Eminent Women I Have Met
June 1, 1900 — Oregon State Federation Inaugural Biennial Convention, Pendleton OR
Madam President, Ladies and Gentlemen: While it has been exceedingly difficult for me to so arrange my work during this, the busiest and most important week of my life, [that I could come to this convention,] such is my estimate of the good that is to accrue from this gathering of representative women in our State Federation of Women’s Clubs, that I gladly trust the votes of men, who are to decide a grave question for us at the ballot-box next Monday, to bring before you a brief review of a few of the eminent women with whom my busy life has brought me into personal acquaintance during the last 30 years.
The first woman of National reputation whose personal acquaintance I recall, was the late Myra Bradwell of Chicago, editor of the Chicago Legal News, a great law journal, of which she was for many years the head. Mrs. Bradwell was, at the time our acquaintance began, and as I now recall her, a beautiful, stately matron, in the prime of life, and even then a recognized authority on legal jurisprudence for the State of Illinois, a position she held with honor at the time of her death. She was as proud of her good husband, Judge Bradwell, who survives her, and of her gifted children, as was Solomon’s ideal woman, of whom it is written, “her children rise up and call her blessed, her husband, also, and he praiseth her.”
Never shall I forget my first impression of this modern Portia. I was a young pioneer mother of many children. I had been taught from childhood that it was woman’s duty to suppress the struggling desire for knowledge, for utterance and all opportunity for expanding usefulness, of which this Federation of Women’s Clubs is today a significant exponent. I had been taught, and tried hard to believe, that my spirit’s demand to hear and be heard in the world was an unfeminine something, which women must stifle at any cost. So I was striving hard to be an “anti,” and a consistent one at that, for I was keeping myself out of the newspapers and struggling to make myself believe that my constant ill health was a wise dispensation of Providence.
Mrs. Bradwell opened to my anxious mind an illimitable vista of previously undiscovered opportunity. “You are young yet,” she said, cheerily; “and when woman shall have discovered herself, all women will be ashamed of being invalids.” She then went on to explain a truth which thousands of women have since verified, that the primal cause of so much ill health among women was the divine discontent created by repressed mentality, which, under the conditions that then held sway, made dolls of society women, vassals of most wives, and hopeless drudges of the rest. And, while she said she sympathized with women in bad health, she said she was a whole lot sorrier for their husbands, who had yet to learn that woman’s greatest need was mental vent. She said that health depended upon happiness, and happiness upon environment. Then she turned, oh, so lovingly, to the teething baby, gave a simple prescription for its swollen gums, and added: “I repeat, you are young yet. By and by, when these babies are men, you will still be a young woman.” And, when she spoke, with beaming countenance, of the day that was even then dawning for awakened womanhood (Though I knew it not), she left me pressing my throbbing temples, but inhaling the inspiration of many a new idea. And so it came to pass that I had a vision, even when I needed it most, of the good time coming, and now here, when women could occasionally turn aside, as men have always done, to seek relief from daily cares and congregate themselves in clubs, to restore their health and spirits through the needed relaxation afforded by a brief opportunity to exchange opinions, and thus expand their understanding.
Time passed, and my next eminent acquaintance was Susan B. Anthony. I was then living in Portland; and having entered the arena of journalism with all the audacity of inexperience, I plunged along with so much perseverance that I made a success of my venture.
That was in 1871, and Miss Anthony was 50 years old. I had heard so many dreadful things about Miss Anthony’s alleged ante-deluvian age and angularity of disposition that I felt more than half afraid of her. But she soon dispelled all prejudice by her womanly ways. Never have I met a more motherly woman, or one who could enter more heartily into the spirit of a busy household. Her visit, like Mrs. Bradwell’s, was both a revelation and an inspiration. Her intimate acquaintance with eminent men and women of whom I had all my life been reading, brought them for the first time into my very atmosphere. Her reminiscences of Horace Greeley and his gifted but eccentric wife, of James and Lucretia Mott, of Lucy Stone and Henry B. Blackwell, of Henry Ward Beecher and his famous sisters, Isabella Beecher Hooker and Harriet Beecher Stowe, of Colonel Ingersoll and his happy home life, of William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Garrett [sic] Smith, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and their families, and many others of note, with whom I afterwards became personally well acquainted, and of all of whom she spoke with as tender deference as though they had all been absent members of her own family, [it] was to me as a revelation from heaven. She did it all so unconsciously, too, as though repeating the ordinary sayings and doings of one’s every-day neighbors, that when in after years I met and knew them all, it was as if I had known them from childhood.
