"Woman's Mission"

by Ebenezer Elliot. The North Star, October 3, 1850.

[Editorial Note: The argument that all the great thinkers and artists had been men was a staple among opponents of the woman's rights movement. In this poem Ebenezer Elliot leapt to woman's defense although, to the late twentieth-century reader, the defense might seem to echo some of the same presumptions about woman's nature that woman's rights activists sought to dispel. The North Star, edited by Frederick Douglass, the former slave turned abolitionist, consistently advocated woman's rights. Douglass attended the 1850 Convention and delivered a major address during the afternoon session of the second day.]

What highest prize hath woman won
In science, or in art?
What mightiest work, by woman done,
Boasts city, field, or mart?
'She hath no Raphael!' Painting saith;
'No Newton!' Learning cries;
'Show us her steam-ship! her Macbeth!
Her thought-won victories!'

Wait, boastful man! though worthy are
Thy deeds, when thou are true;
Things worthier still, and holier far,
Our sisters yet will do;
For this the worth of woman shows,
On every peopled shore,
That still as man in wisdom grows,
He honors her the more.

Oh, not for wealth, or fame, or power,
Hath man's meek angel striven,
But, silent as the growing flower,
To make of earth a heaven!
And in her garden of the sun
Heaven's brightest rose shall bloom;
For woman's best is unbegun!
Her advent yet to come!