The Education of Women
May 29, 1851 — Woman’s Rights Convention, Akron OH
That so far as she was informed, Ohio was the only State where woman found a Collegiate Institution that admitted them to the same scholastic discipline as that prescribed for men. But thanks to the expansive spirit of this glorious State, here was to be found one Institution not afraid to try the experiment, whether woman’s mind is capable of grasping and comprehending the abstruse sciences. But even this generous provision must be somewhat abridged. They must not share equal rhetorical privileges with the other sex. Their exercises must be confined to writing, and reading their productions, while their class-mates of the opposite sex, were trained to declaim, and to debate, thus giving fluency and accuracy to expression.
In view of these facts, we could not now reason at all upon the question of the absolute equality of the sexes in point of mental power; for such a character as a thoroughly educated woman was not, in the present condition of things, to be found. We could not pronounce whether she would be superior or inferior. If the mind was naturally inferior, then there was evident demand for higher cultivation, instead of the meager portion, so generally allotted.
But the question of woman’s right to an equal position with man in all his relations, did not rest upon this at all. It lay at the foundation of all our natural relations, and was itself instituted by the Creator. The great question then must be, did God create them equal at the beginning? If he did, and if woman’s position for six thousand years has been the result of sin, then it must be in violation of the divine harmony, and as such. should be at once rejected. If Jesus Christ came into the world to restore all things, to re-create, to become the second Adam, then is woman’s equality to be sought for, and attained through the Gospel Dispensation. And not one iota would she claim that did not find its full sanction, either from the direct words of Christ, or from the comprehensive principles that he taught. The Bible had been misinterpreted often through false conceptions, and we should not turn from it as not in harmony with the highest laws of our being, till we had pondered it well. Then we should find that there was no false distinction — that Jesus never spurned nor rebuked the offices of women, but every where treated her with a consideration that proved, that truly in him, there was no recognition of male or female, but all were essentially one.
The necessity for wider scope to her energies, and more adequate compensation for labors that could be accurately estimated and compared with the productions of men, was too flagrant a violation of the golden rule to be met, with even an apology. There could be no right, no humanity, in subjecting woman to a position that induced degrading dependence. wretchedness, and crime. No thorough student of christian truth would dare say that this was in accordance with either the provisions of nature or grace, and the result must be characters but half developed, and spirits out of tune with the high harmony of creation. Man suffered to quite as fearful an extent by this unnatural condition as woman, and the consequence must be evil and only evil.
These were among the reasons why it was a solemn duty to extend to woman the means of a true intellectual and social elevation.
Source: The Proceedings of the Woman’s Rights Convention, Held at Akron, Ohio, May 28 and 29, 1851 (Cincinnati: Ben Franklin), 1851, pp. 32-33.