Mary Sarah Bilder delivers Georgetown Law’s 2019 Thomas F. Ryan Lecture
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Mary Sarah Bilder delivers Georgetown Law’s 2019 Thomas F. Ryan Lecture

(audience shuffling and chattering) – All right, good afternoon everyone. I’m Dean Bill Treanor, and it’s a privilege to welcome you to this year’s Thomas Ryan lecture. Thomas Ryan received his bachelor degrees from Georgetown College in 1971, and his JD from the Law Center in 1976. He was an extraordinary person, and he passed away much too young. And this lecture was created in his honor. And it has now been, I
think, more than 30 years. Started in 1985, it’s one
of the jewels, every year in the law school’s academic program. We started in 1985 with Senator Joe Biden, we have had, among other people, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean Martha Minow, Nobel Prize winner George Akerlof, and last year, we heard
from Craig Steven Wilder, the Barton Weller Professor
of History at MIT. Mr. Ryan is survived
by his wife Christine, his two children, Thomas and Missy, and Missy joins us here today. And we’re fortunate today to have, really, an extraordinary speaker. Mary Sarah Bilder,
Founders Professor of Law at Boston College Law School. And I have to say, I have been reading Professor Bilder’s work since, really, the start of her career, and just have the most profound admiration and have learned so much from her. And when she accepted our
offer to deliver this lecture, I was beyond delighted,
so I’m looking forward to the lecture, and to actually
formally introduce her, let me call to the
stage our Associate Dean for Research and Academic
Programs, John Mikhail. (audience applauding) – Thank you, Dean Treanor. It’s a pleasure to welcome all of you to the 2019 Ryan Lecture, and to introduce our distinguished speaker,
Mary Sarah Bilder. The purpose of this lecture series is to bring first-rate
scholars, policymakers, and public intellectuals to Georgetown to expand our horizons and invite us to think more critically about important and challenging topics. Although there are many such topics, few are more in need of fresh insight and critical inquiry
than the role, status, and hidden agency of women at the time of the American founding. It’s a common place that
gender is virtually invisible in the United States Constitution, and in the vast majority
of books, articles, and commentaries on that document, which traced how it was drafted, adopted, and put into operation by
the founding generation. We know, of course, that
women were among the people of the United States who
were present at the founding. (audience chuckling) Thinking, feeling, reading,
writing, debating, aspiring, making demands on
themselves and on others. It’s also clear that we cannot have an adequate understanding
of those activities unless we take the time and
effort to investigate them. Yet, few people have done so. It is against this backdrop
that I’m so pleased and honored to introduce Professor Bilder as this year’s Ryan Lecture. She is one of the country’s
most accomplished historians, whose scholarship has already
had an extraordinary impact on our understanding of the Constitution, and the broader legal culture
from which it emerged. There is no scholar of the founding era whose work I admire more
or read more eagerly. And there is no one who is better equipped to draw back the curtain on
today’s intriguing topic, Female Genius in the
Age of the Constitution. Mary Sarah Bilder is the
Founders Professor of Law at Boston College Law School, where she has taught since 1994. She received her undergraduate
degree with honors from the University of Wisconsin, and her law degree and PhD
from Harvard University. She is the author of two books, and the editor of two others, along with many influential essays, articles, and book chapters. Professor Bilder’s first book, The Transatlantic Constitution, skillfully traces the relationship between colonial legal culture and traditional sources of
British constitutional authority. The book was published to
wide critical acclaim in 2004, and received the Littleton-Griswold Award from the American Historical Association. Her most recent book, Madison’s Hand, is a path breaking study of one of the most important
manuscripts in American history, James Madison’s notes of the
Constitutional Convention. On the basis of years of meticulous and painstaking research, Professor Bilder persuasively argues that
all of Madison’s notes, for approximately the last
month of the convention, as well as other key
debates earlier that summer, were revised by Madison at
least two years after the fact, that is, no earlier than the fall of 1789. The significance of this discovery stems from the fact that from the moment Madison’s notes first appeared in 1840, our legal and political culture has generally taken for granted that they are a contemporaneous record and virtual transcript of how
the Constitution was drafted. Madison’s Hand forces us to come to grips with a different and more
accurate conception of the notes, and Madison’s role in
composing and revising them. The stakes of this interpretive enterprise are raised once one realizes
how many important features of the Constitution trace their origin to the last month of the convention, and how critical Madison’s
role was in shaping the emerging public understanding
of the Constitution, in hotly contested
debates about its meaning throughout the first
decade of the republic. Among the many awards
Madison’s Hand has received, are the Bancroft Prize in
American History and Diplomacy, and the James Bradford Biography Prize from the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic. In my view, the book’s lessons have not yet fully been digested, a process that will take time. What is clear is that it has changed minds and permanently transformed
the conversation. As one commentator put it, as a result of Professor Bilder’s efforts, we will never read Madison’s
notes the same way again. That’s an extraordinary accomplishment, but it is just one of
her many achievements in a career that is still skyrocketing. As her lecture today will illustrate, she has not rested on her laurels, but rather is tackling exciting new topics in order to deepen our
understanding of the founding era. Now, I have been known to say
that the best introductions, much like the best
associate deans, are short. (audience laughing) The second point is debatable, but the first is undoubtedly convincing. The person you have come to
hear today is Professor Bilder, so I will now happily
invite her to the podium. Let me just conclude by simply saying how much I admire her scholarship, and emphasizing what an honor it is to have her with us today to
deliver the 2019 Ryan Lecture. Please join me in welcoming
Professor Mary Sarah Bilder. (audience applauding) – I think that was the nicest introduction anyone has ever given,
and I’m gonna be like, can you send that to my folks? (laughing) ‘Cause they’d
be so happy to hear it. So I wanna thank Dean Treanor and Professor Mikhail for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to speak at a place with so many friends and
so many fellow travelers in constitutional and legal history, and I’m honored to give this
lecture, which has hosted, really, such an impressive
group of scholars. I’m a little shocked to
find myself among them. So first, let me open my water here. We’re gonna dim the lights if we can, because you’re gonna see this is really an illustrated lecture
in all sorts of ways. The founding of Georgetown, this is a particularly special
place to do this lecture, because the founding of Georgetown, initially, as an academy,
coincided with the story that I’m going to tell this afternoon. In 1786, 1787, plans and
