"Chapter XVII." by Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
THE Lyceum Bureau was, at one time, a great feature in American life. The three leading bureaus were in Boston, New York, and Chicago. The managers, map in hand, would lay out trips, more or less extensive according to the capacity or will of the speakers, and then, with a dozen or more victims in hand, make arrangements with the committees in various towns and cities to set them all in motion. As the managers of the bureaus had ten per cent. of what the speakers made, it was to their interest to keep the time well filled. Hence the engagements were made without the slightest reference to the comfort of the travelers. With our immense distances, it was often necessary to travel night and day, sometimes changing cars at midnight, and perhaps arriving at the destination half an hour or less before going on the platform, and starting again on the journey immediately upon leaving it. The route was always carefully written out, giving the time the trains started from and arrived at various points; but as cross trains often failed to connect, one traveled, guidebook in hand, in a constant fever of anxiety. As, in the early days, the fees were from one to two hundred dollars a night, the speakers themselves were desirous of accomplishing as much as possible.
In 1869 I gave my name, for the first time, to the New York Bureau, and on November 14 began the long, weary pilgrimages, from Maine to Texas, that lasted twelve years; speaking steadily for eight months–from October to June–every season. That was the heyday of the lecturing period, when a long list of bright men and women were constantly on the wing. Anna Dickinson, Olive Logan, Kate Field,–later, Mrs. Livermore and Mrs. Howe, Alcott, Phillips, Douglass, Tilton, Curtis, Beecher, and, several years later, General Kilpatrick, with Henry Vincent, Bradlaugh, and Matthew Arnold from England; these and many others were stars of the lecture platform.
Some of us occasionally managed to spend Sunday together, at a good hotel in some city, to rest and feast and talk over our joys and sorrows, the long journeys, the hard fare in the country hotels, the rainy nights when committees felt blue and tried to cut down our fees; the being compelled by inconsiderate people to talk on the train; the overheated, badly ventilated cars; the halls, sometimes too warm, sometimes too cold; babies crying in our audiences; the rain pattering on the roof overhead or leaking on the platform–these were common experiences. In the West, women with babies uniformly occupied the front seats so that the little ones, not understanding what you said, might be amused with your gestures and changing facial expression. All these things, so trying, at the time, to concentrated and enthusiastic speaking, afterward served as subjects of amusing conversation. We unanimously complained of the tea and coffee. Mrs. Livermore had the wisdom to carry a spirit lamp with her own tea and coffee, and thus supplied herself with the needed stimulants for her oratorical efforts. The hardships of these lyceum trips can never be appreciated except by those who have endured them. With accidents to cars and bridges, with floods and snow blockades, the pitfalls in one of these campaigns were without number.
ELIZABETH SMITH MILLER.
On one occasion, when engaged to speak at Maquoketa, Iowa, I arrived at Lyons about noon, to find the road was blocked with snow, and no chance of the cars running for days. "Well," said I to the landlord, "I must be at Maquoketa at eight o'clock to-night; have you a sleigh, a span of fleet horses, and a skillful driver? If so, I will go across the country." "Oh, yes, madam!" he replied, "I have all you ask; but you could not stand a six-hours' drive in this piercing wind." Having lived in a region of snow, with the thermometer down to twenty degrees below zero, I had no fears of winds and drifts, so I said, "Get the sleigh ready and I will try it." Accordingly I telegraphed the committee that I would be there, and started. I was well bundled up in a fur cloak and hood, a hot oak plank at my feet, and a thick veil over my head and face. As the landlord gave the finishing touch, by throwing a large buffalo robe over all and tying the two tails together at the back of my head and thus effectively preventing me putting my hand to my nose, he said, "There, if you can only sit perfectly still, you will come out all right at Maquoketa; that is, if you get there, which I very much doubt." It was a long, hard drive against the wind and through drifts, but I scarcely moved a finger, and, as the clock struck eight, we drove into the town. The hall was warm, and the church bell having announced my arrival, a large audience was assembled. As I learned that all the roads in Northern Iowa were blocked, I made the entire circuit, from point to point, in a sleigh, traveling forty and fifty miles a day.
