“OPPOSITION” – November 5, 1873

The question of equal suffrage was a lively topic for public and political debate very early in Washington’s history, and Abigail Scott Duniway was a major figure almost from the beginning.1 The question was considered as early as 1854, when a bill was introduced in the lower house of the territory’s first legislature. The bill lost by one vote and the issue died until the territory’s election code of 1866 granted suffrage to “all white citizens,” whereupon enterprising suffrage advocates seized the opportunity to argue that women were citizens. In 1869 another bill was introduced, unsuccessfully, in the upper house. After trying unsuccessfully to vote a year earlier, sisters Mary Olney Brown and Charlotte Olney French in 1870 persuaded election judges in two King County precincts to construe the 1866 code favorably, and a few women actually voted, provoking considerable discussion. In August, 1871, Laura de Force Gordon2 of California lectured in Vancouver, Olympia, and Seattle, and in October Olympia attorney Daniel R. Bigelow introduced a bill that would have submitted the suffrage question to a vote by the women of the territory. While this bill was pending, both Susan B. Anthony3 and Scott Duniway, who were almost seven weeks into their three-month lecture tour of the Pacific Northwest, addressed the legislature.4 The two helped organize the Washington Territory Woman Suffrage Association in Olympia in early November5 and, by the end of the tour, Abigail was acknowledged as the leading suffragist of the region.

But her work was just beginning. On October 20, the day after Anthony and Scott Duniway spoke to the legislature, Bigelow’s bill was tabled.6 Then in the waning days of November, by nearly two-to-one majorities in both houses, the legislature passed an act that effectively quashed all appeals to the election code of 1866 by providing that “no female shall have the right of ballot” in the territory until the U.S. Congress acted to grant this right.7 So she was back in Olympia in November, 1873, attending the W.T.W.S.A. convention and lobbying on behalf of another woman suffrage bill, introduced this time by stalwart proponent Edward Eldridge, a Republican from Whatcom County. In the opening speech of the convention, on Wednesday evening, November 5, she attacked “one-sexed government” as the source of political corruption and argued that Republicans should seize the day before Democrats embraced equal suffrage and consigned Republicans to political oblivion.8 Presumably, she tried the same argument on the legislators, where it apparently was not as well received: Eldridge’s bill failed, 12 to 18, and would have passed had Abigail persuaded the eight Republicans. Indeed, it would take several more campaigns, and thirty-seven more long years, before Washington became the fifth state to adopt woman suffrage in 1910.

Following is a second speech given to the W.T.W.S.A., delivered six days later, near convention’s end. In it she attempts to rally the troops, declaring that the recent defeat has not “demoralized” suffrage advocates and predicting (as she would, tirelessly, for forty years) suffrage’s “ultimate triumph.” Indeed, this speech is notable principally because it illustrates Scott Duniway’s efforts to turn the tables rhetorically, to turn defeat into victory. Suffrage forces, she claims, are stronger after than before the setback, and it is suffrage’s opponents who are demoralized. So, as a “philanthropist,” Scott Duniway proposes to bolster the (victorious!) opposition’s sagging morale by affirming the anti-suffragist sentiments expressed in a recent poem. However, her affirmation damns with faint praise, to say the least. In fact, it rather effectively eviscerates the poem’s anti-suffrage sentiments. Thus, this speech also  is notable for displaying Scott Duniway’s sharp, sarcastic wit, which undoubtedly was more in evidence in her extemporaneous, informal speeches than they are in the set speeches that dominate this archive.

The text is reprinted from the New Northwest, November 28, 1873.

Gentlemen and Ladies: This large and intelligent audience can bear me witness that our recent defeat in your Legislature has not demoralized us; neither has it in any way diminished our enthusiasm, nor destroyed one iota of confidence in our ultimate triumph. Indeed, we are stronger now than before the battle, as the increasing interest in our cause exhibited by this large attendance abundantly testifies.

As we have been unable thus far to arouse any opposition in these meetings, and I fear that our opponents are becoming demoralized for the want of a champion to espouse their side of the question, and as I have the reputation of being somewhat of a philanthropist because my sympathies are always with the party that gets the worst of the argument, allow me, for the nonce, to assist our enemies in making out a case.

In rummaging among some old newspapers, at the house of a lady friend, we to-day found a poem entitled “What are Woman’s Rights?” This poem originally appeared in the Pacific Tribune, and was suggested, as the introduction states, by the Woman Suffrage Convention held in Olympia two years ago. The author is unknown to me, but the poem reads, in part, as follows9:

What are woman’s rights? you ask me;
I would ask, what are her wrongs?
Does she seek for a position
Which to man alone belongs?

