Chapter 8: “divers good causes” 1890-1896; aet. 71-77
In the closing decade of the nineteenth century a new growth of “causes” claimed her time and sympathy.  The year 1891 saw the birth of the Society of American Friends of Russian Freedom; modelled on a similar society which, with “Free Russia” as its organ, was doing good work in England. The object of the American society was “to aid by all moral and legal means the Russian patriots in their efforts to obtain for their country political freedom and self-government.” Its circular was signed by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Julia Ward Howe, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, George Kennan, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry I. Bowditch, F. W. Bird, Alice Freeman Palmer, Charles G. Ames, Edward L. Pierce, Frank B. Sanborn, Annie Fields, E. Benjamin Andrews, Lillie B. Chace Wyman, Samuel L. Clemens, and Joseph H. Twitchell. James Russell Lowell, writing to Francis J. Garrison in 1891, says: “Between mote and beam, I think this time Russia has the latter in her eye, though God knows we have motes enough in ours. So you may take my name even if it be in vain, as I think it will be.” It was through this society that she made the acquaintance of Mme. Breschkovskaya,1 the Russian patriot whose sufferings and sacrifices have endeared her to all lovers of freedom. The two women felt instant sympathy with each other. Mme. Breschkovskaya came to 241 Beacon Street more than once, and they had much talk together. On one of these occasions our mother was asked to play some of her own compositions. Her fingers strayed from one thing  to another; finally, on a sudden impulse, she struck the opening chords of the Russian National Hymn. Mme. Breschkovskaya started forward. “Ah, madame!” she cried, “do not play that! You cannot know what that air means to us Russians!” At a great meeting in Faneuil Hall the two spoke, in English and Russian respectively, while other addresses were in Yiddish and Polish. All were frantically applauded by the polyglot audience which filled the hall to overflowing. William Dudley Foulke presided at this meeting. Speaking with our mother several years later, he reminded her of the occasion, which he thought might have been of a somewhat anarchistic tendency. He was not sure, he said, that they had not made fools of themselves. “One can afford,” she replied, “to make a very great fool of one's self in such a cause as that of Russian liberty” The year 1891 saw the birth of another society in which she was deeply interested, the Women's Rest Tour Association, whose object was “simply to make it easier for women who need a trip abroad to take one.” It was proved “that the sum of $250 was sufficient to enable a woman of simple tastes to enjoy a summer's vacation in Europe” ; a travelling fund was established from which women could borrow, or — in certain cases -receive gifts; a handbook was issued, etc., etc. In an unobtrusive way, the Women's Rest Tour Association did and continues to do much good. She was its president to the close of her life, and in silent  and lovely tribute to her memory the office has since then remained vacant. In the early nineties all Christendom was aroused by the outrages committed by the Turks in Armenia. From almost every Christian country rose a cry of horror: indignation meetings were called; protest, denunciation, and appeal were the order of the day. In Boston a meeting was held at Faneuil Hall (November 26, 1894), called together by the Boston Armenian Relief Committee. She was on the platform, and spoke from her heart. “I could not,” she says,
stay away from this meeting. My heart was here, and I came, not so much to speak, as to hear what is to be done about this dreadful trouble. For something must be done. I have to pray God night and morning that He would find some way to stay this terrible tide of slaughter.... I recall the first action of Florence Nightingale when she went to take care of the sick and wounded in the Crimean War. She found many things wanting for the comfort of the soldiers in the hospitals, but she could not get at them. Some seal or mandate was waited for. “The men are suffering,” Florence Nightingale said. “Break in the doors — open the boxes-give me the blankets and medicines. I must have them!” and so she did. Now, the fleets of the Western nations are waiting for some diplomatic development which shall open the way for action. I think that we, the United States of America, are now called upon to play the part of Florence Nightingale; to take our stand and insist upon it that the slaughter shall cease. Oh!  let us give money, let us give life, but let us stand by our principles of civil and religious liberty. I am sure that if we do so, we shall have behind us, and with us, that great spirit which has been in the world for nineteen centuries past, with ever-increasing power. Let us set up in these distant lands the shelter of the blessed Cross, and of all that it stands for, and let us make it availing once and forever.Soon after this the Friends of Armenia organized as a society, she being its president. Among its members were William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Blackwell and his devoted daughter Alice, and M. H. Gulesian. Singly or in company they went about, through Massachusetts, holding meetings, rousing the people to aid in the protest of Christendom against heathendom, of mercy against cruelty. “Spoke for Armenia,” is a frequent entry in the Journal of these days. In one of these addresses she said:-- “It may be asked, where is the good of our assembling here? what can a handful of us effect against this wicked and remorseless power, so far beyond our reach, so entrenched in the selfishness of European nations who are the creditors of the bankrupt state, and who keep her alive in the hope of recovering the debt which she owes them? The walls of this old hall should answer this question. They saw the dawn of our own larger liberties. They heard the first indignant plea of Wendell Phillips when, in the splendor of his youth, he took the field for the emancipation of a despised race which had no friends. So, on this sacred arena, I throw down the glove which challenges the Turkish  Government to its dread account. What have we for us in this contest? The spirit of civilization, the sense of Christendom, the heart of humanity. All of these plead for justice, all cry out against barbarous warfare of which the victims are helpless men, tender women and children. We invoke here the higher powers of humanity against the rude instincts in which the brute element survives and rules.
