The onset of Scott Duniway’s oratorical career is well-known. By her own account, her “maiden speech” occurred during the “log cabin and hard cider” campaign of 1840, when Abigail was about six years old and the Scott family was living in the village of Wesley, on the banks of the Illinois River: “William Henry Harrison was the presidential candidate, and, my father being an uncompromising Whig, I naturally partook of his ardor. I remember calling the village children together under the shade of a sycamore tree, where I climbed to a horizontal limb and harangued them about ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler too.’” ((A. Duniway, Path Breaking 5.))

Regrettably, the text of this inaugural harangue–and many other early efforts–is lost. So we must settle for the following.

In 1870, Abigail was a 36-year-old wife and mother of six. The family had lived for five years in Albany, a prosperous community in the Willamette Valley, south of Salem, where Scott Duniway at first taught school and then began a successful millinery shop. For some time (at least since 1858), she had been nursing her dream of being a writer. Her first novel, Captain Gray’s Company, or Crossing the Plains and Living in Oregon (the first commercially printed novel in Oregon), had appeared in April, 1859. And she had contributed  periodically, both pseudonymously and as herself, to area presses (particularly the Oregon City Argus and Oregon Farmer) on a variety of topics of the day, but notably concerning women’s issues such as education, overwork, and matrimony. Her modest reputation as an author ((For better or worse: Captain Gray’s Company was poorly received, and certainly her opinions on economic, social, and political questions shocked and outraged some.)) and the nature of her business brought her into contact with other women who looked to her as confidant and benefactor. Her experiences with the deprivation and hardship endured by these housewives and widows were an important factor in what she later would call her “third and latest birth.” She determined to do more to improve women’s lot. And, because she longed to be a writer, she determined to start a women’s newspaper. ((On this period in her life, see A. Duniway, Path Breaking 17-28, and Moynihan, Rebel 62-83.))

In early November, 1870, Scott Duniway met with two close friends (Martha Foster, her next-door neighbor in Albany, and Martha Dalton, a music teacher from Portland) to discuss her idea. ((Apparently, she had been harboring this ambition for nearly two years (Pioneer 5 Jan. 1871).)) Her friends doubted whether a newspaper was financially feasible but were amenable to founding a State Equal Suffrage Association. A local Equal Suffrage Society–the first in Oregon–already had been formed in Salem by a number of Republican politicians, including Colonel Cyrus A. Reed ((Cyrus Adams Reed (1825-1910): first state adjutant general, 1862; survived assassination attempt during Civil War; elected to state legislature, 1862, serving four terms, during which drafted military law of state (Corning 208; Clark, History 706, 710).)), earlier that year. Having learned that the California Woman Suffrage Association would convene in Sacramento that winter ((Richey, “Unsinkable” 75. Moynihan notes that this was a key time for suffrage agitation nationally. Scott Duniway read the Revolution, begun in 1868 by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Parker Pillsbury to promote the cause (Gottlieb, “Revolution”). Wyoming extended the vote to women in December, 1869, and Utah followed in February, 1870. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, adopted in 1868 and 1870, respectively, simultaneously raised women’s expectations by defining “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” as citizens and declaring that no citizen could be denied the franchise on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, and confounded them by modifying “citizens” with the adjective “male” for the first time in the Constitution. And women throughout the nation, from New Jersey to Washington Territory and Oregon itself, were testing this definition of citizenship by attempting to cast ballots. Moynihan concludes that Scott Duniway was “one of many other women throughout the country who made their commitment to woman suffrage around 1870” and notes that she, too, tried to vote in Portland in 1872 (Rebel 84-85).)), Scott Duniway notified the Salem society that she would be traveling to San Francisco on millinery business; the Salem society, in turn, appointed her Oregon’s delegate to the convention.

