In 1851 the following article was penned by Chericot in Godey’s Gentleman’s Book, a United States magazine for men published in Philadelphia. The article entitled Women’s Rights Convention was designed to mock proceedings of women’s rights conference held at Independence Hall. Did the conference really take place? My bet is that it did, and the article was an attempt to dissuade MHRA’s from holding future conferences. – PW
WOMEN’S RIGHTS CONVENTION – SEPTEMBER 20th 1851
EXTRAORDINARY PROCEEDINGS, EXCITING SCENES, AND CURIOUS SPEECHES .
FROM OUR OWN REPORTER, CHERICOT.
Yesterday, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, an immense mass meeting of ladies from all parts of the country was held at Independence Hall. It was convened upon notices to that effect, which were issued directly after the late extraordinary and treasonable Male Convention at Massachusetts, and which, being distributed among the principal cities in the Union, had resulted in the collection of an enthusiastic crowd of ladies of all grades, trades, and politic?, one common danger uniting them, in the effort to repel the proposed masculine aggression of their rights.
On taking- a survey of the meeting, one thing struck us very forcibly—the uneasy and restless anxiety that characterized the demeanor of most of the women; the slightest noise caused a general sensation; and, in one instance, the shrill cry of a fishman threw a lady into hysterics, which she explained, on her recovery, to have resulted from her mistaking it for the voice of her husband.
When the excitement had, in some measure, subsided, the meeting was called to order by Ms. Wumenheyter, of New York, who said, the first business being the choice of a president, she moved that Ms. H. P. Wife, of Maryland, be appointed.
Brass Blackstone, of Philadelphia, seconded the motion, which was unanimously adopted.
After the vice presidents and secretaries were duly chosen, and a business committee appointed to draw up resolutions expressive of the sense-of tho meeting, the president addressed the convention as follows:—
“The object which has called this great assemblage together is one which not only concerns womankind in general, but Americans in particular. This is emphatically a land of liberty — liberty which, achieved by the exertions of our foremothers, has commanded the respect of the tyrannical governments of the Old World, and resisted all unhallowed attempts to subvert it. This liberty, ladies, is threatened with destruction: by the establishment, within the very bounds of this republic, of a despotism that has no parallel in ancient or modern1 history. Yes, there is a conspiracy afoot in the very midst of us, which, should it succeed in it aspiring aims, will annihilate us as women, and convert us into mere household appendages to that rebellious sex who, after having for years shown a disposition to encroach on some of our rights and privileges, now boldly assert a claim to all. Patience; ladies, is no longer a virtue; stem determination and resolute action alone can put down this ambitious usurpation and re-establish our authority on its legitimate basis.
“These firebrands on our domestic hearths must be extinguished, or the sparks,lighting Into aflame, will consume us.”
Here the sensation produced by Ms. Wife’s fiery eloquence was so intense that groans and sobs resounded from all parts of the building, and the lady was so overcome by her own flights of fancy that it was some time before she could proceed.
“I have, in the relations of wife, daughter, and sister, stood aloof. I hare borne, with dignity and Spartan fortitude, the assumption, by my male relatives, of those garments which, from time immemorial, have been our rightful badge, trusting that the ‘ breach* into which they were throwing themselves would prove of such an ‘imminent and deadly’ nature as to deprive them of any desire to go further. But late events have opened my eyes to the treasonable nature of their designs, and to the danger of the mine on which we have been heedlessly treading; and, regardless alike of family ties and possible consequences, I have boldly sounded the alarm which has brought us together this day. This terrible danger I discovered by chance, having picked up —in my own room, ladies— a letter addressed to my husband by a male friend. I will, ladies, read a passage from this incendiary production, premising that the preceding paragraphs, after giving an account of the late meeting at Worcester, refer to the male millennium about to commence:—
“Now then, my dear,
We’ll smoke and cheer and drink our lager beer;
We’ll have our latch-keys, stay out late at nights;
And boldly we’ll assert our male rights;
While conquered women, our erewhile tyrant foes,
Shall stay at home and wear our cast-off clothes,
Nurse babies, scold the servants, get our dinners;
‘Tis all that they are fit for, wretched sinners!”
