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In some of the States, also, there
have been laws passed giving to the mother a joint right with the
father in the guardianship of the children. But twenty years ago,
when our woman's rights movement commenced, by the laws of the
State of New York, and all the States, the father had the sole
custody and control of the children. No matter if he were a
brutal, drunken libertine, he had the legal right, without the
mother's consent, to apprentice her sons to rumsellers, or her
daughters to brothel keepers. He could even will away an unborn
child, to some other person than the mother. And in many of the
States the law still prevails, and legal mothers are still
utterly powerless under the common law.

I doubt if there is, to-day, a State in this Union where a
married woman can sue or be sued for slander of character, and
until quite recently there was not one in which she could sue or
be sued for injury of person. However damaging to the wife's
reputation any slander may be, she is wholly powerless to
institute legal proceedings against her accuser, unless her
husband shall join with her; and how often have we heard of the
husband conspiring with some outside barbarian to blast the good
name of his wife. A married woman can not testify in the courts
in cases of joint interest with her husband. A good farmer's wife
near Earlville, Ill., who had all the rights she wanted, went to
the dentist of the village, who made her a full set of false
teeth, both upper and under. The dentist pronounced them an
admirable fit, and the wife declared they gave her fits to wear
them; that she could neither chew nor talk with them in her
mouth. The dentist sued the husband; his counsel brought the wife
as witness; the judge ruled her off the stand, saying:

A married woman can not be a witness in matters of joint
interest between herself and her husband.

Think of it, ye good wives, the false teeth in your mouths a
joint interest with your husbands, about which you are legally
incompetent to speak! If in our frequent and shocking railroad
accidents a married woman is injured in her person, in nearly all
of the States, it is her husband who must sue the company, and it
is to her husband that the damages, if there are any, will be
awarded. In Ashfield, Mass., supposed to be the most advanced of
any State in the Union in all things, humanitarian as well as
intellectual, a married woman was severely injured by a defective
sidewalk. Her husband sued the corporation and recovered $13,000
damages. And those $13,000 belong to him _bona fide_; and
whenever that unfortunate wife wishes a dollar of it to supply
her needs she must ask her husband for it; and if the man be of a
narrow, selfish, niggardly nature, she will have to hear him say,
every time:

"What have you done, my dear, with the twenty-five cents I
gave you yesterday?"

Isn't such a position, I ask you, humiliating enough to be called
"servitude"? That husband, as would any other husband, in nearly
every State of this Union, sued and obtained damages for the loss
of the services of his wife, precisely as the master, under the
old slave regime, would have done, had his slave been thus
injured, and precisely as he himself would have done had it been
his ox, cow, or horse instead of his wife. There is an old saying
that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," and I
submit if the deprivation by law of the ownership of one's own
person, wages, property, children, the denial of the right as an
individual, to sue and be sued, and to testify in the courts, is
not a condition of servitude most bitter and absolute, though
under the sacred name of marriage?

Does any lawyer doubt my statement of the legal status of married
women? I will remind him of the fact that the old common law of
England prevails in every State in this Union, except where the
Legislature has enacted special laws annulling it. And I am
ashamed that not one State has yet blotted from its statute books
the old common law of marriage, by which Blackstone, summed up in
the fewest words possible, is made to say: "Husband and wife are
one, and that one is the husband."

Thus may all married women, wives, and widows, by the laws of the
several States, be technically included in the XV. Amendment's
specification of "condition of servitude," present or previous.
And not only married women, but I will also prove to you that by
all the great fundamental principles of our free government, the
entire womanhood of the nation is in a "condition of servitude"
as surely as were our revolutionary fathers, when they rebelled
against old King George. Women are taxed without representation,
governed without their consent, tried, convicted, and punished
without a jury of their peers. And is all this tyranny any less
humiliating and degrading to women under our
democratic-republican government to-day than it was to men under
their aristocratic, monarchical government one hundred years ago?
There is not an utterance of old John Adams, John Hancock, or
Patrick Henry, but finds a living response in the soul of every
intelligent, patriotic woman of the nation. Bring to me a
common-sense woman property holder, and I will show you one whose
soul is fired with all the indignation of 1776, every time the
tax-gatherer presents himself at her door. You will not find one
such but feels her condition of servitude as galling as did James
Otis when he said:

The very act of taxing exercised over those who are not
represented appears to me to be depriving them of one of
their most essential rights, and if continued, seems to be
in effect an entire disfranchisement of every civil right.
For, what one civil right is worth a rush after a man's
property is subject to be taken from him at pleasure without
his consent? If a man is not his own assessor in person, or
by deputy, his liberty is gone, or he is wholly at the mercy
of others.

What was the three-penny tax on tea, or the paltry tax on paper
and sugar to which our revolutionary fathers were subjected, when
compared with the taxation of the women of this Republic? The
orphaned Pixley sisters, six dollars a day; and even the women
who are proclaiming the tyranny of taxation without
representation, from city to city throughout the country, are
often compelled to pay a tax for the poor privilege of protesting
against the outrage. And again, to show that disfranchisement was
precisely the slavery of which the fathers complained, allow me
to cite to you old Ben. Franklin, who in those olden times was
admitted to be good authority, not merely in domestic economy,
but in political as well:

Every man of the commonalty, except infants, insane persons
and criminals, is, of common right and the law of God, a
freeman and entitled to the free enjoyment of liberty. That
liberty or freedom consists in having an actual share in the
appointment of those who are to frame the laws, and who are
to be the guardians of every man's life, property, and
peace. For the all of one man is as dear to him as the all
of another; and the poor man has an equal right, but more
need to have representatives in the Legislature than the
rich one. That they who have no voice or vote in the
electing of representatives do not enjoy liberty, but are
absolutely enslaved to those who have votes and their
representatives; for to be enslaved is to have governors
whom other men have set over us, and to be subject to laws
made by the representatives of others, without having had
representatives of our own to give consent in our behalf.

Suppose I read it with the feminine gender:

That women who have no voice nor vote in the electing of
representatives, do not enjoy liberty, but are absolutely
enslaved to men who have votes and their representatives;
for to be enslaved is to have governors whom men have set
over us, and to be subject to the laws made by the
representatives of men, without having representatives of
our own to give consent in our behalf.

And yet one more authority; that of Thomas Paine, than whom not
one of the Revolutionary patriots more ably vindicated the
principles upon which our government is founded:

The right of voting for representatives is the primary right
by which other rights are protected. To take away this right
is to reduce man to a state of slavery; for slavery consists
in being subject to the will of another; and he that has not
a vote in the election of representatives is in this case.
The proposal, therefore, to disfranchise any class of men is
as criminal as the proposal to take away property.

Is anything further needed to prove woman's condition of
servitude sufficiently orthodox to entitle her to the guarantees
of the XV. Amendment? Is there a man who will not agree with me,
that to talk of freedom without the ballot, is mockery--is
slavery--to the women of this Republic, precisely as New
England's orator, Wendell Phillips, at the close of the late war,
declared it to be to the newly emancipated black men?

I admit that prior to the rebellion, by common consent, the right
to enslave, as well as to disfranchise both native and foreign
born citizens, was conceded to the States.



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