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

Three Speeches by Susan B. Anthony at Columbian Exposition, 1893


20 May           23 May           27 May


"Organization among Women as an Instrument in Promoting the Interests of Political Liberty": Speech by Susan B. Anthony to the World's Congress of Representative Women

20 May 1893

Editorial note:

The program of the World's Congress Auxiliary at the World's Columbian Exposition opened on 15 May 1893 with a seven-day World's Congress of Representative Women. Drawing some of the largest audiences of any congress and crowding the new Art Memorial Building (now the Art Institute), the program provided hundreds of simultaneous sessions, many of them focused on a particular organization or profession of women. On the evening of May 20, Anthony addressed one session of what was called a general congress on the topic of organization. She shared the stage with several other speakers, all addressing the subject from different vantage points. Three thousand people found space in Washington Hall to hear her.

As published in the

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Selected Papers, Volume 5
©2009 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

During the week of the presentation of the work of the various organizations that have been represented in this Congress, organizations from the Old World and the New, I have been curious to learn that "all roads lead to Rome." That is to say, it doesn't matter whether an organization is called the King's Daughters,1 the partisan, or non-partisan Woman's Christian Temperance Union; whether it is called a Portia club, a sorosis, or a federation of clubs; a missionary society to reclaim the heathen of the Fiji Islands or an educational association; whether it is of the Jewish, of the Catholic, of the Protestant, of the Liberal, or the other sort of religion; somehow or other, everybody and every association that has spoken or reported has closed up with the statement that what they are waiting for is the ballot.

Another curious thing I have noted as I have listened to their reports is, that one association, the Federation of Clubs,2 which is only three years old—not old enough to vote yet—can count forty thousand members;3 that the Relief Associations of Utah, which is perhaps a quarter of a century old, reports thirty thousand members; that the Christian Temperance Union, which is yet but a little past its second decade, can report a half- million members; that the King's Daughters, only seven years old, can report two hundred thousand members; and so I might run through with all the organizations of the Old and the New worlds that have reported here, and I will venture to say that there is scarcely one of them that does not report a larger number than the Woman's Suffrage Association of the United States. Now why is it? I will tell you frankly and honestly that all we number is seven thousand. This is the number that reported this year to the national organization, which is an association composed of all the State societies and local societies that are united and that pay a little money. These other societies have a fee, or I suppose they do. But I want to say that all this great national suffrage movement that has made this immense revolution in this country, has done the work of agitation, and has kept up what Daniel Webster called it, "the rumpus of agitation,"4 probably represents a smaller number of women, and especially represents a smaller amount of money to carry on its work than any other organization under the shadow of the American flag. We have known how to make the noise, you see, and how to bring the whole world to our organization in spirit, if not in person. I would philosophize on the reason why. It is because women have been taught always to work for something else than their own personal freedom; and the hardest thing in the world is to organize women for the one purpose of securing their political liberty and political equality. It is easy to congregate thousands and hundreds of thousands of women to try to stay the tide of intemperance; to try to elevate the morals of a community; to try to educate the masses of people; to try to relieve the poverty of the miserable; but it is a very difficult thing to make the masses of women, any more than the masses of men, congregate in great numbers to study the cause of all the ills of which they complain, and to organize for the removal of that cause; to organize for the establishment of great principles that will be sure to bring about the results which they so much desire.

Now, friends, I can tell you a great deal about what the lack of organization means, and what a hindrance this lack has been in the great movement with which I have been associated. If we could have gone to our State legislatures saying that we had numbered in our association the vast masses of the women; five millions of women in these United States who sympathize with us in spirit, and who wish we might gain the end; if we could have demonstrated to the Congress of the United States, and to the legislatures of the respective States, that we had a thorough organization back of our demand, we should have had all our demands granted long ago, and each one of the organizations which have come up here to talk at this great congress of women would not have been compelled to climax its report with the statement that they are without the ballot, and with the assertion that they need only the ballot to help them carry their work on to greater success. I want every single woman of every single organization of the Old World and the New that has thus reported, and that does feel that enfranchisement, that political equality is the underlying need to carry forward all the great enterprises of the world—I want each one to register herself, so that I can report them all at Washington next winter, and we will carry every demand which you want.