proposals were circulated. In 1788, construction began, and in 1791, students were enrolled. And indeed, I think it’s possible that the largely unknown lady about who I am going to talk,
was in Georgetown in 1789, as her husband was then
attempting to start a new magazine, the Potomac Magazine. And so, this afternoon,
I’m gonna talk about a largely unknown lady,
Eliza Harriot O’Connor, who lectured in the
university in Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention. And she insisted that she was an example to be imitated and
improved on, as she put it, by others, and I believe
her example mattered. And so she’s going to be our guide, first to the 1770s and 1780s,
to learn about female genius. I have a few too many
waters here, I think. And then to the summer of 1787, where she gave public
lectures in Philadelphia, and perhaps, in some way,
influenced the Constitution, and then to the 1790s, to explore the limits of women’s rights. I have a coffee table
picture book approach to the slides, so if we
can even bring the slides, them down a little bit lower, I’d be perfectly happy with that. I hate public speaking, and
so I’m actually super happy if all you do is stare
at the slides, okay? And let me get this ready here, and then we’ll be off. Nearly 150 years ago, in 1872, Victoria Woodhull ran for president. She was the first woman to do so. But since then, only men
have ever been elected, and the 19 apparently male pronouns relating to the president
might actually suggest that women were excluded intentionally or that the framers could
not imagine inclusion. But in March 1788, Pennsylvanian
Hugh Henry Brackenridge read the Constitution as
open to a female president. His essay mocked the myriad
criticisms of the Constitution. Brackenridge began, the
first thing that strikes a diligent observer is
the want of precaution with respect to the sex of the president. Is it provided that he
shall be of the male gender? He added, what shall we think, if in the process of time,
we shall come to have an old woman at the head of our affairs? And then Brackenridge went on to say, what security have we that
he shall be a white man? And his views on both
possibilities are ambiguous, but he revealed the Constitution’s semantic gender tolerance. And the classic images of the framers, Jefferson’s so-called
assembly of demigods, depict the founding without
any reference to women. There are no demigoddesses in the picture. And yet, recall that
Clio, the muse of history, was herself a demigoddess,
the child of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the Titan of memory. And history creates power by selecting what we remember about the past. And we have misremembered
the imaginative space around women and politics. And it’s for this reason that Clio has inspired so many
prominent female artists. The two images here are
of Artemisia Gentileschi, and Angelica Kauffman, the first women admitted to male art associations. Now, so for me, this question arose over one entry in George
Washington’s diary, from May 1787. Washington was waiting in Philadelphia for the convention to start. He’d been at tea at financier
Robert Morris’s house, and then he went with Mary White Morris and other ladies to hear a
lady read at the college hall. Washington later wrote, the reading had been a charity
affair because the lady, being reduced in circumstance, had recoursed to this expedient
to obtain a little money. He judged her performance tolerable, which is, of course, what
Mr. Darcy says of Eliza, and so I judge her performance
a relative success. And this lady was Eliza Harriot O’Connor, her lecture was one aspect
of an ambitious vision. So who was this lady? She was Eliza Harriot Barons O’Connor. And she called herself Eliza Harriot, which is what I will call her. She left no papers, she had no children, but she’s not been entirely unknown. She appears in Thomas Woody’s important female education history, Charles Warren’s classic
Making of the Constitution, the George Washington
papers, and recently, an essay by Professor Granville Ganter on early women lecturers. She has no portrait, but
perhaps she resembled her cousin, Catherine
Hardy, who is depicted here in this wonderful Thomas
Lawrence portrait. She was born in Lisbon
and she grew up in England as a member of the aspiring gentry, educated at an elite boarding school. Her mother’s families were Hardys, a prominent merchant and naval family. Her grandfather and uncle
were admirals and sirs. Two uncles served as governors
of New York and New Jersey, her father served as the
Boston port collector and as postmaster in Charleston, before retiring to
Ramsgate, a seaside town. And in 1776, she married John O’Connor, an Irish law student at the Inner Temple. He appeared to be a gentleman,
albeit impoverished, with unverified hints of connections to Irish royal families, and after he became a barrister in Dublin, they returned to London
in the early 1780s. There, her father died, leaving her with a modest income of a trust independent of her husband’s control. The 1780s were what I call
the age of the constitution, and I’m using constitution
in its older sense, what we sometimes call
the small C constitution. Prior to 1787, constitution referred to the framework of government, and the way in which government was constituted, who participated. And the constitution in this
sense was being reformed in the United States,
Ireland, and England, with alterations and assumptions about who should participate in the state. So for women, this age of the constitution raised the possibility of altering an intellectual tradition
that bounded female capacity. As far back as Aristotle,
the Western tradition had embraced an ideology
of female inferiority. Influential educational
theorists, for example, Rousseau, explained, the
whole education of women ought to be relative to men. He noted, reader, I
appeal to you, be sincere. Which would you esteem the most? A woman whom you found employed
in the proper occupations of her sex, in her domestic concerns, or a female genius, scribbling
verses on her toilette, surrounded with pamphlets of all sorts? And this constitutional reform was accompanied in England by
recognition of female genius. The Nine Muses of Britain was painted, showing contemporary female geniuses as proof that Britain was
entering a golden age. African American poet Phillis Wheatley gained recognition as a female genius. In London, female debating societies debated female representation, and in the American, new
American United States, in 1783, in Princeton, in
front of George Washington and Congress, the young
graduate, Edmund Snowden, argued to expand female education. He noted, nay, there
are none of the learned and important employments of life which the female mind
has not proved itself able to comprehend and direct. Catharine Macaulay, the
great English historian, embodied the connection from female genius to political inclusion
when she was painted wearing the Roman senatorial sash. As the Scottish military
officer and writer Alexander Jardine prophesies, the nation that shall
first introduce women to their councils, their senates, their seminaries of learning,
will probably accelerate most the advances of human nature
in wisdom and happiness. And in 1786, Eliza Harriot
and John moved to New York, capital of the United States. She established an extraordinary
French and English academy for young women from
powerful political families, Temple, Maccomb, Hillegas, Knox. Her advertisements
emphasized female genius. And in the fall, her school gave public examinations
at Columbia College, in which Columbia professors participated. One wonders if she met
