I have said that woman is the equal of man; that she has every right that man has, and one more – the right to be protected, because she is the weaker. I have said that marriage should be an absolutely perfect partnership of body and soul; that a man should treat his wife like a splendid flower, and that she should fill his life with perfume and with joy. I have said that a husband had no right to be morose; that he had no right to assassinate the sunshine and murder the joy of life. I have said that when he went home he should go like a ray of light, and fill his house so full of joy that it would burst out of the doors and windows and illuminate even the darkness of night.
I said that marriage was the holiest, highest, the most sacred institution among men; that it took millions of years for woman to advance from the condition of absolute servitude, from the absolute slavery where the Bible found her and left her, up to the position she occupies at present. I have pleaded for the rights of woman, for the rights of wives, and what is more, for the rights of little children. I have said that they should be governed by affection, by love, and that my heart went out to all the children of poverty and of crime; to the children that live in the narrow streets and in the sub-cellars; to the children that run and hide when they hear the footsteps of a brutal father, the children that grow pale when they hear their names pronounced even by a mother; to all the little children, the flotsam and jetsam upon the wide, rude sea of life. I have said that my heart goes out to them one and all; I have asked fathers and mothers to cease beating their own flesh and blood. I have said to them, When your child does wrong, put your arms around him; let him feel your heart beat against his. It is easier to control your child with a kiss than with a club.
For expressing these sentiments, I have been denounced by the religious press and by ministers in their pulpits as a demon, as an enemy of order, as a fiend, as an infamous man. Of this, however, I make no complaint. A few years ago they would have burned me at the stake and I should have been compelled to look upon their hypocritical faces through flame and smoke. They cannot do it now or they would.
One hundred years ago I would have been burned, simply for pleading for the rights of men.
Fifty years ago I would have been imprisoned. Fifty years ago my wife and my children would have been torn from my arms in the name of the most merciful God.
Twenty-five years ago I could not have made a living in the United States at the practice of law; but I can now. I would not then have been allowed to express my thought; but I can now, and I will.
And when I think about the liberty I now enjoy, the whole horizon is illuminated with glory and the air is filled with wings.