I want you to remember that Mrs. Rachel Foster Avery is to make the closing speech, and that this meeting is not adjourned; and I want all of you to bear in mind that the two young women who have made this Congress possible are my children. They were educated in this very small company, this small organization of which I am a member; and I am proud to say that that organization has graduated a great many first-class students, and among them none so near to my heart as May Wright Sewall and Rachel Foster Avery.5

May Wright Sewall, ed., World's Congress of Representative Women (Chicago and New York, 1894), 463–66.

Notes:

1 The International Order of the King's Daughters organized in 1886, incorporated in 1888, and added "and Sons" to its name in 1891. Interdenominational from the start, the order encouraged Christians to lend a hand through social services of each group's selection, such as day nurseries, homes for the aged, women's exchanges, and hospitals. (Sara F. Gugle, History of the International Order of the King's Daughters and Sons, Year 1886 to 1930 [Columbus, Ohio, 1931].)

2 The General Federation of Women's Clubs organized in March 1890 at the instigation of Sorosis, the New York City club, to bring clubs into communication and mutual assistance. (Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper, History of Woman Suffrage [Rochester, 1902], 4:1050; Karen J. Blair, The Clubwoman as Feminist: True Womanhood Redefined, 1868–1914 [New York, 1980], 93–115.)

3 The National Woman's Relief Society was and is part of the central structure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, providing women with positions of leadership, albeit subordinate to the priesthood, and entrusting to them care of the needy and preparation against want. In the 1880s and 1890s, leaders of the Relief Society also led the effort to defend and regain woman suffrage in Utah. (Anthony and Harper, History, 4:1052; Cheryll Lynn May, "Charitable Sisters," in Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah, ed. Claudia L. Bushman, new ed. [Logan, Utah, 1997], 224–39; Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism [New York, 1992], 3:1190–1202.)

4 The phrase, reported incorrectly here, originated in an exchange between Daniel Webster and Wendell Phillips in 1852: when Webster dismissed the rub-a-dub of the abolitionist press, Phillips embraced the phrase, referring to "a 'rub-a-dub of agitation,' as ours is contemptuously styled." (Wendell Phillips, Speeches, Lectures, and Letters [1863; reprint, Boston, 1891], 36.)

5 May Sewall chaired the congress's committee on organization, and Rachel Avery was secretary to the committee.



Remarks by Susan B. Anthony to the Woman's Auxiliary Congress of the Public Press Congress

23 May 1893

Editorial note:

The Congress on the Public Press opened on 22 May 1893, and with it the complicated structure for women's participation in congresses went on display. Rather than integrating women into its committees, the World's Congress Auxiliary appointed women's committees "for Congresses suitable for the participation of women," and let those committees either plan sessions by and about women or push for women's inclusion on panels under the charge of men. On May 23, Anthony was honored with a seat on the stage at a panel by and about women in journalism. At the conclusion of the scheduled program, the presiding officer asked Anthony if she would speak. (Rossiter Johnson, ed., A History of the World's Columbian Exposition Held in Chicago in 1893 [New York, 1898], 4:5–6.)

Mrs. President1 and Sisters, I might almost say daughters—I cannot tell you how much joy has filled my heart as I have sat here listening to these papers and noting those characteristics that made each in its own way beautiful and masterful. I would in no wise lessen the importance of these expressions by your various representatives, but I want to say that the words that specially voiced what I may call the up-gush of my soul were to be found in the paper read by Mrs. Swalm2 on "The Newspaper as a Factor of Civilization." I have never been a pen artist and I have never succeeded with rhetorical flourishes unless it were by accident. I never made a peroration in oratory in my life, I think. At any rate, if I did, it was accidental and never with malice premeditated. But I have always admired supremely that which I could realize the least. The woman who can coin words and ideas to suit me best would not be unlike Mrs. Swalm, and when I heard her I said: "That is worthy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton."