William Samuel Johnson, later convention delegate,
soon to be elected first president of Columbia. She seemed almost to be on her way to imagine a young ladies’ college, but in a pattern that would repeat itself, John’s career decisions altered hers. He was hired as the editor for the Philadelphia Columbia Magazine, and they moved to
Philadelphia in early 1787, where a convention was to meet to revise the existing federal constitution. Philadelphia was diverse and cosmopolitan, the largest city in the United States, with approximately 40,000 people. In 1787, reform seemed to be in the air. The Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery reorganized, with Benjamin Franklin as president, and opening to non-Quakers. The Reverend Absalom Jones
and the formerly enslaved Richard Allen formed the
Free African Society, to support the free black population. And in 1787, other societies organized to offer reform oriented solutions to societal problems,
the modern penitentiary, and the then very
popular humane societies, which at the time referred
to recovering people who had apparently died from drowning. People imagined that the
convention foreshadowed a rising new reformist empire. And the summer of 1787, was an embodiment of the age of the constitution. Reform interested the remarkable group of elite Philadelphia women. In 1780, Esther Reed’s pamphlet had created the Ladies
Association of Philadelphia, and proclaimed a new American woman. And the larger community
of civic focused women included Annis Boudinot Stockton, salon leader and
correspondent of Washington, her daughter Julia, wife to Benjamin Rush, Mary White Morris, married to financier and convention delegate Robert Morris, Sally Bache Franklin,
daughter of Benjamin Franklin, and then-president of
the Ladies Association, an Eliza Willing Powel,
who referred to herself as Washington’s best friend
and her niece, Anne Bingham. Beginning Monday, April 2nd, 1787, in every Philadelphia newspaper, Eliza Harriot’s ads appeared,
for a course of lectures at the university on
language and eloquence, and she gave at least five
lectures, likely more, in April, May, and June of 1787. Her selections were from classics: Milton, Shakespeare and Pope, political reformers and proto-romantics, James Thomson, Edward
Young, William Shenstone, and the influential
lawyer and orientalist, Sir William Jones. Women were represented as authors, Madame de Genlis, the first woman to teach the French royal
children, and as subjects, in Xenophon’s story of General
Cyrus’s respect for Panthea, and she even, apparently,
delivered the prayer on Demosthenes from the
oration of The Crown, the most famous political play. Her selections were cosmopolitan, and linked by an underlying theory that universal emotional response
proved universal equality. And Washington’s presence
at her May 18th lecture led to accounts of her
lecture to be reprinted across the United States. For example, in New
England, her recitation of Demosthenes was used as a critique of the absent Rhode Island delegation. Eliza Harriot’s lectures were
part of a larger ambition. Indeed, her lecture was postponed to likely permit Washington’s attendance. As the first convention
delegates began to arrive in Philadelphia, a newspaper column praised the lady lecturer,
and her effort to cultivate and adorn the human mind. She was an example that, in this country, the ladies were found in
the society of the sages of the other sex, and they would
soon command the honors due to the professors of science. Soon the toilette and the drawing room, the correspondent said, would be deserted, for the forum and the college. Eliza Harriot’s lectures were designed to encourage women to
enter the forum, politics, and the college, advanced education. And then, in early June 1787, Eliza Harriot reveals her plan for a female academy of belles-lettres, to be called the French
Academy of Philadelphia. Its board would be half women, half men, and a woman was to lead it who was capable of reading French and lecturing
publicly to 300 people. Eliza Harriot explained her purpose. The exertions of a female
should be an example to be imitated and improved on. Her early attempt would
promote more mature efforts by future women who would emulate her. She wanted to be an example. But not the exceptional example that had always perversely been used as evidence of most other
women’s inferiority, but as an example to be
improved and emulated. She held herself out as the first step. And she sent her plan
to Sarah Bache Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s daughter. And she may have inspired Anne
Bingham’s early June letter to Thomas Jefferson,
praising the education of French women and their
happy variety of genius. As Anne explained, such women
assert our female privileges, and, Anne wrote Jefferson,
they should be admired as much as the friends
of liberty of mankind reverence the successful struggles of the American patriots. And so day after day,
throughout the summer of 1787, the Philadelphia newspapers
ran advertisements referring to lectures by a lady. My husband says this looks like the Red Sox opening schedule, (all laughing) and I was like, I guess it does, but it’s actually not that, okay? The dark red are days in which
I know she gave a lecture. Because the Society of the Cincinnati and the Synod of the Presbyterian Church were meeting in Philadelphia, a who’s who list was available to have potentially
attended her May lectures. Noah Webster attended on
May 18th and May 21st, and the list of people
who could have attended or did attend is large, and
if her June 21st lecture was attended by delegates,
with the exception of the New Hampshire delegation, most other delegates
could have been present. But enter Benjamin Rush. Rush was 41 years old, only three or four years older than Eliza Harriot. He had a remarkable capacious
mind, was anti-slavery, and involved in various
reformist enterprises. He’d married Julia
Stockton when she was 17, and who was then occupied with
raising their 13 children. And at the time of Eliza
Harriot’s lectures, Rush served on the all-male board of the Young Ladies Academy. The academy’s opening
is curiously uncertain, but it’s often dated to June 4th, 1787. The men embraced female education as long as they were in charge. A rival school, one by a
public lecturing British woman teaching French with women
on the board, was a threat, and who knows what was going
on behind the scenes in July, but in late July, Rush gave
a widely reprinted speech, Thoughts upon Female Education. It was designed to destroy
Eliza Harriot’s plan. As the great historian Mary
Benson noted a century ago, the talk did not show great originality. Rush simply gave an old
idea an American twist. Gentlemen should direct female education. French should not be taught,
British ideas were un-American, young ladies should be
educated to be, as he put it, an agreeable companion for a sensible man, and the daughter or wife
of an American citizen. Rush was imitated by Noah Webster. Webster had tried to make money lecturing in Philadelphia, but he had failed. He went to two of Eliza
Harriot’s lectures, and he insisted they were dull. In his essay, he
insisted, female education should focus only on what was useful. As he put it, however
ambitious a woman may be to command admiration abroad, her real merit is known only at home. Historians have interpreted
Rush and Webster as the most expansive
views on female education, an ideal often described
as republican motherhood. But it represented instead a reaction designed to confine Eliza
Harriot, and a female vision of the fundamental equality of women. Eliza Harriot stood no chance. In early July, she had begun
