This is a partial transcription from Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY on May 21st, 1864. I encourage you to click over to Moore’s Rural to read the entirety.
The Ladies’ National Covenant
Address to the Women of America – Home Products to be Encouraged.
A meeting of ladies was held at Washington recently, to inaugurate an important National movement. It is proper we should give the results thereof in this department of the Rural. The meeting was composed of the wives of members of the Cabinet, and of Senators and Representatives, of well-known authoresses, women of fashion, mothers who had lost their sons, and wives who had lost their husbands. There was an earnestness and a unison of feeling in this great meeting, which has never been exceeded in this land.
Address to the Women of America.
In the capital of our country we have this day organized a central society for the suppression of extravagance, the diminution of foreign imports, and the practice of economy in all our social relations. To this society we have given the name of “The Ladies’ National Covenant.” Its object is a good and generous one, which should inspire a spirit of patriotism worthy of women who are the glory of a great nation. For this society we have an example a precedent at once august and encouraging.
In 1770, the women of Massachusetts, actuated by the same impulse that inspires us, assembled in the City of Boston, as we have met here, and resolved to serve the country by an effort of self-sacrifice far greater than we are called upon to make.
On the 9th of February [of that year], 300 matrons, each the mistress of a household, met as we do now, and signed a pledge to abstain from the use of tea, the greatest luxury of the time, and the very life of all the social gatherings for which our New-England ancestors were so famous. Three days after, twice that number of blooming young girls met in the same place and signed like pledges. From that brave assemblage of women non-imporation societies sprang up, that produced an effect upon the mother country almost equal to that created by the success of our revolutionary armies. During all the terrors of the war these noble women held firmly to their pledges, and by their earnestness awoke the sympathy and co-operation of every sister colony in the land. The spirit thus aroused extended itself to imported goods of all kinds, and every hearthstone was turned into an independent manufactory. Thus it was that the flax-wheel, the hatchel, and the hand-loom became sublime instruments of freedom in the hands of American women. The house mothers of ’76 not only kept their pledge of non-importation, but with their own hands wrought from the raw materials the garments which clothed themselves, their husbands, and children. The pledge which they took and kept so faithfully evoked not only great self-sacrifice, but hard, hard toil, such as the woman of the present day scarcely dream of. Had they not endured and labored while their husbands fought, we should have had no might Union to pray and struggle for now.
We, the women of ’64, have the same object to attain and the same duties to perform which were so nobly accomplished by the women of ’76. Shall we not follow their example, and take up cheerfully the lesser burdens that the welfare of our country demands? They gave up the very comforts of life without a murmur; can we refuse when a sacrifice of feminine vanity is alone required? Can we hesitate to yield up luxuries that are so unbecoming when the very earth trembles under our feet from the tread of armed men going down to battle, and almost every roof throughout the land shelters some mother lamenting the son who has fallen gloriously with his face to the foe, or a widow whose husband lies buried so deeply among the masses of slain heroes, that she will never learn where to seek for his grave?
In order to invoke this spirit of self-sacrifice, it is important that the great object of the covenant we have made should be broadly circulated and thoroughly understood. It discourages profligate expenditures of any kind, recommends the use of domestic fabrics whenever they can be substituted for those of foreign make, and advises simplicity of attire, both as a matter of policy and good taste. It asks the great sisterhood of American women to aid in this reform before it is too late. Thank God science has given us the means of reaching thousands on thousands in a single hour. While we make this covenant, the thought that thrills our hearts may tremble in fire along the telegraph, and awake kindred inspiration throughout the entire land. By every means of communication in our power, let us urge the necessity of prompt action. In every town and village throughout the Union, some woman who loves her country is implored to establish an auxiliary society and forward the names of the ladies invited to act for the State in which her duty lies. We ask simultaneous action, earnest work, and generous self-sacrifice at the hands of our sister women. With their ardent help, a work will be accomplished so important in its results, that the woman who shares in it may, hereafter, leave the emblem of our object as the richest jewel that she can leave to posterity.