The Clara Barton Museum Blog

A Little Miscommunication: Three Cheers for Barton

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In 1882, a veteran’s reunion group asked Clara Barton to come speak at an event.  At this time strong lobbying efforts for women’s rights by Susan B. Anthony and her followers obviously annoyed some men.  According to Barton, the group reassured their membership stating,

We can promise our citizens a rare treat of patriotic eloquence such as is seldom listened to  X X  and we can assure them that there will be no cause for disappointment, they will not have thrust upon them a lecture on woman’s rights after the style of Susan B. Anthony and her clique.  Miss Barton does not belong to that class of women.

As I read this, I thought about the silence before a young child screams after being hurt, pictured the veins popping and red neck that Gen. Robert E. Lee’s staff allege he displayed when highly annoyed…oh boy, this is going to hit the roof!  I was not disappointed.  
Her response: 

My blood boiled as I read and faced an audience of which the most exacting speaker might be proud, not even standing room in the aisles.  And I treated them to their feast of ‘Patriotic eloquence’ a vim I had no power to control.  I could feel the indignation hiss between my teeth as the words rolled almost unbidden, but I held firmly to my subject till it was ended, and when they had shouted and cheered to a tiger I resumed- in the following text–
     ‘Soldiers, you have called me here to speak to you on the war we lived together.  I have done it.  Now I have a word for you.  I wish to read this paragraph which you have used to help fill your hall,-‘ I read it very slowly and distinctly.
     That paragraph, my comrades, does worse than misrepresent me as a woman, it maligns my friend and it allures the brightest and bravest work ever done in the land for either me or you.  You glorify the women who made their way to the front to seek you out in your misery and nurse you back to life.  You call us angels.  Who opened the war for us to go, and made it possible, who but that detested set of women who for years had claimed that women had rights and should have the privilege to exercise them, the right to her own property, her own children, her own home, to her freedom of action, to her personal liberty, and upon this other women have claimed the right and took the courage if only to go to a camp and drag a wounded man out of a swamp [?] and try to save him for his family and country.
     And soldiers, for every woman’s hand that ever cooled your fevered brow, staunched your bleeding wounds or called life back to your famished body you should bless God for Susan B. Anthony, Cady Stanton and their followers.  No one has stood so alone, so unhelped as Susan Anthony and Soldiers I would have the first monument that is ever raised to any woman in this country raised to her, and that monument will be raised and your daughters, boys will help proudly, gratefully help to set its granite blocks for everlasting age, set it where all may see.  And I would reproduce the eloquence of Webster at Bunker Hill-, [‘]Let the earliest light of the morning gild it and parting long linger and play on its summit.[‘]
     Boy’s, three cheers for Susan Anthony!
   And the very windows shook in their easements.

I believe that cleared any misunderstandings up quite well as well as establish “what class of woman” Clara Barton was, don’t you?
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