The Gentlemen's Contribution to the Ladies' Deposit
“ THE insolence, the ignorance, and the stupidity of the age has embodied itself and found its mouth-piece in men who are personally the negation of all that they represent publicly. We have men who in private are full of the most gracious modesty representing in public the most ludicrous arrogance ; . . . we have men who have mastered many kinds of knowledge acting on the world only as embodiments of the completest and most pernicious ignorance.”
Mallock was speaking of the Boston Ladies’ Deposit Campaign, only he did not know it.
Upon this solid and firmly entrenched mass of insolence, ignorance, and stupidity one person can hope to make but little impression. Yet I suppose there is greater joy in heaven, and I know there is greater joy in earth, over a cordial thwack at it than over most other attainable forms of pleasure.
The Boston newspapers hurled Mrs. Howe upon society like a glass bomb, and when she struck the explosion shattered reputations in all directions. Under that detonating dynamite disappeared the intelligence and the morality of women. The female school-teacher was denuded of all fitness for her position, and the woman suffragist was not left a leg to stand on. Now that Mrs. Howe, after legal investigation and by legal process, has been pronounced guilty, and local moral inflammation may be assumed to be somewhat allayed, I propose to show that the history of the Ladies’ Deposit does not demonstrate the credulity of women, the immorality of women, or the educational or political incapacity of women ; while it does show that men, so far as the Ladies’ Deposit has tested them, are untrustworthy as reporters of facts or reasoners on facts, that they have either not culture enough to tell a straight or not conscience enough to tell a true story, and that they are utterly incompetent to be intrusted with the educational interests of children or with the financial interests of women.
In endeavoring to reconcile this slight discrepancy of opinion between Boston and myself, and declining to admit even for the sake of peace that geese are swans and swans are geese, I shall be obliged reluctantly to give the history of my own brief connection with the Ladies’ Deposit, and to speak of messieurs the newspaper moralists with considerable frankness ; but for the egotism I do not apologize, since it is but the gathering point of odium ; of the courage I do not boast, since it is not founded on respect.
Having thus amicably arranged the preliminaries, I invite the attention of all who are interested in abstract truth, or in the morality of public schools, or in the adoption of woman suffrage, or who wrought folly in Israel by sheepishly following a sudden clamor. If my invitation is accepted, there will be silence in Boston for the space of half an hour!
I first heard of the Ladies’ Deposit September 11, 1880, in my own house, from two ladies, of whose character and social standing I need, as the world is at present constituted, say no more than that one was a personal friend and sometime guest of one of the proprietors of the Boston Daily Advertiser, and the other a kinswoman of one of the editors. They had been told, as they informed me, that the Ladies’ Deposit had been in existence eight years.
That it paid to depositors eight per cent. a month.
That no woman who owned more than fifteen hundred dollars, and no wife of an able-bodied man, was allowed to deposit.
That no one was allowed to deposit less than two hundred or more than one thousand dollars.
That no woman was allowed to add her interest to her deposit, on the ground that she needed her interest to live on ; that subsequent additions might be made to her deposit, but that the interest was to be paid to her and taken away by her on the day it was due.
That a lady of wealth might deposit for a poor lady whom she wished to benefit.
That every new depositor must be introduced by some preceding depositor.
That the Ladies’ Deposit had been attacked by the newspapers the preceding winter as a fraud ; that the attack had produced a “ run ” upon the Deposit ; that the Deposit had made no reply, had not asserted, defended, or explained itself, but had paid all dues demanded, and had declined to receive again deposits from those who had withdrawn them on account of the panic.
That the Deposit made no statements regarding its own character, and no solicitations for deposits.
I believe this information was substantially correct, with two exceptions: I have seen no proof that the Deposit was more than three years old, and there is evidence that it did at times profess to be a charitable institution.
The idea that the Ladies’ Deposit was a bank, or in any ordinary sense a business institution, was not entertained by my informants, — did not even present itself for discussion. The only question was, Is it a charity, or is it a cheat ? This was debated with a liveliness, not to say levity, with a mixture of faith and fun, which, in view of the subsequent development of the decadence of female morals, cannot be too severely condemned.
In favor of the fraud theory stood only the general improbability of anything else.
