At 25 minutes to 10 o'clock, the Woman's Rights Convention was called to order by the Lady President, who read three or four verses of miserable doggerel, which she complimented as being the result of inspiration. The organ grinder having removed from below there was no accompanying music, but the rhyme could be said or sung to any tune from "Sich a getting up stairs" to "Ah non guinga." the minutes of yesterday afternoon and evening's meetings were read, and the resolutions presented yesterday repeated -- the general question of Woman's Rights remaining open.
A letter was presented by Mrs. Johnston [sic, actually Mary Ann Johnson], of Ohio, from Mrs. [Elizabeth Cady] Stanton, whose views on the political rights of women were very novel and very outre. The reconciliation of domestic differences, politically and religiously, was attempted on the principle of what ought to be, but what would assuredly be, and could not possibly fail to be was studiously, or rather naturally avoided. The infusion of the peaceful element of woman into the mass of masculine political excitement, was argued as furnishing a good reason why woman should be admitted to vote in political matters; and the same incentive was upheld as endorsing her claim to fight her own countries [sic] battles, and to take share in the rowdy council of her Senates and Houses of Representatives. Moreover woman was capable of taking the $8 per diem which rewarded the old womanism of our Statesmen. These, and a great many more things came up in consecutive, but very ragged array.
Another letter was read from Sam. A. May, of Syracuse. It started by a plea of poverty on account of expenses paid in aid of the progress of fugitive slaves toward freedom. The letter was an anti-slavery one, and bore the sentiment that nothing could be done for women until slavery was abrogated; also the belief expressed that the agitation supported by the conference was a natural one, and the document wound up by a detailed disquisition on what reforms were necessary to establish Woman's Rights.
O.S. [Orson Squire] Fowler, of New York, travelled over the same ground in his letter. He believed that the "imperial absolutism of the importance of the work" was beyond decided. The mutual relation subsisting between husband and wife was defined; and the impropriety of women meeting, alone, for the management of their own business shewn up in very plain terms, which were not so palatable as truth ought to be.
At this point the organ below struck up, and threw the influence of music upon the close. The tune was "Go to the devil and shake yourself." Verily music hath charms, et cetera -- everyone knows the quotation.
Harriet K. Hunt, of Boston, described the age, and what kind of animal it was; by her account it was "a very queer beast" -- a kind of cross between the unicorn and the "sea-sarpint." The signs of the times too were ocularly reviewed, without specks, and these important significations characterized as peculiarly favorable to female ascendancy. The remainder was pathological, theological, conchological, and horological -- the latter particularly the case, as its length and Tempus fugit were sworn brother and sister -- on an equality in all respects -- and it would up by St. Vitus' dance, Intermittent Fever, and Human Nature. As the world renowned philanthropist Wackford Squeers has it -- "She's a rum 'un, human natur, she is." The arrival of the end of the address was as anxiously looked for as dinner time to a very hungry man. Mrs. H. took care before she ended her inexplicable harangue to give her business of female doctoring a very barefaced puff. All right! the utile cum dulce [the practical with the sweet] is justifiable now and then; but Mrs. H. had no business at all to depreciate the medical faculty in the manner she did. What right had she to abuse the great undiploma'd doctors who infest every nook and corner of Boston -- and dispense surgery and medicine as they were butchers or West India goods men? None whatever. Let quackery and imposture feel secure in its position; for although Mrs. Hunt gave them a withering rebuke, we will not mention it -- oh, not at all! The scoundrels are safe from us; but let them beware of Mrs. Hunt! for she is a Tartar [unexpectedly formidable foe] and nothing else. Ye serpent excavating surgeons, beware! Mrs. Hunt is on hand, and will be down on you like a hundred[weight] of brick.
W.H. Channing, from the Business Committee, put forth a series of Resolves claiming the full rights of Education, Partnership, a co-equal share with men in the making of the Laws, and such social and political privileges as mankind claim to hold themselves and to deny to women.
Mrs. [C.A.K.] Ball of Worcester took up some objections to the proceedings of the meeting, particularly on account of some omissions of the speakers relative to the true relationship between man and wife. She repudiated the idea that no scripture proof should be brought to bear on the relationship. She had a great veneration for the ladies who spoke [presumably a reference to Lucretia Mott and Abby Kelley Foster], but she had still a greater veneration for "thus saith the Lord!" As to the propriety, or right, of paying the washerwoman as much as a wood-sawyer, which had been enforced by some [Abby Price for one], she could not see what the wood sawyer could do if his wife was unwell and he had to pay all his earnings to her nurse. (Loud applause.) This matter had not been clearly put before the meeting.
Dirty-face Burley [C.C. Burleigh] roared out -- "The wood-sawyer will pay the nurse out of his wife's earnings!" But suppose, most filthy of all mankind! that the wood-sawyer's wife had nine children "and one at the breast" to take care off? Eh? what sayest now to this thing? Where would be the price of her labor? In her children's health and comfort; and can she part with her labor in this shape? Verily no, most sage Burley.