Aid us, paper, aid us, pen,Aid us, shades of champions who have led the world's progress! Aid us, thou who hast made royal the scourge and crown of thorns!” After hearing these words, Frederick Greenhalge, then Governor of Massachusetts, said to her, “Ah, Mrs. Howe, you have given us a prose Battle Hymn!” The Friends of Armenia did active and zealous service through a number of years, laboring not only for the saving of life, but for the support and education of the thousands of women and orphans left desolate; Schools and hospitals were established in Armenia,. and many children were placed in American homes, where they grew up happily, to citizenship. Nearly ten years later, a new outbreak of Turkish ferocity roused the “Friends” to new fervor, and once again her voice was lifted up in protest and appeaL She wrote to President Roosevelt, imploring him to send some one from some neighboring American consulate to investigate conditions. He did so, and his action prevented an impending massacre. In 1909, fresh persecutions brought the organization  once more together. The Armenians of Boston reminded her of the help she had given before, and asked her to write to President Taft. This she promptly did. Briefly, this cause with so many others was to be relinquished only with life itself. On the fly-leaf of the Journal for 1894 is written: “I take possession of the New Year in the name of Faith, Hope, and Charity. J. W. Howe.” “Head bewildered with correspondence, bills, etc. Must get out of this or die.” “ A threatening head, and a week before me full of functions. I feel weak in mind and dazed with confusions, but will trust in God and keep my powder dry.” “Hearing on Suffrage, Green Room, 10 A. M. My mind was unusually clear for this speaking. I determined to speak of the two sorts of people, those who naturally wish to keep the best things for themselves, and those whose appreciation of these things is such that they cannot refrain from spreading them abroad, giving freely as they have received. I was able to follow and apply this tolerably in my ten-minute speech....” “Annual meeting of Rest Tour Association; a delightful meeting, full of good suggestions. I made one concerning pilgrimages in groups.... I had a sudden glimpse to-day of the unfailing goodness of God. This and not our merits brings the pardon of our sins.” “ To hear Irving in ‘Louis XI’ ; a strong play and a good part for him. Left after Act Fourth to attend Mrs. Gardner's musicale, at which Busoni pounded  fearfully. I said, ‘He ought to play with his boots on his hands.’ He played two curious compositions of Liszt's: St. Francis's Sermon to the Birds and to the Fishes-much roaring as of old ocean in the second.” “ Boston. Attended Mrs. Mary Hemenway's funeral in the morning. ... A great loss she is, but her life has been a great gain. Would that more rich men had such daughters! That more rich women had such a heart! . .” “C. G. A. preached a funeral sermon on Mrs. Hemenway. As he opened his lips, I said to myself, ‘ What can he teach us that her life has not taught us?’ The sermon, however, was most instructive. Such a life makes an epoch, and should establish a precedent. If one woman can be so disinterested and so wise, others can emulate her example. I, for one, feel that I shall not forget this forcible presentation of the aspect of such a character, of such a history. God send that her mantle may fall upon this whole community, stimulating each to do what he or she can for humanity.”
Aid us, hearts of noble men!