Does she (mourning and complaining)
Tread this beautiful green earth,
Thinking she is right in claiming
Things which ne’er for her had birth?

No true woman seeks to bluster
All her rights or wrongs about–
Something meeker, nobler, higher,
Marks her quiet life throughout.

She will ne’er neglect the blessing
Which will give her greatest joy–
That for which she has her being,
Watching o’er her infant boy.

Ladies, I would not abate one jot or tittle of the sentiment contained in this very sentimental effusion. There is a great deal more truth than poetry in it. “Watching o’er her infant boy” is a very great joy to any true mother; but our friend forgot to add that these boys will grow; that they are not always “infants;” but after they have been “watched over” till “her being’s” mission is accomplished, what is the mother to do next? All capable mothers have “watched” their “infant boys” out of pinafores and into trowsers by the time that they (the mothers) [r]each the age that most men attain before they are safely launched into the public arena. But I forget myself. I am making an opposition speech. Here is something splendid:

Hers it is to guard each footstep
From his boyhood up to man;
Training him for life’s great conflict,
Teaching him to work and plan.

Man never uttered a grander, truer, or more noble sentiment than this. Who but woman has intellect and intuition sufficient to train the offspring of her existence “for life’s great conflict?” Who but she can rightly “teach him to work and plan?” Certainly his political life has proved that he is not capable of “training” himself.

Here is another idea that woman cannot commend too strongly:

If more mothers knew their mission,
Greater would the Nation be,
Less of sin and degradation,
More of truth and honesty.

O, if mothers who live but for fashion, folly and display, neglecting, as they too often do, the immortal waifs entrusted to their care by the great All Father–mothers who “have all the rights they want” while rum and licentiousness run riot–could but realize the power of this idea; could they more fully appreciate their individual responsibility and inalienable obligations to the commonwealth, there would then indeed be “less of sin and degra[da]tion.”

Not by voting for the Nation
Does she strive to keep it up,
But in her household avocations,
There she helps to be its prop.

Here I am a little puzzled. Just how it is, and why it is, that woman “has her being” merely “to watch and guide her infant boy,” how it is, or why it is that she must “train him for life’s great conflict,” and “teach him to work and plan” merely that she may have a ruler to make and enforce laws that she is taxed to sustain, while her “household avocations” are added, merely as a “prop” to keep man’s “Nation” up, I cannot clearly comprehend. There must be logic in it somewhere, but I confess I cannot find it.

Maybe this will give me light:

God’s word tells them, very plainly,
To be chaste and keep at home;
But how often they reject it,
Making precepts of their own.

And we often10 find it written,
That, as Christ is to the Church
The head, so man is to woman,
If we diligently search.

Of course, men implicitly obey the word of God, as they interpret it. But as women have no right to make interpretations for themselves, seeing that they “have their being” merely to “train their infant boys” to do it, it is doubtless very presumptive in one of these same mothers to “diligently search” into these things for herself while “teaching her boys to work and plan;” but wicked as it is, O men and brethren, I have done it, and will give you the result of my investigation:

I find that Christ so loved the world that he offered himself as a sacrifice for sin; that he was crucified in proof of his great love for humanity, and that it was his great sacrifice that made him the head of the Church. If man will go and do likewise he may then claim a prerogative of headship; but, until he does, anxious as I am to make a strong opposition speech, I must waive this part of the poet’s argument.

God did not make man for woman,
She was really made for man;
And how full of perfect wisdom
Was the great Creator’s plan.

Again, as a mother of men, I have read the Scriptures, and having found, in connection with the above, that “for this cause ought a woman to have power, because of the angels;” but I must get off of that point lest I weaken the argument. As the hard-shell preacher said, “I am not speaking on that branch of the subject;” besides, “that ain’t the p’int.”

Our poet continues:

For without her softening influence,
Man would droop and pine away;
But she cheers him as he travels
On his journey day by day.

Should she be without a husband,
And she wants some pastime, too,
Time is never to be squandered–
There is much that she can do.

All around her are the blessings
To be scattered, more and more,
Till her triumphs are as countless
As the sands upon the shore.

Friends, a great many good men oppose the enfranchisement of woman because of a vague and indescribable idea that they have conjured up regarding her sacred and refining influence, which they somehow feel must be restrained continually or it will loose its power.