At the Sherman House, in Chicago, three weeks later, I met Mr. Bradlaugh and General Kilpatrick, who were advertised on the same route ahead of me. "Well," said I, "where have you gentlemen been?" "Waiting here for the roads to be opened. We have lost three weeks' engagements," they replied. As the General was lecturing on his experiences in Sherman's march to the sea, I chaffed him on not being able, in an emergency, to march across the State of Iowa. They were much astonished and somewhat ashamed, when I told them of my long, solitary drives over the prairies from day to day. It was the testimony of all the bureaus that the women could endure more fatigue and were more conscientious than the men in filling their appointments.
The pleasant feature of these trips was the great educational work accomplished for the people through their listening to lectures on all the vital questions of the hour. Wherever any of us chanced to be on Sunday, we preached in some church; and wherever I had a spare afternoon, I talked to women alone, on marriage, maternity, and the laws of life and health. We made many most charming acquaintances, too, scattered all over our Western World, and saw how comfortable and happy sensible people could be, living in most straitened circumstances, with none of the luxuries of life. If most housekeepers could get rid of one-half their clothes and furniture and put their bric-a-brac in the town museum, life would be simplified and they would begin to know what leisure means. When I see so many of our American women struggling to be artists, who cannot make a good loaf of bread nor a palatable cup of coffee, I think of what Theodore Parker said when art was a craze in Boston. "The fine arts do not interest me so much as the coarse arts which feed, clothe, house, and comfort a people. I would rather be a great man like Franklin than a Michael Angelo–nay, if I had a son, I should rather see him a mechanic, like the late George Stephenson, in England, than a great painter like Rubens, who only copied beauty."
One day I found at the office of the Revolution an invitation to meet Mrs. Moulton in the Academy of Music, where she was to try her voice for the coming concert for the benefit of the Woman's Medical College. And what a voice for power, pathos, pliability! I never heard the like. Seated beside her mother, Mrs. W. H. Greenough, I enjoyed alike the mother's anxious pride and the daughter's triumph. I felt, as I listened, the truth of what Vieuxtemps said the first time he heard her, "That is the traditional voice for which the ages have waited and longed." When, on one occasion, Mrs. Moulton sang a song of Mozart's to Auber's accompaniment, someone present asked, "What could be added to make this more complete?" Auber looked up to heaven, and, with a sweet smile, said, "Nothing but that Mozart should have been here to listen." Looking and listening, "Here," thought I, "is another jewel in the crown of womanhood, to radiate and glorify the lives of all." I have such an intense pride of sex that the triumphs of woman in art, literature, oratory, science or song rouse my enthusiasm as nothing else can.
Hungering, that day, for gifted women, I called on Alice and Phebe Cary and Mary Clemmer Ames, and together we gave the proud white male such a serving up as did our souls good and could not hurt him, intrenched, as he is, behind creeds, codes, customs, and constitutions, with vizor and breastplate of self-complacency and conceit. In criticising Jessie Boucherett's essay on "Superfluous Women," in which she advises men in England to emigrate in order to leave room and occupation for women, the Tribune said: "The idea of a home without a man in it!" In visiting the Carys one always felt that there was a home–a very charming one, too–without a man in it.
Once when Harriet Beecher Stowe was at Dr. Taylor's, I had the opportunity to make her acquaintance. In her sanctum, surrounded by books and papers, she was just finishing her second paper on the Byron family, and her sister Catherine was preparing papers on her educational work, preparatory to a coming meeting of the ladies of the school board. The women of the Beecher family, though most of them wives and mothers, all had a definite life-work outside the family circle, and other objects of intense interest besides husbands, babies, cook stoves, and social conversations. Catherine said she was opposed to woman suffrage, and if she thought there was the least danger of our getting it, she would write and talk against it vehemently. But, as the nation was safe against such a calamity, she was willing to let the talk go on, because the agitation helped her work. "It is rather paradoxical," I said to her, "that the pressing of a false principle can help a true one; but when you get the women all thoroughly educated, they will step off to the polls and vote in spite of you."