“ May 11. Opposed the dispensing with the reading of State Reports. The maker of the motion said that we could read these at home. I said, ‘Yes, and we can read the Bible at home, but we like to go to church and hear it read.’ Finished my screed for this evening and licked my Columbus poem into shape, the dear Lord helping me.” 
The Seventy-fifth Birthday brought the customary festivities. The newspapers sent reporters; she had a word for each. To the representative of the “Advertiser,” she said, “I think that I enjoy the coming of old age with its peacefulness, like the going down of the sun. It is very lovely! I am so glad to be remembered by so many. The twilight of life is indeed a pleasant season!” 
 “ July 1. [Oak Glen.] Despite my severe fatigue went in town to church; desired in my mind to have some good abiding thought given me to work for and live by. The best thought that came to me was something like this: we are careful of our fortune and of our reputation. We are not careful enough of our lives. Society is built of these lives in which each should fit his or her place, like a stone fitly joined by the builder. We die, but the life we have lived remains, and helps to build society well or ill. Later on I thought that it sometimes seems as if a rope or chain of mercy would be let down to pull some of us out of sin and degradation, out of the Hell of passion. If we have taken hold of it and have been rescued, shall we not work to have others drawn up with us? At such moments, I remember my old wish to speak to the prisoners, never fully realized.” “August 13. Finished my poem for the Bryant Centenary, of which I have despaired; my mind has seemed dull of late, and I have had a hard time with this poem, writing what appeared to me bald-doggerel, with no uniting thought. In these last three days, I have hammered upon it, and bettered it, coming in sight of a better vein and to-day, not without prayerful effort, I got it about ready, D. G.”
“August 31. To Newport with Flossy, taking my screed with me, to the meeting of Colonial Dames, at the rooms of the Historical Society, one of which is the old Seventh-Day Baptist Church, which my greats grandfather, Governor Samuel Ward, used to attend. ... Bishop Clarke made the closing address, full of good sense, sentiment and wit — a wonderful man for eighty-two years of age.”
“September 28. Here begins for me a new period. I have fulfilled as well as I could the tasks of the summer, and must now have a little rest, a day or so, and then begin in good earnest to prepare for the autumn and winter work, in which A. A.W. comes first, and endless correspondence.”
“January 1, 1895. I was awake very early and made the prayer that during this year I might not say one uncharitable word, or be guilty of one ungenerous action.” “January 6. .. My afternoon service at the Women's Educational and Industrial Union. ... The day was very stormy and Mrs. Lee met me at the carriage, offering to excuse me from speaking to the five persons who were in attendance. I felt not to disappoint those five, and presently twenty-three were present, and we had a pleasant talk, after the reading of the short sermon.” “January 8.... Felt much discouraged at waking, the long vista of work opening out before me, each task calling for some original brain-work, I mean for some special thought worth presenting to an audience. While I puzzled, a thought came to me for this day's  suffrage speech: ‘The kingdom cometh not with observation.’ The silent, gradual, wonderful growth of public sentiment regarding woman suffrage, the spreading sense of the great universal harmony which Christ delivered to us in the words and acts of a few years, and which, it seems to me, is only now beginning to make itself generally felt and to shape the world's councils increasingly.” “January 25. I awoke this morning overwhelmed by the thought of my lecture at Salem, which I have not written. Suddenly a line of my own came to me, ‘Had I one of thy words, my Master,’ and this brought me the train of thought, which I shall endeavor to present. The one word which we all have is ‘charity.’ I wrote quite a screed and with that and some speaking shall get through, I hope.... Got a good lead of thought and felt that I could supply extempore what I had not time to write. Harry and Fanny had a beautiful dinner for Lady Henry Somerset.” “January 26. Lunch and lecture in Salem. A dreadful storm; I felt that I must go. The hackman and I rolled down the steps of the house, he, fortunately for me, undermost and quite stout of person; otherwise the shock would have been severe and even dangerous. ...” [N. B. The terrified hackman, picking himself up, found her already on her feet. “Oh! Mrs. Howe,” he cried, “let me help you into the house!” “Nonsense!” was the reply. “I have just time to catch my train!” ] 
“March 30.... I awoke very early this morning, with a head so confused that I thought my brain had given out, at least from the recent overstrain .... Twice I knelt and prayed that God would give me the use of my mind. An hour in sleep did something towards this and a good cup of tea put me quite on my feet....” “April 8. In the late afternoon Harry, my son, came, and after some little preparation told me of the death of my dear sister Annie. I have been toiling and moiling to keep the engagements of this week, but here comes the great silence, and I must keep it for some days at least....”  “April 10. ... It suddenly occurred to me that this might be the hour, as this would surely be the day of dear Annie's funeral. So I found the 90th Psalm and the chapter in Corinthians, and sat and read them before her picture, remembering also Tennyson's lines:--
And Ave, Ave, Ave said”
Adieu, adieu, forever more.