Scott Duniway subsequently spent that Christmas in San Francisco with John A. Collins, the well-known Republican abolitionist, and his wife. She visited Laura de Force Gordon (((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).)), a leader in the California Woman Suffrage Association, whom she had met before in Oregon, and Emily Pitts Stevens ((Emily A. Pitts Stevens (c. 1844-?): moved to San Francisco from New York, 1865, to teach at Miel Institute; purchased half-interest in California Weekly Mercury, 1869, and transformed it into West’s first suffrage paper, renamed Pioneer, “a woman’s paper produced entirely by women, on the basis of equal pay for equal work”; married August K. Stevens, c. 1870; conducted first meeting of California Woman’s State Suffrage Association, January, 1870; president, 1872; organized Woman Suffrage party of the Pacific Coast, 1872, and supported presidential candidacy of George Francis Train; supported liberal Anthony/Cady Stanton wing of the suffrage movement; repeatedly accused of practicing free-love doctrines; vocal opponent of “Holland bill” that would have licensed prostitution in California; abandoned Pioneer, 1873, due to ill health; founded Seaman’s League, 1874; temperance advocate in later life, lecturing and serving as grand vice-templar for Good Templars, working and writing for W.C.T.U., joining Prohibition party in 1882, and leading 1888 effort to have W.C.T.U. endorse Prohibition party (Bennion, Equal 57-62; Bennion, “Pioneer”; cf. Willard and Livermore 2: 686).)), publisher of a woman’s rights newspaper called the Pioneer, who appointed Scott Duniway the paper’s Oregon editor. And on Wednesday evening, January 4, 1871, she delivered her “first set speech, outside of an Oregon school room,” before the San Francisco County Woman Suffrage Association, meeting in Dashaway Hall. ((A. Duniway, Path Breaking 67-68; Moynihan, Rebel 86-87. Following Scott Duniway’s recollection, Moynihan and others claim this speech was given on New Year’s Eve, 1870, but the issue of the Pioneer that published it, and the first paragraph of the speech itself, establish otherwise.))

Fittingly, this speech is less about woman suffrage than human development. For Scott Duniway, the ballot was always a means, not an end. But it was not an expedient means to a particular policy outcome (e.g., prohibition). Instead, woman suffrage was a prerequisite for what she here calls “moral responsibility,” a developmental process in which women are freed from the twin evil roles of broken, wretched “drudge” and parasitic “butterfly,” and become productive, full partners with men, thereby enabling greater human progress than either sex is capable of alone. In this sense, her first “set speech” conveys the fundamental philosophical orientation that would animate Scott Duniway’s advocacy of woman’s, and human, rights for more than forty years. Of particular interest here is her unusually extended argument that the current retardation of human development is responsible for prostitution; for Abigail, the “social evil” was indeed a social, not a personal, failing.

The text is taken from the Pioneer, January 5, 1871. In an accompanying “editorial bow,” Scott Duniway announces the “fortuitous circumstances” that have led her and the “irrepressible and indefatigable” Pitts Stevens to this “consolidation” of their “editorial forces,” declaring: “In union there is strength; in consolidation, money; in harmony, wisdom; in all, success.” She pleads with her “web-footed friends” in Oregon to show their “progressive tendency” by subscribing, noting with tongue firmly in cheek: “We proudly, indignantly and conscientiously refute the assertion that you are phlegmatic and inert, and we ask you now to keep our character for veracity at par before the public.” And, apropos of a young (particularly female) writer struggling to establish a career and reputation, she concludes: “As many of my readers have never met or heard of me except through my writings, mistake me for a man, I take this opportunity to deny the harsh impeachment . . .” ((Abigail’s new editorial voice made its presence felt immediately. In addition to the text of her address and “Our Editorial Bow,” two other Scott Duniway contributions graced the front page. One, “A Day With Our Colleague,” contrasts the “weak-minded gentlemen” who took to the streets of San Francisco “in battalions” that sunny New Year’s Day with the “cozy habitation” of her “charming friend,” the “strong-minded Emily,” and gives thanks “for the great pleasure of having spent a day in the charmed companionship of the good and the true.” The other condemns the “Gentlemen Only” admission policy of the Pacific Anatomical Museum, and Gallery of Natural History and Science, which permits any man with fifty cents, “no matter how coarse and bestial he may be,” to enter “with impunity this sacred temple of feminine anatomy, and gloat his brutal eyes and appetite upon what he sees,” but denies admission to women, “though they may own the necessary half dollar, and possess the same thirst for knowledge that some men possess and thousands of other men cannot conceive.” A poem that Abigail had written during the steamer voyage to San Francisco, “The Dirge of the Sea,” also appeared, on page four.))