One night on the train from New York to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, I found abundant time to think over the personal peculiarities of the many noble women who adorn this nineteenth century, and, as I recalled them, one by one, in America, England, France, and Germany, and all that they are doing and saying, I wondered that any man could be so blind as not to see that woman has already taken her place as the peer of man. While the lords of creation have been debating her sphere and drawing their chalk marks here and there, woman has quietly stepped outside the barren fields where she has been compelled to graze for centuries, and is now in green pastures and beside still waters, a power in the world of thought.
These pleasant cogitations were cut short by my learning that I had taken the wrong train, and must change at Harrisburg at two o'clock in the morning. How soon the reflection that I must leave my comfortable berth at such an unchristian hour changed the whole hue of glorious womanhood and every other earthly blessing! However, I lived through the trial and arrived at Williamsport as the day dawned. I had a good audience at the opera house that evening, and was introduced to many agreeable people, who declared themselves converted to woman suffrage by my ministrations. Among the many new jewels in my crown, I added, that night, Judge Bently.
In November, 1869, I passed one night in Philadelphia, with Miss Anthony, at Anna Dickinson's home–a neat, three-story brick house in Locust Street. This haven of rest, where the world-famous little woman came, ever and anon, to recruit her overtaxed energies, was very tastefully furnished, adorned with engravings, books, and statuary. Her mother, sister, and brother made up the household–a pleasing, cultivated trio. The brother was a handsome youth of good judgment, and given to sage remarks; the sister, witty, intuitive, and incisive in speech; the mother, dressed in rich Quaker costume, and though nearly seventy, still possessed of great personal beauty. She was intelligent, refined, and in manner and appearance, reminded one of Angelina Grimké as she looked in her younger days. Everything about the house and its appointments indicated that it was the abode of genius and cultivation, and, although Anna was absent, the hospitalities were gracefully dispensed by her family. Napoleon and Shakespeare seemed to be Anna's patron saints, looking down, on all sides, from the wall. The mother amused us with the sore trials her little orator had inflicted on the members of the household by her vagaries in the world of fame.
On the way to Kennett Square, a young gentleman pointed out to us the home of Benjamin West, who distinguished himself, to the disgust of broadbrims generally, as a landscape painter. In commencing his career, it is said he made use of the tail of a cat in lieu of a brush. Of course Benjamin's first attempts were on the sly, and he could not ask paterfamilias for money to buy a brush without encountering the good man's scorn. Whether in the hour of his need and fresh enthusiasm, poor puss was led to the sacrificial altar, or whether he found her reposing by the roadside, having paid the debt of Nature, our informant could not say; enough that, in time, he owned a brush and immortalized himself by his skill in its use. Such erratic ones as Whittier, West, and Anna Dickinson go to prove that even the prim, proper, perfect Quakers are subject to like infirmities with the rest of the human family.
I had long heard of the "Progressive Friends" in the region around Longwood; had read the many bulls they issued from their "yearly meetings" on every question, on war, capital punishment, temperance, slavery, woman's rights; had learned that they were turning the cold shoulder on the dress, habits, and opinions of their Fathers; listening to the ministrations of such worldlings as William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Tilton, and Oliver Johnson, in a new meeting house, all painted and varnished, with cushions, easy seats, carpets, stoves, a musical instrument–shade of George Fox, forgive–and three brackets with vases on the "high seat," and, more than all that, men and women were indiscriminately seated throughout the house.
All this Miss Anthony and I beheld with our own eyes, and, in company with Sarah Pugh and Chandler Darlington, did sit together in the high seat and talk in the congregation of the people. There, too, we met Hannah Darlington and Dinah Mendenhall,–names long known in every good work,–and, for the space of one day, did enjoy the blissful serenity of that earthly paradise. The women of Kennett Square were celebrated not only for their model housekeeping but also for their rare cultivation on all subjects of general interest.
