Tag Archives: Men’s Rights Movement

Men’s Rights Convention of 1851

In 1851 the following article was penned by Chericot in Godey’s Lady’s Book, a United States magazine for women published in Philadelphia. The article entitled Men’s Rights Convention was designed to mock proceedings of men’s rights conference held at Independence Hall. Did the conference really take place? My bet is that it did, and the article was an attempt to distort proceedings and dissuade MHRA’s from holding future conferences. – PW

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MEN’S RIGHTS CONVENTION – SEPTEMBER 20th 1851

EXTRAORDINARY PROCEEDINGS, EXCITING SCENES, AND CURIOUS SPEECHES .
FROM OUR OWN REPORTER, CHERICOT.

Yesterday, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, an immense mass meeting of gentlemen from all parts of the country was held at Independence Hall. It was convened upon notices to that effect, which were issued directly after the late extraordinary and treasonable Female Convention at Massachusetts, and which, being distributed among the principal cities in the Union, had resulted in the collection of an enthusiastic crowd of gentlemen of all grades, trades, and politics, one common danger uniting them, in the effort to repel the proposed feminine aggression of their rights.

On taking- a survey of the meeting, one thing struck us very forcibly—the uneasy and restless anxiety that characterized the demeanor of most of the men; the slightest noise caused a general sensation; and, in one instance, the shrill cry of a fishwoman threw a gentleman into hysterics, which he explained, on his recovery, to have resulted from his mistaking it for the voice of his wife.

When the excitement had, in some measure, subsided, the meeting was called to order by Mr. Wumenheyter, of New York, who said, the first business being the choice of a president, he moved that Mr. H. P. Husband, of Maryland, be appointed.

Brass Blackstone, of Philadelphia, seconded the motion, which was unanimously adopted.

After the vice presidents and secretaries were duly chosen, and a business committee appointed to draw up resolutions expressive of the sense-of tho meeting, the president addressed the convention as follows:—

“The object which has called this great assemblage together is one which not only concerns mankind in general, but Americans in particular. This is emphatically a land of liberty — liberty which, achieved by the exertions of our forefathers, has commanded the respect of the tyrannical governments of the Old World, and resisted all unhallowed attempts to subvert it. This liberty, gentlemen, is threatened with destruction: by the establishment, within the very bounds of this republic, of a despotism that has no parallel in ancient or modern history. Yes, there is a conspiracy afoot in the very midst of us, which, should it succeed in it aspiring aims, will annihilate us as men, and convert us into mere household appendages to that rebellious sex who, after having for years shown a disposition to encroach on some of our rights and privileges, now boldly assert a claim to all. Patience; gentlemen, is no longer a virtue; stem determination and resolute action alone can put down this ambitious usurpation and re-establish our authority on its legitimate basis.

“These firebrands on our domestic hearths must be extinguished, or the sparks, lighting into a flame, will consume us.”

Here the sensation produced by Mr. Husband’s fiery eloquence was so intense that groans and sobs resounded from all parts of the building, and the gentleman was so overcome by his own flights of fancy that it was some time before he could proceed.

“I have, in the relations of husband, son, and brother, stood aloof. I have borne, with dignity and Spartan fortitude, the assumption, by my female relatives, of those garments which, from time immemorial, have been our rightful badge, trusting that the breach into which they were throwing themselves would prove of such an ‘imminent and deadly’ nature as to deprive them of any desire to go further. But late events have opened my eyes to the treasonable nature of their designs, and to the danger of the mine on which we have been heedlessly treading; and, regardless alike of family ties and possible consequences, I have boldly sounded the alarm which has brought us together this day. This terrible danger I discovered by chance, having picked up —in my own room, gentlemen— a letter addressed to my wife by a female friend. I will, gentlemen, read a passage from this incendiary production, premising that the preceding paragraphs, after giving an account of the late meeting at Worcester, refer to the female millennium about to commence:—

“Now then, my dear,
We’ll smoke and cheer and drink our lager beer;
We’ll have our latch-keys, stay out late at nights;
And boldly we’ll assert our female rights;
While conquered men, our erewhile tyrant foes,
Shall stay at home and wear our cast-off clothes,
Nurse babies, scold the servants, get our dinners;
‘Tis all that they are fit for, wretched sinners!”

“Imagine my feelings on finding treason a t work in my domestic sanctuary — at detecting the wife of my bosom in a plot against my peace!”

Here Mr. Husband was so overpowered by his emotions that he was compelled to pause for a few moments, ere he recovered his voice. Deep sympathy was manifested by the audience.

“I would now repeat the necessity of prompt action, for which I doubt not the wisdom and intelligence of this assembly will be found sufficient. Our business now is to find a remedy for the evil. Let us therefore, in a bold and uncompromising manner, address ourselves to the duties before us.”

While awaiting the action of the business committee, the following letters were read from distinguished gentlemen who had been invited to attend the meeting:—

Mr. Webster stated that the onerous nature of his diplomatic duties prevented his accepting the invitation extended to him. Had it, however, been in his power to do so, he should still have declined it, as the handsome manner in which the ladies had defended him in his native State obliged him to remain remain neuter in the conflict between the great contending parties. He would remark, in conclusion, that, devoted as he was to the Union, faithful as he had ever been in maintaining the Constitution, he had no sympathy with anything tending to infringe the conditions of the matrimonial compact, and therefore solemnly recommended that both parties should meet and conclude a treaty of peace.

Mr. Clay regretted his necessary attendance on Congress precluded his presence at this important meeting; for, faithful to his great principle, he should have endeavored to suggest such a compromise as should reconcile all parties. But he trusted that an amiable spirit would pervade their proceedings, and unity and concord be the result.

Mr. Horace Mann repeated Jus determination of not siding with either party. He referred again to the book he was writing, which he thought would satisfy both sides.

Mr. Buckeye, of Ohio, wrote to excuse his attendance, as the duties of the pork-killing season required his attention; and Mrs. Buckeye’s absence at a Socialist meeting, in the interior of the State, prevented his leaving home.

Mr. Wumenheyter, chairman of the committee, now rose to say that their report was ready. He
then read the following resolutions:—

Resolved, That a crisis has arrived in our domestic relations that admits of no temporizing measures, but requires us openly to insist on those rights so boldly and outrageously assailed by that weaker portion of humanity, whose duty it is to be satisfied with the inferior position assigned them by nature, and to yield in all things to man.

