Woman’s Rights Convention, 1853
September 6, 1853 — Woman’s Rights Convention, Broadway Tabernacle, New York City
We have not had these meetings without objections, and some obloquy. It has been stated that we, women, were not fit for anything but to stay in the house! I look over the events of the last five years, and almost smile at the confutation of this statement which they supply. Let it not be supposed that I wish to depreciate the value of houseduties, or the worth of the woman who fitly discharges them. No! I think that any woman who stands on the throne of her own house, dispensing there the virtues of love, charity, and peace, and sends out of it into the world good men, who may help to make the world better, — occupies a higher position than any crowned head. However, we said women could do more: they could enter the professions, and there serve society and do themselves honor. We said that women could be doctors of medicine. Well — we can now prove the statement by fact. Harriet K. Hunt is among us to day, who, by recognized attainment and successful practice, has shown that women can be physicians, and good ones. You have in your city two women who are good physicians; there are female medical colleges, with their classes, as well ordered, and showing as good a proficiency, as any classes of men. Thus, that point is gained. It was said women could not be merchants. We thought they could; we saw nothing to prevent women from using the power of calculation, the knowledge of goods, and the industry necessary to make a successful trader. Here again we have abundant examples. Many women could be pointed to, whose energy and ability for business have repaired the losses of their less competent husbands. I will mention a particular case. Mrs. Tyndal, of Lowell, Mass., has for years carried on business in a quiet way; — she has made herself rich by conducting a ladies’ shoe store in Lowell. She said to herself — ‘What is to hinder me from going into this business? I should know ladies’ shoes, whether they were good or bad, and what price they can bring. The ladies should support me.’ And so they did, and that woman has given a proof that her sex does not incapacitate for successful mercantile operations.It was said, women could not be ministers of religion. Last Sunday, at Metropolitan Hall, Antoinette L. Brown conducted Divine Service, and was joined in it by the largest congregation assembled within the walls of any building in this city. (Hisses.) Some men hiss who had no mothers to teach them better. But I tell you that some men in New York knowing that they can hear the word of God from a woman, as well as from a man, have called her to be their pastor, and she is to be ordained in this month. Some of you, reporters, said she was a Unitarian; but, it is not so; she is among the most orthodox, and so is her church.
We have all caused woman’s right to address an audience, to be more fully recognized than before. I once addressed an assemblage of men, and did so without giving previous notice, because I feared the opposition of prejudice. A lady who was among the audience said to me afterwards, — ‘How could you do it? My blood ran cold when I saw you up there among those men!’ ‘Why,’ I asked, ‘are they bad men?’ ‘Oh, no! my own husband is one of them; but to see a woman mixing among men in promiscuous meetings, it was horrible.’” That was six or seven year ago, last fall; and that self-same woman, in Columbus, Ohio, was chosen to preside over a temperance meeting of men and women; yes, and she took the chair without the least objection! In Chicago, a woman is cashier of a bank; and the men gave her a majority of three hundred votes over her man-competitor. In another State, a woman is register of deeds. Women can be editors; two sit behind me, Pauline W. Davis, and Mrs. Nichols. Thus we have an accumulation of facts to support our claims and our arguments.
We are here to ask you to make the public sentiment by which woman may be allowed to do, as easily as man, what she is fit to do. We ask this not on selfish grounds; it is for the good of all. The race will be benefited, for the development which is the result of the use of all the powers, is gain to the race, as much as to the individual.
We do not want to reserve this platform for those only who agree with us. We want those who can, to come and give a good reason for opposing us; and we want them, as long as it appears good, to stick to it. But, if we can take their reason from under their feet, we want them to admit it fairly, and thenceforth to support us, like true men and women. We are to have five sessions more, the ticket to which is twenty-five cents; or, to a single session, twelve and a half cents. We have unavoidable expenses to meet, but the price has been made as low as possible, so that the poorest sewing-girl in New York can hear us. It has been proposed that speakers be limited as to time; the limitation is twenty minutes, or half an hour: the design is, that all who have something to say, and wish to say it, may have time to do so.
Source: Proceedings of the Woman’s Rights Convention, held at the Broadway Tabernacle, in the City of New York, on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 6th and 7th, 1853 (NY: Fowler and Wells) 1853), pp. 17-19.