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Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Theodore Tilton.
I once watched an artist while he tried to transfer to his canvas the lustre of a precious stone. His picture, after his utmost skill, was dull. A radiant and sparkling woman, full of wit, reason, and fancy, is a whole crown of jewels. A poor, opaque copy of her is the most that one can render in a biographical sketch.

Elizabeth Cady, daughter of Judge Daniel Cady and Margaret Livingston, was born November 12th, 1816, in Johnstown, New York,--forty miles north of Albany.

Birthplace is a secondary parentage, and transmits character. Elizabeth's birthplace was more famous half a century ago than since; for then, though small, it was a marked intellectual centre; and now, though large, it is an unmarked manufacturing town. Before her birth, it was the vice-ducal seat of Sir William Johnson, the famous English negotiator with the Indians. During her girlhood, it was an arena for the intellectual wrestlings of Kent, Tompkins, Spencer, Elisha Williams, and Abraham Van Vechten, who, as lawyers, were among the chiefest of their time. It is now devoted mainly to the fabrication of steel springs and buckskin gloves. So, like Wordsworth's early star, “it has faded into the light of common day.”

A Yankee said that his chief ambition was to become more [333] famous than his native town: Mrs. Stanton has lived to see her historic birthplace shrink into a mere local repute, while she herself has been quoted, ridiculed, and abused into a national fame.

But Johnstown still retains one of its ancient splendors,--a glory still as fresh as at the foundation of the world. Standing on its hills, one looks off upon a country of enamelled meadow lands, that melt away southward toward the Mohawk, and northward to the base of those grand mountains which are God's monument over the grave of John Brown. In sight of six different counties in clear weather, Elizabeth Cady, a child of free winds and flowing brooks, roamed at will, frolicking with lambs, chasing butterflies, or, like Proserpine, gathering flowers, “herself a fairer flower.” As Hanson Cox, standing under the pine tree at Dartmouth College, and gazing upon the outlying landscape, exclaimed, “This is a liberal education!” so Elizabeth Cady, in addition to her books, her globes, her water-colors, and her guitar, was an apt pupil to skies and fields, gardens and meadows, flocks and herds. Happy the child whose foster-parents are God and Nature!

The one person who, more than any other, gave an intellectual bent to her early life, even more than her father and mother, was her minister. This was the Rev. Simon Hosack,a good old Scotchman, pastor for forty years of a Presbyterian church in which the Cady family had always been members, and of which Mrs. Stanton (though she has long resided elsewhere) is a member to this very day;--a fact which her present biographer takes special pains to chronicle, lest, otherwise, the world might be slow to believe that this brilliant, audacious, and iconoclastic woman is actually an Old School Presbyterian. The venerable Scotch parson-snowy-haired, heavy-browed, and bony-cheeked — was generally cold to most of his parishioners, but always cordial to Elizabeth. A great [334] affection existed between this shepherd and his lamb. What she could not say to either father or mother, she unbosomed to him. Full of the sorrows which all imaginative natures suffer keenly in childhood, she found in this patriarch a fatherly confessor, who tenderly taught her how to bear her little burdens of great weight, or, still better, how to suffer them and be strong. Riding his parish rounds, he would take Elizabeth into his buggy, give the reins into her hands, and, while his fair charioteer vainly whipped the mild-mannered mare, the good man would put on his spectacles, and read aloud from some book or foreign review, or, when not reading, would talk. The favorite subject, both for reading and talking, was religion,--never the dark, but always the bright side of it. Indeed, religion has no dark side. The fancied shadow is not in the thing seen, but in the eye seeing. “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” Seeking to fill the girl's mind with sunshine and glory, her minister kept always painting, to her young fancy, fair pictures of paradise and happy saints. Peregrinating in his antique vehicle, the childless old man, fathering this soulful child, taught her that the way to heaven was as lovely as a country road fringed with wild roses and arched with summer blue.

“My father,” she says in one of her letters, “was truly great and good,--an ideal judge; and to his sober, taciturn, and majestic bearing, he added the tenderness, purity, and refinement of a true woman. My mother was the soul of independence and self-reliance,--cool in the hour of danger, and never knowing fear. She was inclined to a stern military rule of the household,--a queenly and magnificent sway; but my father's great sense of justice, and the superior weight of his greater age (for he was many years her senior), so modified the domestic government that the children had, in the main, a pleasant childhood.” [335]

The child is not only father of the man, but also mother of the woman. This large-brained, inquisitive, and ambitious girl, who early manifested a meditative tendency, soon found her whole nature sensibly jarred with the first inward and prophetic stirrings toward the great problem to which she has devoted her after years,--the elevation and enfranchisement of woman.

“In my earliest girlhood,” she says,

I spent much time In my father's office. There, before I could understand much of the talk of the older people, I heard many sad complaints, made by women, of the injustice of the laws. We lived in a Scotch neighborhood, where many of the men still retained the old feudal ideas of women and property. Thus, at a man's death his property would descend to his eldest son, and the mother would be left with nothing in her own right. It was not unusual, therefore, for the mother, who had probably brought all the property into the family, to be made an unhappy dependent on the bounty of a dissipated son. The tears and complaints of these women, who came to my father for legal advice, touched my heart; and I would often childishly inquire into all the particulars of their sorrow, and would appeal to my father for some prompt remedy. On one occasion, he took down a law-book, and tried to show me that something called ‘the laws’ prevented him from putting a stop to these cruel and unjust things. In this way, my head was filled with a great anger against those cruel and atrocious laws. After which the students in the office, to amuse themselves by exciting my feelings, would always tell me of any unjust laws which they found during their studies. My mind was thus so aroused against the barbarism of the laws thus pointed out, that I one day marked them with a pencil, and decided to take a pair of scissors and cut them out of the book,--supposing that my father and his library were the beginning and [336] end of the law! I thought that if I could only destroy those laws, those poor women would have no further trouble. But when the students informed my father of my proposed mutilation of his volumes, he explained to me how fruitless my childish vengeance would have been, and taught me that bad laws were to be abolished in quite a different way. As soon as I fairly understood how the thing could be accomplished, I vowed that, when I became old enough, I would have such abominable laws changed. And I have kept my vow.