Resolved, That an unblushing claim has not only been made on our clothes, but on all our masculine privileges; and as this evil has resulted, in the first place, from the impunity with which the women have put their hands in our pockets, and as it will end only in the usurpation of our business, and of our sole right to the ballot-box, it becomes necessary for us to impress upon this rebellious sex our united determination to resist their aggressions.

Resolved, That this effort becomes imperatively necessary when we consider the treacherous nature of women, and remember that, should they succeed in their attempt, we shall meet no mercy at their hands. Universal decapitation of the men, and an Amazonian form of government will undoubtedly be
the result.

Resolved, That, while we shall use our lawful and united authority to put down this revolt, we will show clemency to the culprits, and, tempering justice with mercy, render their punishment as light as may be consistent with our own safety.

These resolutions were ordered to be laid on the table for discussion.

Mr. Wumenheyter said he wished particularly for the attention of the audience while he offered a few remarks on these resolutions. “ He was,” he said “proud to call himself a New Yorker. His city was the greatest in the world. It had a great canal, a great line, of steamships, a great many railroads, a great many bankB, and”——

Here a voice from the crowd exclaimed, “ And a great many other humbugs!” Mr. W. was, for a moment, disconcerted; but, resuming his remarks, he said—

“I do not regard this rude interruption. I shall still assert the superiority of my State to all others; and, at the same time, acknowledge that, with all our talents and business enterprise, we cannot manage the women. I confess that, in our great State, the attempt on our privileges was first made ; but I can also assure this convention that we shall be the first to defend those privileges. I have been so unhappy as to have had three wives, but, fortunately, have buried them all; and I can assert, from personal experience, that

‘Woman, woman, whether lean or fat, is
In face an angel, and in soul a cat!’

A spirit of philanthropy urges me to warn you against the female snares which my fatal destiny has inflicted on me, and from which I am therefore desirous to save others, as my several wives were so many different forms of evil, and I suffered intensely in consequence. I hope my misery will deter others from such experiments. If I rescue one wretch from the horrors of matrimony, my purpose will be answered, and my past sufferings forgotten.”

Mr. W. urged the adoption of immediate and relentless measures, and trusted that some available remedy might be suggested for the evil that was in their midst.

Cotte Bettie, Esq., from Delaware, said, “I fully agree with the gentleman from New York in his views on this terrible crisis. I am as proud of my State as he can be of his. I am not ashamed to call myself one of the Blue Hen’s Chickens.’ Delawarians are true blue — they always were, and always will be blue. They were the first to rally at freedom’s call, and would not now be found wanting. While he thus obeyed his instructions in proffering their aid, he must at the same time, assure this assembly that it was very advisable for them to keep their proceedings as secret as possible, lest a premature disclosure should put the women on their guard.”

C. Colesworth Pinokney, from South Carolina, remarked, “Had any one told him ft few months since that he should be meeting in amity with his northern brethren, he should have indignantly denied the possibility of such an act. He did not intend now, however, to allude to the difference of opinion that prevailed between the South and North; the several States of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina, that had appointed him a delegate to this convention, having empowered him to bury all sectional causes of discord in oblivion, and to unite energetically with the representatives of other States in putting down, this terrible conspiracy. He had come prepared, then, to assure them of the cordial co-operation of the Southern States in any action that might be taken in the crusade against women. He would only remark that there should be no delay either in their resolves or execution—‘if ’twere done, ’twere well ’twere done quickly.’ With this end in view, he recommended bringing before the present Session of Congress a fugitive women bill, by which every man might be empowered to reclaim and punish a runaway or rebellious wife.”

Mr. Jonathan Whittle, from Massachusetts, “Guessed that there needn’t be much talk about the matter. Wimmen’s place was tu hum, and it was man’s business to keep em there. Pritty much all they was fit for was to dry innions, make squash pies, and get a fellow a good dinner on Thanks-givin’. He calkerlated that if each indiwiddiwel present had the spunk he orter havo, he could manage his wimmen himself, without anybody to help him. Yankees knew a leetle somethin’ besides makin’ wooden nutmegs, mushmellion, and cowcumber seeds, and they didn’t want anybody to come there and tell ’em how to do: they’d better stay tu hum, and take care of their own affairs;”

Here Mr. Whittle was called to order from all parts of the house, and sat down in a state of high indignation, wiping his face with a blue cotton handkerchief.

George Washington Patrick Henry John Randolph Powhatan, Esq., from Virginia, said, “I regret the irritable state of feeling which seems to sway the gentleman from New England. I wonder at his assertion of our Yankee brethren’s ability to manage their women, when the fact is notorious that Mr. Whittle*s native State was the scene chosen for the outbreak of the rebellion. Belonging, as I do, to one of the first families in Virginia, descended in a direct line from Pocahontas on one side, and Richard Coeur de Lion on tho other, collaterally related to the Virgin Queen and a far-off connection of the present British sovereign, I know nothing of those menial duties which Mr. Whittle thinks properly distinguish the female sphere. I cannot, nor can any one associated with me, be supposed to know anything of such menial avocations. In Virginia, nothing is required of the fair sex but to give orders to their servants, and that sufficiently occupies their time. I feel proud to assert my belief that no lady from that State is mixed up in this sad affair; but, knowing the danger of bad- example, I cannot answer for the future, and am therefore ready to give my counsel both a8 to prevention and cure. I know the female character well enough to assure this meeting that opposition will but add fuel to the flame. In short, my advice is—

‘Let them alone and they’ll come home,
And leave their whims behind them.’ ”

Dr. Singleman, a middle-aged gentleman, from Vermont, thought the gentleman from Virginia mistaken in his opinion that the let-alone system was the best treatment for the epidemic raging among them. Acute diseases required active remedies. When the pulse of tho domestic frame was disordered, every member of tho body suffered, and depiction should be freely resorted to, and the constitution restored to a healthy state, or he would not answer for tho consequences. His idea — which he advanced with some hesitation, for, being a bachelor, he knew little of the sex — was that every man should try the effect of the three popular systems of medicine on his female relatives, and he would venture to promise the revolt would noon be quelled. A course of bleeding, leeching, and cupping, with blisters to their heads, and sinapisms on their feet, aided by hydropathic douche and plunge baths, and accompanied with homoeopathic quantities of nourishment, would tame the greatest shrew that ever lived.”

