Masthead: The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Papers Project

John C. Norton to Elizabeth Cady Stanton about Woman's Bible, August 1901

As published in the

vol. 6
Cover

Selected Papers, Volume 6
© 2013 Rutgers State University of New Jersey

Plainville, [Conn.] Aug., E.M., 301.1 [1901]

Dear Mrs. Stanton:—You will excuse me2 for writing and telling you how much I have enjoyed reading "Eighty Years and More" and the "Woman's Bible." I have read them three times and shall read them many times more. I find something new in them every time. I lend them to whoever will read them; some refuse for fear of shattering their faith. Our doctor has them now. We belong to the old men's Bible class, and a few Sundays ago the question of the creation came up in the class—the clergyman taking for his text the old story of the creation of man out of the dust of the earth. Now when this question came up in the class, I took the liberty to say that there seemed to be two stories about the creation. Now as I had been taught by a kind mother from my infancy that there was no truth in the story, it was nothing but a fable, I had thought but little about it until I had read the "Woman's Bible," so I must thank them for reviewing that knowledge. But our teacher informed us that there was but one story. Having a Bible with me, I said to him, "For your benefit and mine, I will just read it to you." Then I said, "Is not that plain English?" No one said anything except the doctor; he thought as I did. But to my surprise, when the clergyman came into the class, he decided in my favor, saying that the scholars had now decided that there were two stories. I said to him, "Is it not rather late in the day for them to so decide; it is so plain I should have thought they would have decided that way long ago."

But the next Sunday when we went into the class, one of the members proposed that we divide the class and put the unbelievers in one class and the believers in another. As there was but two of us we told them that we would divide then and there and save them the trouble—so we left!

I have now made up my mind that no one has a right to join a Sunday School class or the church unless they can fully believe that Jonah was swallowed by a whale and the world was made in just six days. My wife joins with me in thanking you for the present of the book. Your friend,

J. C. Norton.

Torch of Reason 5 (5 September 1901): 3.

Notes:

1 Following a convention among freethinkers, Norton employs a calendar that measured time since the burning of philosopher, mathematician, and heretic Giordano Bruno in 1600. The papal calendar was replaced by one that counted years from 1 January 1601 in the Era of Man, or E.M.

2 This was probably John Calvin Norton (1825-1916), a clockmaker and highly skilled mechanic residing in Plainville, Connecticut. As an indication of his political views, this Bostonian had named his younger son, born in 1861, Wendell Phillips Norton. At this date, Norton was married to Harriet Amelia Ryder Norton (1841-1911), a former dressmaker who became his second wife in 1883. (William Jamieson Pape, History of Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley, Connecticut [Chicago, 1918], 3:64, 67; Federal Census, 1900; gravestone, West Cemetery, Plainville, Conn.)