After the failure of Elizabeth's novel and original plan of amending the laws with her scissors, another equally strange ambition took possession of her mind.

“I was about ten years old,” she says,

when my only brother, who had just graduated at Union College with high honors, came home to die. He was my father's pride and joy. It was easily seen that, while my father was kind to us all, the one son filled a larger place in his affections and future plans than the five daughters together. Well do I remember how tenderly he watched the boy in that last sickness; how he sighed, and wiped the tears from his eyes, as he slowly walked up and down the hall; and how, when the last sad moment came, and all was silent in the chamber of death, he knelt and prayed for comfort and support. I well remember, too, going into the large, dark parlor to look at my brother's corpse, and finding my father there, pale and immovable, sitting in a great arm-chair by his side. For a long time my father took no notice of me. At last I slowly approached him and climbed upon his knee. He mechanically put his arm about me, and, with my head resting against his beating heart, we sat a long, long time in silence,--he, thinking of the wreck of all his hopes in the loss of his dear son, and I fully feeling the awful void death had made. At length, he heaved a deep sigh and said, “O my daughter, I wish you [337] were a boy!” “Then I will be a boy,” said I, “and will do all that my brother did.”

All that day, and far into the night, I pondered the problem of boyhood. I thought the chief thing was, to be learned and courageous, as I fancied all boys were. So I decided to learn Greek, and to manage a horse. Having come to that conclusion, I fell asleep. My resolutions, unlike most made at night, did not vanish in the morning. I rose early, and hastened to put them into execution. They were resolutions never to be forgotten,--destined to mould my whole future character. As soon as I was dressed, I hastened to meet our good pastor in his garden, which joined our own. Finding him at work there as usual, I said, “Doctor, will you teach me Greek?” “Yes,” he replied. “Will you give me a lesson now?” “Yes, to be sure,” he added. Laying down his hoe, and taking my hand, “Come into my study,” said he, “and we will begin at once.” As we walked along, I told him all my thoughts and plans. Having no children, he loved me very much, entered at once into the sorrow which I had felt on discovering that a girl was less in the scale of being than a boy, and praised my determination to prove the contrary. The old grammar which he had studied in the University of Glasgow, was soon in my hand, and the Greek article learned before breakfast.

Then came the sad pageantry of death,--the weeping friends, the dark rooms, the ghostly stillness, the funeral cortege, the prayer, the warning exhortation, the mournful chant, the solemn tolling bell, the burial. How my flesh crawled during those three sad days! What strange, undefined fears of the unknown took possession of me!

For months afterward, at the twilight hour, I went with my father to the new-made grave. Near it stood a tall poplar, against which I leaned, while my father threw himself upon the grave with outstretched arms, as if to embrace [338] his child. At last the frosts and storms of November came and made a chilling barrier between the living and the dead, and we went there no more.

During all this time, the good doctor and I kept up our lessons; and I learned, also, how to drive and ride a horse, and how (on horseback) to leap a fence and ditch. I taxed every power, in hope some day to make my father say, “Well, a girl is as good as a boy, after all!” But he never said it. When the doctor would come to spend the evening with us, I would whisper in his ear, “Tell my father how fast I get on.” And he would tell him all, and praise me too. But my father would only pace the room and sigh, “Ah, she should have been a boy!” And I, not knowing why, would hide my head on the doctor's shoulder, and often weep with vexation.

At length, I entered the academy, and, in a class mainly of boys, studied Mathematics, Latin, and Greek. As two prizes were offered in Greek, I strove for one, and got it. How well I remember my joy as I received that prize! There was no feeling of ambition, rivalry, or triumph over my companions, nor any feeling of satisfaction in winning my honors in presence of all the persons assembled in the academy on the day of exhibition. One thought alone occupied my mind. “Now,” said I, “my father will be happy, he will be satisfied.” As soon as we were dismissed, I hastened home, rushed into his office, laid the new Greek Testament (which was my prize) on his lap, and exclaimed, “There, I have got it!” He took the book, looked through it, asked me some questions about the class, the teachers, and the spectators, appeared to be pleased, handed the book back to me, and, when I was aching to have him say something which would show that he recognized the equality of the daughter with the son, kissed me on the forehead, and exclaimed with a sigh, “Ah, you should have been a boy!” [339] That ended my pleasure. I hastened to my room, flung the book across the floor, and wept tears of bitterness.

But the good doctor, to whom I then went, gave me hope and courage. What a debt of gratitude I owe to that dear old man! I used to visit him every day, tell him the news, comb his hair, read to him, talk with him, and listen with rapture to his holy words. Oh, how often the memory of many things he has said has given me comfort and strength in the hour of darkness and struggle! One day, as we sat alone, and I held his hand, and he was ill, he said, “Dear child, it is your mission to help mould the world anew. May good angels give you thoughts, and move you to do the work which they want done on earth. You must promise me one thing, and that is, that you will always say what you think. Your thoughts are given you to utter, not to conceal; and if you are true to yourself, and give to others all you see and know, God will pour more light and truth into your own soul. My old Greek lexicon, testament, and grammar, which I studied forty years ago, and which you and I have thumbed so often together, I shall leave to you when I die; and, whenever you see them, remember that I am watching you from heaven, and that you can still come to me with all your sorrows, just as you have always done. I shall be ever near you.”