Once the refining and invigorating influence of the sun exerted itself upon one of God’s unproductive acres until there arose and grew great, “tall, fair ranks of trees.” The months and years rolled themselves into decades, the decades at last into centuries, and there they stood, “massy and tall and dark.” The vigorous branches at their tops reached out in all directions, overlapping and interweaving among each other, until the genial sunshine by whose aid these great, grand trees had been nurtured into life and vigor, was shut away from the earth into which they had taken root. Then, at their feet, great noxious weeds grew up,  and noisome plants, with poisonous exhalations, crept over the dark, mouldy soil. Lizards glided in and out, and snakes hissed forth their venomous sounds, and writhed and raged as is their custom. Did a stray sunbeam sometimes enter this abode of corruption, causing a tiny blade of grass to dare peep forth, the wise branches of the great trees exerted themselves afresh, and whispered to each other, “We must not allow the purifying sun’s rays to enter here. At our feet is a filthy pool in which they must not dabble lest they be defiled.” And the lizards glided, and the snakes writhed, and the noxious weeds and noisome herbs joined in the refrain and sang out “filthy pool.” But the noxious vapors that were generated in that damp, fetid air, attracted the wrath of a storm-cloud, who, in passing, scented corruption from afar. And the storm-cloud sent the forked lightning whose artillery shook the heavens, and lo, one of the grandest of the forest monarchs lay prone and helpless at the feet of his fellows. The storm-cloud passed on and straightway the genial and renovating sunlight shone down upon the “filthy pool.” Great was the indignation of the standing monarchs. Exerting themselves with might and main they strove to reunite their broken phalanx, but too late; the sunlight had entered. And in spite of leafy hedges, noxious weeds and noisome herbs, not heeding gliding lizards or writhing serpents, and minding not the croaking of the self- conceited frogs who grumbled that their “filthy pool” should be disturbed, and though, according to our poet, it “did not to her belong,” the sunlight persistently pursued her well-known way of duty. And lo, and behold! Beautiful flowers sprang up as if by magic where slimy weeds had grown. Fruit-bearing shrubs shot forth their well-laden branches, and trees, whose leaves waved for the healing of nations, budded into life and beauty. The “filthy pool” became a clear and rippling stream where golden fishes flashed, and bright-plumed birds made heavenly melody. And what of the trees? Taller and grander yet they grew; more glorious and strong and vigorous and beautiful because of the blessed influence of all-pervading sunlight.

But look, again: Yonder, a little apart from the rest, in the majesty of his self-conscious pride, stands a grand, great oak. Stately and tall and beautiful he grows, spreading his branches far and wide. But even while we gaze a change comes over him. A “clinging vine,” heavy, luxuriant, dependent, merciless, has fastened itself, by his own permission, around his massive form. It creeps over him and coils around him, gently, slowly, but insidiously. Look now, and you will see that the very life of the oak is being sapped. He is already dead at the top. The “clinging vine” which he so dearly loves to shelter and protect becomes a sordid vampire. It is needless to continue the  picture. The “clinging vine” brings death to the oak, gentlemen. Can you point the moral?

But excuse me, I am making an opposition speech.

To return to our poet:

Ragged, homeless, friendless children,
Whom the ways of sin delude,
Could be won, by love and kindness,
To the paths of rectitude.

When the orphan needs some clothing,
She a Dorcas, too, might be,
And the widow she could succor
In her depth of poverty.

God has promised to befriend them,
But He needs the means whereby
To convey His promised blessing,
And their many wants supply.

It may be her lot is scanty,
And she seeks some friendly aid;
If the rich would help the needy,
Great improvement could be made.

Again I am constrained to affirm and applaud. To be a “Dorcas”11 is splendid. Lackadaisical young men are in their glory in “Dorcas” meetings. They are here enabled to eat a half dollar’s worth of nice confectionery for a quarter, or ten cents. They here have splendid opportunity to exhibit their lily-white hands and display magnificent voices. By all means, let’s have “Dorcas” societies, and lots of them.

Then the rescuing of “ragged, homeless, friendless children” is work which is indeed necessary. But, for the sake of my argument, I regret that the poet did not state that a far grander work would be accomplished by bringing about such a condition of society as should elevate humanity above the possibility of being “ragged” or “homeless” or “friendless.” If I were speaking on the other side I should say that if women could help make the laws and manage the world, they’d soon get something better to do than patching up the blunders made by man in his futile attempts to be a sheltering oak. It is a crying shame to our civilization that there are “ragged, homeless, friendless children[.]” It is a libel upon our boasted enlightenment that we have need of penitentiaries and jails and alms-houses and asylums for the insane. But again I forget that I am making an opposition speech.

