The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Speech by SBA at Monroe County Woman's Rights Convention [15 January 1855]

     Editorial note: Only SBA and Ernestine L. Rose were on hand for the convention in Rochester's Corinthian Hall, where four hundred people met at 2 p.m. on 15 January 1855, and twelve hundred gathered in the evening. Local women, including Mary Hallowell, were made officers of the meeting.
Miss Susan B. Anthony then took the floor, and addressing "Mrs. President," proceeded to lay before her hearers food for their reflection. She stated that the principal object in view at present, is to agitate the question of Woman's right of suffrage, and by means of petition to operate on the State Legislature. Last year a petition bearing six thousand names was presented to the Legislature at Albany, and had the effect to cause the passage of a bill in the Assembly, giving to Woman some of the rights claimed by the petitioners. The bill did not come up in the Senate, however, owing to its unfavorable position on the calendar. Now it is proposed to follow up the good already accomplished, and by the same means. A great change has taken place in public opinion during the past year. In districts where it was almost impossible to get a name last year, scores are willing to sign now. Woman does not ask for any privileges; all she wants is her rights— to be placed upon an equality with man. If it be true that the nature of woman is different from that of man, no system of education, or position, can make them similar. This point was dwelt upon at length, and Queen Victoria, Joan of Arc[1], and numerous others, were alluded to in illustration. It was contended that woman is no less modest because she assists in the exercises of the dissecting room; that Antoinette L. Brown is no less refined, chaste, and lovely, because she officiates in the pulpit; and that women who fill various positions considered by many out of their sphere, are no less virtuous in consequence thereof. After alluding to the capabilities of woman, the speaker showed up the practice of cutting down their wages from the prices paid to men, when their work is performed full as well. The expense and value of female education, was next alluded to as compared with those of man, and the modern boarding schools for young misses handled without mittens. While the expense of educating the former was larger than that of the latter, the value received was the other way. The young man goes through a course of substantial studies and comes out a thinking being; the young lady is given a few lessons on the piano, a superficial knowledge of French and Italian, and comes out a frivolous butterfly— a mere plaything. To charge this difference upon the Creator is blasphemy; the evil lies in the systems of education. Woman wants honest employment and just compensation, and if means were contributed to this end, instead of buying and distributing tracts and bibles, and educating not over industrious young men for the ministry, much more real good might be accomplished. Miss Anthony concluded by suggesting the expediency of establishing in different localities Houses of Industry, where young women might learn trades and fit themselves for usefulness; and then, if there was any money to spare, try and do something for those helpless young men who are so anxious to enter the ministry.
Rochester Daily Union, 16 January 1855.
    [1.] Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of Great Britain, reigned from 1837 to 1901. Joan of Arc (c. 1412-1431), national heroine of France, claimed divine inspiration for her decision to rally the people to the aid of the dauphin, the future Charles VII (1403-1461) of France, who was kept from the throne by English armies.