When the last sad scene was over, and his will was opened, sure enough, there was a clause in it, saying, “My Greek lexicon, testament, and grammar, I give to Elizabeth Cady.”

Great was the void which the doctor's death made la my heart. But I slowly transferred my love to the books. When I first received them they were all falling to pieces. So I had them newly bound in black morocco and gilt.

Dear are they to me to this day, and dear will continue to be as [340] long as I live. I never look at them without thanking God that he gave me, in my childhood, so noble a friend.

At the time of Dr. Hosack's death, which was in Elizabeth's fifteenth year, her term at the Johnstown Academy was drawing to a close. Among the scholars, whether girls or boys, none could recite better, or run faster, than herself; none missed fewer lessons, or frolics; none were oftener at the head of recitations, or mischiefs. If she was detained from the class, the teacher felt the loss of her cheery company; if she was absent from the out-door games, the boys said that half the sport was gone. She who had been the loved companion of a sedate theologian had, at the same time, remained the ringleader of a bevy of mad romps. A schoolhouse is a kingdom; and Elizabeth was a school-house queen.

After graduating at the head of her class, a sudden blow fell upon her heart, and left a grievous wound. She had secretly cherished the hope, that as she had kept ahead of the boys, and thus shown at least her equality with the domineering sex, she would be sent (as Johnstown boys were then usually sent) to Union College at Schenectady.

The thought never occurred to her, that this institution, like most other colleges, was not so wise and liberal as to educate both sexes instead of one.--There will come a time when any institution that proposes to educate the sexes separately, will be voted too ignorant of human nature to be trusted with moulding the minds of the sons and daughters of the republic. To shut girls and boys out of each other's sight during the four most impressible years of life is one of the many conventional interferences with natural law which society unwittingly ordains to its own great harm. It is a happiness to see that most of the new colleges, particularly in the Western States, have been based on a more sensible theory. [341]

Just when Elizabeth Cady's heart was most set on Union College,--whither she would have gone had she pleased her father by being a boy,--she was told that she must go instead to Mrs. Willard's Female Seminary in Troy because she had disappointed him by being a girl. Great was her indignation at this announcement, impetuous her protest against this plan. The stigma of inferiority thus cast upon her on account of her sex, and on account of her sex alone, was galling to a maiden who had already distanced all her competitors of the opposite sex. At every step of her journey to Troy she seemed to herself to be treading on her pride, and crushing out her life. Exasperated, mortified, and humbled, she began, in a sad frame of mind, a boarding-school career. “If there is any one thing on earth,” she says, “from which I pray God to save my daughters, it is a girls' seminary. The two years which I spent in a girls' seminary were the dreariest years of my whole life.” Nevertheless, nothing remained for the disappointed child but to make the best of a bad situation. So she beguiled her melancholy by playing mischievous pranks. For instance, in the seminary, a big hand-bell was rung downstairs every morning, as a call to prayer, and upstairs every night, as a call to bed. After the nightly ringing, the bell was set down on the upper floor in an angle of the wall. One night, at eleven o'clock, after the inmates had been an hour in bed, Elizabeth furtively rose, stole out of her dormitory in the drapery of a ghost, and solemnly kicked the bell step by step down every flight of stairs to the ground floor! Although everybody in the house was wakened by the noise, and many of the doors were opened, she glided past all the peeping eyes like a phantom, to the general terror of the whole house, and was never afterwards suspected as the author of the mischief.

Soon, however, the merry frightener of others was solemnly frightened herself. The Rev. Charles G. Finney,--a pulpit [342] orator who, as a terrifier of human souls, has proved himself the equal of Savonarola,--made a visit to Troy, and preached in the Rev. Dr. Beman's Presbyterian church, where Elizabeth and her school-mates attended. “I can see him now.” she says (describing Mr. Finney's preaching), “his great eyes rolling round the congregation, and his arms flying in the air like a windmill.” One evening he described Hell and the Devil so vividly, that the picture glowed before my eyes in the dark for months afterwards. On another occasion, when describing the damned as wandering in the Inferno, and inquiring their way through its avenues, he suddenly pointed with his finger, exclaiming, “There! Do you not see them?” and I actually jumped up in church and looked round, --his description had been such a reality.

In quoting this allusion to Mr. Finney, I cannot forbear saying that, although high respect is due to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual gifts of the venerable ex-president of Oberlin College, such preaching works incalculable harm to the very souls which it seeks to save. It worked harm to Elizabeth. The strong man struck the child as with a lion's paw. Fear of the judgment seized her soul. Mental anguish prostrated her health. Visions of the lost haunted her dreams. Dethronement of her reason was apprehended by her friends. Flinging down her books, she suddenly fled home.

The good minister of Johnstown, her revered counsellor, was in his grave. His successor was a stranger whom she could not approach. In her despair, she turned to her father. “Often,” said she, “I would rise out of my bed, hasten to his chamber, kneel at his side, and ask him to pray for my soul's salvation, lest I should be cast into hell before. morning.” At last, she regained her wonted composure of spirits, and joined the Johnstown church. “But I was never happy,” she writes, “in that gloomy faith which dooms to [343] eternal misery the greater part of the human family. It was no comfort to me to be saved with a chosen few, while the multitude, and those too who had suffered most on earth. were to have no part in heaven.”