to advertise a new lecture on the faculties of the human mind, but as her ads ran through
July and into August, she seemed never to have sold
enough tickets to give it, and her academy never opened. And instead, at Rush’s
Young Ladies Academy, the notebooks the girls used
proclaimed on the front, the end of a good
education is not that they should become dancers,
singers, players or painters. Its real object is to make them good daughters, good
wives, good mistresses, good members of society,
and good Christians. But nonetheless, Eliza Harriot’s example may have had invisible
influence that summer. In state constitutions
crafted between 1776 and 1787, political participants are
described in various ways, some neutral, person, inhabitant. Some generic, he, man,
and some gender-specific. So for example, the 1776
New Jersey Constitution was neutral, all inhabitants
were entitled to vote. And in contrast, the 1780
Massachusetts Constitution was gender-specific, every
male inhabitant could vote. And gender-specific language was proposed for the new Constitution. In 2007, Professor Rob Natelson footnoted some of these revisions in an Ohio State article
discussing differences between subjective intent
and public meaning analysis. The first draft of the
Constitution described Congress as two separate and
distinct bodies of men. The pernicious 3/5 Clause
explicitly referenced inhabitants of every sex, and the draft Fugitive Slave Clause emphasized that men or women, he or she, escaping to a free state,
would be returned to slavery. And note how escape by
enslaved African American women was so prominent in some
of the delegates’ minds, that it’s the one place where the word she originally showed up. But the final drafting committee removed every gendered reference. Congress was no longer bodies of men, person or persons replaced he or she. And these changes created
a neutral Constitution, which actually were the
result of lead drafter and post-summer companion of
Washington and Eliza Harriot, possibly Gouverneur Morris, maybe in the audience for her lecture. Persons referenced
inhabitants of every sex and he was a generic pronoun. For textualists, the
Interstate Rendition Clause, Article IV, Section 2, proves this, because otherwise women
who commit treason, felony, and other crimes and flee across state lines escape free. But we can see the remarkable consistency of the Constitution’s use of
the neutral person he pattern to describe the various offices, and never once did the word male appear. Rush’s opposition doomed
Eliza Harriot’s academy, and in the fall of 1787,
she moved to Baltimore, in hopes of giving her lecture on The Compass of the Human Mind. Baltimore likely seemed promising, with a reformed community,
including Benjamin Banneker, who was just beginning to study astronomy. Questions may have been raised
about her female authorship because her ads now emphasized
that they had been written by the advertiser and had
never appeared in print and another significant
woman, Mary Goddard, famed female printer of the first version of the Declaration of Independence, whose signature sold tickets. And meanwhile, Eliza Harriot’s husband gathered money for his
planned History of America. But Baltimore proved unsuccessful, and in the spring of 1788, Eliza Harriot moved to Alexandria. She carried a letter of
introduction to George Washington, and her proposed female school emphasized the art of reading, with
exams to promote emulation. Emulation is a key word. A century earlier, feminist
educational reformer Mary Astell justified publication to show the product of a woman’s pen and to excite a generous
emulation in my sex, to persuade them to leave
their insignificant pursuits for employments worthy of them. Indeed, by the 18th century, emulation was associated
with enlightenment progress, so the Scottish philosopher David Hume wrote that a speaker’s elocution could rouse the genius of a nation and excite the emulation of youth. And Eliza Harriot’s emphasis of emulation as example was in this vein. Washington passively supported her school, insisting he was too
busy to sit on the board, and Eliza Harriot’s husband
also achieved success. He gave the July 4th address in Norfolk, praising Washington on
the father of his country, one of the early uses of that phrase. But success was not to be, and by October, Eliza Harriot invited
herself to Mount Vernon to consult with the General
and Mrs. Washington. John was moving to North
Carolina to head a seminary, and Eliza Harriot felt she had to go too. She wrote Washington she was resolved in every situation to
unite my best endeavors for our common benefit. My best endeavors revealed
her independent identity, but the our common benefit
emphasized the reality of married women’s legal coverture, and her commitment to her marriage. And so, off they went. Now, our common benefit, in fact, often seems to mean Eliza
Harriot’s endeavors, because nothing really
worked out for John. In 1789, he failed at
starting a new magazine in Georgetown, his history
never materialized, subscribers complained, the
Washington paper editors saw him as a near fraudster. For myself, he serves as
a reminder of how chancy success was for immigrants
without family wealth. His publishing schemes
would be accomplished by men with better American connections. Eliza Harriot, at this
time, might have tried her own hand at authorship. One E. O’Connor published two novels, one in London in 1789,
the other in Dublin, both with biographical details
oddly similar to her life. But not surprisingly, they
moved on, and in 1790, they went to Charleston, where again, she offered her lecture as advertisement for her female French and English academy. Her audience was not only women. She planned to improve the enunciation of youth intending to pursue professions in which eloquence is
indispensable, law or ministry. And perhaps because of connections made when her father briefly served
there, or more uncomfortably, perhaps because of the
socioeconomic advantage of whiteness in a city built on slavery, Charleston was successful for her, and her school flourished. She and John both taught, and she hired a Mr. Johnston, recommended
by William and Mary to teach. Her curriculum included the sciences, astronomy and geography, and she bought a new terrestrial and celestial globes. John even abandoned his
planned mens’ school to help alleviate her toil. Their published goal was
that the American lady would rank preeminently in
science and accomplishment. Her students were aspiring gentry, the prize list includes the daughter of Abraham Sasportas, a prosperous
Jewish-French immigrant. And they seemed to be
moving toward stability when Washington came to
town on his southern tour, John gave an oration
linking efforts to liberty across the Atlantic to
a golden age of justice, with Washington cast as global hero. Now, I have to pause here and tell you my favorite story about anything. Okay, so, on the southern tour, the southern tour is also
when you get this wonderful famous painting story, so note, this is just if you ever go to
Charleston, you can see this. So Charleston commissioned Trumbull to paint a picture to commemorate this. And so Trumbull painted
this wonderful picture that you see on the top, of Washington. And he painted it about Trenton, which is what you would actually paint, if you were painting Washington. But Charleston was like,
you misunderstood us, because we wanted
Charleston in the picture. And so they refused to pay for it until he painted them a new one. And so he painted them a
new picture of Washington to commemorate the southern tour, and he put Charleston in it, but he reversed the horse, and Charleston is in the picture, right
underneath the horse’s rear end. Okay.
