The Independent
New York: 16 February 1854


  WE find nothing in the following circular, issued by the committee whose names are affixed, and sent to us in common, we presume, with most of our contemporaries of the press, to which those most sensitive on the subject of Woman's Rights should at all object. It does not seem to us that the character of Woman in this country is ever to be improved or elevated, by a general engagement of the sex in political contests, or even in public and forensic efforts in the cause of Reform. On the contrary, we prefer,--being fastidious enough on this point to satisfy the most scrupulous adherent to old fashions, and being brought by our instincts into company with persons, the odor of whose sentiments on other subjects is not very attractive, and has made us more than once reëxamine these views, suspicious of their soundness,--that the public forensic career be left to men; and that the gifted women of our time be content to cherish at home, and to express otherwise than by harangues, that refinement of taste, that delicacy of moral sensibility, and that exquisitely elevated and unworldly character, which is the glory of their sex, and which will most surely exalt and purify the character and reform the action of those connected with them, and thus, at last, of society at large. The wife of the Ohio Senator--Mrs. Bell, was the name?--in Uncle Tom's Cabin, is a woman after our own heart in this respect; and we would that her example were universally followed.

  We never expect to give up, or materially to change the belief--it is philosophical as well as scriptural, and has been rooted from the days of Eden to the days of New-York in the heart of the world--that there is sex in souls; that human society is organically bifold, a globe with two hemispheres; and that the sphere of public action is for Man, as the rougher and more muscular half of Humanity; the HOME, with its engrossing yet rewarding cares, its boundless opportunities of culture and of influence, being the true and noble domain of Woman. It is true of individuals that there the spiritual union is more complete, and the happiness greater, where the vigorous and the delicate are affectionately combined; where the inventive, sensitive, thoughtful and loving woman is made one with the resolute, persistent, and executive man; her delicacy blending with his energy; and his public life diffusing from all its course the aromatic influence of her unseen, and wifely charities. In such a union Poetry finds its ideal; Religion its home; the Earth its nearest approach to Paradise. And what is true of individuals, is true as well of society at large. Its perfection requires the parity of the sexes, but not their moral or political confusion; that each be held in honor, but not that the specific mental and spiritual differences between them be obliterated or ignored.

  But while this is true, it is true also, and as unquestionably, that much is to be done, much ought to be done at once, in our own land and time, toward securing the rights, rewarding the efforts, and developing the powers of the female sex. The circular which we append, judiciously systematizes its inquiries concerning the present social condition of American women, under two heads; the first, their Educational opportunities; the second, their Business opportunities; and under each of these heads it solicits the amplest communication of facts from those who possess them. We hope it will be generally and intelligently responded to, and that all possessing such knowledge as is sought will be prompt to verify, arrange, and forward it. The essays written upon the basis of these facts may not altogether command our assent; of their merit or demerit it will be time enough to judge when they have appeared. But the facts sought, when obtained and collated, will be useful to all; and if the treatise or essay reader upon them or about them, by induction or by speculation, be not what it should be, it will be for others to show that it is not, and to put in place of it one better and more convincing. Let us have all the facts, then; as to the chances which women have in this country for educating their powers according to the law impressed on them by the Creator, and then for using these powers so as to preserve themselves from dependence or want, and to exert the most salutary influence on their times. We cheerfully add the circular:


  AT the Cleveland Woman's Rights Convention, the undersigned were appointed a committee to obtain the preparation of two essays, one on the Educational Opportunities of American Women, and one on their Business Opportunities.

  Even a superficial discharge of this duty must involve a wider investigation of facts, than is possible for any one person. Agents have therefore been already engaged in several of the States, to make inquiries. It is impossible, however, to do the whole work even in this manner; and the Committee therefore respectfully ask the voluntary coöperation of all who are interested in elevating the position of woman.

  The following are the points on which information is especially solicited:

I. Educational Opportunities of American Women.

(a) State legislation respecting Female Education.
(b) Statistics and condition of Primary and Grammar Schools to which Females are admitted, in the several States.
(c) Do. of High and Normal Schools.
(d) Do. of Academies and Private Schools.
(e) Do. of Collegiate and Professional Institutions.

II. Business Opportunities of American Women.

(a) Statistics of actual employment of Women in various parts of the Union.
(1) Mechanical.
(2) Agricultural.
(3) Mercantile.
(4) Professional.
(b) Wages paid to them, as compared with those of Men.
(c) Employments which they might fill but do not, and impediments in the way.

  It is important that the information given should in all cases be as definite and systematic as possible. Facts are what we now aim at--not arguments, but the preliminary basis for argument. Let each person who reads this ascertain what is within his or her reach and communicate it within six months, if possible. For any very extensive or valuable communications, payment may in some cases be made. Any pamphlets, newspapers, or circulars bearing upon the above subject, will also be gladly received. Communication may be addressed (post-paid if possible) to Rev. T. W. Higginson, Worcester, Mass.


  January 15, 1854.