Aunt Betsy on Woman’s Rights

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker
March 23rd, 1861
Aunt Betsy on Woman’s Rights
We had been talking of “Woman’s Rights,” one winter evening in Aunt Betsy’s room- talking girl fashion, but none the less ‘decidedly’ or enthusiastically, from the fact that it was a subject we knew little but fancied much about.
At last Alice said, looking around to where she sat, – her specs pushed up, and her eyes fixed rather quizzically on us, – “What do you think about ‘Women’s Rights,’ Aunt Betsy?”
“Well, girls,” she said, after a moment’s pause, “I can tell you just what I think, and I’ve a sort of an idea that it won’t do you any hurt either, seeing that I’ve seen more of the world than you have.”
“Why, Aunt,” broke in Alice, “you’ve never been out of Saddlersville in your life, and we’ve been to the Falls, and the Springs, and ever so many other places.”
“That may all be, child; but talking about “Woman’s Rights, – her rights are in her world, aint they? And her home is her world, isn’t it? I think, may be, my dear, that I know full as much about the falls and springs of that sort of world as any body, – falls and springs of feeling, and love, and temper, too.”
It was quite a sentimental speech for the old lady and she sat thinking for a moment, till we began to fidget in our chairs.
“I suppose you all think,” she began at last “that when you’re once launched on the “Sea of Matrimony,” as some of them big writers tell about, you’ll ‘become possessed of your own inalienable and individual rights,’ and so on, but, girls, there’s a heap of knowledge, that isn’t to be found in your boardin’-schools and ‘cademys, got to be drilled into your innocent heads yet.
“When you get married, and leave your mother, and sisters, and aunts, to go tagging after a man, that you never see in his own home, – whose shirt-bosoms and sock-heels you never even thought of, – you’re just jumpin’ off a precipice with your eyes blinded, and the land you pitch your tent in, after you’ve jumped, will have to have a blessed lot of sunshine to keep your mind off the little briars and sticks that catch hold of your dresses and tear your ankles.
“It’ll be all butter and honey at first, to be sure, till just then, your weddin’-tour will be over, and the next thing will be to get to house-keeping. You, who never scratched your finger without crying, will tug up and down stairs, and scrub, and wash and sweep, to get things in order, and maybe you’ll think about them that it’s one of your ‘inalienable rights’ to have a little help; but pretty soon in he’ll come- out of the air and sunshine, wide-awake as can be – and laugh at you about the hooks burst off the back of your dress, looking round at the things approvingly, and finally throwing himself into the rocking-chair, and with the remark that he ‘thinks he’ll have a clean shirt!’
“’Where is it, my-dear!’ says he, and you’ll take your hands out of your dish-water, as meekly as though you hadn’t an individual right in the world, – go a trudgin’ off up-stairs, or somewhere, after it, shut the drawers ruefully on a dozen that need patching, and hunt half an hour for a needle to sew on a button-with.
“That’s the beginning of your rights, and though you may get what folks call ‘one of the best men that ever was,’ and you ‘love him like a pisen,’ as some one says, there’ll be a dozen times every day that he’ll tread one of your mights under his heel, and another under his toe; and you’ll look the other way, – like enough grease the boots he does it with.
“Just you take my advice, girls, and don’t say any more about your rights, for you’ll
be pretty likely to ‘haul on your colors,’ when the time comes, and woman’s fate with it.
“I’m sure I don’t know whether we’re born so or now, but sensible women, that have got to be as old as I am, are pretty apt to think it’s better to put up with a few less rights for the sake of a little more peace.”
E.C.L.K. Charlotte Center, N.Y., 1861

Read more “Their Life; Their Words”


Published in: on April 29, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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