“The talk of sheltering woman from the fierce storms of life is sheerest mockery, for they beat on her from every point of the compass, just as they do on man…”
“Rich and poor, intelligent and ignorant, wise and foolish, virtuous and vicious, man and woman, it is ever the same, each soul must depend wholly on itself.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Solitude of Self
In my ongoing drive to declutter my office — progress is being made! — I pulled off a shelf the copy of “Solitude of Self,” an address that Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave in 1892 to the U.S. Congressional Committee of the Judiciary Hearing. Wow! This committee, whatever it was, may be long gone, but Elizabeth’s powerful, colorful, and insightful words live on.
How fresh and alive her images are, even today, more than 120 years after they were written! Elizabeth was one dynamo among many in the American suffrage movement, but she was especially prized for her sharp mind, quick wit, and ever-ready and piercing pen. While rearing a large family, she poured forth broadsides, position papers, speeches, diaries, newspaper articles, reports. Late in life, she even rewrote The Bible to give it a woman’s spin!
Sitting here, reading Elizabeth’s speech today, I am struck once again by how astonishing it is that her thoughts can enter my thoughts through her words. This bridge of words spans hearts, minds, continents, centuries: there’s nothing it can’t leap over except ignorance and a refusal to see with an open mind.
Some time ago, I heard something remarkable: We are breathing the same molecules as Shakespeare, Dante, Dickens, John the Baptist, Willa Cather, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and whoever else has walked on this earth at any time. Isn’t that amazing? Surely we can call on their disembodied spirits for counsel and creative inspiration. Today’s my father Albert’s birthday — he always encouraged my writing — and it comforts me to think of this. Write on!