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Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Advocacy Collection

The Woman's Advocate, Volume 1, an electronic edition

by William P. Tomlinson, Ed. [Tomlinson, William P.]

date: 1869-1870
source publisher: Wm. P. Tomlinson
collections: Women's Advocacy, Abolition, Freedom, and Rights

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THE NEW ENGLAND WOMEN'S CLUB.

VOL. I, NO. I. JANUARY, 1869.

Kate Field

[REPORTED].

A WOMEN'S CLUB! Aye, nor yet a Woman's Club, for men are eligible as well, which is but just, although perhaps there is generosity in the justness when the ostracism of sex in clubs of masculine origin is taken into consideration. But the doctrine oftu quoque never yet redeemed society and New England women have shown a proper appreciation of genus as well as species, in doing their best to remove the false barriers built up by conventionality between fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, lovers and sweethearts. In these times so rich in promise for the ripening of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," the good women of Boston are trying to lend a helping hand to their sex. Believing in cooperation, and in the absolute necessity of what has so long been wanting, an esprit du corps, they have established a Club with the following unpretending Constitution:

Article 1.--The name of this association shall be the New England Women's Club.

Article 2.--The objects of this association are, primarily, to furnish a quiet, central resting-place, and place of meeting in Boston, for the comfort and convenience of its members, and ultimately to become an organized social centre for united thought and action.

Article 3.--The officers of the association are to consist of a president, vice presidents, secretaries, treasurer, and assistant treasurer if needed, auditor, and a board of not less than twelve nor more than twenty-five directors, to be chosen at the annual meeting.

Article 4.--The officers of the association shall be ex-officio directors.

Article 5.--The board of directors shall have entire charge of the affairs of the association.

Article 6.--To become a member, it is necessary to be proposed by a member, and accepted by the board of directors.

Article 7.--Gentlemen may become associate members.

Article 8.--The fee of membership and associate membership shall be ten dollars for the first year, and five dollars for each succeeding year. The fee for life-membership and associate life-membership shall be fifty dollars.

Article 9.--Associate members shall be entitled to the privileges of the parlors and restaurant.

Article 1O.--The directors have the right of electing honorary members.

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Article 11.--The annual meeting shall be held on Saturday of anniversary week, and shall be called by the secretary, either byindividual notification, or by advertising at least a week in advance, in prominent Boston papers.

Article 12.--The financial year shall begin the first of May. Subscriptions must be paid at the annual meeting, or within a month from that time.

Article 13.--The board of directors shall have the right to fill vacancies in their own body.

Article 14.-The Constitution may be amended at any annual or special meeting by a two-thirds vote of the members present; the proposed amendment having been presented at a previous directors' meeting, and notice of the intention to amend having been appended to the call of the meeting.

With these definite articles as the basis of organization, the Club has become an accomplished fact. The list of officers comprises the names of women of the best intellectual as well as social standing. Honoring itself in selecting as President Mrs. Caroline M. Severance, who has devoted the leisure of her life to every benevolent appeal, the Club has for its Vice-Presidents:--Mrs. Ednah D. Cheney, Mrs. William Claflin, Mrs. James Freeman Clarke, Mrs. Otto Dresel, Mrs. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Miss Lucy Goddard, Mrs. ~ Julia Ward Howe, Mrs. Horace Mann, Miss Abby W. May, Mrs. Samuel Parkman, Miss Elizabeth P. Peabody, Mrs. Josiah Quincy and Mrs. Williarn B. Rogers.

The Secretaries are:--Miss Lucia M. Peabody and Miss Ellen T. Emerson.

The Treasurer is :--Mrs. Jona. A. Lane. The Board of Directors:--Miss Jane Alexander, Mrs. M. G. Browne, Miss F. L. Macdaniel, Mrs. Nina Moore, Mrs. H. M. Pitman, Mrs. M. C. Savage, Mrs. Samuel E. Sewall, Miss Sarah H. Southwick and Mrs. Esther Tiffany.

