- Volume: THE WOMAN'S ADVOCATE
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VOL. I, NO. I. JANUARY, 1869.
THE BOSTON WOMAN'S RIGHTS CONVENTION.
THE closing of the year, 1868, was remarkable for the number of Conventions held in various sections of the Union. At Boston, Providence and Vineland were large assemblages, holding sessions of the most gratifying character, and awakening the deepest interest in the Movement. Perhaps, of all, the most important, considered in a national point of view, was the Woman's Suffrage Convention held at Boston on the 18th and 19th days of November, pursuant to a Call numerously signed by women and men largely representing the culture, art and letters of New England. The Meeting was called to order by Mrs. Caroline M. Severance; and an organization effected by the election of Rev. James Freeman Clark, President, assisted by numerous Vice-Presidents and other officers. The sessions continued throughout two days, comprising six in all; with a decided increase of attendance and deepening of interest to the close. Among those well-known, whose presence lent strength to the Movement, were John G. Whittier, L. Maria Child, William Lloyd Garrison, and Henry Wilson. Letters were received from George William Curtis, Gov. Bullock, John Neal and others. Addresses were made by Rev. James Freeman Clark, Henry Wilson, Lucy Stone, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry B. Blackwell, and many friends or strangers present. On the second day a permanent organization was formed entitled:
THE NEW ENGLAND SUFFRAGE ASSOCIATION.
A CONSTITUTION was adopted, and the following officers were chosen for the year.
PRESIDENT--JULIA WARD HOWE.
VICE-PRESIDENTS--Wm. Lloyd Garrison of Boston; Paulina W. Davis of Providence; James Freeman Clarke of Boston; Sarah S. Russell of Boston; John Neal of Portland; Lucy Goddard of Boston; S. E. Sewall of Melrose; Lydia Emerson of Concord, Mass; Isabella B. Hooker of Hartford; Harriet K. Hunt of Boston; J. Hutchinson, Jr., of West Randolph, Vt.; Mrs. Nathaniel White of Concord, N. H.; Louisa M. Alcott of Concord, Mass.; and John G. Whittier of Amesbury, Mass.
CORRESPONDING SECRETARY--Sarah Clark of Boston.
RECORDING SECRETARY-Charles K. Whipple of Boston.
TREASURER-Ebenezer Draper of Boston.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE-Lucy Stone Blackwell of New Jersey; Thomas W. | | 55 Higginson of Newport, R. I.; Caroline M. Severance of Newton; F. W. Bird of East Walpole; Mrs. Sargent of Boston; Nathaniel White of Concord, N. H.; R. P. Hallowell of Boston; S. S. Foster of Worcester, Sarah S. Southwick of Needham, Rowland Connor of Boston; B. L. Bowles of Cambridge, George H. Vibbert of Rockport, Olympia Brown of Weymouth.
The following Declaration of principles was adopted as the basis of a permanent organization:
DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES.
1. Believing in the national equality of the two sexes, and that Women ought to enjoy the same legal rights and privileges as men, and that as long as Women are denied the elective franchise they suffer a great wrong, and society a deep and incalculable injury, the undersigned agree to unite in an association to be called the "New England Woman Suffrage Association."
2. The object of the Association shall be to procure the right of suffrage for Women, and to effect such changes in the laws as shall place women in all respects on an equal footing with men.
3. The officers of the Society shall be a President, thirteen Vice-Presidents, a Treasurer, a Corresponding and Recording Secretary, and an Executive Committee of nine persons beside the President, Secretary, and Treasurer, who shall be members ex-officio. All the officers shall be chosen at the annual meeting, to continue in office for one year and until others, are chosen in their place.
4. Any person may be a member of the Association upon the payment of an annual contribution as a life-member by the payment of twenty dollars.
5. The President shall preside at all meetings of the Society, or, in his or her absence, the Senior Vice President.
6. The Treasurer shall collect and take charge of funds, make all payments, keep regular accounts, to be audited by the Executive Committee.
7. The Recording Secretary shall keep the records, and the Corresponding Secretary shall conduct the correspondence of the Association.