“Imagine my feelings on finding treason a t work in my domestic sanctuary — at detecting the husband of my bosom in a plot against my peace!”
Here Ms. Wife was so overpowered by her emotions that she was compelled to pause for a few moments, ere she recovered her voice. Deep sympathy was manifested by the audience.
“I would now repeat the necessity of prompt action, for which I doubt not the wisdom and intelligence of this assembly will be found sufficient. Our business now is to find a remedy for the evil. Let us therefore, in a bold and uncompromising manner, address ourselves to the duties before us.”
While awaiting the action of the business committee, the following letters were read from distinguished ladies who had been invited to attend the meeting:—
Ms. Webster stated that the onerous nature of her diplomatic duties prevented her accepting the invitation extended to her. Had it, however, been in her power to do so, she should still have declined it, as the handsome manner in which the gentlemen had defended her in her native State obliged her to remain remain neuter in the conflict between the great contending parties. She would remark, in conclusion, that, devoted as she was to the Union, faithful as she had ever been in maintaining the Constitution, she had no sympathy with anything tending to infringe the conditions of the matrimonial compact, and therefore solemnly recommended that both parties should meet and conclude a treaty of peace.
Ms. Clay regretted her necessary attendance on Congress precluded her presence at this important meeting; for, faithful to her great principle, she should have endeavored to suggest such a compromise as should reconcile all parties. But she trusted that an amiable spirit would pervade their proceedings, and unity and concord be the result.
Ms. Horace Mann repeated Jus determination of not siding with either party. She referred again to the book she was writing, which she thought would satisfy both sides.
Ms. Buckeye, of Ohio, wrote to excuse her attendance, as the duties of the pork-killing season required her attention; and Mr. Buckeye’s absence at a Socialist meeting, in the interior of the State, prevented her leaving home.
Ms. Wumenheyter, chairwoman of the committee, now rose to say that their report was ready. She
then read the following resolutions:—
Resolved, That a crisis has arrived in our domestic relations that admits of no temporizing measures, but requires us openly to insist on those rights so boldly and outrageously assailed by that weaker portion of humanity, whose duty it is to be satisfied with the inferior position assigned them by nature, and to yield in all things to woman.
Resolved, That an unblushing claim has not only been made on our clothes, but on all our feminine privileges; and as this evil has resulted, in the first place, from the impunity with which the men have put their hands in our pockets, and as it will end only in the usurpation of our business, and of our sole right to the ballot-box, it becomes necessary for us to impress upon this rebellious sex our united determination to resist their aggressions.
Resolved, That this effort becomes imperatively necessary when we consider the treacherous nature of men, and remember that, should they succeed in their attempt, we shall meet no mercy at their hands. Universal decapitation of the women, and an Amazonian form of government will undoubtedly be
Resolved, That, while we shall use our lawful and united authority to put down this revolt, we will show clemency to the culprits, and, tempering justice with mercy, render their punishment as light as may be consistent with our own safety.
These resolutions were ordered to be laid on the table for discussion.
Ms. Wumenheyter said she wished particularly for the attention of the audience while she offered a few remarks on these resolutions. “ She was,” she said “proud to call herself a New Yorker. Her city was the greatest in the world. It had a great canal, a great line, of steamships, a great many railroads, a great many bankB, and”——
Here a voice from the crowd exclaimed, “ And a great many other humbugs!” Ms. W. was, for a moment, disconcerted; but, resuming her remarks, she said—
“I do not regard this rude interruption. I shall still assert the superiority of my State to all others; and, at the same time, acknowledge that, with all our talents and business enterprise, we cannot manage the men. I confess that, in our great State, the attempt on our privileges was first made ; but I can also assure this convention that we shall be the first to defend those privileges. I have been so unhappy as to have had three husbands, but, fortunately, have buried them all; and I can assert, from personal experience, that
‘Man, man, whether lean or fat, is
In face an angel, and in soul a cat!’