In favor of the charity theory appeared (1) a yearly percentage nearly equal to the amount deposited. To the small capitalist six per cent. a month would be as alluring as eight, and to the swindler it would be more profitable. But if it were designed by a benefactor to help the worthy poor, if it were designed not to pamper paupers or to pauperize workers, we could see a reason for fixing upon a test sum not far from that which is required of voters in England, and then rewarding as well as testing thrift by bestowing that sum upon the accumulator in the guise of yearly income. That the amount deposited was not allowed to exceed a thousand dollars, that it was paid back in little more than nine months, that it was not allowed to remain at compound interest, but that each quarter’s interest was imperatively awarded to the depositor, seemed to indicate the presence of some principle that was not greed for money.
(2.) That each depositor must be introduced by some previous depositor seemed to fix character as the basis of benefit. It seemed also that the Deposit might design thus not only to guard itself against imposition from the unprincipled rich, but to confine its operations within a manageable compass. As the Deposit had been several years in existence, as I had never heard of it before and my informants only within a few days, though living under the shadow of its refuge, it must have gone on quietly, without parade or publicity to tempt the adventurer; and might have been intended to pass only from the lips of one beneficiary to another, thus attracting only those whom it was to help, and designing not to attract even them in numbers too great for its resources.
(3.) The year’s accumulation being paid back each year to the accumulator freed her in one year from possibility of loss, while in case the Deposit should at any time find its project unwieldy she would not be cast adrift, but would be left with at least as much capital as she brought to the Deposit at the outset.
(4.) That the Deposit had been in existence for years, had been attacked and had withstood the attack, without boisterousness or belligerency, but simply by going on its own way and paying its depositors all their dues, seemed an indication of strength.
All these devices might indeed be the ingenious invention of dishonesty, but they would be the natural development of benevolence. If there had been a great charity at the basis, I do not see how any wiser mode of distribution could have been framed. In view of the inexpressible relief which was afforded in the dozen or so cases of which I learned in the course of the discussion, I feel a thrill of regret whenever I remember that there was nothing in it.
In regard to general probability, I candidly avow that no originality and no magnitude of charity is so incredible as that the Omnipotent Creator of the world should let things go on as they are.
To the religious newspapers, whose hearts have been wrung by the decline and fall of female morals indicated by the Ladies’ Deposit, let me make a consoling suggestion, which may be “ skipped ” by the world’s people.
I have been told that Dr. Cullis professes to support his Home for Consumptives in the heart of Boston on prayer alone. In Brooklyn the Woman’s Faith Home for Incurables has just published its Fifth Annual Report, and laid the corner-stone of a new building with joyful shoutings of Grace ! grace unto it! I am not fully prepared to accept the philosophy of these institutions, but it is not denied that they are institutions,— established facts. Dr. Cullis and the Misses Campbell publicly announce that prayer and faith constitute their only capital. Of course, the virtue of the act consists in exercising the faith and offering the prayer, not in proclaiming them. If, then, prayer and faith, standing in the synagogues and on the corners of streets, can build houses and found homes, is it impossible that prayer and faith in the closet with shut doors can support poor women in homes of their own ? If Christ could fish up money out of the sea wherewithal to pay his taxes, and if he said, “ He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do,” why should it seem a thing incredible that he should pluck from the pockets of the rich a hundred fold or ninety-six fold the slender means of the deserving poor ? I understand that Dr. Cullis’s prayer is answered and Miss Campbell’s faith justified through the workings of divine impulsion on the hearts of men to give the carpets, the bread, and the medicine which the invalids are known to want. Why is it imbecile or immoral to think divine power could work with equal facility in the heart of a man, for instance, who was bred on the stony acres of a New England farm ; who saw a widowed mother grow prematurely old from hard work, a sister’s youth ground into senility between the upper and nether millstone of unrelenting need? Going thence into the golden fields of California, or the silver mountains of Arizona, such a man should be far more likely to turn the streams of his manhood’s wealth into the pit whence he was digged, should be far more likely to convert his money into rest and comfort for such mothers and sisters as won the deep compassion of his youth, than to build a house with sixty bedrooms, or buy the Column Vendome to illuminate for a ball-room. It has happened to me to be more conversant, probably, than most men or women, with the anxieties, the apprehension, the courage and the conflict, the heroism, and the martyrdom, of this class of women, and I can think of no way in which a fortune could be more satisfactorily spent than in raising them out of the shadow and foreboding in which they live to the heart’s ease of ever so modest an independence.
