Woman’s Great Needs in The Lily, October 1856

This essay by Mrs. E. P. F. B. of Michigan appeared in the October 1856 issue of The Lily.

Published in Seneca Falls, New York and priced at 50 cents a year, The Lily began as a temperance journal for “home distribution” among members of the Seneca Falls Ladies Temperance Society. Although women’s exclusion from membership in temperance societies and other reform activities was the main force behind the The Lily, it was not initially a radical paper.

The editor, Amelia Bloomer, was greatly influenced by Stanton and gradually became a convert to the cause of women’s rights. She also became interested in dress reform, advocating that women wear the outfit that came to be known as the “Bloomer costume.”

Woman’s Great Needs

A self-sustaining Independence is the great good which is to emancipate woman — mental, moral, physical independence. She must assert her right to self, that God-given right which it is a blasphemy to desecrate. Until she respects this right, and successfully defends it, she will be the humble victim of abused power — a hopeless, helpless slave.

We talk of purity? There can be no purity without freedom. We may have a forced chastity — a forced purity never.

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).

We must have mental and moral independence, ere we can expect physical independence. Woman must know her wants before she can labor successfully to supply them. I assert the great want of humanity is self-possession; pre-eminently is this woman’s need. She may not know it — the heart may continue to cry give, give, and yet not know what it would have. There is a great want in the soul of woman, yet often she knows not what that want is.

If we would be free — if we would be useful and happy, lovely and beloved, we must strive for personal freedom — freedom in our thoughts and lives. Our aim must be to strengthen ourselves for self-reliance — mental, moral, physical self-reliance.

Woman is weak; she is fettered on every side, externally and internally, and these fetters are now worn with galling bitterness, which ofttimes drives all loveliness from her heart and life. It is not freedom which has wrought this sad condition in woman — it is the degradation of a nature too noble to submit to slavery — too heavily shackled to burst into exultant Freedom.

Give men and women individual liberty, and soon the Divinity within them will develop the purity of true manhood — of true womanhood. There will then be no unsexing of either, as is now so much lamented; there will then be no clashing of interests between the two, for an all-wise God has not failed in his adaptation of harmonious relations between the noblest of his works, designed to bless and be blest by each other.

–Mrs. E. P. F. B.

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