Julia Ward Howe (1819 - 1910)

by Laura E. Richards

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Chapter XVII - The Woman's Cause - 1868-1910

Women who weave in hope the daily web,
Who leave the deadly depths of passion pure,
Who hold the stormy powers of will attent,
As Heaven directs, to act, or to endure;

No multitude strews branches in their way,
Not in their praise the loud arena strives;
Still as a flameless incense rises up
The costly patience of their offered lives.

J. W. H.

We have seen that after the Doctor's death our mother felt that another chapter of life had begun for her. It was a changed world without that great and dominant personality. She missed the strength on which she had leaned for so many years, the weakness which through the past months she had tended and cherished. Henceforth she must lead, not follow; must be captain instead of mate.

In another sense, the new life had actually begun for her some years before, when she first took up public activities; to those activities she now turned the more ardently for the great void that was left in heart and home. We must now go back to the later sixties, and speak of her special interests at that time.

Looking back over her long life, we see her in three[359] aspects, those of the student, the artist, the reformer. First came youth, with its ardent study; then maturity, with its output of poems, plays, essays. So far she had followed the natural course of creative minds, which must absorb and assimilate in order that they may give out. It is in the third phase that we find the aspect of her later life, a clear vision of the needs of humanity, and a profound hospitality which made it imperative for her to give with both hands not only what she had inherited, but what she had earned. Having enjoyed unusual advantages herself, the moment she saw the way to give other women these advantages, she was eager to "help the woman-standard new unfurled."

In the first number of the "Woman's Journal," of which she was one of the founders and first editors, she writes (January 8, 1870):—

"We who stand beside the cradle of this enterprise are not young in years. Our children are speedily preparing to take our place in the ranks of society. Some of us have been looking thoughtfully toward the final summons, not because of ill health or infirmity, but because, after the establishment of our families, no great object intervened between ourselves and that last consummation. But these young undertakings detain us in life. While they need so much care and counsel, we cannot consent to death. And this first year, at least, of our Journal, we are determined to live through."

Again she writes of this new departure:—

"In an unexpected hour a new light came to me,[360] showing me a world of thought and character. The new domain was that of true womanhood, woman no longer in her ancillary relation to man, but in direct relation to the divine plan and purpose, as a free agent fully sharing with man every human right and every human responsibility. This discovery was like the addition of a new continent to the map of the world. It did not come all at once. In my philosophizing I at length reached the conclusion that woman must be the moral and spiritual equivalent of man. How otherwise could she be entrusted with the awful and inevitable responsibilities of maternity? The Civil War came to an end, leaving the slave not only emancipated but endowed with the full dignity of citizenship. The women of the North had greatly helped to open the door which admitted him to freedom and its safeguard, the ballot. Was the door to be shut in their face?"

When this new world of thought, this new continent of sympathy was opened to her, she was nearly fifty years old. "Oh! had I earlier known," she exclaims, "the power, the nobility, the intelligence which lie within the range of true womanhood, I had surely lived more wisely and to better purpose."

Speaking of this new interest in her life, her old friend Tom Appleton (who had not the least sympathy with it) once said, "Your mother's great importance to this cause is that she forms a bridge between the world of society and the world of reform."

She soon found that she was not alone in her questioning; similar thoughts to hers were germinating[361] in the minds of many women. In our own and other countries a host of earnest souls were awake, pressing eagerly forward. In quick succession came the women's clubs and colleges, the renewed demand for woman suffrage, the Association for the Advancement of Women, the banding together of women ministers. The hour had come, and the women. In all these varying manifestations of one great forward and upward movement in America, Julia Ward Howe was pars magna. Indeed, the story of the latter half of her life is the story of the Advance of Woman and the part she played in it.

The various phases may be taken in order. Oberlin, the first coeducational college, was chartered in 1834. Vassar, the first college for women only, was chartered in 1861, opened in 1865. Smith and Wellesley followed in 1875. Considering this brave showing, it is strange to recall the great fight before the barred doors of the great universities. The women knocked, gently at first, then strongly: our mother, Mrs. Agassiz, and the rest. They were greeted by a storm of protest. Learned books were written, brilliant lectures delivered, to prove that a college education was ruinous to the health of women, perilous to that of future generations. The friends of Higher Education replied in words no less ardent. Blast and counterblast rang forth. Still the patient hands knocked, the earnest voices called: till at length—there being friends as well as foes inside—slowly, with much creaking and many forebodings, the great doors opened; a crack, then a space, till to-day they swing wide, and the[362] Higher Education of Women now stands firm as the Pyramids.

The idea of woman suffrage had long been repugnant to our mother. The demand for it seemed unreasonable; she was inclined to laugh both at the cause and its advocates; yet when, in November, 1868, Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson asked her to give her name to a call for a meeting in behalf of woman suffrage she did not refuse. It would be "a liberal and friendly meeting," the Colonel said, "without bitterness or extravagance."

