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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 122 [04-16-1858]

              [newspaper clipping]
	 WOMAN AND HER WORK.
		�����������
     LECTURE BY THE REV. DR. CHAPIN.
  Dr. Chapin lectured to a large audience last night at
Mozart Hall on the above subject.  Nearly all the Al-
dermen, the Common Council and the Ten Governors,
with Mr. Postmaster Fowler, were present.  He said
that the originality of any thought is secondary to its
truth.  If it is old, it should be welcomed on account of
respect due to age.  His subject led him to consider
whether woman is potentially what she ought to be.
The relation between man and woman is the most
beautiful expression of the great law of nature.
Woman is simply the equal of man�nothing more,
nothing less.  We have no right to determine what is
woman�s sphere by any arbitrary prejudices.  I cannot
recognize any such fact as man�s rights or woman�s
rights; I only recognize human rights.  Woman�s or-
bit is the orbit of her humanity; and hence she ought
to be man�s equal�equal before the world, before the
law, as she is before God.  And let no one be dis-
turbed by visions of strong-minded women, with spec-
tacles, lecturing on Kansas.  The question is, what
is truth, and not what are the imaginable consequences.
Man may run against God�s will� but cannot alter it.
I urge that women should actually be something more
than she has been held to be.  She has been placed
above the scale and cast below it; she has been man�s
slave and his empress.  In one place you may see her
the poor drudge of the wash-tub or the needle work-
ing to support a drunken husband ; in another place we
see her in some parlor, listening to the confectionary of
small talk furnished by some dandy.  Society around
us is but little more than a modification of these two
pictures.  What we want is some way of deliverance
for a woman from being a mere slave, and something
more substantial than those accomplishments which
make her a mere gewgaw.  The legal argument has
already been presented, so I shall pass on to the subject
of woman�s education.  Woman ought to be rendered
less dependant upon man.  Our present state of society
too often so trains her as to make marriage an abso-
lute necessity.  I am glad if there is some advance in
this respect; I am glad if women and clergymen are
regarded as something else than respectable paupers.
Woman can become what she should be, and do what
she should do, only by genuine education.  I cannot
see why there should be a very sharp discrimination
between the education of boys and girls.  If a certain
kind of learning will develop the intellect of the boy,
why not of the girl?  You may say woman cannot be
a Newton or Shakespeare.  Well, if she can�t she
won�t; and so where�s the harm ?  [Laughter.]  Why
should a woman with a liberal education be less fitted
for the duties of a wife or mother ?  If in the culti-
vated mind there is a reserved force for emergencies,
why should woman be debarred from that blessed
skill that unlocks the treasuries of truth and opens
communion with the distant and the dead?
In may cases woman is brought up not to a self-reli-
ance, but simply to make a settlement for life.  We
all have a horror of female gamblers; but how many
women are really gamblers for a lucky match ?  Do
we wonder there is often the gambler�s loss as well as
his hazard?  In the world�s version, it is not charity
but money that covers a multitude of sins.  The rich
profligate receives the hand of virtue and beauty.
But there would not be so many serpents in the par-
terres of fashion if there were not Eves in the garden
to listen.  In rude society, woman was bought and
sold as a slave, and some of our manners are not much
better.  Christianity teaches us that woman has a 
soul; but many men act as though they had not ac-
cepted, and many women as though they had none to
give.  Women have a right to a proper culture, not
as woman�s rights, but as human rights; as man�s
equal and companion, she requires a training which
will develop every human faculty.  The true way to
find the sphere of anything is to educate it to its high-
est capacity.  A genuine culture will produce nothing
that will overrun its divinely-appointed limits.  Wom-
an�s work will follow spontaneously from woman�s
nature, and will accord with the qualities of her being.
It will not therefore be strong physical work, but where
clean, delicate work is needed, where emotion mingles
with thought, it will be her work in the future, 
and still more as the future opens into civilization.
Woman�s truest work is of home and its sanctities.
Let us not fear these offices will be abandoned; there
will be still the heart of the wife and mother.  There
are many women for whom this sphere of home is
enough.  But if woman is enslaved and degraded at
home, where shall she have honor?  In this sphere I
claim for her a large and liberal culture.  Is it of no
consequence who is to discharge these offices�who
is to teach and train the life, the heart of the future
man?  Among women there are two classes, whom
the home duties do not, absorb, and they claim some-
thing to do.  They comprise those who are not forced
to work for a living and those who are.  In behalf of
those, I say a large field is needed for woman�s work.
