The Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1853

     In 1853, Massachusetts held a constitutional convention. Women's rights advocates hoped that
    it would discuss and act on rights for women. Here is what Abby Hills Price had to say on the
    subject.

      This Convention has been called to remodel the framework of our Constitution -- to prepare a
    form of Government, unto which, woman is amenable equally with man, and in which she has
    an equal interest. Her rights of property - her rights of person - her rights of labor are all subject
    to its control. The revised Constitution will contain laws regulating the sale of Ardent Spirits; has
    woman no interest in these laws? In relation to slavery - Has woman no duty and no interest on
    this point? Will it be said that man will fitly represent her and do her justice? Is that the genius of
    our Government for one class to represent another? Has man done woman justice when he
    has given the power to a drunken, brutal husband to take away from her, her children? When he
    has by law placed her earnings, her person, her property under his control? Is it just to assume
    her government without asking her consent? We have declared that all just Governments are
    derived from the consent of the governed. Now we propose to ask the Convention that when the
    constitution is ready to submit to the people, we also as part of the people, have a chance to
    consent to its laws. Shame on Massachusetts that woman is not represented in that
    convention! Her property will be taxed to pay for the expenses. The least that she can do, is to
    submit the new one to her, and ask her to consent to it, and for this she must petition!

      Women of Massachusetts! Have we nothing to do in this crisis? Members of the convention
    are very hopeful that something of an advance step may be taken, provided there is a strong
    voice from women themselves in relation to it.

      I know that woman shrinks from politics as she sees them conducted at present. And well she
    may; but should she willingly yield a natural right, and be placed in an inferior position, because
    those who have assumed the power over her have become corrupt? Perhaps she can govern
    herself better. Who knows but that men and women ought to blend in the State as in the family,
    and that such influences would purify each other. A good and a true order, in the Divine order.
    God has said, "It is not good for man to be alone." Man has no right to separate what God has
    joined together. Man has no right to say to woman, "We'll tell you where to stand." Let her take
    any position she may, and act as freely as her brother.

      But alas! It will, I fear, be weary years ere so much is granted. The evils of her position affect
    her seriously. She lives dependence and freedom from great responsibilities. Wives and
    mothers have great duties - pleasant and important responsibilities; but she is often rendered
    unfit for them by the frivolities of her girlhood, and the narrowness of her early aspirations. There
    are thousands who do not sustain these important relations, and such are the greatest
    sufferers. Woman is bound by a three-fold cord; the prejudices of society, her own weakness,
    and the laws. One of the greatest hindrances to the progress of this reform is her disloyalty to
    her own sex. Accustomed as she is to exert an irresponsible influence, and feeling a contempt
    for women that circumstances have cultivated, her prejudices are aroused whenever one steps
    from what is deemed her appropriate sphere and a current is almost unconsciously created
    stealthily, but without design, that is often irresistible and overwhelms the trembling innovator.
    Only let women come up to the work together, and act unitedly, loyally and kindly to each other,
    and the work is done, --slowly but surely. Agitations, discussions, petitions, abroad, and
    correctness at home. Unitedly, kindly, tolerantly, then sisters, let us toil on; having that charity
    that hides a multitude of sins, and that hope which encourages to a high ideal. A.H.P. Abby Hills
    Price, The Practical Christian, June 18, 1853. (From The Works of Abby Hills Price, Susan G.
    LaMar, September, 1998.)

      Abby's fear that it would "be weary years before so much is granted," turned out to be well
    founded.. No rights for women were acted on or recommended by the convention.
     
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