I believe, if mothers’ daughters
Lived more wise and virtuously,
There would be more wives; then woman
In her proper sphere would be.

God has formed the oak, so sturdy,
To withstand the wintry storm,
And it braves it bold and nobly
In its most impetuous form.

But more beautiful the lily,
Full of modesty’s perfume,
Choosing the sequestered valley,
There in humility to bloom.

So the woman shines more lovely
In the home of love and truth,
Screened from all life’s outward struggles
By the husband of her youth.

You know, gentlemen, that mothers’ sons always live “wise and virtuously,” consequently they are always “husbands” and are never out of their “proper sphere.” Glancing back through the stanzas last read I find they are a little mixed, but you can’t always expect a poet to be sensible in everything he writes; so you will please overlook the fact that all women don’t get husbands; that all husbands are not “sturdy oaks,” and that many of them are very slender saplings. Like the hard-shell preacher, “I am not speaking on that branch of the subject.”

Here is something that just suits me:

Christ knew well the strength of woman.
When, upon the expiring tree,
He exclaimed, from this same moment
John thy guardian son shall be.

Cried he not, in tones most tender,
Take my mother to thy home,
Cheer her heart, and make her happy,
Till I bid her to me come?

Thus it is a woman’s duty
To make home her special care,
As it loses its enchantment
If her presence is not there.

I said that this just suited me; but somehow the closing stanza knocks the pith all out of my opposition argument. The fact is, a home without a man in it “loses its enchantment” just as quick as it would without a woman in it. O, how many wives are there to-night looking with ghastly faces out into the darkness, wondering where their truant husbands are! And O, how many of these husbands spend their nights, till the wee, small hours of the morning, in gambling and drunkenness, leaving the home and hearthstone desolate! How many mothers gaze anxiously out into the night, from homes which are aught but homelike, reaching out the bleeding tendrils of anguish-torn hearts, calling vainly for the return of the one “infant boy” who never went astray while under her guidance and “teaching,” but who now is beyond the pale of “things which ne’er for her had birth;” consequently he enters dens whose steps take hold on hell, and goes straight to ruin.

Forgive me if again I quote:

If more mothers knew their mission
Greater would the Nation be;
Less of sin and degradation,
More of truth and honesty.

I am afraid I am not making a good point for the opposition here, but the business is new to me. I am doing the best I can.

Hers to meet the loved one, smiling,
When his daily toils are o’er,
Greeting him with fond embraces
As he enters at the door.

I guess our poet is “sparking” some Olympia girl. His poetry is a little moonshiny just here, and men inspired by the tender sentiment are apt to be a little flighty. But his idea is beautiful, and will work both ways. If the poet’s “girl” is present, let me say to her seriously, that she might go farther and fare worse.  The man’s heart is right; he only sees through a glass, darkly. When his vision gets a little clearer he will realize that man has some “smiling” duties to perform in home and marriage, as well as woman.

Here is another stanza of life import, every word of which I heartily endorse:

Hers to share in every sorrow,
Making all his burdens light,
Till the dawn of each new morrow
Shines upon his path more bright.

This is an idea that will work both ways, too.

But I am detaining you too long. When this part of my subject is finished, I have an hour’s talk before me upon “Suffrage, and how to obtain it,” and I must be careful not to tire you out upon this occasion, for sometime I shall want you to hear me again.

Our poet-friend’s closing stanza is such a telling refutation of the nonsense given before, in which he would circumscribe woman’s power and influence by denying her the ballot (which he forgets is not his to withhold), that I shall quote it without comment and pass to the consideration of the second part of my discourse12:

Hers to be his bright star, guiding
Up to heaven’s cloudless heights,
Where no shadowy mists are hiding;
That’s what’s meant by Woman’s Rights!


