BELOW: Letter from Susan E. Wattles to Susan B. Anthony, included in "History
of Woman Suffrage, Volume II, 1861-1876" edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, Pages 255-256.
The following letter from Susan E. Wattles, the widow of the pioneer, Augustus
Wattles, shows woman's interest in the great struggle to make Kansas the banner
State of universal freedom and franchise.
MOUND CITY, December 30, 1881.
MY DEAR MISS ANTHONY: —
Here, as in New York, the first in the woman suffrage cause were those who had
been the most earnest workers for freedom. They had come to Kansas to prevent
its being made a slave State. The most the women could do was to bear their
privations patiently, such as living in a tent in a log cabin, without any
floor all winter, or in a cabin ten feet square, and cooking out of doors by
the side of a log, giving up their beds to the sick, and being ready, night or
day, to feed the men who were running for their lives. Then there was the ever
present fear that their husbands would be shot. The most obnoxious had a price
set upon their heads. A few years ago a man said: "I could have got $1,000
once for shooting Wattles, and I wish now I had done it." When in Ohio, our
house was often the temporary home of the hunted slave; but in Kansas it was
the white man who ran from our door to the woods because he saw strangers
coming. After the question of a free State seemed settled, we who had thought
and talked on woman's rights before we came to Kansas, concluded that now was
the woman's hour. We determined to strive to obtain Constitutional rights,
as they would be more secure than Legislative enactments. On the 13th of
February, 1858, we organized the Moneka Woman's Rights Society. There were
only twelve of us, but we went to work circulating petitions and writing to
every one in the Territory whom we thought would aid us. Our number was
afterwards increased to forty; fourteen of them were men. We sent petitions
to Territorial Legislatures, Constitutional Conventions, State Legislatures,
and Congress. Many of the leading men were advocates of women's rights.
Governor Robinson, S. N. Wood, and Erastus Heath, with their wives, were
constant and efficient workers. Mrs. Robinson wrote a book on "Life in
Kansas." "Allibone's Dictionary of Authors" says: "Mrs. Robinson is an
accomplished lady, the wife of Governor Robinson. She possessed the
knowledge of events and literary skill necessary to produce an interesting
and trustworthy book, and one which will continue to have a permanent value.
The women of Kansas suffered more than the men, and were not less heroic.
Their names are not known; they were not elected to office; they had none
of the exciting delights of an active out-door life on these attractive
prairies; they endured in silence; they took care of the home, of the sick.
If 'home they brought her warrior dead, she nor swooned nor uttered sigh.'
It is fortunate that a few of these truest heroes have left a printed record
of pioneer life in Kansas."
The last vigorous effort we made in circulating petitions was when Congress
was about extending to the colored men the right to vote. Many signed then for
the first time. One woman said, "I know my husband does not believe in women
voting, but he hates the negroes, and would not want them placed over me."
I saw in The Liberator that a bequest to the woman's rights cause had been made
by a gentleman in Boston, and I asked Wendell Phillips if we could have some of
it in Kansas. He directed me to Susan B. Anthony, and you gave us $100. This
small sum we divided between two lecturers, and paying for tracts. John O.
Wattles lectured and distributed tracts in Southern Kansas. We were greatly
rejoiced when we found, by corresponding with Mrs. Nichols, that she intended
to work for our cause whether she had any compensation or not. Kansas women
can never be half thankful enough for what she did for them. There has never
been a time since, when the same amount of effort would have accomplished as
much; and the little money we gave her could scarcely have paid her stage fare.
When the question was submitted in 1867, and the men were to decide whether
women should be allowed to vote, we felt very anxious about the result. We
strongly desired to make Kansas the banner State for Freedom. We did all we
could to secure it, and some of the best speakers from the East came to our
aid. Their speeches were excellent, and were listened to by large audiences,
who seemed to believe what they heard; but when voting day came, they voted
according to their prejudices, and our cause was defeated. My work has been
very limited. I have only been able to talk and circulate tracts and papers.
I took The Una, The Lily, The Sybil, The Pittsburg Visitor, The Revolution,
Woman's Journal, Ballot Box, and National Citizen; got all the subscribers
I could, and scattered them far and near. When I gave away The Revolution, my
husband said, "Wife, that is a very talented paper; I should think you would
preserve that." I replied: "They will continue to come until our cause is won,
and I must make them do all the good they can." I am delighted with the
"Suffrage History." I do not think you can find material to make the second
volume as interesting. I knew of most of the incidents as they transpired,
yet they are full of interest and significance to me now. My book is now lent
where I think it will be highly appreciated.
Susan E. Wattles
NOTES: Immediately following the above letter, on Pages 257-258, is a letter
dated 23 November 1881 from R. S. Tenney, Independence, Kansas, to Susan B.
Anthony. Mrs. Rachel S. Tenney, M. D., was the second wife of Abijah D. Tenney,
and the stepmother of Sarah Jane Tenney who, with her husband Henry Enoch Dewey,
moved to Linn County, Kansas during the Civil War and joined the Moneka Women's
Rights Association. Also included, at Pages 932-933, dated 24 September 1867,
is an "Address by the Women's Impartial Suffrage Association of Lawrence, Kansas,"
signed by the Executive Committee of which Mrs. R. S. Tenney was a member.
The entire text of "History of Woman Suffrage" is posted HERE
For more on the Moneka Women's Rights Association click HERE