Stanton, Elizabeth Cady (1815-1902)

edited by
Ann D. Gordon


Voices of Democracy: The U. S. Oratory Project

Department of Communication,
2130 Skinner Building,
University of Maryland,
College Park, MD 21774

The copy-text is Stanton 1880, the version of “Our Girls” published in the Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. This text was authenticated by a team of professional editors led by Ann D. Gordon, Research Professor in the Department of History at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The editorial procedures followed by Gordon’s team are described in the following headnote to the text:

Despite the complaints she voiced about lecturing in the winter of 1878 and 1879, ECS returned to the lyceum circuit for one more season to deliver her most popular lectures, including “Our Girls.” Audiences heard it in 1880 in Greenfield, Iowa, on January 24; Washington, Iowa, on February 21; Big Rapids, Michigan, on April 9; and, no doubt, in other towns not yet identified. The idea for a lecture about raising daughters came to ECS early on, when she spoke to the Seneca Falls Conversational in 1853 about “Our Young Girls” who suffered a “false system of education”; endured vacuous lives “without aim, object, plan or design”; and faced the expectation that they would be “ever young, smiling, and happy.” She assigned the same title to the more elaborate speech she took on her first outing as a lecturer in December 1869. The speech bore that title through 1871, became “The Coming Girl,” or, as one newspaper rendered it, “The Girl of the Future,” in 1872, and shifted to “Our Girls” by 1875. The text published here is based on her undated manuscript of the speech and, to fill two small gaps, a late typescript made for ECS or her children from the same manuscript. Some pages of the manuscript date from 1870 or earlier, while varied papers and inks and renumbered pages as well as odd spacing where new and old pages meet indicate layers of revisions. The earliest report of the lecture, from Dubuque, Iowa, in December 1869, describes topics that survived her revisions: concern that girls sacrificed their health to fashion, hope that they would grow up to be not adjectives but nouns, and criticism of the marriage ceremony. By 1873, newspapers reported the lecture’s lasting structure: “the coming girl will be healthy, wealthy and wise.” Certain stories within the lecture also endured through the decade: the reference to watering the stock of the Erie Railroad and the swipe at Horace Greeley-both more timely in the early 1870s-are noted too in reports from 1879 and 1880. Moreover, most of the anecdotes that ECS indicated in her manuscript simply with parenthetical reminders can be expanded from newspaper reports over the course of a decade. Yet the imperfect and brief newspaper reports also make clear that ECS often added to the lecture the topics of immediate importance to her. In 1869, for example, she joined the upbringing of girls to the failure of women to rise in rebellion against the Fifteenth Amendment. In 1879, she protested the exemption of churches from taxation. At many times she added woman suffrage to the needs of girls, and, as indicated in the end notes to the lecture, she varied her conclusions. Though the text cannot match what audiences heard on any specific occasion, it is as close as sources allow. “Our Girls” was, in the words of Iowa’s Adair County Reporter, a lecture that “delighted thousands of hearers in various parts of the land.” (Lily, 1 March 1853; Dubuque Daily Times, 4 December 1869; St. Louis Missouri Republican, 29 December 1869; Elkhart Observer, to December 1873; Indianapolis Sentinel, 19 January 1879; Chicago Inter-Ocean, 22 January 1880; Film, 7:562-63,:14:122-23,154-56,17:425,20:682, 685; Adair County Reporter, 15 January 1880; Big Rapids Pioneer-Magnet, 15 April 1880.)
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. “‘Our Girls’: Speech by ESC.” In The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, vol. 3: National Protection for National Citizens, 1873-1880, ed. by Ann D. Gordon, 484-514. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2003.

The following are the textual notes provided by the editor. The location of these notes are indicated by paragraph number and the preceding text. The preceding text and the note are separated by a colon.

