The True Remedy
May 12, 1870 — American Woman Suffrage Association, Steinway Hall, New York City
[The paper was read by Henry B. Blackwell]
I will begin by saying what I am not opposed to. I am not opposed to women speaking in public to any willing to hear, nor do I object to a woman’s preaching, sanctioned as it is by a prophetic Apostle — as one of the millennial results. It is true that no women were appointed among the first twelve, or seventy disciples sent out by the Lord, nor were women appointed to be Apostles, or bishops, or elders. But they were not forbidden to preach or teach, except in places where it violated a custom that made women appears as one of a base and degraded class if she thus violated custom.
Nor am I opposed to a women [sic] earning her own independency in any lawful calling, and wish many more were open to her which now are closed.
Nor am I opposed to the agitation and organization of women, as women, to set forth the wrongs suffered by a great multitude of our sex, which are multiform and most humiliating. Nor am I opposed to woman’s undertaking to govern both boys and men — they always have done it, and always will. The most absolute and cruel tyrants I have ever known were selfish, obstinate, unreasonable women, to whom were chained men of delicacy, honor, and piety, whose only alternatives were helpless submission, or ceaseless and disgraceful broils.
Nor am I opposed to the claim that women have equal rights with men. I rather claim that they have the sacred, superior rights that God and good men accord to the weak and defenceless, by which they have the easiest work, the most safe and comfortable places, and the largest share of all the most agreeable and desirable enjoyments of this life. My main objection to the woman suffrage organization is mainly this, that a wrong mode is employed to gain a right object.
The “right object” sought is to remedy the wrongs and relieve the sufferings of great multitudes of our sex. The “wrong mode” is that which aims to enforce by law instead of by love. It is one which assumes that man is the author and abettor of all these wrongs, and he must be restrained and regulated by constitutions and laws, as the chief and most trustworthy method.
In opposition to this, I hold that the fault is as much, or more, with women than with men, inasmuch as that we have all the power we need to remedy all the wrongs and sufferings complained of, and yet we do not use it for that end. It is my deep conviction that all reasonable and conscientious men of our age, and especially of our country, are not only willing but anxious to provide for the best good of our sex, and that they will gladly bestow all that is just, reasonable and kind, whenever we united in asking in the proper spirit and manner. It is because we do not ask, or because we ask amiss, that we do not receive all we need, both from God and men. Let me illustrate my meaning by a brief narrative of my own experience:: I cannot remember a time when I did not find a father’s heart so tender that it is always easier for him to give anything I ask than to deny me. Of my seven brothers, I know not one who would not take as much or more care of my interests than I would myself. The brother who presides is here because it is so hard for him to say “no” to any woman seeking his aid.
It is half a century this very spring since I began to work for the education and relief of my sex, and I have succeeded so largely by first convincing intelligent and benevolent women that what I aimed at was right and desirable, and then securing their influence with their fathers, brothers and husbands, and always with success. American women have only to united in asking for whatever is just and reasonable, in a proper spirit and manner, in order to secure all that they need.
Here, then, I urge my greatest objection to the plan of female suffrage; for my country-women are seeking it only as an instrument for redressing wrongs and relieving wants by laws and civil influences. Now, I ask, why not take a shorter course, and have the men to do for us what we might do for ourselves if we had the ballot? Suppose we point out to our State Legislatures and to Congress the evils that it is supposed the ballot would remedy, and draw up petitions for these remedial measures, would not these petitions be granted much sooner, and with far less irritation and conflict than must ensue before we gain the ballot? And in such petitions thousands of women would untie who now deem that female suffrage would prove a curse, rather than a benefit.
And here I will close with my final objection to woman suffrage, and that is that it will prove a measure of injustice and oppression to the women who oppose it. Much of such women believe that the greatest cause of the evils suffered by our sex is that the true profession of woman, in many of its most important departments, is not respected; that women are not trained either to the science or the practice of domestic duties as they need to be, and that, as the consequence, the chief labors of the family state pass to ignorant foreigners, and by cultivated women are avoided as disgraceful.
They believe the true remedy is to make woman’s work honorable and remunerative, and that the suffrage agitation does not tend to this, but rather to drain off the higher classes of cultivated women from those more important duties to take charge of political and civil affairs that are more suitable for men.
Now if women are all made voters, it will be their duty to vote, and also to qualify themselves for this duty. But already women have more than they can do well in all that appropriately belongs to women, and to add the civil and political duties of men would be deemed a measure of injustice and oppression.
Source: History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. II, 1861-1876, ed. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, (Rochester, NY: Charles Mann) 1887, pp. 787-788.