(audience laughing) And weirdly, I didn’t believe this, and it’s hanging in Charleston even today. So they were like, fine,
it’s a good painting, okay. So now we’ll move on to the 1790s. Eliza Harriot believed that
women were equal to men, and we find glimpses of
others who shared this view. For example, in 1790,
a remarkable paragraph occurred in numerous newspapers. The anonymous author contrasted the alleged age of liberality with the present custom of excluding women from any share in legislation. Exclusion was seen as a custom,
not a legally required bar. Women should not be
obliged to submit to laws they had no share of making. It was unjust and detrimental, because women are equal to the males. And Esther Boardman, the
person depicted here, didn’t write it, but her portrait is representative of so many portraits of women in this period,
reading, finger in their book, which is how male
professionals were depicted. Female education proved that women were equal of males, and so education was part of a political platform. In 1787, in London, Mary Wollstonecraft published Thoughts on the
Education of Daughters. Wollstonecraft was a decade
younger than Eliza Harriot, but she had similarly
tried to found a school. In fact, that book included
the wonderfully titled chapter, The Unfortunate Situation of Females Fashionably Educated and
Left Without a Fortune. And her daughter, Mary Shelley, would later go on to write Frankenstein. In 1790, the great
historian Catharine Macaulay similarly published Letters
on Female Education. Both writers emphasized female education for female’s sake, and
assumed female equality. Wollstonecraft wrote to Macaulay, you are the only female writer who I consider in opinion, with respect the rank our sex ought
to attain in the world. You contend for laurels, while most of our sex only seek flowers. Laurels, public praise,
recalls Eliza Harriot’s dream of the college and the forum. Female education was a linchpin of female inclusion in
constitutional politics. Indeed, these years saw
the dramatic expansion of female education by women. Mary Kelley’s wonderful book,
Learning to Stand and Speak, illustrates some of these efforts. And increasingly, these efforts
adopted aspirational names like academy and seminary. The author Hannah Foster
offered advice to women via a fictional boarding school. Playwright and best-selling novelist Susanna Rowson, founded a school
in Boston for young ladies. In Philadelphia’s African
American community, Grace Bustill Douglas, founding member of the bi-racial Female
Anti-Slavery Society, helped to start a school
for African American girls, including the famous Forten sisters. Sarah Pierce founded the remarkable Litchfield Female Academy, a
school that over three decades educated over 3,000 women,
notably, the two Beecher sisters. Female education emphasized elocution, what Eliza Harriot referred
to as the art of reading, and the elocution movement believed that the art of speaking
would improve morality and constitutional government. In 1789, women became a target audience, with the publication of The Female Reader. Mr. Cresswick, teacher of
elocution and the author, was none other than Wollstonecraft. She included numerous selections by women, including herself, and Jane Austen would give a similar,
later text to her niece. The art of reading became a device to allow young women to
invade public spaces. As Wollstonecraft acknowledged in the preface to The Female
Reader, here is the problem. It is seen as a breach of modesty for a woman to obtrude her
person or talents on the public when necessity does not
justify and spur her on. But to be able to read with propriety is a very desirable attainment. And so public exams and public graduations created a need to allow female talents to be obtruded on the public. As Carolyn Eastman points
out in her splendid book, A Nation of Speechifiers,
many young women in the 1790 gave public graduation oratories. Most celebrated is the
1793 Young Ladies Academy address of Priscilla Mason. Mason protested the limits on women. Supposing now, we
possessed all the talents of the orator, in the highest perfection, where shall we find a theater
for the display of them? The church, the bar, the
senate, are shut against us. Who shut them? Man, despotic man, first
made us incapable of the duty and then forbid us the exercise. Let us by suitable
education qualify ourselves for those high departments
and they will open before us. The trajectory was clear. Education, oratory, and
the doors of the senate and the bar would open. This logical connection
between female education and female political participation appeared most famously in
Wollstonecraft’s January 1792, A Vindication on the Rights of Woman. The book is markedly similar to her early educational treatise, wrapped
now in the rhetoric of rights. As Wollstonecraft scholars emphasize, the book was initially widely praised. The recently formed Ladies Magazine favorably reviewed the
work, over nine pages, noting, let women share the rights and she will emulate the virtues of man, for she will grow more
perfect when emancipated. Indeed, in December, the
magazine portrayed the book being given to liberty by
the genius of the magazine and the genius of emulation. Aaron Burr found reflected
in Wollstonecraft’s work his commitment to his
own daughter’s education, and he commissioned a copy of her picture. In certain respects,
Wollstonecraft was simply writing what other women were implying. In fact, the controversial paragraph in which Wollstonecraft suggests
political participation, begins with a lament, that
women of a superior cast have not had a road open
by which they can pursue more extensive plans of
usefulness and independence. Eliza Harriot could not
have said it better, and then Wollstonecraft
writes what would become the one controversial
sentence in the book. I may excite laughter by dropping a hint, which I mean to pursue some future time. For I really think that women
ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed, without having any
direct share allowed them in the deliberation of government. Did Wollstonecraft know that her hint was not laughed at everywhere? The imagined future existed in New Jersey. Historians have known that
women voted in New Jersey, but it was treated as
an irrelevant exception, an aberration. In the last two decades, led
by the late Jan Ellen Lewis, scholars have reinterpreted
it to show that restrictions on female political
participation were not universal. Women voted in New Jersey
under a state constitution that stated that all
inhabitants could vote if they were worth 50 pounds. In theory, married women could not vote because coverture prevented them from having a legal existence
outside of their husbands, and so voters, in theory, were single, propertied women over 21, and widows. In 1790, legislation explicitly used he or she to describe
who was eligible to vote, and seven years later, another law referred to his or her ballot. And extant poll lists
show many women voted, indeed, a critic in the early 1800s complained that 10,000 women
had voted under these laws. But this vision, like
Eliza Harriot’s example, soon collapsed. In the spring of 1792,
a large financial crisis rocked the United States, and the collapse of stock and land speculation would give rise to responses that marked the beginning of the
New York Stock Exchange. Like many aspiring Americans, John seems to have held securities and
shares in land speculations. Coverture, which allowed for no independent economic
existence for married women, threw Eliza Harriot into
economic crisis, as she put it. She published an ad to
excuse the interruption in her business, inevitably produced by the disorder in Mr.
