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Permalink to original version of “1867: Conference on Women’s Rights proposed” 1867: Conference on Women’s Rights proposed

The following essay entitled Women’s Rights by Ms. Todd proposes a women’s rights conference be held in response to the men’s convention. The author’s compassion and advocacy for women is testament to the skewed gender wars being waged in the mid 1800s – PW



1. You are aware that the gentlemen, dear souls, have just been holding a most important Convention, at which they had resolutions, speeches, addresses, and appeals, in abundance, but no prayers. There were eloquence, wit, sharp and pointed rebuke, and thrilling disclosures of unsuspected facts, — all on the subject of Man’s Rights.


2. There was a Rev. Miss, besides doctoresses and the like; and they seemed to unite in one deep lamentation over the wrongs, oppressions, and slavery of man in these United States. I read the newspapers containing full reports of this convention, and rubbed my eyes, trying to get them wide open; for I had hitherto supposed that the gentlemen of this country were held in high esteem, and were treated so tenderly that they had no wish to complain.


3. Alas! alas! I find they are bowed down and trampled upon; and there is not one drop of misery in the most galling slavery, which our gentlemen have not tasted; —not one word in the recital of the wrongs of Egyptian bondage,1 that cannot apply to them. So they tell us!


4. Well, I sat and thought it over, till my soul was moved; and with sorrow I thought what a cruel creature I had been, all my life, to my husband, sons, and brothers! To be sure, I have always given my poor earnings into my husband’s hands to spend for the family; because I knew he could do it better than I; and I have given my sons the best education possible, and far better than I had.


5. But what then? Are they not oppressed? Don’t they have to use a side-saddle, while I don’t? Don’t they have to carry a muff, and sit under the buffalo, in a cold day, while I have the privilege of driving? When the snow is deep, don’t they have to wait till I can dig paths?


6. Ah me! and is there nothing to be said on the other side? Suppose we carry the war into the enemy’s camp a little, and speak of our sufferings and grievances. Can we not excite sympathy if we speak of our unredressed wrongs?


7. Now I propose to call a Woman’s Convention in some important place, say Matildatown, and to have a meeting of the greatest and best, the wisest and the boldest, and see if we can not emancipate ourselves from this thralldom.


8. What do I propose? that a question! Why, ma'am, I would have a cavalcade of butchers as long as Stableboy Lane;2 and I would let them tell how they had been compelled to do the dirty, disagreeable work of killing calves and pigs, sheep and oxen, and then dressing and cutting and carrying them to the door, and feeling very thankful if dear man would just come out to the cart, and point, with his jeweled finger, at the piece he would like for the table!


Butcher

9. I would have a long line of coal-diggers come up from the deep mines where they live, two miles from daylight, and never see the bright heavens but once a week; and they should come with their little lamps in their caps, and all covered with coal-dust! No, they would not come; they couldn’t be spared long enough.


10. But they should send up their story of wrong and oppression, and tell the Convention that no man ever came there with pickax and blasting-powder. What heart in the assembly, especially what male heart, could remain unmoved when the voice came from those dreary subterranean caverns! and when the buried cried out against the wrongs imposed on my sex!


11. There are, it is said, three millions of women constantly on the deep, as sailors, standing at the helm, working the pump, climbing the shrouds, wet and cold in the storm, clinging to the wreck, going down to watery graves,—and for what? Why, that our dear ones may have their silks, their shawls, their laces, their china, and their perfumes!


12. It is estimated that fifty thousand women, every year, are buried in the mighty deep. O man, man! What do you mean? Why are you not hanging on the swinging yards, climbing the mast, and facing these hardships and dangers? I do protest against the slavery to which you have sunk my kind!


13. And the Convention should be electrified by the eloquence of women who fill_our streets; who bear burdens; who carry all the brick and mortar to build the fine houses; who are obliged to handle pork and tobacco, train-oil and sugar, molasses and codfish; who are all day long confined in dusty, close counting-rooms, and exhausting life and strength- over blotted account-books; who, in lonely church-yards, must dig graves, and work with no company save the moldering dead!


14. Are we not compelled, early and late, to do the hardest, vilest, filthiest work that human beings ever performed? What a story of wrong could we not tell? When I come to your great city, I can’t get a seat in the cars till the gentlemen are provided for, and that, too, next the window!


15. I can’t get a seat at the table, in the hotel or in the steam-boat, till the gentlemen are seated at the head of the table, where, I understand, the greatest de1icacies are placed; and if any body has to wait for the second table, and eat fragments, it is not a gentleman. If a lady has a seat in the cars, and a gentleman comes in and wants it, though she were the queen her self, she must give it up cheerfully.


16. Ah! and who feeds the iron horse and makes the cars go? Who lights the street-lamps, brushes boots, colors your hats, and pounds down the stones in the street? O women, women poor women! my soul yearns over you, and longs for your deliverance!


17. Do you not see that it’s the men who keep you down to these ignoble toils, and who snuff out the very light of your existence? Do you not see that, if they would only come and help us, and lift off our burden, we might be free?


18. I used to think — foolish me! — I used to think that the Bible made us to be the protectors of men, and that thus the strong were to bear the infirmities of the weak, and that we could not fulfill the designs of Providence without doing all this hard drudgery, and exempting our feebler brothers from it. But since their famous Convention I have learned differently.


19. I knew it was disagreeable to be surgeons, and to amputate arms and legs, and cut out tumors, and sew up wounds; but I had no idea that the gentlemen were longing, to cut and saw too.


20. I knew that our lawyers were a kind of civil police to keep the community quiet, and aided, as a chimney, to carry off the smoke of society; but I had no idea that our gentlemen were grieved that they were not chimneys too! In short, I see things in a new and strange light; and I am all awake for having a Women’s Rights Convention.



[1] Egyptian bondage, a bondage the most rigorous and unreasonable, which was inflicted upon the Israelites for several centuries by the hard-hearted queens of Egypt

[2] Stableboy Lane, the name of a street in the city of New York.


Source: The Progressive Fourth Reader, for Public and Private Schools. pp. 97-100, (published in 1857 by Bazin & Ellsworth)