A spirit of philanthropy urges me to warn you against the male snares which my fatal destiny has inflicted on me, and from which I am therefore desirous to save others, as my several husbands were so many different forms of evil, and I suffered intensely in consequence. I hope my misery will deter others from such experiments. If I rescue one wretch from the horrors of matrimony, my purpose will be answered, and my past sufferings forgotten.”
Ms. W. urged the adoption of immediate and relentless measures, and trusted that some available remedy might be suggested for the evil that was in their midst.
Cotte Bettie, Esq., from Delaware, said, “I fully agree with the lady from New York in her views on this terrible crisis. I am as proud of my State as she can be of hers. I am not ashamed to call myself one of the Blue Hen’s Chickens.’ Delawarians are true blue — they always were, and always will be blue. They were the first to rally at freedom’s call, and would not now be found wanting. While she thus obeyed her instructions in proffering their aid, she must at the same time, assure this assembly that it was very advisable for them to keep their proceedings as secret as possible, lest a premature disclosure should put the men on their guard.”
C. Colesworth Pinokney, from South Carolina, remarked, “Had any one told her ft few months since that she should be meeting in amity with his northern brethren, she should have indignantly denied the possibility of such an act. She did not intend now, however, to allude to the difference of opinion that prevailed between the South and North; the several States of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina, that had appointed her a delegate to this convention, having empowered her to bury all sectional causes of discord in oblivion, and to unite energetically with the representatives of other States in putting down, this terrible conspiracy. She had come prepared, then, to assure them of the cordial co-operation of the Southern States in any action that might be taken in the crusade against men. She would only remark that there should be no delay either in their resolves or execution—‘if ’twere done, ’twere well ’twere done quickly.’ With this end in view, she recommended bringing before the present Session of Congress a fugitive men bill, by which every woman might be empowered to reclaim and punish a runaway or rebellious husband.”
Ms. Jonathan Whittle, from Massachusetts, “Guessed that there needn’t be much talk about the matter. Wimmen’s place was tu hum, and it was woman’s business to keep em there. Pritty much all they was fit for was to dry innions, make squash pies, and get a fellow a good dinner on Thanks-givin’. She calkerlated that if each indiwiddiwel present had the spunk she orter havo, she could manage her wimmen herself, without anybody to help her. Yankees knew a leetle somethin’ besides makin’ wooden nutmegs, mushmellion, and cowcumber seeds, and they didn’t want anybody to come there and tell ’em how to do: they’d better stay tu hum, and take care of their own affairs;”
Here Ms. Whittle was called to order from all parts of the house, and sat down in a state of high indignation, wiping her face with a blue cotton handkerchief.
George Washington Patrick Henry John Randolph Powhatan, Esq., from Virginia, said, “I regret the irritable state of feeling which seems to sway the lady from New England. I wonder at her assertion of our Yankee brethren’s ability to manage their men, when the fact is notorious that Ms. Whittle*s native State was the scene chosen for the outbreak of the rebellion. Belonging, as I do, to one of the first families in Virginia, descended in a direct line from Pocahontas on one side, and Richard Coeur de Lion on tho other, collaterally related to the Virgin King and a far-off connection of the present British sovereign, I know nothing of those menial duties which Ms. Whittle thinks properly distinguish the male sphere. I cannot, nor can any one associated with me, be supposed to know anything of such menial avocations. In Virginia, nothing is required of the fair sex but to give orders to their servants, and that sufficiently occupies their time. I feel proud to assert my belief that no gentleman from that State is mixed up in this sad affair; but, knowing the danger of bad- example, I cannot answer for the future, and am therefore ready to give my counsel both a8 to prevention and cure. I know the male character well enough to assure this meeting that opposition will but add fuel to the flame. In short, my advice is—
‘Let them alone and they’ll come home,
And leave their whims behind them.’ ”
Dr. Singleman, a middle-aged lady, from Vermont, thought the lady from Virginia mistaken in her opinion that the let-alone system was the best treatment for the epidemic raging among them. Acute diseases required active remedies. When the pulse of tho domestic frame was disordered, every member of tho body suffered, and depiction should be freely resorted to, and the constitution restored to a healthy state, or she would not answer for tho consequences. Her idea — which she advanced with some hesitation, for, being a bachelor, she knew little of the sex — was that every woman should try the effect of the three popular systems of medicine on her male relatives, and she would venture to promise the revolt would noon be quelled. A course of bleeding, leeching, and cupping, with blisters to their heads, and sinapisms on their feet, aided by hydropathic douche and plunge baths, and accompanied with homoeopathic quantities of nourishment, would tame the greatest shrew that ever lived.”
