Tag Archives: Women’s History
Suffrage-HQ

Woman Suffrage and “The Nation” in 1871

By Mrs. Goodrich Willard

As the editor of The Nation has at last come out and treated the woman question and its advocates in a more respectful manner, we will discuss his views as if he were a gentleman, and not a blackguard or a gander. If he will stop calling names, we will. We are glad that our plan of “treating a fool according to his folly” has worked so well, and made him ashamed of the folly. It is sometimes necessary to do this, because it is the only course that will succeed; nevertheless, we deplore the necessity. It is not to our taste.

The article of The Nation is headed, “Sex in Politics.” The editor says:

Owing to the interest excited by the condition of the city and State of New York, and the condition of the South, and by the condition of France, all of these countries being governed by a numerical majority, and all badly governed, the foundations on which democratic governments rest are receiving a more serious and thoughtful examination than they have ever received before. … Hitherto democracy has been discussed in very much the frame of mind in which men speculated on the form and habits of dragons or the scenery of Hesperides. … Now, however, we have at last got the thing itself under our very eyes, and the debate has assumed a gravity and even a solemnity it has never before had.

The astute editor of The Nation ought to know that the world has never yet seen a true democratic government, but only approaches toward it. The present government of this country, north and south, is nothing more nor less than the very worst form of a masculine oligarchy; and then to think of the absurdity and injustice of calling France a democracy– poor France, in a state of perfect anarchy brought upon her by monarchial misrule and injustice.

It is very evident that The Nation is endeavoring, by sly insinuations, to cast obliquy and distrust upon a democratic or republican form of government. If The Nation, and others like him, shall attempt to foist a monarchy upon this people, they will have a hot time of it.

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drinks-607186_1280

American Women Who Drink (1871)

The press has lately been agitating to a considerable extent the question as to whether intemperance among women is increasing so much as some of the published statements of physicians and others would lead us to suppose, and from my own observation I am compelled to believe that this vice is growing to such an alarming extent that unless it is checked, and that speedily, the next generation will be born drunkards, and die drunkards.

Even as I write there comes over me the recollection of a bright, piquant little lady in Washington, the mother of a lovely boy, the wife of a good, kind husband, whom we all liked, and who was the life of any party she joined, and of home. We ladies used to wonder why her husband would never allow her to enter the general parlor where we all sat in the evening, sometimes entertained for hours by the interesting conversation of Mrs. Gaine’s and other witty ladies. We thought he was rather strict with his bright young wife, but afterwards found he was right, for she was addicted to drinking intoxicating liquors.

I refused to believe it at first, until one evening when she had stolen into the parlor, she executed a can-can before a minister of the government, when my faith in her began to waver; but not until the day of our departure when I went to her room to say good-bye was I convinced that she really was a slave to the demon. She met us at the door with a stagger, her dress disarranged, and with her tongue so thick she could scarcely utter the farewell words that come to her lips. I left her, sick at heart, saying, “God pity that little family.” She had alcoholic drink prescribed to her by a physician, and that is how she became a drunkard.

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classroom-teacher

Equal Pay for Equal Work in 1870

Extract of a private letter from a lady in Michigan:

I see in a late Revolution that it will expose the unfairness of half pay for equal work, on account of sex.

Here is only one example, out of many in my line of business.

On September 1, 1869, I took a man’s place in one of the city ward schools, the first time in this city that this position had been filled by a woman—have done the same work (except that of using corporal punishment, which, by the way, I abolished in my department five years ago, the Board here, a few weeks since); and giving better satisfaction, judging from “what they say,” than did my male predecessor, he receiving $60 per month, and I but $30.

The Board engaged me for the second term — proof of satisfaction. I have petitioned for better salary, pleaded for justice, and petitioned — but in vain.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Newspapers Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily, The Revolution, and the National Citizen and Ballot Box.