In November I again started on one of my Western trips, but, alas! on the very day the trains were changed, and so I could not make connections to meet my engagements at Saginaw and Marshall, and just saved myself at Toledo by going directly from the cars before the audience, with the dust of twenty-four hours' travel on my garments. Not being able to reach Saginaw, I went straight to Ann Arbor, and spent three days most pleasantly in visiting old friends, making new ones, and surveying the town, with its grand University. I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Mr. Seaman, a highly cultivated Democratic editor, author of "Progress of Nations." A choice number of guests gathered round his hospitable board on that occasion, over which his wife presided with dignity and grace. Woman suffrage was the target for the combined wit and satire of the company, and, after four hours of uninterrupted sharpshooting, pyrotechnics, and laughter, we dispersed to our several abodes, fairly exhausted with the excess of entertainment.
One gentleman had the moral hardihood to assert that men had more endurance than women, whereupon a lady remarked that she would like to see the thirteen hundred young men in the University laced up in steel-ribbed corsets, with hoops, heavy skirts, trains, high heels, panniers, chignons, and dozens of hairpins sticking in their scalps, cooped up in the house year after year, with no exhilarating exercise, no hopes, aims, nor ambitions in life, and know if they could stand it as well as the girls. "Nothing," said she, "but the fact that women, like cats, have nine lives, enables them to survive the present régime to which custom dooms the sex."
While in Ann Arbor I gave my lecture on "Our Girls" in the new Methodist church–a large building, well lighted, and filled with a brilliant audience. The students, in large numbers, were there, and strengthened the threads of my discourse with frequent and generous applause; especially when I urged on the Regents of the University the duty of opening its doors to the daughters of the State. There were several splendid girls in Michigan, at that time, preparing themselves for admission to the law department. As Judge Cooley, one of the professors, was a very liberal man, as well as a sound lawyer, and strongly in favor of opening the college to girls, I had no doubt the women of Michigan would soon distinguish themselves at the bar. Some said the chief difficulty in the way of the girls of that day being admitted to the University was the want of room. That could have been easily obviated by telling the young men from abroad to betake themselves to the colleges in their respective States, that Michigan might educate her daughters. As the women owned a good share of the property of the State, and had been heavily taxed to build and endow that institution, it was but fair that they should share in its advantages.
The Michigan University, with its extensive grounds, commodious buildings, medical and law schools, professors' residences, and the finest laboratory in the country, was an institution of which the State was justly proud, and, as long as the tuition was free, it was worth the trouble of a long, hard, siege by the girls of Michigan to gain admittance there. I advised them to organize their forces at once, get their minute guns, battering rams, monitors, projectiles, bombshells, cannon, torpedoes, and crackers ready, and keep up a brisk cannonading until the grave and reverend seigniors opened the door, and shouted, "Hold, enough!"
The ladies of Ann Arbor had a fine library of their own, where their clubs met once a week. They had just formed a suffrage association. My visit ended with a pleasant reception, at which I was introduced to the chaplain, several professors, and many ladies and gentlemen ready to accept the situation. Judge Cooley gave me a glowing account of the laws of Michigan–how easy it was for wives to get possession of all the property, and then sunder the marriage tie and leave the poor husband to the charity of the cold world, with their helpless children about him. I heard of a rich lady, there, who made a will, giving her husband a handsome annuity as long as he remained her widower. It was evident that the poor "white male," sooner or later, was doomed to try for himself the virtue of the laws he had made for women. I hope, for the sake of the race, he will not bear oppression with the stupid fortitude we have for six thousand years.
At Flint I was entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Jenny. Mr. Jenny was a Democratic editor who believed in progress, and in making smooth paths for women in this great wilderness of life. His wife was a remarkable woman. She inaugurated the Ladies' Libraries in Michigan. In Flint they had a fine brick building and nearly two thousand volumes of choice books, owned by the association, and money always in the treasury. Here, too, I had a fine audience and gave my lecture entitled "Open the Door."