Mrs. [Antoinette] Brown, of Oberlin, Ohio, next spoke, and defended the equality of her sex with man. The Scripture aspect of the argument was taken up by this beautiful and very talented lady, who urged probabilities and expediencies as being in every shape against the literal interpretation of the texts which occur in the Bible regarding the subjection of woman to man's rule; and, even were this subjection scriptural, it was not to be wielded if the conscience of the woman said it should not. A woman was situated in a similar position to a child, which was bound to submit to the instruction of its parents, but who was not filially, or morally bound to give obedience to the parent, if he instructed it to do wrong. The word subjection was not properly interpreted, and only meant instruction, which was a mutual duty on the parts of both man and woman. The woman was said to be subject to the man, who was 'head" over her. The word head was used only in scripture, to signify precedence of creation, and not of power -- consequently equality of position augured equality in the possession of social and political rights. After an appeal to the public on the propriety of their casting off the prejudices which militated against woman, and prevented her from joining in the common business and professions of life, her qualifications to conduct, and prosper in public pursuits, were fully and very eloquently described. The modest deportment of the lady was a special recommendation of the good sense, mixed with some alloy, which characterized Mrs. Brown's speech. Her domestic economics were very markedly heterodox.
C.C. Burley (with the alias) next got up and spoke to the objection to woman's participation in public forums and occupations, because of a want of time. This argument was moulded out of custom, manufactured by man, and was of no account, therefore, only as it stood to condemn the terrible organization of society. He deprecated the necessity to tend the children, wash the clothes, and mend the stockings, if it interfered with this time to improve. Better go with a dirty shirt, no shoes, or forget to wash the children, than hinder this improvement! Most stupid argument in favor of a maggot, which the practices of our New England repudiate, and ever will! Although Burley's oration in this department was one of much power of eloquence; and we really liked him for it -- particularly after it was finished, we believe he was speaking against the grain of his own better conviction; and the lop-sided character of his statements showed this. Mrs. Ball's query concerning the payment of the nurse was a poser to Burley. He labored like an overladen man to make out a case, but Mrs. Ball nailed him up in a corner, and kept him there until he owned beat. Mrs. [Ernestine] Rose also gave him the benefit of a supposition than [sic] a woman was unmarried, and had no one to depend on for assistance in case of sickness -- how was she to pay as much as she earned to have her wood cut? Burley could not say how the sick woman would get out of the difficulty; but some one suggested to him that the gas-light of public sentiment would furnish heat. He would have taken the advantage of this metaphysical caloric [source of heat], but could not recognise its definite capabilities to boil the kettle. The rest was all Buncombe [meaningless claptrap], and very obscure at that.
The Convention here adjourned for two hours. Intimation was made that the room had been secured for an evening hour.
Dr. W.A. Allcott, of Newton, took the platform. He called attention to a physical error in the education of woman, viz: the incompatibility of a high state of mental culture with physical strength -- the physiological reasons for this notion being erroneous. His experience told him that education had no effect on the physical organization of woman, neither did it influence the quality of her beauty. The mens sano in corpore sano [a healthy mind in a healthy body] was a balance that education only equalized and did not vitiate. The speaker was not adverse to the exercise, by woman, of the domestic duties, as some had argued she should. It was a natural thing that woman should attend to these matters, but not that she should make herself a slave to the wants of the stomach. He had been among slave States, and had seen slavery in every shape, but he had witnessed more slavery to the pot and kettle at home than he had witnessed abroad. Improve this state of affairs, and woman would be furnished with sufficient time to attend to her mental wants and improvements, and have some to spare in order to devote to social and political duties. The necessity of opening up the several branches of scientific education -- particularly medicine -- was eloquently pleaded, and the appropriateness of the transfer pointed out by instances quoted in confirmation. Let woman take hold of the medical profession, and her nature and sympathies would confirm the propriety of the step. In this, as in every department, woman would have to take the initiatory steps herself. Men would not do it -- would not come up to the work -- and an individual and collective effort would have to be made on the part of woman, that her interests might be heeded, and her elevation sure.
Mrs. [Ernestine] Rose, of New York, urged her sisters to make use of the talents that they had, but which men had practically denied them to have, in emancipating themselves from their present condition. Because there was a difference of organization and occupation between men and women, that was no reason that the latter should be neglected; for if the mother, the trainer, the partner and the counsellor of mankind was to do her duty, no advantage should be denied her in the performance of that duty. If she was to leave behind her living, speaking models of her work, she ought to have every facility in building them up to positions and principles of honor. Popularity, fashion, everything but right should be thrown from the mind of womankind, until she had assumed the proper position which that right, and good human policy, justified and demanded. Woman had no right to be underrated; and if she would only think and act for herself she would soon attain to a recognised superiority to her present state. It had been said that woman was incapable to do great things -- she could not invent. Could she not? Put her into an empty house, and their [sic] call upon her powers of invention; then she would show them when a man would despair. Her intellect and genius was equal to anything -- and this was certain, although man and herself had narrowed the sphere of her inventive power. All the powers and faculties of the mind were referred to in rotation to favor a similar conclusion to the above, viz: that women were not, by nature, unequal to man in the extent or operation of mind, if assisted and directed in a proper manner. Before Mrs. Rose finished an ill-bred fellow behind us commenced reading the above crude abstract of her address, and commenting on the quality of our observations with another worse bred fellow at his side. (The close of the last sentence was received with a sneer by both the parties alluded to, who afterwards took the trouble to look after their own business, leaving us to ours.)