On the sixth day of November took place the Club's first social assembly, when, upon calling the meeting to order, Mrs. Severance made the following brief remarks:

"Friends: It becomes my duty to give you a formal welcome in behalf of the officers of our Club, to the quarters, which, as you see, we have selected for our social rendezvous. I bid you welcome in their name, as guests or as members, to the privileges and companionship of our organization. It has no historic past to recall--only a brief record which will be given you in its season; but to its generous and cultivated society, and its great expectations, I may confidently invite you. For, we count among us enthusiasts who dream of finding here the matronly and manly experience and wisdom, the youthful vigor and hope, with which to confront the vexed problems and difficulties which beset woman's daily life, under its best and its worst conditions, enthusiasts who dare to dream that | | 27 from hence, in crises of social or national peril, heroic voices may go forth as those which now thrill over the 'olive plumed plains' and hills of Spain, the thousand echoes of a woman poet's inspiration.* Our organization is a novel one, but we do not claim it as the prophecy of a new era. It is the natural outgrowth of the vital, robust, earnest age in which we find ourselves. We do not expect to give the world unanswerable demonstration of the truth of our poet's words, that

'It is the heart and not the brain,
That to the highest doth attain.'

But we do indulge the hope that we may humbly illustrate our faith, that the united heart and brain, after the divine order, in counsel and action will help to usher in the coming of the earth's 'great bridal chaste and calm'--'the crowning grace of humankind.'"

Then introducing Miss Abby May, Mrs. Severance gave way to the business report. Miss May is one of the stanchest of women. Her executive ability is unquestioned, and her devotion to the New England branch of the sanitary commission during the war can never be too highly commended. Miss May said:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Club: It seems appropriate at this first general meeting that you should be informed of the present status of the Club, of what it has already accomplished, and what it is prepared to do during the winter; and, in behalf of the executive committee, it gives me pleasure to make such a statement. * * * * Organized in May last, the officers at once set about to secure a 'local habitation.' After duly inspecting all the apartments that offered, these were taken as promising--by their central situation, general convenience and pleasantness of aspect--to answer the immediate need as well as any that came within our reach, pecuniarily. They consist of two parlors, in which we are now assembled, an adjoining pantry, and a lodging room on the floor above. The moment an increase of members renders them too small, we shall by that very increase be justified in having ampler accommodations.

"During the summer, the rooms have been open daily, including Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and the comfort of a quiet resting-place has been frequently enjoyed. The lodging room has been often used, and many impromptu lunches have been served. Beyond this, we did not expect to go, and our success gives us reason to be satisfied. * * * * To-day, as we begin the first winter of the Club, we number one hundred and eighteen members, and seventeen associate members, whose names are recorded alphabetically in a book always open for inspection. Our treasurer reports that she has received $1,479.63; has expended for rent $350, for salary of clerk $100, for incidentals $366.77; and so has | | 28 in hand $672.86. This sum we hope to increase steadily by the addition of members.

"Our working organization consists of three sub-committees. The first is of 'art and literature,' with six members, Mrs Julia Ward Howe, in the chair. It is charged with the arrangement of receptions, as well as of literary and other entertainments. The second committee is of 'work,' with five members, Mrs. C. M. Severance in the chair. It has charge of the registry and presenting and arranging any other work which may seem to belong to the Club. ,The third committee, on 'business,' has six members, Miss Lucy Goddard in the chair, and has charge of all affairs connected with carrying out the plans of the other committees, and the general management of the Club. These committees are happy to receive suggestions, each in its own department, from their fellow-members.