Ms. Easyled, of Tennessee, said, “ There is an old provorb about bachelors’ husbands being well managed—
‘As for my husband,
I would you had his spirit in such another:
Were the third of the world yours, with a snaffle
You may pace easy, bu t not such a husband.’
The measures that the learned physician proposes are easily suggested; but, I would ask, where is the woman in this assembly who would have tho nerve to try them ? There is another old proverb that says, when you sup with a certain personage you should use a long apron; and, in this case, that precaution is very necessary. It was best to let the gentlemen have their own way. To quote the immortal bard again—
‘Should all despair
That have revolted husbands, tho tenth of womankind
Would hang themselves.’
She would inform all present, from her own sad experience, that
‘She’s a fool who thinks, by force or skill,
To turn the current of a man’s will;
For when he will, he will, you may depend on’t,
And when he won’t, he won’t, and there’s an end on’t.’”
Ms. Hoosier, from Indiana, u Didn’t want to ‘front nobody, but she.reckoned Ms. Whittle had said about the only sensible things she’d heerd that day, and them was her sentiments exactly. There was plenty for wimmen to do in the cabin, with mindin’ the children and keepin’ the pot a bilin’, and out of it with takin care of the cattle and the farm, while the women was hard at work shootin’ and fishin’. Corn-dodgers and cracklins was wimmen’s business, and just about as much, she reckoned, as they’d sense for. She, for one, didn’t feel afeerd of any of ’em.”
General Boanerges Bluster, from Kentucky, said, “She disagreed very much with Ms. Hoosier. She once heerd a Methodist minister tell what Heaven was like, and, after talkin’ a great deal about it, she said, ‘In short, brethren, it’s a Kentucky of a place!’ She reckoned, when she said that, she forgot the wimmen. In their State, where males was three-quarters bacon, and t’other quarter hominy, they was dangerous critters. General, as she was, of the milishy, and holdin’ a great many offices under government, she had to mind her husband, who was big enough to lick three of her. Last ‘lection she was candidate for Congress; and, just as she was makin’ a stump speech to her constichents, and was tollin’ ’em what a great soldier she was, and how she’d fou’t the Ingins under Harrison, and would be sure to stand up for their rights, ’cause she wa’n’t afeerd of nothin’, her man walked up to her right cool, and, takin’ her off the platform, said to the people, This woman’s a fool. I know it, ’cause I’m her husband. Ho an’t fit for nothin’ but to mind the house and take care of the children, while I go visitin’. I can’t spare her; and you must ‘lect the other candidate.’ She expected she felt about as mean as dog-pie, and sneaked off as soon as ho could; and everybody hurrahed for Mr. Bluster, and said he should go to Congress. And, ever since, he’d done nothin’ but snub her, and had gone off to the wimmen’s meetin’ in spite of her; and ’twas his that said man was better than woman, ’cause she was made out of the raw materi’l, and he was made out of the manerfected;’ and she only hoped he wouldn’t find out where she was, or there’d be an orful time of it.”
Ms. Sucker, from Illinois, remarked, “ That it wa’n’t with her own will she was at this here meetin’; but, bein” lected, she had to come; and, as it was the season for shootin’ prairie hens, she wanted to be off agin. She didn’t want to make words herself, and hoped that other people would be short and sweet in what they had to say. As to Mr. Sucker, he hadn’t the spirit of a mouse now, and, if he ever had, which she didn’t know, the fever and ager had shuck it all out of him. She reckoned about the best way she could tell ’em of, was to send all the wimmen where they’d catch it, and, if it didn’t end ’em, it would mend ’em.”
