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A Plan of Work, Along Social Purity Lines

c. October 14-16, 1895 — The National Purity Congress, Park Avenue Friends’ Meeting House, Baltimore MD


In this humanitarian, philanthropic age, when so many men and women are giving their best thoughts to the elevation of humanity and the redemption of the world; when new methods of endeavor are being devised and the needs of the human race better understood, it is little wonder that the Purity movement is engaging the attention of some of the foremost reformers of our day. The sentiment that now exists concerning the standard of purity for man and woman is one that has been handed down to us as a legacy from the dark ages. The code of morals given to Moses, but long before graven upon the human heart, has too often been interpreted as a special command for woman and the violation of those laws regarded as sin only when offended against by woman. With this sentiment pervading all conditions of society, those who would be reformers indeed must enter upon systematic effort to overthrow a false idea concerning the relative position of man and woman to the great question of Purity and build up a new standard based upon justice to our sex, by educating the public up to the great thought of “A pure life for two.”  To do this successfully new methods must be devised and a wide departure from the usual lines of reform entered upon. In all reforms in all ages, special effort has been directed to the masses, and little, if any, thoughts given to the classes, who really stand in as great need of work along these lines as the large numbers whom we are wont to call “the common people.”

In the first place I am convinced, from an observation extending to every land and twice round the world, that the standard of purity among the rich is no higher than among the poor, the only difference being the former are entrenched behind the mighty fortifications of wealth, where the only sin is in being found out. The neglected rich are left to educate their own consciences and form their own standards of purity. Braver than any who have fought or died for principle must the man or woman be who will make a departure from the beaten lines of reform and enter upon a mission to the neglected rich by trying to set up among them the new standard of “a pure life for two.”

All reforms that must be brought about by the education of public sentiment are of necessity of slow growth, for we are prone to cling to the ideas of our forefathers and walk in their ways. From time immemorial we have read of fallen and outcast women, forms of speech used only in reference to our sex. To my mind the time has now come when we should apply the same term to sinful man, and not only apply the same term but brand them with the same infamy with which similar sins mark woman, and refer to them in the same phraseology in which we speak of erring woman. Mark man as an outcast and call him so. Let society grant no license of conduct to man that it does not recognize in woman, and for all violation of the laws of God by him send him, fallen and an outcast, from our homes as we have always done woman.

The greatest weakness of rescue work in the past has been its onesidedness. It has busied itself in reclaiming women, while men have been passed by.

Woman has always been regarded as the principal offender. The two great exceptions are found in the law of God, who, amid the thunderings of Sinai, gave the “thou shalt not” to man as well as woman, and in the action of our Lord, who refused to sanction the stoning of the woman taken in adultery when no proposal was made to punish the guilty partner.

We hail with joy and gladness a measure passed some time since in England, a clause providing in connection with the prosecution of the keepers of the houses of ill repute, for the punishment of men found there, and it is hoped the principle there introduced will have a telling effect upon legislation in other lands.

Why not begin missions to fallen men? Why not enter the houses of shame and try to rescue the men first? Why not build rescue homes for men? Why not form rescue bands and station them at well known houses of ill repute in large cities to begin a mighty effort in the interest of outcast men? What is the Church doing for outcast men? Did Christ come only to save woman? Have Christians no duty toward debauched and degraded men? Save the fallen men and there will be no such a thing in all the land as an impure woman. If the energy and money put into rescue work for women could be for one year directed toward fallen men a wholesome public sentiment would be created that would count immeasurably in the onward march of this mighty movement. How I plead for outcast, neglected, fallen men. No one to help them up nor to tell them how utterly lost they are, and few realizing what unfit companions these polluted creatures are for pure women. The great cry of the hour, indeed, the demand, should be a mission to fallen men.

The only work of this kind on record so far as I know is carried on by an officer of high rank in the army in Holland. Imbued with the courage of the Cross, inspired by the Captain of his Salvation, this brave man with a band of earnest workers starts out into the market places of vice with the object of rescuing men.

Night after night in full dress uniform he confronts the soldiers before they enter these pitfalls and entreats them to turn from the haunts of shame. So well has he succeeded that many houses of ill repute have been closed. The only possible way to bring about a better day for women, when they will one and all possess the choicest gift of pure and unsullied life, is to begin with men and try to elevate them to the standard of a better manhood.

In connection with this a thought comes to me that I urge upon the consideration of all who may chance to read these lines. I speak now in defence of innocent children, long ago branded by custom. A sweet, beautiful child born into this world along the same lines of law on which every other child has come, the only legitimate lines prescribed by nature, but born out of wedlock, has been stamped as illegitimate, when as a matter of fact the only illegitimate factor is the father.

Upon the brow of innocence must rest the stigma that rightfully should rest on the father. Let us wipe out of our vocabulary the term illegitimate child; there can be no such thing. Let us begin to talk about illegitimate fathers, and treat them as such. Then to the pure and good, the true and brave, the leaders of fashion and the trainers of the young, goes out a plea for help.

A great feature toward reform will be to arouse in the heart of woman a sense of woman’s loyalty to woman. Ladies of society are in a great measure to blame for the pitiless manner in which erring woman is crushed to the earth. The very sin that bars her from society, from the home and hearthstone, the sin that locks and bolts the door against her, too often forms a passport through the portals of society for offending man. His base life is viewed in the light of “sowing his wild oats,” and without even the virtue of a penitent heart he is received on an equal footing with pure women. Let every woman give men to understand that for purity in herself she exacts the same in them; that no license is allowed because of sex; that the eternal laws of God that change not are alike binding upon men and women Take that stand and men will soon be just what woman demands of them.



Source: The National Purity Congress, Its Papers, Addresses, Portraits: An Illustrated Record of the Papers and Addresses of the First National Purity congress, Held Under the Auspices of the American Purity Alliance, in the Park Avenue Friends’ Meeting House, Baltimore, October 14, 15 and 16, 1895, ed. Aaron M. Powell (New York: The American Purity Alliance), 1896, pp. 332-335.