Source: The Revolution, March 24, 1870
Image:  Classroom scenes in Washington, D.C. public schools (1899)


women-working

The Poverty of Women (1870)

It would be a curious and pathetic statement if we could have placed before us the sums which women have added to the wealth of the world, to which they have no title, and for which they receive no credit. Thousands of men, if they spoke the truth, would be obliged to acknowledge that the foundations of their fortunes were laid by their wives; not indirectly alone, by furnishing them with an incentive, with something to work for, but directly, in the way of counsel, encouragement, and active help.

If these women could come into their own– into what they have actually added to the productive capital of society–they would not be the paupers they are to-day, nor mere beneficiaries upon the bounty of men. The entire talents and energies of an average housekeeper are given to the care of her family, the comfort of her husband, and still, to all intents and purposes, she is a beggar. There are thousands of men, yea millions, like the old down East farmer, of whom it is related that he was an excellent husband and father, but he never could see what a woman wanted with five dollars. These men are good to their “women folks,” in country parlance, until their pockets are touched, then every dollar that is extracted for a needful pair of shoes or a new gown comes like drawing teeth. In the rural districts, at least, the belief still prevails that women cannot be trusted with money. The wife goes to the store “to trade,” at the last pinch of need; the husband stands by to check all extravagance, and when the purchases are made, reluctantly draws forth his pocket-book and pays the bill.

Multitudes of men lean on their wives every hour in the day, and often consult them on affairs of business, knowing their practical ability to be greater than their own, who have never had the generosity to draw out fifty dollars and say, “Here, take this, go and buy what is needful for yourself and the girls.” I have seen genial men transformed into sour, crabbed, disagreeable old curmudgeons at the simple question, “Father, won’t you please give us some money to day?”

The male intellect finds it exceedingly difficult to comprehend why a woman wants or requires money. I have known women to deprive themselves of the necessaries of life rather than submit to the humiliation of asking for what is rightfully their own–what they have earned by the sweat of the brow and the toil of the hands. In agricultural districts the wife and daughters are active partners in the business of the farm. Besides attending to their own special province of housework, they help milk the cows; they assist at butter and cheese-making; they gather and preserve fruit, and prepare it for market, and in harvest time they often go into the field. They labor more hours, and have infinitely more responsibility, than any hired hand on the farm; and yet, when at the end of the season the farm-hand goes away with his pocket well lined, they have not a penny to show for their summer’s work.
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school-outdoors

A Helpmate School Committee (1874)

Some time ago, as the readers of the Lady’s Book may remember, a suggestion was made in these pages that every Board of School-Trustees should be assisted in their work by a visiting committee of women , appointed, with defined powers and duties, for inspecting the school, and suggesting any needed improvements in its studies, discipline, and accommodations. It seemed to us unreasonable that mothers, who are expected to have the main charge of the mental and physical training of their children until they go to school, should then see the control, and even the knowledge, of all that concerns this most important duty, taken away from them, and committed to men, who usually have little time, and frequently not much inclination to attend to it.

It is not a little pleasing to find that the same views have been not only entertained in England, but actually carried into effect. The following paragraph from an English paper will show how the question arose, and in what way it was met — a way which seems, under the circumstances, to have been equally ingenious and happy:

“At the Heckmondwich School Board the other day the Finance Committee recommended that a ladies’ committee be appointed to assist in the management of the new school board . The chairman observed that the question was a difficult one, and he thought the best thing the board could do would be to appoint their wives. He accordingly moved a resolution to this effect, and Mr. Wood having seconded it, the resolution was carried unanimously.”

This mode of selecting the “ladies’ committee” must be admitted to have one defect. We take for granted that the electors will not be so ill-advised as to place upon the school board any bachelor or widower, or any member whose wife is not a veritable helpmate. In view of the possibility that such an unfortunate even might occur, it would not be advisable that the selection of members of the committee should be restricted so rigidly as was done in this instance. In every other respect, the example is one which may be commended to the attention of all true friends of education, and, we may add, of women’ s rights; for what better right can a woman have than to see that the education of her children is properly conducted, and that the care of their health is not neglected?

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.

Source: Godey’s Lady’s Book, February, 1874
Photo: School children seated at two tables, with their teacher, outdoors, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Details)