Noisy Women and Gentle Women

I want you to tell me what you would propose should be done about those noisy, pushing women who will enter into party strifes and feuds, and, conjoined with the same kind of pushing, managing men, will manage everything, leaving the gentle, earnest ones unheard? And what about those primary meetings of which we hear and truly, such a lamentable account—how could women of the gentler order go into them? Should there not be an intelligence list, or some other list fixed upon for all voters before we go further?

So writes an excellent young woman now traveling and visiting in this country, and whose sovereign, when at home, is a woman, but no better woman than herself; nor by natural and acquired endowments, aside from the experience of a thirty years reign, any more competent to rule a great nation. But to her, evidently, there is something, if not quite preposterous, at least a little perilous in extending the right of suffrage to the women of this Republic. If it were certain to make one of them Chief-Magistrate for the space of thirty, perhaps fifty years, most of us would deem it dangerous also. And yet the Elizabeths and Victorias of Great Britain have little cause to fear comparison with any of the governments of the globe in ancient or in modern times. But to divide the sovereignty among millions, and half of them men, and with a vast preponderance of both men and women, not of “ the noisy, pushing kind,” but of “ the gentle and earnest,” rather, surely there could be but small danger.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), The Woman’s Tribune (1883-1909) and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

And besides, the moment men and women meet and mingle together in public affairs, those ” primary meetings “ of “ such lamentable account “ will be redeemed. During the late war, women did attend such meetings, in town and country, from the cities on the coast to the settlements in the backwoods, and always with the most happy and harmonizing results. Girls in schools and colleges are even now redeeming our civilization by their influence over the other sex. Nor shall we always have the “noisy, pushing women,” even in the small numbers seen to-day. And the number is, proportionately, very small. Neither material nor moral depravity is universal, even if in some instances, total. In a crowded city in the sickliest season, there are always more well families than diseased. In New York, proverbial for its wickedness, the well-disposed outnumber all the rest, or life would not be even possible.

And as there should be no noisy, pushing women, so should there be none too gentle to enter the arena even of “primary meetings,” caucuses, conventions, if the cause of virtue, sobriety, good order, and peace demand it of them. It is not a commendable modesty or love of quiet retirement; that would hold a woman back from any responsibility when the welfare of her sons and daughters demands her presence and vote. Mothers have a thousand times pursued their sons to drinking and gambling saloons, and their daughters to even worse places, and snatched them from the very jaws of hell. And all the virtue in the community has approved and applauded the deed. Would it be any more a violation of woman’s modesty and sense of propriety to go quietly to the polls and vote to close up those dens of death? To quench those worse than volcanic fires? Does not Bishop Simpson truly say they never will be arrested and extinguished until woman’s voice and vote shall pronounce and seal their doom?

It thus becomes not woman’s pleasure or privilege to be an active element in making and executing laws, but her solemn, religious duty. A duty as obligatory as faith, or penitence, or prayer. Indeed, it is both faith, repentance and prayer. How can one be said to repent who does not labor to put the sin away? Why sorrow for dangerous and destroying evils, and not strive earnestly and in every right way for their removal? Or what is prayer but corresponding work? Only the worker can pray in faith. Faith is no deader without works than is repentance without reformation. Government languishes to-day for want of virtuous woman’s influence and voice. The very reasons adduced against woman’s becoming a part of the lawmaking power, are, of all others, the very reasons why she should—reasons as imperative as the laws of fate. That woman is different from man is why she should help make the laws which govern her, not why she should not. And the greater the difference, the weightier the reason why she should. A no wilder absurdity and monstrosity would or could it be, or any greater outrage on nature’s appointments, for man to attempt to create or continue the human race alone, than for him to attempt to govern it alone, leaving woman, his own intellectual moral and spiritual equal, if not superior, a cringing, dependent, helpless befog beneath his feet.

-Parker Pillsbury

Publication: The Revolution
Date: August 12, 1869

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