This speech was so well-received by her audience and the newspapers that Scott Duniway was offered a salary for a speaking tour of California. She wrote excitedly to Ben but declined the lecture tour after receiving his telegram: “Come home immediately; business requires it.” Fearing some illness or other emergency, she skipped the remainder of the convention and returned home within a month of her departure, only to find “no visible need of anything but the salary I had relinquished in blind obedience to what I considered an unreasonable mandate.” ((A. Duniway, Path Breaking 68.)) Given Abigail’s temper and sharp tongue, one can only imagine the row that must have ensued. But within a week (on January 25, 1871), the Portland Oregonian informed its readers: “Mrs. A. J. Duniway of Albany arrived in this city yesterday morning to ascertain what interests can be raised here in behalf of the removal of the Pioneer newspaper from San Francisco to this city. . . . In anticipation of success she will remove shortly to this city. We have little doubt that she will find encouragement enough unless she entrusts the canvassing business to some blockhead of a man. When women go for their own rights they generally get them.” During the next three months, she moved her family to a small rented house at Third and Washington streets in Portland, hired a printer, set up a printing machine in the upstairs bedrooms, and hired sons Willis and Hubert as typesetters. ((A. Duniway, Path Breaking 68; Moynihan, Rebel 87. Moynihan speculates that Abigail wrote the Oregonian notice herself.)) Scott Duniway would have her newspaper: the New Northwest would debut on May 5, 1871. ((Steiner, “New Northwest.” Surviving records are fragmentary, but Scott Duniway evidently continued to associate with the Pioneer in some capacity until Pitts Stevens abandoned it in 1873, nearly two years later. The issue of February 9, 1871, published another of her poems, “Unrest,” and two editorial columns. On May 18, the Pioneer trumpeted the New Northwest’s debut. In issues spanning May to July, 1872, the Pioneer covered Scott Duniway’s trip to and from the National Woman Suffrage Association convention in New York, including her editorial correspondence and coverage of her speeches and activities en route. This was the tumultuous convention at which some delegates bolted and organized the Equal Rights Party, nominating the notorious Victoria Claflin Woodhull for the Presidency. Scott Duniway, who attended the breakaway convention as well (Bandow 64-65), penned an unflattering account in the Pioneer on June 13 that, in part, quoted Laura de Force Gordon (another Californian) to the effect that “poor Vicky is crazy. Like George Francis Train, she’s making a fool of herself.” Apparently, this irritated Pitts Stevens, who would organize the Woman Suffrage Party of the Pacific Coast that year and endorse the flamboyant Train. By July 11, Abigail’s correspondence was preceded by a disclaimer: “The PIONEER does not hold itself responsible for the peculiar religious, political or other sentiments expressed by its correspondents.” Abigail’s final known contribution to the Pioneer, on February 20, 1873, was an invitation to California supporters to attend a convention for the purpose of forming a statewide woman suffrage organization in Oregon.))

Friends and Citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen: The bright and glorious new-born year of eighteen hundred and seventy-one has been ushered upon us like a benison from the boundless stores of illimitable goodness. Not cradled in clouds, and rocked by earthquakes and baptized with storms, did he come to greet us in this favored city of the broad Pacific–this famous city, whose golden gate is always open, and whose welcome extends to the remotest corners of the earth. The starry, heavenly host presided at the birth of the blest New Year; sweet zephyrs rocked his first grand lullaby; and the gentle dews of Heaven christened his infant brow with blessings fraught with “peace on earth and good will to men.”

In the name of the Human Rights Society and Universal Suffrage Association of your sister State of Oregon, and as representative of a gratified people who have eagerly watched your progress from afar, and who proudly claim you as co-workers in a righteous cause, I, their humble, but willing and active servant, come tonight to greet you.

I regret that I am not more thoroughly informed concerning the workings of the Association in Oregon. You will find, in the last issue of the Pioneer, of your city, as full a report as I am at present prepared to give. It is needless for me to reiterate that report at this time and place. If you do not all purchase and pay for that able journal, you ought to do it, that’s all.

My business when at home so completely occupies every moment that I have neither time nor opportunity to attend our meetings; and but for my active tongue, which did not by a lucky chance become Duniway when I did, and my busy fingers, which will scribble for the newspapers, the Universal Suffrage Associations of California and Oregon never would have heard from me.

I went about a month ago from Albany, on the Wallamet ((The Willamette River. Spellings varied in the early days; Wallemette came into general acceptance first and gradually was displaced by “the present corruption” after about 1843 (Clark 28-29).)), where I live, down to Portland, in the interests of my business. When I returned, the documents declaring me unanimously elected to the coming Woman’s Fair and Convention in San Francisco, and introducing me to the Society here and elsewhere in the State as delegate from the Oregon Human Rights and Universal Suffrage Association, at Salem, were awaiting me in the careful custody of my sensible husband. For, be it known, oh, carping candidates for masculine monopoly–ye men who insist that no women are dissatisfied with the existing order of things except vinegar-faced spinsters, who have been crossed out in the matrimonial market–I have a husband, a radiant daughter, and five bonnie boys; and I reverently thank the great All-Father for my husband, my daughter, and my many boys. ((Following a “whirlwind courtship,” she and Benjamin Charles Duniway (1830-1896), “tall, warmhearted, and good-natured, with thick black hair and classic features, a dashing horseman who was considered ‘the best catch around,’” were married on August 2, 1853, when she was eighteen. Clara Belle, the only daughter, was born in 1854; there followed five sons, Willis Scott (1856), Hubert Ray (1859), Wilkie Collins (named for her favorite poet; 1861), Clyde Augustus (1866), and Ralph Roelofson (1869) (Moynihan, Rebel 52, 224).))

The association in Oregon is poor, they told me, and could give me neither purse nor scrip; but thanks to these deft hands of mine, a month’s hard extra labor at mantua-making earned my steamer-fare, and I am here tonight to rejoice with you over the era of progress.

Already, my sisters, has the day-star of our destiny dawned in the distant east, and its refulgent rays are permeating even to the remotest regions of the busy, bustling West. From Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, sweet glows of its genial light are seen; and here, where San Francisco sits beside the busy bay, we feel its blest effulgence.

The present progressive political movement, which claims the attention and consideration of the greatest minds in Europe and the East, and which many thinking men and women in California willingly espouse, has found a lodgement in the home of my adoption. And throughout the smiling valleys, hillside homes and forest-shaded habitations of that growing State, the leaven of human progress and equal rights before the law is steadily at work, enlightening the dense darkness of local ignorance, decomposing the noxious influence of selfishness, and slowly undermining the sandy foundations of the iron-bound walls of bigotry and prejudice.

The era of investigation has dawned upon us, and our willing minds, responding to yours in the work, join with you in the onward march toward the goal of universal liberty. We proceed this evening to consider the momentous matters embodied in the object of the woman movement. It is perfectly astonishing to note the number of otherwise intelligent men and women, who, after having lived through more than two decades of discussion, investigation and action in the cause, are yet so wholly ignorant of its most manifest objects that they are entirely dependent upon their numbers–daily diminishing, thank knowledge!–for even a show of respectability in their self- imposed stupidity.

We are not insane enough to expect a sudden overthrow of all the ills which flesh is heir to when we get the ballot. Great reforms move slowly. This is the experience of ages. But you once grant the necessary conditions under which a moral reform can become developed, and your personal moral obligation concerning that particular reform becomes canceled, you are no longer a stumbling-block in its way, and of course become fitted for the next great step in the advancement of knowledge. ((The original cleaves this sentence in two, creating a fragment: “But you once grant the necessary conditions under which a moral reform can become developed, and your personal moral obligation concerning that particular reform becomes canceled. You are no longer a stumbling-block in its way, and of course become fitted for the next great step in the advancement of knowledge.” An alternative correction would be: “”But you once grant the necessary conditions under which a moral reform can become developed, your personal moral obligation concerning that particular reform becomes canceled. You are no longer a stumbling-block in its way, and of course become fitted for the next great step in the advancement of knowledge.”))

The whole woman question resolves itself into one great principle–a principle as firm and immutable as the Rock of Ages. The air we breathe, the land we inhabit, and the food that sustains us, all unite in proclaiming the fundamental law of universal enfranchisement.

With increase of power and privilege–which we hold will accrue to every person who understandingly exercises the right of suffrage–will necessarily come increase of moral responsibility. This necessary increase of responsibility will induce effort, investigation, application and wisdom. When the woman question becomes thoroughly inaugurated in all of our civil and religious institutions, and its practical aims become accomplished, every sensible woman will rise above receiving the support of any man as a gratuity. We intend to make it as dishonorable for any able-bodied woman to subsist as a parasite upon the bounty of man, as it is now deemed disreputable for any man to live wholly dependent upon the toil of woman. “Is that an object of the woman’s movement?” innocently asked a bachelor friend of mine at the hotel, the other day. “Certainly, it is one great object for which we are striving,” I answered earnestly. “Then I bid you God speed, and stand ready to vote for your cause,” he remarked, evidently relieved to find that there was at least one object for which women “clamor” besides polls and pantaloons. He was not a mercenary man, this bachelor friend of mine, but like many other would-be women supporters in the world, he wants a wife as a helpmate, instead of a clog, a toy or a butterfly. Now, I do not believe that women are, in ninety-seven cases but of a hundred, supported by men, even when men get the credit of it.

The patient, toiling, drudging housewife, whose unending labor would command a handsome premium in the servant market, who is often chosen by man as his wife that he may thereby save the expense of servants–is situated upon the other extreme–the opposite of the butterfly state. Both are a result of the existing false basis of social, political and family laws, which laws make the husband and wife one, and that one in every case the husband.

The girl of the period, with her piquant, coquettish airs, her aim for conquest and desire for frivolity and show, is a hybrid between the drudge and butterfly. But she has the element of true womanhood in her composition, God bless her! And I shudder when I consider her false position in the world. At present she is thriving upon the bounty of father or brother, or, as is too often the case, upon the self-denying heroism of an indigent mother, whose real poverty nobody but that over-worked, non-producing mother can know.

No profession or trade has this girl of the period. That she may ever become independent of the bounty of man never once enters into her perception of possibilities. By-and-by she will marry, maybe. Then comes one of two extremes. And the misguided child is but following in the path marked out for her by her legal master, man, no matter which road she follows. If her husband have means, and is not a brutal niggard, he feels that he must support and protect her. So she is appointed nominal mistress of a house–or, worse still, is placed in one of our fashionable boarding-houses, without any employment to sharpen her faculties or ennoble and develop her plastic imagination. If children come, and by a rare chance survive the hot-house system of gestation and infancy, she is often known to make an exemplary mother. Purified by maternal anguish, and tried by the great test of maternal solicitude, she learns to make the best of circumstances, and her life becomes a state of utter self-abnegation. But if no tiny buds of promise come to bless her–and it is unfashionable to have children now-a-days–she turns her attention, more than before her marriage, to the empty allurements that surround her. What wonder that, with all avenues of noble ambition closed upon her, nothing is left for her to do except to dress and flirt and continue the conquests which before her marriage she enjoyed so much, and for which, as a girl of the period she was so much distinguished. Her husband is busily occupied, on ’Change, or his Club needs his attention, or (as is often the case) his hours of leisure are spent in the haunts of vice, in the society of women whom he would not suffer his wife to name–herself left to the machinations at home which her husband seeks abroad.

