George William Curtis, "Woman In The Lyceum,"The Lyceum Magazine: edited by The Boston Lyceum Bureau, and containing its Third Annual List. for the Season of 1871-1872 (Boston: Redpath and Fall, 1871)
P.11: . . . there remains in many courteous and generous mind the old prejudice. A woman should not speak in public, they say. Go if you will, and enjoy listening if you can; but we will stay away, for we do not think it feminine. Yet the good friend who says this went with delight to hear Jenny Lind; and pays for himself, Mrs. Friend, and the two Misses Friend, sixteen dollars to hear Nilsson; carriage, four dollars; gloves, and incidental expenses, five dollars, -- a neat sum total of twenty-give dollars. He likes music, she is a sweet singer, and it is comme il faut to hear a famous prima donna. . . . Now, why is it not as unfeminine for a woman to sing upon a platform in a public hall as to speak upon the same platform?
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. . . when the woman has a noble talent for song, exquisitely cultivated, -- when Jenny Lind stands before us, with her hands resting one upon the other, and with her very soul sings, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," -- is it improper? Is it unbecoming? Is it unfeminine? Why, our good friend himself goes home a better man, because more believing, for that marvelous song. But suppose that instead of singing those words she had read other words from the Bible, with such earnestness and conviction and power that they shone with new light, and illuminated your duty, would it be unfeminine or improper that she should do it? . . .there are women as intelligent, who think as much and feel as deeply, as the best men; and when one of them, feeling the influence of certain customs and laws in society as no man can feel them, appeals soberly and eloquently to the judgment and conscience of society, it is a peculiarly becoming, an especially feminine, duty that she does.
It would be a very comical loss that a man would impose upon himself if he refused to listen to Mr. [Henry Ward] Beecher or to Mr. [Wendell] Phillips because he did not like to hear Mr. Tramway. . . .Yet it would be as sensible as to generalize sturdily, from hearing Miss Slop, that woman ought not to speak in public, and so disdain to hear Mrs. Livermore, or Miss Anna Dickson, or Mrs. Lucy Stone.
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On the other hand, the women who speak in the lyceum must not forget the kind of responsibility which they have assumed. There is an agitation for the extension of suffrage to women. Many of the ladies of whom we speak favor it, and plead for it. Now, the impediments in the way of the success of the movement are a certain general indifference, a positive hostility, upon traditional and ecclesiastical grounds, and a doubt in the minds of many intelligent and sensible people whether, upon the whole, the accession of women to political equality would not perplex instead of improve the actual situation. When a woman comes to the platform to address the public, perhaps upon this very question, just in the degree that she is earnest and convinced, and speaks from her heart, will she be judged as an illustration of the kind of perception and influence which women would bring into the common counsel and action of society. If such a woman, acknowledged by her sex and frinds as a superior woman and an admirable representative, is declamatory, sentimental, and inconsequent, she harms her cause incalcuably.
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P. 12: . . .every woman who advocates the cause will be criticised as a representative of her sex. If she shows herself unequal to the theme -- if she is flippant and passionate, or shallow, or hysterical, -- the political class will ask itself what will be gained by introducing all these into public affairs.
It is an inevitable question, but it is not fair. The proper reply to it is, that the exclusive political power of one sex has always, and must always, lead to unjust legislation.
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It is true that every new cause has the most desparate and ridiculous of advocates and associates. In the early anti-slavery days there were Father Lamson and Abby Folsom, who lifted up their voices upon every occasion, and cried aloud in a way which was absurd, but not persuasive. And what to do in a meeting for free speech with such intolerant and endless free speakers? Finally they were lifted up bodily and borne out. But they bore their testimony. And others stalked into churches, and commanded the preacher to silence in the midst of service. Many were of opinion that the cause of human liberty and a higher civilization required great length of hair and uncooked food; and that to take milk from a cow which was intended by nature for the calf tended plainly to injure the maternal affection of the patient kine. Others, delighting to call themselves apostles of newness, heard an inner voice commanding them to sit at their doors clad as Adam was clad before the fall. All of these protestants were drawn to the great agitation of the time, and by their combined eccentricities it was contemptuously judged.
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Great causes advance despite folly. . . . The ladies who address the public have a much more serious task than that of amusing it, because, if they merely amuse it, they confirm the popular theory, that man is the faithful believer, and woman the houri. They are to show that women can do more than amuse, -- that they can think as vigorously and speak as pointedly as men of the great subjects of mutual interest. . . .their general appearance upon the platform shows that the feeling of its impropriety is passing away, and it is itself an indication of the sure advance of women to participation, without arbitrary limitation, in every sphere of human interests.