If Union is Strength, Why Should We Be Weak?
c. June 25, 1831 — United Tailoress Society, New York City
I consider it a duty incumbent on all who feel an interest in this our infant society, to promote as far as possible its rise and progress; for this purpose we are here assembled, and for this purpose I now attempt a few remarks, which I hope will meet the approbation of those in whose service I am for a term engaged, and whose approval with regard to my official duties, I am proud to merit. But to the purpose.
In the first place I would recommend (as the only firm basis on which we can establish ourselves) patience and perseverance, with a determination to be united, not only as a society, but in the interest of every circumstance connected with our present important undertaking. If union is strength, why should we be weak? let this be our motto, “United we stand divided we fall.” Secondly, suffer me to urge the necessity of a free and candid avowal of opinion on the part of the members, respecting every subject in discussion; let each individual consider this her duty, as well as her right. I am aware that many are averse to this measure, feeling themselves incapacitated for public business, and acknowledge their inability to act without the aid of man — but they will do well to remember who are our oppressors; — and that it would be worse than useless to seek redress through their instrumentality. Let us, then, have more confidence in our own abilities, and less in the sincerity of man.
‘Tis true, custom and education have assisted to intimidate us, but our energies once roused, we shall find ourselves less deficient than we were wont to believe, and have we not sufficient excitement to arouse those energies? Oppression! and its consequent attendant, misery, call loud for our utmost exertions. Can we resist so urgent an appeal to our feelings? no — if we have one solitary spark of female spirit in our composition, now is the time to exert it. Suffer it to emerge from obscurity and unite our unwearied efforts to accomplish our purpose. Undoubtedly a great number (from their hitherto secluded lives) feel a reluctance to come forward, fearful of having their names made public. Excuse me, if I say I consider this a timidity unworthy of us; for in my estimation, the publicity of a respectable name can be no injury to the lady, or the cause she advocates; and is not this a cause worthy to be advocated by all who bear the name of woman? Are we not a species of the human race, and is not this a free country? Then why may not we enjoy that freedom? Because we have been taught to believe ourselves far less noble and far less wise than the other sex. They have taken advantage of this weakness, and, tyrant like, have stept from one ascendancy to another, till finally, and without resistance, they have us in their power; and severely have they abused that power; nay, they have even trampled us under their feet, (comparatively speaking,) and we have made no resistance.
Our supposed helplessness has heretofore caused us to remain silent and submissive, but I hope and believe our eyes are now open to a scene of injury too glaring to be overlooked, and too painful to be submitted to. When we complain to our employers and others, of the inequality of our wages with that of the men’s, the excuse is, they have families to support, from which females are exempt. Now this is either a sad mistake, or a willful oversight; for how many females are there who have families to support, and how many single men who have none, and who, having no other use for the fruits of their employers’ generosity, they child like, waste it; while the industrious mother, having the care of a helpless offspring, finds (with all the economy she is necessitated to practice) the scanty reward of her labors scarcely sufficient to support nature.
To this argument, when forced to acknowledge its truth, the reply is, the fault is our own; we will admit it, inasmuch as we have suffered their imposition. This, then, ought to stimulate us to unheard exertions.
Then again let me urge the necessity of a joint interest in this our common cause, to enable us to go through with a mighty work began, namely, that of gaining our liberty; for we are, literally slaves, and I know of nothing at present so essential as punctual attendance to our meetings; each night of appointment let not one be missing. In this way we will express the interest we feel, and thereby encourage others to join so prosperous a cause — for prosperous it will be, if we persevere. Fear not public opinion; trust me, it will be in our favor; our proceedings will be garnished with a title no less formidable than that of female heroism — excited by oppression, and exerted in behalf of their just claim to a share of the boasted Independence.
Source: “An Address Delivered by Louise Mitchell,” New York Daily Sentinel, June 25, 1831, p. 4.