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In Their Own Words

February 09, 1858

Early Feminism Expressed in Journal

In this journal entry, Gertrude Thomas shows the beginnings of the feminist she would later become:

“… Mrs. McDonald of Macon, a lady I knew well when I first left school has recently eloped, leaving her husband, a grown son – and a little daughter for the guilty love of a professed gambler – who leaves a wife and seven children. Poor Mrs. McDonald what an awful step she has taken! No excuse – she cannot plead the excitement of youth. What can she say? A query – why is that while Dr. McDonald would be considered perfectly right in refusing to take his wife back to his home and heart, the wife, the deserted wife of the other party is expected to show her woman’s love (or rather her woman’s weakness) her all forgiving spirit and receive the wanderer back again? Custom does indeed sanction many a wrong and there is yet great improvement to be made in the code of ethicks [sic] by which the life of many persons is to be regulated. But I mount my hobby when I commence on the subject of woman and her wrongs. I am no ‘Woman’s Rights Woman,’ in the northern sense of the term, but so far as a woman’s being forever ‘Anathema Marantha,’ in society for the same offence which in a man, very slightly lowers, and in the estimation of some of his own sex rather elevates him. In this, I say there appears to be a very very great injustice. I am the greatest possible advocate for woman’s purity, in word, thought, or deed, yet I think if a few of the harangues directed to women were directed in a point where it is needed more, the standard of morality might be elevated… .”

Source: Virginia Ingraham Burr (ed.), The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), pp. 160-161.