Must-Read for Women’s History Month: The Writings of Two Early American Feminists
For two decades, award-winning American historian and documentary editor Ann D. Gordon has been on a quest to collect, preserve, and annotate the writings and speeches of two of America's most important feminists, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. As of 2013, the most engaging and important writings of these two women are available for everyone to read in a six-volume set.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are best known for their leadership of the nineteenth-century woman suffrage movement but they spoke out on many topics that affected women, including slavery, war, abortion, motherhood, marriage, labor, and divorce. The culmination of Gordon's publication project represents an enduring feminist legacy and a treasure trove of knowledge for generations to come.
For Women's History Month, we're celebrating this stunning body of work by taking a peek at some of forceful and still-relevant outbursts from their writings about political readiness, leaders for the future, and calling out the one percent. Here are three of our favorite passages from the whole final volume.
From Susan B. Anthony to Clara Bewick Colby, 17 December 1898
Topic: A proposal for male-only government in the newly annexed Hawaiian Islands.
"I wonder if when I am under the sod—or cremated & floating in the air—I shall have [to] stir you & others up— How can you not be on fire—when the Senate Foreign or Territorial Com—are considering the Hawaiian Commissions damnable proposition to restrict the right to vote & hold office to "male citizens"? … I really believe I shall explode if some of you young women dont wake up—and raise your voices to protest against the impending crime of this nation upon the new Islands it has clutched from other folks— Do come into the living present & work to save us from any more barbaric male governments."
From Susan B. Anthony to Anna Howard Shaw, 23 December 1898
Topic: Anthony reports about plans to push women out of jobs in the federal government, a railroad, and the Chicago public schools.
"It will be a relief to me not to feel responsible for the things done or not done—especially the things not done—or thought of—for instance not one of our B[usiness] C[ommittee] has written me of her thinking of—much less of her feeling a worry because of the tendency shown all round of a reactionary sentiment—action. . . . Our souls ought to be on fire & yet no one seems awake to the threatening signs of the times."
From Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "Rich and Poor," May 1901
Topic: In this fable, written for a socialist journal, Stanton destroys the rich man's faith that economic inequality is ordained by God.
"A wise selfishness would teach the old gentleman in spectacles that his children cannot be permanently happy and prosperous until the whole human family are so. The best interests of the nation, the family, the individual, are all jeopardized, while nine-tenths of the race are ground to powder, that the one in gilded luxury may shine. So long as one class of men have more than their share of the wealth of the world, the rest must suffer; so long as some do no work, some must be overworked. But the wheel of fortune is forever turning, lifting up some and crushing out others."
Source: The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, vol. 6, An Awful Hush, 1895 to 1906 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2013), pp. 256, 257, 399.
Ann D. Gordon contributed to this post.
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