Editorial Note: This hypertext version of the Proceedings follows
the basic order of the published text, but with links to help the reader
jump to speeches and/or letters read aloud in the sequence in which someone
attending the Convention would have heard them. The Proceedings do
not contain transcriptions of the debates over the various resolutions put
forward. Both the New-York Daily Tribune and the New York Herald
published detailed accounts
of each day's sessions, as did several Boston papers, which go a long way
toward filling this gap. In addition, we have added published speeches,
from the 1851 Convention, also held in Worcester, by Abby
Kelley Foster and Wendell
Phillips. We will, in the future, add additional published speeches
by major figures at the 1850 Convention, such as Frederick Douglass and
Lucy Stone so that the reader can supplement the newspaper accounts of their
remarks with fuller statements of their basic views on the question of women's
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Proceedings: A Session-by-Session Guide
Morning, October 23, 1850:
1) Nomination and election
2) Reading of the Call
3) Opening Address by Paulina Wright Davis
4) Speech of Lucretia Mott
5) Nominating Committee's recommendations for Business
6) Letters from Elizur Wright, E.A. Lukens, L.A. Hine,
Afternoon, October 23, 1850:
1) Address by
Abby H. Price
2) Business Committee
resolutions introduced by Ernestine L. Rose
3) Discussion of resolutions
Evening, October 23, 1850:
of Business Committee's resolutions, continued
2) Introduction of additional
resolutions (By Wendell Phillips for the Business Committee)
Morning, October 24, 1850:
from Elizabeth C. Stanton and O.S. Fowler,and Samuel J. May
2) Additional resolutions,
introduced by Wm. H. Channing for the Business Committee
by Dr. Harriet K. Hunt on the medical education of women
4) Introduction by Wendell Phillips of additional
Afternoon, October 24, 1850:
of the resolutions offered at the morning session
Evening, October 24, 1850:
1) Remarks of William
H. Channing in support of the resolutions
2) Remarks of Sarah Tyndale on women's
capacities for business
3) Unanimous adoption of
List of Committees Established by the Convention with names and addresses of members
THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE WOMAN'S RIGHTS CONVENTION, HELD AT WORCESTER, 1850
Pursuant to a call previously issued, a Convention to consider
the Rights, Duties, and Relations of Women met at Brinley Hall, Worcester,
Mass., on Wednesday, October 23, at 10 o'clock.
The Convention was called to order by Sarah H. Earle, of
On motion of Mary A.W. Johnson, of Ohio, Joseph C. Hathaway,
of Western New York, was chosen President, pro tem.
On motion of Phoebe Goodwin, of Pennsylvania, Eliza J.
Kenney, of Massachusetts, was chosen Secretary, pro tem.
On motion of Eliza Barney, of Massachusetts, a Nominating
Committee was appointed by the Chair, namely: Eliza Barney, of Massachusetts;
C.I.H. Nichols, of Vermont; Asa Foster, of New Hampshire; Charles C. Burleigh,
of Connecticut; Lydia Dennett, of Maine; Pliny Sexton, of New York; M.A.W.
Johnson, of Ohio; Rebecca Plumley, of Pennsylvania; Susan R. Harris, of
of the Convention was then read by the President, pro tem. . . .
The Committee on nominating Officers reported the following list, which
was adopted by the Convention:
* PAULINA W. DAVIS, of Rhode Island.
* VICE PRESIDENTS.
* WILLIAM H. CHANNING, of Massachusetts.
* SARAH TYNDALE, of Pennsylvania.
* HANNAH M. DARLINGTON, of Pennsylvania.
* JOSEPH C. HATHAWAY, of New York.
The President elect, Paulina W. Davis, took the Chair and offered
||Usage assigns to the Chair of such Conventions as this, the duty of stating
the objects of the meeting. But the published call under which we are convened
presents such a summary of our objects as may suffice for mere statement;
and the subject matters to be submitted, the points to be discussed, and
the action contemplated by this Convention, are equally familiar to us all.|
This leaves me at liberty to occupy your attention for a few
moments with some general reflections upon the attitude and relations of
our movement to our times and circumstances, and upon the proper spirit
and method of promoting it. I do not even intend to treat these topics formally,
and I do not hope to do it successfully; for nothing less than a complete
philosophy of reform could answer such inquiries, and that philosophy, it
is very certain, the world has not yet discovered.
Human rights, and the reasons on which they rest, are not
difficult of comprehension. The world has never been ignorant of them, nor
insensible to them; and human wrongs and their evils are just as familiar
to experience and as well understood; but all this is not enough to secure
to mankind the possession of the one, or to relieve them from the felt burden
and suffering of the other. A creed of abstract truths, or a catechism of
general principles, and a completely digested list of grievances, combined,
are not enough to adjust a practical reform to its proper work, else Prophets
and Apostles and earnest world-menders in general would have been more successful,
and left us less to wish and to do.
It is one thing to issue a declaration of rightsor a declaration of wrong to the world, but quite another thing
wisely and happily to commend the subject to the world's acceptance, and
so to secure the desired reformation. Every element of success is, in its
own place and degree, equally important; but the very starting point is
the adjustment of the reformer to his work, and next after that is the adjustment
of his work to those conditions of the times which he seeks to influence.
Those who prefer the end in view to all other things, are
not contented with their own zeal and the discharge of their duty to their
conscience. They desire the highest good for their follow-beings, and are
not satisfied with merely clearing their own skirts; and they esteem martyrdom
a failure at least, if not a fault, in the method of their action. It is
not the salvation of their own souls they are thinking of, but the salvation
of the world; and they will not willingly accept a discharge or a rejection
in its stead. It is their business to preach righteousness and rebuke sin,
but they have no quarrel with "the world that lieth in wickedness,"
and their mission is not merely to judge and condemn, but to save alike
the oppressor and the oppressed. Right principles and conformable means
are the first necessities of a great enterprise, but without right apprehensions
and tempers and expedient methods, the most beneficent purposes must utterly
fail. Who is sufficient for these things?
Divine Providence has been baffled through all the ages
of disorder suffering for want of fitting agents and adapted means. Reformations
of religion have proved but little better than the substitution of a new
error for an old one, and civil revolutions have resolved themselves into
mere civil insurrections, until history has become but a monument of buried
The European movement of 1848 was wanting
neither in theory nor example for its safe direction, but it has nevertheless
almost fallen into contempt.
We may not, therefore, rely upon a good cause and good
intentions alone, without danger of deplorable disappointment.
The reformation which we purpose, in its utmost scope,
is radical and universal. It is not the mere perfecting of a progress already
in motion, a detail of some established plan, but it is an epochal movement-the
emancipation of a class, the redemption of half the world, and a conforming
re-organization of all social, political, and industrial interests and institutions.
Moreover, it is a movement without example among the enterprises of associated
reformations, for it has no purpose of arming the oppressed against the
oppressor, or of separating the parties, or of setting up independence,
or of severing the relations of either.
Its intended changes are to be wrought in the intimate
texture of all societary organizations, without violence, or any form of
antagonism. It seeks to replace the worn out with the living and the beautiful,
so as to reconstruct without overturning, and to regenerate without destroying;
and nothing of the spirit, tone, temper, or method of insurrection is proper
or allowable to us and our work.
Human societies have been long working and fighting their
way up from what we scornfully call barbarism, into what we boastfully call
modern civilization; but, as yet, the advancement has been chiefly in ordering
and methodizing the lower instincts of our nature, and organizing society
under their impulses. The intellect of the masses has received development,
and the gentler affections have been somewhat relieved from the dominion
of force; but the institutions among men are not yet modelled after the
highest laws of our nature. The masterdom of the strong hand and bold spirit
is not yet over, for men have not yet established all those natural claims
against each other, which seem to demand physical force and physical courage
for their vindication. But the age of war is drawing towards a close, and
that of peace (whose methods and end alike are harmony) is dawning, and
the uprising of womanhood is its prophecy and foreshadow.
The first principles of human rights have now for a long
time been abstractly held and believed, and both in Europe and America whole
communities have put them into practical operation in some of their bearings.
Equality before the law, and the right of the governed to choose their governors,
are established maxims of reformed political science; but in the countries
most advanced, these doctrines and their actual benefits
are as yet enjoyed exclusively by the sex that in the battle-field and the
public forum has wrenched them from the old time tyrannies. They are yet
denied to Woman, because she has not yet so asserted or won them for herself;
for political justice pivots itself upon the barbarous principle that "Who
would be free, themselves must strike the blow." Its furthest progress
toward magnanimity is to give arms to helplessness. It has not yet learned
to give justice . For this rule of barbarism there is this much justification,
that although every human being is naturally entitled to every right of
the race, the enjoyment and administration of all rights require such culture
and conditions in their subject as usually lead him to claim and struggle
for them; and the contented slave is left in slavery, and the ignorant man
in darkness, on the inference that he cannot use what he does not desire.
This is indeed true of the animal instincts, but it is false of the nobler
soul; and men must learn that the higher faculties must be first awakened,
and then gratified, before they have done their duty to their race. The
ministry of angels to dependent humanity is the method of Divine Providence,
and among men the law of heaven is, that the "elder shall serve the
younger." But let us not complain that the hardier sex overvalue the
force which heretofore has figured most in the world's affairs. "They
know not what they do" is the apology that crucified
womanhood must concede in justice and pity to the wrong doers. In the order
of things, the material world was to be first subdued. For this coarse conflict,
the larger bones and stronger sinews of manhood are especially adapted,
and it is a law of muscles and of all matter that might shall overcome right.
This is the law of the vegetable world, and it is the law of the animal
world, as well as the law of the animal instincts and of the physical organization
of men; but it is not the law of spirit and affection. They are of such
a nature as to charge themselves with the atonement for all evils, and to
burden themselves with all the sufferings which they would remove.
This wisdom is pure, and peaceable, and gentle, and full
of mercy and of good fruits.
Besides the feebler frame, which under the dynasty of muscles
is degraded, there remains, even after justice has got the upper hand of
force in the world's judgments, a mysterious and undefined difference of
sex that seriously embarrasses the question of equality; or, if that is
granted, in terms of equal fitness for avocations and positions which heretofore
have been the monopoly of men. Old ideas and habits of mind survive the
facts which produced them, as the shadows of night stretch far into the
morning, sheltered in nooks and valleys from the rising light; and it is
the work of a whole creation-day to separate the light from the darkness.
The rule of difference between the sexes must be founded
on the traits which each estimates most highly in the other; and it is not
at all wonderful that some of woman's artificial incapacities and slaveries
may seem to be necessary to some of her excellencies; just as the chivalry
that makes man a butcher of his kind still glares like a glory in the eyes
of admiring womanhood, and all the more because it seems so much above and
unlike her own powers and achievements. Nature does not teach that men and
women are unequal, but only that they are unlike; an unlikeness so naturally
related and dependent that their respective differences by their balance
establish, instead of destroying, their equality.
Men are not in fact, and to all intents, equal among themselves,
but their theoretical equality for all the purposes of justice is more easily
seen and allowed than what we are here to claim for women. Higher views,
nicer distinctions, and a deeper philosophy are required to see and feel
the truths of woman's rights; and besides, the maxims upon which men distribute
justice to each other have been battle-cries for ages, while the doctrine
of woman's true relations in life is a new science, the revelation of an
advanced age, - perhaps, indeed, the very last grand movement of humanity
towards its highest destiny, - too new to be yet fully understood, too grand
to grow out of the broad and coarse generalities which the infancy and barbarism
of society could comprehend.