8. The Executive Committee shall manage the business of the Association, may elect honorary members, call meetings of the Society, prepare petitions to the Legislature, issue publications, and employ lecturers and agents, and take any measures they may think fit to forward the objects of the Association, and fill all vacancies that occur prior to the annual meeting.
9. The annual meeting of the Association shall be held on such day in the last week in May, in Boston, and at Such an hour and place, and be called in such a manner as the Executive Committee may appoint.
The following Resolutions, debated with great skill and earnestness, were passed towards the close of the Meeting.
WHEREAS, All human beings are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property; and whereas, "to secure these rights gov- | | 56 ernments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," therefore,
Resolved, That suffrage is an inherent right of every American citizen, without distinction of sex.
Resolved, that our existing governments, both State and National will be anti-republican in form and anti-democratic in fact so long as one-half of the people are unjustly excluded from the polls.
Resolved, That the injustice everywhere inflicted by the law upon Woman--as mother, wife, and widow--is the inevitable consequence of class legislation; that, as the rich cannot be trusted to make laws for the poor, nor the white for the black, so men can not be safely trusted to make laws for women.
Resolved, That we invite the Republican Party to drop its watchword of "Manhood Suffrage," and the Democratic party to abandon its motto of "A White Man's Government," and to unite in an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, extending suffrage to all men and women as the inalienable birthright of every American citizen.
Resolved, That we call upon the Senators and Representatives of New England in Congress to demand suffrage for Women in the District of Columbia and in the Territories, upon the same terms and qualifications as are prescribed for men.
Resolved, That we recommend the holding of conventions and the organization of societies throughout the New England States; and also the petitioning of the State Legislatures to amend the constitutions of the several States so as to give to Women the elective franchise.
WHEREAS, Within the last twenty years, many of the laws in relation to the rights of property of married women have been revised, and some amelioration been effected of those relating to the mother's right to her children, and certain social rights and privileges heretofore withheld, have been gained; therefore,
Resolved, That it becomes the imperative duty of Women to claim the suffrage that these amendments may become permanent for until the Woman has the right of representation her rights are held by an insecure tenure.
Resolved, That in prosecuting the work for Woman suffrage we propose the formation of no new political party, but, we earnestly recommend to all who desire its success to carefully discriminate, in casting their votes, between its friends and its opponents, and so to use the balance of power as to a the enfranchisement of Women the most direct path to political preferment.
Resolved, That we earnestly commend this movement to the clergy of all denominations, in the belief that there can be no more powerful aid to public morality than the enfranchisement of Women.
Resolved, That the New England Convention assembled for the purpose of asserting the right of the ballot for the women as well as of the men of America sends greetings and congratulations to the enlightened friends and advocates of women s rights in England at the auspicious signs of the times, at the march of freedom, and equality on both sides of the Atlantic; and assures them of its hearty | | 57 coöperation in the same cause, and its profound conviction that so just and equitable is that cause that nothing but perseverance is needed to ensure its triumph at no distant day, especially in this country which stands committed to it by one of the articles of the Declaration of Independence.
Among the many excellent addresses delivered, we present that of Mrs. J. W. Howe:
ADDRESS BY JULIA WARD HOWE.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: I am entirely unprepared to address you, and can scarcely attempt more than a gesture of politeness and sympathy. I must treat what I have to say much after the manner in which a surprised housewife serves up a hasty dinner, bring out such things as she has, without much form or order.
I may as well begin by saying how glad I am to be here. Women are sensitive, and I think rightly so, about being out of place. But none of us need fear, in coming here, to be out of place. I might hesitate about going to this ball--to that great dinner. I might fear not to be fine enough--ready enough. But here sincerity must be the wedding garment, with which we shall all hope to be adorned.
I am glad to be made to feel that we are to begin our deliberations on a peaceable platform. One of the features that have trained me in the earlier advocacy of the extended political efficiency of Woman presented itself in the unkind suggestions made and entertained concerning the opposite sex. I do not to want to hear abuse of my father, grandfather, uncles, and male relatives in general. I do not even wish to hear my husband hinted at as a Satan behind the scenes. If we look round in this assembly we shall be convinced that the friends of man are the friends of woman; and I see with pleasure that we are to discuss the present question not on the basis of division, but of a larger and more perfect unity.
