|Iconic Poster of Inez (c. 1924). From portrait |
that used to hang over the mantelpiece,
Sewall-Belmont (now Belmont-Paul) House,
Washington, D.C. Artist unknown.
As edited © 2004-2017 by JT Marlin.
for information on use of this script or more recent versions for a staged reading in schools or community organizations.
OF THE SENECA FALLS CONVENTION, 1848
2. Lucretia Mott....................... Elaine Good
A. Johnson, Mayor of Rochester
Scene 1. INTRO: WHY ROCHESTER?
|L to R: Roberta Wallach (Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Inez Milholland), Mayor Bill Johnson (Frederick Douglass), Dolores Jackson Radney (Sojourner Truth), Elaine Good (Lucretia Mott), Ken Klamm (Reporter).Photo by JT Marlin.|
Good. Mrs. Mott, could I first check a few facts? You were born in 1793 in Nantucket. Your family moved to Boston in 1804. Your seafaring Quaker father, Captain Thomas Coffin, was an odd duck, because he believed that women should be educated. Was that considered a preposterous idea at the time except in Quaker circles?
Clergymen have used St. Paul to support State laws and customs that keep women in subjection. They note that In Corinthians 14 he urged women to keep silence in church. But his concern was that the women in Corinth were being disputatious and distracting. He was not enunciating some divine principle. St. Paul also wrote that women should keep their heads covered, repeating a tradition based on the myth that evil spirits possess women by holding on to their hair. That of course is pure superstition. Clergymen also misquote the Bible to denounce other reforms, temperance and abolition. But the Bible cannot properly be used to support the sins of drunkenness and slavery, nor can it be used to support subjection of women. Where does the Bible tell me that I as a woman cannot preach? No-where. On the contrary, if we look closely at the Bible, we find supreme authority for women preachers. On the great day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended, the spirit of prophecy also descended, not just on men, but on women as well. Peter exclaimed that this fulfilled what was foretold by the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Upon my servants and my handmaidens I will pour out my spirit.’” Now can anything be clearer than that?
Never! It is worse than I feared. Imagine. My three children came down with malaria soon after we arrived. Our residence is on the outskirts of town. The roads are often very muddy and without sidewalks. Henry is frequently away from home. My servants are poorly trained and my children grow in number almost every year. I am overwhelmed. Much that was once attractive in domestic life is now irksome. I am starved for friendship. I have books, but no stimulating companionship. My love of the beautiful and artistic—all fade away in the struggle to accomplish what is absolutely necessary from hour to hour. All this is sweeping across my soul. It seems as if all the elements are conspiring to impel me to some onward step. By the time of Lucretia Mott’s visit, my only thought is a public meeting for protest and discussion. I pour out my heart to Lucretia in letters and eagerly seek a visit with her. It is arranged for Thursday, July 13, 1848 I count the minutes to the time of our meeting at the Waterloo home of Hicksite Quaker Mary Ann McClintock When we all are together the sheer energy in that room makes us, on the spur of the moment, call a convention for the following Wednesday, to consider the rights of women. Suddenly, we are caught up in a frenzy of activity. We reserve the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls for two days, the first for women only and the next day open to men. We place a notice to appear the following day in the Seneca County newspaper. We advertise the speaker as Lucretia Mott, the best known of us. We decide we need some kind of manifesto for women. The five of us draw up a statement of women’s rights. Inspired by the Declaration of Independence and the Garrisonian anti-slavery sentiments, we call it our "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions." I knew that by recommending an appeal for women to have the vote, I would annoy many, including Henry. But I am astounded that Lucretia opposes me. She says, as we discuss the resolution: “Thee will make us ridiculous.” I just ask to have it put before the meeting on July 19. I say, let the meeting decide.
Scene 4, 1848. FREDERICK DOUGLASS
[Present tense. Lights on him only, off the reporter.]
