The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony


Speech by SBA at Albany County Woman's Rights Convention [13 February 1855]

     Editorial note: Antoinette Brown and Ernestine Rose accompanied SBA to the county meeting at the Albany Universalist Church on 13-14 February 1855. Despite bad weather, "quite large and respectable audiences" attended the meeting and heard "a style of oratory that would do infinite credit to any of the male sex." (Albany Argus, 15 February 1855.)
Miss Anthony stated the object of the meeting to be the formation of a county society, to advocate and advance the rights of women. Since November, nineteen associations of a similar character have been organized, and the cause was acquiring new friends and advocates in every quarter. Miss A. depicted the wrongs which woman suffers, and by examples, illustrated the inequality in the rights of the opposite sex. In Rochester, said Miss A., there are sixteen public schools, eight of which are superintended by females. The same studies are pursued, and the progress made by the students in the schools under the care of females, is acknowledged to be greater than by those under the supervision of the male teachers. And yet the males receive salaries of $700 each, per annum, while the equally deserving, and the better qualified females, are paid but $250 yearly. Again, a man tailor receives from $4 to $10 for making a coat; a woman from $2 to $4; a male cook from twelve to twenty shilling per day, while a female, equally skilful, is fortunate to receive as much per week.
Miss A. further claimed that a most grievous wrong existed in that woman was not entitled to her own earnings. She met the argument, that woman, if allowed the rights claimed for her, would be less womanly in her nature; and by numerous examples, endeavored to prove the fallacy of the objection. She alluded to Queen Victoria, Joan of Arc, the Maid of Saragossa,[1 ]Miss Herschell, Miss Mitchell,[2] Comptroller Flagg's daughters,[3] and others, to disprove the allegation, and as a closing example related the heroic daring of the wife of Capt. Mitchell,[4] who, within a year past, her husband being taken suddenly ill, assumed the command of his vessel, for several days, during a most terrific gale, managed the ship— standing at the tiller herself— with the most daring intrepidity.
Albany Argus, 15 February 1855.
    [1.] A heroine of the Spanish resistance to Napoleon's armies, Augustina, the maid of Saragossa, entered the battle and held the fort when her lover was shot. Lord Byron celebrated her daring in "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," canto 1, stanzas 54-59.
    [2.] That is, the astronomers Caroline Herschel and Maria Mitchell. Herschel (1750-1848), born into a family of prominent British astronomers, was a distinguished astronomer in her own right; she was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828. Mitchell (1818-1889), born on Nantucket, discovered a new comet in 1847. In 1848 she was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Sciences in Boston, and in 1850 was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She joined the faculty of Vassar when it opened in 1865.
    [3.] In her manuscript of this speech, prepared the previous summer, SBA noted that the daughters of New York's comptroller Azariah Cutting Flagg (1790-1873) worked as clerks in his Albany office. Flagg served from 1834 to 1839 and again from 1842 to 1846. (Dictionary of American Biography; SBA, Lecture on the Rights and Wrongs of Woman, Film, 7:1075-113.)
    [4.] In the manuscript speech, SBA explained that the sea captain's wife brought a ship safely into Boston harbor during a terrible storm.