"The committee on 'art and literature' presents the following as its plan for the winter: On the first Monday of every month a literary entertainment will be provided at 7 1-2 o'clock. The ever-welcome names of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry James, among others, are upon their list as having promised papers for these occasions. On these evenings the reading will begin promptly at 8 o'clock. * * * Discussion and conversation will follow, if the company is so inclined, and the rooms will remain open until the usual hour of closing. On the third Monday of every month a discussion will be had, on a subject previously announced, to be conducted by some person especially appointed to that duty for every occasion, who will perhaps open the discussion with a brief paper, or a few remarks. These afternoons are intended to be less formal than the evenings, but the discussions will be upon subjects of real importance and interest. We hope for many a word of instruction, enlightenment, encouragement and good cheer. On the other Mondays of the month the executive committee will hold receptions of a quite informal character, from 4 to 9 o'clock p. m. From 6 to 7 tea and bread and butter will be in readiness for the convenience of those who wish a simple tea at a moderate cost. It is hoped that from the better acquaintance which must spring from these afternoons, much pleasure and profit may result. The members are, for the most part, workers; and though the Club was organized largely for individual pleasure and convenience, it was hoped that good would result from it to a far more extensive circle than its own members If there should occur need of cooperation in any general work, as there was during the war, and as there may be again--let us hope, however, from a different cause--we feel that the acquaintances formed and the relations established at these afternoons, will help essentially in the doing of good work. But let me say that, at present, no work is proposed, and whenever there is, no one is in the least involved in it, because of membership. Some of you look forward to new opportunities for exertion here; others, already overburdened with the cares and responsibilities of life, seek relaxation. We trust both tastes will be met and gratified. Our ideal for the Club is, that it shall be a pleasant extension of home-life, never a substitution for it. And let us not forget that the word 'home' implies duties as well as satisfactions. We hope to combine here the freedom of home, with due restraints. Our large family circle gives us many advantages--it requires from | | 29 as corresponding considerations. A small household may lay aside restraint almost entirely, and yet keep within the bounds of courtesy and order; while similar regardlessness here, would surely bring discomfort and disorder. The member of a small family has the rights and privileges of a few to remember and consider; here we have to share our own comfort and convenience with many. We are trying a new experiment for women; and, we have full faith that it not only may but will succeed. Your committee on 'art and literature' invite you, therefore, to set apart your Mondays for 'Club days,' assuring you that they will use their best efforts to make them red-letter days.

"The rooms, as heretofore, will be open day 'and evening for the use of members and associate members. The clerk will be present constantly, to answer questions, take charge of parcels, and in other ways, to contribute to the comfort of members. She is prepared to furnish tea at any time, and will provide hot oysters, chops, or steak, at short notice. The lodgings and bath-rooms are for members only. * * * Each person, on entering the room, is requested to write his name and address in the visitor's book. It involves, nothing, implies nothing except that the person signing, has visited the rooms.

"You will be interested to hear a word about the registry. Our intention is that it shall contain the names, addresses, and references of all women offering service of a higher order than 'house-servants. Like the well-known barber, we feel compelled to draw the line somewhere. The registry is open free of charge to all members and associate members. Friends of members may use it on payment of one dollar for each satisfactory employé secured.

"We hope to keep a list of charities here, such as may be of use and of interest, and will be prepared to answer questions in reference thereto, for the benefit of those of you who may be comparative strangers in. Boston.

"Checks have been issued at one dollar for a package of ten, by which members may admit children or lady friends to the rooms, the member being responsible for the good conduct of the visitor whom she thus admits. Thus ladies not members may avail themselves of the conveniences of the Club. It is understood, however, that these checks are not for persons living within such reach of the Club as would presuppose membership.

"This statement is only of our plan for the immediate future. Many schemes are in our minds, which may be carried out as our numbers increase and good fellow ship prevails; but then, as now, success must depend upon the good will and assistance of the members. Chiefly must we depend upon individual exertion to increase our numbers. When we can count five hundred members, we shall feel able to carry into execution all the plans that promise to be valuable for ourselves and others. I will not detain you to specify what these may be. No doubt many plans for usefulness and for employment will have already presented themselves to your minds. We bespeak your good word, your counsel and your friendly coöperation. With these, we feel confident of success."

