Female Labor Reform Association
June 5, 1845 — Convention of the New England Workingmen’s Association, Boston MA
Friends of the Association: the usages of society are such that those before whom we appear on this occasion may expect an apology, and yet we are not disposed to offer one directly. To those accustomed to pursue the same avocation as we are, and have seen so much of oppression, and have heard so many cries of hopeless misery, it would seem extravagant to hear us say anything that has the least resemblance of an apology.
For the last half a century, it has been deemed a violation of woman’s sphere to appear before the public as a speaker; but when our rights are trampled upon and we appeal in vain to legislators, what shall we do but appeal to the people? Shall not our voice be heard, and our rights acknowledged here; shall it be said again to the daughters of New England, that they have no political rights and are not subject to legislative action? It is for the workingmen of this country to answer these questions — what shall we expect at your hands in future?
Will ye not be the recording angel who shall write on the walls of those who refuse to protect your daughters and sisters, as the angel did on the walls of Belshazer?
Let your future action be peaceful, but firm and decided, lest the silent statue of the immortal Washington, (Which has been permitted to keep sentinel at the doors of your Capitol) utter a severer reproof than the thundertones of his voice were accustomed to when the inspiration of other days fired his soul and beamed from his eyes.
We came here to-day as the Representatives of the Female Labor Reform Association of Lowell, and in their behalf we present you this simple but sincere token of their fidelity to the cause in which you are engaged. We give it as a token of their strong confidence in ultimate success. We give it as a motto, around which you may safely rally; and if any discordant sprits shall be found in your ranks, that they may be hushed by the warning implied in its motto — “Union, for Power” — and may no minor differences ever arise to check the great work so well commenced.
We do not expect to enter the field as soldiers in this great warfare: but we would like the heroines of the Revolution, be permitted to furnish the soldiers with a blanket or replenish their knapsacks from our pantries.
We claim no exalted place in your deliberations, nor do we expect to be instrumental of any great revolutions, yet we would not sit idly down and fold our hands and refuse to do the little that we may and ought to. We expect to see the revolution commenced, recorded among the revolutions of the past, and the name of a Channing, Brisbane, Rykeman, Ripley, Owen, Walsh, and a host of others, recorded with that of Franklin, Jefferson and Washington, on the pages of History. We do not expect this banner to be borne away by the enemy as a trophy of our defeat, but although the conflict may be long, our perseverance will overcome all obstacles that might seem to stand in our way, and a victory worthy a severe contest be ours. If Oberlin with a few of the peasantry of his country, could cut his way through one of the mountains of Switzerland, shall we abandon our enterprise with an army like the one before us, or like those of which these are only the representatives? No! let your course be onward, ever onward and adhere here strictly to your motto. Union for Power. Learn to bless humanity and you shall bequeath a lasting blessing to our race and a complete victory crown your effects.
Source: Sarah G. Bagley, “Remarks of Miss Bagley,” Voice of Industry, 5 June 1845, p. 2.