHANNING, Boston, Mass., Secretary .
* ANNA Q.T. PARSONS, Boston, Mass.
* WILLIAM H. FISH, Hopedale, Milford, Mass.
* REBECCA PLUMLEY, Philadelphia, Penn.
* ELIZABETH B. CHASE, Valley Falls, R.I.
* JOHN G. FORMAN, West Bridgewater, Mass.
* HENRY FISH, Hopedale, Milford, Mass.
* MARY GREW, Philadelphia, Penn.
COMMITTEE OF PUBLICATION.
* PAULINA W. DAVIS,
* WILLIAM L. GARRISON,
* WILLIAM H. CHANNING.
Read to the "Woman's Rights Convention," at Worcester, by Mrs. Abby H. Price, of Hopedale, Mass.
In our account of the work of Creation, when it was so gloriously finished in the garden of Eden, by placing there, in equal companionship, man and woman, made in the image of God, alike gifted with intellect, alike endowed with immortality, it is said the Creator looked upon his work, and pronounced it good - that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Since that time, through the slow rolling of darkened ages, man has ruled by physical power, and wherever he could gain the ascendancy, there he has felt the right to dictate - even though it degraded his equal companion - the mother who bore him - the playmate of his childhood - the daughter of his love. Thus, in many countries we see woman reduced to the condition of a slave, and compelled to do all the drudgery necessary to her lord's subsistence. In others she is dressed up as a mere plaything, for his amusement; but everywhere he has assumed to be her head and lawgiver, and only where Christianity has dawned, and right not might been the rule, has woman had anything like her true position. In this country even, republican, so called, and Christian, her rights are but imperfectly recognised, and she suffers under the disability of caste. These are facts that, in the light of the nineteenth century, demand our attention. "Are we always to remain in this position" is a question we have come here to discuss.
The natural rights of woman are co-equal with those of man. So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female, created he them . There is not one particle of difference intimated as existing between them. They were both made in the image of God. Dominion was given to both over every other creature, but not over each other. They were expected to exercise the vicegerency given to them by their Maker in harmony and love.
In contending for this co-equality of woman's with man's rights, it is not necessary to argue, either that the sexes are by nature equally and indiscriminately adapted to the same positions and duties, or that they are absolutely equal in physical and intellectual ability; but only that they are absolutely equal in their rights to life, liberty , and the pursuit of happiness - in their rights to do , and to be, individually and socially, all they are capable of, and to attain the highest usefulness and happiness, obediently to the divine moral law
These are every man's rights, of whatever race or nation,
ability or situation, in life. These are equally every woman's rights, whatever
her comparative capabilities may be - whatever her relations may be. These
are human rights, equally inherent in male and female. To repress them in
any degree is in the same degree usurpation, tyranny, and oppression. We
hold these to be self-evident truths, and shall not now discuss them. We
shall assume that happiness is the chief end of all human beings; that existence
is valuable in proportion as happiness is promoted and secured; and that,
on the whole, each of the sexes is equally necessary to the common happiness,
and in one way or another is equally capable, with fair opportunity, of
contributing to it. Therefore each has an equal right to pursue and enjoyit.
This settled, we contend:
* 1. That women ought to have equal opportunities with men for suitable and well compensated employment.
* 2. That women ought to have equal opportunities, privileges, and securities with men for rendering themselves pecuniarily independent.
* 3. That women ought to have equal legal and political rights, franchises, and advantages with men.
Let us consider each of these points briefly. Women ought to have equal opportunities with men for suitable and well compensated employment in all departments of human exertion.
Human beings cannot attain true dignity or happiness except by true usefulness. This is true of women as of men. It is their duty, privilege, honor, and bliss to be useful. Therefore give them the opportunity and encouragement. If there are positions, duties, occupations, really unsuitable to females, as such , let these be left to males. If there are others unsuitable to men, let these be left to women. Let all the rest be equally open to both sexes. And let the compensation be graduated justly, to the real worth of the services rendered, irrespective of sex.