Miss May's frank address was succeeded by the reading of several original poems by Mrs. Julia Ward Howe who, since then, has proved the bravery of her soul in accepting the Presidency of the New England Equal Rights Association. An acknowledged leader in society, Mrs. | | 30 Howe had much to lose and little to gain in becoming so prominently associated with a movement ignored by the world of fashion. That she has thus identified herself with the cause of Woman, bespeaks for her the gratitude of all such of her sex as are sufficiently intelligent, to appreciate the noble stand she has taken.

Among the poems read by Mrs. Howe was the following, inscribed to the Woman's Club:

You will speak for a stately measure, where matron meets with maid
In an equal scope and honor, for a future unbetrayed;
You will show me the warlike virgins, with the handy bow and shield,
Who bridled their steeds for battle, and held the contested field.

Sure, Artemis is your Goddess, I have traced her way in the wood
Pursuing her winged quarry, through forest and crag and flood;
And when the gay world around me is hushed in Well-needed rest,
I have watched her silver needle embroider old ocean's crest.

But I see the Sabine sisters, unhandsomely borne away
With sudden fright and assaulting, a priceless and powerless prey;
At the foot of each startled captive, her soldier doth lowly kneel,
To proffer the ring and distaff, the emblems of civic weal.

Nor arms had they nor defences, to cope with those rugged men,
Small use for the tender muscles at the iron grasp to strain;
With a sudden grace they yielded, to a certain deep-heard voice;
The infant State did woo them with pleading beyond their choice.

So, when the brief storm was ended, they turned to bless their foes;
And out of the captive maiden, the Roman matron rose.
Thrift measured the state of her dwelling, and early and late she span
For the weal of the coming nation, the honor of wife and man.

The anger and shame of their capture o'ercoming the trance of fear,
The city gates are assaulted, and vengeance is quick and near;
"You may keep the wealth you ravished from Sabine hill and plain,
But the jewels not of our households, our women give us again."

But the women said: "Sires and brothers, we show you husbands and sons;
If these are the arms that reared us, yet here are our little ones;
The hearts that we left were lonely, but darker and lonelier still
We should leave the snow-piled cradles we guard with unfailing will.

This theft shall return in riches, in beauty and strength four-fold,
Time shall render back your treasure, beloved above grain or gold:
So the word that you bid us utter for patience, reasons and peace;
We stand for the oneness of Nature--let rapine and vengeance cease."

Since this first social meeting, papers have been read by members on the condition of the Freedmen, on the Woman Movement in Europe, and on Kindergartens. On the first Monday in December, Mr. Henry | | 31 James, author of "Substance and Shadow," an author who stands deservedly high in the Republic of Letters, was the essayist of the evening. Mr. James is so intensely individual in his ideas and in his mode of expression, that no one unless born for the purpose and then steeped in Swedenborg, can adequately report him. The following resumé therefore, gives but a very thin skeleton of a well filled out essay evolved from much thought:--

The subject of Mr. James's Essay was the historic significance of Woman. He began by saying that a man of fervid intellect whom he knew in his youth, and who was run away with by the idea of Woman, used to say to him when he (Mr. James) appealed to history in their discussions: "No more of history if you please; we have had vastly too, much already of his-story, for a very disreputable one it is; what we want now is her-story alone, and if you can't give us that, pray be silent." It was her-story then that Mr. James proposed to tell in his essay. He set out by sharply discriminating between woman in the abstract and woman in the concrete, or between woman and women. There was more in man and woman than there was in all men and all women. The more you multiplied those latter the further away you got from the former. Man and woman are both infinite with all God's infinitude; while men and women are finite--the former with all nature's finiteness; the latter with man's finiteness superadded thereto. Man expresses that descending movement of the creative providence which results in nature or the world; woman that ascending or return movement of the same providence which results in history or the Church. Woman expresses what is private, sacred, divine in our nature; man what is public, secular, merely human. Man's distinctive activity is physical and moral, being more particularly identified with the civic consciousness of the race. Woman's action is of a higher or more spiritual scope, being identified with the social and aesthetic life of the race. It would be absurd of course for women to claim to be woman in any such sense as to exclude men for woman herself presupposes man, or starts from the low level of his personality, to lead the consciousness of the race up to God again, whence man has previously brought it down. In short men are nothing but conscious forms of life, reflecting each in his puny degree that divinely created man who is one with all | | 32 mineral, vegetable and animal substance, being identical in fact with nature: and women are only like forms of consciousness, reflecting each in her petty measure that divinely redeemed man, who is one with all regenerate human form, being identical in fact with spirit.

