|“With feebler voices?” Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) and Men’s Contribution to 19th-century American Feminism|
|In a speech delivered at the 1887 Annual Meeting of the American Woman Suffrage Association, American reformer and writer Thomas Wentworth Higginson asked the following questions: “How long will women have to point out these things? How long will men with feebler voices, because less personal and less absorbingly interested, have to aid them in pointing them out?” Not only was Higginson expressing his impatience about what he considered as the long struggle for woman suffrage, but he was also commenting on men’s legitimacy in- and contribution to the women’s rights movement. For him, men’s role was to help women obtain their rights, but theirs was not to be a central force in the movement.
Through the example of Thomas Wentworth Higginson and his prolific production on women and women’s rights between 1850 and 1900, we will question this vision of male women’s rights activism. What was men’s specific contribution to the American women’s rights movement and discourse in the 19th century? How did it evolve in the second half of the nineteenth century? We will analyze how Higginson, a writer and reformer, as well as a soldier during the Civil War, articulated his feminist ideas and his place in the women’s rights movement with the perception of his own masculine identity.|