The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Appeal by ECS, "Temperance—Woman's Rights"

    An Appeal to the Women of the State of New York: By the President of the Women's New York State Temperance Society.
Some of the women of this State met in Convention at Rochester on the 20th of April, 1852, to consult each other as to what Woman might do in the present crisis of the Temperance movement. The subject was fully discussed throughout the greater part of two days, and we then decided to form ourselves into a State Temperance Society, admitting all as members on paying the sum of fifty cents. We thought it unwise to receive men as equals, eligible to any of the offices of our Society, inasmuch as we wished, in starting, to have the funds, lectures and doctrines to be preached under the control and at the suggestions of Woman, and to throw on her the whole responsibility of action.
Man has so much intrigue and worldly wisdom, and the best of them do so continually sacrifice principle to expediency, that we had great fears in taking him as a counsellor on any moral question. We are happy to say that many excellent men came forward on that occasion, gave us their names and fees, and seemed quite willing to be excused from all the labors and honors of our organization.
We already have three agents of our own sex[1] lecturing with great success, and we need more, that every part of this State— every county and town— may be thoroughly canvassed, and fully roused to do its duty at the coming Election.
The Gospel of Temperance with Woman, is not one of compromise. We say, let this question be carried wherever it legitimately belongs. We are tired of the tardy justice and false representation that we have thus far experienced at the hand of Government. Thousands of drunkards' wives, with no hope on earth, are raising their helpless hands to Heaven and pleading for mercy and for bread. Governments have no ears, corporations have no souls, and Man, claiming to be the natural protector of Woman, transformed into a demon by the vile drugs of the rum-seller, becomes her most cruel oppressor and tyrant. To these suffering ones, natural protectors, like estates in Chancery,[2] are unavailable, and the sooner they cease to look to them for comfort and support, and learn to stand alone, relying on their own God given powers for a noble independence and virtue, the better for themselves and the race. It has been left for Woman to preach the doctrine of Divorce— a doctrine which is to strike the most effective blow at the sin of drunkenness. Let man cease to persuade woman by his sophistry and logic, or compel her by his cruel and unnatural statutes, to act in violation of her will and conscience, and let him silently bow before the holy instincts of her nature, when she declared that God never joined together the pure and the vile, the virtuous and the vicious, the holy and the unholy. Such as these could never have been one in spirit, and they ought, therefore, never to be one in flesh.
We preach too, the doctrine that this question should be carried into the churches and into politics. We say to our Spiritual Fathers and bloated Legislators, sitting up in high places, "Hold! Enough! We want no more emanations from brains befogged with wine and brandy, we ask for no more drugged jurisprudence and theology, for we would now fain try the effect of cold water in ushering in a new dispensation of justice, mercy and peace."
For the promulgation of these doctrines we ask for the aid of true men and women. We ask support for the "Woman's State Temperance Society," in preference to all other organizations, for two reasons: First, because we take the highest moral ground on the Temperance question. Second, because on our platform, man and woman may alike be heard; whereas, in the old State Temperance Society, no woman is allowed to open her mouth— a fact fully demonstrated by the recent disgraceful occurrences in its Annual Meeting at Syracuse.[3]
What say you, after their repeated appeals to Woman, for aid and encouragement— after clearly announcing in their call, that they wished delegates from every Temperance Society in the State, did they refuse our delegates a seat on their platform? A voice in their counsels? Yes! verily. And in so doing, have fully explained to us the nature of their past appeals. They wished us to become members of their Society, by paying into its treasury the sum of One Dollar annually, to do all we could to clothe, feed and get up meetings for their fat agents, scattered through the State to distribute tracts, get up petitions, beg and work in any way and every way to fill their treasury, but always remembering, with due humility, that God never meant to place woman on an even pedestal with man!
I earnestly conjure the women of this State to withdraw from all societies and churches, under the exclusive jurisdiction of Man, where Woman is not allowed to speak or not recognized as an equal in counsel. Waste no more time in petitioning, until we have men with clear heads and sound hearts in our halls of legislation. Let woman never again be guilty of the folly of asking wine and beer-drinkers to put down the liquor traffic.
When we fill our Senate Chambers with men of our own choosing, it will be full time to petition. Nevertheless, let us carry our temperance principles into politics. But, say you, how can we, inasmuch as we have no voice in making the laws, no influence in the creation of a single law-giver, and our right to petition, even, sneered at,[4]— pray what can we do for Temperance in politics? Why, man has no more right to make a State Constitution, excluding us from all share in the government, than we have to get together and make one excluding him. Just so soon as all the women of this State say they will vote on the Temperance question, the work is done— for we shall not only be a majority in ourselves, but we shall be sustained by the greatest and best men of the State,— such as Judge Hurlbut,[5] of the Supreme Court, Gerrit Smith, Samuel J. May, & c., & c., and put our opposers into a most contemptible minority. Did Woman but know her power, we should soon see a change on the face of affairs. Our position is every year assuming greater importance. The new property law[6] is going to make a mighty change. We do not see its effects yet, but time will make it manifest. Full half the property of this State, in less than ten years, will be in the hands of Woman. She, from her education, being more prudent, and less given to speculation than man, will be continually extending her possessions. Money is power, and Women will see the necessity then, if not before, of protecting their property by vote. Our colleges, rising up on all sides, thus securing to Woman a thorough education, will soon make intellectual equality a fact— not a point for speculation. Woman's eyes being now open to the necessity of physical development, she will soon add a more vigorous muscle and steady nerve to a more enlightened mind, and she will then have less fear of "mobs," "stygian" pools,[7] "ballot-boxes and caucuses." These will cease to be scarecrows to frighten her from rich harvests and substantial feasts, driving her to live on "airy nothings," 'mid earth and heaven. Let the Women of the Empire State talk no more of Man's indifference to the Temperance question, so long as they, having the power to settle it themselves, do from an ignoble indolence and servile reverence for custom, refuse to come forth now, and read the death doom of this monster evil.

