This Brutal Treatment
May 14, 1853 — Whole World Temperance Convention, Broadway Tabernacle, New York City
It is far more agreeable for me, as I think it would be for you, always to speak of pleasant rather than of unpleasant things. I know, too, that when one is compelled to state unpleasant facts, often the blame of the fact is given to the person who relates it; but I want to ask you that whatever shameful facts are told to-night, that the blame shall be attached to those who are the cause of it. The speaker who preceded me said he did not dream — coming as he did from a slaveholding state — he did not dream that when we met in the Brick Church, such an issue would be made. It is not enough for me to say what I thought. We were there under the call of friends of temperance; we went there — for no one has a stronger interest in the cause than woman — we went there moved by our interest in that cause, and went without any claim beyond what the call allowed us to make. The ladies who were delegates to the convention, were permitted to hand in their credentials, and to the surprise of some, when a noble man nominated a noble woman for an office, all through the audience were heard sounds of disapprobation and dissent, mingled with calls to order, and motions to adjourn. It was said that women had no business there — women who were the wives and daughters of drunkards, were told to their faces by Doctors of Divinity, and clergymen who didn’t have the title of D.D. to their name, said it was not a fit place for them. We did not moot the question of women’s rights, we merely desired that women should be recognized as part of the world, and her rights accorded as part of the Convention. But one gray headed minister, who if he was not ashamed of what he said, will not be ashamed to have his name mentioned — Dr. Hewitt — and I know it is not easy for an old man, who has taken a formula and adopted it as his creed, it is not easy for him to change — like a bar of iron, he has become rigid. He began discussing the question of women’s rights — he didn’t believe it was unproper, &c. Rev. Mr. Higginson, of Massachusetts, who is the great advocate of the temperance cause in that State, and who drew up the call for this meeting of temperance delegates, declined to serve upon a committee that would not recognize his sister as well as himself. Mr. Barstow, the Mayor of Providence, hoped he would not decline. Mr. Higginson was a manly man, who, in another place, when occupying a pulpit, was so true to the right, that, forgetting his own interest, he gave his hearers a rebuke, although he was turned out of his pulpit for doing so; he had learned that there was more than one place, and that to abide by the right was best; he chose to remain even with women, rather than go with those who went with the popular current, yet whose acts were unjust. A man, whose name I did not learn, said he hoped it would not be entered upon the minutes. Now, when a man is ashamed of what he does, there is hope that he may be saved. Well, Mr. Higginson refusing to serve upon the committee, the Rev. Mr. Thompson moved that Lucy Stone serve upon that committee; but, said Mr. Barstow, Mayor of Providence, and President of the meeting, “I won’t put such a motion. I will resign the chair, but I won’t put such a motion.” I hope he is here to see that I am telling the truth. Mr. Thompson insisted, but was ruled down, and when the committee returned, they reported that they had received the names of the men, but said that it was not intended, in making the call, that women should form a part of the convention; but surely Mr. Higginson would not have signed his name to the call, if he knew that women would be excluded. Speaking in order, our friends were ruled out of order, as was Mr. Higginson who said that while that meeting intended to call a Semi-World’s Convention, we would meet at Dr. Trull’s to make arrangements for a convention which would know no sex, color, sect or tongue. It does not matter whether they be black or white; so that they have the impress of the Eternal, they have a right to be there; and from the decision of the Brick Church we appeal to the decision of the World’s Convention, which will meet here in September next. In the meeting at the Brick Church Mr. Barstow proved that we should not be there — if the papers reported him truly, and if it was not in his heart it would not come out of his lips, for “out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh,” by speaking language which would shock the ear of decency. Now I remember having heard him, in Metropolitan Hall, when he said, “God has placed woman