At Coldwater, in spite of its name, I found a warm, appreciative audience. The president of the lyceum was a sensible young man who, after graduating at Ann Arbor, decided, instead of starving at the law, to work with his hands and brains at the same time. When all men go to their legitimate business of creating wealth, developing the resources of the country, and leave its mere exchange to the weaker sex, we shall not have so many superfluous women in the world with nothing to do. It is evident the time has come to hunt man into his appropriate sphere. Coming from Chicago, I met Governor Fairchild and Senator Williams of Wisconsin. It was delightful to find them thoroughly grounded in the faith of woman suffrage. They had been devout readers of the Revolution ever since Miss Anthony induced them to subscribe, the winter before, at Madison. Of course a new glow of intelligence irradiated their fine faces (for they were remarkably handsome men) and there was a new point to all their words. Senator Williams, like myself, was on a lecturing tour. "Man" was his theme, for which I was devoutly thankful; for, if there are any of God's creatures that need lecturing, it is this one that is forever advising us. I thought of all men, from Father Gregory down to Horace Bushnell, who had wearied their brains to describe woman's sphere, and how signally they had failed.
Throughout my lyceum journeys I was of great use to the traveling public, in keeping the ventilators in the cars open, and the dampers in fiery stoves shut up, especially in sleeping cars at night. How many times a day I thought what the sainted Horace Mann tried to impress on his stupid countrymen, that, inasmuch as the air is forty miles deep around the globe, it is a useless piece of economy to breathe any number of cubic feet over more than seven times! The babies, too, need to be thankful that I was in a position to witness their wrongs. Many, through my intercession, received their first drink of water, and were emancipated from woolen hoods, veils, tight strings under their chins, and endless swaddling bands. It is a startling assertion, but true, that I have met few women who know how to take care of a baby. And this fact led me, on one trip, to lecture to my fair countrywomen on "Marriage and Maternity," hoping to aid in the inauguration of a new era of happy, healthy babies.
After twenty-four hours in the express I found myself in a pleasant room in the International Hotel at La Crosse, looking out on the Great Mother of Waters, on whose cold bosom the ice and the steamers were struggling for mastery. Beyond stretched the snow-clad bluffs, sternly looking down on the Mississippi, as if to say, "'Thus far shalt thou come and no farther'–though sluggish, you are aggressive, ever pushing where you should not; but all attempts in this direction are alike vain; since creation's dawn, we have defied you, and here we stand, to-day, calm, majestic, immovable. Coquette as you will in other latitudes, with flowery banks and youthful piers in the busy marts of trade, and undermine them, one and all, with your deceitful wooings, but bow in reverence as you gaze on us. We have no eyes for your beauty; no ears for your endless song; our heads are in the clouds, our hearts commune with the gods; you have no part in the eternal problems of the ages that fill our thoughts, yours the humble duty to wash our feet, and then pass on, remembering to keep in your appropriate sphere, within the barks that wise geographers have seen fit to mark."
As I listened to these complacent hills and watched the poor Mississippi weeping as she swept along, to lose her sorrows in ocean's depths, I thought how like the attitude of man to woman. Let these proud hills remember that they, too, slumbered for centuries in deep valleys down, down, when, perchance, the sparkling Mississippi rolled above their heads, and but for some generous outburst, some upheaval of old Mother Earth, wishing that her rock-ribbed sons, as well as graceful daughters, might enjoy the light, the sunshine and the shower–but for this soul of love in matter as well as mind–these bluffs and the sons of Adam, too, might not boast the altitude they glory in to-day. Those who have ears to hear discern low, rumbling noises that foretell convulsions in our social world that may, perchance, in the next upheaval, bring woman to the surface; up, up, from gloomy ocean depths, dark caverns, and damper valleys. The struggling daughters of earth are soon to walk in the sunlight of a higher civilization.
Escorted by Mr. Woodward, a member of the bar, I devoted a day to the lions of La Crosse. First we explored the courthouse, a large, new brick building, from whose dome we had a grand view of the surrounding country. The courtroom where justice is administered was large, clean, airy–the bench carpeted and adorned with a large, green, stuffed chair, in which I sat down, and, in imagination, summoned up advocates, jurors, prisoners, and people, and wondered how I should feel pronouncing sentence of death on a fellow-being, or, like Portia, wisely checkmating the Shylocks of our times. Here I met Judge Hugh Cameron, formerly of Johnstown. He invited us into his sanctum, where we had a pleasant chat about our native hills, Scotch affiliations, the bench and bar of New York, and the Wisconsin laws for women. The Judge, having maintained a happy bachelor state, looked placidly on the aggressive movements of the sex, as his domestic felicity would be no way affected, whether the woman was voted up or down.