While I have been sitting here I have been thinking that we have made strides in journalism in the last forty years. I recall the first time I ever wrote for a paper. The periodical was called the Lily.3 It was edited—and quite appropriately—by a Mrs. Bloomer. The next paper to which I contributed was the Una.4 These two journals were the only avenues women had through which to put themselves in type to any extent worthy of note before the war. The press was as kind as it knew how to be. It meant well and did all for us it knew how to do. We couldn't ask it to do more than it knew how. (Laughter.) But that was little enough and I tried an experiment in editing a newspaper myself. I started a paper and ran it for two years at a vast cost to every one concerned in it. I served seven years at lecturing to pay off the debt and interest on that paper and I considered myself fortunate to get off as easily as that.

We have had admirable papers this morning on journalism among the women of Canada.5 The trouble with Canada is the dependence of the government and the dependence of the women. Dependence among women on the other sex in journalism is the bane of women. I remember well the days in New York when we couldn't get any kind of a report in the papers except in the way of a caricature. Things have changed and we are not caricatured now; but it isn't because we look any better than we did thirty or forty years ago. We don't look half so well. They called us cackling hens and other complimentary names. I can see the headlines now as they used to stare us in the face.

Now, if we could have controlled a paper in those days above a party and politics and everything else, we could have had fair representation. We have advanced, but there is a still further reach to be gained. The time has come when women should organize a stock company and run a newspaper on their own basis.6 When woman has a newspaper which fear and favor cannot touch, then it will be that she can freely write her own thoughts. I do not mean that any individual woman should strive to get a newspaper of her own, but that all should combine. I fancy that Chicago is the place to start such a newspaper in, since Chicago has shown such superiority as a World's Fair city. We must have a great daily paper here edited, printed, and controlled by women. Now it is quite generally known, I suppose, that I am somewhat of a woman suffragist myself. (Laughter.) But in this daily paper I would not ask for any special phase of woman's ideas. I would ask that the paper be edited from woman's standpoint and not in the interests of any "ism." Let it be from woman's point of view just as a Republican paper is edited and filled with news from a Republican standpoint, and as a Presbyterian periodical is given its tone from a Presbyterian point of view.

We need a daily paper edited and composed according to woman's own thoughts, and not as woman thinks a man wants her to think and write. As it is now the men who control the finances control the paper. As long as we occupy our present position we are mentally and morally in the power of men who engineer the finances. Horace Greeley once said that women ought not to expect the same pay for work that men received. He advised women to go down into New Jersey, buy a parcel of ground, and go to raising strawberries. Then when they came up to New York with their strawberries the men wouldn't dare to offer them half price for their produce.7 I say, my journalistic sisters, that it is high time we were raising our own strawberries on our own land.

Chicago Daily Tribune, 24 May 1893

Notes:

1 Mary Hannah Krout (1851?–1927) presided over this session of the congress. Krout was an accomplished journalist, who began work at the Crawfordsville Journal in Indiana in 1879, moved to the Terre Haute Express as editor, and in 1888 joined the Chicago Inter-Ocean, where her duties included editing the "Woman's Kingdom." In later years, she reported for various papers from Hawaii, Australia, China, and England. No two sources on her life agree on her date of birth. (Frances E. Willard, American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with over 1,400 Portraits [New York, 1897]; Who Was Who in America, vol. 1, 1897–1942 [Chicago, 1942]; Donald E. Thompson, comp., Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1917–1966 [Crawfordsville, Ind., 1974].)

2 Pauline Given Swalm (1850–1934), a writer, worked alongside her husband as an editor of the Herald in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (Benjamin F. Gue, History of Iowa, from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century, [New York, 1903], 4:257; gravestone, Woodland Cemetery, Des Moines, Iowa.)

3 Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818–1894) published the first issue of the Lily, a temperance paper, in January 1849 in Seneca Falls, New York; moved it to Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1853; and sold it in 1855, when she moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa. (Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, and Paul S. Boyer, eds., Notable American Women, 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary [Cambridge, Mass., 1971]; John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography [New York, 1999].)