O’Connor’s pecuniary engagements. She assured her readers John had promised to discharge all the relative duties of his station with more circumspection. She released her dower
rights, and over 1,000 acres of their property went to auction, and she said she would
return to the classroom. If any profits should result
in their united labors, it is Mr. O’Connor’s
determined disposition to pay his remaining
creditors in due time. Once again, united labors seem mostly to have been Eliza Harriot. And they left, perhaps fleeing debts, following the path Washington
took on his southern tour. In the fall of 1792, in Savannah, she offered a new
lecture, planning to read Demosthenes, Longinus, Cicero, Quintilian. She offered a new school, but to no avail. In January, they were in Augusta, because Georgia was appropriating
funds for education, and her ad hoped that it would extend to those who wanted to
enlarge the female mind, but once again, she found no takers. And so, in the fall of 1793, they returned to South Carolina, now
Columbia, the new capital. Eliza Harriot advertised a female seminary devoted to improving the female mind. She framed it cautiously. Improving the female mind in the many arts it is capable to attain,
without interruption to the domestic duties which ladies are expected to discharge
at a mature period of life. And yet, one hears, still, her insistence on the female mind as capable and only being interrupted
by social expectations. And then, my sources fade,
after a 1793 ad by John, he vanishes, despite hours
of searching for him, perhaps he headed off to Ireland, perhaps debt caught up
to him, perhaps he died. And Eliza Harriot almost disappears, also. There’s one glimpse of her in 1799. In one of the few extant Columbia newspapers, her ad appears. She thanks her friends for supporting her feeble attempts at teaching. Feeble seems a sad commentary
on her once lofty ambition, and yet, one hears almost
immediately afterwards, her persistent old entrepreneurialism in her new proposal to open
a school to teach French. How long did she keep
teaching, I don’t know. Eliza Harriot’s decline
reflected the decline of the belief that the
recognition of female genius, the education of young women, the acquisition of elocution, would send women to the college and forum. In 1798, Philadelphian
Charles Brockden Brown, often seen as the first
significant American novelist, published essays entitled, The
Rights of Women: A Dialogue. And they depict a dialogue
between Mrs. Carter, whose name evoked the
Bluestocking Elizabeth Carter, actually depicted in
the nine muses painting that started this lecture, and a young, liberal American man, Alcuin, reminiscent of the sorts of
Benjamin Rush and Noah Webster. Alcuin asks Mrs. Carter
whether she’s a federalist, to which she sarcastically suggests he ask instead about the price of ribbon, things belonging to a woman’s province. She says, what have I, as a
woman, to do with politics? Even the government of our country, which is said to be the
freest in the world, passes over women as if they were not. We are excluded from all political rights, without the least ceremony. And then Mrs. Carter goes on logically to destroy every one of
Alcuin’s explanations attempting to justify female exclusion. And he is finally forced to declare, as a mother, pressing a
charming babe to her bosom, as my companion in the
paths of love or poetry or science, her dignity would shine forth. But as a national ruler, as
busied in political intrigues and cares, as burdened with
the gravity of a judge, as a champion in senatorial warfare, it would be difficult to behold her without regret and disapprobation. And then he says, these emotions I should not pretend to justify, but such and so difficult
to vanquish is prejudice. And this prejudice, for
I agree with Alcuin, that is what it was, began
to take constitutional form. Historians have offered
multiple explanations for what Rosemary Zagarri
rightly calls a backlash against women’s inclusion
in the political state. The violence of the French Revolution tainted rights rhetoric. Posthumous publication
of Wollstonecraft’s life with details about her suicide
and attempts at suicide and out of wedlock pregnancy,
radicalized her arguments. Debates over expanding
universal male suffrage sacrificed women. The rise of organized political parties led to male identity politics. Romanticization of the domestic realm rebranded confinement to
the domestic as a privilege. Public funding of male education accelerated male opportunities. New Jersey demonstrates the backlash. Beginning in 1799, criticism arose from male liberals about female voting. Lawyer William Griffith, for example, wanted expanded male suffrage, suffrage without property requirements, but he wanted to exclude
women and African Americans. These outright attacks on female voting made little progress. A newspaper editorial in 1800 proclaimed, our Constitution gives this right to maids and widows, black and white. And so opponents turned
increasingly to complaining about voter fraud, that is,
a woman might be separated from her husband, an African American might not have papers to prove freedom. Married women look
exactly like single women, and so eliminating so-called voter fraud became inevitable disenfranchisement, that is, ensuring that married women did not vote became more important than ensuring that
unmarried women could vote. And the same dynamic
played out in New Jersey with respect to race, and so, in 1807, New Jersey passed a new law that only free white male citizens could vote. New Jersey’s disenfranchisement reflected a wave of
constitutional exclusion. As new states entered the union,
voter requirements shifted. In 1792, Kentucky brought
in suffrage for white men, and it became the first western state to permit men to vote without property or tax paying requirements, but it did so by describing voters
as free male citizens. By 1802, the Kentucky
model proved dominant. Every state admitted to the
union between 1802 and 1876, defined suffrage by
constitutional exclusion. The law began with an
adjective, free or white. And after 1820, almost always white. And it ended with a description, person, inhabitant, citizen. But what never varied was the word male. Women were constitutionally excluded because they were not male. In the 1780s, the age of
the constitution had begun with arguments for greater
participation in government, and by the 19th century,
greater participation in government had occurred. By 1840, more than 90%
of white men could vote, but at an enormous cost. Like people of color,
women found themselves constitutionally excluded
because they were not white men. Eliza Harriot’s life followed
a similar trajectory. Columbia prospered, becoming the location for the public university. But Eliza Harriot did not find
her way inside those doors. Her activities between 1799
and 1811 are a mystery, but some time in the late
spring of 1811, she died. The inventory suggests she was living in one room in someone’s house. Her estate included
spectacles, needlework, books, a watch, a chamber pot, a bed quilt, an umbrella, and a note for $160. It was not a large sum of money, the reward for an escaped enslaved person in the June 1811 Charleston paper was $50. She left her property to two young women, daughters of her executor,
but neither daughter’s life altered because of the inheritance. They both married,
inherited enslaved people from their father, and left for Alabama. And in the following years, the example she represented seemed to be rejected. Another lady lecturer,
feminist Frances Wright, had her orations marked. She was portrayed as a goose, with the comment, a goose
that deserves to be hissed. Prominent African American
female lecturer Maria Stewart wrote it in 1832, the frowns of the world shall nevertheless, never discourage me. In 1871, Frank Leslie’s newspaper depicted New Jersey women voting, but described it as a
custom now happily obsolete. And Rush’s insistence on female education for the domestic realm triumphed in the concurrence by Supreme
Court Justice Bradley. Myra Bradley argued she’d met all the educational
requirements to be a lawyer, save she was female, and so Illinois was constitutionally
required to admit her, and the court rejected her claim. Justice Bradley explained,
the paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign
offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the creator, and the rules of civil
society must be adapted to the general constitution of things, and things cannot be based
upon exceptional cases. The general constitution of things, with things ambiguously defined, governed. But recall Eliza Harriot’s words. The exertions of a female
should be considered as presenting an example to be imitated and improved on by future
candidates for literary fame. And if we look carefully, we see examples following the path that
Eliza Harriot tried to open. Each one imitated and
improved on by a later woman. Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady
Stanton, the Grimke sisters, who wrote the Seneca Falls
Declaration of Rights and Sentiments and agitated for married women’s property rights, or African American
womens’ rights activists like the Philadelphia Forten sisters. These women were all educated,
often at female schools, and they grew comfortable
as public lecturers, and many of them tried teaching. For them, female education and the vote were two sides of the same coin. And so it’s not surprising
that the first efforts to re-enfranchise women, permitted women to vote in school district elections, or that the first woman to vote under unrestricted suffrage
was Utah schoolteacher Seraph Young, in 1870, or that Mary Ann Shadd Cary,
the African American teacher, later lawyer, was the first
African American woman to register to vote in 1871, amid widespread effort by women
in 1870, 1872, to register. We often tell the story of female efforts at political participation
as a long series of exceptions with many failures. And one might look at
Eliza Harriot’s life, London, Dublin, New York,
Philadelphia, Baltimore, Alexandria, Edenton, Charleston, Savannah, Augusta, Columbia,
as a series of failures. But I think Eliza Harriot would disagree. She insisted that her exertions were to serve as an example for others. And our history shows a long
line of female examples, each one imitated and improved
on by those who came after, each one serving as an example
for eloquent emulation. In May 1787, George Washington heard Eliza Harriot deliver a lecture on the power of eloquence, and the power of being an example, no matter how small. In the 1780s, the age of the constitution rearranged assumptions about
who constituted the state. The concept of female genius developed as a rebuttal to alleged
female inferiority. In 1787, Eliza Harriot’s example may have been a catalyst that rendered the Constitution’s
language gender neutral, and left a Constitution, whose words seem consistent with female genius. But her example also inspired opposition, and in the 1790s, as female genius became the rights of
woman, this opposition grew until the constitutional state and the patriarchical state became assumed to be one and the same. But who knows what ripples went forth from her lectures, her schools,
and her many newspaper ads. To paraphrase the 1787 May account, superficial observers,
accustomed to undervaluing all female talent, might think her lecture was only worth condescension. But those of us with
judgment and penetration will conclude that she was
worthy of our attention. Her performance was not revolutionary, but as an early example of the path for women, from female education towards college and the forum and beyond, and as a reminder that the
Constitution was drafted in a world far more diverse than our conventional story insists, her performance was certainly tolerable. Thank you very much.
