Abby’s 1874 Speech on May 15, 2022


• May 15, 2022 • 3:30
• Museum on the Green
• Glastonbury, CT • $5
• Bring lawn chair

Reenactment of the April 1874 events (below) when the Smith sisters went to Town Hall to plead for the right of women to vote

What’s the Trouble Now?
Glastonbury’s town leaders held two meetings a year in their red brick Town Hall.

On Monday, April 6th, Abby, followed by Julia, stepped down from their carriage and walked into the hall. They wanted to request an equal voice with male taxpayers.

The meeting moderator, a Republican said, “This is an elector’s meeting. Voting cannot be stopped…You will have to wait until Fall.”

As the sisters left, they heard a suggestion that they could talk “outdoors as well as in the hall.” Seizing the opportunity, the sisters, undaunted, climbed (with help) into an old ox cart on the south side of the Town Hall.

Farmers, laborers, idlers, young men, and two newspaper representatives (all strangers except two men) gathered around the cart.

Oxcart Speech: God’s Laws Are Fulfilled by Love
Julia sat on the wagon bench. Courageous Abby stood as she drew her speech from her pocket. The group quieted down and listened respectfully. In a strong, clear voice Abby appealed to her fellow citizens to treat each other as family who loved their town.

The sisters wanted to discuss and settle the tax “difficulty” as “brothers (the town) and sisters (Abby and Julia) of the same family,” so both sides would be happy with the conclusion…

“If the brothers agreed, without consulting their sisters, to take property from their sisters whenever they chose, and as much as they chose, and made it a law, are their sisters bound by such a law?”

The sisters did not “mind sharing the expenses of a large family (the town),” but they were “not willing for irresponsible town men (whose interest it was to take their property) to help themselves to as much of their property as they wanted by force.”

Abby scolded the town men, “You all know it is not just…” She declared that the men taking their cows “nullified the Declaration of Independence.”

It makes no sense to make a distinction between men and women “when one cannot exist without the other,” Abby admonished. It was wrong for the Glastonbury leaders to take their money to pay for “all the great privileges” that they would not share with women.

The sisters still had a “natural affection” for their brethren (the town). “Leave off this plunder and give unto us our rights we have inherited, together with you…the right to stand on the same platform, to partake with you of the same privileges.

“We have the same minds, the same intellect. It is intellect that rules the world…God’s laws are fulfilled by love—let man’s be so impartial that they can be fulfilled in the same way,” Abby concluded. And sat down.

Julia stood and added a few comments in reaction to an anonymous, abusive postcard she had received.

As the two brave sisters stepped down from the wagon, Abby handed her speech to the Springfield Republican reporter.

For the next fifteen minutes the sisters, with their usual good-humor, answered questions that were fired at them, including: “There aren’t half a dozen women in town that want to vote.”

Abby replied, “Let those half-dozen vote, and the rest stay away, if they want to.”—Excerpts from Abby, Laurilla, and Mary Ann, pp. 218–220.
Previous to April 6, 1874:
Another Tax Payment Due
On March 18th Collector Andrews and Mr. Brainard went to the Smiths to collect taxes of $49.83, they claimed was due. “I have come for your tax,” said Andrews. “We shall not pay it,” said the sisters. They thought November and March taxes could be combined to pay 1% a month.

• Taxes of $49.83: Smith, Cows, 87.

• Special correspondent, Springfield Republican, April 6, 1874, Smith, Cows, 31–33; and “The Smith Sisters,” The Daily Graphic, New York, April 8, 1874.

40. Wholesale injustice in our native town: Smiths to Mrs. Stone, April 7, 1874, Smith, Cows, 33–4.

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