A Message to the Federation By Julia Ward Howe, from The Federation Bulletin, A Magazine for the Women of To-Day. Nov. 1908.
“I esteem myself happy in being commissioned to say a few words of welcome to this peaceful army which inarches under the flag of good will and charity to all mankind. Its battalions will array themselves only against the evils which always threaten society, and which too often devastate it. An army of women, and men,” she nodded to the men in the back, “from all parts of this fine city, armed only with justice and with patience, intent only upon promoting the public welfare, the common good. We still are children in a school, engineering problems of human destiny, and we make and shall make many mistakes; but what new vantage-grounds have we gained?
Let us begin our work from the true starting-point, so as not to go back to the starting-point of fifty years ago. We have had great gains in education, great gains in social status. We have acquired the right of independent thought. We are dealt with now as if each of us had her individual conscience to regulate her life's work, and not merely a rule of external import, borrowed from a foreign source. This conscience gives us a standard by which to judge our objects and our efforts. The wonder is that our consciences, in dealing with any capital problem, are sure to agree. With all our diversities of circumstances and of temperament, we are brought together here by one desire, by one impulse, the desire to do what we can to further the best interests of society. Surely, the harmony of intention, which has brought us together, will still avail to keep us in sight of all that so high an agreement should aim at.
I will take time briefly to state two points, which, in my view, it will be most important to keep in mind. One of them is the advantage, which we should gain from the diversity of our gifts and talents: the other is the unity of spirit and endeavor with which we should make this diversity helpful to the objects we have in view. We may hope, through this large coming together, to attain a more extended sense of nationality, for, though we are of all Cities, States, and Territories, yet, when we say ‘Our Country,’ we do not mean any single city, large or small. We mean one broad continent in which, fortunately, free institutions prevail, and no tyranny of Church or State has leave to work for their overthrow.
One night, recently, I experienced a sudden awakening. I had a vision of a new era which is to dawn for mankind, in which men and women are battling equally, unitedly, for the uplifting and emancipation of the race from evil. I saw men and women of every clime working like bees to undo the evils of society, to discover the whole web of vice and misery, and to apply the remedies and also to find the influences that should best counteract evil and its attending suffering.
There seemed to be a new, a wondrous, ever-permeating light, the glory of which I cannot attempt to put in human words, — the light of the new-born hope and sympathy blazing. The source of this light was born of human endeavor, — the immortal purpose of countless thousands of men and women who were equally doing their part in the world-wide battle with evil, and whose energy was banded to tear the mask from error, crime, superstition, and greed, and to discover and apply the remedy. I saw the men and women, standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, a common, lofty, and indomitable purpose lighting every face with a glory not of this earth. All were advancing with one purpose in view, one foe to trample, one everlasting good to gain. I saw them advancing like a mighty army, laden with the fruits of their research, their study, their endeavor, in this battle with the powers of darkness, and ready to tear vice from the earth, to strip away all selfishness of greed, of rapine.
Then I seemed to see them stoop down to their fellows and to lift them higher and higher. Men and women, a vast host whom none could number, working unitedly, equally, with super human energy, all for the extirpation of the blackness of vice and for the weal of the race. And then I saw the victory. All of evil was gone from the earth. Misery was blotted out. Mankind was emancipated, and ready to march forward in a new era of human understanding, all-encompassing sympathy, and ever- present help.
Let my message to you be this: — Start from the present. Follow the straight way. Hope for every good thing. Trust no easy-going methods. And may God keep your hearts.”