1 Father’s imagine.: An X at the end of this paragraph may indicate that ECS intended to insert new material. ECS’s next “paragraph” covers twenty-two manuscript pages, but the editors have introduced breaks in the text.
2 Madison Park: Madison Square was a fashionable park in New York, bound by Fifth and Madison avenues between Twenty-third and Twenty-sixth streets.
4 Vinnie Ream.: Vinnie Ream’s name in the manuscript reminded ECS to tell an anecdote. When Congress commissioned Ream (1847-1914) in 1866 to sculpt a statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Capitol, their choice of such a young woman led to harsh public attacks on Ream’s worthiness for the assignment. In an early version of this lecture, ECS reportedly “paid a tribute of praise to Vinnie Ream, who had met with such opposition from all the world, and hounded by the press. The statue of Lincoln is a perfect likeness of an ungainly man.” (Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, and Paul S. Boyer, eds. Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, 3 vols (Cambridge, Mass, 1971); San Francisco Chronicle, 15 August 1871, Patricia G. Holland and Ann D. Gordon, eds. Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (Wilmington, Del., 1991, microfilm, 15:708.)
5 time.”: Ragged schools provided education for the poorest children.
5 day.: Sydney Smith (1771-1845), the English cleric and wit, wrote in 1810 about female education: “Nothing, certainly, is so ornamental and delightful in women as the benevolent affections; but time cannot be filled up, and life employed, with high and impassioned virtues. . . . Compassion, and every other virtue, are the great objects we all ought to have in view; but no man (and no woman) can fill up the twenty-four hours by acts of virtue.” (Wit and Wisdom of the Rev. Sydney Smith, Being Selections from His Writings and Passages of His Letters and Table-Talk [New York, 1856], 143-44.)
5 Kemble,: Like Charlotte Cushman and Adelaide Ristori, Frances Anne Kernble (1809-1893) was a celebrated nineteenth-century actress.
5 Rachel,: More actresses, these were Sarah Kemble Siddons, Rachel (1820-1858) of France, and Ellen Tree Kean (1805-1880) of England.
6 conventionalisms.: ECS ended her twenty-two page paragraph here.
8 shoes,: By “iron shoes” ECS may mean shoes that squeezed the foot into an unnatural configuration to make it look dainty. (With assistance of Nancy E. Rexford, Danvers, Mass.)
9 purposes.: For an earlier reference to the unsuitability of French fashions for American women, see Ann D. Gordon, ed., Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, vol. 1, In the School of Anti-Slavery, 1840-1866 (New Brunswick, N.J., 2000) 1:180. At this point in her manuscript, ECS drew a symbol that may have indicated to turn over her page. She had, however, struck out a passage on the verso about the Franco-Prussian War. It reads: “I have hoped that one of the good results of the late war might be more rational [and] economical fashions. As the French are to be compelled to pay the Germans $240,000,000, I suppose it would be the height of presumption for American women to invent their own fashions.”
9 Dante): This notation for an anecdote refers to the same engraving of Beatrice and Dante described in her speech “The Bible and Woman Suffrage” above at 11 May 1879. A report of “Our Girls” in 1869 used the identical language to tell the story. Then, according to the reporter, “Mrs. Stanton said she would not place woman above man’s head nor beneath his feet, but would draw a line half way between Dante and Blackstone, and place her by his side.” (Quotation from Cincinnati Daily Gazette, 31 December 1869; other reports in Dubuque Daily Times, 4 December 1869, and Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, 31 December 1869, all in Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, 14:122-23, 162-63.)
11 Cobbe,: Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904) was an English writer and reformer. ECS quotes her essay “The Final Cause of Woman,” in Woman’s Work and Woman’s Culture, ed. Josephine E. Butler (London, 1869), 22-23.
11 clothes.”: Cobbe’s passage continues in the manuscript, but ECS drew lines across it: “If these ideas be absurd then it follows that we are not arrogating too much in seeking elsewhere than in the interests of man the ultimate reason of the creation of woman.”
11 Jordan,: An expression for death or the afterlife.
12 health.: ECS squeezed this sentence into the margin at the top of her page, as if it were a subtitle.
12 minority.: A draft of these two sentences on manuscript page forty-five appears, struck out, on the verso of page thirty-five above.
13 Carlyle,: ECS probably alludes to Sartor Resarlus: The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh (1836) by the Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). She does not, however, quote directly from the book. For an earlier instance of ECS using the same phrases, see “Our Costume,” July 1851, Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanto and Susan B. Anthony, 7:100.
14 West Point: ECS’s anecdote about West Point appears in reports of the speech in 1869, 1873, and 1878. “The cadets at West Point once threw aside their suspenders and fastened their garments around the waist. In a few weeks a disease broke out which was unaccountable. When it was suggested that the waistband had somewhat to do with it, the suspenders were resumed, and soon the disease disappeared.” (Quotation from Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, 8 November 1873; other reports in St. Louis Missouri Republican, 29 December 1869; Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, 31 December 1869; Woman’s Words 2 [December 1878]; all in Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, 14:154-56, 162, 17:399, 20:428.)
14 Ann Arbor: Her anecdote about Ann Arbor is told in a report of the lecture in 1870: “When on a visit to the University of Ann Arbor, Mrs. Stanton had a discussion with one of the Professors on the difference between the mode of training boys and girls. He said girls could not endure so much as boys, and she thought they could endure more, and suggested that if boys of the University were laced and pinched and cramped by dress as girls are, they would soon languish and die.” (Grand Rapids Daily Eagle, 12 January 1870, Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, 14:523.)
14 disabilities of woman,: ECS marked the manuscript here for an insertion that completes this sentence. The text appears on the verso of the preceding page.
15 Napoleon: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), emperor of France.
15 Anecdotes Bull: This unidentified anecdote probably concerned Ole Bornemann Bull (1810-1880), a Norwegian violinist who made his final tour of the United States in 1880.
15 Sutherland: Harriet Elizabeth Georgiana Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland (1806-1868), asked to meet the American abolitionists after the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840. In Eighty Years, ECS described how nervous her visit made the English middle class and how easily Lucretia Mott greeted the duchess (86 -87).
