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We all hope that in
such laws there comes a great deal of dead letter, but the dead
letter itself stinks and is corrupt. The book of justice should
be purged of such unhallowed corpses.

In the nursery the mother is called upon to set forward the same
injustice which presided over her own education. "Preaching down
a daughter's heart," the beautiful phrase of Tennyson, becomes
the duty of every woman who finds in her daughter saliency of
intellect and individuality of will. Mediocrity is the standard!
"Seek not, my child, to go beyond it. Thou hast thy little
allotments. The French must be thy classics, the house accounts
thy mathematics. Patchwork, cooking, and sweeping thy mechanics;
dress and embroidery thy fine arts. See how small the spheres. Do
not venture outside of it, nor teach thy daughters, when thou
shalt have such to do so."

And so we women, from generation to generation, are drilled to be
the apes of an artificial standard, made for us and imposed upon
us by an outsider; a being who, in this attitude, becomes our
natural enemy.

Mrs. LUCY STONE said: There have always been good and able men
ready to second us, and to say their best words for our cause.
Among the first of these is Mr. George William Curtis, whom I
have now the pleasure to introduce.

_Ladies and Gentlemen:_--It is pleasant to see this large
assembly, and this generous spirit, for it is by precisely such
meetings as this that public opinion is first awakened, and
public action is at last secured. Our question is essentially an
American question. It is a demand for equal rights, and will
therefore be heard. Whenever a free and intelligent people asks
any question involving human rights or liberty or development, it
will ask louder and louder until it is answered. The conscience
of this nation sits in the way like a sphinx, proposing its
riddle of true democracy. Presidents and parties, conventions,
caucuses, and candidates, failing to guess it, are remorselessly
consumed. Forty years ago that conscience asked, "Do men have
fair play in this country?" A burst of contemptuous laughter was
the reply. Louder and louder grew that question, until it was one
great thunderburst, absorbing all other questions; and then the
country saw that its very life was bound up in the answer; and,
springing to its feet, alive in every nerve, with one hand it
snapped the slave's chain, and with the other welded the Union
into a Nation--the pledge of equal liberty.

That same conscience sits in the way to-day. It asks another
question, "Do women have fair play in this country?" As before, a
sneer or a smile of derision may ripple from one end of the land
to the other; but that question will swell louder and louder,
until it is answered by the ballot in the hands of every citizen,
and by the perfect vindication of the fundamental principle, that
"governments derive their just powers from the consent of the
governed." By its very nature, however, the progress of this
reform will differ from every other political movement. Behind
every demand for the enlargement of the suffrage, hitherto there
was always a threat. It involved possible anarchy and blood. But
this reform hides no menace. It lies wholly in the sphere of
reason. It is a demand for justice, as the best political policy;
an appeal for equality of rights among citizens as the best
security of the common welfare. It is a plea for the introduction
of all the mental and moral forces of society into the work of
government. It is an assertion that in the regulation of society,
no class and no interest can be safely spared from a direct
responsibility. It encounters, indeed, the most ancient
traditions, the most subtle sophistry of men's passions and
prejudices. But there was never any great wrong righted that was
not intrenched in sophistry--that did not plead an immemorial
antiquity, and what it called the universal consent and
"instinct" of mankind.

I say that the movement is a plea for justice, and I assert that
the equal rights of women, not as citizens, but as human beings,
have never been acknowledged. There is no audacity so insolent,
no tyranny so wanton, no inhumanity so revolting, as the spirit
which says to any human being, or to any class of human beings,
"You shall be developed just as far as we choose, and as fast as
we choose, and your mental and moral life shall be subject to our
pleasure!"

Edward Lear, the artist, traveling in Greece, says that "he was
one day jogging along with an Albanian peasant, who said to him,
'Women are really better than donkeys for carrying burdens, but
not so good as mules.'" This was the honest opinion of
barbarism--the honest feeling of Greece to-day.