Infidelity of the wife is at last suspected. God help her! It is sometimes proven. She is at once an outcast in the society where before she ruled, and most likely becomes a disgraced and fallen and wretched inmate of the same brothel where her husband was wont, in her days of purity, to resort to spend his evenings. Poor, miserable, forsaken husband! His wife has dishonored him! She has disgraced his name! But the sympathy of his lady friends, in the best society, soon soothes his lacerated honor, and he marries again some other butterfly, who in her turn lives a parasite upon his bounty–himself infinitely lower in the eyes of angels than the crushed victim of the brothel, whom it was his duty before God and justice to guide and keep, by his own upright example, in the paths of rectitude and virtue.

Concerning the deceived, misguided ones who have never married–who fell before the farce of marrying for protection and support was, in their particular cases, enacted–I have not time to speak in full tonight.

I remember a sorrowful story, plainly and beautifully told, which in my younger days, before care had dulled my powers of memory, I learned after one or two readings. I will recite it here, as the best story I can tell upon the subject. It carries with it a sad moral, which I hope every woman here will heed ((A somewhat abridged and altered version of “Ellen Gray; The Excuse of an Unfortunate,” (1851), by English poet Martin Farquhar Tupper (1810-1889).)):

The night was dark and bitter cold,
The low, dim clouds all wildly rolled,
Scudding before the blast;
Around me fell the blinding sleet
As down an unfrequented street
I went my way in haste.

I bowed my head before the storm,
Across my way a prostrate form
In woman’s garb was seen;
I stooped and raised her fallen head,
Was she but faint from want of bread,
Or what could all this mean?

Again I raised her drooping head,
“Have you no home or friends?” I said;
“Get up, poor creature, come,
You seem unhappy, faint and weak,
How can I serve or save you? speak!
Or whither help you home?”

“Alas! Kind sir, poor Ellen Gray
Has had no home this many a day;
And but that you seem kind,
She has not found a friend of late,
To look on her with aught but hate,
And still despairs to find.

“A home? Yes, I’ve a home! Would I had none.
The home I have’s a wicked one;
They will not let me in
‘Till I can fee my jailor’s hands
With the vile tribute she demands
The wages of my sin.

“My mother died when I was born,
My father cast his babe, forlorn,
Upon the workhouse floor;
That father! would I knew him not
A squalid thief, a drunken sot,
I dare not tell you more.

“And I was bound, an infant slave,
Whom no one loved enough to save
From cruel, sordid men;
A hungry, famished, factory child,
Morn, noon and night, I toiled and toiled,
But I was happy then.

“My heart was pure, my cheek was fair,
Ah! would to God a cancer there
Had eaten out its way,
For soon my tasker, dreaded man,
With treacherous arts and wiles, began
To mark me for his prey.

“And months by months he vainly strove
To light the flame of lawless love
In my most loathing breast;
Oh! how I feared and hated him,
So basely kind, so smoothly grim,
My terror and my pest.

“Thence forward drooped my stricken head,
I lived, and died a life of dread,
Lest they should guess my shame;
But week[s] and months would pass away,
And all too soon the bitter day
Of wrath and ruin came.

I could not hide my changing form,
Then on my head the awful storm
Of gibe and insult burst;
Men only mocked me for my fate,
But woman’s scorn and woman’s hate,
Me, their poor sister, cursed.