With Miss Anthony’s public career, since her first visit to the Pacific Coast, in 1871, the most of you are familiar. But you have not had much opportunity to know of her social life, which now, and for the past 10 years, has brought her into contact with the most eminent men and women of this most eminent era, all of whom delight to do her honor.
My next eminent woman acquaintance was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It was in the Summer of 1871 that I first met her, as a guest at her beautiful home in the blue hills of Jersey. To Mrs. Stanton belongs the honor of being the first woman in history to make a successful demand for the recognition of the property rights of married women, who, prior to that time, [in] 1848, had lived entirely under the dominion of the old common law of England, the law that, where not repealed, still makes a personal death-warrant of a woman’s covenant at the marriage altar by merging her existence into that of her husband, making, under the law, the husband and wife one, and the husband that one. My friends, it is well for the race that men, through all the ages, have been better, as men, than the laws that were compiled to govern women by the men who preceded them.
There were men living in the great State of New York in 1848 whose daughters had inherited vast wealth; and those fathers, seeing the danger that was menacing this wealth by improvident suitors, who were ready, as men still are, to marry a competence, aided Mrs. Stanton in her efforts to secure the property rights of wives–rights which some women, known as “antis,” are using today in a vain endeavor to beat back the further progress of other women’s freedom, with as much success as was achieved by Dame Partington when she tried to stop the progress of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean with her broom; a progress that finds new and irresistible impulse in the State and National Federations of Women’s Clubs.
Mrs. Stanton is, in personal appearance, the opposite of Miss Anthony. The latter is tall, not spare, like the typical old maid of a past era, but as well rounded, though not as plumply stomached, as the modern well-to-do bachelor of the sterner sex; while Mrs. Stanton is short, plump, pretty and roly-poly, in figure much like Queen Victoria, but in features far handsomer. Miss Anthony combs her iron-gray hair smoothly over her Webster-like head, while Mrs. Stanton’s snow-white locks are rolled in fluffy abundance and garden row regularly over her classic forehead. Both women are domestic, social and dressy, and move in the foremost literary and intellectual circles everywhere. I have only time to say of them further, in this connection, that the older our clubwomen grow, and the further they advance in knowledge and in understanding, the more will they appreciate and honor the self-denying zeal of the originators of this woman movement, whose echoes reach today across the continent and re-echo back with a larger utterance from the singing shores of the Pacific Ocean to the Eastern seas.
My next eminent woman acquaintance was the late Dr. Clemence Lozier. Imagine a little, plump, pretty, gentle-voiced lady, with short, white curls framing a face as classic as the Madonna’s, the occupant and owner of a commodious downtown residence in New York; one of those “brown stone huts” made famous by the “wants” of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Imagine this little woman, who hesitated not to combine the wisdom of Aesculapius and of Hahnemann in her very extensive practice, with the skill and dexterity of a Pasteur or a Koch; imagine her great mansion filled, as it always was, with illustrious guests and many patients from afar and anear, all gathered in her spacious dining-room for morning devotion[s], led by the gentle doctor, assisted by her gifted son, an Army surgeon, and his able wife, herself a physician of repute, and one-time president of Sorosis, whose pretty children complete the group, and you have a composite picture of domestic life and family wisdom such as will soon prevail wherever the enlightened clubwoman’s influence can be felt. Then there were other noted physicians often present, among them Dr. Rachel Bodly [sic], now deceased, and Dr. Mary Putnam Jacoby [sic], whose masterly argument before the New York Constitutional Convention a few years ago can never be resisted or overcome by anything but vice, conservatism and ignorance, which always pull together against the best interests of the race. There was Elizabeth D. [sic] Curtis, daughter of the late George William Curtis, who represented her gifted father in the same convention, whom no member tried to answer except with a dogged negative vote, but whose argument will live when every voter who recorded himself against her demand for liberty and progress will have been forgotten.