You say that the peasant was uncivilized. Very well. Go back to
the age of Pericles; it is the high noon of Greek civilization.
It is Athens--"the eye of Greece--the mother of art." There
stands the great orator--himself incarnate Greece--speaking the
oration over the Peloponnesian dead. "The greatest glory of
woman," he said, "is to be the least talked of among men;" so
said Pericles, when he lived. Had Pericles lived to-day he would
have agreed that to be talked of among men as Miss Martineau and
Florence Nightingale are, as Mrs. Somerville and Maria Mitchell
are, is as great a glory as to be the mother of the Gracchi.
Women in Greece, the mothers of Greece, were an inferior and
degraded class. And Grote sums up their whole condition when he
says, "Every thing which concerned their lives, their happiness,
or their rights, was determined for them by male relatives, and
they seem to have been destitute of all mental culture and
refinement."

These were the old Greeks. Will you have Rome? The chief monument
of Roman civilization is its law--which underlies our own; and
Buckle quotes the great commentator on that law as saying that it
was the distinction of the Roman law that it treated women not as
persons, but as things. Or go to the most ancient civilization;
to China, which was old when Greece and Rome were young. The
famous French Jesuit missionary, Abbé Huc, mentions one of the
most tragical facts recorded--that there is in China a class of
women who hold that if they are only true to certain bonds during
this life, they shall, as a reward, change their form after death
and return to earth as men. This distinguished traveler also says
that he was one day talking with a certain Master Ting, a very
shrewd Chinaman, whom he was endeavoring to convert. "But," said
Ting, "what is the special object of your preaching
Christianity?" "Why, to convert you, and save your soul," said
the Abbé. "Well, then, why do you try to convert the women?"
asked Master Ting. "To save their souls," said the missionary.
"But women have no souls," said Master Ting; "you can't expect to
make Christians of women,"--and he was so delighted with the idea
that he went out shouting, "Hi! hi! now I shall go home and tell
my wife she has a soul, and I guess she will laugh as loudly as I
do!"

Such were the three old civilizations. Do you think we can
disembarrass ourselves of history? Our civilization grows upon
roots that spring from the remotest past; and our life, proud as
we are of it, is bound up with that of Greece and Rome. Do you
think the spirit of our society is wholly different? Let us see.
It was my good fortune, only a few weeks ago, to be invited to
address the students of Vassar College at Poughkeepsie; which
you will remember is devoted exclusively to the higher education
of women. As I stood in those ample halls, and thought of that
studious household, of the observatory and its occupants, it
seemed to me that, like the German naturalist, who, wandering in
the valley of the Amazon, came suddenly upon the _Victoria
Regia_, so there, in the valley of the Hudson, I had come upon
one of the finest flowers of our civilization. But in the midst
of my enthusiasm I was told by the President that this was the
first fully endowed college for women in the world; and from that
moment I was alarmed. From behind every door, every tree, I
expected to see good Master Ting springing out with his "Hi! hi!
you laugh at us Chinese barbarians; you call yourselves in
America the head of civilization; you claim that the glory of
your civilization is your estimate of women; you sneer at us
Chinese for belittling women's souls and squeezing their feet.
Who belittle their capacities? Who squeeze their minds?" We must
confess it. The old theory of the subservience of women still
taints our civilization.

You open your morning paper and read that on the previous evening
there was a meeting of intelligent and experienced women, with
some that were not so, which is true of all general meetings of
men and women; and these persons demanded the same liberty of
choice, and an equal opportunity with all other members of
society. But the report of the meeting is received with a shout
of derisive laughter that echoes through the press and through
private conversation. Gulliver did not take the Lilliputians on
his hands and look at them with more utter contempt than the
political class of this country, to which the men in this hall
belong, take up these women and look at them with infinite,
amused disdain. But in the very next column of the same morning
paper we find another report, describing a public dinner, at
which men only were present.



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