4 Paulina Wright Davis published the Una, subtitled "A Paper Devoted to the Elevation of Woman," in Providence, Rhode Island, from 1853 to 1854. She moved it to Boston in January 1855, when Caroline Dall became coeditor. The paper ceased publication in October 1855.

5 Ethelwyn Wetherald spoke on women in Canadian art and literature; Eva Brodlique followed with a paper on women in Canadian journalism. (Chicago Daily Tribune, 23 May 1893.)

6 This vision caught the fancy of reporters. See, for example, Susan B. Anthony's interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune, 28 May 1893; Holland and Gordon, Papers, microfilm, 31:485–86.

7 Possibly she directs her sarcasm at the report of the industrial committee charged by the New York woman's rights convention of 1853 to investigate women and work. Horace Greeley chaired that committee. To relieve pressure on jobs open to women "at the base of the social edifice," the committee recommended an occupational ladder open to women. "Let her be encouraged to open a store, to work a garden, plan and tend an orchard," the committee advised. By "abstracting more and more of the competent and energetic" from the constricted job market for women, gradual improvement in women's wages would result. (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Josyln Gage, History of Woman Suffrage [New York, 1881], 1:589–91.)



"The Moral Leadership of the Religious Press": Speech by Susan B. Anthony to the Public and Religious Press Congress

27 May 1893

Editorial note:

The Religious Press Congress was a division of the Public Press Congress, and on 27 May 1893, Anthony was a scheduled speaker with an assigned topic. Six speakers preceded her, and, as the Chicago Tribune observed, "several of the papers read previously had scored the World's Fair authorities for an alleged defiance of the laws of God and man in opening the gates" on Sunday. Loud applause for these views, the Tribune opined, "only served to fire Miss Anthony with a zeal for her convictions in favor of the opposite side." The paper's headlines read, "Favors Open Gates. Susan B. Anthony Scores the Religious Newspapers." A stenographer provided notes for this report of her speech. (Chicago Daily Tribune, 28 May 1893, Holland and Gordon, Papers, microfilm, 31:479.)

I am asked to speak upon "The Moral Leadership of the Religious Press." For one who has for fifty years been ridiculed by both press and pulpit, denounced as infidel by both, it is, to say the least, very funny. Nevertheless I am glad to stand here to-day as an object lesson of the survival of the fittest, from ridicule and contempt. I was born into this earth right into the midst of the ferment of the division of the Society of Friends, 1 as it was called, on the great question which has divided all the religious peoples of Christendom, and my grandfather and grandmother2 and my father, all Quakers, took the radical side, the Unitarian, which has been denounced as infidel.

I passed through the experience of three great reforms, not only with the secular press but with the religious press. The first one was that of temperance, in which my father was the very earliest man in all Western Massachusetts who put liquor out of his store before he was even yet a married man. From that day in 1816 up to the day of his death, though a manufacturer and merchant nearly all of his life, he never sold a drop of liquor and scarcely ever tasted a drop. Very naturally my first reform work was in the cause of temperance, and I had my first little experience with the religious press on that question. It was no light affair. I can assure you.

I went as a delegate of the New York State Woman's Temperance Association to Syracuse, at the time of the holding of the great annual convention of the New York State Temperance Society, the men's society, and my credentials with the credentials of other women were presented.3 When the committee reported it was adversely, that it was very well for women to belong to the temperance society, but wholly out of the way for them to be accepted as delegates or to speak or to take any part in the meetings, and I want to say to you that the majority of the men of that convention were ministers. They were not of one denomination or another, but they were of all denominations. I want to say for the comfort of everybody that the most terrible Billingsgate, the most fearful denunciation, and the most opprobrious epithets that I ever had laid on my head were spoken that day by those ministers; and when there was time to report the proceedings the whole religious press of the country, the liberal, the Unitarian, as well as the orthodox, came down on my head for obtruding myself there, claiming that St. Paul had said: "Let your women keep silence in the churches,"4 and no one but an infidel would attempt to speak there. I submit that was not leadership in the right direction.