However just and fair this may seem, it is far from actual experience. Tradition so palsies public sentiment with regard to the comparative privileges and rights of the sexes, that but little even is thought of the oppressions that exist, and woman seems to have made up her mind to an eternal inferiority. I say eternal , because development constitutes our greatness and our happiness
If we do not properly develope our human natures in this sphere of existence, it is a loss that can never be made up. Hence, for the sake of her angel-nature, her immortality, woman should have her inalienable rights. She cannot act freely, be true to her moral nature, or to her intellect; she cannot gratify her charity or her taste, without pecuniary independence, that which is produced by suitable and well compensated employment. Woman, in order to be equally independent with man, must have a fair and equal chance. He is in no wise restricted from doing, in every department of human exertion, all he is able to do. If he is bold and ambitious, and desires fame, every avenue is open to him. He may blend science and art, producing a competence for his support, until he chains them to the car of his genius, and, with Fulton and Morse, wins a crown of imperishable gratitude. If he desires to tread the path of knowledge up to its glorious temple-summit, he can, as he pleases, take either of the learned professions as instruments of pecuniary independence, - while he plumes his wings for a higher and higher ascent. Not so with woman. Her rights are not recognised as equal . Her sphere is circumscribed not by her ability, but by her sex. The wings of her genius are clipped, because she is a woman. If perchance her taste leads her to excellence in the way they give her leave to tread, she is worshipped as almost divine; but if she reaches for laurels which they have in view, they scream after her, " You are a woman ." She is sneered at for her weakness, while she is allowed little or no chance for development. The number of her industrial avocations are unnecessarily restricted, far more than reason demands. And when she is engaged in the same occupations with men, her remuneration is greatly below what is awarded to her stronger associates. Those women who are married, and have the care of families, have duties and responsibilities that rest peculiarly upon themselves, and which they must find their highest pleasure in performing. But while they have disciplined themselves by faithfulness and attention to all these, say not to them - you have done all you may do, keep your minds and attention within that narrow circle, though your mature and ripened intellects would fain be interested in whatever concerns the larger family of man, and your affections strong in a healthful growth, yearn towards the suffering and the afflicted of every country.
And why not allow to those who have not become "happy wives and mothers," those who are anxious of leading active and useful lives, of maintaining an honorable independence, a fair chance with men, to do all they can do with propriety?
At present it is well nigh a misfortune to a poor man to have a large family of daughters. Compared with sons their chances for an honest livelihood are few. Though they may have intellect of a high order, yet they must be educated to be married as the chief end of their being. They must not forget that they are females in their aspirations for independence, for greatness, for education. Their alternatives are few. The confined factory, the sedentary, blighting life of half-paid seamstresses, perhaps a chance at folding books, or type setting may keep them along until the happy moment arrives, when they have an offer of marriage, and their fears for sustenance end by a union with the more favored sex. This should not be so. Give girls a fair chance to acquaint themselves with any business they can well do. Our daughters should fit themselves equally with our sons, for any post of usefulness and profit that they may choose. What good reason is there why the lighter trades should not open with equal facilities for their support, and why their labor should not be well paid in any useful and profitable department? Is it fair that strong and able men capable of tilling the soil, should be paid high wages for light mechanical labor that is denied woman because she is a woman, and which she could with equal facility execute? The newspaper press, clerkships, and book-keeping, not now to mention different offices in Government, (whose duties are principally writing,) would, if they were equally open to our daughters, afford them an opportunity of well paid and congenial employment; would relieve them from the necessity of marriage or want, and thereby add dignity and energy to their character. What good reason is there why women should not be educated to mercantile pursuits, to engage in commerce, to invent, to construct, in fine to do anything she can do? Why so separate the avocations of the sexes? I believe it impossible for woman to fulfil the design of God in her creation until her brethren mingle with her more as an equal, as a moral being, and lose in the dignity of her immortal nature the idea of her being a female. Until social intercourse is purified by the forgetfulness of sex we can never derive high benefit from each other's society in the active business of life. Man inflicts injury upon woman, unspeakable injury in placing her intellectual and moral nature in the background, and woman injures herself by submitting to be regarded only as a female. She is called upon loudly, by the progressive spirit of the age, to rise from the station where man, not God, has placed her, and to claim her rights as a moral and responsible being, equal with man.
