Select Page


February 18, 1890 — National American Woman Suffrage Convention, Metzerott Music Hall, Washington DC


[Having declared that in going to England as president of the National-American Association she felt more honored than if sent as minister plenipotentiary of the United States, she spoke to a set of resolutions which she presented to the convention. After reviewing the history of the movement for the rights of woman and naming some of its brilliant leaders she said:]

For fifty years we have been plaintiffs in the courts of justice, but as the bench, the bar and the jury are all men, we are nonsuited every time. Some men tell us we must be patient and persuasive; that we must be womanly. My friends, what is man’s idea of womanliness? It is to have a manner which pleases him — quiet, deferential, submissive, approaching him as a subject does a master. He wants no self-assertion on our part, no defiance, no vehement arraignment of him as a robber and a criminal. While the grand motto, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God,” has echoed and re-echoed around the globe, electrifying the lovers of liberty in every latitude and making crowned heads tremble on their thrones; while every right achieved by the oppressed has been wrung from tyrants by force; while the darkest page on human history is the outrages on women — shall men still tell us to be patient, persuasive, womanly?

What do we know as yet of the womanly? The women we have seen thus far have been, with rare exceptions, the mere echoes of men. Man has spoken in the State, the Church and the Home, and made the codes, creeds and customs which govern every relation in life, and women have simply echoed all his thoughts and walked in the paths he prescribed. And this they call womanly! When Joan of Arc led the French army to victory I dare say the carpet knights of England thought her unwomanly. When Florence Nightingale, in search of blankets for the soldiers in the Crimean War, cut her way through all orders and red tape, commanded with vehemence and determination those who guarded the supplies to “unlock the doors and not talk to her of proper authorities when brave men were shivering in their beds,” no doubt she was called unwomanly. To me, “unlock the doors” sounds better than any words of circumlocution, however sweet and persuasive, and I consider that she took the most womanly way of accomplishing her object. Patience and persuasiveness are beautiful virtues in dealing with children and feeble-minded adults, but those who have the gift of reason and understand the principles of justice, it is our duty to compel to act up to the highest light that is in them, and as promptly as possible.

[Mrs. Stanton urged that women should have more power in church management, saying:]

As women are taking an active part in pressing on the consideration of Congress many narrow sectarian measures, such as more rigid Sunday laws, the stopping of travel, the distribution of the mail on that day, and the introduction of the name of God into the Constitution; and as this action on the part of some women is used as an argument for the disfranchisement of all, I hope this convention will declare that the Woman Suffrage Association is opposed to all union of Church and State, and pledges itself as far as possible to maintain the secular nature of our Government. As Sunday is the only day that the laboring man can escape from the cities, to stop the street-cars, omnibuses and railroad trains would indeed be a lamentable exercise of arbitrary authority. No, no, the duty of the State is to protect those who do the work of the world, in the largest liberty, and instead of shutting them up in their gloomy tenement houses on Sunday, to open wide the parks, horticultural gardens, museums, libraries, galleries of art and the music halls where they can listen to the divine melodies of the great masters.

[She demanded that women declare boldly and decisively on all the vital issues of the day, and said:]

In this way we make ourselves mediums through which the great souls of the past may speak again. The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life flow no longer into our souls. Every truth we see is ours to give the world, not to keep for ourselves alone, for in so doing we cheat humanity out of their rights and check our own development.



Source: The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. IV, ed. Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper (Indiana: The Hollenbeck Press) 1902.