The next eminent woman I recall is Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the pioneer woman physician, with a strong English face and a passion for methodical system in her profession that has made her fame worldwide. Dr. Blackwell braved the scorn, obloquy and organized opposition of the whole medical world that she might acquaint herself with the highest medical knowledge and open the way for all time to come to the great and useful army of physicians for whom she broke the Austrian-like phalanx of organized despotism that had previously debarred her sex from her now acknowledged realm.
Then comes Frances E. Willard, with her winsome grace and wondrous eloquence, who alone of all orthodox women could lead the more devout of her sex away from the barred walls of conservatism and let them see that, outside the church, as well as in it, the true fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man abounds [for]evermore. There was Lillie Devereaux Blake, stately, handsome and gifted, an author and orator of renown; there was Margaret Parker, of Dundee, Scotland, who has often crossed the Atlantic Seas to hold wise converse with the eminent women of Manhattan, and many, many others whom I have met at the home of Dr. Lozier, each of whom deserves a more extended notice than time permits.
Among the sweetest-voiced, dearest, kindliest women I have ever met was Lucy Stone, who, finding in her girlhood no opening for a woman to enter college [in the East], worked her way to the then new West, to Oberlin, O[hio]., and who, like her good husband, Henry B. Blackwell, who survives her, has left the sweet influence of a spotless life upon this busy age. Her gentle voice was always raised in sympathy with everything good and noble, and her memory will live in the hearts of her countrywomen as long as woman’s work for liberty appeals to human sympathy.
Now passes before my mental vision the motherly face and venerable figure of Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and now comes Mary A. Livermore, the great manager of the famous sanitary commission of our Civil War. And here is Harriet Beecher Stowe, in whose consecrated presence I have sat for hours, listening like a fascinated child to her recitals of her ante-bellum experiences in the South upon which many parts of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” were founded, and of which it would require a whole evening to tell you half.
Return with me now to New York, and we will visit Jenny June, the winsome, dainty and companionable author, the Mrs. C. [sic] G. Croly of the social world, who is now a venerable matron, with a life crowned with honor, whose achievements in journalism are widely known, and of whose home life I can only pause to say that, like that of all the others mentioned, it is most exemplary.
Often, when sojourning in Philadelphia, I have enjoyed delightful visits with the late James and Lucretia Mott, in their happy and hospitable Quaker home, where the primmest neatness did not preclude the keenest enjoyment of the many luxuries with which their home abounded. Lucretia Mott was the stateliest, handsomest “old lady” I ever saw. As straight as an Indian warrior and as graceful as a swan, her classic face always framed by the sheerest and smartest of snowy caps, her sloping shoulders covered with an immaculate and dainty shawl, crossed over her bosom after the manner of our grandmothers’ days, she was the charming prototype of the club woman of today, who, while finding time to consider the well-being of the wide, wide world, “looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.”