Mr. Easyled, of Tennessee, said, “ There is an old provorb about bachelors’ wives being well managed—

‘As for my wife,
I would you had her spirit in such another:
Were the third of the world yours, with a snaffle
You may pace easy, bu t not such a wife.’

The measures that the learned physician proposes are easily suggested; but, I would ask, where is the man in this assembly who would have tho nerve to try them ? There is another old proverb that says, when you sup with a certain personage you should use a long apron; and, in this case, that precaution is very necessary. It was best to let the ladies have their own way. To quote the immortal bard again—

‘Should all despair
That have revolted wives, tho tenth of mankind
Would hang themselves.’

He would inform all present, from his own sad experience, that

‘He’s a fool who thinks, by force or skill,
To turn the current of a woman’s will;
For when she will, she will, you may depend on’t,
And when she won’t, she won’t, and there’s an end on’t.’”

Mr. Hoosier, from Indiana, u Didn’t want to ‘front nobody, but he.reckoned Mr. Whittle had said about the only sensible things he’d heerd that day, and them was his sentiments exactly. There was plenty for wimmen to do in the cabin, with mindin’ the children and keepin’ the pot a bilin’, and out of it with takin care of the cattle and the farm, while the men was hard at work shootin’ and fishin’. Corn-dodgers and cracklins was wimmen’s business, and just about as much, he reckoned, as they’d sense for. He, for one, didn’t feel afeerd of any of ’em.”

General Boanerges Bluster, from Kentucky, said, “He disagreed very much with Mr. Hoosier. He once heerd a Methodist minister tell what Heaven was like, and, after talkin’ a great deal about it, he said, ‘In short, brethren, it’s a Kentucky of a place!’ He reckoned, when he said that, he forgot the wimmen. In their State, where females was three-quarters bacon, and t’other quarter hominy, they was dangerous critters. General, as he was, of the milishy, and holdin’ a great many offices under government, he had to mind his wife, who was big enough to lick three of him. Last ‘lection he was candidate for Congress; and, just as he was makin’ a stump speech to his constichents, and was tollin’ ’em what a great soldier he was, and how he’d fou’t the Ingins under Harrison, and would be sure to stand up for their rights, ’cause he wa’n’t afeerd of nothin’, his woman walked up to him right cool, and, takin’ him off the platform, said to the people, This man’s a fool. I know it, ’cause I’m his wife. Ho an’t fit for nothin’ but to mind the house and take care of the children, while I go visitin’. I can’t spare him; and you must ‘lect the other candidate.’ He expected he felt about as mean as dog-pie, and sneaked off as soon as ho could; and everybody hurrahed for Mrs. Bluster, and said she should go to Congress. And, ever since, she’d done nothin’ but snub him, and had gone off to the wimmen’s meetin’ in spite of him; and ’twas her that said woman was better than man, ’cause he was made out of the raw materi’l, and she was made out of the manerfected;’ and he only hoped she wouldn’t find out where he was, or there’d be an orful time of it.”

Mr. Sucker, from Illinois, remarked, “ That it wa’n’t with his own will he was at this here meetin’; but, bein” lected, he had to come; and, as it was the season for shootin’ prairie hens, he wanted to be off agin. He didn’t want to make words himself, and hoped that other people would be short and sweet in what they had to say. As to Mrs. Sucker, she hadn’t the spirit of a mouse now, and, if she ever had, which he didn’t know, the fever and ager had shuck it all out of her. He reckoned about the best way he could tell ’em of, was to send all the wimmen where they’d catch it, and, if it didn’t end ’em, it would mend ’em.”

Captain Salt, of Nantucket, a veteran tar in a blue roundabout and glazed hat, rose, coolly took his quid out of his month, and, depositing it in his pocket, made the following short and pithy remarks: I an’t a reg’lar delergate to this here meetin’, soe-in’ as I’m pretty nearly all the time afloat; but, bein’ as I’m ashore just now, I thought I’d come and see how things was a purceedin’. I know all about whales, and have a pretty good notion of a vessel, but I don’t know nothin’ about a woman. Hows’ever, I’ve heerd them as did say she was like a ship, ’cause her riggin’ cost more than her hull. If so be that’s the case, why she’s easy manoovered. Keep a tight lookout for squalls, and, when you soe’em cornin’, reef your sails, scud before the storm, and, if she ‘s bent on goin’ down, take to the boats and leave her.”

Captain Salt sat down amid shouts of applause, with a very red face after his unwonted exertions, and an earnest request for a glass of grog; but, none being At hand, he contented himself with his quid.

Patrick O’Dougherty, of St. Louis, got up and said, “Jontlemen, this is my first appearance before the public since I left off being an Irishman, and became a native of this country, and I hope yees will excuse all blunders. I needn’t tell this enlightened meetin’ that, both as an Irishman and ‘Merikin, I love the purty cratures of wimmen, and, faith, I’m sorry they’ve got themselves in such a mess. St. Pathrick knows that, ‘with my friend and pitcher,’ my little Cruiskeen Lawn, and my Molly Astore, I could live all alone in a desert by myself, without any trouble; and sure never a one of me knows why ye can’t manage yeer wives. Trate ’em like an Irish pig : drive ’em the way you don’t want ’em to go, and they’ll take the right track in spite of you.”

Here Mr. O’Dougherty was interrupted by a considerable bustle in the hall. There was a great disturbance, and many gentlemen looked pale and anxious; but the excitement was allayed by the appearance of an Indian chief in his war paint, who stalked solemnly up to the platform, and spoke as follows:—

“My nation was once a great nation in the lands near the setting sun. It is now a poor, small tribe, that has sold its hunting-grounds to the Great Father, at Washington, for blankets and corn, and have sent me to have a talk with him. Waw-tu-nobow-te-ma-tu is a brave; his white brothers call him Big Bulldog, and know that he has many wives. While he smoked the calumet of peace with his Father, in the Grand Lodge at Washington, a little bird sung in his ear that bis white brothers had trouble in the wigwam with their squaws, and he has come to help them, for his heart feels heavy for them. Let my white brothers keep their women at work, hoeing corn, pounding hominy, drying venison, and minding papooses, and let them have but little to eat, and they will give them no more trouble. If they do, let my brothers take their scalps. I have said.” And, whirling his tomahawk over his head, Waw-tu-no-bow-te-ma-tu gave a shrill war-whoop, and, bounding off the platform, disappeared in the crowd.

Brass Blackstone, from the city of Brotherly Love, remarked, that he had listened with attention to the proceedings, and had heard with delight the eloquent speeches delivered on this interesting occasion. It was with the modest timidity so characteristic of a Philadelphia lawyer, that he should offer a few remarks on the subject that occupied them; and he hoped it would not be considered presumptuous in him if his views should differ from those hitherto advanced in the assemblage of talent and influence, with whom it was his high privilege this day to be associated. He had deeply sympathized with all the orators it had been his good fortune to hear on this exciting subject: he had, in turn, been thrilled with the surpassing eloquence of Mr. Husband, the resolute determination of Mr. Wumenheyter, the patriotism of Pinckney, the easy indifference of Mr. Whittle, the dignified hautour of Mr. Powhatan, the professional talent of Dr. Single-man, the commendable meekness of Mr. Easyled, the heroic submission of General Bluster, the laconic sense of Mr. Sucker, the maritime beauty of Captain Salt’s similes, the enthusiasm of Mr. O’Dougherty, and the sententious wisdom of Big Bulldog. For himself, he had always been, and should ever continue to be, an ardent admirer of the fair sex. He was proud to say that his mother was a woman—that his native city was distinguished for its devotion to the fairer part of creation. Now York might boast of its canals, its railroads, its banks, and its steamships, but Philadelphia gloried in its women. He could lay his band on his heart, and proudly assert that even this rebellion had not estranged his feelings—

‘Woman, with all thy faults, I love thee still!’

lie could even say, with the Irish bard—

‘Sweet book, unlike the books of art,
Whose errors are thy fairest part:
In thee, the dear errata column
Is the best page in all the volume.’

With these feelings, he was present on this occasion to interpose his humble abilities between them and danger. He acknowledged that his clients bad not evinced their usual sagacity in risking their quiet, but powerful influence over man, by endeavoring to grasp ‘what would not enrich themselves, but make us poor indeed. Why they had done so, was a question more easily asked than answered, and he should therefore not attempt to solve the enigma. It was his business to implore that nothing should be rashly attempted on this delicate occasion which might result in wounding the feelings of his fair clients. He would assure them a little skillful management would be more effectual than open demonstrations of hostility; and, should the suggestion he was about to offer prove successful, he asked no better reward, as a man and a lawyer, than the friendship of the sex. In his opinion,

‘Fee simple and a simple fee,
And all the fees in tall,
Are nothing when compared to the«v
Thou best of fees-—fe-male.’

Not to detain them longer in suspense, he advised that the gentlemen should fill their houses with looking-glasses, and give the ladies time for reflection

Mr. Blackstone received much applause for his suggestion; and Mr. Bowieknife, of Texas, who succeeded him, said, “I so fully agree with the gentleman from Philadelphia in his love for the sex, and in all the sentiments he has advanced, that I will only add, should the measure he has recommended fail to make peace, I hope all the ladies will come to Texas. We have hearts and arms for all of them.

‘If all other States reject ’em,
Ours will freely, gladly take ’em.’ ”

Mr. Placer, from California, remarked, “That ho was for no half-way measures. It was his opinion that all tho women ought to be seized and sent to California; it was a new country, and tho minors wanted wives. When they were once there, he thought they could be managed. Judge Lynch was an active man. Show them that there was only the difference of a letter between altar and halter, and, if they would not marry, why let them hang!”

Mr. J. P. Husband said, “lie had listened with astonishment to the proceedings of the day. He really thought that, for all tho good that had been done or suggested, gentlemen might as well have staid at home. He had a few words still to offer on the subject, which he hoped they would hear with patience. Among other things, he had prepared a list of all tho bad women who had ever existed.” Hero Mr. Wumenheyter remarked, “That he must remind the gentleman time was precious; and, as all women who had ever existed were bad, Mr. Husband had better mention only the worst of them, among whom he must not forget his (Mr. W.’s) throe wives.”

Mr. Husband was so disconcerted at this interruption, that he forgot what he had to say, and could only remember that bis list begun with Eve, and ended with the present generation. “I see clearly, gentlemen,” continued he, that no one enters so warmly into this subject as myself. Well, be it so. I am ready to fall a martyr in such a cause; find I here solemnly declare that no obstacle shall induce me to swerve from the path that duty marks out for me to follow. I will make every endeavor to extirpate this vile heresy among tho women. I will immolate myself on tho altar of my country. I will sacrifice my domestic affections on its shrine —Mrs. Husband herself”——

“Here I am, my dear 1” said a sharp voice, and a small, thin, vinegar-faced lady entered the room, and walked up to the platform, at the head of a numerous procession of females. “My love,” continued she, “it is late; I am afraid you will take cold. Hadn’t you better come home?”

“If you think so, my dear, certainly,” replied Mr. Husband, turning pale, and trembling so he could scarcely stand, perceiving which, his wife affectionately offered him her arm. Mr. Easyled meekly obeyed an imperative gesture from Mrs. Easyled, and Mrs. Bluster picked up the general, who had fainted, and carried him out in her arms.

Exeunt omnes, in wild confusion.

Godeys-1890

Feature image of Independence Hall from Wikipedia Commons.

Gaining Equal Rights for Men: Ratifying the E.R.A.

Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment has long been discussed in men’s rights circles, but there was perhaps none more passionate about it than David Ault who actively lobbied for its ratification from the 1970s, and established the Equal Rights Amendment Project of Men’s Rights. The following article by David Ault was published in MEN Magazine in 1996, and in honour of his memory and work I’m pleased to republish it here. – PW

Article by David Ault
encourage-passage-equal-rights-amendment-200X200
The notion that men need equal rights with women is almost as politically incorrect today as it was in 1978, when I began actively working in Virginia for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even today, the ERA is often referred to as the “women’s rights amendment.” This limited interpretation is difficult to understand given its wording: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, I distributed pamphlets that explained why women deserve to have equal rights with men. As Vice Chair of the Virginia Equal Rights Amendment Ratification Council, I often passed out our organization’s pamphlet entitled Women of Virginia, Rights You Are Denied.

