[Editorial Note: The following exchange is interesting in several respects. One is the light it casts upon expectations concerning the upcoming Woman's Rights Convention. Another is the way it brings the question of the medical education of women to the foreground. This was one of the major issues at the Convention. Some, like Samuel Gregory of the Boston Female Medical Education Society, disapproved of the practice of male physicians attending women at childbirth as an affront to feminine modesty. The Society he directed therefore sought to reinvigorate the practice of midwifery which was losing ground to the new medical specialty of obstetrics. Others, like E.A.S., writer of the letters of complaint about Gregory's lecture in Worcester, objected to the limited role Gregory's "reform" gave to women and to the limited role women played in the management of the Female Medical Education Society.

I have identified E.A.S. as E.A. [Mrs. Martin] Stowell of Worcester on the basis of her remark about intending to attend the Worcester Convention. Only one person with those initials signed the roll of members. I have been unable to identify Gregory's female defender, B.T.]

The Liberator, September 20, 1850


Worcester, Sept. 10, 1850.

Dear Mr. Garrison:

Allow me to ask why Samuel Gregory was so anxious, while delivering his recent lecture to the ladies of Worcester, on Midwifery, to have it known that, though he was desirous of having women officiate as midwives, yet he was not in favor of having them enjoy their right to the elective franchise, to speak in public, and to act in other capacities, from which custom now excludes them? Why did he wish the citizens of Worcester to know that he had nothing to say against a time-serving and ungodly Church?

We do not wish to be understood as disapproving of the objects of the Society, for they are near to our hearts; but as women, we do protest against stepping aside from the subject proper, to give us a thrust, as we attempt to assert our rights in other affairs. The religion and politics of the land wrest from us all voice (so far as it is in their power to do so) in choosing our own representatives, either in Church or State; of even making our grievances known, by publically entering our protest against their unholy and impious usurpations.

I am glad there is to be a Woman's Rights Convention held here this fall. Let the women of New England, and especially of Massachusetts, make it a spirited and profitable occasion. Let the united voices of the noble and uncompromising women of America be heard speaking in thunder tones for those rights which might, not right, have so long deprived them of.

Ladies from abroad will find warm and sympathizing hearts to welcome and provide for their wants while here. Come, then, to the rescue, one and all!

E.A.S. [Mrs. Martin Stowell]

The Liberator, Sept. 27, 1850


Mr. Editor, -- In your last number, some aggrieved lady called the writer to an account for remarks made in a recent lecture to ladies, in Worcester, on the subject of the medical education of females. And as your fair correspondent places the matter in an unfair light before your readers, to many of whom the object named is indebted for early and continued aid, there seems to be an occasion for a word of explanation.

In speaking of the comparative abilities of the sexes, and the superiority of females for many departments of usefulness which they do, and of others which they might fill, the train of remark almost unavoidably led to an allusion to the claims of women to share in the ballot-box and the political debate. But this point was disposed of by saying, that it was not the business of the lecturer to advocate those claims nor to find fault with those who did; and no opinion was expressed upon the matter. This is not said to disguise or disclaim any views honestly entertained, but to show that the speaker did not wantonly step aside from the subject proper, as charged, with the intention of making a thrust at any who had kindly favored him with their presence. The writer does not remember to have made so much of an allusion to this particular topic in any lecture as in the one mentioned; and this, as it seems, was a peculiarly unlucky occasion, on account of the sensitive state of feeling in view of the approaching Worcester Convention.

The second and last item in the accusation is, that the lecturer was anxious to have it understood that he had nothing to say against the Church. Whereas his remark was not that he found fault with nothing, but not with everything, in the Church -- quite a difference. Indeed your correspondent can hardly have forgotten the statements of the lecturer, that our Christian women, who are so commendably engaged in sending the Bible to enlighten and Christianize the heathen and elevate the condition of their women, were themselves, in the matter of calling on gentlemen for aid in all of their delicate affairs, subjected to a custom at which Jews and heathens would be astonished; and that the Chinese and Hindoos ought to compassionate the condition of our Christian ladies, and send female missionaries among them. After this severe charge, it was but just and humane to acknowledge the prompt and efficient aid which persons identified with the church had rendered in providing a remedy for the evil in question; for it is a fact that much of the remarkable success that has attended the measures to secure the medical education of females, has been owing to the co-operation of clergymen of the various denominations.

The writer entertains no other than the most liberal feelings towards all sincere and earnest laborers in the cause of human progress, and desires nothing more strongly than that both men and women may correctly ascertain, and usefully fill the sphere for which Heaven and nature have adapted them.

[advertisement appearing in The Liberator, October 4, 1850]


Female Medical School,

Conducted by the Female Medical Education Society, incorporated by the Massachusetts Legislature.

The fifth term will commence November 6th, 1850, and continue three months. Those who desire can attend exclusively to Midwifery, with its collateral branches. Tuition, $25. Board in the city to be had at $2 a week.

SAMUEL GREGORY, Sec'y, 17 Cornhill.

Sept. 20

The Liberator, October 11, 1850


Worcester, Oct. 4th, 1850.

Friend Garrison:

In the Liberator of the 27th September, I noticed a reply, or what was intended for a reply, to my inquiry in a former number, touching upon the lecture of S[amuel].G[regory]. to the ladies of Worcester, on the medical education of women. The writer of the article accuses me of representing the matter in an unfair light. In speaking of the ballot-box, political debate, et cetera, Mr. G. says -- 'But this point was disposed of by saying, that it was not the business of the lecturer to advocate those claims, nor to find fault with those who did, and no opinion was expressed upon the matter.'