We next surveyed the Pomeroy building, which contained a large, tastefully finished hall and printing establishment, where the La Crosse Democrat was formerly published. As I saw the perfection, order, and good taste, in all arrangements throughout, and listened to Mr. Huron's description of the life and leading characteristics of its chief, it seemed impossible to reconcile the tone of the Democrat with the moral status of its editor. I never saw a more complete business establishment, and the editorial sanctum looked as if it might be the abiding place of the Muses. Mirrors, pictures, statuary, books, music, rare curiosities, and fine specimens of birds and minerals were everywhere. Over the editor's table was a beautiful painting of his youthful daughter, whose flaxen hair, blue eyes, and angelic face should have inspired a father to nobler, purer, utterances than he was wont, at that time, to give to the world.
But Pomeroy's good deeds will live long after his profane words are forgotten. Throughout the establishment cards, set up in conspicuous places, said, "Smoking here is positively forbidden." Drinking, too, was forbidden to all his employés. The moment a man was discovered using intoxicating drinks, he was dismissed. In the upper story of the building was a large, pleasant room, handsomely carpeted and furnished, where the employés, in their leisure hours, could talk, write, read, or amuse themselves in any rational way.
Mr. Pomeroy was humane and generous with his employés, honorable in his business relations, and boundless in his charities to the poor. His charity, business honor, and public spirit were highly spoken of by those who knew him best. That a journal does not always reflect the editor is as much the fault of society as of the man. So long as the public will pay for gross personalities, obscenity, and slang, decent journals will be outbidden in the market. The fact that the La Crosse Democrat found a ready sale in all parts of the country showed that Mr. Pomeroy fairly reflected the popular taste. While multitudes turned up the whites of their eyes and denounced him in public, they bought his paper and read it in private.
I left La Crosse in a steamer, just as the rising sun lighted the hilltops and gilded the Mississippi. It was a lovely morning, and, in company with a young girl of sixteen, who had traveled alone from some remote part of Canada, bound for a northern village in Wisconsin, I promenaded the deck most of the way to Winona, a pleased listener to the incidents of my young companion's experiences. She said that, when crossing Lake Huron, she was the only woman on board, but the men were so kind and civil that she soon forgot she was alone. I found many girls, traveling long distances, who had never been five miles from home before, with a self-reliance that was remarkable. They all spoke in the most flattering manner of the civility of our American men in looking after their baggage and advising them as to the best routes.
As you approach St. Paul, at Fort Snelling, where the Mississippi and Minnesota join forces, the country grows bold and beautiful. The town itself, then boasting about thirty thousand inhabitants, is finely situated, with substantial stone residences. It was in one of these charming homes I found a harbor of rest during my stay in the city. Mrs. Stuart, whose hospitalities I enjoyed, was a woman of rare common sense and sound health. Her husband, Dr. Jacob H. Stuart, was one of the very first surgeons to volunteer in the late war. In the panic at Bull Run, instead of running, as everybody else did, he stayed with the wounded, and was taken prisoner while taking a bullet from the head of a rebel. When exchanged, Beauregard gave him his sword for his devotion to the dying and wounded.
I had the pleasure of seeing several of the leading gentlemen and ladies of St. Paul at the Orphans' Fair, where we all adjourned, after my lecture, to discuss woman's rights, over a bounteous supper. Here I met William L. Banning, the originator of the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad. He besieged Congress and capitalists for a dozen years to build this road, but was laughed at and put off with sneers and contempt, until, at last, Jay Cooke became so weary of his continual coming that he said: "I will build the road to get rid of you."
