Saturday, February 15, 2020

See slavery as it is

‘People tell me just go South once, & see Slavery as it is, & then you will talk very differently. I can assure all such, that contact with Slavery has not a tendency to make me hate it less, no, no, the ruinous effect of the institution, upon the white man alone, causes me to hate it.’ This is Susan B. Anthony - the famous American woman’s rights campaigner and social reformer, born 200 year ago today - writing in a diary she kept for much of her life. Although the diaries remain unpublished, the Library of Congress, which holds many of the manuscripts, has made digital copies of every page freely available online.

Anthony was born on 15 February 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts. Her father was a Quaker, abolitionist and temperance advocate, while her mother was a Methodist. In 1826, the family moved to Battenville, New York, where her father managed a large cotton mill. However, in 1837, with the depression, he went bankrupt, losing the Battenville house. In 1839, Anthony took a position in a Quaker seminary in New Rochelle, New York; and from 1846 to 1849 she taught at a female academy in upstate New York. Subsequently, she re-settled in the family home, now near Rochester, New York. There she met many leading abolitionists, as well as those campaigning for temperance. In 1851, she met Elizabeth Stanton, a leading women’s rights leader at the time, and the following year she was inspired by a speech given by Lucy Stone at the 1852 Syracuse Convention. From there on, she became a strenuous campaigner for women’s property rights and women’s suffrage; her work though made her a target for public and media hostility. In 1856, she became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society,

After the Civil War, Anthony campaigned (unsuccessfully) to have the language of the Fourteenth Amendment altered to allow for woman as well as African American suffrage; and in 1866 she became involved with the newly formed American Equal Rights Association. Two years later, she and Stanton began publishing The Revolution, a weekly American women’s rights newspaper. Although its circulation never exceeded 3,000, its influence on women’s rights is considered to have been huge, indeed the paper went on to serve as the official voice of the National Woman Suffrage Association, set up by Stanton and Anthony in 1869. However, the following year the paper went into  debt, and Anthony embarked on a series of lectures to raise funds. Through the 1870s and 1880s, she travelled much, often with Stanton, in support of efforts in various states towards the franchise for women. In 1890, rival suffrage movements merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association with Anthony as president. By this time, she had become something of a national heroine, attending major conventions and expositions both at home and in Europe. She died in 1906. Further information is available online from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, National Women’s History Museum, the National Susan B. Anthony Museum, or the National Park Service.

According to the Library of Congress (LoC), its Susan B. Anthony archive contains 25 volumes of diaries. ‘[These] span the period from 1865 to 1906 with some gaps and omissions. For the most part, the diaries contain brief notations of Anthony’s activities and a financial record kept in the back of each volume. Other topics noted in the diaries include family matters, African-American and woman suffrage, lecture tours, and important events of the day, such as President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.’ All of these have been digitised and made available on the LoC website. A few of the journals can also be viewed online at the Lewis & Clark Digital Collections with a summary of their content. However, as far as I can tell, none of the journals have been transcribed or published. A few entries from the journals can be found here (concerning the famous incident in 1872 when she cast a vote in the federal election). Otherwise, some extracts can also be read in the 1997 tome: The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Volume I - In the school of anti-slavery, 1840 to 1866, edited by Ann D. Gordon (see Googlebooks).

The following extracts have been taken from The Selected Papers. According to the editor, these extracts (and others) were sourced in a ‘notebook that served as her diary in 1854 and her copybook thereafter’. However, this particular notebook does not appear among the manuscripts held (and digitised) by the Library of Congress. It is, however, part of another Anthony archive held at Harvard Library.

(NB: The printed text in The Selected Papers comes with punctuation and spelling discrepancies etc. as found in the original. Mostly, I have left these as found, but I have made a few very minor punctuation changes - i.e. replacing dashes with full stops in some places.)

November 1853
‘During the three weeks following the National Woman’s Rights Convention held at Cleveland, Oct. 5, 6 & 7th 1853, I travelled through the Southern tier of Counties in N.Y. State, & held meetings in some eight or ten different villages. I talked upon the subject of Temperance.