The rule of force and fraud must be well nigh overturned,
and learning and religion and the fine arts must have cultivated mankind
into a state of wisdom and justice tempered by the most beneficent affections,
before woman can be fully installed in her highest offices. We must be gentle
with the ignorance and patient under the injustice which old evils induce.
Long suffering is a quality of the highest wisdom, and charity beareth all
things for it hopeth all things. It will be seen that I am assuming the
point that the redemption of the inferior, if it comes at all, must come
from the superior. The elevation of a favored caste can have no other providential
purpose than that, when it is elevated near enough to goodness and truth,
it shall draw up its dependents with it.
But, however this may be in the affairs of men as they
are involved with each other, it is clearly so in the matter of woman's
elevation. The tyrant sex, if such we choose to term it, holds such natural
and necessary relations to the victims of injustice, that neither rebellion
nor revolution, neither defiance nor resistance, nor any mode of assault
or defence incident to party antagonism, is either possible, expedient,
or proper. Our claim must rest on its justice, and conquer by its power
of truth. We take the ground, that whatever has been achieved for the race
belongs to it, and must not be usurped by any class or caste. The rights
and liberties of one human being cannot be made the property of another,
though they were redeemed for him or her by the life of that other; for
rights cannot be forfeited by way of salvage, and they are in their nature
unpurchasable and inalienable.
We claim for woman a full and generous investiture of all
the blessings which the other sex has solely or by her aid achieved for
itself. We appeal from men's injustice and selfishness to their principles
For some centuries now, the best of them have been asserting,
with their lives, the liberties and rights of the race; and it is not for
the few endowed with the highest intellect, the largest frame, or even the
soundest morals, that the claim has been maintained, but broadly and bravely
and nobly it has been held that wherever a faculty is given, its highest
activities are chartered by the Creator, and that all objects alike - whether
they minister to the necessities of our animal life or to the superior powers
of the human soul and so are more imperatively needed, because nobler than
the bread that perishes in the use - are, of common right, equally open
to ALL; and that all artificial restraints, for whatever reason imposed,
are alike culpable for their presumption, their folly, and their cruelty.
It is pitiable ignorance and arrogance for either man or
woman now to prescribe and limit the sphere of woman. It remains for the
greatest women whom appropriate culture, and happiest influences shall yet
develop, to declare and to prove what are woman's capacities and relations
in the world.
I will not accept the concession of any equality which
means identity or resemblance of faculty and function. I do not base her
claims upon any such parallelism of constitution or attainment. I ask only
freedom for the natural unfolding of her powers, the conditions most favorable
for her possibilities of growth, and the full play of all those incentives
which have made man her master, and then, with all her natural impulses
and the whole heaven of hope to invite, I ask that she shall fill the place
that she can attain to, without settling any unmeaning questions of sex
and sphere, which people gossip about for want of principles of truth, or
the faculty to reason upon them.
But it is not with the topics of our reform and the discussion
of these that I am now concerned. It is of its position in the world's opinion,
and the causes of this, that I am thinking; and I seek to derive hints and
suggestions as to the method and manner of successful advocacy, from the
inquiry. Especially am I solicitous that the good cause may suffer no detriment
from the theoretical principles its friends may assume, or the spirit with
which they shall maintain them. It is fair to presume that such causes as
have obscured these questions in the general judgment of the governing sex,
must also more or less darken the counsels of those most anxious for truth
and right. If our demand were simply for chartered rights, civil and political,
such as get acknowledgment in paper constitutions, there would be no ground
of doubt. We could plead our common humanity, and claim an equal justice.
We might say that the natural right of self-government is so clearly due
to every human being alike, that it needs no argument to prove it; and if
some or a majority of women would not exercise this right, this is no ground
for taking it from those who would. And the right to the control and enjoyment
of her own property and partnership in all that she helps her husband to
earn and save, needs only to be stated to command instant assent. Her appropriate
avocations might not be so easily settled that a programme could be completed
on theoretical principles merely; but we need discuss no such difficulties
while we ask only for liberty of choice, and opportunities of adaptation;
and the question of her education is solved by the simple principle, that
whatever she can receive is her absolute due.
Yet all these points being so easily disposed of, so far
as they are mere matters of controversy, the advocates of the right need
none the less the wisest and kindest consideration for all the resistance
we must encounter, and the most forbearing patience under the injustice
and insolence to which we must expose ourselves. And we can help ourselves
to much of the prudence and some of the knowledge we shall need, by treating
the prejudices of the public as considerately as if they were principles,
and the customs of society as if they once had some temporary necessity,
and so meet them with the greater force for the claim to respect which we
concede to them. For a prejudice is just like any other error of judgment,
and a custom has sometimes had some fitness to things more or less necessary,
and is not an utter absurdity, even though the reason on which it was based
is lost or removed. Who shall say that there is nothing serious, or respectable,
or just, in the repugnance with which our propositions are received? The
politician who knows his own corruption may be excused for an earnest wish
to save his wife and daughter from the taint, and he must be excused, too,
for not knowing that the corruption would be cured by the saving virtue
which he dreads to expose to risk.
There may be real though very foolish tenderness in the
motive which refuses to open to woman the trades and professions that she
could cultivate and practice with equal profit and credit to herself. The
chivalry that worships womanhood is not mean, though it at the same time
enslaves the objects of its overfond care.
