Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Emma Spaulding Bryant: Spitfire

Letters from a wife to her husband, from 1873. The short version: Woman takes a trip to get medical attention. Husband accuses her of infidelity with the doctor. Woman comes down on him with righteous fury.
I have never lived with you on other terms than those of the most perfect love and trust and equality. I never intend to live with you on other terms. I love you and I hope to be your true wife for time and eternity but I cannot (God helping me) will not) cast my womanhood from me.
I have by mistake burned the sheet which I wished to enclose to you, speaking of the husband as absolute head over the wife using the parallel of church, government, nation, companies etc. It was apparently a very conclusive and satisfactory argument to you at the time, but I wished to give you the pleasure of re-reading it with these other paragraphs.

I have only to say in reply -- if you value my love -- if you wish to retain my respect -- if you desire to remain my ideal of what is manly and noble and true, never use such words or sentiments to me again by letter or by word

You degrade yourself by them, and would degrade me if I received them. This sheet is my full, final answer to your letter by express -- I will do anything, everything, in my power for your happiness my darling husband and, if I could, perhaps I would believe (for your happiness) black to be white, and a lie to be the truth, but unfortunately I cant. There are women so constituted that they can, but I am not thus constituted as you must have learned before we were married, so please do not urge impossibilities.
I've been enjoying Ta-Nehesi Coates's recent posts on 19th century feminism, and it's nice to see these independent urges evidenced on a micro level.
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