A Celebration of Women Writers

"Not Things, But Women." by Mrs. Effie Pitblado (1849-)
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 793-796.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 793] 



Things are great. They are either the thought of God or man. Natural things are the thoughts of God; artificial things are the thoughts of man. But woman is greater than things, because she is the breath of God, or soul. Things are matter; woman is spirit. So she, with man, has dominion over things. The meaning of soul grows upon us, as we see it gaining the mastery over natural things–over wave and wind, over thunderbolt and sunbeam. The greatness of soul grows upon us, as we see it, turning thoughts into things of its own–into pictures, sewing machines, congress buildings, glass dresses; into things that make not only the esthetic soul sing, but the utilitarian heart rejoice. Out of the silence of thought came all these forms of beauty and things of usefulness we see at this World's Fair. Things represent ideas. Ideas are not masculine or feminine, but human. Ideas are uppermost here. The dominion of mere physical force is dying. The dominion of mental and moral ideas is growing wider and stronger. It is evident from what we see at this World's Fair that women of ideas and moral stamina are fast coming to the front. Woman has a great part to play in this age, and she is prepared and is preparing for it. The arguments against equality are all answered, and today we smile at the belated being that talks about the superiority of the masculine intellect to the feminine. They are both superior in their way, and the sphere they choose is their sphere. If a man may sell ribbons and cut dresses, a woman may sit in the editor's chair, give a missionary address, deliver a political oration, open a drug store or run a convention or a mill. It is too late to deny that her imagination is just as fine and full of eyes as man's–that her heart is just as brimming over with poetry and pathos, that her reason is just as forceful and keen as man's.

The thought is growing that God has ordained certain rights to woman that somebody has denied. She is beginning gradually to seek to stand alongside her brother, her husband and lover in all the rights of mankind and in all the ordinances of our great Father. Such women still get a great deal of advice. They are told that woman was made for a higher sphere (or hemisphere), the home; and that if she departs from it her womanhood will suffer, and the domestic shrine be overthrown. But all this is contradicted by the facts and experiences and history of today. Who ever thinks of saying that Mrs. Cady Stanton's domestic shrine is overthrown, or that Mrs. Isabella Beecher Hooker's, or Mrs. Julia Ward Howe's, or Mrs. Mary A. [Page 794]  Livermore's children are neglected, or their husbands not attended to, or their dishes not washed and stockings not darned? This wail about domestic shrine belongs to past history; we live in new times. I wish we had time to speak of the many great and useful women of our homes and hearts.

Mrs. Isabella Beecher Hooker, as everyone knows, belongs to the wonderful Beecher family, and is decidedly one of the most talented among them. She stands at the front among the leaders of the great vital reforms of the day. She is a woman of marvelous force of character, and to her the women of Connecticut owe the improvement of the laws in that state with regard to their property.

I have enjoyed the hospitality of her delightful home in Hartford many times, and she did me the honor to introduce me to the judiciary committee in the Capitol at Washington as a Scotch woman who would speak to them on the political status of women in Great Britain, when I went up with the committee of our National Woman Suffrage Association. I was at Washington in 1888 when I first became acquainted (through Mrs. Hooker) with her co-worker, Susan B. Anthony, a woman who is known everywhere for her principle and pluck, power and purpose. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is another woman of brains and bravery. She is the one of the ablest women of our times. Julia Ward Howe is not only the author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and of other poems as rich and grand, but she is also a leading philanthropist and lecturer. Lucy Stone was a woman of radical ideas, and quiet, magnetic eloquence and heroic individuality. We all regret that we can never again hear her (as I have often heard her) plead before the Legislature of Massachusetts for the enfranchisement of women.

Mrs. Mary A. Livermore has for twenty-five years been one of the star lecturers in our most attractive lyceum courses, and she never was more popular than she is today. She is one of the ablest lecturers in the country at this hour.

I have heard her tell of Lady Henry Somerset's life and work in such glowing terms, that we could almost worship our English White Ribbon Queen, who is to the British women what our Frances Willard is to our American women–the head and the heart of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Lady Henry Somerset's sympathy for and helpfulness to our American queen has been truly beautiful, and we love her not only for it, but for her own sweet self. Mrs. Ormiston Chant is another English woman who has charmed us with her inspirational speeches in behalf of womanhood, and she also is devoted to the elevation of woman, and the salvation of mankind. On this side of the Atlantic we have Mrs. Van Cott, a really successful evangelist, and Mrs. Annie Wittenmyer, one of the grandest philanthropists that ever lived. Frances E. Willard, our queen of reforms, has probably more influence in this country than any other man or woman. She is president of the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which has at least three hundred thousand members.

What a fine looking body of women the Board of Lady Managers are, with their attractive and gracious president. Mrs. Potter Palmer has visited nearly every court in Europe in the interest of women, and she has won by their exhibits official recognition from every foreign country. She has also enlisted the co-operation of the women of her own country for the World's Fair, and addressed congressional committees with such genius that she obtained from them the legislation necessary to begin and carry on the work, and at the dedicatory services of this great Columbian Exposition crowned all by her splendid address, in which she said: "Even more important than the discovery of America is the fact that Government has just discovered woman."

We have always had our queens since the days of Queen Esther, Queen of Sheba, Queen Semiramis and Queen Boadicea, but never have we had more worthy queens than those of the nineteenth century.