Then next came the anti-slavery movement. And nobody can say for a moment that either the religious pulpit or the religious press was a leader in the great work of breaking the chains of the millions of slaves in this country; but, on the other hand, church after church was rent in twain; the press—take the old New York Observer or the old New York Advocate 5—used to make my hair stand straight for fear I might go to the bottomless pit because I was an abolitionist.

Then the next great question has been this woman question. When we started out on that the whole religious world was turned upside down with fright. We women were disobeying St. Paul; we women were getting out of sphere and would be no good anywhere, here or hereafter; and the way that I was scarified! I don't know, somehow or other the press both secular and religious, always took special pride in scarifying Miss Anthony. I used to tell them it was because I hadn't a husband or a son who would shoot the men down who abused me. Well, now they take special pains to praise. (Applause.) It is a wonderful revolution of the press.

I want to say that the religious press is exactly like the pulpit, and the religious press and pulpit are exactly in the position of the politician and of the political newspaper. The religious press has to be exactly what the people of the country want it to be, if it is not there is no support for the newspaper. The religious press, instead of being a leader in the great moral reform, is usually a little behind (applause,) and to-day, and I am glad Mr. Gilbert6 has given me this chance to say it, I am glad that the spirit of freedom is abroad to-day, and that the people inside of the churches are demanding that the press shall be a leader in some sense.

People expect too much of the press and too much of the ministers. It is the pews that make the pulpit and decide what the pulpit shall be, and it is the constituents and subscribers for the religious papers that decide what the religious paper shall be, and therefore when you tell me that a minister is thus and so in opposing any great moral reform, or that the religious press and newspaper is thus and so, what do you tell me? You tell me that the majority of the people in the pews indorse that minister, that the majority of the church members who read that paper won't allow that editor to speak anything on the question. That is all. I am glad that the day is changing, and that the people are feeling that the press is a little laggard and want to whip it up a little.

Take the specific question of suffrage. It is but recently that the religious press has begun to speak in tolerably friendly terms in relation to us. Take the great Methodist Episcopal church; think of its having an editor chosen by the general conference, Mr. Buckley,7 denounce the suffrage movement as something born—not of heaven, and yet if the vast majority of the members of the Methodist church were in favor of the enfranchisement of women and felt that it was a religious duty of the church to take its position in that direction, and of the religious newspaper, the organ of the society, to take position, Mr. Buckley would either be born again or else he would be slipped out of that editorial chair. He would be born again. He would believe in suffrage before he would lose his position.

I am not irreverent. I look to the public press. I look to the president of an organization, to the exponents of any society, religious or otherwise, as to the hands of the clock. They tell the time of day. Representing the suffrage movement, I stand to express the idea how high the tide has risen with the majority of the suffrage men and women of the day, and that is what a leader can do and but little more. We do not get very much ahead. We call ourselves leaders, but generally there are some down in the ranks a good deal ahead of us if they only had power to speak. I wish we had a great woman's rights press that knew how to speak the deepest and holiest thought of the best women of this country on the question of religious liberty, of political liberty, and of all liberty. And next to having such a press of our own is of course having the press of all the different denominations, of all the different political parties, of all the different interests in the country, come as near as possible to expressing our idea; and therefore, when I take up the Western Methodist paper, I forget what its name is, when I take up the Advance,8 when I take up any of the Western religious newspapers I am made to feel that their editors have been born again into this recognition of the principle of equality of rights in the church for the women as well as for the men. I suppose the New York Observer and the New York Advocate and so on will have to lag behind until they are moved over on the ferry boat. However much they hold back, they have to go with the boat. I suppose these old papers will hang back just as long as they possibly can.

I cannot tell you how rejoiced I have been in listening to the papers which have been read here to see the liberality of spirit, to see the growing feeling of recognition of everybody who has inside what the Quakers used to call "the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world," and consequently, the old Quaker preacher used to say, "every woman." He always had to add that. I have heard that preached in a singsong tone thousands of times, and that was the difference between the Quakers and the other religious sects. The Quakers always believed "consequently woman." Whatever right or duty or privilege was spoken of as having been obtained for man was "consequently for woman."