Consider what ought to be done for that class of
women who must work or perish.  What are they to
do?  That is the question.  I might specify many
forms of labor, such as some parts of watch-
making, of telegraphing, of the work of news-
paper offices, and countless others, all of which are
adapted to woman�s nature and her capacity.
The claim of this class of women is simply the claim
of their humanity.  They must have this work or
perish�perish in one of two ways�physically, either
from lack of work or scantiness of it.  Think of the
poor widow who makes shirts at five cents apiece�
and I suppose the man who pays it covers the New
Testament with that five cent piece.  She can, per-
haps, make one a day.  Is not that reducing humanity
nearly to starvation?  Think of those noble women
who virtually say, �Let Death have us, so he takes
�to God our womanly purity untainted.� Thank
God for the women who die honorably and only
perish physically!  I think what saints they make
in Heaven with their sweet faces from which
all the trouble is glorified away.  What
did those men, whom the world call heroes, more
than these noble women, who, clinging to their con-
science, died at their posts?  [Applause.]  This ought
not to be so.  Then should she work for all, and least
of all should work be denied her because she is a
woman; and yet this is really the fact.  We reverse
the divine law which tells us not to oppress the weaker,
and turn and oppress them simply because they are
weak.  To some men, the shirts they have made,
might be the shirt of Nessus.  I wish these ould
scrougers who pay five cents for making shirts, might
be haunted with women�s ghosts, who should 
bear the inscription,�More work and better pay.�
---------------------------------------------------------
But there is another class who perish morally.  We
must not shrink from all the facts, and it is a fact that
want of work has a great deal to do with driving to
shame the 20,000 women in our city who walk our
streets, whose smile is only seen by the gaslight.  But
the shame is not all with them.  Shame upon him who
offers the price of dishonor; shame upon those honor-
able women who smile upon the victorious debauchee;
shame upon ourselves if we nourish any prejudice
which depreciates the value of women.  Let all these
shames blend with the shame of the poor lost girl, and
lighten a little the curse that bears too exclusively 
upon her.  Here are these two classes who must have
work or else honorably or dishonorably, perish.
  But there is another class of women, who are not
compelled to work, concerning whom one of the
noblest women of our ay (Mrs. Jameson) asks if a
more enlarged social sphere cannot be allowed
women?  I can merely say, that this field is indicated
in the philanthropic institutions of our age.  It is ex-
emplified in women like Elizabeth Fry and Florence
Nightingale.  [Applause.]  One of these poor soldiers
of the Crimea said, that her shadow seemed to do
him good as it passed over his bed.  What a compli-
ment to her was that of another poor sick man, who
said to her, �I believe you are not  woman, but an
angel.� How much better is that than the homage
of the drawing-room, or triumph of a flirtation.  [Ap-
plause.]  How manya woman might be an angel to the
poor hollow eyes that followed her from a sick bed.
Let us remember that this is not an attempt to draw
woman from her sphere.  But let us consider how
many claims there are out of this sphere.  Let us not
fear any ridicule which may be cast upon us.  Ridi-
cule is the feeblest weapon that can be used; it proves
the lack of heavier artillery; it fires scattering shot
and does not hit the mark.  [Applause.]  It is rather
a fearful picture to be sure, of a masculine woman,
scheming in Wall street, or shouting in Tammany
Hall.  But when called to step forward to the line,
who shows more manliness, more courage, than
woman ?  Look at the maid of Saragossa, look at
Grace Darling, and at that noble woman who but a
year ago brought home the ship of her poor disabled
husband; she may have been out of her sphere, but
she circumnavigated the globe.  [Applause.]  I am
inclined to believe that a woman starving in the streets,
is fully as incongruous as a woman in the Senate or 
the Forum.
  The true idea of a civilization will never be unfolded
till woman has been placed upon an equality with
man.  In the cabin of the Mayflower; in the war of
the Revolution, when the wives loaded the muskets,
there were such men, because there were such women.
The grandest transaction of history are unfolded,
when she stands nearest to man as an equal; and
when Christianity shall have reached its highest
point her heart will be near his hand.  Let women
stand upon the ground of her human nature, then
there will be mutual honor and mutual help; then
there will be no discordant music in the march from
the paradise which they left together�to that para-
dise which they hope to attain.  [Great applause.]               
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