As such , both have the same sphere of action, and the
same duties devolve on both, though these may vary according to circumstances.
Fathers and mothers have sacred duties and obligations devolving upon them
which cannot belong to others. These do not attach to them as man and woman,
but as parents, husbands, and wives. In all the majesty of moral power,
in all the dignity of immortality let woman plant herself side by side with
man on the broad platform of equal human rights. By thus claiming privileges,
encouragements, and rights with man, she would gain the following results:
* 1. A fair development of her natural abilities and capabilities, physical, intellectual, economical, and moral.
* 2. A great increase of self-respect, conscious responsibility, womanly dignity, and influence.
* 3. Pecuniary competence, or the ready resource for acquiring it in some department of human exertion.
* 4. A far higher moral character, etc.
Now take a survey of things as they are. The general opinion that woman is inferior to man, bears with terrible and paralyzing effect on those who are dependent upon their labor, mental or physical, for a subsistence. I allude to the disproportionate value set upon the time and labor of men and women. A man engaged in teaching can always, I believe, command a higher price for his services, than a woman, though he teach the same branch, and though he be in no respect superior to the woman. It is so in every occupation in which both engage indiscriminately. For example, in tailoring, a man has twice as much for making a coat, or pantaloons, as a woman, although the work done by each may be equally good. In the employments which are peculiar to women, their time is estimated at only half the value of that of men. The washer-woman works as hard in proportion as the wood-sawyer, yet she makes not more than half as much by a day's work. Thus by narrowing the sphere of woman, and reducing her remuneration of labor so unjustly, her resources are few and she finds it hard to acquire an honorable independence. Necessity, we are compelled to believe, cruel necessity , often drives her to vice, especially in our large cities; as the only alternative from starvation! Deplorable and heart sickening as the statement is, I have good authority for saying that more than half of the prostitutes of our towns are driven to that course of life from necessity! M. Duchatelet, in his investigation in Paris, established this fact in the clearest manner. In his work, Vol. I., p. 96, we read the following statement: "Of all causes of prostitution in Paris, and probably in all large towns, there are none more influential than the want of work and indigence resulting from insufficient earnings. What are the earnings of our laundresses, our seamstresses, our milliners? Compare the wages of the most skillful with the more ordinary and moderately able, and we shall see if it be possible for these latter to provide even the strict necessaries of life. And if we further compare the prices of their labor with that of others less skillful, we shall cease to wonder that so large a number fall into irregularities, thus made inevitable! This state of things has a natural tendency to increase in the actual state of our affairs, in consequence of the usurpation by men, of a large class of occupations, which it would be more honorable in our sex to resign to the other. Is it not shameful, for example, to see in Paris thousands of men in the prime of their age in shops and warehouses, leading a sedentary and effeminate life, which is only suitable for women?"
