Mary Livermore

American journalist

Mary Livermore (born Mary Ashton Rice; December 19, 1820 – May 23, 1905) was an American journalist, abolitionist, and advocate of women's rights.

Mary Livermore (1867)


  • Our social structure has been based on the theory that “all men support all women,” a theory which has never been true, and which is farther from being true to-day than ever before.
  • It is regarded as a misfortune when a boy grows to manhood content to live on the labor of others. With girls it has been otherwise. It has been assumed that they would marry and be “supported” by competent husbands. The only training necessary for them with this inevitable future before them should be such as would fit them to be wives, mothers, and housekeepers – “sweet dependents,” held perpetually in “soft subjection.” The practical working of this theory has weighted women with heavy disabilities, for many men make neither good nor competent husbands.
  • The old-time theory that “all men support all women” led to the enactment of laws which gave all the earnings of the married woman to her husband; in most instances gave him control of her property, always legal possession of her person, and legal ownership of her minor children; the righto decide the location of their joint domicile; the power, in short, the become the arbiter of her fate;
  • When the early Woman Suffragists took their stand for a redress of the wrongs of women, they used no vague or ambiguous language. As early as 1838 Angelina Grimké and Abby Kelley, who were the first women orators I ever heard, uttered their protest against the wrongs of woman, from an anti-slavery platform. They severely denounced the custom of society which closed the doors of remunerative industries against women, and thereby condemned large numbers to abject dependence and compulsory poverty. Ten years later, when the first Convention was held at Seneca Falls, New York, and occasion commemorated by this weeks’ International Conference, women reiterated the protest and the denunciation, and demanded political equality as a remedy for these wrongs. Two years later another Woman’s Convention was held in Worcester, Mass., and again there rang out the demand for equal political rights for men and women, equal educational opportunities, and “partnership in the labors and gains, risks and remunerations, of productive industry.” It is impossible to-day to describe the fierce outburst of ridicule with which the public received these demands. Press and pulpit, legislatures and courts, public men and private citizens, society and fashion, all hastened to wash their hands of these innovators, and to label them with the opprobrious epithets so lavishly affixed to those who inaugurate a reform.
  • Clara Barton, doing clerical work in a department of the Government and declining to receive compensation therefor, attracted no attention. But Clara Barton in hospitals an don hospital transports, bringing order out of chaos, hope our of despair, and holding death in abeyance; Clara Barton at Andersonville, where 13,000 soldiers had yielded up life under the prolonged horrors of a military prison, and had been ignominiously buried in long trenches, uncared for, united and unknown, attracted the attention and aroused the gratitude of the nation. For she ordered the trenches opened, the unknown dead exhumed and decently buried, each man in a separate grave, with a headstone recording his name, his rank, and the date of his death.
  • Anna Dickinson, in the Philadelphia Mint, working for a pittance and making impassioned speeches on various occasions for the enslaved black man, was regarded as a nuisance. But Anna Dickinson on the platform, with impassioned speech and fervid moral earnestness, pleading the cause of the slave and receiving $100 and $200 a night for the service; Anna Dickinson in the Connecticut and New Hampshire Republican campaigns, thrilling both States with her eloquent utterances, the acknowledged power that won the victory in both for the Republican party, became the heroine of the hour, and was hailed as the Joan d’Are of the nineteenth century.
  • the last statue of w:Anne Whitney, unveiled a few months ago, the ideal statue of the Norseman Leif, the son of Eric, is regarded by man competent critics as the most exquisite work of art that has come from the studio of any American sculptor.
  • Only a little over a quarter of a century ago women were allowed to enter very few remunerative occupations. In 1840, when Harriet Martineau visited this country to study its institutions, that she might be able to forecast the type of civilization to be evolved from them, she especially investigated the position of women in the young republic. She was surprised to find the occupying a very subordinate position in a country calling itself free, and to find they had entered only seven paying occupations. They were allowed to teach, to be seamstresses, which included tailoring, dress-making, and millinery; they could keep boarding-houses, enter domestic service, become operatives in factories, compositors in printing offices, and folders and stitchers in book binderies.
  • The ancient commercial dimensions of the earth are swept away forever, and competition is now world-wide. This will compel the thorough training of American working people in industrial education, based on art and science. We need technical schools as we find them in the Old World, abundant and open alike to old and young, rich and poor, and as free to women as to men.
  • to working women, as indeed to all women, the ballot is a necessity. It is the only synonym of legal equity that a republican government can know.
  • Above all, at the present time, should women cultivate what they grievously lack, a fine esprit de corps. They should stand together in a solidarity that can not be shaken by difference of opinion, nor weakened by jealousy, nor undermined by the cruel gossip and scandal of the world. “Any stone is good enough to throw at a dog,” says Frances Power Cobbe, ” and there is yet a spirit in the world that regards any slur, innuendo, or hint of baseness as legitimate if uttered concerning a woman.” “the woman Thou gavest me, she gave me of the tre and I did eat,” is still the pitiful plea of the shirk and the coward. It should not be echoed by women, nor exalted by them to the dignity of an accusation. I lack language in which to express my sense of reprobation of the course pursued by those women who, from their soft and easy homes, where they are anchored in the love of manly husbands, enter the arena of public life only to beat back their sisters who seek larger opportunities than suffice for themselves; who make their own opinions and wishes the measure of all women’s needs, and cry out to legislatures and courts, parliaments and congresses: “Hold, enough! Concede to women no more of their demands, for we have all the rights we want!” “Whenever a wrong is done To the humblest and the weakest ‘neath the all-beholding sun, That wrong is also done to us, and they are slaves most base, Whose love of right is for themselves, and not for all the race.”