Of the eminent women I have met I must not forget to mention Mrs. Henrotin, whom we all delight to honor, nor Mrs. Potter Palmer, of world-wide fame; nor Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, nor Carrie Chapman Catt, nor Laura Clay, nor Mrs. Keating, nor Emily B. Ketchum, nor Josephine K. Henry, nor Virginia D. Young. I wish I might give you a pen picture of one and all of these women and tarry with you at64 their pleasant homes. But I see I cannot; so go with me now to the Nation’s capital, and let us look in for a while upon a woman’s convention. It is one of the earlier meetings of what is now the National Federation of Women’s Clubs. It is not one of the great biennials that have grown up of late into such great proportions as to seem to men unwieldy; but a meeting in which the center of attraction is the eminent founder of the Woman’s Club movement, the late, lamented Charlotte Emerson Brown. This noted woman, having discovered that the general tendency of woman’s organizations was toward a crystallization, rather than a correlation of forces, originated the woman’s club idea. She was the wife of a noted physician, possessed of ample means, and an ardent friend of the equal rights movement. But she saw that many women who had not yet embraced the equal rights idea and had become congealed, so to speak, against avowing its principles, needed the club movement to fill a long-felt want. So like our own Mrs. A. H. H. Stuart, the honored mother of the woman’s club movement in our fair metropolis, who began her public work in the equal suffrage movement, Mrs. Brown resolved to circumvent the prejudices that hedged so many women against their own interests, and give them an outlook, from another direction, at the broader horizon they had hitherto failed to observe.
The woman’s club movement is flourishing in a manner that attests the wisdom and foresight of Abby H. H. Stuart and Charlotte Emerson Brown. In its wise determination to eschew the consideration of all partisan and sectarian questions, upon which men and women naturally differ (though none can settle them), thus leaving our clubs69 to grow freely into the broader spirit of “diversity in unity” that alone can extend our intellectual horizon along every line, moral, religious and patriotic, we owe more to the two eminent women just mentioned than most of us will soon realize. As became Mrs. Brown’s exalted station, she lived elegantly and entertained handsomely. Her home was the center of education, refinement and philanthropy, and its atmosphere was permeated with an exalted spirit of politeness[, piety] and patriotism. In the midst of her usefulness she fell asleep. But, though she rests from her labors her works do follow her.
At a brilliant reception given in February last, at the Corcoran Art Gallery, in the city of Washington, I had the pleasure of once more meeting Grace Greenwood, the well-known author and journalist, now far along in years; Olive Logan, the famous actress of our war era, now quite deaf, but otherwise well preserved; May Wright Sewall, the accomplished president of the International Council of Women, founded in America in 1886, by the mother of all these movements, Susan B. Anthony, of whom Mrs. Sewall has been a staunch ally for many years; the charming and intelligent daughters of Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Julia Ward Howe, each of whom was taking part in the festivities in honor of her noble mother, and wearing her mantle royally. There, also, I again met the now venerable Charlotte R. Wilbour, a noted philanthropist of New York, widow of the famous Egyptologist who spent 20-odd years under the shadow of the Pyramids, and who speaks fluently a dozen languages; and last, but by no means least, except in stature, Clara Barton78, the eminent philanthropist, and president of the International Red Cross Society, who commissioned me to present to every Red Cross woman and every club woman in the State of Oregon her love and compliments and ask them to read and circulate her “Plea to Voters,” urging them to vote for the enfranchisement of the mothers, wives and sweethearts of her soldier boys. I have so diligently complied with her request that I have distributed many thousands of leaflets containing the plea, and now have only a few of them left. Take all that are left, club women. Read them, circulate them and ask your chivalrous gentlemen friends to read them before they cast their ballots next Monday.
Clara Barton, though the heroine of a hundred cataclysms, wherein, womanlike, she distinguished herself by preserving life, and not by destroying it, is not a striking woman to look at. She is diminutive in stature, dresses plainly, combs her hair smoothly and speaks timidly. But she has more power to save life at her command than Queen Victoria, who is her warm personal friend; more than the President of the United States, more than that of the army and navy combined. But like Mary A. Livermore, the famous heroine of the great Sanitary Commission, she is the political vassal of an aristocracy of sex.
Nobody accuses her of being out of her sphere, but the mothers of our soldier boys are speaking her name with a reverence that is born of love, and an admiration inspired by gratitude.