The next seven years of her life she spent at Johnstown, dividing her time between book-delving and horse-taming, and, having an almost equal relish for each, she conquered the books in her father's library, and the horses in her father's stable. In fact, she would sometimes ride half the day over hill and meadow, like a fox-hunter, and then study law-books half the night, like a jurist. When she was busy at her embroidery or water-colors, her father, who had a poor opinion of such accomplishments, would bring to her the “Revised Statutes,” and say, “My daughter, here is a book which, if you read it, will give you something sensible to say to Mr. Spencer and Mr. Williams when they next make us a visit.” Mr. Spencer and Mr. Williams were legal magnates, who made Judge Cady's dinner-table a frequent arena for the discussion of nice points of law. So Elizabeth, with a fine determination to make herself the peer of the whole table, diligently began and pursued that study of the laws of her country, which has since armed and equipped her, as from an arsenal of weapons, for her struggle against all oppressive legislation concerning woman. As to her horse-riding, she has of late years discontinued it, for the reason-if I may be so ungallant as to hint it — that a lady of very elegant but also very solid proportions is somewhat more at her ease in a carriage than on a saddle.

In 1839, in her twenty-fourth year, while on a visit to her distinguished cousin, Gerrit Smith, at Peterboroa, in the central part of New York State, she made the acquaintance of Mr. Henry B. Stanton, then a young and fervid orator, who had won distinction in the anti-slavery movement. The acquaintances speedily became friends; the friends grew into [344] lovers; and the lovers, after a short courtship, married, and immediately set sail for Europe.

This voyage was undertaken, not merely for pleasure and sight-seeing, but that Mr. Stanton might fulfil the mission of a delegate to the “World's Anti-slavery Convention,” to be held in London in 1840. Many well-known American women were delegates, but, on presenting their credentials, were denied membership on account of their sex. Lucretia Mott, Sarah Pugh, Emily Winslow, Abby Kimber, Mary Grew, and Anne Greene Phillips,--who had no superiors in all England for moral worth,--found, to their astonishment, that, after having devoted their lives to the anti-slavery cause, they were repulsed from an anti-slavery convention which they had gone three thousand miles to attend. Wendell Phillips argued manfully for their admission, but in vain. William Lloyd Garrison-who, having crossed in a tardy ship, did not arrive till after the question had been decided, and decided unjustly-refused to present his credentials, took no part in the proceedings, and sat a silent spectator in the gallery,--one of the most chivalrous acts of his life. Beaten in the committee, the ladies transferred the question to the social circles. Every dinner-table at which they were present grew lively with the theme. At a dinner-table in Queen Street, Mrs. Lucretia Mott--then in the prime of her intellectual powers, and with a head which Combe, the phrenologist, pronounced the finest he had ever seen on a woman-replied so skilfully to the arguments of a dozen friendly opponents, chiefly clergymen, that she was the acknowledged victor in the debate.--It was then and there that Mrs. Stanton, for the first time, saw, heard, and became acquainted with Lucretia Mott. Often and often, during her maidenly years, Elizabeth Cady had pondered the many-sided question of woman's relations to society, to the State, to the industrial arts, and particularly to the laws of property. [345] But, in thinking these thoughts, she had hitherto supposed herself to be alone in the world. Now, however, during a six weeks constant and familiar companionship with Mrs. Mott, she wonderingly heard the whole cyclopedia of her own hidden and secretly cherished convictions openly confessed by another's lips. All the women with whom Mrs. Stanton had ever associated in America had, without exception, belonged to the circle of conservative opinion. Mrs. Mott was the first liberal thinker on womanhood whom she had ever encountered. Elizabeth's delight at thus finding a woman who had thought farther than herself, on some of the most vital questions affecting the human soul, was as glowing and enchanting as if she had suddenly discovered a cavern of hid treasures. It is not too much to say that the influence of the elder of these women on the younger was greater than the combined influence of everything else which that younger saw and heard during her foreign tour. This is not an exaggerated statement. I once asked her the question, “What most impressed you in Europe?” and she instantly replied, “Lucretia Mott!” One day, as a party of a dozen or more friends were visiting the British Museum, Mrs. Mott and Mrs. Stanton, who were of the company, had hardly entered the building when they sat down and began to talk to each other. The rest went forward, made the circuit of the curiosities, and came back to the entrance, to find that the two talkers still sat with their heads together, never having stirred from their places. The sympathetic twain had found more in each other than either cared to look for in the whole British Museum. Mrs. Stanton's enthusiasm for Mrs. Mott continues still as fresh and warm as then. And no wonder! For, in the same sense in which the greatest man ever produced in this country was Benjamin Franklin, the greatest woman ever produced in this country is Lucretia Mott. [346]

On returning to America, Mr. Stanton began the practice of law in Boston, where, with his wife and family, he resided for five years. The east winds, always unfriendly to his throat, at last drove him to take shelter in the greater kindliness of an inland climate. Accordingly he transferred his household and business to Seneca Falls, in the State of New York.

The first “Woman's Rights Convention” (known to history by that name) was held July 19th and 20th, 1848, in the Wesleyan Chapel at Seneca Falls. Copies of the official report of the proceedings are now rare, and will one day be hunted for by antiquarians,--a petite pamphlet, about the size of a man's hand, resembling in letter (though hardly in spirit) an evangelical tract by the American Tract Society. My own copy has become yellow-tinted by time. With a reverential interest I look back on this modest chronicle of a great event. That convention little thought it would be historic. But it was the first of a chain of similar conventions which, like the links round a Leyden jar, have since girdled half the world with the brightness of a new idea. The chief agent in calling the convention was Mrs. Stanton. It met in the town of her residence. Its resolutions and declarations of sentiment were the offspring of her pen. Its one great leading idea — the elective franchise — was a suggestion of her brain. I do not know of any public demand for woman's suffrage, made by any organized convention, previous to Mrs. Stanton's demand for it in the following resolution: “Resolved, that it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.” I am aware that women long before had voted (for a short time) in New Jersey. But woman's political rights had already been slumbering for years when Mrs. Stanton jarred them into sudden wakefulness. This she did to the consternation of her best friends. The convention at [347] Seneca Falls was called, as the advertisement phrased it, “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition of woman.” Nothing was here said of woman's political condition, except so far as that might be ambiguously included in her civil. Probably very few of the delegates, on going to the meeting, carried to it any such idea as woman's suffrage. When Mrs. Stanton privately proposed to introduce the resolution which I have quoted, even Lucretia Mott — who (as the report characterizes her) was “the ruling spirit of the occasion” --attempted to dissuade the bold innovator. But the innovator would not be dissuaded. She offered her resolution, and, in support of it, made, for the first time in her life, a public speech. Not a natural orator, she at first shrank from taking the floor. But a sense of duty impelling her to utter her thought, she conquered her bewilderment, stated her views, answered the convention's objections, fought a courageous battle, and carried her proposition. No American woman ever rendered a more signal service to her country than was, on that day, bashfully, yet gracefully and triumphantly, performed by Mrs. Stanton.

That convention, and, above all, its demand for woman's suffrage, excited the universal laughter of the nation. Wonder-stricken people asked each other the question, “What sort of creatures could those women at Seneca Falls have been?” It was never suspected by the general public that they were among the finest ladies in the land. Even their own relatives and friends, who knew their personal virtues, lamented their public eccentricities and joined the general crowd of critics and satirists. Judge Cady, on hearing of what his daughter had done, fancied her crazy, and immediately journeyed from Johnstown to Seneca Falls to learn for himself whether or not that brilliant brain had been turned.

“After my father's arrival,” says she, “he talked with me a whole evening till one o'clock in the morning, trying to [348] reason me out of my position. At length, kissing me good. night, he said, ‘My child, I wish you had waited till I was under the sod, before you had done this foolish thing!’ But I replied, laughing, ‘Ah, sir, don't you remember how you used to give me law-books to read in order that I might have something sensible to say to your friends, Mr. Spencer and Mr. Williams, when they came to dine with us? It was by reading those law-books that I found out the injustice of our American laws toward women. I might never have known anything on the subject except for yourself. ’ ” The good man before his death (which occurred several years afterward), although he had never relaxed his opposition to his daughter's views, nevertheless had come to cherish a secret pride at the skill, vigor, and eloquence with which she maintained them against all antagonists.

From the day of the Seneca Falls Convention to the present, Mrs. Stanton has been one of the representative women of America. At a similar convention, held at Cleveland, Ohio, in 1853, Lucretia Mott proposed the adoption of the declaration of sentiments put forth at Seneca Falls in 1848. “She thought,” says the official report, “that this would be but a fitting honor to her who initiated these movements in behalf of the women of our country, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”

I have seen the old and tattered manuscript of the first “set speech” which Mrs. Stanton ever delivered. It was a lyceum lecture, ably and elaborately written; and was repeated at several places in the interior of the State of New York, during the first months that followed the first convention. The manuscript, unaccountably slipping out of the author's hands, was passed from friend to friend, from town to town, and from State to State, until she not only lost sight of it for the time, but gave up all hope of ever seeing it again. Eighteen years afterward, it was returned to her, [349] somewhat the worse for wear. It had, meanwhile, travelled I know not how many hundreds of miles, and been read by I know not how many hundreds of persons. On recovering the lost scroll, she penned on its margin this inscription, addressed to her daughters:--

Dear Maggie and Hattie, this is my first speech. It was delivered several times immediately after the first Woman's Rights Convention. It contains all I knew at that time. I did not speak again for several years. The manuscript has, ever since, been a wanderer through the land. Now, after a separation of nearly eighteen years, I press my first-born to my heart once more. As I recall my younger days, I weep over the apathy and indifference of women concerning their own degradation. I give this manuscript to my precious daughters, in the hope that they will finish the work which I have begun.

Miss Susan B. Anthony-a well-known, indefatigable and life-long advocate of temperance, anti-slavery, and woman's rights — has been, since 1850, Mrs. Stanton's intimate associate in reformatory labors. These celebrated women are of about equal ages, but of the most opposite characteristics, and illustrate the theory of counterparts in affection by entertaining for each other a friendship of extraordinary strength. Mrs. Stanton is a fine writer, but poor executant; Miss Anthony is no writer at all, but a thorough manager. Both have large brains and great hearts; neither has any selfish ambition for celebrity; but each vies with the other in a noble enthusiasm for the cause to which they are devoting their lives. Nevertheless, to describe them critically, I ought to say that, opposites though they be, each does not so much supplement the other's deficiencies as augment the other's eccentricities. Thus, they often stimulate each other's aggressiveness, and [350] at the same time diminish each other's discretion. But whatever may be the imprudent utterances of the one, or the impolitic methods of the other, the animating motives of both, judged by the highest moral standards, are evermore as white as the light. The good which they do is by design; the harm, by accident. These two women, sitting together in their parlor, have, for the last fifteen years, been diligent forgers of all manner of projectiles, from fireworks to thunderbolts, and have hurled them, with unexpected explosion, into the midst of all manner of educational, reformatory, and religious conventions-sometimes to the pleasant surprise and half-welcome of the members; more often to the bewilderment and prostration of numerous victims; and, in a few signal instances, to the gnashing of angry men's teeth. I know of no two more pertinacious incendiaries in the whole country! Nor will they themselves deny the charge. In fact, this noise-making twain are the two sticks of a drum for keeping up what Daniel Webster called “the rub-a-dub of agitation.”