My earliest objections to the entertainment of the question of Woman suffrage were founded upon the idea of separation suggested by it. "Woman's rights?" I asked. "We have no separate rights; no rights other than those of humanity in general." Further reflection showed me that disabilities are also a source of separation.
I have written many things in a sense very different to that of this convention. I have quite a number of ingenuous essays written to prove that Women should not vote. The fact of her inability to perform military service seemed to me to exclude her from the franchise. But the coming in of more peaceful manners, changes voting from a military to a moral function, and it thus becomes in my opinion, one which can properly be administered by Woman.
There have been so many solid and logical arguments built up on the other side, that writers and thinkers ate naturally reluctant to forsake such respectable fortresses of logic and tradition. This reminds me of a poem of Browning's, in which a band of adventurers, seeking some promised island of the blest, land in the wrong place, but after building there their beautiful crystal statues, cannot tear themselves from the place.
We cannot leave our work, they cried. But we are obliged to leave out work, | | 58 and we find in time that we do not love it. We lose the form, but not the experience nor the spirit. History developes new revelations, and we must leave our synagogues, no matter how well swept and garnished they may be; we must leave them, and hold a meeting on the mount or beside the lake.
I first became converted to the right of woman suffrage on finding that the negro was inevitably to receive the franchise. Voting thus became fundamental human right and function, from which women could no longer be excluded. And I am glad that we shall come in after the negro, whose wrongs and sufferings, patiently borne, have made him in our eyes an august, a heroic personage. I hope and believe that we shall make as good a use of our newly accorded powers as I am sure that he will make of his.
One word more. Let me say in conclusion that women are rare. The numerical majority of thirty-five thousand in Massachusetts to the contrary notwithstanding, women are rare.
A doll is not a woman. A toy is not a woman. A poor drudge, with all soul and thought driven out of her, is not a woman. She would be glad to be one, but it is not allowed. I think and hope that the object and action of this convention will do something to hold up before our own eyes and those of the world that ideal of womanhood which all men revere, and which all women must desire to attain.
We close with presenting extracts from the admirable letter of L. Maria Child:
LETTER FROM L. MARIA CHILD.
DEAR MRS. SEVERANCE:--SO much has been said, and said so well, on the subject of universal suffrage, that there seems little left for me except the expression of my hope and belief that your Convention will prove a powerful agent to help on the progress of the world. Every step of human advancement has been marked by an enlargement of woman's sphere of action; and it has long been my conviction, a conviction which deepens with the thoughtfulness of years, that society can never be established on a true and solid foundation so long as any distinction whatsoever is made between men and women with regard to the full and free exercise of their faculties on all subjects, whether of art, science, literature, business or politics.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I hardly feel like condescending to argue the question whether women have a right to exert direct influence on public affairs in the form of voting. It seems too ridiculous to undertake to prove that you and I are as well qualified to vote intelligently as the ignorant hordes which Great Britain annually sends to our shores from her almshouses and prisons.
The salutary effect which the exercise of this right would have on the characters of women has doubtless been over-estimated by some. Still it must be admitted that no element of education is so powerful as a feeling of personal responsibility with regard to subjects of serious interest.
I see little force in the plea that women could not keep themselves well informed concerning public affairs and take part in elections without neglecting their household duties. Think of the hours devoted to the dreary monotony of worsted work, to the capricious frivolities of fashion, to the ever-pouring flood of | | 59 sensational novels? Quite as truly might it be said that men could not discharge the duties of citizenship without neglecting their counting-rooms, offices, work-shops, farms and manufactories.
It is said that women do not want to vote. Doubtless a large portion of them do not. But there is a minority who do wish to have a voice in the laws by which they are governed, and that small proportion are by no means the least qualified. I am glad that your Convention gives them a chance for utterance.Trusting that your deliberations will be characterized by good taste and sound common sense, I am, most faithfully, your friend, L. MARIA CHILD. WAYLAND, October 16th, 1868.
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