The convention assembled for the purposes indicated in the following startling pronunciamento:
[here followed the text of the Call to the Convention.]
The meeting thus being organized, it was natural to take an observation of the prominent characters.
Miss Davis, the President or Presidentess, is a tall, handsome lady, fair complexion, blue eyes, auburn ringlets and of a very amiable expression of countenance, dressed in dark, and without the slightest pretense to display.
Lucretia Mott, of Philadelphia, on the extreme right of the platform, appeared in the modest dress of a Quakeress--muslim cap and scarf, rich Quaker gown and white silk shawl. Her countenance wears the hard iron expression of General Suwarrow, all bone, gristle, and resolution. We should take her to be an elderly lady, indomitable as Caesar.
Abby Kelly Foster is a very striking personage--tall and thin, with an eye wild and resolute, and a cast of physiognomy fearful to the despots who lord it over women's rights; dress, plain black, open collar, dark hair, dressed plain.
Mrs. Ernestine Rose, of New York, appeared with a gold guard chain around her neck,
Frederick Douglas was also in the meeting, and quite a lion, and several dark colored sisters were visible in the corners. [William Lloyd] Garrison, [Wendell] Phillips, [Charles C.] Burleigh, [Stephen S.] Foster, and Co., the "rag-tag and bob-tail" of these social[ist], infidel, and abolition assemblages, loomed up in the throng with the dignity of directors of a revolution.
Miss Davis, on taking the chair, read a very elaborate, philosophical, socialistic address, on the wrongs and rights of woman. She presented the restraints under which woman is bound down to slavery in a very touching manner. It was heart-rending to think of it. From popular prejudices, she knew that reformation was difficult, but the convention proposed to enter upon the great work. She asserted the equality of woman by nature and protested that she was entitled to equality in politics, legislation, and everything else. Woman wanted an equal chance to the unfolding of her great capacities, and she was bound to have it. Society was in a state of barbarism, while it denied equality of privileges, political, religious, and all other privileges, and it must be reformed.
(While she was delivering this highly philosophical exposition of the wrongs and rights of woman, the attention of the audience was somewhat disturbed by the music of a hand organ in another room of the building, in which the American fat girl, sixteen years old and weighing 400 pounds, was being exhibited as a specimen of what woman would be if she had her rights. She ought, by all means, have been made president of the Convention.)
On the motion of Lucretia Mott, who considered the address a little too tame, the question of its adoption was left open for debate. It disclaimed the intention of open hostility against the existing laws of society, and for this disclaimer she [Mott] was not prepared. The sentiment ought to be conditional. Direct hostility might yet become necessary to woman in enforcing her rights. We don't want any milk and water policy of action. If the despotism of man has displaced woman from her proper sphere, we must tell him so--if the thing was wrong, we must declare it--the plain, naked truth, without disguise. From the manner in which woman had always been treated, it was argued that she was an inferior animal; but she contended that woman was the equal of man in everything pertaining to human rights. She justified the plain truth, however severe it might be. It was by bold and severe language of denunciation that William Lloyd Garrison had done so much to shake the foundations of slavery. We must use the armor of love and truth; but we must tell the truth without fear, and call things by their right names.
[here followed an account of the creation of the Business and Finance Committees duplicating information in the Proceedings.]
On motion all present were allowed to take part in the proceedings, but the voting was limited to the enrolled members.
Letters were read, addressed to the convention by Elizur Wright, a prosaic document on the debasement of woman by man, and on the prospect of an ultimate victory, where she too will be privileged to wear the breeches, and to stand side by side with the Empire Club, contending for her rights at the polls.
Mr. Lucius A. Hynde, of Cincinnati, put in a similar letter, maintaining the equality of women, in her rights to all the privileges of man--the right to vote, hold offices, and go to battle, if necessary, leaving the men to take their fair share of the duties of the kitchen and nursery. Education would accomplish this work in good time, and the proper way to begin was by the mixing together of the two sexes in schools, colleges and churches. By such means woman would soon be enabled to exert her proper influences in securing her rights, and among these rights was the right to dispose of, or hold fast to, her own property, whether maid, wife, or widow, at her own discretion.