Whittier seems to have had a prophetic vision of the peopling of this region. When speaking of the Yankee, he says:
"He's whittling by St. Mary's Falls,
Upon his loaded wain;
He's measuring o'er the Pictured Rocks,
With eager eyes of gain.
"I hear the mattock in the mine,
The ax-stroke in the dell,
The clamor from the Indian lodge,
The Jesuits' chapel bell!
"I hear the tread of pioneers
Of nations yet to be;
The first low wash of waves, where soon
Shall roll a human sea."
The opening of these new outlets and mines of wealth was wholly due to the forecast and perseverance of Mr. Banning. The first engine that went over a part of the road had been christened at St. Paul, with becoming ceremonies; the officiating priestess being a beautiful maiden. A cask of water from the Pacific was sent by Mr. Banning's brother from California, and a small keg was brought from Lake Superior for the occasion. A glass was placed in the hands of Miss Ella B. Banning, daughter of the president, who then christened the engine, saying: "With the waters of the Pacific Ocean in my right hand, and the waters of Lake Superior in my left, invoking the Genius of Progress to bring together, with iron band, two great commercial systems of the globe, I dedicate this engine to the use of the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad, and name it William L. Banning."
From St. Paul to Dubuque, as the boats had ceased running, a circuitous route and a night of discomfort were inevitable. Leaving the main road to Chicago at Clinton Junction, I had the pleasure of waiting at a small country inn until midnight for a freight train. This was indeed dreary, but, having Mrs. Child's sketches of Mmes. De Staël and Roland at hand, I read of Napoleon's persecutions of the one and Robespierre's of the other, until, by comparison, my condition was tolerable, and the little meagerly furnished room, with its dull fire and dim lamp, seemed a paradise compared with years of exile from one's native land or the prison cell and guillotine. How small our ordinary, petty trials seem in contrast with the mountains of sorrow that have been piled up on the great souls of the past! Absorbed in communion with them twelve o'clock soon came, and with it the train.
A burly son of Adam escorted me to the passenger car filled with German immigrants, with tin cups, babies, bags, and bundles innumerable. The ventilators were all closed, the stoves hot, and the air was like that of the Black Hole of Calcutta. So, after depositing my cloak and bag in an empty seat, I quietly propped both doors open with a stick of wood, shut up the stoves, and opened all the ventilators with the poker. But the celestial breeze, so grateful to me, had the most unhappy effect on the slumbering exiles. Paterfamilias swore outright; the companion of his earthly pilgrimage said, "We must be going north," and, as the heavy veil of carbonic acid gas was lifted from infant faces, and the pure oxygen filled their lungs and roused them to new life, they set up one simultaneous shout of joy and gratitude, which their parents mistook for agony. Altogether there was a general stir. As I had quietly slipped into my seat and laid my head down to sleep, I remained unobserved–the innocent cause of the general purification and vexation.
We reached Freeport at three o'clock in the morning. As the dépot for Dubuque was nearly half a mile on the other side of the town, I said to a solitary old man who stood shivering there to receive us, "How can I get to the other station?" "Walk, madam." "But I do not know the way." "There is no one to go with you." "How is my trunk going?" said I. "I have a donkey and cart to take that." "Then," said I, "you, the donkey, the trunk, and I will go together." So I stepped into the cart, sat down on the trunk, and the old man laughed heartily as we jogged along through the mud of that solitary town in the pale morning starlight. Just as the day was dawning, Dubuque, with its rough hills and bold scenery, loomed up. Soon, under the roof of Myron Beach, one of the distinguished lawyers of the West, with a good breakfast and sound nap, my night's sorrows were forgotten.
I was sorry to find that Mrs. Beach, though a native of New York, and born on the very spot where the first woman's rights convention was held in this country, was not sound on the question of woman suffrage. She seemed to have an idea that voting and housekeeping could not be compounded; but I suggested that, if the nation could only enjoy a little of the admirable system with which she and other women administered their domestic affairs, Uncle Sam's interests would be better secured. This is just what the nation needs to-day, and women must wake up to the consideration that they, too, have duties as well as rights in the State. A splendid audience greeted me in the Opera House, and I gave "Our Girls," bringing many male sinners to repentance, and stirring up some lethargic femmes coverts to a state of rebellion against the existing order of things.
