Monday, August 26, 2013

Women's Suffrage Speech

Today is the ninety-third anniversary of the passage of women's suffrage by Congress.  Miss Barton gave this speech on Suffrage, time and place unknown. 

I believe I must have been born believing in the full right of women to all the privileges and positions which nature and justice accord to her in common with other human beings.  Perfectly equal rights—human rights.  There was never any question in my mind in regard to this.  I did not purchase my freedom with a price; I was born free; and when, as a younger woman I heard the subject discussed, it seemed simply ridiculous that any sensible, sane person should question it.  And when, later, the phase of woman’s right to suffrage came up it was to me only a part of the whole, just as natural, just as right, and just as certain to take place.
And whenever I have been urged, as a petitioner, to ask for this privilege for woman, a kind of dazed, bewildered feeling has come over me.
Of whom should I ask this privilege?  Who possessed the right to confer it?  Who had greater right than woman herself?  Was it man, and if so, where did he get it?  Who conferred it upon him?  He depended upon woman for his being, his very existence, nurture and rearing.  More fitting that she should have conferred it upon him.
Was it governments?  What were they  but the voice of the people?  What gave them that power?  Was it divinely conferred?  Alas! No; or they would have been better, purer, more just and stable.
Was it force of arms—war?  Who furnished the warriors?  Who but the mothers?  Who reared their sons and taught them that liberty and their country were worth their blood?  Who gave them up, wept their fall, nursed them in suffering and mourned them dead?
Was it labor?  Women have always, as a rule, worked harder then men.
Was it capital?  Woman has furnished her share up to the present hour.  Who then, can give the right, and on what basis?  Who can withhold it?
In regard to my nationality, I was born in the old Huguenot town of Oxford, Mass.  My father and mother were born there.  My grandfathers and grandmothers, with two exceptions, were born, lived, died and were buried there.
There is, once in a while a monarch who denies the right of man to place a crown upon his head.  Only the great Jehovah can crown and anoint him for his work, and he reaches out, takes the crown, and placed it upon his head with his own hand.  I suspect that this is in effect what woman is doing today.  Virtually there is no one to give her the right to govern herself, as men govern themselves by self-made and self-approved laws of the land.  But in one way or another, sooner or later, she is coming to it.  And the number of thoughtful and rightminded men who will oppose, will be much smaller than we think and when it is really an accomplished fact all will wonder, as I have done, what the objection ever was.

Transcribed from a newspaper clipping at:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Clara Barton’s Top Eight American Women

In 1910, the New York World asked Barton to nominate her top eight American women for a Woman’s Hall of Fame.  She chose the following:

  Abigail Adams
  Lucretia Mott
  Lucy Stone Blackwell
  Harriet Beecher Stowe
  Frances Dana Gage
  Maria Mitchell
  Dorothea Dix
  Mary A. Bickerdyke 

Over the following weeks, I hope to report on the work each of these women accomplished to earn a place in Barton’s most admired list.  It will be interesting to see how these women compare and contrast, which begs the question, who would Barton nominate from the women who achieved great things after Barton’s death?

Our first nominee is (Mrs John) Abigail Adams.

Photo courtesy of

Born Abigail Smith in 1744 at Weymouth, Massachusetts, she died in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1818.  Her husband, John, was the second President of the United States and her son, John Quincy was the sixth President of the US.  Best known for her published letters to and from her husband advocating for women’s rights and giving insightful advice as his confidante, Abigail raised their six children and managed the family farm largely in his absence.   

During the organization of the nation, Adams wrote her husband,
Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
And her husband replied,

As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh. We have been told that our struggle has loosened the bonds of government everywhere; that children and apprentices were disobedient; that schools and colleges were grown turbulent; that Indians slighted their guardians, and negroes grew insolent to their masters. But your letter was the first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all the rest, were grown discontented.– This is rather too coarse a Compliment but you are so saucy, I won’t blot it out. Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems. Although they are in full force, you know they are little more than theory. We dare not exert our power in its full latitude. We are obliged to go fair and softly, and, in practice, you know we are the subjects. We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight; I am sure every good politician would plot, as long as he would against despotism, empire, monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, or ochlocracy.**

The Adams’ during his Presidency
Photo courtesy of

A friend of Martha Washington, she assisted in conducting parties at the Executive Mansion in Philadelphia, and moved into the White House as first lady during its construction. 

An older Abigail Adams, while First Lady, 1797-1801
Photo courtesy of

One of the most interesting remarks found on the internet was that she did not attend school, as if that damaged the quality of her education.  During her lifetime girls generally did not receive an education, but considering the remarkable handwriting and thoughtfulness of her ideas, it seems obvious that a good education could be found outside of school, and in fact can still be found that way today. 


Friday, August 2, 2013

A New Chord Was Struck

To give my readers and idea about Clara Barton’s life in Washington during the war, I will transcribe a letter to her cousin Annie from Port Royal, Virginia, May 28th 1863 thanking her for a box sent while she was in Fredericksburg after the battle assisting the medical department.
Alfred Waud View of Fredericksburg, Virginia from Falmouth
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

My Dear Annie:

I remember, four long months ago, one cold, dreary, windy day, I dragged me out from a chilly street-car that had found me ankle-deep in the mud of the 6th Street wharf, and up the slippery street and my long flights of stairs into a room, cheerless, in confusion, and alone, looking in most respects as I had left it some months before, with the exception of a mysterious box which stood unopened in the middle of the floor.  All things looked strange to me, for in that few months I had taken in so much that yet I had no clear views.  The great artist had been at work upon my brain and sketched it all over with life scenes, and death scenes, never to be erased.  The fires of Fredericksburg still blazed before my eyes, and her cannon still thundered at my ear, while away down in the depths of my heart I was smothering the groans and treasuring the prayers of her dead and dying heroes; worn, weak, and heartsick, I was home from Fredericksburg; and when, there, for the first time I looked at myself, shoeless, gloveless, ragged, and blood-stained, a new sense of desolation and pity and sympathy and weariness, all blended, swept over me with irresistible force, and, perfectly overpowered, I sank down upon the strange box, unquestioning its presence or import, and wept as I had never done since the soft, hazy, winter night that saw our attacking guns silently stealing their approach to the river, ready at the dawn to ring out the shout of death to the waiting thousands at their wheels.

I said I wept, and so I did, and gathered strength and calmness and consciousness—and finally the strange box, which I had afforded me my first rest, began to claim my attention; it was clearly and handsomely marked to myself at Washington, and came by express—so much for the outside; and a few pries with a hatchet, to hands as well accustomed as mine, soon made the inside as visible, only for the neat paper which covered all.  It was doubtless something sent to some soldier; pity I had not had it earlier—it might be too late now; he might be past his wants or the kind remembrances of the loved ones at home.  The while I was busy in removing careful paper wrappings a letter, addressed to me, opened—“From friends in Oxford and Worcester; -- no signature.  Mechanically I commenced lifting up, one after another, hoods, shoes, boots, gloves, skirts, handkerchiefs, collars, linen,--and that beautiful dress!  Look at it, all made—who--! Ah, there is no mistaking the workmanship—Annie’s scissors shaped and her skillful fingers fitted that.  Now, I begin to comprehend; while I had been away in the snows and frosts and rains and mud of Falmouth, forgetting my friends, myself, to eat or sleep or rest, forgetting everything but my God and the poor suffering victims around me, these dear, kind friends, undismayed and not disheartened by the great national calamity which had overtaken them, mourning, perhaps, the loss of their own, had remembered me, and with open hearts and willing hands had prepared this noble, thoughtful gift for me at my return.  It was too much, and this time, burying my face in the dear tokens around me, I wept again as heartily as before, but with very different sensations; a new chord was struck; my labors, slight and imperfect as they had been, had been appreciated; I was not alone; and then and there again I re-dedicated myself to my little work of humanity, pledging before God all that I have, all that I am, all that I can, and all that I hope to be, to the cause of Justice and Mercy and Patriotism, my Country and my God.  And cheered and sustained as I have been by the kind remembrances of old friends, the cordial greeting of new ones, and the tearful, grateful blessing of the thousands of noble martyrs to whose relief or comfort it has been my blessed privilege to add my mite, I feel that my cup of happiness is more than full.  It is an untold privilege to have lived in this day when there is work to be done, and, still more, to possess health and strength to do it, and most of all to feel that I bear with me the kindly feelings and perhaps prayers of the noble mothers and sisters who have sent sons and brothers to fight the battles of the world in the armies of Freedom.  Annie, if it is not asking too much, now that I have gathered up resolution enough to speak of the subject at all (for I have never been able to before), I would like to know to whom besides yourself I am indebted for the beautiful and valuable gifts.  It is too tame and too little to say that I am thankful for them.  You did not want that, but I will say that, God willing, I will yet wear them where none of the noble donors would be ashamed to have them seen.  Some of those gifts shall yet see service if Heaven spare my life.  With thanks I am the friend of my “Friends in Oxford and Worcester.”

                                                                                                            Clara Barton