[Manchester—Saturday, 23 September 1876]

Saturday. A dull morning. Mr. Quincy left. Yesterday was too brilliant to be more than a memory. Hill Smith remained until 2. At 4 came Miss Phelps, at six came Mrs Livermore.

Ah! She is indeed a great woman. A strong arm to those who are weak, a new faith in time of trouble. She came to tea as fresh as if she had been calmly sunning herself all the week instead of speaking at a great meeting at Faneuil Hall the previous evening and taking cold in the process. She talked most wittily and brilliantly, beside laughing most heartily and merrily over all dear “J.’s” absurd stories and illustrations. He told her of a woman who came to speak to him after one of his lectures to thank him for what he was trying to do for the education of women. She said, I was educated at home with my brothers and taught all they were taught, learning my lessons by their side and reciting with them until the time came for them to go to college. Nobody ever told me I was not to go to college! And when the moment arrived and it dawned upon me that I was to be left behind to do nothing, to learn nothing more, I was terribly unhappy.

“I know just how she felt,” said Mrs Livermore “there was a party of six of us girls, sisters and cousins, who had studied with our brothers up to the time for going to college. We were all ready, but what was to be done. We were told that no girls had entered Harvard thus far. We said to each other, we six girls will go to Cambridge and call upon President Quincy, show him where we stand in our lessons and ask him to admit us.” I was the youngest of the party. I was noted for being rather hot and intemperate in speech in those days, and the girls made me promise before we left the house, “for as sure as you do” they said “you will spoil all”. So I promised and we went to Cambridge and found Mr. Quincy. The girls laid their proposition before him as clearly as they dared by showing him what they had done in their lessons.

“Very smart girls” “unusually capable girls” he said encouragingly but can you cook? “O yes, Sir, said one, we have kept house for some time”. “Highly important” he said and so on during the space of an hour. Mrs Livermore said she found he was toying with them and they were as far away from the subject in their minds as the moment they arrived and forgetting all her promises of silence she said—“but Mr. Quincy, what we come to ask is will you allow us to come to college when our brothers do. You say we are sufficiently prepared, is there anything to prevent our admission.” “O yes, my dear, we never allow girls at Harvard, you know, the place for girls is at home”—“yes, but Mr. Quincy, if we are prepared, we would not ask to recite but may we not attend the recitations and sit silent in the classes.” “No my dear, you may not.” Then I wish—what do you wish, he said. “I wish I were God for one instant that I might kill every woman from Eve down and let you have a masculine world all to yourselves and see how you would like that!”

Up to this point we girls had been kept up by excitement but here we broke down. I tried the best I could not to cry but I found my eyes were getting full and the only thing for us to do was to leave as soon as we could for home. We lived in the vicinity of Copp’s Hill and I can see as distinctly as if it were yesterday the room looking out on the burial ground in which we all sat down together and cried ourselves half blind. “I wish I was dead” said one, “I wish I had never been born" said another, Martha get up from that stone seat said a third you’ll get cold—I don’t care if I do said Martha, I shall perhaps die the sooner—We were terribly indignant.”

I was deeply interested in this history. I was standing over the cradle of woman’s emancipation and seeing it rocked by the hand of sorrow and indignation.


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