Thursday, February 13, 2014

Prairie Bachelor Reflects on Marriage

In his mid-20s, we know from Isaac's journal not only what he felt about the responsibilities of marriage but also what his future marital plans were.  He wrote:  "According to brother Henry's late letter, the Home boys [in Wernersville, PA] still continue pretty fast-tampering with the cup of Sorrow--till ending in wedlock.  Then simmer down--like a final anchor and enjoy the ups and downs of married life and the animated fruits of their toiling.  While I a thousand miles away, like a Hermit delighting mostly in my ever so dear and trustfull, best companions, Books, and intend continuing so at least for coming 5 or 10 years--no telling though how circumstances unexpected might interfere."

"Circumstances unexpected" do interfere in all of our lives, and in most instances it is how we react to those circumstances that determines the course we take as much or more than the circumstances themselves.  We cannot know all of the romantic opportunities that Isaac allowed to pass by without pursuit, nor can we know of all the romantic ventures he attempted unsuccessfully.  His journal offers clues that have been shared in prior Valentine blogs. (See "A Young Man's Fancy," 2-9-2012 and "Romance on the Prairie, 2-12-2013 in the blog archives.)  He certainly admired some of the young ladies in Rossville, whom he referred to as "Juliets" and "Venuses," but except for some fumbling attempts at flirtation, Isaac seemed not to have had much romance in his life during those years.

Suffragettes Marching in 1912
On the Kansas prairie, he was a thoughtful neighbor to the divorced Mrs. Isabelle Ross, but whether his intentions were romantic or merely neighborly is uncertain.  He called upon the much younger prohibition Lecturerer Miss Blanche Hazelett at the home of Dr. McCann where she lodged, an evening Isaac enjoyed very much but about which we cannot know Miss Hazelett's feelings.  And, he left a cryptic note in his journal, "2nd refusal," which perhaps had a romantic explanation but isn't clarified.

In short, we do not know whether Isaac turned his back on romance or Cupid failed Isaac.  What we can be certain of from entries in his journal is that Isaac was very supportive of Women's Rights, even going so far as to consider becoming a Lecturer in that cause.  The idea of advancing the rights of women was already an active cause when Isaac was born.  Many of the early champions of the women's movement were also opposed to slavery, and when Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were barred from attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 because they were females, they held a Women's Convention in the United States.  The first Women's Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848, and in 1850 the first National Women's Rights Convention was held in Worcester, MA.  At that meeting, attended by Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Sojourner Truth, a strong alliance was formed between Women's Rights and the Abolitionist Movement.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony
In 1868 Kansas Senator S.C. Pomeroy introduced a federal women's suffrage amendment in Congress, but it was the 14th Amendment with citizens and voters defined exclusively as male that was ratified.  When the 15th Amendment gave the vote to Black men in 1870, leaders of the women's suffrage movement felt betrayed by their male Abolitionist colleagues having failed to press for women's right to vote as well.

Disappointed but not defeated, Victoria Woodhull addressed the House Judiciary Committee in 1871 to argue that the 14th Amendment should apply to women, and Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth both appeared at different polling places in the 1872 elections seeking to vote.  Fifteen other women were arrested for illegally voting that year.

Many men opposed women's suffrage because they feared women would use their votes to prohibit the sale of liquor.  When Frances Willard became the head of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in 1876, two years after its founding, she was an out-spoken proponent for women's suffrage.  (See "Before Carrie Nation--Prohibition in Kansas," 9-13-2012 blog archives.)  States began putting women's suffrage on their ballots, with mixed results; however, it was not until 1919 that women finally got the vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920.  Isaac, who died in 1895, did not live to see this achievement, nor did most of the early supports of women's rights.

So, ladies, this Valentine's Day as you remember the gentlemen in your lives, pause for a moment to remember the Prairie Bachelor who wanted to see women get the vote, who criticized husbands who treated wives with disrespect, who admired women who assumed roles typically reserved for men, and who never let his support for the social and professional advancement of women cause him to ignore a pretty face!

To read more about the efforts for Women's Suffrage, see the National Women's History Museum Timeline (1840-1920) at

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