The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Appeal by ECS, "To the Women of the State of New York"

We purpose again, this winter, to send petitions to our State Legislature; one asking for the Just and Equal Rights of Woman, and one for Woman's Right of Suffrage. The latter, we think, covers the whole ground; for we can never be said to have just and equal rights until the right of suffrage is ours. Some who will gladly sign the former, may shrink from making this last demand. But be assured our cause can never rest on a safe, enduring basis until we get the right of suffrage. So long as we have no voice in the laws, we have no guarantee that privileges granted to us to-day, by one body of men, may not be taken from us to-morrow by another.
All man's laws, his theology, his daily life, go to prove the fixed idea in his mind of the entire difference in the sexes, a difference so broad, that what would be considered cruel and unjust between man and man, is kind and just between man and woman. Having discarded the idea of the oneness of the sexes, how can man judge of the needs and wants of a being so wholly unlike himself? How can he make laws for his own benefit and woman's too at the same time? He cannot! He never has, as all his laws relative to woman must clearly show. But when man shall fully grasp the idea that woman is a being of like feelings, thoughts, and passions with himself, he may be able to legislate for her, as one code would answer for both. But until then, a sense of justice, a wise self-love, impels us to demand a voice in his councils.
To every intelligent, thinking woman, we put the question, On what sound principles of jurisprudence, constitutional law, or human rights, are one-half of the people of this State disfranchised? If you answer, as you must, that it is done in violation of all law, then we ask you, when and how is this great wrong to be righted? We say now; and petitioning is the first step in its accomplishment. We hope, therefore, that every woman in the State will sign her name to the petitions. It is most humiliating to know that many educated women so stultify their consciences as to declare they have all the rights they want. Have you, who make this declaration, ever read the barbarous laws in reference to women, to mothers, to wives and daughters, which disgrace our statute books? Laws which are not surpassed in cruelty and injustice by any slave-holding code in the United States— laws which strike at the root of the glorious doctrine for which our fathers fought, and bled, and died,"no taxation without representation"— laws which deny a right most sacredly observed by many of the monarchies of Europe,"the right of trial by a jury of one's own peers "— laws which trample on the holiest and most unselfish of all human affections, a mother's love for her child, and with ruthless cruelty snap asunder the tenderest ties— laws which enable the father, be he a man or a minor, to tear the infant from the mother's arms, and send it if he choose to the Fegee Islands; yea, to will the guardianship of the unborn child to whomsoever he may please, whether to the Sultan of Turkey or the Imaum of Muscat— laws by which our sons and daughters may be bound to service, to cancel their fathers' debts of honor, in the meanest rum-holes and brothels in the vast metropolis— laws which violate all that is most pure and sacred in the marriage relation, by giving to the cruel, beastly drunkard, the rights of a man, a husband, and father— laws which place the life long earnings of the wife at the disposal of the husband, be his character what it may— laws which leave us at the mercy of the rumseller and the drunkard, against whom we have no protection for our lives, our children, or our homes— laws by which we are made the watch-dogs to keep a million and a half of our sisters in the foulest bondage the sun ever shone upon— which forbid us to give food and shelter to the panting fugitive from the land of Slavery.
If, in view of laws like these, there be women in this State so lost to self-respect, to all that is virtuous, noble and true, as to refuse to raise their voices in protest against such degrading tyranny, we can only say of that system, which has thus robbed womanhood of all its glory and greatness, what the immortal Channing[1] did of slavery: "If ", said he,"it be true that the slaves are contented and happy— if there is a system that can blot out all love of freedom from the soul of man, destroy every trace of his divinity, make him happy in a condition so low and benighted and hopeless— I ask for no stronger argument against such a slavery as ours!" No! never believe it; woman falsifies herself and blasphemes her God when, in view of her present social, legal, and political position, she declares she has all the rights she wants. If a few drops of Saxon blood gave our Frederick Douglass such a clear perception of his humanity, his inalienable right, as to enable him, with the slaveholder's Bible, the slaveholder's Constitution, a southern public sentiment and education, all laid heavy on his shoulders, to stand upright, and walk forth in search of freedom, with as much ease as did Samson of old with the massive gates of the city,[2] shall we, the daughters of our Hancocks and Adams— we, in whose veins flows the blood of the Pilgrim Fathers— shall we never try the strength of these withes of law and gospel with which, in our blindness, we have been bound, hand and foot? Yes, the time has come,
The slumber is broken, the sleeper is risen;
The day of the Goth and the Vandal is o'er;
And old Earth feels the tread of Freedom once more.
Fail not, Women of the Empire State, to swell our petitions. Let no religious scruples hold you back. Take no heed to man's interpretation of Paul's injunction to women.[3] To any thinking mind, there is no difficulty in explaining those passages of the Apostle as applicable to the times in which they were written, as having no reference whatever to the Women of the nineteenth century.
"Honor the King," heroes of '76! Those leaden tea-chests of Boston harbor cry out,"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."[4] When the men of 1854, with their Priests and Rabbis, shall rebuke the disobedience of their forefathers,— when they shall cease to set at defiance the British lion and the Apostle Paul in their national policy, then it will be time enough for us to bow down to man's interpretation of law touching our social relations, and acknowledge that God gave us powers and rights, merely that we might show forth our faith in Him, by being helpless and dumb.
The writings of Paul, like our State Constitutions, are susceptible of various interpretations. But when the human soul is roused with holy indignation against injustice and oppression, it stops not to translate human parchments, but follows out the law of its inner being, written by the finger of God in the first hour of its creation.
Our petitions will be sent to every county in the State, and we hope that they will find at least ten righteous women to circulate them. But should there be any county so benighted that a petition cannot be circulated throughout its length and breadth, giving to every man and woman an opportunity to sign their names, then we pray, not that "God will send down fire and brimstone upon it,"[5] but that the "Napoleons" of this movement will flood it with Women's Rights tracts and missionaries.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Chair'n N.Y. Women's Rights Con.
New York Semi-Weekly Tribune, 26 December 1854. Published in Frederick Douglass' Paper, 22 December 1854; Lily, 1 January 1855; Una, January 1855.
    [1.] William Ellery Channing (1780-1842), a leading Unitarian preacher in Boston, was author of the influential Essay on Slavery (1835). This passage has not been located in his essays and sermons against slavery. (Dictionary of American Biography.)
    [2.] Judg. 16:1-3.
    [3.] As Sarah Grimké phrased it, the "principle support of the dogma of woman's inferiority, and consequent submission to her husband is found in some passages of Paul's epistles." Much of the New Testament is about or by the apostle Paul, who converted to Christianity after Jesus' death and dedicated his life to preaching the faith. Paul directed wives to "submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord."(Col. 3:18.) As man had been made in the image of God, so woman was "the glory of man," and "neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man." (1 Cor. 11:7-9.) In addition, Paul commanded women to "keep silence in the churches"; "if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in church."(1 Cor. 14:34-35.) Paul's teachings on women influenced both canon and civil law and were used in arguments against granting women an equal voice in church and state. (Grimké, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, 91; History, 1:81-82.)
    [4.] Matt. 22:21.
    [5.] A recurring image of the Lord's wrath, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and brimstone in Gen. 19:24, Ps. 11:6.