Leaving the realms of prayer and faith, and returning to the palpable ground of good works, we actually have some magnificent charities. When the Bergen Savings Bank failed, Mr. William Walter Phelps, a politician and an office-holder, late a member of Congress, and now minister to Austria, himself, though entirely irresponsible for the loss, paid to the small depositors their dues. It is said to have cost him twenty thousand dollars, and from a business point of sight I do not see how it can be justified ; but for solid happiness how can it be surpassed!
When the Hon. Philetus Sawyer, United States senator, paid off the mortgages of his poor neighbors and employees to the amount of thirty or more thousand dollars, and lifted the burden from Heaven knows how many heavy hearts, he was financially a fool; for money is made by foreclosing, not lifting, mortgages. But “ Uncle Phile ” did it, and I venture to say no investment ever gave him more real satisfaction. All the credulity involved in believing that the assuaging of human sorrow is the highest prerogative of wealth, and that in the present stage of the world’s spiritual history wealth may at any moment assert its prerogative, I not only admit, but avow. And I maintain further that this credulity pertains neither to imbecility nor immorality, but is the natural result of our progress towards the higher life. No one can live long and intimately in political circles without being prepared for any development whatever of generosity and magnanimity.
At the time I learned of the Ladies’ Deposit, I had in special sympathy three women, each alone in the world ; two faltering through failing strength, after having fought a brave fight; all dependent on their own slender hands, or the compassion of chance friends ; all highly educated, and nurtured in refined homes. I said I would try the Ladies’ Deposit for them. If it were a bubble, my touch would be sure to burst it, judging from the gamesome precipitancy with which all stocks, bonds, and values shrink under my meekest approach. If it were indeed a rain from heaven, it was little for me to see that a friend’s dish was right side up.
I begged an introduction from a depositor, and September 18th, one week after I first heard of it, I visited the Deposit. The house looked like any Boston house, solid and respectable, but in no way noticeable. The Pompeian splendor, the tropical bloom, which afterwards burst forth refulgent in the newspapers did not reveal themselves to my rustic gaze. A single visitor was present, besides myself, — a lady who only made inquiries, and was quietly and simply answered. Two women transacted the business : one curt and arrogant, as who dispensed a charity rather than lured a victim, the other noticeably gentle and pleasing. I said to them that I could make no deposit myself, under their rules, but I should like to deposit for some one else, whose circumstances I related. They suggested that she come herself to make her statement and receive her note. As I had not consulted her I did not feel at liberty to use her name, nor did I feel sure enough of the nature of the institution to be willing to subject her to the risk of disappointment. I said that I preferred myself to be the agent. They did not strenuously object. The only thing in the whole interview which impressed me unfavorably was that they were unwilling to take a check even upon the New England Trust Company of Boston, an institution whose stability and order are but feebly represented by the eternal march of the stars in their courses. I have a great though a somewhat blind faith in checks. They have a way of coming back to you when lost, and of proving things you have forgotten, which makes them seem like a friend, while they have also a uselessness which never tempts the burglar or burdens the possessor ; so that life would be rather cumbersome and unwieldy without a system of checks, and a New England Trust Company to reckon on for the perpetual rectification of one’s accounts. That the Deposit should not be willing to take a check looked like not living up to their privileges, — like not wishing to put themselves in the line of direct testimony. It had not much weight with me, but it had a little, — just enough to make me deposit for only one of my protégées, and to decide not to mention the others, but to wait a while, then to apply by letter, and see whether the Deposit officers really had any repugnance to putting themselves on paper. September 29th, therefore, I wrote to the Deposit a letter, of which I kept no copy, describing my other applicants, and saying that I would not willingly even seem to wish to encroach upon so divine a charity by grasping its benefits for persons who were not within its scope, — and viewed myself as a rather acute financial diplomatist. So far from considering myself credulous,
I fancied that I was feeling my way along with a most commendable caution.
In this exact conjunction stood the larger planets on the evening of Saturday, October 2d. My own interest was of a tentative and comparatively languid nature, — the interest attaching to a lively hope and a bare possibility on which one has ventured two hundred floating dollars ; an interest entirely secondary to picking forty bushels of apples, making three barrels of cider, harvesting seven hills of potatoes as the result of three acres of tillage, pulling turnips which a healthy horse will not eat, and gathering the eight squashes of which even the Boston Daily Advertiser must be sorry to learn that six turned out to be pumpkins. Certainly nothing was further from my thoughts, when I plucked a moment now and then from the farm to try the Ladies’ Deposit, than that the act should have the smallest interest to any one but myself, and, in the event of success, those whom I hoped to help.
