Document 9: Catherine Barmby, "The Demand for the Emancipation of Woman, Politically and Socially," in New Tracts for the Times, or, Warmth, Light, and Food for the Masses 1:3 (1843), pp. 1-6. Reprinted in Marie Mulvey Roberts and Tamae Mizuta, eds., The Reformers: Socialist Feminism (London: Routledge and Thoemmes Press, 1995), pp. 1-6.


        Catherine Barmby's 1843 pamphlet called for women's political, ecclesiastical, and domestic emancipation. Published in her husband's newspaper, New Tracts for the Times, it was written from her radical religious perspective, which combined socialism with religious millenarianism. The pamphlet offers a good measure of the radicalization of calls for women's emancipation during the fifty years following the publication of Wollstonecraft's Vindication in 1792.

"Never will peace and human nature meet
Till, free and equal, man and woman greet
Domestic peace; and ere this power can make
In human hearts its calm and holy seat,
This slavery must be broken." -Shelley

        The emancipation of woman, the man, and the child, is now demanded. By the prophets of the future, and the advanced minds of the present, is the demand made. To the emancipation of woman, neither forgetting the man nor the child, is this tract dedicated. By it I would assist to raise woman from her political serfdom to the freedom of the electoral vote. By it I would assist to raise woman from her ecclesiastic slavery to the liberty of the teacher and the priestess. And by it I would assist in raising woman from the domestic drudge and helot to being with her husband the sharer of equal rights, and the possessor of the noble independence of her own industry. Woman requires this elevation; she is at present degraded by society, her destiny is unacknowledged. To this elevation she has a right, for she possesses both desires and capacities, which are, in fact, the power and the strength to obtain, and to preserve it: and this elevation she shall enjoy, without a good hope, is a falsehood, and an ardent industry in her great behalf, is contrary to every law of the universe, an unproductive thing.

        Who is not aware of the unhappy condition of society? By whom are its evils not felt? In this country of class distinctions above all others, where are they exempt from its Lazarus sores, its Promethean rock and chain? Where are they, we repeat, who in the veritableness of their humanity, can lift up their heads and say,"society thou hast done me no wrong."

        If, then, all suffer if genius, talent, skill, and industry, if integrity of motive, and purity of sentiment can have no abiding place; if, in short, society beholds no glory in the grass, or splendour in the flower, are we not just saying that the root of societarian condition, whether it be its religion, its politics, its institutions, or whatever else it may, is founded in error. And if, on examination, all are discovered to be suffering from this mighty error, how great the regeneration that has to be effected—which, in its reckoning, leaves not one untold!

        Society suffers, that is, man and woman suffers; this we repeat, because this truth, like all other truths, is valuable to know. To some it appears that others are exempt from suffering; that while clouds ever attend them, the sun shines unceasingly upon others; so do the poor recognise the destinies of the rich. Why, why am I so persecuted, and wherefore dost thou escape? But may there not be putrid sores under the robe of purple and fine linen? May not the vulture be within, where all is fair without?

       I believe that, in dissecting the anatomy of society, woman's sufferings, from its evil construction, are found to be the greatest; the sphere of man's action is larger, and, therefore, were the amount similar, the suffering in the case of woman, must exceed that endured by him. There is, too, a reverberation, if I may so express myself, of man's sufferings upon woman, and hence is created for her intense misery: I would only enumerate that, is there depression of trade, or loss and bankruptcy, she is deeply affected; are drunkenness and profligacy the vices of her husband, they are visited upon her with a fearful retribution. To her ills so many smaller streams contribute, that an ocean of magnitude indeed is ever rolling its waves against her.

        Woman does not enjoy the common rights, which, as an influential portion capable of adding to, or detracting from this world's greatness, she has the positive capacity of possessing and excercising. Her ecclesiastic, her domestic, her political rights, where are they? in what code of laws are they written?


We demand the emancipation of woman

1st    Politically
2nd   Ecclesiastically
3rd   Domestically

1st. We demand the political emancipation of woman, because it is her right, possessing as she does with man, a three-fold being, sentimental, intellectual, and physical, because she is subject to like wants, expected to pay the same taxes, taxation without representation being tyranny, and because all other laws act as severely, many more severely upon her than upon man. We demand, therefore, that the mind of woman be acknowledged in the electoral and administrative departments of legislation, with which she is compelled to act in accordance, or to suffer the penalty.

2nd. We demand the ecclesiastical emancipation of woman, because from her strong percipient power she has the ability to educate, and thus to benefit society; because the rights of the child demand the ecclesiastical freedom of woman, and because the heart of woman is destined to illumine and hallow the feelings of goodness when addressing itself to the assembly, as the mind or intellect of man is destined to strengthen the being, and to impart to it wisdom. We have the priest, we therefore demand the priestess, the woman teacher of the word, the woman apostle of God's Law!

3rd. We demand the domestic emancipation of woman, that is to say, we claim her freedom at the hearth and the board. We demand for her independence in the pursuit of those labors for which she is most particularly adapted, and which alone can be her security from the tyranny of her husband, and her preservation from the oppressions of society. In fine, we demand the emancipation of the hand of woman from mere household drudgery, so that her sentiment and intellect be protected, and with them her ministerings of good be insured. Who, in the face of day, will object to the demand we have made for the political, ecclesiastical, and domestic emancipation of woman? What arguments can they bring which would even afford a shadow of defence? In so false a view none can be urged? That woman is not the equal of man, who can assert? Her mind, sentiment, and feeling, are fully acknowleged; and present enlightenment must prevent any denial to her equality. What have not women done in the political world? What are they not capable of doing? Can all men act as a Roland, or a Charlotte Corday, have done? Or at this epoch, when selfishness, ignorant selfishness is the prevailing evil, how many men would act with the pure nobility of our Harriet Martineau?[A] Plato, in his Commonwealth, has thought it reasonable to admit woman into an equal share of the dignities and office with man. And what has been said by Cato of his countrymen, may be said of the men of all countries. "The Romans," spoke he, "govern the world; but it is the women that govern the Romans." "All the great revolutions," wrote Rousseau, "were owing to woman." For proof of woman's political ability, much testimony can be found were it necessary. Even the great man, Bonaparte, was afraid of the great woman, De Stael. It is said that sanction, full sanction cannot be given to woman's possessing the franchise; I would ask on what basis is the right of voting established? Is it to oppose the attainment of happiness, or is it to promote the great societarian good—the good of man and woman? Who will presume to say, that woman, with her fine sensibilites, is not to the utmost as capable of comprehending and appreciating what is necessary and desirable for her particular happiness as man can possibly be? And if, as I have sometimes heard, there is a distinction between them, how can man pronounce what is good for woman, when he claims no indentity with her? But this is too ridiculous, and as monstrous as is the spirit of the laws from which she suffers. The sun is shining, its influence is felt, its power known, and yet, at the same time, a denial is given to its capacity of diffusing light and warmth: thus Solon-like does man act in withholding his assent to the political independence of woman. Give her the vote, nor forget that her influence has directed many to bestow it, wisely and unwisely, but as her wish decided. That woman was not admitted to the senate of Rome, or to the assemblies of ancient Greece, is no reason why she should be deprived of her attendance at our Courts of Legislature. Where is our enlightenment if it be not shown in accordant action? The carriage moves steadily when its wheels roll together; so will society's progression be uniform in its course, when its interest co-operate.


A. For more on Harriet Martineau and her 1839 book, The Martyr Age of the United States, see Document 7 in this project.
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