Miss Elizabeth Wilson, of Ohio, also put in a protest against the despotism of the men, and especially that despotism which makes them [women] inferior beings in point of intellect, when it was no such thing. With all her disposition to enter into this contest, Miss Wilson was a little illiberal. She thought that Jenny Lind, in her public singing, for the amusement of these tyrants over her sex, was violating female delicacy, and not satisfied with having woman an equal with man, she attempted to prove, from the first chapter of Genesis, that she was his superior.
(These letters developed pretty well the tremendous intentions of this harem scarum gathering. The female portion of the audience, not initiated into these sublime mysteries, began to whisper and titter during the reading of the last epistle, when they were very peremptorily notified by Lucretia Mott, that there must be silence.)
And satisfied with the morning's proceedings,the convention took a recess till two o'clock.
The minutes of the forenoon's proceedings were read.
Mrs. Price read a manuscript address, on the wrongs and rights of women. Rather tedious.
Audience swelling to five or six hundred persons.
Mr. W.H. Channing submitted the following resolution:
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, it 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.
Which he discussed at length, travelling over the whole ground of woman's inconveniences, with a sprinkling of abolition thrown in here and there by way of seasoning.
Lucretia Mott next followed in some pointed remarks, exhibiting the present degraded condition of woman in civilized society. She has nothing but her outward semblance in her favor; when that ceases all respect for her vanishes; for an old woman is simply an object of ridicule, and anything that is ridiculous or foolish is said to be only fit for an old woman. In no respect had the rights of woman been as yet recognized in society.
The girls in the audience beginning to get tired of this nonsense, began to whisper and titter among themselves, at the ridiculous figure which that row of seven or eight old women on the platform presented, when one of them, a very fat lady, weighing about three hundred (a clear evidence that her rights had been respected) rose to speak.
Abby Kelly, in the crowd--We can't hear you in this corner. Speak louder.
Lucretia Mott--We must have silence. I have addressed audiences of two thousand persons, and there was no difficulty in hearing. Here we have, perhaps, not over five hundred, and yet we have complaints that we cannot be heard.
The audience became quiet.
Mrs. Abby Kelly Foster here came forward upon the platform.--I am sick, too sick to debate this subject this evening [sic]. (She looked sickly, and had the echo of a bad cold in her voice.) I prefer not to argue about a woman's rights, but to take them. I know what they are instinctively, and shall contend for them, without getting into a theoretical argument about them, and that is what I suppose to be the business of this Convention. Abby disappeared, and
Mrs. Rose rose upon the platform. [the reporter sought to mock her accent by rendering parts of her speech phonetically.]--Madame President and ma dear sisters and bredren, I do regret no one rises better dan myself to speak; but I shall offer you but a few remarks on de subject before us. Mrs. Rose spoke at some length, saying, among other things, dat woman is in de quality of de slave, and man is de tyrant; and dat when de distinction of rights between de sexes ceases, then, and not till then, will woman get her just deserts. When men and women are trained as human beings, without regard to sex, in schools, in academies, in Church and in State, when their education and thoughts become more spiritual and less animal, then we shall not suffer this inequality any longer. The sphere of woman, oh, how limited! Woman suffers and man suffers--they must both suffer from this inequality. What we most want is this--a determination never to give up the rights of humanity. We have eyes, and we have the right to see; tongues, and the right to speak. We have the same phrenological organization as man, and the same intellectual desires, and the same right to have them gratified.
Abby Kelly Foster--I do not talk of woman's rights, but of human rights, the rights of human beings. I do not come to ask [for] them, but to demand them; not to get down on my knees and beg for them, but to claim them. "Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." We have our rights, and the right to revolt, as did our fathers against King George the Third--the right to rise up and cut the tyrants' throats. On this subject I scorn to talk like a woman. We must give them the truth, and not twaddle. We must not be mealy mouthed with our tyrants in broadcloth and tight clothes. In short, in the harangue of Abby, she simply demanded that men and women should be treated as human beings all alike--that the sexes should be forgotten in society--that property and votes and offices, civil, religious and military, even to the right of cutting throats, should belong to woman as well as to man. She urged that the work should be commenced by educating both sexes together, and that all distinction in society between man and woman should be abolished, and that a woman was just as well qualified to be President as a man. [Applause.]
Charles C. Burleigh (an improved specimen of George H. Munday, the prophet having more beard and a greater amount of hair about his ears) next took the rostrum. He did not exactly agree with Mrs. Abby Kelly Foster, that the sexes should be dispensed with in the reorganization of society. He thought the two sexes were different, and that man and woman were sexes in soul as well as in body. He, however, agreed that the restraints upon woman ought to be removed, and that her freedom to choose her own vocation in life ought to be allowed upon an enlarged scale, as well as the privilege of the ballot box, the right of property, and so forth.
