By 1905 the woman’s club movement certainly was well-established, even on the West Coast. However, it was not universally acclaimed. On Monday, November 13, the local district of the Federated Women’s Clubs of California assembled in San Francisco for its annual convention, prompting the Reverend Frederick W. Clampett, rector of the city’s Trinity Church, to chastise the “new women” meeting nearby:

Women are taking more and more the place of men, and the undoubted effect of this has been to change in great measure the special place that women should occupy. She is now paying, and paying hard, for her keen competition with man. We can behold the change in the gradual decline of that gallant and courteous relationship that the past so strongly portrays as between men and women. She must stand up in the crowded cars and hold on to the strap. . . . The stream of tendency is against home influences, the permanence of the marriage tie, the glory of offspring. Woman must assert her womanhood in rebellion against those influences.”1

Scott Duniway, who arrived in the city on Wednesday, the 15th 2, undoubtedly read Clampett’s comments in that day’s newspaper. Surely she was especially galled by the reverend’s criticism of working women. Two days later, speaking before the Business Woman’s League on Friday evening in the Parrott Building, she seized her opportunity to retort.

The San Francisco Examiner covered the story the following day.3 “Mrs. Duniway,” it observed, “is venerable and of benevolent countenance, and under the lace cap that she wears is a brain of remarkable power. She speaks with moderation and fluency, has a fund of anecdotes with which to emphasize her arguments, is gentle in manner and good-naturedly sarcastic. She gave Dr. Clampett a motherly castigation that kept her audience in what is tritely termed ‘gales of laughter.’” Introduced by her friend and collaborator of thirty years, league president Clara Shortridge Foltz4, Abigail reportedly began by summarizing “the advantages which the larger liberty of club life brings to women,” and then “dwelt upon the fact that the ranks of clubdom are not recruited mainly from young mothers with multifarious domestic duties . . . but from mature women who, having raised their families, needed diversion . . .” At this point, the Examiner began quoting Scott Duniway:

“There is no occupation for the superannuated,” said the speaker, smiling quizzically, “that large class of women called ‘surplus,’ who have no husbands to cook for, no children to care for. Dr. Osler doesn’t come around to chloroform them.5 What are they going to do? Wash dishes? Embroider altar cloths? Mend the vestments of the clergy? As for those who have husbands, in these days of convenient invention, they can go home after a club meeting, turn up the gas, press a button and have a meal delivered when it is wanted. Dr. Clampett would have us all cooking, sewing on buttons, embroidering altar cloths, dressing chorus boys, sweeping, dusting, darning and meeting a husband at the proverbial door with the proverbial smile. But we can’t all get husbands. There aren’t enough of the right sort of men to go around.

Every good woman likes men a great deal better than she likes women. That is the truth, my sisters, so why deny it?

Many years ago, when I had a husband and sons growing up around my table, I realized this, and in those conservative days even dared to express my opinion in public. A woman who doesn’t like men”–Mrs. Duniway laid emphasis upon the words–“is always a vinegary, cross-grained creature, who owes an apology to the men for living. She ought to steal away and die.

“Dr. Clampett’s arguments are as old as the hills. I have heard them from dead decades to the present hour. Perhaps he merely used them to wake up the women. If so, he has succeeded. Throughout San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda, hundreds of women are pointing to their well kept homes, happy children and contented husbands to disprove the reverend gentleman’s statements.

“Men are living at clubs, it is said, because women do not make homes sufficiently attractive. Well, I assure you that they get far better service and far more comforts–which they pay for–than they did when they were ministered to by one weary pair of hands that had meanwhile to rock the cradle (in some imaginary way likewise ‘ruling’ the world), perform the drudgery of the household, sew for the family, and make altar cloths for the church. Women will not go back to the old regime of being servants without wages, so what is our reverend brother going to do about it? It is, by the way, a curious fact that the homes in which murders are committed are invariably those where the women murdered do not belong to clubs, but are ‘protected’ by their husbands.