E. C. Stanton.

Carson League, 1 July 1852. Also published in Lily, July 1852, and Anti-Slavery Bugle, 10 July 1852.
    [1.] That is, SBA, H. Attilia Albro, and Emily Clark. Albro (whose name also appears as Atillia) lived in Rochester, where SBA worked with her first in the Genesee Union of the Daughters of Temperance. Apparently a widow, she lived in 1850 with two daughters in the household of S. Hutchinson, a physician in Rochester. In 1851 Albro could boast of four years of activism in the temperance cause. She was named to the central committee in January 1852, charged with calling the meeting at Rochester, and in April she was elected secretary of the Women's New York State Temperance Society. Hired as an agent in June, she worked through the year. At the annual meeting in 1853, Albro opposed changing the society's constitution to allow men to hold office, and she was reelected secretary. Many years later SBA located Albro in Austin, Minnesota, apparently remarried; in her diary SBA recorded her name in 1876 as Albro-Davidson and described her as the sister of Mr. O. S. Hutchinson of Bellefontaine, Ohio. (Federal Census, 1850; Temperance Journal, n.d., from SBA scrapbooks, Lily, 15 June 1853, and SBA diary, 22 March 1876, all in Film, 7:58, 714ff, 18:516ff.)
    [2.] That is, money held in trust.
    [3.] When the State Temperance Society convened in June, conservative clergymen disrupted the meeting to protest a sentence in the annual report that welcomed the Women's New York State Temperance Society. The Reverend Henry Mandeville of Albany explained that "when a woman goes out of her sphere, when she goes miles attended or unattended, to make speeches in Bloomer costume or not, I say she unsexes herself, she is hybrid, and I for one wish to do nothing in approbation of it." By a vote of 61 to 49, the delegates amended the report to remove any mention of women, and by a vote of 63 to 59 reversed the chair's ruling that the constitution allowed women to be delegates to the meeting. The "progressive party," in Amelia Bloomer's phrase, withdrew to a church. With Samuel J. May presiding, SBA and Bloomer spoke, and the large crowd adopted resolutions written by ECS. (Carson League, 24 June 1852, and Lily, July 1852, in Film, 7:263-72 .)
    [4.] A reference to the reception given women's petitions in the legislature, especially by Assemblyman Moses D. Gale, during debates on the Maine law. Amelia Bloomer told the story in April. "After stating— whether truly or not, we have no means of knowing— that the remonstrants against the Maine law outnumbered the petitioners, if they excluded the females, he argued that they, our representatives, were not accustomed to listen to the voice of woman in legislating upon great public questions; and that the constitution of the female mind was such as to render woman incapable of correctly deciding upon those questions which he contended were involved in the passage of the proposed bill." (Lily, May 1852, Film, 7:195-205.)
    [5.] Elisha Powell Hurlbut (1807-?) was an influential legal reformer and a judge of New York's Supreme Court since 1847. He was born and practiced law in Herkimer County, until he moved to New York City in 1835. Hurlbut's Essays on Human Rights, and Their Political Guaranties, published in 1845, is an extreme statement of inalienable individual rights, informed by phrenology and legal history and laced with sarcasm. Like other legal reformers, he rejected the English common law as a feudal artifact unsuited to modern America, but his criticism was notable and of particular interest to woman's rights advocates for its scathing portrait of male domination. (Hurlbut, Essays on Human Rights; Hurlbut, Hurlbut Genealogy, 232, 350-51; ECS to Editor, Boston Index, 16 October 1876, Film, 18:1055-56.)
    [6.] ECS refers to New York's Married Women's Property Act signed into law on 7 April 1848. A modest measure that left unchanged the husband's control of joint earnings and women's wages, the act gave women separate control of the real and personal property they brought into marriage or acquired by gift while married. (Basch, In the Eyes of the Law, 113-61; Warbasse, Changing Legal Rights of Married Women, 100-108, 205-14; Rabkin, Fathers to Daughters, 85-99.)
    [7.] The hellish image of politics as a stygian pool, used sarcastically by many woman's rights activists in 1852, originated with Horace Mann, who described politics as a "black and sulphurous lake" of "tumultuous and howling waters," emitting both "roar and stench." In a popular lecture that favored better schools for women, Mann prayed: "May God save our wives, our mothers and our daughters, from the uncleanness and the rancorousness, from the savagery and the temptations, of politics; . . ." (Horace Mann, A Few Thoughts on the Powers and Duties of Woman, Two Lectures [Syracuse, N.Y., 1853], 97, 103.)