Captain Salt, of Nantucket, a veteran tar in a blue roundabout and glazed hat, rose, coolly took her quid out of her month, and, depositing it in her pocket, made the following short and pithy remarks: I an’t a reg’lar delergate to this here meetin’, soe-in’ as I’m pretty nearly all the time afloat; but, bein’ as I’m ashore just now, I thought I’d come and see how things was a purceedin’. I know all about whales, and have a pretty good notion of a vessel, but I don’t know nothin’ about a man. Hows’ever, I’ve heerd them as did say he was like a ship, ’cause his riggin’ cost more than his hull. If so be that’s the case, why he’s easy manoovered. Keep a tight lookout for squalls, and, when you soe’em cornin’, reef your sails, scud before the storm, and, if he ‘s bent on goin’ down, take to the boats and leave him.”
Captain Salt sat down amid shouts of applause, with a very red face after her unwonted exertions, and an earnest request for a glass of grog; but, none being At hand, she contented herself with her quid.
Patrick O’Dougherty, of St. Louis, got up and said, “Jontlemen, this is my first appearance before the public since I left off being an Irishman, and became a native of this country, and I hope yees will excuse all blunders. I needn’t tell this enlightened meetin’ that, both as an Irishman and ‘Merikin, I love the purty cratures of wimmen, and, faith, I’m sorry they’ve got themselves in such a mess. St. Pathrick knows that, ‘with my friend and pitcher,’ my little Cruiskeen Lawn, and my Molly Astore, I could live all alone in a desert by myself, without any trouble; and sure never a one of me knows why ye can’t manage yeer husbands. Trate ’em like an Irish pig : drive ’em the way you don’t want ’em to go, and they’ll take the right track in spite of you.”
Here Ms. O’Dougherty was interrupted by a considerable bustle in the hall. There was a great disturbance, and many ladies looked pale and anxious; but the excitement was allayed by the appearance of an Indian chief in her war paint, who stalked solemnly up to the platform, and spoke as follows:—
“My nation was once a great nation in the lands near the setting sun. It is now a poor, small tribe, that has sold its hunting-grounds to the Great Mother, at Washington, for blankets and corn, and have sent me to have a talk with her. Waw-tu-nobow-te-ma-tu is a brave; her white sisters call her Big Bulldog, and know that she has many husbands. While she smoked the calumet of peace with his Mother, in the Grand Lodge at Washington, a little bird sung in her ear that bis white sisters had trouble in the wigwam with their squaws, and she has come to help them, for her heart feels heavy for them. Let my white sisters keep their men at work, hoeing corn, pounding hominy, drying venison, and minding papooses, and let them have but little to eat, and they will give them no more trouble. If they do, let my sisters take their scalps. I have said.” And, whirling her tomahawk over her head, Waw-tu-no-bow-te-ma-tu gave a shrill war-whoop, and, bounding off the platform, disappeared in the crowd.
Brass Blackstone, from the city of Sisterly Love, remarked, that she had listened with attention to the proceedings, and had heard with delight the eloquent speeches delivered on this interesting occasion. It was with the modest timidity so characteristic of a Philadelphia lawyer, that she should offer a few remarks on the subject that occupied them; and she hoped it would not be considered presumptuous in her if her views should differ from those hitherto advanced in the assemblage of talent and influence, with whom it was her high privilege this day to be associated. She had deeply sympathized with all the orators it had been her good fortune to hear on this exciting subject: she had, in turn, been thrilled with the surpassing eloquence of Ms. Wife, the resolute determination of Ms. Wumenheyter, the patriotism of Pinckney, the easy indifference of Ms. Whittle, the dignified hautour of Ms. Powhatan, the professional talent of Dr. Single-woman, the commendable meekness of Ms. Easyled, the heroic submission of General Bluster, the laconic sense of Ms. Sucker, the maritime beauty of Captain Salt’s similes, the enthusiasm of Ms. O’Dougherty, and the sententious wisdom of Big Bulldog. For herself, she had always been, and should ever continue to be, an ardent admirer of the fair sex. She was proud to say that his father was a man—that her native city was distinguished for its devotion to the fairer part of creation. Now York might boast of its canals, its railroads, its banks, and its steamships, but Philadelphia gloried in its men. She could lay her band on her heart, and proudly assert that even this rebellion had not estranged her feelings—
‘Man, with all thy faults, I love thee still!’
lie could even say, with the Irish bard—
‘Sweet book, unlike the books of art,
Whose errors are thy fairest part:
In thee, the dear errata column
Is the best page in all the volume.’