I think I have said it all, and I want to thank every editor of every liberal religious newspaper in the land for speaking on the side of perfect equality of rights to woman, for I believe that the first step toward religious equality is political equality, and I believe that our Puritan ancestors, in coming here for religious liberty, and first establishing political liberty, laid the foundation for religious liberty, and I do not believe religious liberty can exist anywhere except where political liberty has been thoroughly and fully established; and when we do have political liberty and equality fully established for the women of this country as it is for men, then you will see that the newspapers and the speakers and the politicians of the world will not be saying: "Oh, you cannot do anything with women, they are so bigoted religiously that you cannot get an idea into their heads." When the women are politically free they will dare to study all these great moral questions, and they will dare not only to study them but they will dare to write them and speak for them out of their souls.

One paper spoke of the opening of the gates of the Fair on Sunday. I have stood with my friend, Mrs. Stanton, from the beginning of the agitation, in favor of the opening of the gates on Sunday. Not because I do not venerate God and all his works, but because I do venerate God and all his works. (Applause.) Think of man allying himself to God and becoming almost a god in the creation of those wonderful works down in the White City.9 I talked with a gentleman, Theodore Stanton, the son of my friend Mrs. Stanton, this very noon at the Palmer House lunch table, and he said: "Of all the fairs that I have ever attended, there was nothing there to begin to compare with the wonders which are gathered at Jackson Park, in this city." Now, friends look at that thing calmly for a moment, not from the standpoint of the bigotry of the pulpit or the backwardness of the press, but from your own heart of hearts and just see this; there are centered in that park, in those State and National and governmental buildings, the woman's building with all the rest, the very highest product of the human brain, the best brain, the highest moral development of this world. There are object lessons placed there for us to look at, and to say that for us to go there and study those wonderful productions of the hand and the brain of man is violating what we term the American Sabbath—is violating any injunction of God—well. I cannot understand it. To me, if I want to feel to venerate God, and if I want to feel that man is rising and approaching divinity itself, I go there and look at those wonderful productions.

Woman's Tribune, 17 June 1893.

Notes:

1 Susan B. Anthony refers to the Separation of 1827 within the Society of Friends and the division of the Hicksite Friends from the Orthodox. Hicksites placed a greater emphasis on the divine in each individual and sought to limit the authority of elders and ministers. Many Hicksites, including Lucretia Mott, helped to shape Unitarianism, as Anthony indicates.

2 Humphrey Anthony (1770–1866) and Hannah Lapham Anthony (1773–1841).

3 On this meeting of the New York State Temperance Society in June 1852, at which Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Bloomer, and Gerrit Smith were delegates of the Women's New York State Temperance Society, see Holland and Gordon, Papers, microfilm, 7:263–72, and Stanton, Anthony, and Gage, History, 1:485–88.

4 1 Corinthians 14:34.

5 The Presbyterian New York Observer and the Methodist Christian Advocate were periodicals of a genre known as family and religious papers, and both resisted social change.

6 Simeon Gilbert (1834–1917), minister and editor of the Chicago Advance, invited Susan B. Anthony and the other speakers in his capacity as chair of the Religious Press Congress. (John Foster Kirk, A Supplement to Allibone's Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors, [Philadelphia, 1891] ; Johnson, History of the World's Columbian Exposition, 4:297.)

7 That is, James Buckley, editor of the Christian Advocate.

8 By western Methodist paper, Anthony means the North-Western Christian Advocate, published in Chicago for the regional conference of the Methodist Episcopal church. The Chicago Advance was published by and for the Congregationalist church.

9 The World's Columbian Exposition was located in Jackson Park, at the edge of Lake Michigan on the city's south side. Congresses were held north of the exposition grounds in the building now housing the Art Institute of Chicago. The main exposition buildings in Jackson Park were referred to as the White City due to their exteriors of plaster painted white to create the impression of marble construction.