Who can forget the smiling face of Vice-President Mrs. Charles Henrotin as she gave her delightful address of welcome to every World's Congress? Who but will say that our chairman of the Committee on Congresses in this Woman's Building, Mrs. [Page 795]  James P. Eagle, has not only shown great ability and tact, but a remarkable degree of executive power and steady perseverance to arrange for, and preside at, all these addresses, every forenoon, for so many months? Her beauty and grace and kindly manners to all her speakers have added greatly to the charm of these Congresses in the Woman's Building.

I wish there was time to speak to Mrs. Palmer's secretary and her assistant secretary, Mrs. Helen M. Parker, in whose home I had the pleasure of stopping for a few weeks, and who, as you know, has been elected treasurer, at our last convention, of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union. It would be impossible in my limited time to tell you about the many gifted women in that organization. We have our lecturers, like Mrs. Mary Lathrop, whom you all know, and Rev. Annie Shaw; we have our superintendents, like Mrs. Mary H. Hunt.

We also have missionaries, like our all-round-the-world missionary, Mrs. Mary Clement Leavitt, who has had in connection with her addresses the services of two hundred and twenty-nine interpreters, in forty-seven languages. She has carried our white ribbon around the globe. And secretaries like Miss Anna A. Gordon; and state presidents like Mrs. Clara Hoffman, so well known here; and sergeants-at-arms like Mrs. Cornelia B. Forbes, of Connecticut, to keep our great national conventions in order; and organizers like Mrs. Mary Seymour Howell; and preachers like Miss Greenwood, of New York; and elocutionists like Miss Eva Shonts, who read on this platform, and who is called by Miss Willard our white ribbon elocutionist. I wish I had the time to speak of such women as Pundita Ramabai, the student and teacher of the young widows of India, and of the heroic women who have gone out to heathen lands to carry the glad tidings of the Gospel to their sisters, and of the grand women at home whose plans and gifts have created such an organization that they can now disburse annually, for the work and support of these missionaries, one million five hundred thousand dollars. I need not tell you about the president of the National Council of Women, Mrs. May Wright Sewell, for many of you have hear her brilliant and learned addresses in this assembly hall; nor of Miss Elizabeth B. Sheldon, who decorated our Connecticut room in this building with such delicate taste and fine harmony of color; nor of Miss Hosmer, the sculptor, for you have seen her exquisite statues and busts, and you know that her statue of Queen Isabella has been secured for the Californian World's Fair and will find a home in San Francisco. Neither do I need to speak to you of my countrywoman, Lady Aberdeen, for you have seen her exhibit here of the industries of the Irish women, and you have heard what she is doing for women in Great Britain at the head of the Woman's Liberal Federation. Few men have spoken out so freely against social wrongs as Mrs. Josephine Butler of England, and Dr. Kate Bushnell of this country. From the days of Madam Roland women have never been without their champions like Florence Nightingale, and Mrs. Browning, our delightful poet. Time would fail us to speak of our women journalists, like Mrs. Frank Leslie and Alice Stone Blackwell; our women ministers, like Rev. Olympia Brown and Dr. Augusta J. Chapine who, as chairman of Women's Religious Congresses, discovered that seventeen denominations have ordained women in the ministry; our discoverers, like Mrs. French Sheldon, F.R.G.S., who went unattended by a single white person through the wilds of Africa; and our temple builders, like Mrs. Matilda B. Carse, of Chicago, whose "Woman's Temple" is the finest office building in the world, and the architect of this beautiful Woman's Building, which is a monument to the brain and work of woman. But we must stop mentioning names, for the gifted, all-sided women of our land are legion. Many of them are unknown to the great public, and do their work quietly in their own church or town or home, and many of them have voluntarily become the rounds of the ladders on which their brothers and sons and husbands have climbed to fame. But many of them do their work in the eye of the world. Some of them are geniuses–none of them are angels–all of them are peers of men. Among them are inventors, lawyers, architects, physicians, painters, engineers, astronomers, editors, edu- [Page 796]  cators, actresses, novelists, and brilliant authors. Well known to all readers are such names as Margaret Fuller, Lydia Maria Child, Fanny Fern (or Mrs. Parton), Gail Hamilton (or Miss Dodge), Louisa May Alcott, Pansy (or Mrs. R.G. Alden), Josiah Allen's wife (or Miss Marietta Holly), Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Kate Field, Mrs. Helen Hinsdale Rich, the poet of the Adirondacks, and last, but not least, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, There is about their writings and addresses a sterling sense, a short-handed reasoning, that is not only charming but oracular. They are giving literature a healthy, fireside tone. These women, and many unnamed by me, are among the leaders of thought today.

Religion to them is the divinest reality. They believe in God, and so feel that men and woman must grow into mutual greatness and goodness together, and that the ages have never yet seen the regal men and women that are to illustrate God's ideal of humanity.

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Mrs. Effie Pitblado was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1849. Her parents were Hugh Wilson, a lawyer, and Euphemia Gibb Wilson. She was educated in Edinburgh, and afterward in England. She has traveled in Europe, Canada, and in American, and has crossed the Atlantic five times. She married Rev. C.B. Pitblado, D.D., of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and is the mother of two sons. Her principle literary works are addressed upon temperance, woman's suffrage, missions, education and religion. In religious faith she is a Methodist. Mrs. Pitblado has been a delegate to the National Woman Suffrage Association Convention in Washington, the New England Woman's Suffrage Association Conventions, the National Women's Christian Temperance Union Conventions in New York, Denver and Chicago, and to the annual Woman's Foreign Missionary Conventions in Lowell and Boston, Mass.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Hitchcock.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom