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We Welcome You

February 18, 1902 — First International Woman Suffrage Conference, Washington DC


Madam President, Ladies and Delegates: 

Among many honors which from time to time have been tendered me by my generous country people, not one has been more appreciated than the privilege of giving this word of public welcome to the honored delegation of women present with us.

Ladies of Europe, to me has been given the honor of bidding you welcome to America.

If a hundred tongues were mine they could not speak the glad welcome in our hearts. It is an epoch in the history of the world that your coming marks. For the first time within the written history of mankind have the women of the nations left their homes and assembled in council to declare the position of women before the world, bringing to national and international view the injustice and the folly of the barriers which ignorance has created and tradition fostered and preserved through the unthinking ages until they came to be held not only as a part of the natural laws and rights of man but as the immutable decrees of Divinity . . . .

If woman alone had suffered under these mistaken traditions, if she could have borne the evil by herself, it would have been less pitiful, but her brother man, in the laws he created and ignorantly worshiped, has suffered with her.  

He has lost her highest help; he has crippled the intelligence he needed; he has belittled the very source of his own being and dwarfed the image of his Maker.

In all these he has suffered with her,
For, close as sin and suffering joined,
We walk to fate abreast.

Ladies, there is a propriety in your crossing the seas to hold the first council in America, for it was in this new untrammeled land of freedom, free birth, free thought and free speech that the first outspoken notes were given, the first concerted action taken toward the release of woman, the enlightenment of man as a lawmaker, and the attention of the world directed to the injustice, unwisdom and folly of the code under which it lived.  

It was here that the first hard blows were struck. It was here the paths were marked out that have been trodden with bleeding feet for half a century, until at length the blows no longer rebound and the hands of the grateful, loving womanhood of the world struggle for a place to scatter roses in the paths which erstwhile were flint and thorns; and an admiring world of women and men alike breathe in tones of respect, gratitude and love the names of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Miss Anthony, I am glad to stand beside you while I tell these women from the other side of the world who has brought them here. This, ladies of Europe, is your great prototype — this the woman who has trodden the trackless fields of the pioneer till the thorns are buried in roses; this, the woman who has lived to hear the hisses turn to dulcet strains of music; the woman who has dared to plead for every good cause under heaven, who opened her door to the fleeing slave and claimed the outcast for a brother; the woman beloved of her own country and honored in all countries.

Although a slow lesson to learn it has always proved that the grandeur of a nation was shown by the respect paid to woman, The brightest garlands of Spain, linked with immortelles, twine about the name of Isabella. The highest glory of England today is not that she placed her crown on the brow of her trusted and beloved new monarch, a man whom the nations of the earth welcome to their galaxy of rulers, but that she lays her mantle of fifty years’ rule through war and peace and progress such as never was known before, upon the grave of a woman — that mantle on which no stain has ever rested and on which the sunlight of happiness is shadowed and dimmed only by the tears of a sorrowing nation, as it is reverently borne to its honored rest. England, thank God you had no Salic law!

America has none, and, Miss Anthony, the path which you have trodden through these oft painful years leads to that goal; and, though your eyes will have opened upon the blessed light of the heaven beyond, verily there may be some standing here who shall not taste death until these things come.

Ladies and Delegates: In the name of the noble leader who has called you, we welcome you. In the name of our country, its great institutions of learning and equal privileges to all, we welcome you.  

In the name of the brotherhood of man, we welcome you. In the name of our never-forgotten pioneers, a Mott, a Stone, a Gage, a Griffing, a Garrison, a May, a Foster, a Douglass, a Phillips, we reverently welcome you.  

In the name of God and humanity, in the name of the angels of earth and the angels of heaven, we welcome you to our shores, to our halls, to our homes and to our hearts.
Welcome ladies, to America!