I urge you not to abandon this resolution that women should actively seek the elective franchise. Some greet this idea with contempt and believe it to be absurd. All the more reason to introduce the idea at the earliest possible time, to allow us all more time to overcome our feelings of absurdity. These feelings arise from male arrogance. We men have felt fully equal to the work of governing the world without the help of women. But with what result? Is not the story of the world one of war and bloodshed? Does not the hand and voice of women naturally rise against the shedding of human blood? Would not the vote of women contribute to a more balanced government, to a more peaceful world? For you women, denial of your participation in government divests you of a large measure of your natural dignity. With the power of the ballot in hand, will not women ascend to a higher elevation in your own minds as well as the minds of men? Your mental and moral power now is fettered, like a chained lion. Who is afraid of a gun if it is known to be empty? The exclusion of my race from participation in government has been morally wrong, and it has also been a mistake, because it takes from my race motives for high thought. If the outside world brands a class as unfit for this or that work, the character of the class will come to conform to the character. I say to you women, do not throw away the possibility of demanding what should be your right! Demand the vote for the same reason we colored men demand it. Demand it because you want to make yourselves as useful citizens as men do. Demand it because all the arguments for men participating in Government have equal force for you women. I humbly wish you... Godspeed.
What's the bit about Truth?
I was born into bondage in the land of Pharaohs. When I left the house of bondage, I wa’n’t goin’ to keep nothin’ of Egypt on me, an’ so I went to the Lord an’ asked him to give me a new name. And the Lord gave me Sojourner, because I was to travel up an’ down the land, showin’ the people their sins, an’ bein’ a sign unto them. Afterward I told the Lord I wanted another name, ‘cause everybody else had two names; and the Lord gave me Truth, because I was to declare the truth to the people. So my name is Sojourner Truth.
God told me to travel around to speak against slavery and to speak against the mistreatment of womenfolk. That’s what I’ve done. I never did know where my money would come from, but people were good. They gave me food and sometimes shelter and I keep on tryin’ to do the Lord’s work.
But you weren’t at Seneca Falls.
It weren’t long after Seneca Falls, three years, I go up to that woman's convention in Akron. And in the back of the hall a white clergyman says women should not vote because Eve was a woman? And he says that what is wrong with Eve is that she started Original Sin and caused the Fall of the human race. The truth is, I think, 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women of the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about women not voting? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. But nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man -- when I could get it -- and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne 13 children, and seen them most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And... ain't I a woman? If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them. Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner Truth ain't got nothing more to say.
ACT TWO - CIVIL WAR ERA
Yes, your honor, I have many things to say; for in your ordered verdict of guilty you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my judicial rights are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor’s verdict, doomed to political subjection... Sentence can not, in justice, be pronounced against me. Your denial of my citizen's right to vote is a denial of my right of consent as one of the governed, the denial of my right of representation as one of the taxed, the denial of my right to a trial by a jury of my peers as an offender against law... Of all my prosecutors... not one is my peer... All are my political sovereigns. And had your honor submitted my case to the jury, as was clearly your duty, even then I should have had just cause of protest, for not one of those men was my peer...Failing to get justice, I ask not leniency at your hands but rather the full rigors of the law...
May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a debt of $10,000, incurred by publishing my paper, The Revolution... I shall work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.
That’s her. Good luck. [Exits quickly.]
Ah, Mrs. Harper. You’re on my list of suffragists to interview. Leading suffragists.
[Looks at his pad.]
You’re on the list as a leading black suffragist in the post-Civil War period. Have I got the right Frances Harper?
FRANCES ELLEN HARPER
Some thought that it would never do, for us in Southern lands,
ACT THREE - VICTORY
The Party in power has had the ability to liberate the women of the United States, but its leaders have refused to exercise that power on behalf of justice and freedom for us. They have refused to put the Party's machinery in support of the Anthony Amendment. Fourteen times the President has refused. Senate leaders forced it to defeat through a premature vote. House leaders buried it in Committee. Therefore I beg of you. (Inez coughs.) Enfranchised women of the West, do not lend your strength to the party that turns its face away from justice for this nation’s women. You who now have the power that has eluded our sex for so long, will you use that power on behalf of your fellow women across the country? We have nothing but our spirits to rely on, but spirit is invincible. Soon the fight will be over. Victory is in sight. It depends on how we stand in this coming election — united or divided – whether we shall win and whether we deserve to win. In farm house and factory; by the fireside, in the hospital and school room, wherever women are sorrowing and working and hoping, they are praying for our success. We have only the hopes of women and our own spirit. But we have our mighty principle. [Someone comes up to help her. Inez coughs into a handkerchief.] No thank you. I’m fine. Will you join us by voting against President Wilson? Join me in asking President Wilson: "Mr. President, how long... how long must women...wait for... liberty?" [She collapses.]
