John Greenleaf Whittier.
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AMESBURY, MASS., 12th, 8th Month, 1869.
I HAVE received thy letter inviting me to attend the Convention in behalf of Woman's Suffrage,
at Newport, R. I., on the 25th inst. I do not see how it is possible for me to accept the invitation;
and, were I to do so, the state of my health would preven t me from taking such a part in the
meeting as would relieve me- from the responsibility of seeming to sanction anything in its action
which might conflict with my own views of duty or policy. Yet I should do myself great injustice
if I did not embrace t his occasion to express my general sympathy with the movement. I have
seen no good reason why mothers, wives, and daughters should not have the same right of
person, property, and citizenship which fathers, husbands, and brothers have.
The sacred memory of mother and sister; the wisdom.and dignity of women of my own religious
communion who have been accustomed to something like equality in rights as well as duties; my
experience as a co-worker with noble and self sacrificing women, as graceful and helpful in their
household duties as firm and courageous in their public advocacy of unpopular truth; the steady
friendships which have inspired and strengthened me, and the reverence and respect which I feel
for human nature, irrespective o f sex, compel me to look with something more than acquiescence
on the efforts you are making. I frankly confess that I am not able to forsee all the consequences
of the great social and political change proposed, but of this I am, at least, sure, it is a lways safe
to do right, and the truest expediency is simple justice. I can understand, without sharing, the
misgivings of those who fear that, when the vote drops from woman's hand into the ballot-box,
the beauty and sentiment, the bloom and sweetness, o f womankind will go with it. But in this
matter it seems to me that we can trust Nature. Stronger than statutes or conventions, she will be
conservative of all that the true man loves and honors in woman. Here and there may be found an
equivocal, unsexed Chevalier D'Eon, but the eternal order and fitness of things will remain. I have
no fear that man will be less manly or woman less womanly when they meet on terms of equality
before the law.
On the other hand, I do not see that the exercise of the ballot by woman will prove a remedy for
all the evils of which she justly complains. It is her right as truly as mine, and when she asks for it,
it is something less than manhood to withhold it. Bu t, unsupported by a more practical education,
higher aims, and a deeper sense of the responsibilities of life and duty, it is not likely to prove a
blessing in her hands any more than in man's.
With great respect and hearty sympathy, I am very truly thy friend.