On the day of the meeting she "strayed into Horticultural Hall" in her "rainy-day suit, with no idea of taking any active part in the proceedings." Indeed, she had hoped to remain unnoticed, until summoned by an urgent message to join those who sat upon the platform; reluctantly she obeyed the summons. With this simple action the old order changed for her. On the platform were gathered the woman suffrage leaders, some of whom she already knew: William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, James Freeman Clarke; veteran captains of Reform, her husband's old companions-in-arms. Looking in their steadfast faces, she felt that she belonged with them; that she must help to draw the car of progress, not drag like a brake on its wheel.

Beside these were some unknown to her. She saw now for the first time the sweet face of Lucy Stone, heard the silver voice which was to be dear to her through many years. "Here stood the true woman, pure, noble, great-hearted, with the light of her good life shining in every feature of her face." These men and women had been the champions of the slave. They now asked for wives and mothers those civil rights which had been given to the negro; "that impartial justice for which, if for anything, a Republican Government should stand." Their speech was earnest; she listened as to a new gospel. When she was asked to speak, she could only say, "I am with you."

With the new vision came the call of a new duty. "What can I do?" she asked. The answer was ready. The New England Woman Suffrage Association was formed, and she was elected its first president. This office she held, with some interruptions, through life. It is well to recall the patient, faithful work of the pioneer suffragists, who, without money or prestige, spent themselves for the cause. Their efforts, compared to the well-organized and well-financed campaigns of to-day, are as a "certain upper chamber" compared with the basilica of St. Peter, yet it was in that quiet room that the tongues of Pentecost spoke.

"I am glad," she often said, "to have joined the suffrage movement, because it has brought me into such high company."

The convert buckled to her new task with all her might, working for it early and late with an ardor that counted no cost.

"Oh! dear Mrs. Howe, you are so full of inspiration!" cried a foolish woman. "It enables you to do so much!"

"Inspiration!" said "dear Mrs. Howe," shortly. "Inspiration means perspiration!"

She says of her early work for suffrage:—

"One of the comforts which I found in the new association was the relief which it afforded me from a sense of isolation and eccentricity. For years past I had felt strongly impelled to lend my voice to the convictions of my heart. I had done this in a way, from time to time, always with the feeling that my course in doing so was held to call for apology and explanation by the men and women with whose opinions I had hitherto been familiar. I now found a sphere of action in which this mode of expression no longer appeared singular or eccentric, but simple, natural, and, under the circumstances, inevitable."

It was no small thing for her to take up this burden. The Doctor, although a believer in equal suffrage, was strongly opposed to her taking any active part in public life. He felt as Grandfather Howe had felt forty years before when his son Sam spoke in public for the sake of Greece; it jarred on his traditions. Others of the family also deplored the new departure, and her personal friends almost with one accord held up hands of horror or deprecation. These things were inexpressibly painful to her; she loved approbation; the society and sympathy of "kent folk," whose traditions corresponded with her own; but her hand was on the plough; there was no turning back.

Suffrage worked her hard. The following year the New England Woman Suffrage Association issued a call for the formation of a national body; the names signed were Lucy Stone, Caroline M. Severance, Julia Ward Howe, T. W. Higginson, and G. H. Vibbert.[365] Representatives from twenty-one States assembled in Cleveland, November 24, 1869, and formed the American Woman Suffrage Association. There was already a "National Woman Suffrage Association," formed a few months earlier; the new organization differed from the other in some points of policy, notably in the fact that men as well as women were recognized among the leaders. Colonel Higginson was its president at one time, Henry Ward Beecher, Bishop Gilbert Haven, and Dudley Foulke at others. The New England Woman's Club also admitted men to membership: it was a point our mother had much at heart. She held that the Quaker organization was the best, with its separate meetings of men and women, supplemented by a joint session of both. She always insisted upon the salutary influence that men and women exercise upon one another.

"The two sexes police each other," she often said. She always maintained the importance of their united action in matters of public as of private interest. She was essentially a humanist in contradistinction to a feminist.

She worked for the American Association during the twenty-one years of its separate existence, first as foreign corresponding secretary, afterward as president, and in various other capacities. When, in 1890, the two societies united to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, she became and continued through life one of the vice-presidents of that body. From the first, she was recognized as an invaluable leader. The years of philosophical study had[366] made her mind supple, alert, quick to grasp and to respond, even as the study of languages brought her the gift of ready speech and pure diction. Her long practice in singing had given her voice strength, sweetness, and carrying power; above all, she was a natural orator, and speaking was a joy to her. The first time she ever made a speech in public was to a group of soldiers of the Army of the Potomac on the occasion of a visit to Washington during the war. She had driven out to visit the camp outside the Capital. Colonel William B. Greene disconcerted her very much by saying, "Mrs. Howe, you must speak to my men."

She refused, and ran away to hide in an adjacent tent. The Colonel insisted, and finally she managed to make a very creditable little speech to the soldiers.

Now, she no longer ran away when called upon to speak. Wherever the work called her, she went gladly; like St. Paul, she was "in journeyings often, ... in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often"; the journals are full of incidents picturesque to read, uncomfortable to live through. Occasionally, after some tremendous exertion, we read, "Maud must not know of this!" or, "No one must ever know that I took the wrong train!"

Much of her most important work for woman suffrage was done at the State House, Boston. In Massachusetts, the custom of bringing this subject before the legislature every year long prevailed. She always went to these hearings. She considered it a privilege to take part in them; counted them "among her most[367] valued recollections." They extended over forty years or more.

