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