Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Ezra Heywood to "The Revolution,"

This letter from Ezra H. Heywood is the first fruits of several days spent researching in Eugene, OR and Berkeley, CA, over the last couple of months. When I discovered that both André Léo and Jenny d'Héricourt had corresponded with the American women's rights papers The Revolution and The Agitator, and that both papers had published partial translations of André Léo's La femme et les mœurs, it became obvious that I needed to track those papers down. I was already familiar with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Parker Pillsbury's paper, The Revolution, which contained contributions by Ezra Heywood, Josiah Warren, C. L. James and Joshua King Ingalls. But I was unfamiliar with André Léo, and only vaguely family with Jenny d'Héricourt, the last time I looked at The Revolution, some years back, and The Agitator was entirely new territory for me. I found The Agitator in Eugene, and when the complications of traveling over the 4th of July weekend made a couple of days in Berkeley make good sense, I consulted The Revolution at the UC campus there. There is a lot of interest to share from both papers. This communication from Heywood addresses a number of controversies surrounding The Revolution. The range of reforms embraced was a concern to some people, and the fact that the eccentric George Francis Train was the paper's chief financier and promoter scandalized others.

DEAR MRS. STANTON: I meant long ago to have written you how much we enjoy “THE REVOLUTION,” which has come regularly since Miss Anthony’s announcement gave us the privilege of subscribing to this expression and answer to a great public want. It is not only a revolution which will make politicians and even reformers and philosophers dance to new music, but a revelation of light and hope to multitudes sitting in darkness and despair. What a woman said, “many times in the past, I have desired and prayed to die, but since “THE REVOLUTION” appeared, I want to live,” utters the profound welcome your paper receives among those common people, who always hear truth gladly, and indicates the dumb, aching, unutterable yearnings of myriads, yet living almost without hope, and without good in the world.

During the thousands of millions of years since creation, men have patched and botched the world with their male governments, their male literature, their male theologies, philosophies, philanthropies, until looking at the savage inanity of war, the tragic life of woman, the degradation of labor, the ravages of intemperance, and the thousand other evils which afflict society, one does not wonder that Second Adventists think the resources of Providence spent, and the Messiah is to come again “in flowing flame” to burn the whole thing up and try again, But Deity, incarnating himself under new forms, in each age, to redeem it, now commissions daughters as well as sons of men to be saviors, and embodies his most redeeming grace in woman. In America, where all classes, sexes, races, interests, were intended to stand on their good behavior, on their merits, woman should have broken loose before from the imprisoning conditions within which the ages have bound her. But now she is loose and speaking her mind in a newspaper of her own, we must expect startling facts, prepare for Revolutions in all directions, a general breaking up of indecent styles in the world’s housekeeping, that we live in a more orderly and sensible manner. Some anti-slavery believers in Woman’s Rights seem alarmed at you exercising more liberty than they bargained for; but evidently these new-comers, so much objected to in certain quarters, were foreordained to play their present part. Had it been possible or desirable to establish a woman’s paper, under abolition auspices alone, the superior abilities of Lucy Stone would have done it. But Providence desiring to give democrats a chance to be saved, in being saviors, invoked their aid. As the accomplished daughter of Francis Jackson, Mrs. E. F. Eddy who inherits much of the insight and courage of her noble father, and has herself done resolute service for her sex, said of your last meeting in Music Hall, Boston: “We went at half-past seven and staid till eleven, and you can imagine something kept us. To see such different materials combined to do the Lord’s work was proof to my mind that the Lord sent Mr. Train to help it along. He was so free and easy, so witty, so funny, and impressive withal, that we forgave him all his sins, though he made it out that he had none.”

Reform, like Deity, is no respecter of persons; the latest comer and the humblest believer is of infinitely more importance than the greatest past advocate who evades the logical duty of the hour. When “good” men have served a cause so long that they think themselves entitled to betray or ignore it, it is high time “bad” men took their places. In the advocacy of peace and labor reform, I have learned that every cause must create its own supporters and welcome assistance from any quarter; and that when reformers become so wise as to think it dangerous to cast out devils, except in their name, it is well to ask if the adversary has not taken stock in their kind of “reform.” I rejoice, therefore, that there are women among us gifted with wisdom and courage enough to know their time and accept its duties; and am confident you will achieve a great and beneficent success in your present line of action. Many other things flow to one’s pen to get themselves written about the various other questions you have opened, but must not be permitted to fill more space now. The degraded condition of our workingmen, already voters, shows how little the ballot has done of what that potent agent is capable. Nevertheless, “By this sign we shall conquer” is a good motto for your banner; while the appearance of labor, finance, commerce, marriage, culture, peace, and other issues in the same columns which claim the right of woman to vote, so well indicates the other necessary means to reach that fair play and practical justice towards which the race is struggling, that we are glad to say to all concerned to aid the general welfare, take “THE REVOLUTION.”


Worcester, Mass., May 30, 1868.

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