in the centre of this movement, that she may be to the moral what the sun is to the physical world.” But, instead of recognizing our sunship in the Brick Church, he only called us his candle, and put his bushel over it. “Woman,” said he, “is the sun — to regulate, enlighten and cheer;” but when we came to look at the fact, he says by his actions: “regulations subject to our order.” One man in the convention, whose name I did not learn, said: “I value women — we could not do without them,” and when we went to Metropolitan Hall, I found they valued us as men do their horses — for whatever purpose serves them best. At the convention in Metropolitan Hall, the speaker said, we want you, gentlemen and ladies, to vote, because when we voted he said we had a heart in it. An audience of ladies, he added, never contributed much, because they had not the control of the purses. After scorning every man’s mother and sister at the Brick Church, they came to the Metropolitan Hall, however, and asked us to contribute — to pay their salaries. and what other bills I don’t know. Mr. Barstow seemed desirous of giving credit to Rhode Island for the noble manner in which she received Roger Williams, after his banishment from Massachusetts; but, Mr. Barstow, who admires toleration, would gag the mouths of half the world — he builds the tombs of the old prophets, and digs the graves of the new. Mr. Hewitt tried to prove from the Bible when the “scum” was gone — for so they called us, although they sometimes tell us we are angels — he tried to prove that women should not speak or engage in the work of men. But if he knows Greek he must know that the translation is, “women must not speak;” for what, it does not say. Now you know that whatever is fit for any body to do, women can do; and whoever can do it, has God’s certificate to do it. I presume I look upon no person here who has not seen the face of the drunkard’s wife or daughter, who, when the fire had gone out on her hearth stone, and the light of hope in her soul presented indeed a spectacle for the pity and sympathy of the world. I saw the wife of a drunkard who was so cruelly beaten by her husband, that she was blackened all over with blows — that woman, when telling her sad tale of woe to a friend, spite of herself, found the big tear drops rolling down her cheeks, and the great grief of her heart in vain endeavoring to find utterance. This woman, and others in her circumstances, comes to the Brick Church, and asks to be saved from this brutal treatment, from these cruel blows; but Mayor Barstow says, in reply to her, you cannot sit in this body, and Dr. Hewitt tells her she is out of her place. The daughter of the drunkard, in the person of her representative, comes to that convention. and says as one drunkard’s daughter did say: —
“Go feel as I have felt,
And bear what I have borne;
Sink ‘neath the blows that father dealt,
And the cold proud world’s scorn.
Thus struggle on from year to year,
Your sole relief the scalding tear,
Go, weep and I have wept.
O’er a low’d father’s fall;
See every cherished promise swept —
Youth’s sweetness turned to gall.
Hope’s faded flowers strewed all the way
That led me up to woman’s day.
Go, kneel as I have knelt,
Implore, beseech, and pray,
Strive the besotted heart to melt
The downward course to stay—
Be case with bitter curse aside —
Thy prayers burlesqued — thy tears defied.
Go, stand where I have stood,
And see the strong man bow;
With gnashing teeth, lips bathed in blood,
And cold and livid brow;
Catch his wandering glance and see
There mirrored his soul’s misery.
Go to thy mother’s side,
And her crushed spirit cheer —
Thine own deep anguish hide —
Wipe from her cheek the tear.
Mark her dimmed eye — her furrowed brow,
The gray that streaks her dark hair now —
Her toil-worn frame — her trembling limb —
And trace the ruin back to him
Whose plighted faith, in early youth,
Promised eternal love and truth;
Bur who, forsworn, hath yielded up
This promise to the deadly cup;
And led her down, from love and light,
From all that made her pathway bright,
And chained her there, ‘mid want and strife,
That lowly thing — a drunkard’s wife!
And stamped on childhood’s brow, so mild,
That with’ring blight — a drunkard’s child.
Go, hear and see, and feel and know
All that my soul hath felt or known;
Then look within the wine-up’s glow —
See if its brightness can atone:
Thin, if its flavor you would try,
If all proclaimed, ‘tis drink and die.
Tell me I hate the bowl —
Hate is a feeble word —
I loathe — abhor — my very soul
By strong disgust is stirred,
Whene’er I see, or hear, or tell,
Of the strong drink which lures to hell!
