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The idea
of identifying myself with them was as far removed from my
thoughts as becoming a female gymnast and whirling upon a
trapeze. But once I wrote a lecture, and one night I delivered
it. Adhering to my practice of speaking about that which was most
familiar, my lecture was about the stage. I lectured, simply
because I thought the pay would be better in that department; the
idea that I was running counter to anybody's prejudice, never
entered my head. And I was so far removed that I never read a
page of _The Revolution_ in my life, and, what is more, I did not
want to; and when Miss Anthony passed down Broadway and saw the
bills announcing my lecture she knew nothing about me, and what
is more, she did not want to. (Laughter). She made a confession
to me afterwards. She said to herself, "Here is a lady going to
lecture about the stage," looking through her blessed
spectacles, as I can see her (laughter)--and I can hear her
muttering "a woman's rights woman." (Laughter). That is not so
very long ago, a little over a year. Since this great question of
woman's rights was thrust upon me, I am asked to define my
position; wherever I have traveled in the fifteen months I have
had to do so. A lady of society asked me, "Are you in favor of
woman's rights?" I had either to answer yes or no, and "Yes," I
said. (Applause)....

I met, in my travels, in a New England town, an educated woman,
who found herself obliged to earn her livelihood, after living a
life of luxury and ease. Her husband, who had provided her with
every material comfort, had gone to the grave. All his property
was taken to pay his debts, and she found herself penniless. What
was that woman to do? She looks abroad among the usual
employments of women, and her only resource seems to be that
little bit of steel around which cluster so many
associations--the needle--and by the needle, with the best work
and the best wages, the most she can get is two dollars a day.
With this, poor as it is, she will be content; but she finds an
army of other women looking for the same, and most of them
looking in vain. These things have opened my eyes to a vista such
as I never saw before. They have touched my heart as it never
before was touched. They have aroused my conscience to the fact
that this woman question is the question of the hour, and that I
must take part in it. I take my stand boldly, proudly, with such
earnest, thoughtful women as Susan B. Anthony, Mrs. Stanton, and
Anna Dickinson, to work together with them for the
enfranchisement of woman, for her elevation personally and
socially, and above all for her right and opportunity to work at
such employments as she can follow, with the right to such pay as
men get. (Applause). There are thousands of women who have no
vital interest in this question. They are happy wives and
daughters, and may they ever be so; but they can not tell how
soon their husbands and brothers may be lost to them, and they
will find themselves destitute and penniless with no resources in
themselves against misfortune. Then it will be for such that we
labor. Our purpose is to help those who need help, widows and
orphan girls. There is no need to do battle in this matter. In
all kindness and gentleness we urge our claims. There is no need
to declare war upon man, for the best of men in this country are
with us heart and soul. These are with us in greater numbers even
than our own sex. (A Voice--"That is true." Great applause). Do
not say that we seek to break up family peace and fireside joy;
far from it. (Applause). We interfere not with the wife or
daughter who is happy in the strong protection thrown around her
by a father or husband, but it is cowardice for such to throw
obstacles in the way of those who need help. More than this, for
the sake of the helpless woman, to whose unhappiness in the loss
of beloved ones is added the agony of hard and griping want. For
the sake of the poor girl who has no power to cope with the hard
actualities of a desolate life, while her trembling feet tread
the crumbling edge of the dark abyss of infamy. For the sake of
this we are pleading and entertaining this great question,
withhold your answer till at least you have learned to say, "God
speed."

The next speaker was Miss Phoebe Couzins, a young law student from St.
Louis, who spoke in a most agreeable and forcible manner.

Miss COUZINS said:--MRS. PRESIDENT AND LADIES: I deem it the duty
of every earnest woman to express herself in regard to the XVth
Amendment to our Federal Constitution. I feel deeply the
humiliation and insult that is offered to the women of the United
States in this Amendment, and have always publicly protested
against its passage. During a recent tour through the Eastern
States I became still more (if that were possible) firmly fixed
in my convictions. Its advocates are unwilling to have it
publicly discussed, showing that they know there is an element of
weakness in it which will not bear a thorough investigation.

While feeling entirely willing that the black man shall have all
the rights to which he is justly entitled, I consider the claims
of the black woman of paramount importance. I have had
opportunities of seeing and knowing the condition of both sexes,
and will bear my testimony, that the black women are, and always
have been, in a far worse condition than the men. As a class,
they are better, and more intelligent than the men, yet they have
been subjected to greater brutalities, while compelled to perform
exactly the same labor as men toiling by their side in the
fields, just as hard burdens imposed upon them, just as severe
punishments decreed to them, with the added cares of maternity
and household work, with their children taken from them and sold
into bondage; suffering a thousandfold more than any man could
suffer. Then, too, the laws for women in the Southern States,
both married and single, degrade them still further. The black
men, as a class, are very tyrannical in their families; they have
learned the lesson of brute force but too well, and as the
marriage law allows the husband entire control over his wife's
earnings and her children, she is in worse bondage than before;
because in many cases the task of providing for helpless children
and an idle, lazy, husband, is imposed on the patient wife and
mother; and, with this sudden elevation to citizenship, which the
mass of stupid, ignorant negroes look upon as entitling them to
great honor, I regard the future state of the negro woman,
without the ballot in her hand, as deplorable. And what is said
of the ignorant black man can as truthfully be said of the
ignorant white man; they all regard woman as an inferior being.
She is their helpless, household slave. He is her ruler, her
law-giver, her conscience, her judge and jury, and the prisoner
at the bar has no appeal. This XVth Amendment thrusts all women
still further down in the scale of degradation, and I consider it
neither praiseworthy nor magnanimous for women to assert that
they are willing to hold their claims in abeyance, until all
shades and types of men have the franchise. It is admitting a
false principle, which all women, who are loyal to truth and
justice, should immediately reject. For over twenty-five years,
the advocates of woman suffrage have been trying to bring this
vital question before the country. They have accomplished
herculean tasks and still it is up-hill work. Shall they, after
battling so long with ignorance, prejudice and unreasoning
customs, stand quietly back and obsequiously say they are willing
that the floodgates shall be opened and a still greater mass of
ignorance, vice and degradation let in to overpower their little
army, and set this question back for a century? Their solemn duty
to future generations forbids such a compromise.

The advocates of the XVth Amendment tell us we ought to accept
the half loaf when we can not get the whole. I do not see that
woman gets any part of the loaf, not even a crumb that falls
from the rich man's table. It may appear very magnanimous for
men, who have never known the degradation of being thrust down in
the scale of humanity by reason of their sex, to urge these
yielding measures upon women, they can not and do not know our
feelings on the subject, and I regard it as neither just nor
generous to eternally compel women to yield on all questions (no
matter how humiliating), simply because they are women.

The Anti-Slavery party declares that with the adoption of the
XVth Amendment their work is done. Have they, then, been battling
for over thirty years for a fraction of a principle? If so, then
the XVth Amendment is a fitting capstone to their labors. Were
the earnest women who fought and endured so heroically with them,
but tools in the hands of the leaders, to place "manhood
suffrage" on the highest pinnacle of the temple dedicated to
Truth and Justice? And are they now to bow down, and worship in
abject submission this fractional part of a principle, that has
hitherto proclaimed itself, as knowing neither bond nor free,
male nor female, but one perfect humanity?

The XV. Amendment virtually says that every intelligent, virtuous
woman is the inferior of every ignorant man, no matter how low he
may be sunk in the scale of morality, and every instinct of my
being rises to refute such doctrine, and God speaking within me
says, No!



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