  1. She told the N.W.S.A. convention in 1884 that, for twelve and one-half years, she had divided her time roughly equally between Oregon and Washington, lecturing in each about seventy times per year. Much of the brief history that follows is derived from Larson (“Washington”), Edwards (Sowing), and Mary Olney Brown’s account in History of Woman Suffrage (3: 780-86). []
  2. (1838-1907): attorney, editor, reformer; lecturer on spiritualism; edited and published variety of newspapers including, in 1874, Stockton Daily Leader, supposedly only daily in world edited by woman at time, and later Oakland Daily Democrat; instrumental in founding California Woman Suffrage Association, 1870; president, 1877, 1884-94; shared Scott Duniway’s views on prohibition and suspicion of Eastern interference (Gilb, “Gordon”; Karolevitz 176). []
  3. Susan Brownell Anthony (1820-1906): born South Adams, Massachusetts; abolitionist; leader in woman’s rights reform; teacher, c. 1835-1850; joined Daughters of Temperance, 1847; organized New York State Temperance Association, 1852; publisher, Revolution, 1868-70; co-founded National Woman Suffrage Association, 1869; vice president at large, 1869-92; president, National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1892-1900; arrested and tried for voting in 1872 Presidential election, refusing to pay $100 fine; initiated History of Woman Suffrage; helped found International Woman Suffrage Alliance, 1904 (Lutz, “Anthony”; Barry; Willard and Livermore 1: 30-31). []
  4. Edwards, Sowing 88-89. Scott Duniway spoke briefly on the history of the “movement in ye land of Webfoot.” She was said to have used “well-chosen but very emphatic language,” warning “those having political aspirations that now was the accepted time of salvation; to take heed of the indications of the times, before it was too late.” []
  5. Edwards, Sowing 103-05. []
  6. Anthony had opposed Bigelow’s bill, preferring a simple declaratory act enabling the registration of women voters and directing that women’s votes be counted. On this day, just such a bill was introduced but was defeated 13-11, with Bigelow voting no; then Bigelow’s bill was tabled indefinitely on a 16-11 vote. []
  7. Larson, “Washington” 50; History of Woman Suffrage 3: 786; cf. Edwards, Sowing 109-10. []
  8. One local newspaper (Washington Standard 8 Nov. 1873) reported “a somewhat extended synopsis” of this address, which Abigail then reprinted (New Northwest 21 Nov. 1873). The two are virtually identical, but the latter contains fewer typesetter’s errors:

    “In glancing back over the history of the past two years, which covered the greater portion of her public life, she felt cause to congratulate the friends of Women’s Enfranchisement upon the advance that had been made among the original opposers of the principle. Two years ago, the friends of the measure were classed among the exceptions in society; to-day, we find that the relations of friend and enemy have changed places, and it is now a matter of surprise when any man of average intellectual ability proclaims himself as our adversary. Laying aside the argument relating to the justice, morality and righteousness of woman’s demand, she proposed to devote the hour for her address to discussing the subject as a matter of political expediency, as this was the only argument which would have weight with politicians, who having the power to grant or withhold our reasonable demands, must, therefore, be treated, whether ‘loyal’ or not, with ‘respectful consideration.’

    The Government is in itself a direct contradiction of its own idea. It is founded upon the declaration that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and is administered on the idea that sex, provided it is masculine, is superior to wisdom, if that wisdom happens to be feminine. Much is said by political partisans who rank among the outs, about corruption of other political partisans who rank among the ins. With a wonderful degree of logical obfuscation, which would be amusing because of its absurdity were it not that its effects were so disastrous in the Government, stump orators are wont to boast in glowing terms of ideal eloquence of the superior purity of the political organization which is out of power, over that which is in. These sages deplore the corruption that stalks in high places, vainly imagining that it exists because the ins ought to be out and the outs in. This, she affirmed, was nonsense. Government, as it exists to-day, is necessarily corrupt, not because of the superior excellence of one party and the consummate villainy of the other, but because our law-makers, in conducting a one-sexed government, violate the fundamental law of counterparts. The Eternal Architect of the universe has faithfully observed this law in the creation of all things. The analytical student can discover it in everything–the trees, the birds, the plants, the eternal hills and everlasting rocks, alike attest a duality in the Divine idea of creation, preservation and perpetuation. And He did not forget the needs of man, when He saw that it was not good for him to be alone. But man had imagined that he was more just than God in his ideas of Government; he had decided that he was more pure than his Maker in the administration of law, and consequently had created a one-sexed, unnatural, inharmonious body politic, which necessarily contains within itself the elements of dissolution. Hence arises corruption in politics. [Ed.’s note: Scott Duniway’s concern here may have been stimulated by revelations concerning the Crédit Mobilier and Congressional “Salary Grab” scandals, which came to light in 1872 and early 1873.]

