“Abject submission is not the way to an honorable peace.”

“Abject submission is not the way to an honorable peace.”

Lavinia Goodell, September 1879

Lavinia Goodell never married or had children, but she was a lifelong proponent of full equal rights for women, including marriage equality.  In the fall of 1879, she wrote a series of articles (read more here) countering pieces that appeared in the Christian Union newspaper that admonished women to defer to their husbands. Lavinia’s rebuttals ran in Lucy Stone’s Woman’s Journal. Lavinia’s first offering, titled “The way to peace,” was written in late August 1879 and appeared in the September 13 Woman’s Journal issue.

Lavinia began by quoting the Christian Union’s premise that wives should submit themselves to their husbands because “a two-headed creature is always a monstrosity.”

For Lavinia, this was “enough to make the blood of any intelligent, self-respecting woman boil with indignation.”

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“The heavy, barred gates of the professions creak on their hinges.”

“The heavy, barred gates of the professions creak on their hinges.”

Lavinia Goodell, November 1875

In November of 1875, the seventh annual meeting of the American Woman Suffrage Association was held at Steinway Hall in New York. Over 200 delegates, both men and women, attended.

November 19, 1875 New York Daily Herald

 Lavinia Goodell was unable to attend, but she wrote a letter for the occasion, and her friend and mentor, Lucy Stone, chairman of the executive committee, read it to the group. The letter was published in the Woman’s Journal, Lucy Stone’s publication, in early December.

Photo of Lucy Stone
Lucy Stone

 Lucy Stone’s own address apparently caused a stir. The New York Daily Herald reported that it “was an exposition of what she considers the indecorum and absurdity of the Centennial celebration of independence by men who deny to one-half of the citizens of the United States the right of self-government, and urged all women to refuse to participate in the mockery.” A male delegate from Pennsylvania took issue with Lucy Stone on this issue and said while it was true that the Revolution did not enfranchise women, the new government was based upon principles which would naturally and inevitably lead to woman’s suffrage, so women should join in the Centennial celebration.

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“The extent to which wives flatter the vanity and humor the weaknesses of their husbands is humiliating to both men and women, and degrading to matrimony.”

“The extent to which wives flatter the vanity and humor the weaknesses of their husbands is humiliating to both men and women, and degrading to matrimony.”

Lavinia Goodell, October 1876

Lucy Stone, a lifelong advocate for women’s rights, was one of Lavinia Goodell’s mentors.

Lucy Stone

In 1870, Lucy and her husband, Henry Blackwell, launched the Woman’s Journal, a paper promoting suffrage and women’s rights. Lavinia Goodell wrote numerous articles for the paper and shortly before her death she was added to the masthead as a contributor.

In a September 28, 1876 diary entry, Lavinia wrote, “Commenced piece for Woman’s Journal.” She finished the article four days later. It appeared in the paper’s October 28, 1876 issue.

In the piece, titled “Ownership of Wives,” Lavinia outlined how society required women to subordinate themselves to men, to the detriment of women’s intellectual and moral development.

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“I am in no haste to marry.”

“I am in no haste to marry.”

Lavinia Goodell, February 14, 1864

While the majority of nineteenth century women married, Lavinia Goodell remained single and, by all accounts, her lack of a husband never bothered her. (Her sister, on the other hand, worried that Lavinia would not be able to support herself and hoped she would find a suitable spouse. Read more here.) The many articles Lavinia wrote for the Principia, her father’s anti-slavery newspaper, often poked fun at traditional notions of how women should behave. In an 1862 article titled, “Wanted: A Match – Summary of a Nice Wife,” Lavinia responded to a piece that had appeared in another publication which called on women to be in communion with their husbands; believe in the virtue of glossy hair and well-fitting gowns; speak low and not speak much; never scold and rarely argue, and adjust with a smile. Lavinia’s humorous but rather biting retort suggested that the man who wanted to mate with such a creature should possess a gigantic intellect, be a good provider, and never give her reason to scold or argue. She ended the piece by saying, “Such a man we may have dreamed of, but never have seen.”

From the November 20, 1862 Principia. Lavinia wrote a response to a piece that had appeared in the Exchange.

Read Lavinia’s entire piece here.

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“Mrs. Stanton has sent us her picture and Miss Anthony’s to hang up in our office.”

“Mrs. Stanton has sent us her picture and Miss Anthony’s to hang up in our office.”

Lavinia Goodell, April 5, 1879

Lavinia Goodell had a lifelong admiration for the work Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony did to promote women’s rights, particularly suffrage. Lavinia’s mother, Clarissa Cady Goodell, was a cousin of Stanton’s through her fourth great grandfather. Lavinia, along with her mother and sister, followed Stanton’s and Anthony’s writings and Lavinia regularly corresponded with both women.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
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Posted by admin in Friends, Women's rights, 1 comment

“Next Sunday, Mrs. Van Cott again.”

“Next Sunday, Mrs. Van Cott again.”

Lavinia Goodell, July 13, 1873

Lavinia Goodell championed the right of all women to enter the profession of their choice. She believed that by developing their minds, women would be able to support themselves financial and  potentially avoid the need to embark upon a loveless marriage solely for economic reasons. She strongly supported women entering the clergy, a notion that was anathema even to some otherwise progressive nineteenth century men.  

Lavinia made a point of going to hear women lecturers who came to Janesville, Wisconsin. In the summer of 1873, she went to several lectures given by Maggie Van Cott, the first woman licensed to preach in the Methodist Episcopal church.

Maggie Van Cott
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Posted by admin in Life in Wisconsin: 1871-1880, Women's rights, 0 comments

“Got a telegram from Lucy Stone that her suffrage convention was to be here”

“Got a telegram from Lucy Stone that her suffrage convention was to be here”

Lavinia exchanged dozens of letters with Lucy Stone, a pioneer for women’s rights and one of the most famous women in mid-19th century America. In 1870, Lucy and her husband launched the Woman’s Journal, which was hailed as a “history-maker and history recorder for the suffrage cause” by Carrie Chapman Catt, who played a leading role in the passage of the 19th Amendment. Catt said “the suffrage success of today is not conceivable without the Woman’s Journal‘s part in it.” Lavinia not only wrote for the Woman’s Journal, in December 1879 she was formally listed on its masthead as a contributor.

Photo of Lucy Stone
Lucy Stone

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Would you hire this woman?

Would you hire this woman?

It’s Women’s History month, so we decided to put together Lavinia Goodell’s resume and ask a few employers if they would hire someone like her. They all found her credentials impressive. One said she would definitely hire Lavinia as a lawyer, but her resume does not convey “team player.” Others wondered whether silk stocking law firms would be afraid to hire her. She could repel clients who don’t share her values. She might be better off as a sole practitioner tackling social justice issues.

For Lavinia’s full resume, click here.

Just think of it. The woman who opened the Wisconsin legal profession to women 150 years ago might have a hard time landing a job today!

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Posted by admin in Women's rights, 5 comments