30th Anniversary of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Concert Hall, Philadelphia, December 3–4, 1863
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144 American Anti-Slavery Society, 1863 3. On August 6, 1861, adopting the policy of General Benjamin Butler (1818–93) at Fort Monroe, Virginia, which declared fleeing slaves to be “contraband of war,” Congress passed the First Confiscation Act, allowing the Union army to employ fugitives and disregard slave owners’ claims. As a result, the word “contraband” became a synonym for “freed people.” 30th Anniversary of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Concert Hall, Philadelphia, December 3–4, 1863 [December 3 Session] I deem it but just to state, that although we [women] were not recognized as a part of the Convention [of 1833] by signing the document, yet every courtesy was shown to us, every encouragement to speak, or to make any suggestions of alterations in the document, or any others.1 I do not think it occurred to any one of us at that time, that there would be a propriety in our signing the document. In the evening, at our house, I remember a conversation with our friend SAMUEL J. MAY, in the course of which I remarked, that we could not expect that women should be fully recognized in such assemblages as that, while the monopoly of the pulpit existed. It was with diffidence, I acknowledge, that I ventured to express what had been near to my heart for so many years, for I knew that we were there by sufferance. It was after the Convention had gathered on the second day, that the invitation was sent out. THOMAS WHITSON2 came to our house with an invitation to women to come there as spectators or as listeners. I felt such a desire that others than those assembled at our own house should hear, that I wanted to go here and there, and notify persons to go; but I was asked not to use up the whole morning in notifying others, for we must try and be there ourselves. When I rose to speak, with the knowledge that we were there by sufferance, and it would be only a liberty granted that I should attempt to express myself, such was the readiness with which that freedom was granted, that it inspired me with a little more boldness to speak on other subjects. When this Declaration, that has been read to us here to-day, and that we have so often delighted to hear, was under consideration, and we were considering our principles and our intended measures of action; when our friends felt that they were planting themselves on the truths of Divine Revelation, and on the Declaration of Independence, as an Everlasting Rock, it seemed to me, as I heard it read, that the climax would be better to transpose the sentence, and place the Declaration of Independence first, and the truths of Divine Revelations last, as the Everlasting Rock; and I proposed it.3 I remember one of the younger members, DANIEL E. JEWETT,4 turning to see what woman there was there who knew what the word “transpose” meant. (Laughter.) It has been honestly confessed that there was not, at that time, a conception of the rights of woman. Indeed, women little knew their influence, or the proper exercise of their own rights. I remember that it was urged upon us, immediately after that Convention, to form a Female Anti-Slavery Society; and at that time, I American Anti-Slavery Society, 1863 145 had no idea of the meaning of preambles and resolutions and votings. Women had never been in any assemblies of the kind. I had only attended one Convention—a Convention of colored people in this State5 —before that; and that was the first time in my life I had ever heard a vote taken, being accustomed to our Quaker way of getting the prevailing sentiment of the meeting. When, a short time after, we came together to form the [Philadelphia] Female Anti-Slavery Society, which I am rejoiced to say is still extant, still flourishing, there was not a woman capable of taking the chair, and organizing that meeting in due order; and we had to call on JAMES McCRUMMELL, a colored man, to give us aid in the work.6 You know that at that time, and even to the present day, negroes, idiots and women were in legal documents classed together; so that we were very glad to get one of our own class (laughter) to come and aid us in forming that Society. [December 4 Session] When I see these...