M. Duchatelet has other facts, which show that even filial and maternal affection drive many to occasional prostitution as a means, and the only means left them, of earning bread for those depending on them for support. He says, "It is difficult to believe that the trade of prostitution should be embraced by certain women as a means of fulfilling their filial or maternal duties. Nothing, however, is more true . It is by no means rare to see married women, widowed, or deserted by their husbands, becoming abandoned, with the sole object of saving their families from dying with hunger. It is still more common to find young females, unable to procure, from honest occupations, adequate provision for their aged and infirm parents, reduced to prostitute themselves in order to eke out their livelihood. I have found," says he, "too many particulars regarding these two classes, not to be convinced that they are far more numerous than is generally imagined." Had I time, I could read you pages from the London "Morning Chronicle," on the Metropolitan Poor, where the most affecting cases are stated of poverty and of destitution, enough to melt the heart of steel, where poor creatures have been driven to vice from absolute starvation , - suffering remorse and self-loathing the most intolerable. Poor outcasts! - miserable lepers! Their touch even, in the very extremity of human suffering, shaken off as if it were a pollution! They seem to be considered far more out of the pale of humanity than negroes on a slave plantation, or felons in a Pasha's dungeon! It is thought to be discreditable to a woman even to know of their existence. You may not mention them in public. You may not allude to them in a book without staining its pages. Our sisters, whose poverty is caused by the oppressions of society, who are driven to sin by want of bread, - then regarded with scorn and turned away from with contempt! I appeal to you in their behalf, my friends. Is it not time to throw open to women, equal resources with men, for obtaining honest employment? If the extremity of human wretchedness - a condition which combines within itself every element of suffering, mental and physical, circumstantial and intrinsic - is a passport to our compassion, every heart should bleed for the position of these poor sufferers. I have the authority of Dr. Ryan, and of Mr. Mayhew, persons of well known integrity, who have investigated most faithfully and patiently the matter, - though it was a difficult and painful task, which they prosecuted with the most unwearied benevolence, sometimes travelling ten miles to ascertain the characters of women who made their statements to them, - and they publicly affirm, that nearly all were driven to dissolute lives because there were no means open to them of obtaining an adequate maintenance. The writer in the Edinburgh Review, who presented extracts from the elaborate researches of Duchatelet, in Paris, says, "We believe , on our honor, that nine out of ten originally modest women who fall from virtue, fall from motives or feelings in which sensuality and self have no share. Aye, we believe that hard necessity, - that grinding poverty, - that actual want, induced by their scanty resources, drive them to vice." Now let me present his statistics.
Of the 5,183 Parisian prostitutes, his investigations show that:- 2,690 were driven to the profession by parental abandonment, excessive want, and actual destitution; 86 thus earned food for the support of parents or children; 280 were driven by shame from their homes; 2,181 were abandoned by their seducers, and had nothing to turn to for a living! You may say, this may be the case in the old countries, but not in our own cities. Very little difference exists in the state of actual society here. Women are the same proscribed class here as elsewhere. The same difference is made between male and female labor. Public opinion surrounds them with ten thousand restrictions. The law disfranchises them. Christianity, to whose influence alone woman is indebted for all social dignity that she now enjoys, is appealed to, as sustaining the present degree of dominion over her, and tortured to prove her inferiority . Thus the cause exists, and why may not the evil also? It does exist to a fearful degree. And, painful though the contemplation of the sad picture may be, it is nevertheless our duty to investigate and seek its cause - then to apply the remedy - and to do now what we may to educate a different public sentiment.
I come now to my second proposition. Women ought to have equal opportunities, privileges, and securities with men for rendering themselves pecuniarily independent. And why not? Can woman be independent, free, and dignified without the means? Can she provide for future wants, exercise proper economy, without the means for so doing? Without a certain degree of pecuniary independence, it is impossible for man or woman to rise in usefulness, excellence, and enjoyment to the height of their natural capabilities. Women at present are cramped, dwarfed, and cowed down. Mothers, with large families of girls, though they may see in them intellect and genius, which, were they boys, might open to them in the future the pathway to independence and perhaps to fame, find that to girls nearly all avenues are closed. There are some branches of the fine arts, if they are very remarkably gifted, where they may find brilliant and dazzling success, as in the case of Jenny Lind. They may perhaps excel as poets and as painters. But these are the exceptions. Greatness is rare. Though they may see in their daughters the large reasoning powers that would enable them with much advantage to pursue the study of the law, yet Blackstone and Coke must be shut to them. The bright pinions of their intellect remain unfolded, and they are perhaps permitted to learn the trade of a milliner, already crowded to excess, and miserably paid. For men, too, have monopolized the profits in that business, and hire their milliners at the lowest possible wages. Very few girls can acquire money enough to compete with the aspirants of the other sex, and so they must submit to their destiny. Again, the mother may see largely developed in her daughter qualities that might fit her eminently for a physician. A distinguished doctor once said, "there are no diseases, there are diseased people."