|In 1870, at the twentieth anniversary woman's rights convention, Paulina Wright Davis, who presided over the first two conventions as well as the twentieth, said: "Were I to go back of these [first] conventions, to see what had roused women thus to do and dare, I should be obliged to go into a long history of the despotism of repression, which German jurists call 'soul murder'; an unwritten code, universal and cruel as the laws of Draco, and so subtle that, entering everywhere, they weigh most heavily where least seen." Davis's view is worth pondering. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton proclaimed in nominating Davis to be president of the 1870 gathering, "the movement in England, as in America, may be dated from the first National Convention, held at Worcester, Mass., October, 1850."|
"As early as 1844 she commenced the study of anatomy and physiology, and gave public lectures on these subjects. She sent to Paris and imported the first femme modele that was ever brought into the country. She has told me many amusing anecdotes of the effect of unveiling this manikin in the presence of a class of ladies. Some would leave the house, others faint in their seats, others draw down their veils, and a few only had the moral hardihood and scientific curiosity to appreciate it and examine the fearful and wonderful manner in which they were made. In course of time, however, these natural 'weaknesses and disabilities' were overcome, and many of Mrs. Davis' classes are to-day professors as well as pupils in our medical colleges, hospitals and dissecting rooms, the result of her early efforts in urging the medical education of women. Many who are now comfortably supporting themselves in that profession gratefully acknowledge her influence in directing the whole future of their lives.
"Mrs. Davis took an active part too in the early movements for 'Moral Reform,' and was a contributor to 'McDowall's Journal' and 'Woman's Advocate,' which were published for many years. She established too the first woman's rights paper ever published in the country, 'The Una,' in January, 1852. In looking over the pages of this paper it is surprising to see how perfectly the leaders of this movement understood all the bearings of this question, and with what boldness they followed the truth in all directions, in the consideration of woman's social as well as political wrongs. I state these facts in regard to Mrs. Davis, that our report, which is to be published, may do full justice to all."
Paulina Wright Davis, however unknown today, was with Lucretia Mott, Abby Kelley Foster, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the founding mothers of the woman's moment. Her views, in consequence, are to be reckoned with. And she insisted that the key to understanding why she and the other pioneers were "roused" to "do and dare" was their frustration with that "unwritten code, universal and cruel as the laws of Draco, and so subtle that, entering everywhere, they weigh most heavily where least seen."
How does one see that which weighs "most heavily where least seen." How does one spell out an "unwritten code"? These are our tasks for this morning.
We will break up into five groups; each will examine a different
set of materials, but all with address the same questions. These
1) Briefly describe the materials your group worked on;
2) Describe the perspective of the author(s) of these materials and indicate what that means for assessing their reliability as evidence;
3) Describe how the materials illumine (or perhaps obscure) Paulina Wright Davis's notion of "soul murder";
4) Describe what other uses one might find for these materials, I.e., what other aspects of American history and/or culture they illumine.