(audience applauding) – [Man] Thank you so much, Mary. That was wonderful. We have a bit of time for questions, if anyone would like to.
– Yeah, I’d be happy to answer questions.
– For your questions, we have microphones here at the center, and afterwards, we’ll have a
reception, it’s a la carte. (footsteps tapping) – So, you often used the
phrase female genius. And I can’t help wondering what was going on in the heads of, I’m gonna call them
feminists, of that period. They make claims for gender equality. Did they think they were smarter than men? – So, I guess I should stay here. I’m a walker, so I feel
very imprisoned here, but so genius is a word whose, the idea of the word’s
shifting in that space, and it’s actually quite interesting. It’s shifting from a
word that means capacity into a word that’s gonna begin to mean, sort of romantic exceptionalism. And female genius begins being used by a lot of women in
that time, and also men, who are sort of into this, who imagine it, not as
an exceptional attitude, but as equally capable,
or having equal capacity. And then genius sort of floats out into the 19th century romantic idea of somebody being a particular genius, but it doesn’t have that, it
doesn’t have that context. And so one of the things
that’s particularly interesting is in this late 18th century period, beginning, sort of in the
1750s, into the 1760s, you see the phrase over and over again, and it’s this insistence
on women’s equal capacity. And so what you also
find is you find people going back to the 1600s and 1700s and republishing as if they were new, older feminist texts,
sort of showing long lists of women as geniuses,
so it’s more understood as a capacity argument. So I don’t think they
think women are smarter, they’re making a claim against the sort of inferiority tradition in
the Western tradition. – Thank you for such a wonderful lecture. And I couldn’t help when you
were basically telling us this period of much more diversity than we often imagine
about that moment of debate and, right, in the context
of the Constitution. What happened afterwards, and
then you basically gave us the answer, but your list of reasons of what produced the
backlash seem intentioned with a very short period of time from which the main character was promoting women’s rights and what happened with the very brutal
backlash, in terms of, just reinforcing patriarchy
and excluding women. And I wonder what lessons you
draw from this experience? I mean, it’s obviously
always hard to figure out what’s gonna happen and one has to do what one believes in, but it seems like this wonderful moment where things seem to be much more open and fluid was very aggressively
and violently curtailed. And so I wonder whether
you have any thoughts about this relationship
between political change and agency and structural
problems that might hinder them. – Yeah, no, it’s, I mean, it’s
actually quite interesting. If you can find people on all sorts of interesting reformist vectors, who in 1787, like there’s
the people associated with abolition in Philadelphia, they really believe the British are going to vote to
abolish the slave trade. I mean, they believe that. We know that’s crazy, and how
could you have believed that and everything like that,
but they’ve got there in correspondence, so
people who are interested in political reform believe they’re living in this reformed golden age, and they’re, that’s just not what happens. So it’s not just on the
vector line of gender, you could show it on a whole
series of vector lines, and I think, I mean, I happen
to be very sympathetic to, on the one hand, a group of people who argue that publicity around the way that the French Revolution is experienced makes a certain set,
radicalizes people’s arguments in a way that makes them
resonate differently, and that’s clearly what
happens, in some ways, to women’s rights arguments, along with a lot of other
rights-based arguments. But Gerry Leonard and Saul Cornell have just published a book
on, sorta, the 19th century and they argue, and I
think, quite persuasively, that a big chunk of this is also just a very complicated
story about a sort of rise of a white male image
of constitutional government over the 19th century, both at
the state and federal level, and that’s accomplished by exclusion, and that just squishes
out these possibilities. And so, I’ve become a big
believer in not thinking that women were, I think this
is what you’re gonna see, around the centennial of women’s voting, is not that they were enfranchised, but they were re-enfranchised, because I think there’s a lot of people who now feel that the
way we tell the narrative in which it’s a rigged narrative of like, hey, isn’t it great? Instead of thinking of it as a narrative like there were these moments, and then they were crushed, and then, not completely, come again. And I don’t know what that means if one’s trying to be a revolutionary, but for me as a historian, it’s a lot about, as much contingency as a sort of long arc
going in one direction. – I’m gonna ask a question,
but I also wanna encourage the students in the audience to think about asking a question. I see lots of students here, we’ve just had three faculty
members ask questions, so I will ask a question, but as I– – There’s no, when I give a
talk, let me just explain. I gave a talk similar to this, based a little bit on
this at Mount Vernon, and the first question I get is this, and they’re like, I saw a picture of bathing machines in your slides, can you talk about bathing machines? And I was like, yeah,
I actually know a lot about bathing machines,
and how they’re worked, and I was really happy
to answer that question. So there’s no topic that
I’m not happy to talk about. – So please, as I’m asking a question, if people have questions, students, please think about them and come up. So, what a great project. Thank you so much for coming
to talk with us about them. I’m gonna ask you a methods question, which is how’d you find her? – Yeah.
