Feisty Orator Anna E. Dickinson Delivers a Fiery Address
January 16, 1864. At the behest of admiring Republicans in Washington (Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, twenty-three senators, and seventy-eight representatives signed the note inviting her to speak), celebrated abolitionist-orator Anna E. Dickinson delivers a fiery address before an impressive assemblage of government officials,
journalists, and other public figures — including President and Mrs. Lincoln — in the U.S. House of Representatives. Speaking on “The Perils of the Hour,” the twenty-one-year-old Radical Republican rakes Lincoln over the coals for his moderate policies but receives great applause (and a smile from the president) when she finally states that, in the nation’s hour of peril, she does support him, despite his faults. The address will enhance Dickinson’s growing reputation and spark many more invitations to speak. It will also inspire verbal barrages from her many critics. “Among the excrescences upon the body politic is one which may be best described by its Greek name Gynaekokracy, which manifests itself in the absurd endeavors of women to usurp the places and execute the functions of the male sex,” the Geneva (New York) Gazette will editorialize. “It is a moral and social monstrosity — an inversion . . . of the laws of nature.” This particular social inversion will be a benefaction to some: accepting the legislators’ invitation to speak, Dickinson specified that all proceeds should be used to support “the suffering freedmen.” (1)
1.) J. Matthew Gallman, America’s Joan of Arc: The Life of Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 36-38; Frank, Women in the American Civil War, 1:210-12.
Editor’s note: This entry is excerpted from Margaret E. Wagner, The Library of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil War, pp 165-166.
Editor’s note: This entry were submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Vermont Humanities Council, executive director