    A gentleman whose opinion she held in high regard had said to her recently: ‘I grant that woman may do much good in government, but I greatly fear the deleterious effect that will result to herself from becoming a politician. It is almost impossible for a man to be a politician and retain his integrity.’ She had no doubt but that a one-sexed, woman’s government would produce like effect upon woman’s integrity, but the gentlemen would please remember that the women were disposed to profit by man’s blunders and surely did not intend to copy his mistakes. Men become corrupt in government because of their departure from the fundamental law of duality in intellect. No society would or could approximate to purity without the combining influence of man’s logic and woman’s intuition in its formation; and no society or government can remain stationary; it must advance or deteriorate. Then let woman take her rightful place as co-lawgiver, or governmental associate, and humanity will gradually outgrow the imperfections in government that have arisen from a direct violation of fundamental law.

    The cause of political corruption having been discovered, the next step to be taken is to remove it. Now, what must be our course of treatment? The disease has become chronic, the patient obstinate and the conditions unfavorable for speedy convalescence. She, for one, proposed to show the patient that it is to his interest to be healed. It is impossible to prevail upon him to submit to treatment merely for the benefit of his physician. You must make a direct appeal to his selfishness. You must meet him on his own plane.

    The Democratic party, she affirmed, lacked the elements of cohesion. It was groping hopelessly in the dark for an idea or principle which it may seize for its future aggrandizement. The Democrats have a two-thirds majority in your Legislature. They have the power to pass an act, enfranchising the women, and thereby receive to themselves such added momentum as will enable them to sweep the dominant party from power. It is a principle in politics that a constituency will stand by its leaders. Women must meet you on your own plane for the present, gentleman [sic], and they accept the situation as a ‘political necessity.’ There is great danger ahead of you. The Republican [sic] party is losing political ground, but if that party gets the start of you in enfranchising woman, your sun will set forever. The Republican [sic] party advances reluctantly, but it enfranchised the negro as a ‘political necessity,’ and will do the same for us if you do not forestall its action. It is not material which party fights our battles, so WE WIN!”

    Abigail would prod Republicans to seize the day for years, for example, in “Woman Suffrage and the Republican Party” (1892). Even addressing Progressives in 1914, she still held out hope for her “alma mater, the Republican Association.” []

  9. Written by one “R. G. O’B.,” this poem appeared in Charles Prosch’s Weekly Pacific Tribune (Olympia) on November 18, 1871. Republican editor Prosch, who apparently at least refrained from criticizing Anthony’s and Scott Duniway’s lobbying before the legislature on October 19, 1871, let loose after the suffragists departed. Mocking the suffrage meeting that convened on November 8, he noted “the unmerciful denunciation by Mrs. Duniway of all who would not enlist under the petticoat banner,” including the paper itself, which “came in for a goodly share of this lady’s indignation, and feels bad in consequence,” and he further predicted that the “novelty” of “the ferment” was “wearing off,” soon to be “absorbed by questions of more vital importance.” (Abigail later would charge that, once “as devoted a Woman Suffragist as even Theodore Tilton,” Prosch had flip-flopped only after she–“the good evangelist of the new gospel of freedom”–had left town. However, Prosch’s anti-suffrage sympathies seemingly were more longstanding. For example, a poem entitled “The True Woman,” similar in sentiment, had appeared in the Daily Pacific Tribune on January 27, 1871.) Scott Duniway quotes the poem in its entirety (Weekly Pacific Tribune 11 Nov. 1871; Edwards, Sowing 90-91, 106). []
  10. Pacific Tribune: “also” []
  11. Also “Dorcus.” Narrowly, a women’s sewing society dedicated to making clothes for the poor, after the Biblical woman (Dorcas in Greek, Tabitha in Aramaic) who had spent her life doing so, and who was raised from the dead by St. Peter (Acts 9.36-41). More broadly, a charity concerned with the diverse needs of the underprivileged, especially indigent women and children. Since many among these were black, Dorcas societies apparently were particularly important in African-American communities. For example, catalyzed by a case of twin baby girls with rickets who had been abandoned, Susie Revels Cayton and three other black women formed the Dorcus Charity Club of Seattle in 1906 to obtain homes and medical treatment for children of color; it also paid the rent of indigent widows and gave out Christmas toys to orphans. The Dorcas Society in Spokane cared for soldiers of color during World War I (Haarsager 214; M. Andrews 46, 59, 72). []
  12. Regrettably, this second part has not survived. []

Comments are disabled for this post