Document 17B: Barbara Leigh-Smith [Bodichon], excerpts from An American Diary, 1857-58, Joseph W. Reed, ed. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972), pp. 139-41, 157, 160.

Introduction

        In her trip to the United States, Bodichon sought out Lucretia Mott, the preeminent American feminist, and reported on Mott's pleasure at learning about women's rights in England. At an antislavery convention in London in 1840, Mott and other American women delegates were shunned by British women abolitionists who refused to support their women's rights principles. (For more on Mott's experience at this convention, see Document 1 in the document project, "How Did Lucretia Mott's Activism between 1840 and 1860 Combine Her Commitments to Antislavery and Women's Rights?" also on this website.) Times had changed, though women's rights in both countries was still in the "rotten-egg stage" of popularity.

[20 April 1858]

        20th. A cold, pelting rain and as dreary a day as ever I saw. At half past eight we set out to walk to the N. Pennsylvania Rail Station to go to City Lane to see Lucretia Mott. At the Station we saw a 'Rockaway' standing in the pelting rain, a fat little horse and well-to-do-looking old 'friend.' We had no doubt been expected in spite of the detestable weather and this was Friend Mott, no doubt come for us. Yes. So in we got and drove through what must be a very pretty park which encloses the villas of Friend Thomas Mott and some of his relations. Arrived at a pleasant-looking country house, we are received at the door by one of the four daughters of the house and led into a pretty, bright-looking room, and Lucretia Mott greets us as cordially as if we were really 'Friend Barbara' and 'Friend Bodichon.' She looks just like a picture. I never saw such a dress, like a pearl. I fell in love with her immediately. She looks 'full of grace' in every sense of the word. I do not wonder her preaching has stirred so many souls, her aspect is eloquent, her smile full of good things. She seems to be full of vigour and looks in perfect health, though I believe she is seventy years old. She asked me about Lord Byron, Friend Elizabeth Reid and Julia Smith spoke of them, all three with great regard, especially Friend Elizabeth Reid. She put her hands on my shoulders and said how happy it made her to see that the young women of England were thinking about their rights and trying to do something for justice and freedom. She asked me about Eliza Ton and Bessie Parkes and Mrs. J. Shill especially and I told her as well as I could the number of women and the principle powers on the side of Women's Rights in England. When she was in England (1840?), she says, the idea was scouted and no women she met in England dared to advocate the rights of women. She seemed absolutely to chuckle with glee to hear that we hold all that she and 'the Friends' advocate and only wait to claim the suffrage because it would be useless to try for it now. Massachusetts must make that move--and will, I believe--before many years are passed. So at least the women think.

        It is a pleasure to see thouroughgoing reformers who are not poor--it is so rare to see rich people really given to reform ideas. When I see a rich woman like Lucretia Mott advocating a cause which is yet in the rotten-egg stage (I mean its advocates are apt to have rotten eggs and dirtier words thrown at them), I think there is some hope of the rich getting through the eye of the needle into heaven.

        Lucretia Mott asked me many questions about the South and slavery, and I told her what I have told you of the wonderful eloquence of the black preachers, of the sales at N. Orleans, the general well-being of the coloured population (compared to white) in Louisiana, of the secret schools, and of the widespread knowledge among the slaves of the efforts made to emancipate.

        Lucretia Mott showed me a mass of Woman's Right literature and I made my pick for the benefit of B.R.P. and M.H., and she showed me her books of notes for lectures with extracts and little quotations so nicely put together, and as we looked them over she gave me little accounts of the occasions on which they were used. She says all the Women's Rights conventions have been quiet, orderly and dignified and that the rumours of their vulgarity are absolutely unfounded. This Mr. Mott confirmed and said they were more orderly than conventions held by men.

        Of course we had a nice dinner and no wine but delicious tea.

        Bessie remembers Miss Pugh. She was there and her sister, and I was charmed with them. Fanny Priestly is coming to stay with them.

        I was very happy that they had remarked one of my drawings--the 'sunset over corn and willow land' which was exhibited here in the English Ex: and now gone to Boston.

        Please let Mrs. Reid know that I have seen her friends and how pleasant it was to me to feel a link between such good people.

        My Doctor was delighted with the whole family as much as I was, and we drove away with good Friend Mott in the rockaway to the station in a most satisfied state of mind and soaking rain. Mrs. Howitt's niece Miss Harrison is going to marry into this society and I think she could not do better; Lucretia Mott is a heart. I wish we had in England ten thousand good as she.

        Tommorrow we go to an anti-slavery meeting with Mrs. Mott and you shall hear what else we do. But I shall post this when we are in town.

*       *       *
Tuesday, 8 June [1858]

        Nine o'clock. Went to Dr. H.K. Hunt. Glorious time with her. Mrs. Hall of Cambridge, a lady who graduated in the Central New York college, was there. She is wife to the Astronomer at the Observatory. We shall go and see her. She is a Woman's Rights woman.

        Mrs. Severance, one of the best of the WRW, came in and three other ladies. Dr. Hunt is like quicksilver and leads a capital life. She is more like a writer than any woman I have seen yet. I never saw such an active brain in my life. Theodore Parker said he did not like New York so well as Boston because he missed there his glorious phalanx of old maids.

        I see there is a glorious band of old-maid workers here. One of them has a family of two hundred orphans whom she has adopted and arranged life for.

        Mrs. Maria Chapman called. She looks more beautiful than ever and was very cordial indeed to Dr. Suebius' friend.

        Miss O'Sheen called (who knows all the old Breton families) and she and Dr. B. have endless talks of Brittany and its noble families, rich and poor. Curious to meet her here.

*       *       *
Thursday, 10 June [1858]

        Wendell Phillips came in the evening. He was enchanting. He told me that the W. R. Movement had made immense progress since 1850. He knows twenty women at least who can gain their living by lecturing in Lyceums. He says Lyceums in debt very often get women to come and lecture on W.R. even when they do not agree with her, because they know she will attract a paying audience. Gentlemen who were dead set against the W.R. now advocate it. A Governor of Ohio was obliged to apologize to the ladies of Ohio and recant because he refused to hear female delegates to some Society, etc. etc.

        Wendell Phillips himself says when Lyceums come to him he says, 'Yes, I will lecture for you: 50 dollars for Literature or Abolition, or WR for nothing.'

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