And many drunkard’s daughters with hearts like this, send Susan B. Anthony to plead her cause; but Mr. Fowler says, shall women pursue us everywhere; he has no companion when that daughter appears before him, and he taunts her because she should speak of the wrongs she has suffered. In your city last summer, a little boy was induced by the enemy of his mother, to enter one of these numerous groggeries that are to be found in the Eleventh ward, and was made so drunk that life was not able to keep its place in the body. The mother took her boy in her arms, watched its life as it ebbed away — that mother, robbed of her son by the demon of intemperance, sent Emily Clark here to ask, that when the world met together, she might be allowed to tell the grief that woman feels and to do something to save her young children; but the meeting at the Brick Church said, we won’t have women among us. No matter, let her child die before her eyes; let her be the wife or daughter of a drunkard, she has no right there. But the whole meeting did not say that; the Rev. Mr. Thompson spoke in favor of equal rights; and I am glad to mention this and many other honorable exceptions. The Mayor of Providence said he thought as much of woman as most men do. If that is not a slander upon you, gentlemen, I am sorry. And yet these men who exclude women are perpetually exclaiming they are admirers of women. Now, suppose this Tabernacle was on fire to-night, and a woman on the outside discovers the fire, and puts a ladder up to the windows with real earnestness and sincerity to save us inside. A D.D. steps up and tells her it is very unwomanly, and tumbles dawn the ladder. Now, must he not be a crazy man who would prevent her from saving the building and the precious lives it contains. I say when a man sees thirty thousand drunkards go down to an unhonored grave every year; when he sees their wives and children; when he sees a society like ours, endeavoring to do away with these evils, and he says “No; let the widow wail on, and the child shall remain the child of a drunkard — what do you think of the sincerity of such a man? Whoever is the friend of a cause is glad of helpers from any source, and he who is true to his convictions as a temperance advocate, will even accept the aid of children. He who is a real friend of the cause, will say welcome, thrice welcome to these who come to put out the fire that burns in the distillery, and destroys the lives of our brothers and husband. Why this opposition, then, to women? Does it not come from those who are opposed to reform, and who would stay the progress of the race. We were told a few years ago, that because there were then no steamboats and telegraphs there should be none; so that, according to this reason, as there were no voyages of discovery before the discovery of America, therefore Isabella was a very foolish woman, arid should not have helped Columbus. But we must remember that there is such a thing as progress, and I am sure, in the language of the poet, “my soul is not the palace of the past.” (I have no dread of what is called for by the instincts of the race. Whoever opens his ears, hears everywhere the cry for reform; it comes over the ocean from every village and hamlet of the Old World; the newspaper is scarcely dry, before the reform it records is followed on its heels by another; and while every reform is rendering woman more free, she shall not come to the World’s Convention as a helper if Mayor Barstow, who thinks “more of women than most men,” can prevent her. I know there are men who are willing to ignore the existence of woman and her rights, making them inferior to their own; but they are not men who act in that way, and we will appeal from them to those who are willing to treat us justly, and to whom we shall not appeal in vain, when we show that there are sad hearts to be comforted, and erring minds to be reformed. Now, I say, men and women of New York, or from whatever quarter of the world you come, whether you like it or not — whether you say “God bless” or “God curse” — whether you give us the right hand of fellowship, or turn your back in scorn — whether you write us down as unwomanly women, and unfit to live — do what you please, but so long as there is one mother that leads by the hand a drunkard, and the child of a drunkard; so long as one tear drop comes from her eye; so long as one man can feel enough reverence for his own soul to stay away from the wine cup, so long will we, in season and out of season, in highways and byeways, in public and private places, wherever we can find an ear to hear, there will we speak; and no man, or set of men, no woman or set of women shall ever hinder us. We reverence the opinions of age, we know the force of old customs, and while we bow before the grey-haired man, with deeper reverence do we bow before Him from whom came the golden rule, and to whom old age is accountable; and because we reverence Him we are able to plant our feet upon that golden rule, and we are not ashamed when you tell us it is a shame, but when you know that we should be false to all that is true and right if we skulked from our duty, and left many to perish, because we had’nt [sp] the courage to discharge our duty. A world’s convention — not half a world’s convention — recognizing alike all that belong to the human family — that knows neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, will meet in this city next September, and we know the city of New York will show itself large enough to recognize the whole world, and show who it is that makes the world.
Source: New-York Daily Tribune, May 16, 1853.