We did not have a corresponding pamphlet Men of Virginia, Rights You Are Denied. In fact, men’s rights were so excluded from the ERA ratification process that, despite repeated requests by several knowledgeable men, no men were invited to testify on men’s equal rights issues before the U.S. Congressional hearings on ERA ratification.

Harris and Gallup polls informed us then that nearly 60 percent of all Americans favored ERA ratification. Although men were ignored as potential beneficiaries of a ratified ERA, younger men favored the ERA at nearly the same percentage as women. Many older men also supported it.

Despite this majority of women and men in its favor, the ten-year ratification period expired in June 1982 with only 35 of the required 38 states approving its ratification. I recall that some people blamed the ERA’s defeat on men who wanted to keep women “in their place” by denying women equal rights. Particularly targeted for blame were those male legislators from nonratifying states who voted against it.

Upon reflection, perhaps some men are to “blame” for the ERA’s failure to be ratified, but not for the reasons I heard in 1982. During that period of time, I was one of very few men who donated large amounts of their time and money to support ERA ratification. I also voted for political candidates by giving heavy weight to their stand on the ERA. At ERA meetings and workshops, I was often outnumbered by the women present by 10 or 20 to 1. My level of passion in support of the ERA was typical of many American women.

Although many American men supported ERA ratification, their support was more from their heads. Men often explained to me that they supported the ERA for their wife, sister, daughter, or mother. However, they did not donate significant time or money to support its ratification. Judging from the phone calls that I made polling households for ERA support, many men did not vote for pro-ERA candidates as a top priority.

I submit that it was not the men (and women) who opposed the ERA that defeated it. Instead, those men who are largely to “blame” are the majority of men who favored its ratification and yet failed to give it sufficient importance in their lives to see that it passed.

Winning men’s active support for the ERA may be easier today. During recent years, men’s consciousness about their own issues has been raised substantially and the momentum is upward. Men are growing aware of how the narrow gender-role conditioning they receive during society’s indoctrination of them to become protectors and providers negatively affects both their emotional and physical health. They learn that, on average, men not only live 7 years less than women, but men’s quality of life is reduced in trying to live up to this restrictive gender role.

Men are grieving, publicly and privately, for the loss of their fathers and their distance from their own children. They are learning how welfare rules and our father-negative “family” courts separate caring fathers from their children. They are dismayed by the contribution that fatherless families have tothe increase in homeless and runaway children, and toteenage suicide, academic failure, drug abuse, violence and unwed pregnancy.

At the same time that women have control over their parenthood through abortion or adoption, men’s reproductive rights are either ignored or condescendingly dismissed. Men lack the “right to choose” legal fatherhood, but have the responsibility of financial support. Further, men have no corresponding right to either custody or noncustodial access to their children.

Although outlawing female genital mutilation gets national media and Congressional attention, over 60% of American male babies still undergo medically unnecessary, involuntary, and painful infant circumcision.

Men realize that only they have the responsibility to register for selective service and may subsequently face the military draft. Further, as women gain the option of volunteering for combat positions, men are still assigned to combat.

Men see programs instituted to help women, while men’s similar concerns go unacknowledged and unfunded. Examples of neglected areas include male academic difficulties at all educational levels, lack of support for “men’s programs” in higher education, failure to acknowledge and support male victims of domestic violence, lack of affirmative action for men to enter predominately female professions, low levels of government support to homeless men, unequal privacy provisions in public restrooms and dressing rooms, failure to recognize and combat female modes of sexual harassment of men, and more stringent employee dress codes for men.

Men are hurting from 30 years of being the object of unwarranted blame, male-bashing, and negative sex-role stereotyping. As their consciousness increases, men will be more receptive to understanding both the harm done to them by continued pressure to conform to rigid role models and the legal injustices still visited upon them. Men will see how unjustified blame and their traditional stoic conditioning have combined to repress any remedy to their equality issues.

However, when men understand how gender-inclusive application of the ERA will benefit them, their pain, anger, and desire for justice will propel them into action to support ERA ratification. Together with women supporters, they will work to successfully win ERA passage in the U.S. Congress and by the necessary three-quarters of the states.

To make this happen, men’s equality issues must be included in the debate over ERA ratification. The first step within each state is to continue to research and document the areas where men are discriminated against by local, state and federal law. This includes not only laws written in a gender-biased way, but laws that, although gender-neutral in wording, result in bias against men in practice. Sometimes the remedy will not require changing the law; instead, changing public opinion will result in an equitable application of existing law. In other cases, the law will require modification or elimination.

The second step is to bring men’s equality issues and the ERA remedies to the attention of the public and our legislative bodies. Men might begin by asking each state legislature to memorialize the ERA again, as Washington State did in 1983. Memorialization means that the state legislature passes a resolution asking the U.S. Congress to pass the ERA and to send it out to the states for ratification. However, the reasons expressed this time by each state legislature for memorializing the ERA must include the need for men’s equal rights.

The third step is to secure an invitation for knowledgeable men to testify for the first time before the U.S. Congress when hearings are held again on the ERA. This will have three important benefits. First, it will help to bring the issue of discrimination against men before the entire country. Second, it will increase American men’s identification of ERA ratification with ending this discrimination. Third, it will create an official record of Congress’s intent to include equal rights for men in its justification for the ERA.

This Congressional record will be vital to men after the ERA is ratified, because judges often consider legislative intent in deciding how to apply the law to a specific case. After the Congress records its support for men’s rights, men will find it much easier to use the ERA to right legal injustices against them.

Finally, prepared with our research and buoyed by state and federal recognition of men’s need for the ERA, men must continue to educate the public and join with women in the ERA ratification process. With women and men working together for a gender-inclusive ERA, to quote Susan B. Anthony, “Failure is impossible.”

