- Excerpt From Laura Curtis Bullard's WritingsFrom "The Field is the World," Chapter 20 of Christine: or, Woman's Trials and Triumphs (1856)
[In this excerpt, Christine tells her Aunt Julia Frothingham that she plans to become a woman's rights lecturer. Christine has been living with her wealthy aunt, but then at the end of the chapter moves to the home of a sympathetic friend, Mrs. Warner.]
It was with a faint heart, though, to all appearances, outwardly calm, that Christine entered the library, where Mrs. Frothingham was seated.
How could she tell that lovely woman, who had so schooled herself in the ways of the world that any deviation from its strictest proprieties she regarded almost as a sin—that she, her niece, was about to break through all conventionalities—that she was about to devote herself to what her aunt would consider the most absurd of all Quixotic schemes? But it must be done, and in a few brief words, Christine announced her determination.
Julia looked at her a moment, fixedly. "What did you say? I did not fully understand," she said—and poor Christine was obliged to repeat all that she had before uttered.
"Christine Elliot, you are insane!" was Mrs. Frothingham's reply. "You are fit for nothing but a lunatic asylum. A lecturer! A woman's rights lecturer! What wild notion will you get next into that foolish head of yours?" and she laughed, a scornful laugh that abashed her niece not a little.
"You, with your pale face, now crimsoned with blushes, and your slight figure, trembling with agitation before one auditor, you think of facing an audience and lecturing them? Poor baby! Let other women unsex themselves if they will, do you banish all such thoughts from your mind, and I will forget all this rhapsody, and some of these days you will laugh with me at your crack-brained scheme."
But Christine, during this time, had recovered herself, and again firmly declared her fixed determination to devote herself to this work. She grew excited, as she went on to speak of the hardships of the poor, the few employments open to women, and the injustice of the small pay they received; she pictured the idle aimless life of the rich, and then contrasted all this with what might be. She drew up her slight form to its fullest height, her eyes flashed, her voice rung out full and clear, as she described the woman of her imagination, a being fully developed, mentally, morally, and physically, as God intended her to be.
Even Julia was astonished at the eloquence of her words; new thoughts filled her mind, but she would not allow her niece to see the impression she made.
"I see," she said, "that your mule-like obstinacy, with which I have already had sufficient experience, has settled on this hobby. It is useless for me to argue with a young lady who considers herself infallible—who has voices in her [End Page 83] heart, and sees paths of duty in which she must walk! Who should presume to dictate to such a highly-favored young woman? No, Christine Elliot, I have done with you for ever," she went on; "you have been a constant annoyance, a thorn in the flesh to me, ever since we met...."
Meanwhile, Christine worked day and night on her essay, and to Mrs. Frothingham's unspeakable horror, placards, posted upon the walls and fences, in a day or two, announced the forthcoming lecture.
All the town was in a ferment, and most assuredly Mrs. Frothingham would have laid violent hands upon her niece, and put a stop to the lecture by summarily sending off the lecturer, had she not prudently taken refuge in the house of Mrs. Warner.
Mrs. Frothingham was almost frantic with passion, but what could she do? She could not drag her from Mrs. Warner's, though she felt very much like doing so; she must let her take her own course.