“May 20. Have writ a brief letter to Mary G. Hennessey, Dixon, Illinois. She intends to speak of me in her graduation address and wanted me to send her ‘a vivid history of my life,’ with my ‘ideas of literary work.’ I declined the first, but sent a bit under the last head.” “May 27.... Suffrage meeting in the evening. I presided and began with, ‘Sixty years ago to-day I was sixteen years old. If I only knew now what I thought I knew then’ !” “June 2.... To communion in afternoon. The minister asked whether I would speak. I told what I had felt as I entered the church that afternoon, ‘a sort of realization of the scene in that upper chamber, its gloom and its glory. What was in that great heart whose pulsations have made themselves felt down to our own time, and all over the world? What are its sorrows? It bore the burthen of the sorrows and distresses of humanity, and we who pledge him here in this cup are bound to bear our part of that burthen. Only thus shall we attain to share in that festival of joy and of revealed power which followed the days of doubt and despair.’ ” “All this came to me like a flash. I have written it down from memory because I value the thought.” ..  “June 15. Attended the funeral of my old friend and helper, Dr. Williams, the oculist. ... Six stalwart sons carried the coffin.... I thought this: ‘I am glad that I have at last found out that the battle of life is an unending fight against the evil tendencies, evil mostly because exceeding right measure, which we find in ourselves. Strange that it should take so long to find this out. This is the victory which God gives us when we have fought well and faithfully. Might I at least share it with the saints whom I have known.’ ” “July 14. .. When I lay down to my rest before dinner, I had a momentary sense of the sweetness and relief of the last lying down. This was a new experience to me, as I have been averse to any thought of death as opposed to the activity which I love. I now saw it as the termination of all fight and struggle, and prayed that in the life beyond I might pay some of the debts of affection and recompense which I have failed to make good in this life. Feeling a little like my old self to-day, I realize how far from well I have been for days past.” “July 27. Woke with an aching head.... Prayed that even in suffering I might still have ‘work and worship.’ Alliteration is, I know, one of my weaknesses. I thought afterwards of a third W-, work, worship, welcome. These three words will do for a motto of the life which I now lead, in which these words stand for my ruling objects, ‘welcome’ denoting ‘hospitality’ in which I should be glad to be more forward than I have been of late....”  “July 28. Reading Mr. Hedge's review of Historic Christianity to-day, I felt puzzled by his showing of the usefulness of human errors and delusion in the great order of Providence. Lying down for my midday rest, it became more clear to me that there is truth of sentiment and also intellectual truth. In Dr. Hedge's view, the inevitable mistakes of human intellect in its early unfolding were helpful to the development of true sentiment. Higher than this, however, must be the agreement of the two, prefigured perhaps in such sentences as ‘Mercy and truth have kissed each other.’ This thought also came to me: ‘Oh, God, no kingdom is worth praying for but thine.’ ”
 “September 30. My dearest Maud left me this morning for another long absence; she is to sail for Europe. She had forbidden me to see her off, but I could not obey her in this and sat with her at breakfast, and had a last kiss and greeting. My last words called after her were: ‘Do not forget to say your prayers.’ May God keep my dearest child and permit us to meet again, if it is best that I should live until her return, of which at present the prospect seems very good....” The Association for the Advancement of Women met in New Orleans this year, but first she must go with Florence to the Council of the General Federation of Women's Clubs at Atlanta, Georgia, where a great exposition was also being held. The expedition began with disaster. “October 31. Left Boston by Colonial train at 9 A. M. Rolled down my front steps, striking my forehead and bruising myself generally, in getting to the carriage.. ..” After taking her part in the Council and visiting the Exposition, she proceeded to New Orleans, where a warm welcome awaited her. A few days after her arrival, she was driving to some function when a trolley car ran into the carriage, shaking her up badly and bruising her lame knee severely. It seemed imperative that she should rest for a few days, and hostess and daughter pleaded with her. Florence begged in particular that she would cancel her engagement to preach in the Unitarian Church; begged a little too  insistently. “I would n't, dear mother!” “Flossy,” was the reply, “you are you, and I am I! I shall preach on Sunday”
“December 28. ...Mrs. Barrows dined tete-a-tete with me, and we had much talk about Armenia. I said: ‘If we two should go to England, would it do any good?’ I spoke only half in earnest. She said: ‘If you would only go, I would go with you as your henchman.’ This set me thinking of a voyage to England and a crusade such as I made for Peace in 1872. I am, however, held forcibly here by engagements, and at my age, my bodily presence might be, as St. Paul says, ‘contemptible.’ I must try to work in some other way.” 
