distinct feature of our Association has been the right of individual
opinion for every member. We have been beset at every step with the
cry that somebody was injuring the cause by the expression of some
sentiments that differed with those held by the majority of mankind.
The religious persecution of the
ages has been done under what was claimed to be the command of God.
I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do
to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own
All the way along the history of
our movement there has been this same contest on account of
religious theories. Forty years ago one of our noblest men said to
'You would better never hold
another convention than let Ernestine L. Rose stand on your
platform,' because that talented and eloquent Polish woman, who ever
stood for justice and freedom, did not believe in the plenary
inspiration of the Bible.
Did we banish Mrs. Rose? No,
Every new generation of converts
threshes over the same old straw.
Twenty-five years ago a
prominent woman, who stood on our platform for the first time,
wanted us to pass a resolution that we were not free lovers; and I
was not more shocked than I am to-day at this attempt.
The question is whether you will
sit in judgment on one who has questioned the Divine inspiration of
certain passages in the Bible derogatory to women.
If she had written approvingly
of these passages, you would not have brought in this resolution
because you thought the cause might be injured among the liberals in
In other words, if she had
written your views, you would not have considered a resolution
To pass this one is to set back
the hands on the dial of reform.
It is the reviving of the old
time censorship, which I hoped we had outgrown.
"What you should do is to
say to outsiders that a Christian has neither more nor less rights
in our Association than an atheist.
When our platform becomes too
narrow for people of all creeds and of no creeds, I myself shall not
stand upon it.
Many things have been said and
done by our orthodox friends that I have felt to be extremely
harmful to our cause; but I should no more consent to a resolution
denouncing them than I shall consent to this.
Who is to draw the line?
Who can tell now whether Mrs.
Stanton's commentaries may not prove a great help to woman's
emancipation from old superstitions that have barred her way?
Lucretia Mott at first thought
Mrs. Stanton had injured the cause of all woman's other rights by
insisting upon the demand for suffrage, but she had sense enough not
to bring in a resolution against it.
In 1860, when Mrs. Stanton made
a speech before the New York Legislature in favor of a bill making
drunkenness a cause for divorce, there was a general cry among the
friends that she had killed the woman's cause.
I shall be pained beyond
expression if the delegates here are so narrow and illiberal as to
adopt this resolution.
You would better not begin
resolving against individual action or you will find no limit.
This year it is Mrs. Stanton;
next year it may be me or one of yourselves who will be the victim.
"Are you going to cater to
the whims and prejudices of people who have no intelligent knowledge
of what they condemn?
If we do not inspire in woman a
broad and catholic spirit, they will fail, when enfranchised, to
constitute that power for better government which we have always
claimed for them.
You would better educate ten
women into the practice of liberal principles than to organize ten
thousand on a platform of intolerance and bigotry.
I pray you, vote for religious
liberty, without censorship or inquisition.
This resolution, adopted, will
be a vote of censure upon a woman who is without a peer in
intellectual and statesmanlike ability; one who has stood for half a
century the acknowledged leader of progressive thought and demand in
regard to all matters pertaining to the absolute freedom of