Saturday evening, October 2d, my original informant sent me word, in some consternation, that the newspapers were attacking the Deposit again ; that “ they said dreadful things about Mrs. Howe,” that my informant’s friends were alarmed, and had withdrawn their deposits, and feeling that she was responsible for having involved me, desired authority to secure mine. She also furnished me the Boston Daily Advertiser of September 30th and October 2d to show the state of the case.
Before reading the Advertiser’s exposé I replied that I had acted solely on my own risk; that even if the Deposit were a fraud it would, in case of a run upon it, pay out all it possibly could in order to keep itself alive ; so that if my money did not go to the woman for whom it was intended, it would go to some other poor woman, and would not therefore be really lost, and I would let it be. (I forgot the lawyers !) It did not occur to me to do anything else; but since reading what the Boston newspapers seem to have considered the natural thing for one to do, I protest I am lost in admiration of my own moral heroism.
Then I read the two Advertisers, and found columns of very low scandal, rumor, conjecture, contradiction, wholesale objurgation of women, a great deal of gleeful, not to say gloating, narrative, but, to my surprise, not one particle of evidence. They even supplied the missing link by saying that Mrs. Howe had asserted the Ladies’ Deposit to be a charitable institution. A letter from Mrs. Howe herself, published in one of the papers, was not reassuring, but it was suggested —begging pardon of the lawyers — that it might have been written by her lawyer. With all my knowledge of the conspicuous inexactness of newspapers, I still could not see why they should fabricate and collect such a heap of rubbish if they really had any truth underneath to tell.
The positions of the Advertiser were :
(1.) All the depositors hitherto were contemptible, “ credulous women.”
(2.) All who did not instantly repudiate the Ladies’ Deposit on the sole strength of the Advertiser’s information were “ destitute of moral scruple.”
But the Advertiser’s sole authority was an anonymous “ reporter.” This deprived its information of legal value.
The story on its face developed gross inaccuracies and glaring contradictions. This deprived it of moral value.
No just judge would shoot a dog on such testimony.
Here the matter leaves my own modest little potato-patch, which shrinks under such scrutiny, and broadens out into the universe generally.
For I, at least, felt that it was impossible to decline this “ trial by newspaper ” with sufficient promptitude and thoroughness. I did my best, however, and sent my protest to the Advertiser as fast as steam could carry it. I dealt in no glittering and sounding generalities, but gathered up the contradictory statements and set them side by side, and showed that the one devoured the other. I made no defense of Mrs. Howe or the Deposit; I said distinctly that I had never seen her and knew nothing about her; that I spoke only of the Advertiser articles of September 30th and October 2d, the only ones I had seen; and that I spoke in self-defense, as one charged with being a credulous woman devoid of moral scruples ; and demanding that we should have truth and not falsehood. I proved by producing the contradictions that it was impossible for women to accept all the Advertiser’s statements ; that there was no standard for deciding which to accept, and therefore no possibility of accepting any as final. I showed that even as a business the Ladies’ Deposit offered no greater profits and threatened no greater disasters than were offered and perpetrated by men without in the least affecting the moral character or mental standing of the men who received the profit and suffered the loss.
And the Advertiser — instead of saying “ I have sinned. From long habit I am prone to fibbing as the sparks to fly upward. But in this case there is truth, though held in solution, as I see now that you have mentioned it, by falsehood. I will at once precipitate the truth, cast away the falsehood, and go and sin no more”— turned upon me, and declared, for substance of doctrine, that I had proved myself a knave and a partner to the fraud!
And Tray, Blanche, and Sweetheart, and a good many other harmless little dogs, joined in the cry ; some pulling a long face and mournful ululations, some with a frankly jubilant bow-wow-wow, but all betraying the same absence of rational speech and articulate thought.