These occasions were often exasperating as well as fatiguing. She never wearied of presenting the arguments for suffrage; she often suffered vexation of spirit in refuting those brought against it, but she never refused the battle. "If I were mad enough," she said once, "I could speak in Hebrew!"

She was "mad enough" when at a certain hearing woman suffrage was condemned as a "minority cause." Her words, if not in Hebrew, show the fighting spirit of ancient Israel.

We quote from memory:—

The Reverend ——: "The fact that most women are indifferent or opposed is a sufficient proof that woman suffrage is wrong."

Mrs. Howe: "May I ask one question? Were the Twelve Apostles wrong in trying to bring about a better social condition when almost the whole community was opposed to them?"

Dr. ——: "I suppose that question was asked merely for rhetorical effect."

Mrs. Howe (having asked for two minutes to reply, with the whispered comment, "I shall die if I am not allowed to speak!"): "I do not know how it is with Dr. ——, but I was not brought up to use the Bible for rhetorical effect. To my mind, the suffragists and their opponents are like the wise and the foolish virgins of the parable, equal in number but not in wisdom. When the Bridegroom cometh, may Dr. —— have his wedding garment ready!"

She thus recalls some of the scenes in the State House where she was so long a familiar figure:—

"I have again and again been one of a deputation charged with laying before a legislature the injustice of the law which forbids the husband a business contract with his wife, and of that which denies to a married woman the right to be appointed guardian of her children. We reasoned also against what in legal language is termed 'the widow's quarantine,' the ordinance which forbids a widow to remain in her husband's house more than forty days without paying rent, the widower in such case possessing an unlimited right to abide under the roof of his deceased wife. Finally, we dared ask that night-walkers of the male sex should be made liable to the same penalties as women for the same offence. Our bill passed the legislature, and became part of the laws of Massachusetts."

Elsewhere she writes: "In Massachusetts the suffragists worked for fifty-five years before they succeeded in getting a law making mothers equal guardians of their minor children with the fathers. In Colorado, when the women were enfranchised, the next legislature passed such a bill." Of the movement by which women won a right to have a voice in the education of their children, she says: "The proposal to render women eligible for service on the School Board was met at first with derision and with serious disapproval. The late Abby W. May had much to do with the early consideration of this measure, and the work which finally resulted in its adoption had its[369] first beginning in the parlors of the New England Woman's Club, where special meetings were held in its behalf. The extension of the school suffrage to women followed, after much work on the part of men and of women."

"These meetings," she said once, speaking before the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, "show, among other things, the character of those who believe in suffrage with their whole heart. We who are gathered here are not a frantic, shrieking mob. We are not contemners of marriage, nor neglecters of home and offspring. We are individually allowed to be men and women of sound intellect, of reputable life, having the same stake and interest in the well-being of the community that others have. Most of us are persons of moderate competence, earned or inherited. We have had, or hope to have, our holy fireside, our joyful cradle, our decent bank account. Why should any consider us as the enemies of society, we who have everything to gain by its good government?"

It seems fitting to add a few more of her words in behalf of the cause which she served so long,—words spoken at Club meetings, at Conventions before Legislatures.

"But besides the philosophy of woman suffrage, we want its religion. Human questions are not glorified until they are brought into touch with the Divine...."

"The weapon of Christian warfare is the ballot, which represents the peaceable assertion of conviction and will. Adopt it, O you women, with clean hands and a pure heart!"[370]

"The religion which makes me a moral agent equally with my father and brother, gives me my right and title to the citizenship which I am here to assert. I ought to share equally with them its privileges and its duties. No man can have more at stake in the community than I have. Imposition of taxes, laws concerning public health, order, and morality, affect me precisely as they affect the male members of my family, and I am bound equally with them to look to the maintenance of a worthy and proper standard and status in all of these departments."

"God forbid that in this country chivalry and legislation should be set one against the other. I ask you, gentlemen, to put your chivalry into your legislation. Let the true Christian knighthood find its stronghold in your ranks. Arm yourselves with the best reasons, with the highest resolve, and deliver us poor women from the injustice which oppresses and defrauds us."

"Revere the religion of home. Keep its altar flame bright in your heart.... The vestals of ancient Rome were at once guardians of the hearth and custodians of the archives of the Roman State. So, in every time, the home conserves the sacred flame of life, and the destiny of the nation rests with those who keep it."

"Go abroad with the majesty and dignity of your home about you.... Let the modest graces of the fireside adorn you in the great gathering. This is a[371] new sort of home missionary, one who shall carry the blessed spirit of home wherever she goes, a spirit of rest, of healing, of reconciliation and good-will."