And it is even possible that men may deprive women of their
property and liberties, personal and political, with the kindly purpose
of accommodating their supposed incapacities for the offices and duties
of human life. Harsh judgments and harsh words will neither weaken the opposition,
nor strengthen our hands. Our address is to the highest sentiment of the
times; and the tone and spirit due to it and becoming in ourselves, are
courtesy and respectfulness. Strength and truth of complaint, and eloquence
of denunciation, are easy of attainment; but the wisdom of affirmative principles
and positive science, and the adjustment of reformatory measures to the
exigencies of the times and circumstances, are so much the more useful as
they are difficult of attainment. A profound expediency, as true to principle
as it is careful of success, is, above all things, rare and necessary. We
have to claim liberty without its usually associated independence. We must
insist on separate property where the interests are identical, and a division
of profits where the very being of the partners is blended. We must demand
provisions for differences of policy, where there should be no shadow of
controversy; and the free choice of industrial avocations and general education,
without respect to the distinctions of sex and natural differences of faculty.
In principle these truths are not doubtful, and it is therefore
not impossible to put them in practice, but they need great clearness in
system and steadiness of direction to get them allowance and adoption in
the actual life of the world. The opposition should be consulted where it
can be done without injurious consequences. Truth must not be suppressed,
nor principles crippled, yet strong meat should not be given to babes. Nor
should the strong use their liberties so as to become a stumbling block
to the weak. Above all things, we owe it to the earnest expectation of the
age, that stands trembling in mingled hope and fear of the great experiment,
to lay its foundations broadly and securely in philosophic truth, and to
form and fashion it in practical righteousness. To accomplish this, we cannot
be too careful or too brave, too gentle or too firm; and yet with right
dispositions and honest efforts, we cannot fail of doing our share of the
great work, and thereby advancing the highest interests of humanity.
spoke at length upon the condition of women, and the duties devolving upon
this Convention, that it may do its part toward her elevation.|
|On motion of M.A.W. Johnson, the Nominating Committee were appointed to
nominate a Business Committee, who reported
the following names, which were approved by the Convention:
M.A.W. Johnson, of Ohio; Wm. Lloyd Garrison, of Massachusetts; Ernestine
L. Rose, of New York; Harriet K. Hunt, of Massachusetts; Lucretia Mott,
of Pennsylvania; Lucy Stone, of Massachusetts; W.H. Channing, of Massachusetts;
E.W. Capron, of Rhode Island; Abby H. Price, of Massachusetts; Wm. Fish,
of Massachusetts, Samuel May, Jr., of Massachusetts; Susan Sisson, of Rhode
Island; Anna Q.T. Parsons, of Massachusetts; Frederick Douglass, of New
Lucy Stone and daughter
On motion of S.S. Foster, all persons present were invited
to take part in the discussions, but those only who enrolled their names
as members were allowed to vote.
J.C. Hathaway read letters
from Elizur Wright, E.A.
Lukens, L.A. Hine, and
On motion, adjourned.
The Convention met at 2 o'clock. The President, P.W. Davis,
in the Chair.
The minutes of the morning session were read by H.M. Darlington,
Abby H. Price then offered an Address.
||The Business Committee reported the following Preamble and Resolutions,
offered by E.L. Rose:|
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, - 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.
The resolutions were discussed by W.H. Channing, E.L. Rose, A.K. Foster,
and C.C. Burleigh. On motion adjourned to meet at 7 o'clock.
P.W. Davis in the Chair.
Business of the Convention - the discussion of the preamble and resolution offered at the morning
[sic, but actually afternoon] session. Speakers - W.H. Channing and Lucretia
Mott. Wendell Phillips, on behalf of the Business Committee, reported several
resolutions, which were discussed by W. Phillips, E.L. Rose, L. Mott, A.K.
Foster, J.N. Buffum, and S.S. Foster. The resolutions were as follows:
Resolved, That every human being of full age, and resident for a proper
length of time on the soil of the nation, who is required to obey law, is
entitled to a voice in its enactments; that every such person, whose property
or labor is taxed for the support of government, is entitled to a direct
share in such government. Therefore,
Resolved , That women are clearly entitled to the right of suffrage, and
to be considered eligible to office; the omission to demand which, on her
part, is a palpable recreancy to duty; and the denial of which is a gross
usurpation, on the part of man, no longer to be endured; and that every
party which claims to represent the humanity, civilization, and progress
of the age, is bound to inscribe on its banners, Equality before the law,
without distinction of sex or color.
Resolved, That political rights acknowledge no sex, and therefore the word
"male" should be stricken from every State Constitution.
Resolved, That the laws of property, as affecting married parties, demand
a thorough revisal, so that all rights may be equal between them; - that
the wife may have, during life, an equal control over the property gained
by their mutual toil and sacrifices, be heir to her husband precisely to
the extent that he is heir to her, and entitled, at her death, to dispose
by will of the same share of the joint property as he is.
On motion, adjourned, to meet to-morrow morning, at half
Oct. 24. - The Convention met at half past nine, A.M.
The minutes of yesterday's afternoon and evening sessions
were read by J.C. Hathaway, and adopted.
Letters addressed to the Convention were read from Elizabeth
C. Stanton and O.S. Fowler,
by M.A.W. Johnson, and one from Samuel J. May,
by Mr. Hathaway.
W.H. Channing, from the Business Committee, reported a
series of resolutions.
Resolved, That as women alone can learn by experience, and prove by works,
what is their rightful sphere of duty, we recommend, as next steps, that
they should demand and secure
* 1. Education in primary and high schools, universities, medical, legal,
and theological institutions, as comprehensive and exact as their abilities
prompt them to seek, and their capabilities fit them to receive;
* 2. Partnership in the labors, gains, risks, and remunerations of productive
industry, with such limits only as are assigned by taste, intuitive judgment,
or their measure of spiritual and physical vigor, as tested by experiment;
* 3. A co-equal share in the formation and administration of law, Municipal,
State, and National, through legislative assemblies, courts, and executive
* 4. Such unions as may become the guardians of pure morals and honorable
manners - a high court of appeal in cases of outrage which cannot be and
are not touched by civil or ecclesiastical organizations, as at present
existing, and a medium for expressing the highest views of justice dictated
by human conscience and sanctioned by Holy Inspiration.
