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Most Important Voice of the Millenium
Cady Stanton's last address to Congress
"The Solitude of Self"
Address to the U.S. Congress
Judiciary Committee, 1892
The point I wish plainly to bring before you on this occasion is the individuality of each human soul; our Protestant idea, the right of the individual conscience and judgement, our republican idea, individual citizenship. In discussing the rights of woman, we are to consider, first, what belongs to her as an individual, in a world of her own, the arbiter of her own destiny, an imaginaiy Robinson Crusoe, with her woman, Friday, on a solitary island. Her rights under such circumstances are to use all her faculties fbr her own safety and happiness.
Secondly, if we consider her as a citizen, as a member of a great nation, she must have the same rights as all members, according to the fundamental principles of our government.
Thirdly, viewed as a woman, an equal factor in civilization, her rights and duties are still the same; individual happiness and development.
Fourthly, it is only the incidental relations of life, such as mother, wife, sister, daughter, that may involve some special duties and training. In the usual discussion in regard to women s sphere, such men as Herbert Spencer, Frederic Harrison and Grant Allen, uniformly subordinate her rights and duties as an individual, as a citizen, as a woman, to the necessities of those incidental relations, neither of which a large class of women may ever assume.
In discussing the sphere of man, we do not decide his rights as an individual, as a citizen, as a man, by his duties as a father, a husband, a brother or a son, relations he may never fill. Moreover, he would be better fitted for these very relations, and whatever special work he might choose to earn his bread, by the complete development of all his faculties as an individual.
Just so with woman. The education that will fit her to discharge the duties in the largest sphere of human usefulness will best fit her for whatever special work she may be compelled to do.
The isolation of every human soul, and the necessity of self-independence, must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings.
The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities
The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and the professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birth-right to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself.
No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency, they must know something of the laws of navigation. To guide our own craft, we must be captain, pilot, engineer; with chart and compass to stand at the wheel; to watch the winds and waves, and know when to take in the sail, and to read the signs in the firmament over all.
Cady Stanton with daughter Harriet Stanton Blatch on the right and granddaughter Nora Blatch - all leaders in the women's rights movement in the U.S.
It matters not whether the solitary voyager is man or woman; nature, having endowed them equally, leaves them to their own skill and judgment in the hour of danger, and, if not equal to the occasion, alike they perish.
To appreciate the importance of fitting every human soul for independent action, think for a moment of the immeasurable solitude of self.
We come into the world alone, unlike all who have gone before us, we leave it alone, under circumstances peculiar to ourselves. No mortal ever has been, no mortal ever will be like the soul just launched on the sea of life.
There can never again be
just such a combination of prenatal influences; never again just such environments
as make up the infancy, youth and manhood of this one. Nature never repeats
herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in
another. No one has ever found two blades of ribbon grass alike, and no
one will ever find two human beings alike.
Complete Development of Every Individual
We ask for the complete development of every individual, first, for his own benefit and happiness. In fitting out an army, we give each soldier his own knapsack, arms, powder, his blanket, cup, knife, fork and spoon. We provide alike for all their individual necessities; then each man bears his own burden.
Again, we ask complete individual development for the general good; for the consensus of the competent on the whole round of human interests, on all questions of national life; and worshipped as a hero or saint, we stand alone. In ignorance, poverty and vice, as a pauper or criminal, alone we starve or steal; alone we suffer the sneers and rebuffs of our fellows; alone we are hunted and hounded through dark courts and alleys, in byways and highways; alone we stand in the judgment seat; alone in the prison cell we lament our crimes and misfortunes; alone we expiate them on the gallows. In hours like these we realize the awful solitude of individual life, its pains, its penalties, its responsibilities; hours in which the youngest and the most helpless are thrown on their own resources tor guidance and consoXalion. Seeing, then, that life must ever be a march and a battle, that each soldier must be equipped for his own protection, it is the height of cruelty to rob the individual of a single natural right.
To throw obstacles in the way of a complete education
is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property, like cutting
off the hands. To deny political equality is to rob the ostracized of all
self-respect; of credit in the market place; of recompense in the world
of work; of a voice in those who make and administer the law; a choice
in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their
punishment. Shakespeare s play of Titus Andronicus contains a terrible
satire on woman s position in the 19th century.
A girl of sixteen, thrown on the world to support
herself, to make her own place in society, to resist the temptations that
surround her and maintain a spotless integrity, must do all this by native
force or superior education.
She Must Have Rare Common Sense,
The young wife and mother, at the head of some
establishment, with a kind husband to shield her from the adverse winds
of life, with wealth, fortune and position, has a certain harbor of safety,
secure against the ordinary ills of life. But to manage a household, have
a desirable influence in society, keep her friends and the affections of
her husband, train her children and servants well, she must have rare common
sense, wisdom, diplomacy, and a knowledge of human nature. To do all of
this, she needs the cardinal virtues and the strong points of character
that the most successful statesman possesses. An uneducated woman trained
to dependence, with no resources in herself, must make a failure of any
position in life.