"One aspect of this [the military argument] would make the protection which men are supposed to give to women in time of war the equivalent for the political rights denied them. But, gentlemen, let me ask what protection can you give us which shall compare with the protection we give you when you are born, little helpless creatures, into the world, without feet to stand upon, or hands to help yourselves? Without this tender, this unceasing protection, no man of you would live to grow up. It may easily happen that no man of a whole generation shall ever be called upon to defend the women of his country in the field. But it cannot happen that the women of any generation shall fail to give their unwearied and energetic protection to the infant men born of it. Some of us know how full of labor and detail this protection is; what anxious days, what sleepless nights it involves. The mothers are busy at home, not only building up the bodies of the little men, but building up their minds too, teaching them to be gentle, pure and honest, cultivating the elements of the human will, that great moralizing power on which the State and the Church depend. A man is very happy if he can ever repay to his mother the protection she gave him in his infancy. So, the plea of protection has two sides.

"If manhood suffrage is unsatisfactory, it does not at all show that woman suffrage would be. On the contrary,[372] we might make it much better by bringing to it the feminine mind, which, in a way, complements the masculine, and so, I think, completes the mind of humanity. We are half of humanity, and I do frankly believe that we have half the intelligence and good sense of humanity, and that it is quite time that we should express not only our sentiments but our determined will, to set our faces as a flint toward justice and right, and to follow these through the difficult path, through the thorny wilderness. Not to the bitter end, but a very sweet end, and I hope it may be before my end comes."

Her last service to the cause of woman suffrage was to send a circular letter to all the editors and to all the ministers of four leading denominations in the four oldest suffrage States, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho, asking whether equal suffrage worked well or ill. She received 624 answers, 62 not favorable, 46 in doubt, and 516 in favor. A letter from her to the London "Times," stating these results, appeared on the same day that the news of her death was cabled to Europe.

Thinking of the long years of effort which followed her adoption of the cause of woman suffrage, a word of the Doctor's, spoken in 1875, comes vividly to mind.

"Your cause," said he, "lacks one element of success, and that is opposition. It is so distinctly just that it will slide into popularity." He little thought that the cause was to wait forty years for that slide!

Side by side with the suffrage movement, growing along with it and with the women's clubs, and in time to be absorbed by them, was another movement which was for many years very dear to her, the Association for the Advancement of Women.

This Association had its beginning in 1873, when Sorosis, then a sturdy infant, growing fast and reaching out in every direction, issued a call for a Congress of Women in New York in the autumn of that year. She says of this call:—-

"Many names, some known, others unknown to me, were appended to the document first sent forth. My own was asked for. Should I give or withhold it? Among the signatures already obtained, I saw that of Maria Mitchell,[76] and this determined me to give my own."

She went to the Congress, and "viewed its proceedings a little critically at first," its plan appearing to her "rather vast and vague."

Yet she felt the idea of the Association to be a good one; and when it was formed, with the above title, and with Mrs. Livermore as president, she was glad to serve on a sub-committee, charged with selecting topics and speakers for the first annual Congress.

The object of the Association was "to consider and present practical methods for securing to women higher intellectual, moral, and physical conditions, with a view to the improvement of all domestic and social relations."

At its first Congress she said:

"How can women best associate their efforts for the amelioration of Society? We must come together in a teachable and religious spirit. Women, while building firmly and definitely the fabric they decide to rear, must yet build with an individual tolerance which their combined and corporate wisdom may better explain. The form of the Association should be representative, in a true and wide sense. Deliberation in common, mutual instruction, achievement for the whole better and more valuable than the success of any,—these should be the objects held constantly in view. The good of all the aim of each. The discipline of labor, faith, and sacrifice is necessary. Our growth in harmony of will and in earnestness of purpose will be far more important than in numbers."

One hundred and ninety women formed this Association: a year later there were three hundred. The second Congress was held in Chicago, with an attendance "very respectable in numbers and character from the first, and very full in afternoon and evening."

On the second day, October 16, 1874, the subject considered was "Crime and Reform." The Journal says:—

"Mrs. Ellen Mitchell's paper on fallen women was first-rate throughout. I spoke first after it, saying that we must carry the war into Africa and reform the men...."

The meetings of the Congress grew more and more important to her. That of 1875 found her "much tossed in mind" about going, on account of the[375] Doctor's ill health. She consulted Mr. Clarke, but felt afterward that this was a mistake.

"My dæmon says: 'Go and say nothing. Nobody can help you bear your own child.'"

She went.

No matter how fatiguing these journeys were, she never failed to find some enjoyment in them; many were the pleasant "fruits of friendship" gathered along the way. Some one of the sisters was sure to have a tiny teapot in her basket; another would produce a spirit-lamp; they drank their tea, shared their sandwiches, and were merry. She loved to travel with her "dear big Livermore," with Lucy Stone, and the faithful Blackwells, father and daughter; perhaps her best-loved companion was Ednah Cheney, her "esteemed friend of many years, excellent in counsel and constant and loyal in regard."

Once she and Mrs. Cheney appeared together at an "A.A.W." meeting in a Southern city, where speaking and singing were to alternate on the programme. It was in their later years: both were silver-haired and white-capped. Our mother was to announce the successive numbers. Glancing over the programme, she saw that Mr. So-and-So was to sing "The Two Grenadiers." With a twinkling glance toward Mrs. Cheney, she announced, "The next number will be 'The Two Granny Dears'!"