Resolved, That a Central Committee be appointed by this
Convention, empowered to enlarge their numbers: on (1) Education; (2) Industrial
Avocations; (3) Civil and Political Rights and Regulations; (4) Social Relations;
who shall correspond with each other and with the Central Committee, hold
meetings in their respective neighborhoods, gather statistics, facts, and
illustrations, raise funds for purposes of publication; and through the
press, tracts, books, and the living agent, guide public opinion upward
and onward in the grand social reform of establishing woman's co-sovereignty
Resolved, That the Central Committee be authorized to call
other Conventions, at such times and places as they shall see fit; and that
they hold office until the next annual Convention.
Harriet K. Hunt read an able essay upon the medical
education of women.
Wendell Phillips reported another series of resolutions, which were discussed by Mrs. Ball,
of Worcester, Antoinette Brown, of Ohio, and C.C. Burleigh.
Resolved , That since the prospect of honorable and useful
employment, in after life, for the faculties we are laboring to discipline,
is the keenest stimulus to fidelity in the use of educational advantages,
and since the best education is what we give ourselves in the struggles,
employments, and discipline of life; therefore, it is impossible that woman
should make full use of the instruction already accorded to her, or that
her career should do justice to her faculties, until the avenues to the
various civil and professional employments are thrown open to arouse her
ambition and call forth all her nature.
Resolved , That every effort to educate woman, until you
accord to her her rights, and arouse her conscience by the weight of her
responsibilities, is futile, and a waste of labor.
Resolved , That the cause we are met to advocate, - the
claim for woman of all her natural and civil rights, - bids us remember
the million and a half of slave women at the South, the most grossly wronged
and foully outraged of all women; and in every effort for an improvement
in our civilization, we will bear in our heart of hearts the memory of the
trampled womanhood of the plantation, and omit no effort to raise it to
a share in the rights we claim for ourselves.
On motion, adjourned till 2 o'clock, P.M.
The President, P.W. Davis, in the chair.
|Business before the Convention - the discussion
of the resolutions offered at the morning session. Speakers - W.A.
Alcott, E.L. Rose, Sojourner Truth, A. Brown,
L. Mott, Frederick Douglass, Wm. Lloyd Garrison, C.C. Burleigh, and A.K.
Adjourned, to meet at 7 o'clock, P.M.
Convened at 7 o'clock, P.M. President in the chair.
Channing read the resolutions presented in the morning meeting, and
accompanied the reading with remarks upon the measures proposed for the
coming year, and the principles which should govern the movement for establishing
woman's co-sovereignty with man.
Tyndale, of Philadelphia, spoke of the business
capacities of women, and the necessity of engaging in active duties
to promote their own development.
Martha H. Mowry, physician, of Providence, Lucy Stone,
S.S. Foster, L. Mott, and A. Brown, occupied
the floor till a late hour. The resolutions were unanimously adopted, and, with the other documents of the Convention,
referred to the Central Committee for publication.
Proceeds of the contributions, $119.65.
Adjourned, sine die
* PAULINA W. DAVIS, Providence, R.I., Chairman .
* SARAH H. EARLE. Worcester, Mass., Secretary .
* WENDELL PHILLIPS, Boston, Mass., Treasurer .
* MARY A.W. JOHNSON, Salem, Ohio.
* WILLIAM H. CHANNING, Boston, Mass.
* GERRIT SMITH, Peterboro', N.Y.
* JOHN G. FORMAN, West Bridgewater, Mass.
* MARTHA H. MOWRY, Providence, R.I.
* LUCY STONE, West Brookfield, Mass.
* JOSEPH C. HATHAWAY, Farmington, N.Y.
* ABBY K. FOSTER, Worcester, Mass.
* PLINY SEXTON, Palmyra, N.Y.
* J. ELIZABETH JONES, Salem, Ohio.
* WILLIAM ELDER, Philadelphia, Penn.
* WILLIAM STEDMAN, Randolph, Stark Co., Ohio.
* EMILY ROBINSON, Marlborough, Mass.
* ABBY H. PRICE, Hopedale, Mass.
* WILLIAM L. GARRISON, Boston, Mass.
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION.
* ELIZA BARNEY, Nantucket, Mass., Chairman .
* MARIAN BLACKWELL, Cincinnati, Ohio, Secretary .
* ELIZABETH C. STANTON, Seneca Falls, N.Y.
* ELIZA TAFT, Dedham, Mass.
* C.I.H. NICHOLS, Brattleboro, Vt.
* CALVIN FAIRBANKS, Maine.
* HANNAH DARLINGTON, Kennet Square, Penn.
* ANN ELIZA BROWN, Brattleboro, Vt.
COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRIAL AVOCATIONS.
* CHARLES F. HOVEY, Boston, Mass., Chairman .
* PHILINDA JONES, Worcester, Mass., Secretary .
* HARRIET K. HUNT, Boston, Mass.
* ELIZABETH BLACKWELL, London, England.
* BENJAMIN S. TREANOR, Boston, Mass.
* EBENEZER D. DRAPER, Hopedale, Milford, Mass.
* PHEBE GOODWIN, Delaware Co., Penn.
* ALICE JACKSON, Avondale, West Chester Co., Penn.
* MARIA WARING, Dublin, Ireland.
COMMITTEE ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL FUNCTIONS.
* ERNESTINE L. ROSE, New York, Chairman .