“I beg the clergyman to possess his soul in patience. The great laws of nature will never be diverted from their primal uses. Women are neither better nor worse than men. The government of a country is nothing more nor less than home written large. And, old and ugly as I am,” added Mrs. Duniway, smiling, “I have a dozen chances to marry right now.6 As for political equality, the cause has gained a strong foothold in Oregon. Men will eventually give us the franchise, but meanwhile they like to be coaxed a little. We don’t say yes right away when they ask us to marry them. We like to be coaxed a little, too.”


    1. The Federation district meeting was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, November 13, 1905. Apparently, Clampett rebuked the women both before and after: “from the pulpit” on Sunday, the 12th and, again, before the Episcopal Convocation of San Francisco, meeting in Grace Church, on Tuesday, the 14th (San Francisco Examiner 18 Nov. 1905; San Francisco Chronicle 15 Nov. 1905). The San Francisco Chronicle published Clampett’s remarks on the front page on November 15, in a story entitled “New Woman Rebuked,” which also quotes several dissenting fellow clergy. The Chronicle also reported reactions of several members of the Forum Club in “The Ladies and the Cleric” on November 16. []
    2. San Francisco Chronicle, November 19, 1905. []
    3. 18 Nov.  1905. Accounts of this address also reached Oregon. In a very similar story, containing nearly identical excerpts, the following week, the Portland Evening Telegram reported that “one of the best-known society and clubwomen of Portland” (a description that surely pleased and amused Abigail) had risen to answer the charge that clubs “are destructive of domesticity and the social structure generally” (22 Nov. 1905).

      Abigail also spent at least the following week in San Francisco as the guest of Mary A. Wells. That Monday (November 20), she addressed the Susan B. Anthony Club in celebration of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s birthday; that Friday (November 24), the Business Woman’s League gave a reception at Clara Shortridge Foltz’s home (San Francisco Examiner 18 Nov. 1905; San Francisco Chronicle 26 Nov. 1905). []

    4. (1849-1934): California’s first woman lawyer, 1878; president, California Woman Suffrage Association, early 1880s; publisher, New American Woman, 1916-18; advocate for penal reform and public defenders for poor; first woman deputy district attorney in Los Angeles, 1911-13; declined appointment as Assistant U.S. Attorney General, 1921; candidate in 1930 Republican gubernatorial primary, running on equal rights platform. Mistreated by her spouse and needing money for her children, young Mrs. Foltz sewed for Scott Duniway’s millinery store and wrote for New Northwest before moving to California in 1875 (Gilb, “Foltz”; Moynihan, “Let Women Vote” 96). []
    5. William Osler (1849-1919): “the most influential doctor of his age”; born Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada; Trinity College, Toronto, 1868; M.D., McGill University, 1872; further education University College, London, and Universities of Berlin and Vienna, 1872-74; professor of medicine, McGill, 1874-84, University of Pennsylvania, 1884-89, Johns Hopkins University, 1889-1905 (also physician-in-chief, Johns Hopkins Hospital), Oxford University, 1905–; author, definitive studies of many ailments including cerebral palsies, angina pectoris, and cancer; especially known for Principles and Practice of Medicine, 1912; Baronet of the United Kingdom, 1911 (“Robert Fulford’s column about William Osler“; Who was Who 922).

      Osler possessed a mischievous sense of humor. For years he wrote letters to medical journals, under the pseudonym Egerton Yorrick Davis, reporting fictitious case histories of bizarre sexual maladies. Scott Duniway’s reference is to his farewell address at Johns Hopkins earlier in 1905, in which the good doctor suggested that all important advances were made by those under  40 and that those reaching 60 should be chloroformed. Osler insisted that his remarks were not meant literally, but the newspapers fomented a minor scandal and, for a time, “oslerize” became a synonym for “euthanize” (“Dr. Egerton Yorrick Davis“; Oakland Tribune 23 Feb. 1905; “Robert Fulford’s column about William Osler“). []

    6. Abigail, now 71, had been widowed nearly a decade before, on August 4, 1896. []

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