“December 29 ... I determined to-day to try to work more systematically for the Armenians. Think I will write to Clara Barton and Senator Hoar, also to Lady Henry Somerset, an arraignment of Christendom for its supineness towards the Turks, an allusion to Coeur de Lion and the ancient Crusaders....” “December 30. ... Clara Barton held a meeting for the Red Cross ... I was the last speaker and I think that, as sometimes happens, my few words brought things to a crisis, for the moment only, indeed, but even that may help.” “December 31. Rising early and with a mind somewhat confused and clouded, I went to my window.  As I looked out, the gray clouds parted, giving me a moment's sight of a star high up in the heavens. This little glimpse gave me hope for the day and great comfort. It was like an answering glance to my many troubled questions....” “We have stood for that which was known to be right in theory, and for that which has proved to be right in practice. (From my suffrage address at State House in 1894).” In December, 1895, appeared her first volume since “Margaret Fuller,” a collection of essays, published under the title of the opening one, “Is Polite Society Polite?” In the preface she says:--
I remember, that quite late in the fifties, I mentioned to Theodore Parker the desire which I began to feel to give living expression to my thoughts, and to lend to my written words the interpretation of my voice. Parker, who had taken a friendly interest in the publication of my first volumes, ‘Passion Flowers’ and “Words for the hour,” gave his approval also to this new project. “The great desire of the age,” he said, “is for vocal expression. People are scarcely satisfied with the printed page alone: tley crave for their instruction the living voice and the living presence.” ...Of the title essay she says:-- “I remember that I was once invited to read this essay to a village audience in one of the New England States. My theme was probably one quite remote from the general thought of my hearers. As I went on,  their indifference began to affect me, and my thought was that I might as well have appealed to a set of wooden tenpins as to those who were present on that occasion.” “In this, I afterwards learned that I was mistaken. After the conclusion of the evening's exercise, a young man, well known in the community, was heard to inquire urgently where he could find the lecturer. Friends asked, what did he want of her? He replied: ‘Well, I did put my brother in the poorhouse, and now that I have heard Mrs. Howe, I suppose that I must take him out.’ ” Another personal reminiscence goes back to her childhood days:-- “I had a nursery governess when I was a small child. She came from some country town, and probably regarded her position in my father's family as a promotion. One evening, while we little folks gathered about her in our nursery, she wept bitterly. ‘What is the matter?’ we asked; and she took me up in her lap, and said: ‘My poor old father came here to see me to-day, and I would not see him. I bade them tell him that he had mistaken the house, and he went away, and as he went I saw him looking up at the windows so wistfully!’ Poor woman! We wept with her, feeling that this was indeed a tragical event, and not knowing what she could do to make it better.” “But could I see that woman now, I would say to her: ‘If you were serving the king at his table, and held his wine-cup in your hand, and your father stood without, asking for you, you should set down the cup,  and go out from the royal presence to honor your father, so much the more if he is poor, so much the more if he is old.’ And all that is really polite in polite society would say so too.” On the same page is a memory of later years:-- “I once heard a lady, herself quite new in society, say of a Parisian dame who had shown her some attention: ‘Ah! the trouble with Madame — is that she is too good-natured. She entertains everybody.’ ‘Indeed,’ thought I, ‘if she had been less good-natured, is it certain that she would have entertained you?’ ”