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

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

Let us paint a wee picture and call it THE EVOLUTION OF MAN. Beneath the picture, it is written: THIS WAS THE KING OF MEN IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1939. HE HAD THE LARGEST BRAIN EVER DISCOVERED, THE MOST EDUCATION POSSIBLE FOR ANY MAN TO RECEIVE; LOOK, HIS BREAST IS COVERED WITH THE RECORD OF SUPER-DEGREES FROM UNIVERSITIES. HE WEARS THE KEY. Solomon, in all his glory, knew little compared with this, wisest of all men, the climax of a million years of human evolution. Look again; this man wears a gas mask. He is followed by a woman and a baby, a dog and a cat, and all four wear gas masks. He shepherds them into a dark hole and scuttles in after them in the hope that he may escape the effects of the war neither he nor any other man knows how to stop. Shall we acknowledge that picture as the final climax or do something about it? (10-11)

Here she contrasted the evolutionary ideal with the stage of evolution actually achieved, and the vivid contrast expressed her own frustration with the stubborn persistence of war.


CONCLUSION

These brief excerpts cannot fully represent Lane Catt's antiwar rhetoric. In assessing this material, readers should keep in mind that, although she held office in a number of peace organizations and was a prominent speaker on pacifism, her public role was less constrained by executive responsibility than it had been during her career with NAWSA. In addition, she entered the peace movement after spearheading a successful suffrage campaign against enormous odds. She was a formidable political leader, accustomed to results and inclined to speak her mind. It may not have been politic to do so, but she did not hesitate to voice her rage at human stupidity and her seething contempt for male belligerence.


SOURCES

Early in her career, Lane Catt was determined not to become an object of worship among supporters and destroyed many of her own papers. She never organized what remained. Accordingly, records left by colleagues and intimates are unusually important sources of information. However, the New York Public Library's Carrie Chapman Catt Papers, 1887-1947, contain speech manuscripts and typescripts collected and edited by Mary Gray Peck, many annotated by Lane Catt, as well as letters, articles, pamphlets, and meeting reports. Some are dated approximately, some erroneously, and some not at all. Dating is problematic because Lane Catt sometimes gave many different versions of the same speech. Peck's datings generally reflect the first time a speech was delivered, and she sometimes labeled much later versions of a speech with the earlier date.

That is the only major collection that biographer Ralph Fowler did not draw on extensively. I have relied on his discussion of sources (xiv-xv) to describe the following: The Library of Congress houses the Carrie Chapman Catt Collection and the papers of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and of Alice Stone Blackwell, who edited and published much of her work. Smith College's Sophia Smith Library and Radcliffe's Schlesinger Library hold correspondence, speeches, and speech fragments.

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