A Voice of Their Own: The Woman Suffrage Press, 1840-1910

By Martha M. Solomon | Go to book overview

crushing her to the earth. She tamely submits to be governed by laws as man sees fit to make and in making which she has no voice. We know that many of us think that we have rights enough, and we are content with what we have; but we forget how many thousand wives and mothers worthy as ourselves, are compelled by the unjust laws of our land, to drag out a weary life and submit to indignities which no man would bear. It is stated that thirty thousand die annually from the effects of intoxicating drinks; an equal number of drunkards must stand ready to fall. Think of the wives and mothers of this great number--of their untold griefs--of their hidden sorrows--of their broken hearts--of their hunger and nakedness--their unwearied toil to procure a bare pittance to save their little ones from starvation--of the wretched life they lead, and the unmourned death they die. Think of all this, and then tell us not that woman has her rights." ( October 1849, 77)

This statement explains how woman's vulnerability to intemperance was seen to be a direct result of her legal status. Intemperance threatened woman because she was "compelled by the unjust laws of our land, to drag out a weary life and submit to indignities which no man would bear." By comparing woman's status under law to that of men, the article focused attention on the source of injustices against women. Woman's station would be greatly improved if inequality under the law were to be eradicated. Once woman obtained equal rights, they would have the power to protect themselves.

When women realized that inequality was the source of their problems, interest shifted from moral issues to equal rights issues. Where strict temperance appeals based on moral abstinence seemed common in the first two volumes of the Lily, subsequent issues focused increasingly on woman's rights issues. These later issues served as a place for early activists to present rationales for change, refute arguments defending the status quo, articulate and reinforce shared values, and communicate news of the growing woman's rights movement. Thus the Lily not only contributed to reshaping the image of woman but later functioned as an important channel of communication for early activists.


Conclusion

As the early woman's rights movement began to form, the Lily reflected its development and provided an arsenal of facts and arguments that women could use to advance their cause. Most important, however, is that the Lily fulfilled two critical requirements for social change: it confronted women with their own powerlessness

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