* LUCY STONE, West Brookfield, Mass., Secretary .
* WENDELL PHILLIPS, Boston, Mass.
* HANNAH STICKNEY, Philadelphia, Penn.
* SARAH HALLOCK, Milton, N.Y.
* ABBY K. FOSTER, Worcester, Mass.
* CHARLES C. BURLEIGH, Plainfield, Conn.
* ELIZABETH C. STANTON, Seneca Falls, N.Y.
* WILLIAM L. GARRISON, Boston, Mass.
COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL RELATIONS.
* LUCRETIA MOTT, Philadelphia, Penn., Chairman .
* WILLIAM H. CHANNING, Boston, Mass., Secretary .
* ANNA Q.T. PARSONS, Boston, Mass.
* WILLIAM H. FISH, Hopedale, Milford, Mass.
* REBECCA PLUMLEY, Philadelphia, Penn.
* ELIZABETH B. CHASE, Valley Falls, R.I.
* JOHN G. FORMAN, West Bridgewater, Mass.
* HENRY FISH, Hopedale, Milford, Mass.
* MARY GREW, Philadelphia, Penn.
COMMITTEE OF PUBLICATION.
* PAULINA W. DAVIS,
* WILLIAM L. GARRISON,
* WILLIAM H. CHANNING.
Read to the "Woman's Rights Convention," at Worcester, by Mrs.
Abby H. Price, of Hopedale,
In our account of the work of Creation, when it was so gloriously finished
in the garden of Eden, by placing there, in equal companionship, man and
woman, made in the image of God, alike gifted with intellect, alike endowed
with immortality, it is said the Creator looked upon his work, and pronounced
it good - that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of
God shouted for joy." Since that time, through the slow rolling of
darkened ages, man has ruled by physical power, and wherever he could gain
the ascendancy, there he has felt the right to dictate - even though it
degraded his equal companion - the mother who bore him - the playmate of
his childhood - the daughter of his love. Thus, in many countries we see
woman reduced to the condition of a slave, and compelled to do all the drudgery
necessary to her lord's subsistence. In others she is dressed up as a mere
plaything, for his amusement; but everywhere he has assumed to be her head
and lawgiver, and only where Christianity has dawned, and right not might
been the rule, has woman had anything like her true position. In this country
even, republican, so called, and Christian, her rights are but imperfectly
recognised, and she suffers under the disability of caste. These are facts
that, in the light of the nineteenth century, demand our attention. "Are
we always to remain in this position" is a question we have come here
The natural rights of woman are co-equal with those of
man. So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he
him; male and female, created he them . There is not one particle of difference
intimated as existing between them. They were both made in the image of
God. Dominion was given to both over every other creature, but not over
each other. They were expected to exercise the vicegerency given to them
by their Maker in harmony and love.
In contending for this co-equality of woman's with man's
rights, it is not necessary to argue, either that the sexes are by nature
equally and indiscriminately adapted to the same positions and duties, or
that they are absolutely equal in physical and intellectual ability; but
only that they are absolutely equal in their rights to life, liberty , and
the pursuit of happiness - in their rights to do , and to be, individually
and socially, all they are capable of, and to attain the highest usefulness
and happiness, obediently to the divine moral law
These are every man's rights, of whatever race or nation,
ability or situation, in life. These are equally every woman's rights, whatever
her comparative capabilities may be - whatever her relations may be. These
are human rights, equally inherent in male and female. To repress them in
any degree is in the same degree usurpation, tyranny, and oppression. We
hold these to be self-evident truths, and shall not now discuss them. We
shall assume that happiness is the chief end of all human beings; that existence
is valuable in proportion as happiness is promoted and secured; and that,
on the whole, each of the sexes is equally necessary to the common happiness,
and in one way or another is equally capable, with fair opportunity, of
contributing to it. Therefore each has an equal right to pursue and enjoyit.
This settled, we contend:
* 1. That women ought to have equal opportunities with men for suitable
and well compensated employment.
* 2. That women ought to have equal opportunities, privileges, and securities
with men for rendering themselves pecuniarily independent.
* 3. That women ought to have equal legal and political rights, franchises,
and advantages with men.
Let us consider each of these points briefly. Women ought
to have equal opportunities with men for suitable and well compensated employment
in all departments of human exertion.
Human beings cannot attain true dignity or happiness except
by true usefulness. This is true of women as of men. It is their duty, privilege,
honor, and bliss to be useful. Therefore give them the opportunity and encouragement.
If there are positions, duties, occupations, really unsuitable to females,
as such , let these be left to males. If there are others unsuitable to
men, let these be left to women. Let all the rest be equally open to both
sexes. And let the compensation be graduated justly, to the real worth of
the services rendered, irrespective of sex.
However just and fair this may seem, it is far from actual
experience. Tradition so palsies public sentiment with regard to the comparative
privileges and rights of the sexes, that but little even is thought of the
oppressions that exist, and woman seems to have made up her mind to an eternal
inferiority. I say eternal , because development constitutes our greatness
and our happiness
If we do not properly develope our human natures in this
sphere of existence, it is a loss that can never be made up. Hence, for
the sake of her angel-nature, her immortality, woman should have her inalienable
rights. She cannot act freely, be true to her moral nature, or to her intellect;
she cannot gratify her charity or her taste, without pecuniary independence,
that which is produced by suitable and well compensated employment. Woman,
in order to be equally independent with man, must have a fair and equal
chance. He is in no wise restricted from doing, in every department of human
exertion, all he is able to do. If he is bold and ambitious, and desires
fame, every avenue is open to him. He may blend science and art, producing
a competence for his support, until he chains them to the car of his genius,
and, with Fulton and Morse, wins a crown of imperishable gratitude. If he
desires to tread the path of knowledge up to its glorious temple-summit,
he can, as he pleases, take either of the learned professions as instruments
of pecuniary independence, - while he plumes his wings for a higher and
higher ascent. Not so with woman. Her rights are not recognised as equal
. Her sphere is circumscribed not by her ability, but by her sex. The wings
of her genius are clipped, because she is a woman. If perchance her taste
leads her to excellence in the way they give her leave to tread, she is
worshipped as almost divine; but if she reaches for laurels which they have
in view, they scream after her, " You are a woman ." She is sneered
at for her weakness, while she is allowed little or no chance for development.
