Stewart, Maria W. Miller (1809-1879)

edited by
Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp

Voices of Democracy: The U. S. Oratory Project

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

Brief notes on the text are included in the editorial
declaration of this header.

Productions of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart, Presented to the First African Baptist Church and Society, of the City of Boston (Boston: Friends of Freedom and Virtue, 1835), 51 – 56

The copy-text of Maria W. Miller Stewart’s Franklin Hall Address used for this unit is the one appearing in Productions of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart, Presented to the First African Baptist Church and Society, of the City of Boston (Boston: Friends of Freedom and Virtue, 1835), 51 – 56. A photographic version of the original text is available on microfiche as provided by Microfilming Corporation of America, Sanford, North Carolina, 1980. This was the second transcript of the speech, the first version having appeared in The Liberator on Saturday, November 17, 1832, on page 183.

The Productions version of the text is the one that has been used in anthologies of African American oratory, including: Maria W. Stewart: America’s First Black Woman Political Writer, ed. Marilyn Richardson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987); Beverly Guy-Sheftall,, Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought (New York: The New Press, 1995); Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Man Cannot Speak For Her: A Critical Study of Early Feminist Rhetoric (Vol II) (New York: Praeger, 1989); and Dawn Keetley and John Pettigrew, Public Women, Public Words: A Documentary History of American Feminism (Madison: Madison House Press, 1997). This is also the version provided online by Digital Schomburg African American Women Writers of the 19th Century through the New York Public Library, 1997 ( Therefore, this is the version that has taken on the authority of common practice. More importantly, the Liberator version has as the opening line, “Why sit we here and die?” as opposed to “Why sit ye here and die?” of the Productions version. This is an important discrepancy, particularly since the speech is sometimes referred to by the title, “Why Sit Ye Here and Die.” The Productions version of this text shows signs of correction of the few grammatical errors that appeared in the Liberator version (“their” for “there,” for example), and the newspaper version may have been more subject to typographical and other errors. It may be generally assumed that this text, published in book form, more closely resembles the full intent of the author, and the Productions version–appearing after Stewart’s retirement from the public stage–would most likely have been viewed by her as her public legacy.

The version of the “Lecture Delivered at the Franklin Hall” that is provided by Marilyn Richardson, although claiming to follow the Productions version of the text, leaves out parts of sentences and replicates a grammatical error found in the Liberator version of the text. These same errors appear in the text provided by Beverly Guy-Sheftall. The text used for this unit of Voices of Democracy returns to the original Productions version of the text. The punctuation and capitalization are as they appeared in the original with the exception of the removal of end line hyphenations.

Paragraph numbers have been added in square brackets.

The text of this edition has been thoroughly checked and proofread. The text does not depart from the copy-text or general editorial principles.

All double quotation marks are rendered with “, all single quotation marks with

Standard date values are given in ISO form: yyyy-mm-dd.

Characteristics of interpretation of this edition are as follows:

Proper names are not marked.
Dates are not marked.
Emphasis is marked without interpretation.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Library of Congress Classification

21 September 1832
Boston, Massachusetts


Slavery–United States–Controversial Literature –1835
Stewart, Maria W., Early Nineteenth Century, Christian Life, Spiritual Life, Abolition of Slavery


VOD Associate Editor
Gaines, Robert N.

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