An ungallant society: The men’s rights movement of 1898

The following newspaper article ‘An Ungallant Society: The Men’s Rights Movement’ was published in 1898, and is the first known reference to a “Men’s Rights Movement,” as far as I’m aware. In the same spirit as this early movement, I’m proud to say that the modern M(H)RM continues to refuse the one sided gallantry and chivalry that has denied men their human rights and turned global culture into the slow-moving car crash we see today. – PW

***

The Women’s Rights movement has scored another great success. It has called forth a League for Men’s Rights to counteract it. This league, with the object of securing legal and moral protection to men against the encroachment of women, is in process of formation in London. Mr. William Austin, who resides at Blackheath, and is in a very large way of business in the City, is the founder, and he has received letters of sympathy and assurances of co-operation from, among others, two noblemen whose names during the past few years have been several times prominently before the public in cases that have attracted wide attention. Mr. Austin’s personal appearance is not in the least indicative of his deep seated misogyny. Indeed, he looks much more like a man who would run after a pretty girl, at a pinch, rather than away from one. However, the mover in an effort to secure protection from a sex which it has been a tendency of modern legislation to assist in every possible way ought to have some intelligible reasons to support his side of the case.

“I cannot pretend,” said Mr. Austin, “to find a remedy for all the injustices on the statute books; but where there is flagrant violations of the very principle of justice, I am convinced that it is well to get together a body of intelligent people and try what may be done to find some way out of the difficulty. I have looked carefully into the legal aspect of the matter, and find that a woman has a much greater advantage when it comes to litigation about almost any matter over any man, rich or poor, than a rich man has over a poor man. I find that in an extraordinary number of cases the law discriminates in the sharpest possible manner between men and women, both in civil and criminal law proceedings. I will not consider the advantage a woman almost invariably has for the reasons of her sex the very moment she goes into court, or even makes a complaint against a man, nor will I more than refer to the bias of the Press and public opinion the moment a woman makes her appearance in a case at law. I will not confine myself to a diatribe against the silliness of juries, judges, and everybody else in breach of promise cases, where sentimental damages are sometimes assessed so heavily that the man is ruined; but will go into the matter of pro-feminine prejudice which has become transmuted into positive rules of law and legal administration, actually crystallised into statutory enactments.”

”I will begin,” said Mr. Austin, taking up a legal volume filled with copious annotations, “with the Summary Court for Separation. There is a direct proof of what I call sex legislation. A man cannot go to this court and obtain a summary separation, but a woman can. Undoubtedly, these courts were established in the first instance to protect weak women. Perhaps they were needed then; now they certainly are not. It would be much more sensible in these days of new women to establish courts of summary separation for men. Most men do not cry out when they are hurt, as women do; but can anyone suppose for an instant that there are not in London alone thousands of men who in all justice ought to have some relief from the cruelties of the women who are making life a hell for them? Then take an action for slander – that is a proceeding open to women alone. But the triumph of modern one-sided sex legislation is the Act passed in 1895, making it a duty for a husband to maintain his wife, even notwithstanding her adultery. “

”There is hardly any limit to the privileges accorded to women over men in the matrimonial, civil, and criminal law books. The balance of the scales in favour of the women in the case, through the sympathies of judge and jury, are too well-known to need calling attention to; a woman may commit perjury to almost any extent, and, although her statements may be found false, they mark the result. No one suggests that she should be indicted for perjury, On the contrary, the man, glad to escape, sometimes settles a large sum of money on her rather than take the chances of further litigation. Even the custom of bringing breach of promise suits is confined to women; a man who sought to obtain redress for a very real wrong, inflicted by a woman’s fickleness, would be laughed out of court. Another instance of the hardships in matrimonial law is that the rule invalidating marriages obtained by fraud, duress, or undue influence, have no effect as against a woman inducing a man by subtle devices or threats of scandal, to marry him. How frequently one hears of an experienced woman of the world inducing some fledgling to become her husband. And how ridiculous would be the effect to break such a contract in a court of law.”

“The law confers on a woman the privilege of support from her husband. Once, in order to secure support from her husband, a woman had to live with him and obey him. But since 1857 any attempts to enforce obedience have been given up, and, since the decision in the Jackson case, the husband cannot compel his wife to return to him in case she has left him, although sequestration and imprisonment are resorted to if he does not comply with her claims of support. A successful lady litigant in 1886 observed to her husband, ‘There is no law which compels me to honour and obey you, but there is one which says you must keep me.’ ”

”But no matter if the wife is rolling in wealth, she is not obliged to contribute one penny to her husband’s support, even if he is incapable through disease or accident, and even if she received her wealth from him in his time of prosperity. Even if a wife, against her husband’s wishes, leaves her husband’s house, after assaulting him and insulting him, she can obtain an order for restitution of conjugal rights, which is merely a preliminary form of a claim for sequestration of his property for her maintenance.”

“Do you believe the Married Women’s Property Act?” I asked.

“Again, consulting his book Mr. Austin said: “There is a great deal of iniquitous partiality about that Act. By this Act, while a married woman has complete control over her acquired or inherited property, she is, by cynical injustice, left with all her old claims on her husband’s property, and can enforce these by the statute of 1895, even if she commit adultery. If you come to look into the matter at all thoroughly you will find that 99 per cent of women’s property is man-earned. The wife can leave this away from the husband, even if he gave it to her, but if a man attempted to leave his property away from his wife he could be practically prevented from doing so by her suing for a maintenance order, when as much of his property as the judge thinks fit would be settled on her.”

”This Married Women’s Property Act”, Mr. Austin went on, “is responsible for a silent revolution in succession which is being accomplished. Conveyancers aver that the steady tendency is for a woman to leave property acquired from some man always to a woman. This Act has the further effect of enabling a woman to recover judgment against and bankrupt her husband for any money she may have lent him; but there is no case of a husband daring to sue his wife for a loan. There is an even more surprising effect of this Act than those I have mentioned. A married woman, even when separated from her husband, and released from all duties toward him or her children, retains her privilege of having her property exempt from seizure for debt.”

”Are there any other instances of partiality of the law toward women?” I asked.

“Oh, plenty. One of them is the responsibility of a husband for a wife’s acts, although she is not under his control. As the late Sir Frank Lockwood put it, ‘One has the deep satisfaction of knowing that if Mrs. Jackson utters slanders, Mr. Jackson can be sued.’ Lord Halsbury, in the Jackson case, declared that in English law the husband never had the right to restrain his wife. And married women are not responsible for any crime they commit when their husband is by; he is supposed to have coerced them into the act.”