The number of her industrial avocations are unnecessarily restricted, far
more than reason demands. And when she is engaged in the same occupations
with men, her remuneration is greatly below what is awarded to her stronger
associates. Those women who are married, and have the care of families,
have duties and responsibilities that rest peculiarly upon themselves, and
which they must find their highest pleasure in performing. But while they
have disciplined themselves by faithfulness and attention to all these,
say not to them - you have done all you may do, keep your minds and attention
within that narrow circle, though your mature and ripened intellects would
fain be interested in whatever concerns the larger family of man, and your
affections strong in a healthful growth, yearn towards the suffering and
the afflicted of every country.
And why not allow to those who have not become "happy
wives and mothers," those who are anxious of leading active and useful
lives, of maintaining an honorable independence, a fair chance with men,
to do all they can do with propriety?
At present it is well nigh a misfortune to a poor man to
have a large family of daughters. Compared with sons their chances for an
honest livelihood are few. Though they may have intellect of a high order,
yet they must be educated to be married as the chief end of their being.
They must not forget that they are females in their aspirations for independence,
for greatness, for education. Their alternatives are few. The confined factory,
the sedentary, blighting life of half-paid seamstresses, perhaps a chance
at folding books, or type setting may keep them along until the happy moment
arrives, when they have an offer of marriage, and their fears for sustenance
end by a union with the more favored sex. This should not be so. Give girls
a fair chance to acquaint themselves with any business they can well do.
Our daughters should fit themselves equally with our sons, for any post
of usefulness and profit that they may choose. What good reason is there
why the lighter trades should not open with equal facilities for their support,
and why their labor should not be well paid in any useful and profitable
department? Is it fair that strong and able men capable of tilling the soil,
should be paid high wages for light mechanical labor that is denied woman
because she is a woman, and which she could with equal facility execute?
The newspaper press, clerkships, and book-keeping, not now to mention different
offices in Government, (whose duties are principally writing,) would, if
they were equally open to our daughters, afford them an opportunity of well
paid and congenial employment; would relieve them from the necessity of
marriage or want, and thereby add dignity and energy to their character.
What good reason is there why women should not be educated to mercantile
pursuits, to engage in commerce, to invent, to construct, in fine to do
anything she can do? Why so separate the avocations of the sexes? I believe
it impossible for woman to fulfil the design of God in her creation until
her brethren mingle with her more as an equal, as a moral being, and lose
in the dignity of her immortal nature the idea of her being a female. Until
social intercourse is purified by the forgetfulness of sex we can never
derive high benefit from each other's society in the active business of
life. Man inflicts injury upon woman, unspeakable injury in placing her
intellectual and moral nature in the background, and woman injures herself
by submitting to be regarded only as a female. She is called upon loudly,
by the progressive spirit of the age, to rise from the station where man,
not God, has placed her, and to claim her rights as a moral and responsible
being, equal with man.
As such , both have the same sphere of action, and the
same duties devolve on both, though these may vary according to circumstances.
Fathers and mothers have sacred duties and obligations devolving upon them
which cannot belong to others. These do not attach to them as man and woman,
but as parents, husbands, and wives. In all the majesty of moral power,
in all the dignity of immortality let woman plant herself side by side with
man on the broad platform of equal human rights. By thus claiming privileges,
encouragements, and rights with man, she would gain the following results:
* 1. A fair development of her natural abilities and capabilities, physical,
intellectual, economical, and moral.
* 2. A great increase of self-respect, conscious responsibility, womanly
dignity, and influence.
* 3. Pecuniary competence, or the ready resource for acquiring it in some
department of human exertion.
* 4. A far higher moral character, etc.
Now take a survey of things as they are. The general opinion
that woman is inferior to man, bears with terrible and paralyzing effect
on those who are dependent upon their labor, mental or physical, for a subsistence.
I allude to the disproportionate value set upon the time and labor of men
and women. A man engaged in teaching can always, I believe, command a higher
price for his services, than a woman, though he teach the same branch, and
though he be in no respect superior to the woman. It is so in every occupation
in which both engage indiscriminately. For example, in tailoring, a man
has twice as much for making a coat, or pantaloons, as a woman, although
the work done by each may be equally good. In the employments which are
peculiar to women, their time is estimated at only half the value of that
of men. The washer-woman works as hard in proportion as the wood-sawyer,
yet she makes not more than half as much by a day's work. Thus by narrowing
the sphere of woman, and reducing her remuneration of labor so unjustly,
her resources are few and she finds it hard to acquire an honorable independence.
Necessity, we are compelled to believe, cruel necessity , often drives her
to vice, especially in our large cities; as the only alternative from starvation!
Deplorable and heart sickening as the statement is, I have good authority
for saying that more than half of the prostitutes of our towns are driven
to that course of life from necessity! M. Duchatelet, in his investigation
in Paris, established this fact in the clearest manner. In his work, Vol.
I., p. 96, we read the following statement: "Of all causes of prostitution
in Paris, and probably in all large towns, there are none more influential
than the want of work and indigence resulting from insufficient earnings.
What are the earnings of our laundresses, our seamstresses, our milliners?