The Reverend Antoinette Blackwell, describing one of these journeys, says:—

"As we went onward I was ready to close my eyes and 'loll' or look lazily out to see the flying landscape[376] seem to be doing the work. When I roused enough to look at Mrs. Howe she was reading. Later, I looked again, she was still reading. This went on mile after mile till I was enough interested to step quietly across the aisle and peep over Mrs. Howe's shoulder without disturbing her. She was reading a Greek volume, apparently with as much enjoyment as most of us gain from reading in plain English when we are not tired.... With apparent unwearied enjoyment, she told us anecdotes, repeated the little stories and rhymes and sang the little songs which she had given to her children and grandchildren....

"We lingered at the breakfast table in the morning and among other things came to comparing social likes and dislikes. 'I never can bring myself to destroy the least bit of paper,' said Mrs. Howe, meaning paper written on, containing the record of human thought and feeling which might be of worth, and its only record. To her these were the chief values of life."

The following notes are taken from the record of "A.A.W." journeys in the eighties:—

"Buffalo, October 22, 1881. I felt quite distracted about leaving home when I came this way for the Congress, but have felt clear about the good of it, ever since. I rarely have much religious meditation in these days, except to be very sorry for a very faulty life. I will therefore record the fact that I have felt an unusual degree of religious comfort in these last days. It seemed a severe undertaking to preach to-day after so busy a week, and with little or no time for preparation. But my text came to me as it usually does, and a hope that the sermon would be given to me, which, indeed, it seemed to be. I thought it out in bed last night and this morning...."

"My beautiful, beautiful West,
I clasp thee to my breast!
Or rather down I lie,
Like a little old babe and cry,
A babe to second childhood born,
Astonished at the mighty morn,
And only pleading to be fed,
From Earth's illimitable bread!"

"Left Schenectady yesterday. Drawing-room car. Read Greek a good deal. At Syracuse I took the tumbler of the car and ran out to get some milk, etc., for supper. Spent 25 cents, and took my slender meal in the car, on a table. After this, slept profoundly all the evening; took the sleeper at Rochester, and slept like the dead, having had very insufficient sleep for two nights past. Was awakened early to get out at Cleveland—much detained by a young woman who got into the dressing-room before me, and stayed to make an elaborate toilet, keeping every one else out. When at last she came out, I said to her, 'Well, madam, you have taken your own time, to the inconvenience of everybody else. You are the most selfish woman I ever travelled with.' Could get only a cup of coffee and a roll at Cleveland—much confusion about cars—regained mine, started, and found that I had left my trunk at Cleveland, unchecked. Flew to conductor, who immediately took measures to have it forwarded. Must wait all day at Shelby, in the most forlorn hole I ever saw called a hotel. No parlor, a dark bedroom for me to stay in, a cold hell without the[378] fire, and a very hot one with it. Dirty bed not made up, a sinister likeness of Schuyler Colfax hanging high on the wall, and a print of the managers of Andy Johnson's impeachment. I—in distress about my trunk—have telegraphed to Mansfield for the title of my lecture and learn that it is 'Polite Society.' Must give it without the manuscript, and must borrow a gown to give it in."

"Minnesota in Winter

"The twistings and turnings of a lecture trip have brought me twice, in the present season, to Minnesota....

"To an Easterner, a daily walk or two is the first condition of health. Here, the frost seemed to enter one's very bones, and to make locomotion difficult.... Life at the hotel was mostly an anxious tête-à-tête with an air-tight stove. Sometimes you roasted before it, sometimes you froze. As you crammed it with wood at night, you said, 'Will you, oh! will you burn till morning?' Finally, on the coldest night of all, and at that night's noon, you bade it farewell, on your way to the midnight train, and wondered whether you should be likely to go further and fare worse....

"After the lecture an informal sitting was held in the parlor of my hostess, at which there was much talk of the clubs of Boston; 'If I forget thee, O Jerusalem!' being the predominant tone in the minds of those present. And at noon, away, away, in the caboose of a freight car, to meet the passenger train at Owatonna, and so reach Minneapolis by early evening.

"To travel in such a caboose is a somewhat rough experience. The dirt is grimy and of long standing. The pictures nailed up on the boards are not of an edifying description. The railroad employees who have admitted us into their place of refuge wear dirty overalls, and eat their dinner out of tin pails all afloat with hot coffee. One of my own sex keeps me in countenance....


"Twenty years ago, a small collection of wooden houses, of no particular account, except for the natural beauties of the spot on which they stood. Now, a thriving and well-built city, whose manufacturers have settled the controversy between use and beauty, by appropriating the Falls of St. Anthony to the running of their saw- and flour-mills. My first sensation of delight here was at finding myself standing on Hennepin Avenue. To a reader of Parkman's histories, the spot was classic.... To refresh my own recollections, I had recourse to the Public Library of the town, where I soon found Parkman's 'Discovery of the Great West.' Armed with this volume, with the aid of a cheap and miserable railroad map, I traced out something of the movements of those hardy French explorers. It was like living part of a romance, to look upon the skies and waters which had seen them wandering, suffering, yet undaunted....