“When it comes to facilities for obtaining divorces the husband is at a terrible disadvantage. He cannot procure a divorce except by an expensive process, while she can get a summary separation, with costs and maintenances out of her husband’s property or earnings, from the nearest police-station. Although the woman may be an opera singer with £40,000 a year, not a penny of it can be touched, even for the children, but every week, in the police-courts, a working man with perhaps 18s or 20s a week may be seen ordered to pay two-thirds of it for the keep of a woman who has treated him with cruel malignity. If the wife of a poor working man repudiates her duties, neglects her children, drinks to the verge of delirium tremens, pawns her husband’s clothes, disgraces him before his friends, procures his discharge from his employment, and even assaults him, he can do nothing if it be not appeal to the High Courts, at a minimum cost of £40. And it is not against the poor man alone that the way of the wife to escape from the matrimonial yoke is made clear and easy. Perjury by the husband is a frightful thing, but committed by the wife, or one of her witnesses, it is deliberately passed over. When it comes to giving the husband damages from a co-respondent, who has broken up his home, exposed him to loss and worry, as well as a certain disgrace, we find that judges and juries have actually seized on these damages to serve as a fund for endowing the adulteress.”

”I think,” said Mr. Austin in conclusion, “that you will see, without my going any further, how greatly a remedy is needed for abuses of which the foregoing are only a few instances.”
SOURCE: An Ungallant Society: The Men’s Rights Movement – London Daily News – Friday 06 May 1898

First and second wave of the men’s rights movement

c 1900 – men marching for shorter working hours

c 1900 – men marching for shorter working hours

By “movement” this website takes as its definition the following:

Mirriam-Webster MOVEMENT
a : tendency, trend
b : a series of organized activities working toward an objective.

The Farlex Free Dictionary MOVEMENT
a. A series of actions and events taking place over a period of time and working
to foster a principle or policy: e.g. a movement toward world peace.
b. A tendency or trend: e.g. a movement toward larger kitchens.

The First Wave of the Men’s Rights Movement:

The Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) consists of groups or individuals fighting for improved social, legal and human rights for men. Historically these groups consisted of men and women agitating for corrections to anti-male customs and laws, for men’s right to live traditional or alternative male roles if they so chose, and to challenge the growing misandry that was attacking that freedom of choice via its manipulation of the social and legal environment. The accompanying and no less important of its aims has been to challenge the gynocentric narratives and customs rooted in mainstream culture which have reinforced sexist attitudes.

The following is a small sampling of men’s rights initiatives constituting the first wave of the men’s rights movement, a list that could be easily expanded into thousands of initiatives by the diligent researcher. Bear in mind that although we are talking of a single MRM, it is more accurately defined as the aggregate of separate MRM initiatives:

1856
A long newspaper article entitled A Word for Men’s Rights is published in Putnam’s Monthly, which discusses sexist laws that oppressed men and benefited women, including the practice of frivolous, unjustified lawsuits for supposed breach of marriage promise.
1857
A Mr. Todd proposes a “Men’s Rights Conference” be held in response to exaggerations of the women’s rights movement.
1875
Article entitled Women’s and Men’s Rights appeared in the 1875 volume Historic and literary miscellany by G.M.D. Bloss
1886
Ernest Belfort Bax, England, writes his first major commentary on gynocentrism and misandry, ‘Some Bourgeois Idols; Or Ideals, Reals, and Shams.’
1890s
New York Alimony Club (informal)
1896
Ernest Belfort Bax, England, co-authors book, The Legal Subjection of Men (Twentieth Century Press).
1896
Anti-Bardell Bachelor Band, Atlanta Georgia. Formed to fight against a national campaign headed by activist Charlotte Smith (Women’s Rescue League) to promote a tax on bachelors. Another, similar effort was made by the Hoboken Bachelor’s Club in Hoboken, New Jersey.
1898
League for Men’s Rights formed by Mr. William Austin in London. The movement is reported in newspapers of the time as a “Men’s Rights Movement”.
1908
Ernest Belfort Bax, England, republishes his 1896 book, The Legal Subjection of Men (New Age Press)
1911
Anti-Alimony Association, New York
1912
Ernest Belfort Bax, England, writes a landmark book ‘The Fraud of Feminism’ in which he called feminism a fraud and discussed “female privilege”
1912
Anti-alimony leader: George Esterling – Denver, Colorado
1925
Samuel Reid, “Alimony Sam,” the “alimony martyr” of California
1926
Men’s Rights organizations formed Bund für Männerrechte, Vienna, founded by Sigurd von Hoeberth (Höberth) and Leopold Kornblüh in March 1926. In January 1927 the Bund split into two organizations circa: Aequitas (Hoeberth), Justicia (Kornblueh); journal “Self-Defense”
1926
Themisverbandes (Men’s Rights organization for female members, Sigurd Höberth von Schwarzthal). The founding of this organization led to a schism in Bund January
1927
Aequitas Weltbund für Männerrechte (Aequitas Word Federation for Men’s Rights) (international), Vienna, following a schism in Bund für Männerrechte (Federation for Men’s Rights). This was Sigurd Hoeberth’s new organization for men’s rights which welcomed female members.
1927
Justitia Verein für Männer und Familienrecht (Justitia Society for Men’s Rights and Family Rights), Vienna, founded by Leopold Kornblüh following a schism in Bund für Männerrechte (Federation for Men’s Rights). This group did not allow female members.
1927
Alimony Club of Illinois, Society of Disgruntled Alimony Payers, Chicago, founded by Dr. Vernon B. Cooley and second wife, Mrs. Bessie Cooley
1927
Alimony Payers Protective Association, led by Robert Gilbert Ecob
1927
Milwaukee Alimony Club, Wisconsin
1927
Fifty-Fifty League, London; manifesto “The Sex War”
1928
Tibet Men’s Rights organization (name of org. unknown), founded by Amouki
1929
‘World’s League for the Rights of Men’ formed in the UK, advocating for male issues, and holding an anti-“ultra-feminist” stance. The League had chapters in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, and other Continental centres.
1930
D. A. M. Association, Kansas City, Missouri, founded by French L. Nelson
1930
National Sociological League, Dr. Alexander Dallek, executive secretary
1931
Organization “The Modern Men’s Rights Movement” (formation date unknown) publishes broadsheet, The Gauntlet outlining goals for gender equality and “emancipation of man from feminist domination.”
1932
Alimony Club of New York County (Adolph Wodiska) (cited Jan. 9, 1932)
1932
Ohio Alimony Association, Cleveland
1933
National Divorce Reform League, Theodore Apstein (cited Feb. 14, 1933)
1933
“Men’s rights” org ‘1933 Men’s Association’ started by lieutenant colonel R. A. Broughton, England
1935
Alimony Reform League, New York
1960
Divorce Racket Busters (incorporated 1961 as U.S.A. Divorce Reform, Inc.) – California – Reuben Kidd. This initiative continued to operate into the late 1960’s.
1970
Esther Vilar publishes Der Drissierte Mann’ (The Manipulated Man) in Germany, and subsequently in English in 1972.
1971
Coalition of American Divorce Reform Elements, founded by Richard Doyle
1973
Lone Fathers Association established in Australia by Barry Williams- still running.
1973
Men’s Rights Association formed by Richard Doyle
1976
Richard Doyle publishes ‘The Rape of the Male’.
1977
Men’s Rights Incorperated (MR Inc.) founded by Frederic Hayward and David Ault. David Ault also started the ‘Men’s Rights ERA,’ a project of MR Inc., which lobbied for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and promoted the benefit of the ERA for increasing men’s rights. MR. Inc. operated until the year 2010 (communication with Mr. Hayward).
1977
Free Men Inc. was founded in Columbia, Maryland, spawning several chapters over the following years, which eventually merged to form the National Coalition of Free Men (now known as the National Coalition for Men).
1977
Richard Doyle founded Men’s Equality Now International (MEN International) in 1977 and edited its newsletter, “The Liberator” until 2004.
1979
Coalition Organized For Parental Equality formed.
1980s
The mythopoetic men’s movement refers to a loose collection of organizations active in men’s work since the early 1980s.
1985
Texas Fathers for Equal Rights formed.
1992
Professor Thomas Oaster director of the Missouri Center for Men’s Studies at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, established the first International Men’s Conference in Kansas which was attended in 1992-1994 by men and women from all continents. He also inaugurated the first International Men’s Day on February 7, 1992 – an event that is now celebrated in over 70 countries.
1993
Warren Farrell publishes the landmark book The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex, which reiterates many of the men’s issues published at the beginning of the century by the Ernest Belfort Bax.