One year previous to this Miss Emily Clark of LeRoy N.Y. had passed over the same ground, Lecturing upon the same subject, & had aided the Ladies of several of the villages in forming Womens Temperance Societies. In every place, except Elmira, those societies had never existed after the evening of their beginning. The reason given, by very nearly all the ladies with whom I conversed, for the failure of their societies, was womans want of time & money to meet their demands. Their Temperance meetings could be made interesting & useful to their members, or others, unless only by securing the attendance of persons who could speak to the edification of the People. Those of their own number who possessed ability to prepare essays, found they had not the command of the leisure hours necessary for their preparation. And to secure the attendance of speakers & Lecturers from abroad, required money & money they possessed not. Thus as I passed from town to town was I made to feel the great evil of womans entire dependency upon man, for the necessary means to aid on any & every reform movement. Though I had long admitted the wrongs I never, until this time, so fully took in the grand idea of pecuniary & personal independence

It matters not how overflowing with benevolence toward suffering humanity may be the heart of woman, it avails nothing so long as she possesses not the power to act in accordance with those prompting. Woman must have a purse of her own, & how can this be, so long as the wife is denied the right to her individual & joint earnings. Reflections like these, caused me to see & really feel that there was no true freedom for woman without the possession of all her property rights, & that these rights could be obtained through legislation only, & if so, the sooner the demand was made of the Legislature, the sooner would we be likely to obtain them. This demand must be made by Petitions to the Legislature, &. that too at its very next session. How could the work be started, why, by first holding a Convention & adopting some plan of united action.

On my return to Rochester on the A.M. of Nov. 8th I dined at W. R. Hallowell’s & then went directly to Mr. Channing, told of the work I had planned, he answered Capital. Capital. & forth.’

21 March 1854
[Washington] Called on Mrs. Melvin a friend of Mrs. Rose, a member of the M.E. Church South. We talked on the Slavery question, she called the relation between master & slave, a Patriarchial one, said Slavery is a humane institution. My blood chilled in my veins at the thought of a professed Christian, thus so entirely losing sight of the great principle of love, the Golden Rule.

Called at Gerritt Smith’s about two Oclock, Mrs. Smith alone, had a very pleasant chat with her, on the right of every individual to his own belief.

To day the Nebraska Bill in the House was referred to the Com. on the Whole by a vote of 110 to 65, thought to be virtually, death to the Bill.

Miss Miner of the Colored Girls School called on us after dinner a very interesting enthusiastic nature, expressed herself interested in the Woman’s Rights question. 

Mrs. Rose spoke in Carusis Saloon to a small audience, not exceeding 100, 40 tickets only were sold, thus $10 was the amount of receipts.

The smallness of the audience was attributable to the fact that the subject has never been agitated here, Lucy Stone spoke last January to a small audience, had a rainy night. Mrs. R’s subject the Educational & Social Rights of Woman.’

27 March 1854
‘Weather moderated but still cold. After walking about two miles, visiting five printing offices the Bill Printer, & Bill Poster, I returned & with Mrs. R. visited the Patent Office, the most remarkable curiosities there were the sword & Cane, the Coat, vest, & breeches of Gen. Washington worn at the time he resigned his Commission, his Camp Chest - with its appertenances - Tea Pot, Coffee Urn, Pepper dish. Salt - tea chest - Grid Iron, Tin Kettles for cooking &, also the writing desk used by him during all his Campaigns - there too was a bit of the old Tent cloth - ragged & dirty.

From the Patent Office we went to the Treasury department - thence to the State departments, here we were shown the identical letter Benedict Arnold, to Major Andre found in the pocket of Andre - signed Augustus & written as though Andre were a merchant. Saw also the Original Constitution of the United States with the signatures of the delegates from the 13 States - it was beautifully penned on Parchment one two feet square, tied together with a deep blue ribbon - at the Pattent Office saw also the original Declaration of Independence, many of the signatures were nearly obliterated, on account of having been written with poor ink.