"St. Paul

"But I cannot rest so near St. Paul without visiting this famous city also. I contemplate a trip in the cars,[380] but my friendly host leaves his business for a day, and drives me over in an open sleigh. I do not undertake this jaunt without Bostonian fears of death of cold, but Minnesota cold is highly stimulating, and with the aid of a bottle of hot water, I make the journey without a shiver.... Numbers of Indian squaws from Mendota walk the streets in groups. I follow three of them into a warehouse. One of them has Asiatic features—the others are rather pretty. They are Sioux. I speak to them, but they do not reply. The owner of the warehouse asks what he can show me. I tell him that I desire to see what the squaws will buy. He says that they buy very little, except beads, and have only come into the store to warm themselves. They smile, and obviously understand English. We dine at the hotel, a very pleasant one. There is no printed bill of fare, but the waiter calls off 'beefsteak, porksteak,' etc., and we make a comfortable meal. I desire to purchase some dried buffalo meat, and find some, not without difficulty, as the season for selling it is nearly over. The crowning romance of the day is a sleighride of five miles on the Mississippi, giving us a near view of its fluted bluffs and numerous islets. We visit also the Falls of Minnehaha, now sheeted in ice, but very beautiful, even in this disguise. We talk of 'Hiawatha,' and my companion says, 'If Mr. Longfellow had ever seen a Sioux Indian, he would not have written "Hiawatha."' The way to the bottom of the falls is so slippery with ice that I conclude not to attempt it. The day, which was one of great exposure, passed in great pleasure, and without chill or fatigue....

"In my days of romance, I remember watching late one night on board the Mediterranean steamer in order to be sure of the moment in which we should pass beyond the boundaries of the Italian shore. Something like such a feeling of interest and regret came over me when, in the unpoetic sleeper, I asked at what hour of the night the cars would pass out of Minnesota on the way back to Chicago. This sincere testimony from a veteran of travel, in all sorts, will perhaps convince those who do not know the young State that she has a great charm of beauty and of climate, besides a great promise of future prosperity and eminence."


"Travel in Minnesota was living romance. Travel in Kansas is living history. I could not cross its borders, new as these are, without unlocking a volume of the past, written in blood and in prayer, and sealed with the forfeit of noble lives. A ghostly army of warriors seemed to escort me as I entered the fair, broad territory. John Brown, the captain of them, stretched his hand to the Capitol, and Sumner, and Andrew, and Howe were with him. Here was the stand made, here the good fight begun, which, before it was well under way, divided the thought and sentiment of Europe, as well as those of America.

"My tired spirit sought to shake off at this point the commonplace sense of weariness and annoyance. To be in Kansas, and that for work, not for pastime. To bring the woman's word where the man's rough sword and spade had once wrought together, this was poetry,[382] not prose. To be cold, and hungry, and worn with journeying, could not efface the great interest and pleasure....


"I was soon told that a gentleman was anxious to speak with me concerning my land at Grasshopper, which borders immediately upon his own. Judge Van Winkle accordingly, with due permission, waited upon me, and unfolded his errand. Grasshopper, he said, was a growing place. It possessed already a store and an apothecary. It had now occasion for a schoolhouse, and one corner of my land offered the most convenient place for such an institution. The town did not ask me to give this land—it was willing to pay a fair price for the two acres wanted. Wishing to learn a little more about the township, I asked whether it possessed the requisite variety of creeds.

"'Have you a Baptist, a Methodist, an Episcopalian, and a Universalist church?'

"'No,' said my visitor, 'we have no church at all. People who wish to preach can do so in some private house.' I afterwards learn that Judge Van Winkle is a student of Plato; who knows what may be his Hellenic heresy? He is endorsed, however, by others as a good, solid man, and the proposition for the schoolhouse receives my favorable consideration.


"My first visit to Leavenworth was a stay of a couple of hours between trains, on my way to southern Kansas. Short as this was, it yet brought to my acquaintance[383] two new friends, and to my remembrance two old ones. Of the new friends, the first seen was Rev. Edward Sanborn, the Unitarian minister of the place. Mr. Sanborn met me at the comfortless depot, and insisted upon taking me to his lodgings, where Friend Number Two, in the shape of his amiable wife, added herself to the list of my well-wishers. Mr. Sanborn had just been burned out. His house took fire while he and his wife were spending Christmas Day with a neighbor, and burned so quickly that no article in it could be saved. He had found in the ashes the charred remains of his manuscript sermons, and had good hope of being able to decipher them. As the pleasant minutes passed in easy conversation, I could not help reflecting on the instinctive hospitality of Western life. This cosy corner in a mere hired bedroom had given me a rest and a shelter which I should have been unwilling to ask for in some streets of palaces which have been familiar to me from my youth up."

The Association for the Advancement of Women was a pioneer society, and did vital work for twenty-five years. During the greater part of that time she was its president. She never missed (save when in Europe) one of its annual congresses, or one of the mid-year conferences (of officers only) which she considered of high moment. She worked for the Association with a loving enthusiasm that never varied or faltered; and it was a real grief to her when the changing of the old order resolved it into its elements, to take new shape in the larger and farther-reaching work of the General Federation of Clubs, and other kindred societies.

Many of these may be called the children of "A.A.W." The greatest service of the latter was in founding women's clubs throughout the country. Wherever they went, to conferences or conventions, its leaders called about them the thoughtful women of the neighborhood, and helped them to plan local associations for study and work.

