Tribute to Theodore Parker, November 17, 1910

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REEL 47_0096.jpg

Miss Jane Addams

Hull House, Chicago

We will divide that applause between Yale and the woman. Since I have been sitting here I have changed my mind three times as to the special things I was going to say about Theodore Parker and about all the things I have heard this week. Of them all the one that most impressed me was said by Mrs. Spencer on Wednesday morning, when she said of Theodore Parker that, to the end of his life he still believed in the great forces which had brought about the enfranchisement of the slave, which had established all good things, including this republic in America, and which had the power to do still greater things; he could say and did say his word, used great phrases about human equality, about the necessity of absolute justice for all men and all women, with great confidence in the ultimate outcome of those forces. But we cannot talk so boldly at this time; we cannot speak so much without reservation as Theodore Parker and other people of his time did; and it is a matter of great regret to many of us that those men who could use the great forces in existence, who had not yet seen the difficulties and social obligations which we have since discovered, that they did not finish up the business of securing the vote for women. It is too late to talk about those things now, but it is not fair that women and the men of this generation should have to do the work which belonged to a generation before them. The men who freed the slaves in America, who put the suffrage in their hands, did it because they knew that in no other way could they protect their hard-won liberty, and they should have been the men to give the suffrage to women also. We are called upon to do something which is not quite our affair; we ought to be now in a position to use this suffrage, not as a personal matter, but for tuberculosis hospitals, for certified milk, and all the other things of which Miss Dingee has spoken; but instead of that we have to neglect those important matters which are at our very doors and go back and pick up this unfinished work of procuring suffrage for women, which Theodore Parker and the others somehow failed to put into our hands. [page 2]

He saw the need of suffrage for the negro, because he saw the negro had to be protected in his new-found liberty. Before he died he also saw that women were entering into all branches of industry, factories, shops and all others. He knew something about this; indeed, Mrs. Spencer declared that he died because he tried to find so many places for women in his congregation of seven thousand. He saw the need of protection under those circumstances, he saw the only solution, and yet he did not quite carry it to consummation -- it is outrageous, isn't it, to blame a man when you are set up to praise him?

If he had lived longer, I believe he would have moved much farther in this direction. As we like to think of the things Lincoln would have done if he had been here in the days of reconstruction, so perhaps we would like to think of the things men of Theodore Parker's stamp would have done, and he would have done, if he had lived longer. He certainly would have realized that if it was dangerous to give to the negroes freedom without the protection of the ballot, it was extremely dangerous to allow women to go into all the industries which they now occupy without giving to them the protection of the ballot; and, while I would not wish to cast any reflection upon what those men did, because they did so much in their generation, I would like to endorse what one of the speakers has said: It is for men here and now to take new courage and try to finish up the work which Theodore Parker, with all his strength of mind and spirit of rebellion, failed to carry through.

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