Recess till seven o'clock.
Mr. [Wm. H.] Channing resumed the thread of the argument upon the rights of woman, in the consideration of some practical measures. As one of these measures, he recommended that the sexes should be mingled together in schools and academies. They would stimulate and improve each other. He next proposed an annual congress of women to regulate society, and complimented Miss Catherine Beecher for her exposure of that celebrated breach of promise case. He proposed the establishment of orders of women to aid and assist each other.
Lucretia Mott was determined not to ask as a boon what she could demand as a right. She complained that woman's labor was not appreciated--that she was a slave, and the slave of superstition, and paid too much devotion to the Bible. Let theology take care of itself. Theology had always given way when compelled to do it by the light of truth, as in the case of George Combe and phrenology. He was first attacked, and then the theologians found out, when science was too strong for them, that it [phrenology] was according to revelation. (Laughter) She thought the right of woman to cut throats, in resisting despotism, was a debatable question because many contend for the doctrine of moral suasion. But in demanding woman's rights, she wanted no twaddle, no milk-and-water, but the plain and naked truth.
Mr. Wendell Phillips offered a series of resolutions: [here follows the text of the resolutions as subsequently published in the Proceedings.]
Mr. Phillips argued these several points at length, maintaining that the cobwebs and the superstitions of the Bible ought to be swept away. Woman, without culture, without capital, and shut off from commerce, the mechanic arts, the professions, and politics, dwindles down, like the poor colored man in slavery, into an inferior caste. He wished her to be mingled up in society, in the trial by jury, in representation, and in suffrage for her self defense. We should not give too much reverence to the law; laws were but pieces of paper, signed by Millard Fillmore (applause) and public opinion is the silliest thing in the world. (Laughter) He spoke with energy, urging that to secure woman's rights, it was necessary to break down the barriers of the law and the Bible, of feudal and Hebrew despotism, and begin at the very foundation of society.
Mrs. Rose--We are not contending here for the rights of the women of New England, or of old England, but of the world. And our greatest opposition is from the prejudice of our own sex. Man is as much the victim of his despotism as woman. We had heard a great deal of our Pilgrim Fathers; but who ever tells us anything of our pilgrim mothers? And were not their trials, and is not their glory equally great. Two positions we have assigned to woman. Either to play the puppet in the parlor, or the drudge in the kitchen. And till all these old prejudices, and restrictions, and this whole system of woman's slavery from beginning to end, were done away with, and not till then, would man and woman be brought to a happy state of existence. (Applause.)
Mrs. Lucretia Mott--It strikes me, Madame President, that Mrs. Rose has made a better apology for man than he could make for himself. (Laughter) Woman is crushed, but nobody is to blame; it is circumstances that have crushed her. So of the poor slave. He is crushed, but nobody crushed him. It just happened so. (Laughter) It is an abstract evil, that's all. When we begin to denounce the slaveholder as a man-stealer, all scripture had to be searched before people would believe it, or venture to use the term. And with us, it is monopolizing, despotic man that we have to deal with, in our exclusion from offices, from the schools and colleges. The learned philosopher then proceeded to show that the men would prefer to be called knaves, rather than such fools as the idea that his ignorance of her rights was the cause of woman's wrongs. Men are cunning and crafty. They are not such innocent Abigails as you would suppose. (Laughter) She recommended agitation of woman's rights. It was the agitation of the slavery question that had shaken the capitol to its foundations, and that was the cause of the good fruit it will bring forth, in the liberation of the Southern slave. (Applause)
Wendell Phillips contended that woman was largely responsible for her grievances. In the marriage ceremony it is woman that declares she will love, honor, and obey. It was the assent and the prejudice of woman that were the greatest obstacles to her rights.
Mrs. Abby Kelly Foster took up the glove. Woman is a slave, and is obedient in the presence of her master. Ask the slave of Henry Clay, in his master's presence, if he is satisfied and happy; he will say yes. So with woman, though she might not get a cowhiding like the slave if she answered no! Still, she would be fearful to displease her husband, her lord and master, as he is. And her whole life, and her whole education was adapted to please him and serve him like a slave. And do you suppose that woman so situated can dare to assert her rights. If disobedient, she is fearful she will never get a husband. But don't believe her when she ridicules this movement or opposes it. She is a slave, and has to do it. Our only safety is to rebuke the oppressor, and to demand our rights.