After the publication of Warren Farrell’s book The Myth of Male Power in 1993, men’s rights initiatives proliferated until the formation of A Voice for Men in 2009 which represents the beginning of the second wave of the MRM.

The Second Wave of the Men’s (Human) Rights Movement:

'Men's rights are human rights' - rally, India 2014

‘Men’s rights are human rights’ – rally, India 2014

Founded by men’s rights advocate Paul Elam, A Voice for Men has become a global platform for promoting awareness of, and advocacy for men’s human rights issues,4 and is the largest organization of it’s kind to-date. While it continues to advocate for most of the traditional concerns of the MHRM, it has deepened its understanding of those concerns and sufficiently developed its approach to them to be considered a legitimate second wave of the movement. For example the second wave is:

  • Nationally and internationally networked (as opposed to the poorly networked 1st wave);
  • Inclusive of all: women, men, straight and gay, trans, white, black are actively involved (as opposed to predominant hetero white male of the 1st wave);
  • Strictly anti violence (as opposed to occasional violence tolerance of 1st wave)
  • Anti-domination of MRM by traditionalist assumptions (which dominated 1st wave);
  • Anti-domination by partisan politics (1st wave was dominated by right wing sentiment);
  • Inclusive of people of all faiths while having zero tolerance for proselytizers (1st wave had slight dominance by Western religion);
  • Are generally anti-feminist, anti-gynocentrism, and anti-misandry (in unison with the first wave) with the addition of being more broadly oriented to human rights principles;
  • Are more committed to building bridges between the MHRM and the general community (unlike 1st wave);
  • Have elaborated a more thorough socio-political history of misandry and gynocentrism (unlike the patchy attempts of 1st wave);
  • Have developed a more sophisticated discourse about sexual/psychological/social/political issues to inform the basis of the MRM (more than 1st wave)
  • Focuses it’s activism on changing cultural narratives over lobbying officials to change laws (1st wave), based on the principle that laws are usually altered to align with prevailing cultural expectations.

In contrast to lobbying legislators and requesting reforms to misandric laws (a significant portion of first wave activism), the second wave has seen advocacy shift toward “changing the cultural dialogue” on social and mainstream media, with the understanding that laws governing gendered expectations are eventually brought into line with the prevailing cultural expectations.

The principles of the second wave of the MHRM are not limited to the activities of A Voice for Men, and the signature principles first promoted by AVfM have migrated into the general discourse about men’s issues; principles such as inclusiveness, creating a wider and greater number of options for men, and an open acceptance of a variety of masculinities – including the rights of men to enjoy self-determination and to Go Their Own Way (MGTOW).

“Waves” of the Men’s Human Rights Movement:

The notion of ‘waves’ is familiar to us from first, second and third wave feminism. However our use of the term is not in any way related to the content or structure of feminist waves and is used here for metaphorical convenience as in ‘waves of soldiers’ or ‘waves of emotion’ to connote a surge of activity that is unique and yet related to another surge of activity.1

For the concept of ‘waves’ I employ the philosophical perspective of Alfred North Whitehead over Hegel. Hegel developed a progressivist dialectic model: eg. → thesis (gynocentrism) → antithesis (men’s rights activism) → synthesis (equality for all). This is the progressivist model implied by Bax and also by Farrell who describes a similar evolutionary theme in his writings: eg. → Women’s movement → men’s movement → gender transition movement.

The benefit of Whitehead’s approach is that it is a process philosophy like Hegel’s but, unlike Hegel, he insists that we do not leave the past behind us – we do not “progress” in the dialectical fashion described by Hegel. Whitehead proposes, rather, that the past always remains with us and informs all developments in the present. Thus by thinking with Whitehead’s philosophy the Men’s Rights Movement continues to undergo waves of activity, but they are not essentially “progressivist” waves.

__________________

Sources:

[1] Peter Wright, Welcome to the Second Wave (January 25, 2013)
[2] Robert St. Estephe, The Unknown History of Misandry
[3] Paul Elam, Entering a new ERA (January 30, 2013)
[4] Mission Statement of A Voice for Men (August 2014)

 
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