With these feelings, she was present on this occasion to interpose her humble abilities between them and danger. She acknowledged that her clients bad not evinced their usual sagacity in risking their quiet, but powerful influence over woman, by endeavoring to grasp ‘what would not enrich themselves, but make us poor indeed. Why they had done so, was a question more easily asked than answered, and she should therefore not attempt to solve the enigma. It was her business to implore that nothing should be rashly attempted on this delicate occasion which might result in wounding the feelings of her fair clients. She would assure them a little skillful management would be more effectual than open demonstrations of hostility; and, should the suggestion she was about to offer prove successful, she asked no better reward, as a woman and a lawyer, than the friendship of the sex. In her opinion,
‘Fee simple and a simple fee,
And all the fees in tall,
Are nothing when compared to the«v
Thou best of fees-—fe-female.’
Not to detain them longer in suspense, she advised that the ladies should fill their houses with looking-glasses, and give the gentlemen time for reflection”
Ms. Blackstone received much applause for her suggestion; and Ms. Bowieknife, of Texas, who succeeded her, said, “ I so fully agree with the lady from Philadelphia in her love for the sex, and in all the sentiments ho has advanced, that I will only add, should tho measure she has recommended fail to make peace, I hope all the gentlemen will come to Texas. We have hearts and arms for all of them.
‘If all other States reject ’em,
Ours will freely, gladly take ’em.’ ”
Ms. Placer, from California, remarked, “That ho was for no half-way measures. It was her opinion that all tho men ought to be seized and sent to California; it was a new country, and tho minors wanted husbands. When they were once there, she thought they could be managed. Judge Lynch was an active woman. Show them that there was only the difference of a letter between altar and halter, and, if they would not marry, why let them hang!”
Ms. J. P. Wife said, “lie had listened with astonishment to the proceedings of the day. She really thought that, for all tho good that had been done or suggested, ladies might as well have staid at home. She had a few words still to offer on the subject, which she hoped they would hear with patience. Among other things, she had prepared a list of all tho bad men who had ever existed.” Heroine Ms. Wumenheyter remarked, “That she must remind the lady time was precious; and, as all men who had ever existed were bad, Ms. Wife had better mention only the worst of them, among whom she must not forget her (Ms. W.’s) throe husbands.”
Ms. Wife was so disconcerted at this interruption, that she forgot what she had to say, and could only remember that bis list begun with Eve, and ended with the present generation. “I see clearly, ladies,” continued she, that no one enters so warmly into this subject as myself. Well, be it so. I am ready to fall a martyr in such a cause; find I here solemnly declare that no obstacle shall induce me to swerve from the path that duty marks out for me to follow. I will make every endeavor to extirpate this vile heresy among tho men. I will immolate myself on tho altar of my country. I will sacrifice my domestic affections on its shrine —Mr. Wife himself”——
“Here I am, my dear 1” said a sharp voice, and a small, thin, vinegar-faced gentleman entered the room, and walked up to the platform, at the head of a numerous procession of males. “My love,” continued he, “it is late; I am afraid you will take cold. Hadn’t you better come home?”
“If you think so, my dear, certainly,” replied Ms. Wife, turning pale, and trembling so she could scarcely stand, perceiving which, her husband affectionately offered him his arm. Ms. Easyled meekly obeyed an imperative gesture from Mr. Easyled, and Mr. Bluster picked up the general, who had fainted, and carried her out in his arms.
Exeunt omnes, in wild confusion.