From Dubuque I went to Dixon, a large town, where I met a number of pleasant people, but I have one cause of complaint against the telegraph operator, whose negligence to send a dispatch to Mt. Vernon, written and paid for, came near causing me a solitary night on the prairie, unsheltered and unknown. Hearing that the express train went out Sunday afternoon, I decided to go, so as to have all day at Mt. Vernon before speaking; but on getting my trunk checked, the baggageman said the train did not stop there. "Well," said I, "check the trunk to the nearest point at which it does stop," resolving that I would persuade the conductor to stop one minute, anyway. Accordingly, when the conductor came round, I presented my case as persuasively and eloquently as possible, telling him that I had telegraphed friends to meet me, etc., etc. He kindly consented to do so and had my trunk rechecked. On arriving, as there was no light, no sound, and the depot was half a mile from the town, the conductor urged me to go to Cedar Rapids and come back the next morning, as it was Sunday night and the dépot might not be opened, and I might be compelled to stay there on the platform all night in the cold.
But, as I had telegraphed, I told him I thought someone would be there, and I would take the risk. So off went the train, leaving me solitary and alone. I could see the lights in the distant town and the dark outlines of two great mills near by, which suggested dams and races. I heard, too, the distant barking of dogs, and I thought there might be wolves, too; but no human sound. The platform was high and I could see no way down, and I should not have dared to go down if I had. So I walked all round the house, knocked at every door and window, called "John!" "James!" "Patrick!" but no response. Dressed in all their best, they had, no doubt, gone to visit Sally, and I knew they would stay late. The night wind was cold. What could I do? The prospect of spending the night there filled me with dismay. At last I thought I would try my vocal powers; so I hallooed as loud as I could, in every note of the gamut, until I was hoarse. At last I heard a distant sound, a loud halloo, which I returned, and so we kept it up until the voice grew near, and, when I heard a man's heavy footsteps close at hand, I was relieved. He proved to be the telegraph operator, who had been a brave soldier in the late war. He said that no message had come from Dixon. He escorted me to the hotel, where some members of the Lyceum Committee came in and had a hearty laugh at my adventure, especially that, in my distress, I should have called on James and John and Patrick, instead of Jane, Ann, and Bridget. They seemed to argue that that was an admission, on my part, of man's superiority, but I suggested that, as my sex had not yet been exalted to the dignity of presiding in dépots and baggage rooms, there would have been no propriety in calling Jane and Ann.
Mt. Vernon was distinguished for a very flourishing Methodist college, open to boys and girls alike. The president and his wife were liberal and progressive people. I dined with them in their home near the college, and met some young ladies from Massachusetts, who were teachers in the institution. All who gathered round the social board on that occasion were of one mind on the woman question. Even the venerable mother of the president seemed to light up with the discussion of the theme. I gave "Our Girls" in the Methodist church, and took the opportunity to compliment them for taking the word "obey" out of their marriage ceremony. I heard the most encouraging reports of the experiment of educating the sexes together. It was the rule in all the Methodist institutions in Iowa, and I found that the young gentlemen fully approved of it.
At Mt. Vernon I also met Mr. Wright, former Secretary of State, who gave me several interesting facts in regard to the women of Iowa. The State could boast one woman who was an able lawyer, Mrs. Mansfield. Mrs. Berry and Mrs. Stebbins were notaries public. Miss Addington was superintendent of schools in Mitchell County. She was nominated by a convention in opposition to a Mr. Brown. When the vote was taken, lo! there was a tie. Mr. Brown offered to yield through courtesy, but she declined; so they drew lots and Miss Addington was the victor. She once made an abstract of titles of all the lands in the county where she lived, and had received an appointment to office from the Governor of the State, who requested the paper to be made out "L." instead of Laura Addington. He said it was enough for Iowa to appoint women to such offices, without having it known the world over. I was sorry to tell the Governor's secrets,–which I did everywhere,–but the cause of womanhood made it necessary.
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