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Women's Roles

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 The Seneca Falls Resolution(July 19, 1848)

 Emily Dickinson

 Sojourner Truth

 "Artemus Ward"

 Report [to the United States Senate] of theCommittee on Privileges and Elections June 14, 1878

 Late 19th Century Women's Gender Roles

 from The Seneca Falls Resolution (July 19, 1848)

He [Man] has never permitted her [Woman] to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise [i.e., the right to vote].

He has compelled her to submit to laws in the formation of which she had no voice. . . .

He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

. . . In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master--the law giving him the power to deprive her of liberty, and to administer chastisement. . . .

He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments. . . . He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.

He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed to her.

He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man. . . .

Now, in view of this entire disenfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, in view of their social and religious degradation, in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women feel aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States. . . .


 Emily Dickinson
What Soft--Cherubic Creatures--

These Gentlewomen are--

One would as soon assault a Plush*--

Or violate** a Star--

Such Dimity*** Convictions--

A Horror so refined

Of freckled Human Nature--

Of Diety--ashamed--

It's such a common--Glory--

A Fisherman's--Degree****--

Redemption--Brittle Lady--

Be so--ashamed of Thee--

* upholstered furniture

** rape

*** delicate cotton fabric

**** the status of Christ

Emily Dickinson Life Poems CXXX full text, http://www.bartleby.com/113/1130.html


 Sojourner Truth

Address at a Women's Rights meeting, reported by Frances Gage (May 29, 1851)

Sojourner Truth had been a slave for the first forty of her sixty four years when she gave this address.

". . . Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditc hes, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me de best place!" And raising herself to he full height, and her voice at a pitch like rolling thunder, she asked, "And a'nt I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! (and she bared her right arm to the shoulder showing tremendous muscular power). I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And a'nt I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man--when I could get it--and bear the lash as well! And a'nt I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen 'em mos' all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And a'nt I a woman? . . . ."


Sojourner Truth Ain't I a Woman Speech http://womenshistory.about.com/library/etext/bl_sojourner_truth_woman.htm


 "Artemus Ward"(pseudonym of Charles Farrar Browne; Browne's character "Artemus Ward" is a travelling medicine show man)

"Woman's Rights" (1865)

I pitcht my tent in a small town in Injianny one day last seeson, & w hile I was standin at the dore takin money, a deppytashun of ladies came up & sed they wos members of the Bunkumville Female Moral Reformin & Wimin's Rite's Associashun, and they axed me if they cood go in without payin./p>

"Not exactly," sez I, "but you can pay without goin in."

"Dew you know who we air? said one of the wimmin--a tall and feroshus lookin critter, with a blew kotton umbreller under her arm--"do you know who we air Sir?"

"My impreshun is," sed I, "from a kersery view, that you air females."

"We air, Sur," said the feroshus woman--"we belong to a Society whitch beleeves wimin has rites--whitch beleeves in razin her to her proper speer--whitch beleeves she is indowed with as much intelleck as man is--whitch beleeves she is trampled on and aboozed-- & who will resist hens4oth & forever the incroachments of proud & domineerin men."

During her discourse, the exsentric female grabed me by the coat-kollor & was swingin her umbreller wildly over my hed.

quot;I hope, marm, " sez I, starting back, "that your intensions is honorable? I'm a lone man hear in a strange place. Besides, I've a wife to hum."

"Yes," cried the female, "& she's a slave! Doth she never dream of freedom--doth she never think of throwin of the yoke of tyrrinny & thinkin & votin for herself?--Doth she never think of these here things?"

"Not bein a natral born fool," sed I, by this time a little riled, "I can safely say that she dothunth."

"O whot--whot!" screamed the female, swingin her umbreller in the air. "O what is the price that woman pays for her expeeriunce."

"I don't know," sez I; "the price of my show is 15 cents pur individooal."

"Can't our Sosiety go in free?" asked the female.

"Not if I know it," sed I.

"Crooil, crooil man! she cried, & burst into tears.