In regard to the last sentence, I must be permitted, in all candor, and with due respect to the standing, abilities, and usefulness of the gentleman, to beg leave to dissent, in toto. Either he is mistaken, or other ladies, besides myself, are. Since my inquiry, another lady, whose statement I presume Mr. G. would not question, said to me that she was surprised to hear the lecturer (Mr. G.) express himself in relation to this point as he did; that she understood it as I did, and further, that if my signature had not been appended to the inquiry, she should have thought it was her own, so true was it to her own feelings in regard to the matter in question. If the gentleman does not hold such views as I attributed to him, I am truly glad; but if he intended to screen himself from such an accusation by charging me with misrepresenting him, I shall hold him strictly to account. If his language did not express his opinion in regard to the matter in question, then is the gentleman to be pitied for the want of ability in his use of words. Far be it from me to complain, unnecessarily, of one who is laboring for our abused and injured sex; but when I am accused of doing injustice to any one, duty to myself and the cause of truth compels me to come to the rescue, with such means as are in my power.

Since writing the above, we have been informed by another 'aggrieved lady,' as the Secretary [i.e., Samuel Gregory, secretary of the Female Medical Education Society] expresses it, that ladies are not allowed a voice or vote in the Society, though they should contribute enough to constitute a gentleman a voting member. Certainly, if women are deprived from having a voice in controlling an institution which has been professedly established for the express purpose of securing to us our rights, and which should fall into our hands as soon as we are competent to conduct it, is it not time for the voice of woman to be heard in protestation against such usurpations? As the Constitution [of the Society] now stands, ladies are deprived, in all coming time, of having the management of an institution which belongs to us only.

Again: The Society is styled the Female Medical Education Society, when, if I have been correctly informed, it teaches nothing but Obstetrics. Why give out so promising a title, when but half is taught? I do not refer to this matter as a friend of all or any portion of the medical nostrums puffed up and given, ostensibly, as curatives for diseases. I believe the whole medical system has produced more evil than good; and that the less medicine taken into or used about the system, the better. Water is Nature's own alternative in sickness, aside from air, exercise, and diet.[1]

Again: I have understood women are taught to do the drudgery, or to perform a certain portion of the work necessary in accouchement [childbirth], and then must give place to the male practitioner, or doctor, to come in for the completion of the business, and a lion's share of the pay. I do not know how the gentleman's lectures have been liked in other places, but every lady whom I have heard speak of his lecture here, expressed disappointment in some particulars, and disapprobation in others. However anxious the gentleman is to have women occupy the sphere God designed them to fill, his course in his own Society, and his remarks here, satisfy us most conclusively that he is either not in favor of giving us our rights, or that he is trying to act the part of Mr. Bunyan's 'Mr. Facing-both-ways,' to secure patronage; and to cap the climax, that he wishes to make a drudge of woman, while he secures to man the honor, and, as I said before, a lion's share of the pay.

Yours for truth and right, E.A.S[towell].

The Liberator, October 25, 1850


Mr. Editor:

In the Liberator of October 11, the complaint is continued in relation to the course of Mr. Gregory's Lecture at Worcester. For one, I am exceedingly sorry. For the last three years, I have had an intimate acquaintance with that gentleman; and I know that no one would be more anxious to see that institution managed by competent and prudent females than Mr. Gregory. If E.A.S. will but consider, for one moment, the condition of society at the time this subject was opened to the public, when it was next to impossible to obtain a place [i.e., advertising space] in any newspaper in Boston, [1Always excepting the Liberator, at least. -- Ed.; Garrison footnote] I think that she will find but little cause to complain of the course of the Secretary. I know, and Mr. G. knows, and every reflecting person ought to know, that to such a class of women as are about to assemble at Worcester, the above Society will owe its life and progress. They are the only characters that are good for any thing in a reformation, (I mean as pioneers,) and I regret that one individual of the class of women referred to above should have found cause to complain.

E.A.S. says -- 'Again, I have understood women are taught to do the drudgery, or to perform a certain portion of the work necessary in accouchement, and then' et cetera. Now, if E.A.S. will read the act of incorporation, she will learn otherwise. But I should certainly suppose that before E.A.S., or any other woman that should be inclined to build a hospital for the accommodation of the sick, and to practice in the same, would first cleanse the Augean stable[2] on which the superstructure was to rest. But I will say no more on the subject, for I know that reformers are sensitive persons, and they must be so, otherwise they would be good for nothing. I mean to attend the Convention at Worcester on the 23d and 24th, and the ladies whom I shall meet who are favorable to the projects advanced in the notice, shall have my heart and my hand, and my purse too, as pecuniary circumstances will permit. One of the ladies (Miss Stone) I know. If she is a sample of those who have given the call, I shall be more than gratified.

Yours for rights and prosperity too, B.T.

South Weymouth, Oct. 15.


[1]The "water cure" was one of several "natural" therapies that became popular from the 1830s on. Several, such as that associated with Sylvester Graham, emphasized diet. Others extolled the curative powers of fresh air and/or exercise.

[2]In Greek mythology, King Augeas did not clean his stable for thirty-five years.