Mr. J.M. Buffum, of Lynn, came to the rescue of Wendell Phillips and Mrs. Rose. It appeared [to Buffum] the debate was coming to a contest between the two sexes. Frederick Douglas says all that the slave wants is, that the tyrant shall take his foot off his neck, and let him get up. So of woman. It is not for us to elevate, but to release her, and she will elevate herself. As for the marriage relation, laws cannot control it altogether. It must regulate itself, as between man and woman. Now, I married a white woman myself, but although the law might oppose the marriage of whites and blacks, I do not suppose it would be regarded [i.e., the law obeyed] in some cases. The great outrage upon woman is that she has no right of property to herself; and this and all the other restrictions against her political equality, it is our duty to endeavor to remove.
Lucretia Mott--My friend, Wendell Phillips, says that it is the woman in marriage who says that she will "love, honor, and obey." As I understand it, the priest says the words, and she only answers "yes." (Laughter) The priest says "love, honor, and obey." Woman has been taught to pin her faith to the sleeve of the priest. Now, in our society [i.e., the Society of Friends to which she belonged], there is nothing of this; but perfect equality and reciprocity. It is all the result of education. Sometime ago, if a woman could make a shirt, turn a pancake, and write her name at her marriage, she was educated. But she is beginning to understand that she is entitled to something more.
Mr. Foster (husband of Abby Kelly, a tall, ungainly figure, in big whiskers and spectacles) next took the platform. He was proceeding to remark that the question of woman's right to take the sword was irrelevant to the objects of the meeting, when
Mr. Burleigh raised a question of order against the Speaker himself. His object, however, was to move when the meeting adjourned that it adjourn to meet again at half-past nine in the morning. Agreed to.
Wm. Lloyd Garrison gave notice that the friends of the abolition of the gallows would meet at half-past eight.
Mr. Foster (husband of Abby Kelly), returned to the question of woman's right to use the sword. He thought it ought to be left an open question, for there were a million and a half of women in the South, in a condition which makes us shudder to think of, and God only knows how soon the sword may be drawn for their deliverance, and I would not like to see her hands tied in the struggle. For this reason he considered it inexpedient to discuss the question of woman's right to use the sword. After a long rigmarole on woman hugging her chains, he concluded by charging that the pulpit and St. Paul were responsible for the enslavement of the sex. When the priest says to the woman, "Love, honor, and obey," what can she do?
Abby Kelly Foster--Do! Do as the wife of the Rev. Joseph Bancroft, of Worcester, did. Say "I won't." (Laughter) She was a good woman, and a much better man than her son George . She said I won't," and she compelled them to leave that part out.
Mr. Foster (husband to Abby Kelly)--yes; and there was a lady of seventy years old at dinner to-day, who said when she came to the word "obey," she dropped her husband's hand. (Laughter) The orator then went on to show that many women who did not appear so, were friends of this movement. He was once lecturing on the necessity of dissolving the Union, to get rid of the curse of slavery, when a man who dared not openly avow it, slipped a three dollar bill into his hand very quietly. So there are women who dare not speak, who will slip a three dollar bill to the advocate of woman's rights, if they had a chance.
Very stout lady, in a grey dress--My friend says that many a woman will slip a three dollar bill to the advocate of her rights. She cannot do it for she cannot get the three dollars, if she has a husband. (Laughter)
Mr. Foster--Ah, yes, I should have said if she can get it. He next argued that the slavery of woman degraded both sexes, and man the most, for that woman was naturally better than man.
And at a quarter past ten P.M. the Convention adjourned, to meet again at half past nine in the morning, to finish up the resolutions.
The objects of the Convention, as disclosed to-day, are:
1. To abolish the Bible.
2. To abolish the constitution and the laws of the land.
3. To re-organize society upon a social platform of perfect equality, in all things, of sexes and colors.
4. To establish the most free and miscellaneous amalgamation of sexes and colors.
5. To elect Abby Kelly Foster President of the United States, and Lucretia Mott Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
6. To cut throats ad libitum.
7. To abolish the gallows.
Such appear to us the actual designs of that piebald assemblage called the Woman's Rights Convention.