"Won't you let my darter in?" sed anuther of the exsentric wimin, taken me afeckshunitely by the hand. "O, please let my darter in--she's a gushin child of natur."

"Let her gush!" roared I, as mad as I cood stick at their tarnal nonsense; "let her gush!" Where upon they all sprung back with the simultanious observashun that I was a Beest.

"My female friends," sed I, "be4 you leave, Ive a few remarks to remark; wa them well [. . .heed them well]. The female w oman is one of the great institushuns of which this land can boste. It's onpossible to get along without her. Had there bin no female wimin in the world, I should scarcely be here with my unparaleld show on this occashun. She is good in sickness--good in wellness--good all the time. O, woman, woman!" I cried, my feelins worked up to hi poetick pitch, "you air a angle when you behave yourself; but when you take off your proper appairel & (mettyforicaly speaken)--get into pantyloons--when you desert your firesides, & with your heds full of wimin's rites noshuns go round like rorin lyons, seekin whom you may devour somebody--in short, when you undertake to play the man, you play the devil and air an emfatic noosance." My female friends," I continnered, as they were indignantly departin, "wa well what A. Ward has sed!"

"Artemus Ward": Woman's Rights, full text




 Report [to the United States Senate] of theCommittee on Privileges and Elections June 14, 1878


The Committee on Privileges and Elections, to whom was referred the Resolution (Senate Resolution 12) proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States [which would forbid the U.S. or any State to deny or limit the right to vote to women]. . . makes the following Report:

. . . If adopted it will make several million of the female voters, totally inexperienced in political affairs, quite generally dependent upon the other sex, all incapable of performing military duty and without the power to enforce the laws which their numerical strength may enable them to make, and comparatively few of whom wish to assume the irksome and responsible political duties which this measure thrusts upon them. An experiment so novel, a change so great, should only be made slowly and in respons e to a general public demand, of which there is no evidence before your Committee.

[About 30,000 petitions from various parts of the country have been presented to the congress, but these petitions have been gathered by woman suffrage societies, which are] thoroughly organized, with active and zealous managers. The ease with which signatures may be procured for any petition is well known. The small number of petitioners, when compared with that of the intelligent women in the country, is stiking evidence that there exists among them no general desire to take up the heavy burden of governing, which so many men seek to evade. It wopuld be unjust, unwise, and impolitic to impose that burden on the great mass of women throughout the country who do not wis h for it, to gratify thye comparatively few who do.

It has been strongly urged that without the right of suffrage, women are, and will be, subjected to great oppression and injustice.

But every one who has examined the subject at all knows that, without female suffrage, legislation for years has improved and is still improving the condition of women. The disabilities imposed upon her by common law have, one by one, been swept away, until in most States she has the full right to her property and all, or nearly all, the rights which can be granted without impairing or destroying the marriage relation. These changes have been wrought by the spirit of the age, and are not, generally at least, the result of any agitation by women in their own behalf.

Nor can women unjustly complain of any partiality in the administration of justice. They have the sympathy of judges and particularly of juries to an extent which would warrant loud complaint on the part of their adversaries of the sterner sex. Their appeals to legislatures against injustice are never unheeded, and there is no doubt that that when any considerable part of the women of any State really wish for the right to vote, it will be granted without the intervention of congress.

Any State can grant the right of suffrage to women. Some of them have done so to a limited extent, and perhaps with good results. It is evident that in some States public opinion is much more strongly in favor of it than in others. Your committee regard it as unw ise and inexpedient to enable three-fourths in number of States, through an amendment to the national constitution, to force woman suffrage upon the other fourth. . . .

For these reasons, [the committee recommended a vote in the negative, with the further recommendation that such legislation henceforth be indefinitely postponed].


 Late 19th Century Women's Gender Roles

Women played a crucial role in the settlement of the West

Top: digging sod to build prairie homestead

Bottom: collecting "buffalo chips."


A homesteading family


Four sisters who homesteaded together


Prairie wedding portrait



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