16 balm: Hagan’s Magnolia Balm was a popular skin lightening product patented by the Lyon Manufacturing Company of Brooklyn, New York. Advertised as a “Liquid Toilet Powder,” it promised to remove blemishes and make “a lady of thirty appear but twenty.” (Flyers from Warshaw Collection of American Business, AC 060, National Museum of American History, DSI, courtesy of Martha Lawrenz; Kathy Peiss, Hope in a jar: The Making of America’s Beauty Culture [New York, 1998], 42-43.)
16 perfect.: Here, on a page that ECS renumbered “70-71,” something was cut or torn from the sheet, and two parts rejoined. The text in angle brackets, continuing the text of the advertisement, appears in the typescript of this speech.
16 all of them.: White lead was used in paints, pottery glazes, and cosmetics. Prolonged exposure to it in hair dyes and face powders caused lead poisoning. (Peiss, Hope in a Jar, 21; P. A. Monsegur, Hair Dyes and Their Applications [London. 1915], 36-37.)
17 me,: Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, 31 December 1869.
17 Fisks,: James Fisk (1834-1872) and Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) were financiers whose manipulation of stock ruined the Erie Railroad in the late I860s.
17 cud.: This list of things to munch on in lieu of nutritional food was a familiar one to physicians treating adolescent girls. On such eating habits, see Joan Jacobs Brumberg, Fasting Girls: The Emergence of Anorexia Nervosa as a Modern Disease (Cambridge, Mass., 1988), 175-77.
19 Plato,: Plato (428-348 B.C.), Greek philosopher, expresses this idea in Phaedrus at 248B -248C. (With assistance of Robert Bolton, Rutgers University.)
21 Bishops.: ECS marked her sheet here for an insertion. The sentence that follows appears on the verso of the preceding page.
22 being.: The Federalist Papers, no. 79.
23 year.: The manuscript shows that ECS often tailored this sentence to name the place where she spoke, and the place names she added indicate that this sheet of the manuscript dated back to 1870. The original text read “place like Peoria,” Illinois, where she delivered the speech on 14 March 1870; subsequently she wrote “Alfred Centre,” New York, for 24 June 1870, and “a charming city like San Francisco” for 14 August 1871.
24 Fry.: Elizabeth Gurney Fry (1780-1845), English prison reformer.
24 Wesley: Susanna Annesley Wesley (1669-1742) was the mother of John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of Methodism. Adam Clarke wrote of her: “If it were not unusual to apply such an epithet to a woman, I would not hesitate to say she was an able divine!” (Memoirs of the Wesley Family; Collected Principally from Original Documents [New York, 1824], 291.)
24 are.: This story from Clarke, Memoirs of the Wesley Family, 286, is told not about women but about male lay preachers.
24 sin.: Matt. 26:69-75, and Num. 22:23-33. . Here ECS drew a symbol as if to indicate an insertion. On the verso of the page, this passage is written: “In the light of the present day with women talking on every subject, we look back with wonder that her right was ever doubted. Yet in the time of Shakspeare a woman was not allowed to tread the boards of the stage. All his fine female characters were performed by men Ophelia Desdimona [and] Juliet.”
25 them,: After the University of Michigan opened its previously all-male medical school to women in 1870, a handful of other schools did likewise over the next decade. (Thomas Neville Bonner, To the Ends of the Earth: Women’s Search for Education in Medicine [Cambridge, Mass., 1992], 140.)
26 side.: In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Portia acts as Antonio’s lawyer against Shylock’s claim for a pound of flesh.
26 commentaries: James Kent (1763-1847) published his four-volume Commentaries on American Law between 1826 and 1830.
26 dance,: The mazy dance, a description derived from the complex, maze-like patterns traced by the dancers, was by this date a generic term for social dancing that involved groups of couples.
29 Marthas,: In Luke 10:38-42, Martha busied herself about the house, while her sister Mary studied at the feet of Jesus.
29 Bonheurs,: Accomplished single women, these were Mary Carpenter (1807-1877), English educator and prison reformer; Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), pioneer English nurse; Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), American writer; and Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), French painter.
30 ceremony.: In 1864, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church removed the word obey from the marriage ceremony. (With the assistance of Tracey Del Duca, General Commission on Archives and History, United Methodist Church.)
30 clergymen.: This sentence was added in the margins beneath the previous paragraph and sideways up the page. A different manuscript of this section, beginning with “All praise to the Methodist Church” and continuing through paragraph thirty-two, survives because ECS recycled the pages into a chapter of her reminiscences in 1890, in Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, 28:718-25. The passage is also to be found in Eighty Years, 295-96.
31 away.: The ceremony followed the protocol set forth in 1871, in a revision of the Episcopal Prayer Book. Inclusion of the word obey and the practice of giving in marriage predated the establishment of the Episcopal church in the United States. (Research by Jennifer Peters, Archivist for Research and Public Service, Archives of the Episcopal Church.)
32 states.: On the verso of the sheet that ends with this paragraph, ECS at some time wrote: “If we would make the home what it should be our first duty is to base it on the republican theory.”
34 Summerville: ECS combines the names of British astronomers Caroline Lucretia Herschel (1750-1848) and Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780-1872).
34 Kaufmann,: Angelica Kaufmann (1741-1807), Swiss painter.
34 Browning: To the French George Sand and American Harriet Beecher Stowe, ECS adds the English novelist Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855) and poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861).
34 Samson: ECS’s manuscript ends here. Judg. 16:1-3 recounts this story of Samson.
36 Father,: Minerva, goddess of wisdom, was not born of a mother but sprang full grown from the head of Jupiter.
36 today.: Like her notes to insert particular anecdotes, ECS’s concluding sentences may be more suggestion than literal text. Newspaper coverage of this lecture indicates that she varied her perorations, sometimes adding a fourth element-political rights-to the health, wealth, and wisdom that held the keys to woman’s happiness. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, in January 1870, “[s]he wound up her lecture by a beautiful peroration, in which she alluded to the artist, who, in a foreign land, found a beautiful block of marble, embedded in the dirt and dust. He commenced clearing away the dirt and cleaning off the dust, and when asked what he was doing, replied that he was going to set free the angel that was imprisoned within that block. He had the block moved to his studio, and set to work with his fine instruments, and patiently worked days, months and years on the block, until at length the angel was released from its imprisonment, and stood forth in all its loveliness. So it is with our young girls. Your life work is not to build up false works and customs, but to set free the angel that is imprisoned within you.” (Grand Rapids Democrat, 12 January 1870, Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, 14:522).