June 26, 1998
|John Tepper Marlin (Playwright)|
and Nan Johnson (Producer).
A shorter version of the work was originally performed in New York City Hall in 1995 to mark the 75th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The piece develops a series of dialogues between reporters and suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth and others.
Take Up the Song is being presented in Rochester as part of Forum 98, a conference exploring the status of women's rights since the 1848 convention in Seneca Falls. The script was written by John Tepper Marlin, chief economist in the New York City Office of the Controller. Marlin is the great-nephew of Inez Milholland, a lawyer who sacrificed her own health and died while campaigning for the right to vote. Her part will be read by Wallach, who has appeared in several movies and on television and the stage, including The Diary of Anne Frank.
Mayor Johnson will read the part of Frederick Douglass, who was one of 32 men and the only person of color at the women's rights convention in Seneca Falls. Douglass' newspaper, the North Star, was heavily supported by anti-slavery women in the Rochester area and at the convention Douglass spoke up for women's right to vote.
The Rochester production of Take Up the Song will include music especially composed for the presentation by Clairissa Breen, a Fairport resident and graduate of the Eastman School of Music, and performed by AKOMA Women's Gospel Choir.
Admission to Take Up the Song is free but seating is limited and ticket reservations are needed, since the production will also be attended by participants in Forum 98. Forum 98 includes workshops and speakers on health, education, workplace and other issues at the University of Rochester July 15 and 16 to mark the 150th anniversary of the women's rights convention in Seneca Falls.
|L to R: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B.|
Anthony, Lucretia Mott. Busts by Adelaide
Johnson. (Architect of the Capitol.)
It was originally entitled "The Pioneer" but when published it was titled "To Inez Milholland", i.e., dedicated to her new husband's late wife.
The 1923 occasion was ostensibly for the unveiling of the portrait monument of three leaders of the woman suffrage movement: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott.
However, the story is more complicated. A full exposition of the twists and turns of the monument was written in 1961 by Sandra Weber. Its unveiling had already occurred more than two years earlier.
It seems the National Woman's Party decided to have a second unveiling. Millay was introduced by Doris Stevens, who wrote Jailed for Freedom describing the illegal and abusive treatment of the women arrested for picketing the white house. When these women went on a hunger strike at the Lorton Workhouse, they were force-fed.
The portraits sculpted by Adelaide Johnson (1859-1955) are copies of the individual busts she carved for the Court of Honor of the Woman's Building at the World's Columbian Exhibition in 1893. The detailed busts are surrounded by rough-hewn marble sculpted from an 8-ton block in Carrara, Italy. The monument took a decade to complete. It originally consisted of three parts, the 14,000-pound sculpture itself and two rectangular stone base slabs together weighing 12,000 pounds. The black Belgian marble base and the white Carrara marble base were donated by the sculptor in 1925. However, the black marble base arrived broken and was not replaced by the artist until 1929. In 1930 both pieces were installed, completing the artist's design.
The Architect of the Capitol notes on its web site that to allow safe placement in the Rotunda in 1997, the marble base slabs were replaced with lighter structures designed to resemble them.
The three suffragists were:
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), president of the National Woman Suffrage Association from 1865 to 1893; author of the woman's bill of rights, which she read at the Seneca Falls, New York, convention in 1848. She was the first of the women at the convention to demand votes for women. (Lucretia Mott's first reaction was that this radical proposal would make the women look "ridiculous".)
- Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), abolitionist, temperance advocate, and later president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), who joined with Stanton in 1851 to promote woman suffrage; proposed the constitutional amendment that was ratified 14 years after her death.
- Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), Quaker reformer and preacher, who worked for abolition, peace, and equality for women in jobs and education; organizer of the 1848 Seneca Falls, New York, convention, which launched the women's rights movement.