Observations on the Real Rights of Women, 1818

From Hannah Crocker. Observations on the Real Rights of Women. Boston: 1818.

It must be the appropriate duty and privilege of females to convince by reason and persuasion. It must be their peculiar province to sooth the turbulent passions of men, when almost sinking in the sea of care, without even an anchor of hope to support them. Under such circumstances women should display their talents by taking the helm, and steer them safe to the haven of rest and peace, and that should be their own happy mansion, where they may always retire and find safe asylum from the rigid cares of business. It is women's peculiar right to keep calm and serene under every circumstance in life, as it is undoubtedly her appropriate duty, to sooth and alleviate the anxious cares of man, and her friendly and sympathetic breast should be found the best solace for him, as she ahs an equal right to partake with him the cares, as well as the pleasures of life.

It was evidently the design of heaven by the mode of our first formation, that they should walk side by side as mutual supports in all times of trial. There can be no doubt, that, in most cases, their judgement may be equal with the other sex; perhaps even on the subject of law, politics, or religion, they may form good judgement, but it would be improper, and physically very incorrect, for the female character to claim the statesman's birth or ascend the rostrum to gain the loud applause of men, although their powers of industry may be equal to the task. . . .

From the local circumstances and the domestic cares of which most females are involved, it cannot be expected they should make so great improvement in science and literature, as those whose whole life has been devoted to their studies. It must not be expected that the reputable mechanic will rival the man of letters and science, neither would it well suit the female frame or character to boast of her knowledge in mechanism or her skill in the manly art of slaughtering fellow-men It is woman's appropriate duty and peculiar privilege to cultivate the olive branches around her table. It is for her to implant in the juvenile breast the first seed of virtue, the love of God, and their country, with all the other virtues that shall prepare them to shine as statesmen, soldiers, philosophers, and christians. Some of our first worthies have boasted that they imbibed their heroic principles with their mother's milk; and by precept and example were first taught the love of virtue, religion, and their country. Surely they should have a right to share with them the laurel, but not the right of conquest; for that must be man's prerogative, and woman is to rejoice in his conquest. There may be a few groveling minds who think women should not aspire to any further knowledge that to obtain enough of the cynical art to enable them to compound a good pudding, pie, or cake for her lord and master to discompound. Others, of a still weaker class, may say it is enough for women scientifically to arrange the spinning wheel and distaff, and exercise her extensive capacity in knitting and sewing, since the fall and restoration of woman these employments have been the appropriate duties of the female sex. The art of dress, which in some measure produced the art of industry, did not commence till sin, folly and shame introduced the first invention of dress which ought to check the modest female from every species of wantonness and extravagance in dress; cultivate the mind and trifling in dress will soon appear in its true colors.

To those who appear unfriendly to female literature let me say, in behalf of the sex, they claim no right to infringe on any domestic economy; but those ladies who continue in a state of celibacy, and find pleasure in literacy researches, have a right to indulge the propensity and solace themselves with the feast of reason and knowledge; also those ladies who in youth have laid up a treasure of literacy and scientific information, have a right to improve further literary researches, after they have truthfully discharged their domestic duties. . . .

Women have an equal right, with the other sex, to form societies for promoting religious, charitable and benevolent purposes. Every association formed for benevolence, must have a tendency to make man mild, and sociable to man; an institution formed for historical and literary researches, would have a happy effect on the mind and manners of the youth of both sexes. As the circulating libraries are often resorted to after novel by both sexes for want of judgement to select works of more merit, the study of history would strengthen their memory and improve the mind, whereas novels have a tendency to vitiate the mind and morals of the youth of each sex before they are ripe for more valuable acquisitions. Much abstruse study or metaphysical reasoning seldom agrees with the natural vivacity or the slender frame of many females, therefore the moral and physical distinction of the sex must be allowed; if the powers of the mind are fully equal, they must still estimate the rights of men, and own it their prerogative exclusively to content for public honors and preferment, either in church or state, and females may console themselves and feel happy, that by the moral distinction of the sexes they are called to move in a sphere of life remote from those masculine contentions, although they hold equal right with them of studying every branch of science, even jurisprudence.

But it would be morally wrong and physically imprudent for any woman to attempt pleading at the bar of justice as no law can give her the right of deviating from the strictest rules of rectitude and decorum. No servile dependence on men can be recommended under the christian system, for that abolished the law of slavery, and left only a claim on their friendship; as the author of their nature originally intended, they should be the protectors of female innocence, and not the fatal destroyers of their peace and happiness. They aim no right at the gambling table, and to the moral sensibility of females how disgusting must be the horse-race, the bull-bate, and the cock-fight. These are barbarous scenes, not suited to the delicacy of females.

It must be woman's prerogative to shine in the domestic circle, and her appropriate duty to teach and regulate the opening mind of her little flock, and teach their juvenile ideas how to shoot forth into well improved sentiments. It is most undoubtedly the duty and privilege of woman to regulate her garrison with such good order and propriety, that the generalization of her affection, shall never have reason to seek other quarters for well disciplined and regulated troops, and there must not a murmur or beat be heard throughout the garrison, except that of the heart vibrating with mutual affection, reciprocally soft. The rights of woman displayed on such a plan, might perhaps draw the other sex from the nocturnal ramble to the more endearing scenes of domestic peace and harmony. The woman, who can gain such a victory, as to secure the undivided affection of her generalissimo, must have the exclusive right to shine unrivalled in her garrison. . . .

By the mutual virtue, energy and fortitude of the sexes, the freedom and independence of the United States were attained and secured. The same virtue, energy and fortitude, must be called into continual exercise, as long as we continue a free, federal, independent nation. The culture and improvement of the female understanding will strengthen the mental faculties and give vigor to their councils, which will give a weight to any argument used for their mutual defense and safety. No nation nor republic ever fell prey to despotism, till by indolence and dissipation, it neglected the arts and sciences, and the love of literature. They then became effeminate and degraded; and by then the female character was degraded. As long as the German women were free and honored by the men, it acted as a stimulus to their ambition. On the value and integrity of both sexes their success and independence very much depended.