Crummell Sermon

Reviewed: Rev. Crummell’s Sermon Against Woman’s Equality

Rev. Alexander Crummell, a colored clergyman of Washington, pastor of St. Luke’s (Episcopal) Church, and said to be a highly educated man, has within a few months preached a sermon upon the biblical position of woman, in which he holds her as having been created inferior to man, secondary to him, with no right, natural or acquired, by creation or revelation, to govern herself or hold opinions of her own. This sermon, “Marriage and Divorce,” is said to have been printed by request, but whether this request comes from husbands or wives is not stated.

Taking for his ground that passage of scripture which declares that “a man shall leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife,” he soon renders the contradictory opinion that adultery on the part of the wife is a ground for divorce by the husband, but that no reciprocal right exists upon her part.

In the space at command it is impossible to fully review this sermon, which is of the same general type of the Knox-Little sermon delivered last winter in St. Clement’s Church, Philadelphia, and which was reviewed by the editor of the National Citizen. Although Rev. Crummell admits of allowable ground of separation on the part of the wife, for “cruelty, brutal assaults by the husband, absolute neglect or refusal to support her or her family, incompatibility of temper, beastly lust and adultery,” he presses upon her attention the fact that she is still his wife, and is bound by the law of wedlock during the whole period of her husband’s life, and has no right to break this bondage by divorce.

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), and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

The right of divorce, according to Rev. Crummell, has been placed by God, in man’s hands alone, and a wife has no right to such relief from her husband’s misconduct, “courts, legislatures, legal enactments to the contrary not withstanding.”

National Citizen and Ballot Box (September, 1881)

National Citizen and Ballot Box (September, 1881)

He declares the wife’s right of divorce is not compatible with the husband’s headship of the family; and that the necessity of divorce on the part of woman, is not so great as that of man—that an adulterous husband cannot do the same wrong to his wife that the wife does to the husband, owing to “a mysterious physiological fact.” —that when a man begets bastard children he does so beyond the bounds of the homestead, and so cannot “foist his spurious children upon the household and kindred,” —that the “family” is kept together, etc.

This last sophistry of the Rev. Crummell has been used by libidinous men as the plea for license, since the earliest times. It is not only vile in itself, utterly immoral in its effects upon society, injurious in a thousand ways to wife and legitimate children, but has its most serious aspect in the wrong done to those innocent human beings whom he designates as “spurious children,” forced into a world where no home care awaits them, left by their fathers to grow up as neglected street-waifs, uneducated, untrained, uncared for, to fill our alms-houses, jails and prisons. Such sophistry as this,—such blindness to the right, serve to show how dangerous to human liberty our religious teachers can become.

Only a few hundred years ago, divines taught from the pulpit,—in language unfit for reproduction,—of woman’s duty to bear many children. For were not women’s children recruits for the armies of kings; and were not women’s children money in the hands of the lords, as a short time since they were of the Southern master, who also taught his female slaves their duty of like kind?

When men preach of a God-ordained condition for women, inferior to their own, they simply preach from the light of their own innate selfishness and wickedness.

When they preach as does Rev. Crummell, of “the hidden mystery of generation, the wondrous secret of propagated life, committed to the trust of woman,” they bring up a self-evident fact of nature which needs no other inspiration, to show the world that the mother, and not the father is the true head of the family, and that she should be enabled to free herself from the adulterous husband; keeping her own body a holy temple for its divine-human uses, of which as priste and holder of the altar she alone should have control

Source: National Citizen and Ballot Box (September, 1881)

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