In San Francisco in August 1871, “Mrs. Stanton concluded her address by describing the wonders she had recently seen at Yosemite, the Geysers and other places she had visited; how the thought came across her that in such spots as these would be the place to experiment on a higher civilization, where the women would have equal liberty, and an equal place and pay in the world of work and all the rights and privileges of citizenship, for nothing else would ever make institutions worth such a paradise to dwell in.” (San Francisco Chronicle, 15 August 1871, Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony,15:708.)

In Canton, Ohio, in 1875; in Milwaukee in 1877; in Indianapolis in 1879; and in Washington, Iowa, in 1880, she dealt at length with political rights. At the last place, a reporter wrote: “When our girls become both healthy and wealthy, they will be wise-wise enough to know their political rights, and to demand and secure them, and to use them rightly and well. And now having floated out of the river and bay into the wide ocean of `women’s rights,’ she turned on steam and set all the sails alow and aloft, and just went flying for a half hour or so, taking up all the stock objections and answering them with great good humor and right enjoyable wit. She poked fun at the property laws which, after a wife worked 12 to 18 hours out of the 24 for years, recognized her as the ward of her “provider”‘ who might leave to her, in his will, the property she helped to earn, to use so long as she remained his widow! She chuckled at the legislators who, classing women with criminals, lunatics, idiots and negroes, denied the privilege of voting, but lately called the negroes into the kingdom and left her without, where, I suppose, is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, if not cussing and hair-pulling,-still classed with the c., I. and i. aforesaid. At least they might have let negroes and women into the kingdom at the same time. She ridiculed the notion that women’s voting would corrupt politics. But the women could vote at a place apart from the men; let them at least go the polls at churches, and vote under the eye of pastors! She wants women to vote, so that saloons and brothels may be banished, doors of opportunity may be opened to save women from lives of shame, but she admits that the great trouble with the movement is, the reluctance of the sex themselves.” (Quotation from Washington County Press. 25 February 1880; other reports in Canton Repository, 12 February 1875; Milwaukee Sentinel, 16 April 1877; Indianapolis Sentinel, 19 January 1879; all in Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, 18:305, 19:487-88, 20:682, 21:110-11.)

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Library of Congress Classification

Winter 1880


Feminism-United States-History-19th century
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 1815-1902

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