There was still another aspect of the Woman Question, dearer to her even than "A.A.W."

A woman minister once said: "My conviction that Mrs. Howe was a divinely ordained preacher was gained the first time that she publicly espoused the question of woman suffrage in 1869."

We have seen that little Julia Ward began her ministrations in the nursery. At eight years old she was adjuring her little cousin to love God and he would see death approaching with joy. At eleven she was writing her "Invitation to Youth":—

Oh! let thy meditations be of God,
Who guides thy footsteps with unerring eye;
And who, until the path of life is trod,
Will never leave thee by thyself to die.

When morning's rays so joyously do shine,
And nature brightens at the face of day,
Oh! think then on the joys that shall be thine
If thou wilt early walk the narrow way.

[We have followed her through the Calvinistic period 
of religious gloom and fervor; through the intellectual 
awakening that followed; through the years when she 
could say to Philosophy,—]

"... The world its plenitude
May keep, so I may share thy beggary."

These various phases were like divers-colored shades covering a lamp: through them all the white flame of religion burned clear and steady, fostered by a natural piety which was as much a part of her as the breath she drew.

In the year 1865 came the call to preach. She was asked to speak before the Parker Fraternity in Boston. She chose for her discourse a paper on "Ideal Causation," which she had thought "the crown of her endeavor hitherto."

"To my sorrow, I found that it did not greatly interest my hearers, and that one who was reported to have wondered 'what Mrs. Howe was driving at' had spoken the mind of many of those present.

"I laid this lesson much to heart, and, becoming convinced that metaphysics did not supply the universal solvent for human evils, I determined to find a pou sto nearer to the sympathies of the average community, from which I might speak for their good and my own.

"From my childhood the Bible had been dear and familiar to me, and I now began to consider texts and sermons, in place of the transcendental webs I had grown so fond of spinning. The passages of Scripture which now occurred to me filled me with a desire to emphasize their wisdom by a really spiritual interpretation. From this time on, I became more and more interested in the religious ministration of women...."

[386]Her first sermon was preached at Harrisburg in 1870. Then followed the sermons in Santo Domingo, and those of the Peace Crusade in London; from this time, the Woman Ministry was one of the causes dearest to her heart. The Journal from now on contains many texts and notes for sermons.

In 1871, "What the lost things are which the Son of Man came to save, lost values, lost jewels, darkened souls, scattered powers, lost opportunities."

A year later: "Preached in the afternoon at the South Portsmouth meetinghouse. Text, 'I will arise and go unto my father,' Subject: 'The Fatherhood of God.' I did as well as usual.... In the evening my text was: 'Abide in me and I in you,' etc., but I was at one moment so overcome with fatigue that the whole thread of my discourse escaped me. I paused for a moment, excused myself briefly to the congregation, and was fortunate enough to seize the thread of my discourse again, and got through quite well. I felt this very much,—the fear of failure, I mean. The fatigue was great and my brain felt it much. My dæmon told me beforehand that I could not repeat this sermon and had better read it. I shall believe him next time. This is a difficult point, to know how far to trust the dæmon. He is not to be implicitly trusted, nor yet to be neglected. In these days I am forced to review the folly and shortcomings of my life. My riper reason shows me a sad record of follies and of faults. I seem to sit by and listen sadly; no chastening for the present is joyous but grievous."

"Sunday, September 29. Reverend Mrs. Gustine to[387] dine. I afterwards to church to hear her. A sweet woman, called of God, with a real power. Her voice, manner, and countenance, most sweet and impressive. Intellection not remarkable, I think, but tone, feeling, and effect very remarkable. No one, I think, would doubt the reality of spiritual things after hearing her. I asked myself why I am not jealous of her, as she preaches far more effectively than I do. Well, partly because I believe in my own gift, such as it is, and partly because what she does is natural, genuine, and without pretence or pretension. Her present Society was much disturbed by strife when she was called to its care. No man, she told me, could have united the opposing parties. A true woman could. This shows me a work that women have to do in the Church as well as elsewhere. Where men cannot make peace, they can. Mrs. Gustine says that by my writings and example I have helped her a good deal. I am glad to hear this, but pray to do far better than I have yet done.... Thought much about Mrs. Gustine, who, without any of my training and culture, can do what I cannot. I can also do what she cannot—think a subject out. She can only shadow and suggest, yet how powerful is the contact of her soul, and what a good power!"

"Saturday, October 26. To Vineyard Haven to help Mr. Stevens with to-morrow's services.... Arrival rainy and dismal. Mission house lonely in a storm. Mr. S.'s young niece very capable and pleasant; did the honors and took care of me. I was very hungry before supper, having had nothing since breakfast[388] except a few chestnuts and a biscuit. Wondered a little why I had come."

"Sunday, 27th. Found out why I had come. Preached from text: 'Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness and for his wonderful works,' etc. Consider these wonderful works: the world we live in, a human body and brain, a human soul.

"Evening. 'The ministry of reconciliation,' how Christianity reconciles man to God, nature to spirit, men to each other.

"I went through the two services entirely alone. I felt supported and held up. I had hoped and prayed this journey might bring some special good to some one. It brought great comfort to me...."

