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Beecher on Female Suffrage

Since the beginning men have grown more and more valuable. In the growth of civilization women, also, have steadily risen, and have enlarged their sphere and multiplied their functions. May we not reasonably expect that hereafter that the same development will proceed? Are there not, for women, as for man, new applications of power, new spheres of influence?

When women dawned into literature she changed the spirit of letters. When she became a reader, men no longer wrote as if for men alone. She enforced purity and decorum. When woman came as a reader and a writer, then again men saw that guiding star which led them where the young child of Christian purity lay. For, after all, it is the pen that is the tongue of the world; and a woman's hand is becoming more influential than an orator's mouth.

Nor have the prophecies that, like bats, have fluttered about her been fulfilled. In the augmentation of her liberty, and the enlargement of her sphere she has forsaken no duty of home, and lost no grace of tenderness and love. She is a better mother, a better wife, daughter, sister, friend, by just the enlargement, which it was predicted would unsex her. Experience has shown that as women have been made to be worth more to society at large and in public interests, they have become riches at home, and are capable of building it better, and administrating its duties and affections more skillfully and refinedly. Whatever makes her a better thinker, a larger-minded actor, a deeper thoughted observer, a more potent writer or teacher, makes her, by just so much, a better wife and mother.* *
Each sex has something of the other's gifts, and each has superiority of his own over the other, and the highest form of influence on earth is that which blends both the peculiar women-influence and the man-influence. I do not ask, then, that woman shall change her nature. We want her as a woman, and because she is a woman not a man. We do not ask that she shall do what man does, as man does it; we ask that she shall do in her own way, what man does in his way. Therefore, we ask not to unsex women, but to unite in public affairs what God put together, and what, from the beginning of the world, men have been keeping separate, namely: man's life and woman's life. I advocate a larger use of woman's influence in politics, and will state my position distinctly.

Women ought to have the same right of suffrage that men have. The moment that is granted, the rest will follow. The vote is the point at which public opinion takes hold upon public action. It is the point at which moral and political forces are condensed from thought forms into the material forms of laws, institutions, or public politics. The soul incarnates itself into public affairs by the vote.- And in our Government the vote is the wheel or rudder, and controls the motion of the ship.

The need of moral influence in the administration of public affairs is universally conceded. Since the world began, to refine society has been woman's function. She is God's vicegerent on earth for that end. You may be sure that she who has carried refinement to the household, to the church, to social life, to literature, to art, to every interest except government, will carry it there, also. My faith is rooted, and grounded, and established, that the cheapest, the easiest, the most natural and proper method of introducing reformation into public affairs is to give woman a co-ordinate influence there.

Let these two great elements of the sexes go, influence each other, straight through public affairs, just as they now influence each in all the private relations of life.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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Henry Ward Beecher was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe. He was an advocate of women's suffrage as well as an abolitionist He argued that women brought refinement to society and therefore should be allowed to vote, as their influence would have a positive effect on public affairs. Harriet Beecher Stowe felt that "the state can no more afford to dispense with the votes of women in its affairs than the family." Henry appears to feel that women would bring a moral influence to public affairs.

 

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"Beecher on Female Suffrage" article from Greenfield Gazette and Courier newspaper

author   Rev. Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
publisher   Greenfield Gazette and Courier
date   May 16, 1870
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
height   9.75"
width   2.5"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L08.020


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See Also...

Suffrage letter to George Sheldon

"Suffrage Canvass Success" article from The Greenfield Recorder newspaper

Excerpt from the "Boston Letter" article on Suffrage from Greenfield Gazette and Courier newspaper


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