Compare the wages of the most skillful with the more ordinary and moderately
able, and we shall see if it be possible for these latter to provide even
the strict necessaries of life. And if we further compare the prices of
their labor with that of others less skillful, we shall cease to wonder
that so large a number fall into irregularities, thus made inevitable! This
state of things has a natural tendency to increase in the actual state of
our affairs, in consequence of the usurpation by men, of a large class of
occupations, which it would be more honorable in our sex to resign to the
other. Is it not shameful, for example, to see in Paris thousands of men
in the prime of their age in shops and warehouses, leading a sedentary and
effeminate life, which is only suitable for women?"
M. Duchatelet has other facts, which show that even filial
and maternal affection drive many to occasional prostitution as a means,
and the only means left them, of earning bread for those depending on them
for support. He says, "It is difficult to believe that the trade of
prostitution should be embraced by certain women as a means of fulfilling
their filial or maternal duties. Nothing, however, is more true . It is
by no means rare to see married women, widowed, or deserted by their husbands,
becoming abandoned, with the sole object of saving their families from dying
with hunger. It is still more common to find young females, unable to procure,
from honest occupations, adequate provision for their aged and infirm parents,
reduced to prostitute themselves in order to eke out their livelihood. I
have found," says he, "too many particulars regarding these two
classes, not to be convinced that they are far more numerous than is generally
imagined." Had I time, I could read you pages from the London "Morning
Chronicle," on the Metropolitan Poor, where the most affecting cases
are stated of poverty and of destitution, enough to melt the heart of steel,
where poor creatures have been driven to vice from absolute starvation ,
- suffering remorse and self-loathing the most intolerable. Poor outcasts!
- miserable lepers! Their touch even, in the very extremity of human suffering,
shaken off as if it were a pollution! They seem to be considered far more
out of the pale of humanity than negroes on a slave plantation, or felons
in a Pasha's dungeon! It is thought to be discreditable to a woman even
to know of their existence. You may not mention them in public. You may
not allude to them in a book without staining its pages. Our sisters, whose
poverty is caused by the oppressions of society, who are driven to sin by
want of bread, - then regarded with scorn and turned away from with contempt!
I appeal to you in their behalf, my friends. Is it not time to throw open
to women, equal resources with men, for obtaining honest employment? If
the extremity of human wretchedness - a condition which combines within
itself every element of suffering, mental and physical, circumstantial and
intrinsic - is a passport to our compassion, every heart should bleed for
the position of these poor sufferers. I have the authority of Dr. Ryan,
and of Mr. Mayhew, persons of well known integrity, who have investigated
most faithfully and patiently the matter, - though it was a difficult and
painful task, which they prosecuted with the most unwearied benevolence,
sometimes travelling ten miles to ascertain the characters of women who
made their statements to them, - and they publicly affirm, that nearly all
were driven to dissolute lives because there were no means open to them
of obtaining an adequate maintenance. The writer in the Edinburgh Review,
who presented extracts from the elaborate researches of Duchatelet, in Paris,
says, "We believe , on our honor, that nine out of ten originally modest
women who fall from virtue, fall from motives or feelings in which sensuality
and self have no share. Aye, we believe that hard necessity, - that grinding
poverty, - that actual want, induced by their scanty resources, drive them
to vice." Now let me present his statistics.
Of the 5,183 Parisian prostitutes, his investigations show
that:- 2,690 were driven to the profession by parental abandonment, excessive
want, and actual destitution; 86 thus earned food for the support of parents
or children; 280 were driven by shame from their homes; 2,181 were abandoned
by their seducers, and had nothing to turn to for a living! You may say,
this may be the case in the old countries, but not in our own cities. Very
little difference exists in the state of actual society here. Women are
the same proscribed class here as elsewhere. The same difference is made
between male and female labor. Public opinion surrounds them with ten thousand
restrictions. The law disfranchises them. Christianity, to whose influence
alone woman is indebted for all social dignity that she now enjoys, is appealed
to, as sustaining the present degree of dominion over her, and tortured
to prove her inferiority . Thus the cause exists, and why may not the evil
also? It does exist to a fearful degree. And, painful though the contemplation
of the sad picture may be, it is nevertheless our duty to investigate and
seek its cause - then to apply the remedy - and to do now what we may to
educate a different public sentiment.
I come now to my second proposition. Women ought to have
equal opportunities, privileges, and securities with men for rendering themselves
pecuniarily independent. And why not? Can woman be independent, free, and
dignified without the means? Can she provide for future wants, exercise
proper economy, without the means for so doing? Without a certain degree
of pecuniary independence, it is impossible for man or woman to rise in
usefulness, excellence, and enjoyment to the height of their natural capabilities.
Women at present are cramped, dwarfed, and cowed down. Mothers, with large
families of girls, though they may see in them intellect and genius, which,
were they boys, might open to them in the future the pathway to independence
and perhaps to fame, find that to girls nearly all avenues are closed. There
are some branches of the fine arts, if they are very remarkably gifted,
where they may find brilliant and dazzling success, as in the case of Jenny
Lind. They may perhaps excel as poets and as painters. But these are the
exceptions. Greatness is rare. Though they may see in their daughters the
large reasoning powers that would enable them with much advantage to pursue
the study of the law, yet Blackstone and Coke must be shut to them. The
bright pinions of their intellect remain unfolded, and they are perhaps
permitted to learn the trade of a milliner, already crowded to excess, and
miserably paid. For men, too, have monopolized the profits in that business,
and hire their milliners at the lowest possible wages. Very few girls can
acquire money enough to compete with the aspirants of the other sex, and
so they must submit to their destiny. Again, the mother may see largely
developed in her daughter qualities that might fit her eminently for a physician.
A distinguished doctor once said, "there are no diseases, there are