“Editorial Correspondence. Dear Revolution” (February 17, 1870)


In this letter, published February 17, 1870, by The Revolution, Paulina Wright Davis, a National Woman Suffrage Association activist, describes her visit to Richmond in January 1870, including a gathering to discuss women’s suffrage organized by Anna Whitehead Bodeker in her home. The Revolution was a newspaper founded by women’s rights activists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.


Richmond, Va., Jan. 27, 1870.

Dear Revolution: Leaving Washington early on Tuesday morning after the Convention we found ourselves in Richmond at about half-past two in the afternoon. Looking over the advertised list of hotels, we selected Ford’s which is most delightfully located on the north east side of the Capitol grounds, and is a very pleasant, quiet, home-like place, where ladies travelling alone are kindly cared for and made to feel as guests rather than strangers.

We observed, as we drove along, vast crowds of colored people gathered to the Capitol grounds, and inquired of the stately negroes who received us what the demonstrations meant?

“Oh, mum, they’s celebrating Virginia’s going back inter the Union—they have fired a hundred guns, and I hope it’ll be all right now.” Immediately after dinner, we were out and mingled in the crowd, listening to the speeches and asking questions. The negroes are not an inflammable race, otherwise some of the speeches might have roused a tempest among them, but there they stood till dark, and then quietly dispersed. It is not safe to play with the passions of any people, to harp perpetually on their past wrongs, and to claim for them rights superior to others, because of these wrongs: it will work mischief eventually. We asked several what they were there for? “Well, ‘spose it’s a political meetin’ some sort—don’t know rightly what it’s all about.” One old woman said, “it’s to pass resolutions to get Old ‘Ginia back inter the Union.” This was about the most intelligent answer we received.

After listening and watching a while we wandered away to Crawford’s equestrian statue of Washington, the finest work in bronze in this country, so far as we have seen; the horse and rider are alike instinct with life, motion and grace. In gazing, one can scarce believe that the word of command will not come thundering down upon us, and that we must not clear the way for the noble charger. Below stand Henry, Jefferson, Mason, Lewis, Marshall and Nelson still lower are symbolic figures in copper bronze. Revolution is seated upon a cannon; cannon are to the right and left of her, shields, spears and a flag form the back ground. Her expression is sad, almost stern, as she points with the forefinger of the left hand to the unsheathed sword in her right. Above and behind this stands Patrick Henry with his massive face, his hands outstretched, in one a sheathed sword and scroll dated 1775. His month looks ready to utter the cry, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Next comes Colonial Times, the face piquant, the figure erect, the head crowned, an axe in one hand, a quill in the other, sandalled feet, and graceful drapery; above and back of this the noble figure of Lewis, an Indian chief of the olden type. Next comes Justice, sitting erect, with the scales in one hand, a sword in the other, an expression both in the draping and the face of severe simplicity. Back of this figure is Marshall, with the laws, calm and majestic, but a little stiff in attitude. Then comes Finance, erect and self-poised, with her ledgers all in order resting on her knee and held firmly with her right hand, while with her left she is holding coin over the cap of liberty by her side, ready to drop it in, back of her in the stately figure of Nelson with lace frills on wrists and bosom, and a roll of state bonds in his right hand. Next comes Independence,

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with her inspired expression of faith and hope grasping a broken chain in her right hand and pointing to the cannon below. Back of this figure stands Jefferson with his ponderous brow, a quill and parchment in his hand. Then comes the Bill of Rights, unfolding her scroll, she lays it over her lap and crosses it with a drawn sword, indicating its defence. Behind this figure stands Mason, with pen and manuscript, easy and graceful in posture—we should say he has the instincts of a gentleman—and so pass him by. Are not all these symbolic figures of women prophesies of the future, when woman shall indeed administer justice, have a voice in her finance and her bill of rights?

We could not but rejoice that this beautiful group of statues, of which any city might well be proud, has escaped the ravages of war. The statue of Henry Clay, of white marble, further down the hill, had grown gray and soiled and been shamefully mutilated—poor old man and the idol of the nation, why could they not leave him his fingers, his collar and coat-skirt?

In the evening, in answer to our card sent our friends, Mr. and Mrs. B. called. They were enthusiastic about the convention in Washington, and very desirous of a meeting in Richmond, but a little diffident about moving in it. We thought it not best to attempt a public meeting, but promised to dine with them. At the hour the carriage came, and we were pleasantly welcomed by the lovely little girls of our hostess, Pearl and Ruby, a pretty fancy to give them names so very precious. We found that Mrs. B. had invited a number to meet us; and talk on the great question we must. One after another dropped in till the parlors were quite alive, when Mr. W., rector of one of the churches, asked if this movement commenced with Anna Dickinson? We then gave the history of the movement, laid down the principles of action and recommended them to invite Mrs. Stanton to give them “Our Girls,” and after that the Sixteenth Amendment. The “gate is ajar” for her, if she has the time to enter and take possession of the field.

We shall not soon forget the delightful evening passed with a lady who returned to our hotel with us, the most brilliant woman we have met for years. Thoroughly posted in literature, history, and politics, one of the very few who has studied the Madison papers, and has Jefferson’s works all at command. Stately as a Juno, graceful and queenly, wise and witty, we were put to our mettle to hold our way with her.

We urged her to join our ranks, and found that she was ready for educated suffrage—that all women taxed should have the ballot. But should she come to our annual meeting, next spring, we shall not be surprised to find her not only talking eloquently in private, but in public also. Could such a woman, with all her powers in full training, be induced to take the lecturing field, she might reach the whole south and do incalculable good.

Our work is certainly not to end with suffrage, nor is it to be narrowed to that alone. It must take in the elevation of humanity. The ballot is but a point, the nearest attainable, and to be used as a means for the other.

The hearing before the Committees of House and Senate has been very respectfully mentioned in the papers, not only in Richmond, but in Charleston also, and some of the letters published which were read at the convention. Our next will give a few Charleston items.


P. W. D.

APA Citation:
Wright Davis, Paulina. “Editorial Correspondence. Dear Revolution” (February 17, 1870). (2021, May 25). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Wright Davis, Paulina. "“Editorial Correspondence. Dear Revolution” (February 17, 1870)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (25 May. 2021). Web. 24 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2021, May 25
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