[If time permitted, I would gladly tell you of Kate Field, the modern woman journalist, who was preparing to attend our Oregon Congress of Women at the time of her death, which occurred two years ago in Honolulu; of Sarah B. Cooper, the late lamented humanitarian of San Francisco, whose tragic death we yet mourn; of Clara S. Foltz, the California lawyer who once lived in Oregon, who has twice crossed the Atlantic in the interest of wealthy clients; of Frances Fuller Victor, the eminent historian, also a former resident of Oregon, now of San Francisco. But I must hasten to a close, omitting hundreds of eminent women, young and old, the equals of any yet mentioned.
Madam President: With your permission I come now to speak, not of politics–for that is a question we do not discuss; but of patriotism, our fundamental principle of woman’s clubdom. It is of the question of fundamental government, of individual citizenship, of which I would speak, a question which vitally concerns every patriotic woman at this particular time; a question as far above partisan politics as the heavens are above [the] earth. I allude, of course, to the fundamental question of self government which men are to decide for us next Monday–permanently if in the affirmative, but temporarily if in the negative. Our great club leader, Sarah B. Platt, of Colorado, has tasted of the sweets of citizenship and pronounces it good. Through her and her co-workers, the leading women of Denver and the best element among the men of that city, who could accomplish nothing in the way of municipal reform till aided by the women’s votes, the great inter-mountain center of the mighty West has inaugurated sanitary conditions that have already transformed the city from an abode of disease to a haven of health. In like manner, through the help of the votes of tax-paying women, the public-spirited citizens of New Orleans have cleansed their city of the yellow fever scourge, by a system of sewage that men alone were unable to vote into being. In Lewiston, and in Boise, Idaho, the same improvement prevails, including the successful establishment of our Portland Woman’s Club pet enterprise, a free library system in the interest of all the people. And to you, men and brethren, whom we are proud to welcome to these councils, I want to say, with my profoundest bow, that the eyes of the world are turned today toward Oregon. “As goes Oregon, so goes the Union.” Last February, it was my privilege to sit among the veterans of a great mass meeting in the great city of Washington, under the shadow of the Goddess of Liberty. Does it seem strange to you, gentlemen, that Liberty is always represented by a woman? I account for this anomaly by the reflection that men in all ages have builded from ideals that in time were to be realized. As I sat in the great meeting just mentioned, Susan B. Anthony, the heroine of the occasion, arose, and said:
“I see a face that recalls the roar of the Pacific ocean; that recalls mighty forests of giant evergreens, with their pointed tops piercing the misty sky; that recalls long ranges of mighty mountains with their highest peaks crowned with perpetual snow; that recalls broad uplands, stretching away toward the mountain mines; that recalls verdant valleys, dotted with pretty villages and peaceful homes; that recalls mighty rivers, moving ever onward to the sea! All of this means Oregon! At the apex of all this sits Oregon. I am told that Oregon annually expends tens of thousands of dollars to advertise her virgin resources through her Boards of Trade, her Chambers of Commerce, her advertising bureaus and what not. Now, if the men of Oregon are as wide-awake as the one delegate from her borders says they are, they will adopt the equal suffrage amendment and the state will advertise herself, as Colorado and Idaho did when the men of those young, vigorous growing states made their women free and equal with themselves.”
I was proud of Oregon that day; prouder yet of being an Oregon pioneer; and when you, the chivalrous men of this mighty state, shall prove yourselves worthy of our great expectations by your votes for our amendment next Monday, you will rise higher than ever in the estimation of club women, who already like you and you cannot help it.
And to you, Madam President, to whose patriotic foresight I am indebted for the opportunity to make this appeal in this first annual meeting of our State Federation of Women’s Clubs, permit me to say there are many thousands of women in Oregon who join me in the thanks that well from overflowing hearts. Continue in your glorious work.
Mount up the heights of wisdom,
And crush each error low.
Keep back no words of knowledge
That human hearts should know.
Be faithful to thy neighbor,
In service of thy Lord.
And then a golden chaplet
Will be thy just reward.
Source: Morning Oregonian, June 2, 1900.