On February 16, 1873, after hearing a powerful sermon, she feels awakened to take up the work over which she has dreamed so much, and talks with her friend, Mary Graves, herself an ordained minister of the Unitarian Church, about "our proposed Woman's Mission here in Boston." A few days later she writes: "Determine that my Sunday services must be held and to see Redpath[77] in this connection."

The result of this determination was the organization of the Woman's Liberal Christian Union, which held Sunday afternoon meetings through the spring. She preached the first sermon, on March 16. "I meant," she says, "to read my London sermon, but found it not suitable. Wrote a new one as well as I could. Had a very good attendance. Was forced to play the hymn[389] tunes myself. Am thankful that the occasion seemed to meet with acceptance."

In 1873, a number of women ministers having come to Boston to attend the May Anniversaries, she conceived the idea of bringing them together in a meeting all their own. She issued a call for a Woman Preachers' Convention, and this convention, the first held in any country, met on May 29, 1873. She was elected president, the Reverends Mary H. Graves and Olympia Brown vice-presidents, Mrs. Bruce secretary. The Journal describes this meeting as "most harmonious and happy."

In 1893, speaking of this time, she said:—

"I find that it is just twenty years, last spring, since I made the first effort to gather in one body the women who intended to devote themselves to the ministry.

"The new liberties of utterance which the discussion of woman suffrage had brought us seemed at this time not only to invite, but to urge upon us a participation in the advocacy of the most vital interests both of the individual and of the community. With some of us, this advocacy naturally took the form of preaching. Pulpits were offered us on all sides, and the charm of novelty lent itself to such merit and power as Nature had vouchsafed us. I am so much of a natural church-woman, I might say an ecclesiast, that I at once began to dream of a church of true womanhood. I felt how much the masculine administration of religious doctrine had overridden us women, and I felt how partial and one-sided a view of these matters had been inculcated by men, and handed down by man-revering[390] mothers. Now, I thought, we have got hold of what is really wanting in the Church universal. We need to have the womanly side of religion represented. Without this representation, we shall not have the fulness of human thought for the things that most deeply concern it. As a first step, I undertook to hold religious services on Sunday afternoons, and to secure for them the assistance of as many woman preachers as I could hear of. I had in this undertaking the assistance of my valued friend, Reverend Mary H. Graves."

The society thus formed was first called "The Woman's Church," later, "The Woman's Ministerial Conference." A second meeting was held, June 1, 1874, but it was not till 1892 that this Conference was finally organized and established, to her great satisfaction. She was elected its president, and held the office till death.

The secretary, Reverend Ada C. Bowles, says of this Conference: "As its main object was to promote a sense of fellowship, rather than to expect associated labor, owing to the scattered membership, meetings were not always regularly held, or possible. But it has held together because Mrs. Howe loved it, and had a secretary as loyal to her as she was to all the women ministers."

She herself has said: "I was impressed with the importance of religious life, and believed in the power of association. I believed that women ministers would be less sectarian than men; and I thought that if those of different denominations could meet occasionally and compare notes, it would be of value."

[391]After the formal conference, she welcomed the members at her own house, talked with them, and heard of their doings. Her eyes kindled as she heard of the Wayside Chapel (of Malden, Massachusetts) built by its pastor, Mrs. E. M. Bruce, who was also its trustee, janitor, choir, and preacher; heard how for thirteen years this lady had rung the bell every evening for vesper service, and had never lacked a congregation: or of the other woman who was asked "very diffidently" if she would conduct the funeral services of an honest and upright man who had died of drink, owing to an inherited tendency.

"They had expected to have it in the undertaker's rooms," said the Reverend Florence Buck, of Wisconsin, "but we had it in my own church. It was packed with people of all sorts, who had been interested in him; and the Bartenders' Union were there in a body.... It was an opportunity that I would not have given up to preach to the President and Senate of the United States. Next day ... they said, 'We expected she'd wallop us to hell; but she talked to us like a mother!'"

Then she turned to the president, and said, "The woman minister is often lonely. I want to thank Mrs. Howe, who welcomed me at the beginning of my ministry. Her hand-clasp has stayed with me ever since."

Our mother was never ordained: it is doubtful whether she ever contemplated such a step; but she felt herself consecrated to the work; wherever she was asked to preach, she went as if on wings, feeling this call more sacred than any other. She preached in all[392] parts of the country, from Maine to California, from Minnesota to Louisiana; but the pulpit in which she felt most truly at home was that of the Church of the Disciples. Mr. Clarke had first welcomed her there: his successor, Charles Gordon Ames, became in turn her valued friend and pastor.

The congregation were all her friends. On Sundays they gathered round her after service, with greetings and kind words. She was ready enough to respond. "Congregationing," as she called this little function, was her delight; after listening devoutly to the sermon, there was always a reaction to her gayest mood. Her spirit came to church with folded hands of prayer, but departed on dancing feet. Sometimes she reproached herself with over-friskiness; but mostly she was too wise for this, and let the sun shine when and where it would.

She preached many times in the Church of the Disciples. The white-clad figure, the clasped hands, the upturned face shining with the inner light, will be remembered by some who read these pages.


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