Mr. James found it necessary to remove from the way of his thought a deep-rooted prejudice in regard to creation, which, wherever it is operative, hopelessly enfeebles the mind's action. He said we were wont always to put the cart before the horse. In our estimate of spiritual or divine things,, by making what is first in creative order--the creature--last; and what is last--the, Creator--first. He went into an argumentative detail, the purport of which was to prove that the objective or formal element in all our familiar life and action, which is what we outwardly do, rightfully controls or determines its subjective or substantial element, which is what we inwardly are; and hence that the great epic of creation, which we call nature and history, amounts after all and at most only to a revelation of the creative name in the created nature, and has no manner of claim consequently to exist absolutely or in itself. Having demonstrated this to his own satisfaction, Mr. James proceeded to apply it to the interpretation of nature and history. Creation was not a simple but a composite effort of the creative energy, what we call nature or the world, meaning thereby Man, constituting its downward or centrifugal tendency, its tendency to go out of itself; what we call history or the church, meaning thereby Woman, constituting its centripetal or return tendency, its tendency to abide in what is not itself; and finally what we call human society or fellowship being the grand synthesis of these opposing tendencies, the grand unitary result in which they become eternally reconciled or married. We have had no true society as yet upon earth, for society means the ample and exact harmony of the universal and the individual life. We have had only the two memorial pillars of such society, in the State and the Church; the former proving itself void of all positive worth, and instinct, with only a typical virtue, in making one man rich at the expense of penury to a thousand others the latter by blessing a small minority of mankind, at the expense of cursing to the vast majority. All this disorder has come out of the fact that the masculine or material and generic force in life has dominated its feminine or spiritual and specific force. Accordingly when | | 33 true society comes it will reverse this state of things, by giving primacy to the feminine element in existence, and reducing the masculine element to a subservient Place. Mr. James begged not to be misunderstood. In exalting woman's historic function above that of man, he had no intention to take part in the petty altercation which was springing up between men and women. He thought that men would probably continue to claim the highest place in the synagogue, because in Man himself we see the infinite dragged down and obscured under finite conditions; and that women would continue to accept the lowest seats, because in Woman herself we see this conceited finite restored to its right mind, and exalted to infinite dimensions: and surely what is high always gives precedence to what is low. Nothing could be smaller than to keep up the statutory disabilities under which women now labor, and which subject their material interests so much to the abusive control of men.

Mr. James would have every barrier destroyed to women's freest activity in any line they themselves pleased. He had a firm conviction that if woman had been womanly in the past in spite of man's degrading tyranny, she would be much more womanly in the future, when relieved from it and left to her own divine instincts.

The only possible stumbling block in the way of the New England Women's Club, is the most important one of money. Emerson has said somewhere, I think, that no woman is as rich as all women ought to be, and there is a solemn truth in this dictum, however foolishly money may at times be squandered. The majority of the women composing this Club are poor; the majority of those women who are most valuable to the Club and for whom it is organized are poor; for this reason the fees have been reduced to a minimum, in consequence of which the Club must necessarily slowly crawl when, were it properly endowed, it might take wing and soar. That any wealthy man or woman of radical proclivities should come to the rescue and make hundreds of women happy by giving them the, means of doing unto others as they would be done by, is a consummation' as unlikely as it is devoutly to be wished.

Notes

Page 27 - . *Carolina Coronada--instrumental in presenting a Petition to the Provisional Government, numerously signed by thousands of Spanish women, begging with "cries of the soul" that emancipation of the Negro be universal.

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