Sojourner Truth (a colored woman) next spoke. She advocated woman's rights. She had looked on men and was sorry for them. The slaves all came on them, and now the women came on them. This sorrow was great last night when Wendell Phillips spoke, and had to defend himself against saying what he did not know was wrong -- and was not convinced when he saw he was clearly wrong. One curious thing was to be thought about, viz: when man's rule began, and what gave him authority to rule. There was nothing in Adam's fall to tolerate his rule, and certainly nothing in his general conduct that said he was fit to rule himself -- let alone others. If people would only think, they would see that man was only one half of himself, and the other half very well used up. It was said that, in the treatment of woman in this country was a proof of its civilization; but the heathen would have to come yet and teach them civilization. It was time for the heathen to commence, for things could not be worse. It was not fair to let woman suffer because she ate the apple, and to say that she was the weaker vessel, and turned the world upside down accordingly. If she had really done so, what should hinder her to turn it back again? Nothing but the intolerance of man! Knock down that, and all would come right; that was a plain truth, and it was wonderful that truth which could be so easily told was not invariably and plainly told. Sojourner said she had no education; and she was not ambitious of having it, as she saw that those who boasted of it had all of it in their feet and none of it in their heads. Respecting the present agitation she said it was wonderful how things came round. Slaves used to do all the rubbing [scrubbing?] in New England, and they complained of the hard work; they were emancipated and the hard work fell on the wives and daughters of New England, and they had begun to complain. The men,seeing that they had got into a fix, were, too, beginning to squirm and complain; and improvement in the condition of their wives and daughters would have to come before their complaints would have cause to be at an end; and all this arose out of the abolition of slavery. Sojourner made one of the best speeches that were spoken at the Convention, and was several times loudly applauded.
Mrs. [Antoinette] Brown, of Ohio, again spoke, and argued the right of women to speak in public places, She based her arguments on Scripture which she quoted with great facility and aptitude. The extent of the Scriptural law of tolerance towards women, in respect to public teachings and duties, received a very elaborate and ingenious description of treatment from the fair speaker.
By this time the hour appointed for the [railway] cars to leave had arrived, and we were forced to come away. The time to be spent in the afternoon and evening would be occupied with mere repetitions of what had already been spoken.
We have come to the close of our duties in connection with this particular stage of the Woman's Right Reform; and we cannot conclude without giving expression to the belief that such eloquence as had been spent upon it might have done honor to any feasible object of reform -- but only served to make the ridiculous character of the present effort the more lamentably apparent.
Our very excellent and chaste brother Channing not being willing to pledge himself that the talking would be over by ten o'clock in the evening, we felt restrained [sic] to take advantage of the last day train home. As for what may have followed, behold! is it not among the things that are of non-importance!
Come all you good people, I pray you draw near;
Tolay, fo laddy, fo lay
A comical ditty you shortly shall hear.
Tolay, fo laddy, fo lay
The boys of the country, they try to advance,
By courting the ladies and learning to dance.
Their old rusty stirrups they'll brush and they'll rub;
Their old dirty boots they'll black and they'll scrub.
A gentleman's neat, and their own conceit,
And value those ladies at a very low rate.
I'm done for the lads now, I'll sing for the ladies;
In their own way they 're equally as bad.
They'll dress themselves up; they'll look in the glass,
Saying, "Tee, he, he, he! What a fine bonny lass!"
Just let their old parents be ever so poor,
They must have a little hat with a feather before.
They will dress themselves up, put on a false hair,
And then in the glass like an owl they will stare.
The girls of this country will give the boys a slap;
They are always a-laughing and don't know what at.
They're always a-laughing, in vain to be wise:
They couldn't get married to save their lives.
I think it is time my story should end,
For fear there's some one I might offend.
But if there's any one here that would take offence,
They can go to the devil and seek recompense.
William Congreve, The Mourning Bride, Act I, Sc. 1:
Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
A character in Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby.
The belief that education, particularly in subjects such as Mathematics and Philosophy, endangered the health of young women was widespread in the medical community throughout the nineteenth century. The notion was that such "brain work" diverted blood from the developing sex organs and could lead to infertility. Dr. Edward H. Clarke's Sex in Education: or, A Fair Chance for the Girls (BostonL James R. Osgood and Co., 1873) is an example of this belief. The first printing sold out in a week, and the work went through seventeen editions in thirteen years.