From State Departments we went to the Presidents House took a peep into the East Room, splendidly furnished eight large gilt mirrors, in front of the White house in a beautiful park, is a very fine bronze Statue of Gen. Jackson, on horse back - mounted on a white marble pedestal - then called at Mr. Aker’s office to see the Bust of Mrs. Davis, a very fine one indeed. After dinner walked on to Capitol Hill & called on Anne Royal, a woman 85 years of age. She is indeed as Mrs. R. says, the Living Curiosity of Washington - was brought up by the Indians, married a Captain of the Army, he died, & she has printed a paper called the Huntress for the past 20 years. She has a fine, intellectual head. She lives in a small house, has two little boys whom she is educating, one boy she has instructed in Greek & Latin & Geometry. Said to me no one can know how to reason without studying Geometry learning to say Therefore, Wherefore & Because. We each of us subscribed for the Huntress, she gave us each two books, written by her many years ago. She is the most filthy specimen of humanity I ever beheld, her fingers look like birds claws, in color & attennuity, they shone as if glazed.

A great black New Foundland dog, old Cat & kittens sat at her feet & Mrs. R. says eight years ago she had in addition to these 2 Guinea hens & two little pigs running about the floor. She was writing her editorial for this weeks paper

Said I to her what a wonderful woman you are, she answered me, “I know it.” ’

31 March 1854
‘Baltimore. Had a small meeting last night. The landlord agreed to see me started from Alexandria in time to connect with the 8 Oclock Train from Washington but he did not, seemed to be perfectly indifferent to my request. There is no promptness no order, no anything about these southerners. I have had Pro Slavery People tell me just go South once, & see Slavery as it is, & then you will talk very differently. I can assure all such, that contact with Slavery has not a tendency to make me hate it less, no, no, the ruinous effect of the institution, upon the white man alone, causes me to hate it.

Arrived at Washington about 9 Oclock. Called on Mrs. Davis. The Globe of 29th March commented on Mrs. Rose Lecture on the Nebraska Question as deduced from Human Rights very favorably, but misrepresented her on remark.

I came on to Baltimore on the 3 1/2 P.M., called on Dr. J. E. Snodgrass firstly & then went in search of a private hoarding house, finally decided to take rooms at Mrs. Waters, 49 Hannover st.! Every thing is plain but so far seems cleanly, learned from the Chambermaid Sarah, that she & four others of the [blank] Servants were Slaves. It is perfectly astonishing to see what an array of Servants there is about every establishment, three northern girls, with the engineering of a northern hoarding house keeper would do all the work of one Dozzen of these men, women &: children, whether Slaves or free. Such is the baneful effects of Slavery upon labor. The free blacks who receive wages, expect to do no more work than do the Slaves, Slave labor is the Standard - & it need but a glance at southern life, to enable an Abolitionist to understand, why it is that the northern man is a more exacting Slave master than is a southern one - he requires of the Slave an amount of labor equal to that he has been accustomed to get from the well paid northern free laborer. Vain requisition that.’

6 April 1854
‘I lectured this evening, by invitation from the Marion Temperance Society of Baltimore, had a full house. The meeting was called to order by the President of the Society & opened by prayer by an old Methodist man, who made the stereotye prayer of Stephen S. Foster’s Slave holder. “O Lord we thank thee, that our lives have been cast in places & that we live in a land where every man can sit under his own vine & fig tree, & none dare to molest or make him afraid” Oh, how did my blood boil within me, & then to go on with my lecture & not protest against a mans telling the Lord such terrible falsehoods. Mrs Rose was invited to speak after I had finished, she did so & alluded to the necessity of substituting healthful amusements in the place of alcoholic stimulus.

Several gentlemen desired me to speak again on Temperance

Received a letter from Lydia Mott, enclosing Mr. Angles report on the Woman’s Rights Petitions. Reported adverse, but presented a Bill giving to married women, in case the husband does not provide for the family, the right to their own earnings, also requiring the written consent of the mother, to apprentice or will away a child.’

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