In age, when the pleasures of youth are passed,
children grown up, married and gone, the hurry and bustle of life in a
measure over, when the hands are weary of active service, when the old
arm chair and the fireside are the chosen resorts, then men and women alike
must fall back on their own resources. If they can not find companionship
in books, if they have no interest in the vital questions of the hour,
no interest in watching the consummation of reforms with which they might
have been identified, they soon pass into their dotage.
The chief reason for opening to every soul the
doors to the whole round of human duties and pleasure is the individual
development thus attained, the resources thus provided under all circumstances
to mitigate the solitude that at times must come to everyone.
With the Cry of "Fire! Fire!" Do Women Wait for Men to Point the Way to Safety?
As women offtimes share a similar fate, should
they not have all the consolation that the most liberal education can give?
Their sufferings in the prisons of St. Petersburg; in the long weary marches
to Siberia, and in the mines, working side by side with men, surely call
for all the self-support that the most exalted sentiments of heroism can
Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens
the conscience like individual responsibility; nothing adds such dignity
to character as the recognition of one's self-sovereignty; the right to
an equal place, everywhere conceded; a place earned by personal merit,
not an artificial attainment by inheritance, wealth, family and position.
Seeing, then, that the responsibilities of life rest equally on man and
woman, that their destiny is the same, they need the same preparation for
time and eternity. The talk of sheltering woman from the fierce storms
of life is the sheerest mockery, for they beat on her from every point
of the compass,just as they do on man, and with more fatal results, for
he has been trained to protect himself, to resist, and to conquer.
He Cannot Share Her Burdens
Whatever the theories may be of woman s dependence
on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens.
Alone she goes to the gates of death to give life to every man that is
born into the world; no one can share her fears, no one can mitigate her
pangs; and if her sorrow is greater than she can bear, alone she passes
beyond the gates into the vast unknown.
With All the Resources in Themselves that Liberal Thought and Broad Culture Can Give
But when all artificial trammels are removed,
and women are recognized as individuals, responsible for their own environments,
thoroughly educated for all positions in life they may be called to fill;
with all the resources in themselves that liberal thought and broad culture
can give; guided by their own conscience and judgment, trained to self-protection,
by a healthy development of the muscular system, and skill in the use of
weapons and defence; and stimulated to self-support by a knowledge of the
business world and the pleasure that pecuniary independence must ever give;
when women are trained in this way, they will in a measure be fitted for
those hours of solitude that come alike to all, whether prepared or otherwise.
Women are already the equals of men in the whole realm of thought, in art, science, literature and government.
In talking of education, how shallow the argument
that each class must be educated for the special work it proposes to do,
and that all those faculties not needed in this special walk must lie dormant
and utterly wither for want of use, when, perhaps, these will be the very
faculties needed in life s greatest emergencies! Some say, "Where's
the use of drilling girls in the languages, the sciences, in law, medicine,
theology. As wives, mothers, housekeepers, cooks, they need a different
curriculum from boys who are to fill all positions. The chief cooks in
our great hotels and ocean steamers are men. In our large cities, men run
the bakeries; they make our bread, cake and pies. They manage the laundries;
they are now considered our best milliners and dressmakers.
They are showing, too, their calmness and courage in the most trying hours of human experience. You have probably all read in the daily papers of the terrible storm in the Bay of Biscay, when a tidal wave made such a havoc on the shore, wrecking vessels, unroofing houses, and carrying destruction everywhere. Among other buildings, the woman's prison was demolished. Those who escaped saw men struggling to reach the shore. They promptly, by clasping hands, made a chain of themselves, and pushed out into the sea, again and again, at the risk of their lives, until they had brought six men to shore, carried them to a shelter, and done all in their power for their comfort and protection.
They Pilot Ships Across the Mighty Deep
What special school training could have prepared
these women for this sublime moment in their lives? In times like this,
humanity rises above all college curriculums, and recognizes nature as
the greatest of all teachers in the hour of danger and death.
Is it, then, consistent to hold the developed
woman of this day within the same narrow political limits as the dame with
the spinning-wheel and knitting-needle occupied in the past? No! no! Machinery
has taken the labors of woman, as well as man, on its tireless shoulders,
the loom and the spinning-wheel are but dreams of the past; the pen, the
brush, the easel, the chisel, have taken their places, while the hopes
and ambitions of women are essentially changed.
Each Soul Lives Alone Forever
Whatever may be said of man s protecting power
in ordinary conditions, amid all the terrible disasters by land and sea,
in the supreme moments of danger, alone woman must ever meet the horrors
of the situation.
A recent writer says: "I remember once, in
crossing the Atlantic, to have gone upon the deck of the ship at midnight,
when a dense black cloud enveloped the sky, and the great deep was roaring
madly under the lashes of demoniac winds. My feeling was not of danger
or fear (which is a base surrender of the immortal soul) but of utter desolation
and loneliness; a little speck of life shut in by a tremendous darkness.
There is a Solitude Which Each
And yet, there is a solitude which each and every
one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice-cold
mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self. Our
inner being which we call ourself, no eye nor touch of man or angel has
ever pierced. It is more hidden than the caves of the gnome; the sacred
adytum of the oracle; the hidden chamber of Eleusinian mystery, for to
it only omniscience is permitted to enter.
-- Printed in the WOMAN'S JOURNAL, Boston, Saturday January 23, 1892.
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