  • It is more than fifty years since Margaret Fuller, standing, as she said, “in the sunny noon of life,” wrote a little book, which she launched on the current of thought and society. It was entitled “Women in the Nineteenth Century”; and as the truths it proclaimed and the reforms it advocated were far in advance of public acceptance, its appearance was the signal for an immediate widespread newspaper controversy, that raged with great violence. I was young then, and as I took the book from the hands of the bookseller, wondering what the contents of the thin little volume could be, to provoke so wordy a strife, I opened the first page. My attention was immediately arrested, and a train of thought started
  • that grander type of woman, towards which to-day the whole sex is moving, —consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly, — because the current sets that way, and there is no escape from it.
  • humanity has moved forward to an era where wrong and slavery are being displaced, and reason and justice are being recognized as the rule of life. Science is extending immeasurably the bounds of knowledge and power; art is refining life, giving to it beauty and grace; literature bears in her hands whole ages of comfort and sympathy, industry, aided by the hundred-handed elements of nature, is increasing the world’s wealth, and invention is economizing its labor. The ages looks steadily to the redressing of wrong, to the righting of every form of error and injustice; and the tireless and prying philanthropy, which is almost omniscient, is one of the most hopeful characteristics of the time. It could not be possible in such an era, but that women should share in the justice and kindliness with which the time is fraught. A great wave is lifting them to higher levels. The leadership of the world is being taken from the hands of the brutal and low, and the race is making its way to a higher ideal than once it knew.
  • the prophecies of evil always inspired by a growing reform
  • “What shall we do with our daughters?” is really the sum and substance of what, I popular phase, is called “the woman question.”
  • Obedience to the behests of duty gives peace, even when love is lacking; and peace is a diviner thing than happiness.
  • Nature has so constituted us that the sexes act and react upon each other, making every “woman’s cause” a man’s cause, and every man’s cause a woman’s cause
  • Good health is a great prerequisite of successful or happy living.
  • While it is undoubted true that the practice of tight lacing is regarded with growing disfavor, it is also true that the corsets in vogue, at present, are more objectionable than those worn even half a century ago.
  • Children require simple food, early hours for retiring, and abundance of sleep, as well as freedom from social and religious excitements.
  • Health is a means to an end. It is an investment for the future. That end is worthy work and noble living. And life has little to offer the young girl who has dropped into physical deterioration, which cuts her off from the activities of the time, and makes existence to her synonymous with endurance.
  • no phase of the great movement for the advancement of women has progressed so slowly, as that which demands their technical and industrial training.
  • The very highest function of woman is to raise and train the family; it is the very highest function of man also.
  • “Do you expect to train boys to the same standard of morality as girls?” I am asked. “It cannot be done. Boys will be boys, and young men will have their time of sewing wild oats.” And this is said as cavalierly, as if “wild oats,” when sowed, never come to harvest. As Gold lives, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap,” — “wild oats,” or whatever else. It is possible to train boys to the same standard of purity that is upheld for their sisters. It is not safe, and it is indeed cruel, to ignore this, when we consider the physical consequences and the moral debasement of a dissipated life. Every boy should be trained to courtesy, self-possession, and a regard for the rights and wishes of others.
  • Every boy should have a special fitting for some aim in life. ..Industry is a great means of grace.
  • In short, the training of our boys should be toward manliness, — towards gentle-manliness; so that they will be tender to children, courteous to women, helpful to the unable, and quick to recognize those in need of assistance. They should be so strong morally as quickly to repel temptation; so trained in the habit of doing right that it will not be easy for them to do wrong.
  • Some one once asked Charles Sumner what bribes had been offered him in the course of his political career. “What bribe!” he replied. “No bribe has ever been offered me. I have never been solicited, with promise of payment, to pursue any course whatever. ” It could not have bene otherwise with Sumner. He as not a man to solicit temptation, or to dally with it, and people knew it. Usually, the people who are tempted are known to be in the market with principles to sell. But Charles Sumner, like some other great men of course country, had not a reputation of this kind.
  • Thomas Hughes, the author of “Tom Brown at Rugby,” has written a little book called “The Manliness of Christ” It would be an excellent thing if our young men became sufficiently interested in this book to read it.

Quotes about Mary Livermore

  • The feminist compilers were no less present-minded. The most ambitious work from their ranks was published in 1893 by Frances Willard, president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and Mary Livermore, a reformer and woman's rights leader…The editors considered the 19th century to be the century of opportunities for women and set out to compile "this rosary of nineteenth century achievement... the self-conscious celebratory tone of the essays and the selection of persons to be included reveal the authors' didactic intent. This volume celebrates women active in religious, welfare and educational work, the kind of women honored in the cultural programs of the women's clubs then springing up in every community in the United States. The omissions are equally telling: there is not one African-American woman listed, and all the famous women to whom any touch of "scandal," such as a divorce, adhered were excluded. Frances Wright, Ernestine Rose, Frances Kemble, Margaret Fuller did not pass the "respectability" test and were omitted.
  • "How does it feel to be known as the husband of Mary Livermore?" was the snide question asked by a reporter of the Rev. Mr. Livermore, whose wife, a famous and popular writer, reformer and lecturer, often helped fill his pulpit and co-edited a periodical with him. Mr. Livermore responded with a charming smile: "Why, I'm very proud of it. You see, I'm the only man in the world who has that distinction." His reply is as notable for its good spirit as for its rarity.
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