This Golden Rule
May 26, 1852 — 3rd Women’s Rights Convention, Baptist Meeting House, Massillon OH
Ladies and Gentlemen: I am aware that the present progressive movements, which agitate the public mind, are considered by conservatives to be too exciting and too ultra, to be practically adopted; and that the old theories are more rational and more consistent.
As an individual, I only ask the practical application of an old theory; that of doing unto others, as we would have others do unto us. — This would settle the question, not only of woman’s rights, but that of slavery, intemperance, and oppression. But they can never be settled by dormant theories. We must have action, living action; an embodiment of the idea. And can this be effected without agitating society? Impossible! It would produce a convulsion that would change every strata of the present organization. It would upheave the oppressed, and overturn the oppressor, and bring into contact those extreme elements, with all the intermediate strata, which must affinate and combine in new organizations in order to develope the harmonious relations preceeding social, civil, and political equality. In order to apply this golden rule, we must first determine the justice of the claims of each party concerned. To determine the rights of the females of our species, we must draw our conclusions, not from any of those perverting laws that have ever governed society, but from the truthful book of nature, by anological and philosophical reasoning. In a natural state, we find in every species of the lower animals, an equal number of the sexes; and in each species they are governed by the same physical laws, habits, and needs; likewise their instinctive faculties (as we term them,) are unquestionably equal; for no person has ever discovered that the male of any species was endowed with a higher capacity for intelligence than the female. The sexes in our species, by analogical comparison, are found to possess, naturally, the same equalities; yet we fail to find in all the harmonious jurisdiction of instinct, anything analogous to the arbitrary distinctions of sex among us. The idea that woman is dependent upon man for support, (which is incorporated into all our laws and customs,) presents her a perfect anomaly in creation; for throughout the whole range of the animal kingdom, the ability to procure the sustenance of life, in adults, is equivalent to the demands of nature, and in no species is one sex dependent upon the other for support, or the sphere of one restricted by the other; and we have demonstrating evidence that woman possesses the same ability, for, notwithstanding her lesser physical strength, (which is but a tithe compared to the crippling influence of this idea of her dependence,) we constantly see about us females in a state of orphanage, and widowed, without patrimony or dower, not only supporting themselves, but their helpless children comfortably and independently.
Behold our lowing herds under their natural government. Does one sex control the other or one color enslave another? Now imagine they become humanized, that you see the legal voters, “the free while males,” destroy or drive beyond recall the red ones; then enslave the black ones; while they so contract the limits of the females of their own color as to compel them to labor three times as long as themselves for the same amount of food, and you have a fair example of the civilized jurisdiction of our own superior countrymen. Why is this? To solve this question we must go back of the early organizations of society. We find the most positive forms of evil, (not meddling with the question of its positive existence,) originated in man’s desire to rule over his fellow, for his own selfish gratification. Consequent upon this, are all the unrighteous wars, domestic, neighboring, and national, that have ever desolated our earth.
A ruler especially honors that power by which he obtained dominion over his subjects; therefore as physical force has ever been considered the foundation of authority, so has it ever been honored in proportion to the love of rule. — This accounts for the inferior estimation of females. A warrior who prides himself upon his deeds of daring and feats of strength, and receives honor accordingly, would, of course, be proud of the same capacities in his offspring. Thus, rejecting the holy affections of the heart, he scorns the weakness of his daughters, which prevents them becoming warriors, while his sons are honored, in proportion to the honor attached to the pursuit, and their success in conquering their fellows. As hero-worship has ever been the predominant religion the world over, woman has had a poor chance of being worshiped as such. As a result, she has been considered inferior to man, and treated accordingly. As man advanced in science, he usurped all those prerogatives which have given him the educational superiority. Hence, the developement [sic] of his own intellect, resulting from a theoretical and practical knowledge of the sciences; with his power of logical reasoning, contrasted with the mere ornamental education of woman, determined his claim to mental superiority. Thus, through all past ages down to the present, has woman suffered the most brutal subjugation, for no other crime than being born a female, with less physical strength than the other sex, which never has been, nor ever can be a test of comparative mental strength, for muscular men possess no such advantages, neither do any other animals. In brute force alone is founded his superiority, and her consequent degradation.