The practice of going before a legislature to present the claims of an unpopular cause has been more common in many other States than in New York; most common, perhaps, in Massachusetts. With the single exception of Mrs. Lucy Stone,--a noble and gifted woman, to whom her sisterhood owe an affectionate gratitude, not merely for an eloquence that has charmed thousands of ears, but for practical efforts in abolishing laws oppressive to their sex,--I believe that Mrs. Stanton has appeared oftener before a State legislature than can be said of any of her co-laborers. She has repeatedly addressed the Legislature of New York at Albany, and, on these occasions, has always been honored by the presence of a brilliant audience, and has always spoken with dignity and ability. Her chief topics have been the needful changes in the laws relating to intemperance, education, [351] divorce, slavery, and suffrage. “Yes, gentlemen,” said she, in her address of 1854, “we, the daughters of the revolutionary heroes of 1876, demand at your hands the redress of our grievances,--a revision of your State constitution,--a new code of laws.”

At the close of that grand and glowing argument, a lawyer who had listened to it, and who knew and revered Mrs. Stanton's father, shook hands with the orator and said, “Madam, it was as fine a production as if it had been made and pronounced by Judge Cady himself.” This, to the daughter's ears, was sufficiently high praise.

I have carefully read several of Mrs. Stanton's other addresses before the New York Legislature, and have felt, in reading them, that so able a woman ought long ago to have been eligible to membership in a body whom she thus so admirably addressed. But there will come a day-and Heaven speed it I — when a legislature, or a congress, will not be considered as representing the whole people of a State, or of a nation, until women as well as men shall sit as its duly chosen members,--until women as well as men shall be expected to make, as they now are to obey, the laws of the land,--until women as well as men shall be held politically responsible for the moral and Christian government of the republic. “Ye are members one of another,” says the wise book; and the saying is no more true of the family than of society,--no more true of the church than of the state. It has taken a terrific contest (and not yet completed) to achieve the political rights of American citizens without distinction of color. But from this point onward — without an appeal to arms, and without a testimony of blood — a more peaceful but not less victorious struggle is in due time to achieve the political rights of American citizens without distinction of sex. [352]

In a cabinet of curiosities, I have laid away, as an interesting relic, a little white ballot, two inches square, and inscribed: “For Representative in Congress,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”

Mrs. Stanton is the only woman in the United States who, as yet, has been a candidate for Congress. In conformity with a practice prevalent in some parts of this country, and very prevalent in England, she nominated herself. The public letter in which she proclaimed herself a candidate was as follows:

To the electors of the eighth congressional District.

Although, by the Constitution of the State of New York, woman is denied the elective franchise, yet she is eligible to office; therefore I present myself to you as a candidate for Representative to Congress. Belonging to a disfranchised class, I have no political antecedents to recommend me to your support, but my creed is free speech, free press, free men, and free trade,--the cardinal points of Democracy. Viewing all questions from the stand-point of principle rather than expediency, there is a fixed uniform law, as yet unrecognized by either of the leading parties, governing alike the social and political life of men and nations. The Republican party has occasionally a clear vision of personal rights, though in its protective policy it seems wholly blind to the rights of property and interests of commerce. While it recognizes the duty of benevolence between man and man, it teaches the narrowest selfishness in trade between nations. The Democrats, on the contrary, while holding sound and liberal principles in trade [353] and commerce, have ever in their political affiliations maintained the idea of class and caste among men,--an idea wholly at variance with the genius of our free institutions and fatal to a high civilization. One party fails at one point and one at another. In asking your suffrages-believing alike in free men and free trade — I could not represent either party as now constituted.

Nevertheless, as an Independent Candidate, I desire an election at this time, as a rebuke to the dominant party for its retrogressive legislation in so amending the Constitution as to make invidious distinctions on the ground of sex.

That instrument recognizes as persons all citizens who obey the laws and support the State, and if the Constitutions of the several States were brought into harmony with the broad principles of the Federal Constitution, the women of the nation would no longer be taxed without representation, or governed without their consent. One word should not be added to that great charter of rights to the insult or injury of the humblest of our citizens. I would gladly have a voice and vote in the Fortieth Congress to demand universal suffrage, that thus a republican form of government might be secured to every State in the Union.

If the party now in the ascendency makes its demand for “negro suffrage” in good faith, on the ground of natural right, and because the highest good of the State demands that the republican idea be vindicated, on no principle of justice or safety can the women of the nation be ignored.

In view of the fact that the Freedmen of the South and the millions of foreigners now crowding our Western shores, most of whom represent neither property, education, nor civilization, are all, in the progress of events, to be enfranchised, the best interests of the nation demand that we outweigh this incoming pauperism, ignorance, and degradation, with the wealth, education, and refinement of the women of the republic. [354] On the high ground of safety to the nation and justice to its citizens, I ask your support in the coming election.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton. New York, October 10, 1866.

The New York herald --though, of course, with no sincerity, since that journal is never sincere in anything-warmly advocated Mrs. Stanton's election. “A lady of fine presence and accomplishments in the House of Representatives,” it said (and said truly), “would wield a wholesome influence over the rough and disorderly elements of that body.” The “Anti-slavery standard,” with genuine commendation, said, “The electors of the Eighth District would honor themselves and do well by the country in giving her a triumphant election.” The other candidates in the same district were Mr. James Brooks, Democrat, and Mr. LeGrand B. Cannon, Republican. The result of the election was as follows: Mr. Brooks received thirteen thousand eight hundred and sixteen votes, Mr. Cannon eight thousand two hundred and ten, and Mrs. Stanton twenty-four. It will be seen that the number of sensible people in the district was limited! The excellent lady, in looking back upon her successful defeat, regrets only that she did not, before it became too late, procure the photographs of her two dozen unknown friends.