“Oh, woman! had thy kindless face
But gentler looked on my disgrace,
And healed the wounds it gave,
I was a drowning, sinking wretch,
Whom no one loved enough to stretch
A finger out to save.

“They tore my baby from my heart
And locked it in some hole, apart,
Where I could hear its cry,
Such was the horrid poorhouse law,
Its little throes I never saw,
Although I heard it die.

“Still, the stone hearts that rule the place,
Let me not kiss my darling’s face,
My little darling dead;
Oh! I was mad with rage and hate,
And yet all sullenly I sate,
And not a word I said.

“I would not stay, I could not bear
To breathe the same infected air
That killed my precious child;
I watched my time and fled away,
The livelong night, the livelong day,
In fear and anguish wild.

“I was half starved, I tried in vain
To get me work, my bread to gain.
Before me flew my shame;
Cold charity put up her purse,
And none looked at me but to curse
The child of evil fame.

“But ah! why need I count by links
The heavy, lengthening chain that sinks
My life, my soul, my all.
I still was fair, though hope was dead,
And so I sold myself for bread,
And lived upon my fall.

“Now, I was wretched, bold and bad,
My love was hate, I grew half mad
With thinking on my wrongs;
Disease and pain and giant sin
Rent body and soul, and raged within-
Such meed to guilt belongs.

“And as I was, such still am I,
Unfit to live, afraid to die,
And yet I hoped I might
Meet my best friend and lover, Death,
In the fierce frowns and frozen breath
of this December night.

“My tale is told, my heart grows cold,
I cannot stir, yet good, kind sir,
I know that you will stay;
But God is kinder e’en than you,
Will he not look in pity, too,
On wretched Ellen Gray?

Her eye was fixed, she said no more,
But back against the cold street door
She leaned her fainting head.
One moment she looked up and smiled,
Full of new hope, as Mercy’s child-
And the poor girl was dead.

Can man alone save us? Men and brethren, are you, as a sex, capable of self-government? Ah! If you were, then indeed might we depend upon you to work out this great social problem. Thank God! there are many noble ones among you who would scorn to take advantage of the physical necessities of your most degraded sister. But oh, my God! are we mothers sure, that our sons will not fall into the many alluring snares which, under the laws and by the support of men, exist and flourish on every street? Men tell us that there is no remedy for this social evil. Ah, my sons and brothers, the mothers of men know better!

Your intentions have been honorable. You have done as well as you could. But without the union of masculine and feminine forces in our political and religious, as well as our social economy, we cannot expect harmony or success. We know that with you lies the balance of political power. You have tried to frame and execute such laws as would bring the greatest good to the greatest number ((John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism first appeared in London in 1863, some seven years before this speech. The Subjection of Women, which Scott Duniway said “greatly accelerated” suffrage work on both sides of the Atlantic, was quite recent, having been published in 1869 (History of Woman Suffrage 2: 432).)), and woe, woe to men and women, you have failed! Our many grog shops attest your failure. Our social evil attests it. Our corruption in high places attests it.

We have waited long for you to right these fearful wrongs. We have shrunk from your ridicule and abstained from complaint when many thousand heart-strings were breaking. The voice of the wife and mother, whose husband and sons and daughters are lured to ruin, in the hells of your permitting, cries to you for redress. The many thousands of our women whom God has endowed with the ability to work, which man denies them the privilege to perform, cry to you for equality before the law, that they may thereby find work and wages. We have besought you in tones of earnest, respectful entreaty to abolish cesspools of moral corruption. We have asked you, in tears and humility, to no longer permit the traps, in which men and women daily fall, to remain set and baited to lure our growing sons and daughters to social ruin. Alas you tell us you cannot do it. God pity you! we know you cannot. But we ask you now to listen to us, while we propose a remedy.

Let woman share the ballot with you. We do not want to monopolize it. Alone, we fear that we should do but little better than you have done. But side by side with you, O! men and brethren, let us come and work, and we shall do you good.


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