Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

PAULINA KELLOGG WRIGHT DAVIS
(1813-1876), activist, organizer, publisher, lecturer

LYNNE DERBYSHIRE

Paulina S. Kellogg Wright Davis played an essential role in the development of the woman's rights movement as an organizer, lecturer, publisher, editor, financial supporter, and first historian of the movement. She is one of those to whom the first volume of History of Woman Suffrage is dedicated, along with Mary Wollstonecraft, LUCRETIA COFFIN MOTT, Margaret Fuller, SARAH and ANGELINA GRIMKÉ, and others. Her most significant contributions were organizing and chairing the earliest national woman's rights conventions, publishing the first newspaper dedicated exclusively to woman's rights, and lecturing on anatomy and physiology.


BACKGROUND

Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis's life exemplified the changing role of women in the first half of the nineteenth century, moving from private to public life through involvement in benevolent and reform organizations and activities. Born in what has been called the "burned over district" of New York State (a description stemming from the frequent religious revivals that fueled the fires of the spirit [ Cross, 1950: 1]), she participated in revival meetings and joined the Presbyterian Church in 1823. Shortly thereafter, according to ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, she was "roused to thought on woman's position by a [church] discussion as to whether women should be permitted to speak and pray in promiscuous assemblies" ( HWS 1:284).

As a young adult in Utica, New York, she became a leader in reform as a founding member of the Female Anti-Slavery Society, the Female Moral Reform Society, and the Martha Washington Temperance Union. In 1835, she and her first husband, Francis Wright, a Utica, New York, merchant of wealth and position, organized the first anti-slavery convention held in Utica.

Kellogg Wright's first experience in speaking to mixed audiences occurred in the early 1840s when she presided over a joint convention of the Martha Washington Temperance Union and the Washingtonians. Afterward, Abby Kelley Foster described her as "bold as a lion for the truth," and she and her spouse Stephen S. Foster encouraged her to become an agent or lecturer ( Kelley Foster to Foster, January 1843, K-FC). Although Kellogg Wright wrote of her desire to lecture on slavery, woman's rights, and physiology, she deferred such activity, citing responsibility for her husband who was ill ( Kellogg Wright to Foster, February 27, 1843, K-FC). After her husband's death in January 1845, however, she studied anatomy and physiology; then, for four years, she traveled widely lecturing.

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