On the Settlement of
The Human Rights Question
October 13, 1874 — Opera House, Detroit MI
A few days ago, in one of the New York dailies, I saw the announcement that one subject which now occupies the minds of the American people can never be settled till it is settled right. Knowing that this convention was just at hand, I mentally exclaimed, “It is certainly woman suffrage!” But no! It was the question of the national currency. Well, the currency question did suggest great moral issues, and it was vital enough in character to justify the editorial claim. I believe it never can be settled till it is settled right. But what is the currency problem to a direct question of human rights, involving the highness moral and civil interests not only of all the women in the country, but of all the men likewise? The suffrage question never can be settled til it is settled right. So surely as the law of justice must yet prevail, it will continue to vex and trouble the whole nation continually. Because the sexes are not online in their natures and in all their relations to the state, there is imperative need of representation for both. Women in beleaguered cities have again and again stood heroically side by side with men suffering danger and privation without a murmur, ready to endure hunger and every form of personal discomfort rather than surrender to the enemy. What women have done in the past they would willingly do again in the future in like circumstances. They are everywhere as patriotic as men and as welling to make sacrifices for their country.
But their relations to the government in war are of necessity widely unlike. If men as good citizens are bound to peril their lives and to endure hardships to aid the country in its hour of need yet women peril their lives and devote their time and energy in giving to the country all its citizens, whether for peace or war. And if the liberties of the nation were in real peril, they would freely devote their all for its salvation. In any just warfare it is fitting that the young men should first march to battle, and if all these were swept away, then the old men and the old women might fitly go out together side by side, and, last of all, the young mothers, leaving their little children to the very aged and to the sick, should be and would be ready in their turn to go also, if need be, even to the battlefield rather than suffer the overthrow of a righteous government. But women’s relations to war are intrinsically unlike man’s. Her natural attitude toward law and order and toward all public interest must always differ from his. The time devoted by the one class to earning money would be given by the other to rearing children. Yes, this question touches too many vital interest ever to be settled till it is settled right. We mean to live, to keep well and strong, and to continue to trouble the whole country until it is settled and settled to stay. There can be no rest from agitation till this is done.
Source: History of Woman Suffrage: 1861-1876. Vol. II. (New York: Fowler & Wells) 1882, pp. 8481-8482.
Also: American Women Speak: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection of Women’s Oratory. Vol. 1, ed. Mary Ellen Snodgrass (ABC-CLIO, 2017) pp. 91-92.