I’m re-reading The Freethinkers. It’s a terrific book. I want to share a passage with you, from the chapter “Lost Connections: Anticlericalism, Abolitionism, and Feminism”:
The tension came to a head in New York City in May 1840, at the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society (of which Garrison had been a found member in 1833). In a Machiavellian Parliamentary maneuver, Garrison forced a vote on the “woman question” by appointing Abby Kelley, a Quaker and a great admirer of the Grimké sisters, to a post on the organization’s powerful business committee. Kelley’s appointment was confirmed by a close vote, but several hundred members – a minority, but a highly influential one – pronounced it a violation of the Scriptures to serve on a committee with a woman, walked out, and announced plans to form a breakaway antislavery organization. [p 83]
Does that sound familiar to you? It certainly does to me. It sounds like the New Left, for instance, which splintered and splintered again over “the woman question” in the late 60s and early 70s. It sounds like every political movement ever, because there are always people who want to work for these rights but not those, and/or people who say yes but we must not confuse the fight for these rights by adding the fight for those, and/or people who say what do those rights have to do with these rights, look it up in the dictionary. There are always people who say women’s rights can wait, or are completely different, or have already been achieved, or are a good idea but don’t require anyone to actually change anything.