In the summer of 1867, the people of Kansas were to debate, and in the autumn to decide, the most novel, noble, and beautiful question ever put to a popular vote in the United States,the question of adopting a new Constitution whose peculiarity was that it extended the elective franchise not merely to “white male citizens,” but to those of what Frederick Douglass calls “the less fashionable color,” and to those also of what Horace Greeley calls “the less muscular sex.” Mrs. Lucy Stone and Miss Olympia Brown-helped by other ladies less famous, and by several earnest men, including the lion. Samuel C. Pomeroy, Senator of the United Statesmade [355] public speeches at prominent places in that State, urging the people to give the new idea a hospitable welcome at the polls. This canvass was as chivalrous as a tournament, and abounded, from beginning to end, with romantic incidents. To hear from the lips of Mrs. Stone (in that delightful eloquence of conversation which she has never surpassed on the platform), a recital of the most serious or the most comical of these, is as pleasant an entertainment as a supper-table chat can well afford. Toward the close of that memorable campaign, Mrs. Stanton and Miss Anthony, like a reserved force, joined themselves to the general battle. Accidentally associated with them (first with Miss Anthony and afterwards with Mrs. Stanton) was Mr. George Francis Train, soldier of fortune, hero of Fenianism, martyr to creditors, guest of jails, and candidate for the presidency. The “Tribune” has admiringly called Mr. Train “a charlatan and blatherskite.” Ampler justice compels me to add that he is, nevertheless, of all mountebanks the most amiable, and of all clowns the most innocent. These women of substance and this man of froth formed in Kansas a coalition which provoked their opponents to smiles, and their friends to regrets. Anxious watchers of the progress of the good cause were apprehensive that the flightiness of Mr. Train's speeches would bring the new question into disrepute. But the history of reforms in all countries, and especially in this, has shown that neither the wildest friends nor the fiercest enemies of a great idea can any more trample it under their feet than if they had trodden on a sunbeam. The result of the vote on the new Constitution was flattering beyond the most sanguine expectation. No wise observer of the signs of the times had looked for the adoption of that radical instrument, but only for a generous minority in its support. The figures stood nine thousand for, and nineteen thousand against. I have never met any student of American politics who was not greatly surprised [356] thus to find that one-third of the voters in any State of the Union were sufficiently advanced in opinion to demand at the ballot-box the political equality of the sexes. If the antislavery party in Massachusetts, like the woman's suffrage party in Kansas, had received, on a first trial at the polls, one-third of the votes cast, the early abolitionists would have shouted for joy, and have rung their church-bells for a jubilee. Whether the vote in Kansas was increased or diminished by Mr. Train's harangues, I am unable to say. But it is proper to say that the anti-slavery movement, gathering, as it did, to its annual platforms, many of the greatest as well as some of the shallowest of human brains; and the woman's suffrage movement, constantly repeating, as it does, these same phenomena, thereby furnish to the world a magnificent proof of the universality of those great ideas which thus make known their power upon all classes of human beings, great and small, wise and simple, sane and crazy. God has ordained that the noble army of reformers, while marshalled by the choicest spirits of the age, should give honorable rank also to Tag, Rag, and Bobtail. I can see no reason why the gifted and anointed leaders of great movements should decline to make common cause with any and all who are willing to work for the common end.

After the election in Kansas, Mrs. Stanton, Miss Anthony, and Mr. Train made a slow progress eastward, stopping at the chief cities on their way, and addressing public meetings on woman's rights. These meetings provoked merited criticism on account of the performances of Mr. Train, who amused his audiences with the capers of a harlequin. The previous substantial reputation of the two ladies, as earnest reformers, was, on this account, greatly shaken. And yet their own speeches, on all these occasions, were grave, earnest, and impressive,--always worthy of their authors and of the cause. It was, therefore, supposed that the grotesque [357] partnership would be only temporary, but it proved to be permanent. By the time the three travellers had reached New York, they had projected a weekly journal, which made its appearance at the beginning of 1868, under the topsy-turvying title of “The Revolution;” edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Parker Pillsbury, and published by Susan B. Anthony. Like Jupiter Tonans in the rainy season, this sheet always thunders. It is the stormiest of journals. Its pages, as one turns them over, seem to crinkle, flutter, and snap with electric heats. Examine almost any number of “The Revolution,” and it will be found the strangest mixture of sense and nonsense known anywhere in American journalism,--a rag-bag of the most incongruous topics. The articles signed “E. C. S.” and “P. P.” are full of force and fire,--seldom commonplace or tame. Mr. Pillsbury has a gorgeous and sombre imagination, which, when it plays about any subject that can bear its strong colors, makes some of his best essays truly magnificent. Mrs. Stanton, who is always in high animal spirits, and who, like a ripe grape, carries a whole summer's sunshine in her blood, fills her most serious articles with fun, frolic, and satire, and, even in her most humorous escapades, shows a rare vein of tenderness, pathos, and eloquence. She so abounds in metaphors and pithy phrases that a characteristic article from her pen is like a Chinese jar of chow-chow,--filled with little lumps of citron, apricot, and ginger, all swimming in a sweet and biting syrup. The political disquisitions of this co-working yet non-assimilating pair are sometimes grand and just, sometimes visionary and absurd, and sometimes outrageous and wicked. Mr. Train and his money-writers dance up and down through one-third of each week's space in the paper, and hold a high carnival of balderdash. One particular contribution, kept up every week, is made so to coruscate with outlandish nations, comments, and criticisms, that it reminds [358] one of an old barn-door in a dark night, scrawled over, in phosphorus, with “gorgons, hydras, and chimeras dire.” But in speaking thus freely of this conglomerate sheet,--a journal, which, on its present plan, can never take a respectable rank among the influential presses of the country,--I must honorably say, on the other hand, that some of the noblest thoughts and utterances pertinent to this day and generation,--ringing words for liberty, justice, and womanhood,--glowing rebukes of false customs, social tyrannies, and degrading conventionalities,--eloquent appeals for a more liberal civil polity, and a more equitable social order,--fervid aspirations toward whatever dignifies human nature and purifies the immortal soul,--these, too, “thoughts that breathe and words that burn,” --are spread week by week upon the pages of “The Revolution,” and from no brain oftener than from the fiery, wayward, scornful, sympathetic, and Christian soul of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

