“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.

In her remarks, Lavinia said:

I cannot remember the time when I did not think women ought to vote. The old Anti-Slavery struggle, which was the educator of so many of us, was at its height in my childish days…. Instinctively I applied the same reasoning to women. Hence the equal right of Woman to social, civil and political equality has always been to me like an axiom which it were as idle to dispute as to undertake to controvert the multiplication table…. Suffrage was but one among many of the rights claimed…. The propriety of Woman’s speaking in public before a promiscuous assembly was the most hotly and fiercely contested…. Her claim to equal wages for equal work; to broader fields of industry; to the right to hold her property, after marriage, in her own name; to enter the professions; to obtain higher education, even to perform literary work.

Although women had not yet secured the ballot, Lavinia noted proudly that they had made progress in other areas:

The heavy, barred gates of the professions creak on their hinges, and by persevering pushes they are opening to Woman. The married woman’s property laws are constantly changing for the better. College doors are opening. The field of literature is wide open and full of busy gleaners. Is not this noble progress for a quarter of a century?

Lavinia predicted that women would gain suffrage in twenty-five years or less, which would have meant by 1900. She said, “The fields are already white for the harvest…. All that is needed is further enlightenment.” Read her entire remarks here. Although women did not gain the franchise until 1920, forty years after Lavinia died, she never doubted that the day would indeed come. “If … we gain the Suffrage – the last stronghold of the enemy – the last “ditch” in which they have taken their stand and which they will fiercely contest, we shall do a grand work.”

Sources consulted: Lavinia Goodell’s diary; New York Daily Herald (November 19, 1875); Letter from Lavinia Goodell dated November 2, 1875 and read at the seventh annual meeting of the American Woman Suffrage Association, published in the December 4, 1875 Woman’s Journal (Woman’s Journal, Vol. 6, No. 49, 12/4/75, seq. 392, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

Leave a Reply