This brought down the house, but brought no order, and she sat down, smiling, a perfect picture of self-complaisance.
People thought the press unmerciful in its ridicule of that convention, but I felt in it all there was much forbearance. No words could have done justice to the occasion. It was so much more ridiculous than ridicule, so much more absurd than absurdity. The women on whom that ridicule was heaped were utterly incapable of self-defense, or unconscious of its need. The mass of nobility seekers seemed content to get before the public by any means, and to wear its most stinging sarcasms as they would a new dress cap.
In those days I reserved all my hard words for men, and in my notice of the convention mildly suggested that it would have been better had Mrs. Oliver Johnson been made president, as she had great executive ability and a good knowledge of parliamentary rules. This suggestion was received by the president as an insult never to be forgiven, and in the Visiter defended herself against it. I replied, and in the discussion which followed she argued that the affairs of each family should be so arranged that the husband and wife would be breadwinner and housekeeper by turns, day or oven half day about. He should go to business in the forenoon, then in the afternoon take care of baby and permit her to go to the office, shop or warehouse from which came the family supplies.
I took the ground that baby would be apt to object, and that in our family the rule would not work, since I could not put a log on the mill-carriage, and the water would be running to waste all my day or half-day as bread-winner.
About the same time, Mrs. Stanton published a series of articles in Mrs. Bloomer’s paper, the Lily, in which she taught that it was right for a mother to make baby comfortable, lay him in his crib, come out, lock the door, and leave him to develop his lungs by crying or cooing, as he might decide, while mamma improved her mind and attended to her public and social duties.
Against such head winds, it was hard for my poor little craft to make progress in asserting the right of women to influence great public questions.
For something over twenty years, after that Akron meeting, I did not see a woman’s rights convention, and in all have seen but five. Up to 1876 there had been no material improvement in them, if those I saw were a fair specimen. Their holders have always seemed to me like a woman who should undertake at a state fair to run a sewing machine, under pretense of advertising it, while she had never spent an hour in learning its use.