– And tell us about the process of
digging through everything that you had to dig through
to find all these references, and also, were there dead ends that you had to deal with and how did you sort of work through
the dead ends process? – So she had been known
about for a long time, in fact, she really
fascinated Charles Warren who wrote one of the
first narrative histories. He’s the first person who really found a lot of the fact that
some of the newspaper ad, there’s this note in Washington’s diary, and then he tagged it with these ads that he had found about
her advertisements. And so she’s not completely unknown, although what her actual name is and the backstory, I think
has been less well known. It’s almost all the product
of digital newspaper archives. So this is, in some ways,
I think in some ways, my first book, there’s a lot of work that would have been impossible to do in a world where you didn’t
have digital resources. So what you can do now is you can, I’m sure Georgetown has
this, it’s actually super fun if you’re bored, probably,
better than surfing the web and other things, you
can go and you can look in old newspapers, and you can browse them and you can word search them, and you find all sorts of crazy things, and so for me, it’s part of
a much bigger project on, I think we misunderstand the
framing of the Constitution, because we’re always inside the room. And I think that disables
our understanding and it leads us to focus on missing all the influences that
were running into that room. Many of people who come to
Philadelphia that summer to be part of that space. And so, either when you move out to something like a newspaper,
you’re actually experiencing the world more the way that people at the time experienced the world. There are 10 billion dead ends, and I can’t even begin
to tell you how many, you know she never ran the same ad, there’s newspaper misprints, the word searches are impossible. Even yesterday, I found
an ad that I didn’t know, I didn’t have before, and I was obsessed with what happened to her husband, and I don’t know, and
that’s really annoying. Like, I almost gave up the whole project ’cause I was like, does he die? I think he goes to Ireland
to try and sell land for speculation to European investors, but I’m not sure, and if his name was, Jeremiah Eggleston or something like that, I would be like, well,
I’m pretty sure of it, but I can only tell you how
many John O’Connors there are and this is the advantage
of doing this project at BC is one of the interesting things is, the name O’Connor, so O’Connor
is an Irish-Catholic name, it had been, it’s actually part, a name that descends through the ancient Irish royal families, and they had all been
suppressed, obviously, during the 18th century. And it’s in this period
that they begin to reclaim some status, and so they start adding the O back into their names. Right, so now, like O’Connor, just like people start adding Mc back. But of course, the way that some people start reclaiming O and Mc,
to show they’re descended, ’cause nobody actually has figured out, knows who’s descended,
everybody starts adding O and Mc, and so in this period, people who were named O’Connor
were often named Connor, O’Connor, and so it was
a complete nightmare. So yes, I could talk
for hours of thousands of dead ends, lost and whatever. – So following up on the
religious sort of angle that just came up obliquely, I’d be curious to hear more
about her religious affiliation, and then also, on one of
the slides you showed, I think it was like the other academy, was a long list of very
high ranking clergymen. I saw William White’s
name, big Episcopal bishop. – Right.
– And so I was wondering if her academies were always facing these better funded
denominationally supported educational institutions for women, and whether there is a
bit of a religious angle to her kind of lack of
success in these new places where there were, the same time, I’m thinking about Mary
Kelley’s work here, a push to have organized
denominational education through churches?
– Yeah. So she, I don’t know her religion. She’s married in the Church of England. He would have been, in
order to become a barrister in Dublin at that time, you had to have technically converted
to Church of England also. So they probably are Church of England. I don’t find them in any rolls, and certainly, when they
get to South Carolina, they seem to possibly
be hanging with people who are proto-Methodists,
so who knows what they are. She is in, I think, not
just in the way you say, which I think is an excellent
point about religion. She’s very much in opposition to a established power structure. Now, interestingly, not
so much in New York, where she’s quite successful and seems to have been
successful with Columbia, but in Philadelphia, where
there was a very powerful effort to try and, in essence,
control female education. And to see itself as being liberal. She runs into just enormous problems. And she ends up being pretty successful in South Carolina, where
she spins a little bit in South Carolina till it be like, you could be fancy, you
know, like fancy fancy. You don’t have to send
your kid somewhere fancy, and then, on the side, she’s like, astronomy, geography, math. But she’s also playing the kind of, what people are willing to pay for it, because fundamentally, she has no money, and so for her, this
is always about money. And she’s married to this
wonderfully romantic person who is, as far as I can
tell, never makes a cent. (audience laughing) Except loses all the money, and
because of coverture, she’s, my husband’s always like, this
is kind of a depressing talk for husbands, and I’m like, I’m always like, sorry about that. He is kinda like the ball
and chain on her career, which is what so many women who go into teaching find as academies. So who you find teaching in this period is you find single
women, Catharine Beecher being a great example, right? She doesn’t want to get married, she needs an income, she gets one. And you find married women whose husbands were, in essence,
economically under-performing. But yeah, I don’t think anybody in, sorry, maybe that wasn’t the print
sized best way to put it, but I don’t think anybody in
the Philadelphia hierarchy, particularly the church,
likes what she is doing. And she uses Christian,
but almost not at all. – [Jim] Sorry, Eloise,
another faculty member. Wonderful talk.
– Thanks, Jim. – And extremely interesting. I just wonder if the,
obviously, the other segment of people who were disenfranchised
would be the slaves, and did she have any recognition of this and how did that exhibit itself? – Yeah, no, there’s nothing. I mean, because it’s just advertisements. I have no papers from her or no nothing. So I have no sense of
their relationship at all. A couple things that O’Connor writes, her husband writes for papers, imply liberation in a broad idea, in essence, in a quasi-abolitionist way, but not in anything specific. Her model in Philadelphia,
the people who follow her model are people like the Fortens, who, very prominent
African American women, basically, among the free
African American community. And they start going to
school and then lecturing. So you can see the same path being there. I think the thing for me that’s
probably most uncomfortable about it is what they do is
they move steadily south. And I think that that really shows the, in some ways, the
privileging of whiteness, that is, as she moves
south, the enslaved reality of the economy allow her to make a living in a space where she’s less
successful in Philadelphia. There’s no evidence about
her, but there’s a horrible part in the Grimke diary of Charleston about a period about 20 years later, where she’s talking about the school that she was educated at, which
was a later female academy, and she talks about their abusive use of enslaved people as a way to basically, have their labor to fund this. So I suspect there’s a less, a much more problematic
underpiece of this. Her executor owns, the
person who is the executor of her will owns enslaved people, and she, like a number of other women, white women who are widows in this period, eventually moves south to
basically become pensioners on plantations, and I think that’s a real, a very uncomfortable reality
about that aspect of the story. Good? – [Man] So, I think that that will draw this to a conclusion. Thank you, Mary, so
much for educating us– – Thank you.
– For enlightening us. You make us all feel like we underperform. (all laughing) But that’s good, and so please join me in thanking Mary Sarah Bilder. (audience applauding) Let the comment segment continues, a reception, everyone is invited. Thank you.
– Thank you. (crowd chattering) – Was that fun?
– You’re amazing. (crowd chattering)
– Yeah, it was good. (crowd chattering)


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