April 14, 2013
Women have suffered throughout history. Angelina Grimke, Sarah Grimke, Catherine Beecher and Margaret Fuller wrote letters to express the importance of women’s rights. Often comparing women’s rights to slavery, each letter stressed the importance of equal rights for all. I never knew women were oppressed that badly. The letters these women wrote were based on moral rights, observation of injustice, and suppression in society. Each letter written expanded my knowledge on women’s rights. Although each wrote letters, the effectiveness of the writer’s point of view made some essays more effective at proving their point than others. Throughout this paper I will summarize, compare and contrast, and analyze each letter written to determine which paper effectively persuaded their reader. Angelina Grimke wrote “Human Rights Not Founded on Sex, Letter to Catharine Beecher” in 1837 to express the need for recognition for women’s rights. Grimke’s essay talks about human rights, which she relates to slavery. She related women’s rights and slavery by their moral rights, or moral nature she also described it, and how all men have moral nature so therefore all men have rights, “When I look at human beings as moral beings, all distinction in sex sinks to insignificance and nothingness; for I believe it regulates rights and responsibilities no more than the color of the skin or the eye.” (Grimke 143) Grimke effectively expressed her view on the rights of women. Although her wording was broad, her essay still specifies and stresses the importance of moral rights. Grimke gave a new perspective on the issue of women’s rights. For example, she discussed the widely known story of how women were created. Women were created from the rib of man. God took man’s rib to create his companion, or so we believe. The perspective Grimke gave was that women were created as lower than man, as man’s property. “…Woman was never given to man. She was created like him, in the image of God…” (Grimke 143) Since it was from the man’s rib she expressed that God made woman less than man, which is not true. However, Grimke fell short on really reaching her audience. Throughout her essay Grimke seems to give a broad context of the injustice women and slaves face. Her essay doesn’t give personal examples or stories of women and slaves who have experienced the struggle of discrimination based on sex and race. Although, the essay was a response to Catharine Beecher’s essay on slavery and abolitionism I still contend that the shortness of the essay was its downfall. Another response letter done by Angelina Grimke’s sister, Sarah Grimke does a more effective job of comparing women and slaves. Angelina’s essay discussed the moral rights and how all should be treated equal. Sarah’s however, compared women and slaves struggles for equality against men. For example, “This last that “a wife can bring no action,” &c. is similar to the law respecting slaves,” (Grimke 147) Sarah talked about how women could not bring justice to herself if criminal charges are against her husband. Also how the wife has no control over her own responsibility, the husband “Possess unlimited control over her…” (Grimke 147) Grimke does an excellent job of bridging similarities of injustice towards women and slaves together in her essay “”Legal Disabilities of Women”: Letter to Mary Parker.” For example, the husband can instill “moderate correction…as an answer to misbehavior,” (Grimke 148) or in today’s terms abuse. When comparing to slavery it is allowed by law for slaveholders to kill slaves based on moderate correction. Another essay Sarah Grimke wrote was “”Relation of Husband and Wife”: Letter to Mary Parker”. Grimke discusses the relationship between woman and husband and the struggle women face just for equality, no matter what economic status. She refers to economic classes and how woman who are lower class often suffers from abuse from their husbands. A Grimke quotes passages from the bible that supports the claim that men are superior and woman is man’s property. Grimke’s essay doesn’t refer to slavery, but I can find correlation between the two. For example, Grimke talks about the bible verses use of language that is similar to slaveholding. The words subjection, submit are similar words slaves have heard from their slaveholders. However, since there wasn’t any talk about slavery I felt that this essay did not persuade readers as the other stories. For example, Grimke quoted 6 bible verses but did not break each down and challenged them. Also Grimke jumps from Christianity condemning women to social classes. If the essay was longer I felt Grimke would have been able to really express her thoughts.
Catherine Beecher wrote “A Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841)”. Beecher letter was about women gaining independence but in reach. Beecher doesn’t want women to step outside of certain boundaries. She believes that God is the superior and chooses the subordinate and higher person. Beecher ideology is completely different from the previous essays. Beecher talks about how women are free and doesn’t have to live by the rule of their man. “…Nor is she obligated to take a husband, if she prefers to remain single.” (Beecher 444) In comparison to slavery women have more freedom. Beecher believes that women were put on this earth to do a certain job and they are not fit to do a man’s work. “They admit, that, as Nature has appointed such wide differences between the physical and moral constitutions of man and woman, her manifest design was, to give a distinct employment to their various faculties…each of them to fulfill their respective tasks…” (Beecher 445) Beecher’s essay is completely different from my personal ideology that I am bias. Throughout the essay Beecher but belittle women. Using God as a way to justify your flawed ideology is morally wrong. I understand that women and men are different physically, but women and men are equal on all levels. Beecher stance on education is great, except the fact that she believes women should not strive to be nothing greater than a teacher or a house wife. Beecher also contradicts herself toward the end, “The success of democratic institutions, as is conceded by all, depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the mass of people.” (Beecher 446) How can the mass succeed if women are not fulfill their dreams. A writer who expressed her thought clearly was Margaret Fuller in her letter “Women in the Nineteenth Century (1845)”.Fuller talks about how more and more women are fighting for equal rights. She claims that the phrase “All men are born free and equal” (Fuller 448) is a simple message that people need to live by. Fuller begins to question if man is ready for women to have equal rights, but quickly answer the question. Fuller doesn’t want women to begin to run everything and become more dominate than men, rather have full power to do as she pleases. “What woman needs is not as a woman to act or rule, but as a nature to grow, as an intellect to discern, as a soul to live freely and unimpeded…” (Fuller 449) Also that women are not just objects of companionship. Fuller wants women to be who they want to be and live how they want to live, whether being a house wife or challenging her intellect. I believe she wanted women to have the freed to make their own choices in life and not be bound to have children and stay at home. Fuller challenges traditional ideas by asking rhetorical questions. For example, when she speaks with an irritated trader who wants his wife at home, she asks “ Have you ever asked if she is satisfied with these indulgences?” Fuller effectively summarizes her point without making a full statement. The question has so many answers that it begins to turn wheels in your mind. If the wife is not happy then then she is not growing, the reader begins to piece what Fuller has been trying to say based of off one question. When I read the letter I began to think that everyone deserves to be happy, no matter what. As a spouse, you should want to see your partner thrive and grow and be happy. Fuller wants the notion that women are only here to please men and be companions. Fuller stirs up a mental debate in my head, however it seem as if her point is not as clear and often conflicts with each other. For example, she often claims that women are not for companionship but says women should have the freedom to do whatever they feel is natural. Maybe some women like being just a companion to their husbands. She also uses abstract details to push her point across. “...We would have every path laid open to Woman as freely as to Man. Were this done, and a slight temporary fermentation allowed to subside, we should see crystallizations more pure and of more various beauty.” (Fuller 448) Fuller essay was excellent in effectively persuading her readers to follow their own goals and dreams. Margaret Fuller’s essay “Women in the Nineteenth Century (1845)” effectively expressed her idea and made audiences gain knowledge of women’s rights.
Angelina Grimke. Human Rights Not Founded on Sex: Letter to . : The Liberator, Aug 2, 1837.
Catherine Beecher. A Treatise of Domestic Economy (1841). : A Treatise of Domestic Economy, 1841. Margaret Fuller. Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845). : Woman in the Nineteenth Century , 1845.
Sarah Grimke. Legal Disabilities of Women: Letter to Mary Parker. : The Liberator, Sept. 6, 1838.
Sarah Grimke. Relation of Husband and Wife: Letter to Mary Parker. : The Liberator, Sept. 1837.