As man, in every age and every clime, has mixed with his religion, license for his own carnal gratification, even so intermixed with the precepts of Christ, which require him to love others as himself, and treat them accordingly, we find those same sentiments, claiming divine authority, which give him the rule over his fellow man as servants, and his wife as an inferior. In this condition we find woman at the present day, with all the powers of mind cramped and undeveloped; not from a want of innate impulses, but from her position, hedged in by the laws and customs of society, which subject her progress to the opinion of others.
She looks out upon the broad and beautiful expanse before her, the whys and wherefores of this and of that call into action her powers of investigation. As one subject after another is called up by their associated relations in forming the harmonious whole; she admires their peculiar fitness, and the wise designs of each individual organization and its adaptation to act its own part in the great drama of creation. As she traces the harmonizing relations from inorganic matter, up through all the beautiful varieties of the vegetable kingdom, until she enters the animal, all is order. Here she strives to keep up the harmony, and succeeds tolerably well until she reaches the top step, man. Here she becomes bewildered. Her imagination runs wild to catch some theory by which she can bring our race into the same beautiful order. At last, she grasps the idea of analogy. But the labors of ten thousand Hercules are incompetent to modify and reorganize society in order to produce this state of things. In attempting to carry out these suggestions, she runs plump against the opinion of a sainted grandfather; — trying to get round this obstacle, she hits the no less immoveable opinion of a father, or some other revered guardian. Again and again she tries every avenue until she finds them all closed up by public opinion, over whose walls, beyond woman’s sphere she dares not pass. All at once she is reminded that she has been indulging in carnal reasoning, and that she is considered not capacitated to think for herself, but that somebody says, if she would know anything, she must learn of her husband at home. Now which commend themselves to the judgment of intelligent beings as most Orthodox, those natural truths demonstrated by analogical reasoning; — or those traditions, and precedents, handed down to us from the dark ages of ignorance and barbarism.
O, Woman, be deceived no longer! Your Creator never delegated to any being the rule over your own intellectual governor, Reason, any more than over the laws of respiration and circulation which govern your physical system.
How tenaciously have you clung to the religion of Church, as the foundation of equality! How fervently have you prayed for its success! How assiduously have you toiled, with all your limited powers, to aid in rearing up teachers to proclaim the good news of universal justice! Not questioning the purity of religion, yet low grossly have you been tantalized by your Christian brothers, who have grasped your mite, with one hand and with the other voted against your enfranchisement. Henceforth, prepare yourself for your own mission. — Cultivate those exalted, eternity-existing faculties with which you are endowed. Acknowledge yourself man’s subject no longer. Be free as nature designed you. In all your contracts, claim equality. As a wife, devoting your time, talent and labor, for the benefit of your family in household duties, consider your services, (if you do your part,) of equal value, with those of your husband, who labors in othercapacities, for the same purpose. For it would require an equal amount of his time, talent, and labor to perform those indispensable duties, were he capaciated to perform them; consequently your duties being of equal importance with his, your labor is of equal value. As the mother of mankind possessing the unquestionable claim of equal humanity, and being responsible for the earliest and most permanent impressions, your own minds must be cultivated and well-stored with practical, as well as theoretical knowledge, and your moral character based upon those just principles deduced from philosophical truths. Not mentioning the talents requisite to maintain your natural rights and the dignity of humanity; there is no more developement of intellect, or application of genius, in any legitimate pursuit in which man engages, than is necessary in the guardianship of infancy and youth, which nature has unmistakably assigned to woman.
Therefore possessing equal powers of mind as man which claim the responsibility of duties equally important, exert those powers untrammelled. Having an equal interest in the progress of society, help to moralize and elevate it. Strive especially to win your own sex from their present ornamental clothing of body and mind. Teach them to honor practically all honorable labor, and to aspire to self-dependence physically and mentally. Then they will be qualified not only to elevate the condition of those under their influence by inculcating the true principles of universal justice, but the physical organization that enshrines the cultivated and developed faculties of their intellect, will be transmitted to posterity, and become the hereditary legacy of future generations.
Source: Anti-Slavery Bugle (Lisbon, OH), June 5, 1852, p. 3.