I may now paint her features, and sum up her character. Mrs. Stanton's face is thought to resemble Martha Washington's, but is less regular and more animated; her hairearly gray, and now frosty white — falls about her head in thick clusters of curls; her eyes twinkle with amiable mischief; her voice, though hardly musical, is mellow and agreeable; her figure is of the middle height, and just stout enough to suggest a preference for short walks rather than for long. In reality, however, she can walk like an Englishwoman,--though, if, during a stroll in the street, some jest sets her to laughing, she is forced to halt, cover her countenance with her veil, and shake contagiously till the spasm be past. The costume that most becomes her (and in which her historic portrait ought to be garmented) is a blue silk dress and a red India shawl,--an array, which, topped with her magnificent white hair, makes her a patriotic embodiment of “red, white, and blue.” [359]

Her gift of gifts is conversation. Her throne of queenship is not the official chair of the Woman's Rights Convention (though she always presides with dignity and ease), but is rather a seat at the social board, where the company are elderly conservative gentlemen, who combine to argue her down. I think she was never argued down in her life. Go into a fruit-orchard, jar the ripe and laden trees one after another, and not a greater shower of plums, cherries, and pomegranates will fall about your head, than the witticisms, anecdotes, and repartees which this bounteous woman sheds down in her table-talk. House-keeping and babies, free trade and temperance, woman's suffrage and the “white male citizen,” --these are her favorite themes. Many a person, on spending a delightful evening in her society, has gone away, saying,, “Well, that is Madam de Stael alive again.”

Never a human being had a kindlier nature than Mrs. Stanton's. Pity is her chief vice; charity, her besetting sin. She has not the heart to see a chicken killed, or a child punished. If robbed of all her property, she could not endure to have sentence passed on the thief. When a wretch does wrong, she is apt to think his act not so much his own fault, as the fault of the law under which he lives. A judge punishes the offender, and lets the law go uncondemned; but this judge of judges lets the offender go free, and condemns the law instead. On the one hand, her sense of justice is so sensitive, and, on the other, her tender-heartedness is so excessive, that she compounds for pardoning the criminal by attacking all those usages of .society which have conspired to lure him to his crime. Thus, seeing a man drunken in the streets, she does not chide the culprit so much as she denounces the sale of liquor; seeing a seamstress underpaid, she does not denounce the meanness of the employer so much as the narrow range of women's employments; seeing a widow cheated out of her inheritance, she would not so eagerly seek to punish [360] the scoundrel as to secure woman's suffrage for woman's self protection.

“It is a settled maxim with me,” she says, “that the existing public sentiment on any subject is wrong.” Accordingly, as against the customary, stringent laws of divorce, she holds to the doctrine of John Milton; as against the prevailing tariffs, she argues vehemently for free trade; as against old-fashioned religious opinions, she inclines to an unchecked free-thinking; and as against the common notion of what constitutes woman's sphere, she holds that woman's sphere is to be widened unto equal greatness with man's.

If it be supposed that, in all I his, she desires to make woman less womanly, such a supposition is unjust. It is because, under the present canons of society woman's nature is denied its true growth, defrauded of its true liberty, and defeated of its true end and aim, that Mrs. Stanton, being a woman herself, so earnestly tries to take woman's feet out of the Chinese shoes of dwarfing custom,--to rescue her from her present constrained position in a restrictive social order,--to inspire her toward a fairer ideal of womanhood,--to restore her to her own truer self,--and to present her back once more to God. Mrs. Stanton's knowledge of human nature in its various ranges, and of human life in its various experiences, has been as rich, varied, and profound as often falls to the lot of any human being. The sacred lore of motherhood is to her a familiar study. Five sons and two daughters sit around her table, all as proud of their mother as if she were a queen of Fairyland, and they her pages in waiting. Drinking not seldom at the fountain of sorrow, she has found, in its bitter waters, strength for her soul. Religious and worshipful by constitution, she has cast off in her later life the superstitions of her earlier, but has never lost her childhood's faith in God. Society being (as she looks at it) full of hollowness and falsity, she sometimes yearns for its reformation as if her [361] heart would break,--the cause of woman's elevation being with her not merely a passion but a religion. She would willingly give her body to be burned, for the sake of seeing her sex enfranchised. But over all this aching and restless earnestness of her inward life nature has kindly drawn a countenance of sunny smiles, a perpetual good-humor, and an irresistible flow of spirits; so that, as she faces the world, she is one of the most fascinating, exhaustless, and perennial of companions; and, as she turns away from it, and faces God alone, she offers to him a soul whose very sorrows, disappointments, and hopes deferred have long ago wrought within her a solemn, cheerful, and immortal peace. Nothing in her outward career-nothing in her representative position-nothing in her gayety and wit-nothing in the whole cluster of those fine intellectual faculties that make her one of the ablest women of our day-nothing in any part of her mind, character, or life is so truly admirable as the one, central characteristic quality of moral energy, which, like a hidden and glowing ember, ignites within her a fiery indignation against all forms of oppression, a sacred love of liberty and justice, a proud reverence for human nature, even in its lowliest fortunes, and a perpetual and defiant appeal from the falseness of society to the justice of God.

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