For no one denied my contradictions. It was only replied that they were of no account. They were but “ slight discrepancies.” The principle of newspaper testimony is, No matter if the witness does bear false witness, so long as he tells the truth.” The Advertiser gravely affirmed that its conspicuous inexactness was " of no importance, except so far as it bears upon the substantial accuracy and truthfulness of our statements,” and did not in the least perceive that it was thus stating the whole question in an aside. Everything turned on the credibility of the Advertiser as a witness. Palpable false witness does not prove the accused innocent, but it never establishes his guilt. Still less does it establish the guilt of the judge who declines to admit it. When the Advertiser denounced its victims in the same breath for financial ignorance in believing that the Ladies’ Deposit was a legitimate business institution, and for vulgar credulity in believing that it was an honest charitable institution, it attributed to them a feat of inscrutable logical legerdemain. When two contradictory assertions are made about the the same act, a woman is neither credulous nor knavish for refusing to accept either and demanding further evidence. To deny this is to be ignorant, insolent, and stupid. Five thousand persons denying it, five million newspapers repeating the denial, do not make it any the less insolent, ignorant, and stupid.
But it was my religious critic who gilded the refined gold of fatuity with the solemn reflection that “ errors of a like trivial character would overthrow the whole Christian plan of salvation.”
“ Bredren,” said the colored preacher to the pestilent questioner asking who made the fence against which his account of creation had set the first man up to dry, — “ bredren, three more such questions would destroy de whole system of theology ! ” Any person who thinks the Christian plan of salvation is strapped on any newspaper’s shoulders may well be left to dry against the same fence.
“ Credulous fools ! ” said the newspapers to the depositors, slapping the money out of their hands at one blow, “ renounce the devil and all his works, of which Mrs. Howe is chief ! ”
“ Why — why — why ? ” gasped the surprised depositors.
“ Because I bid you.”
“ But you have told a great many fibs in your day, and I can see that you are telling some now. How shall I know that this is not one of them ? ”
“ Ugh ! Knave ! Hawk ! Avaunt! You are a pal of thieves! You have no moral scruples ! You have got your money ! What ails you ? Begone ! ” Exit female depositors. Gentlemen of the press join hands and sing in concert : —
That on my birth have smiled,
And made me from my earliest days
A male and Christian child!”
Chorus of their male relatives :
He might have been a woman
Or even a de-pos-i-tor ! ”
Providence, which sometimes interposes even for women, did not leave them without a witness against this newspaper blizzard.
While outraged Boston was piling bales of bail upon her frightful female, the “ gigantic conspirator ” of the newspapers, the “ crazy old fool ” of the lawyers, an elegant gentleman was running away with some ninety thousand dollars of the city’s money dropping out of his pockets. The finances of the city of Boston were not managed by female school-teachers, nor by women of any degree, but by men. A man was specially appointed to treasure the funds, and a committee of men were specially appointed to watch the treasurer. This committee, say the aldermen, were not only men, but men distinguished as merchants, as bankers, as accountants ; different men each year, and of the best men to be found in Boston. Every year these men examined the accounts of the treasurer, and every year the treasurer examined the accounts of Mr. Woodward ; and every year the treasurer assured Mr. Woodward that the accounts were right, and every year the committee assured the treasurer and the city council and the Boston citizens that the accounts were right; and all the while for five years, under the very eyes of these wise watchmen, Mr. Woodward was helping himself to the city’s money whenever he pleased, and escaping detection by the simple device of shifting the remaining money from one hand to the other, and so showing a full fist to the inspectors each time. But I listen in vain for a voice from State House Hill denouncing the credulity of men, and proclaiming their unfitness for financial or political trust.
Depositors had no more reason to know Mrs. Howe outside of the Deposit than Mr. Dennie and the committee had to know Mr. Woodward outside of the City Hall. The one letter of Mrs. Howe’s which I saw — printed after the charges were made — was, I have admitted, not reassuring. But it does not compare unfavorably with the letters of Mrs. Amy Woodward. Women may have been deceived by a crazy old fool, but there is just as strong evidence that Mr. Woodward and Mr. Dennie and the treasury committee were beguiled by a crazy young fool. Officially, Mrs. Howe had paid every dollar promised just as promptly as Mr. Woodward had presented his accounts, and presumably for as long a period. Mr. Dennie and the committee did not discover Mr. Woodward’s misdemeanor till the money disappeared, but Mrs. Howe’s money did not disappear at all. The depositors had no defalcation to account for. Mrs. Howe was paying every dollar due, fully and promptly, up to the very last minute when the astute Boston business-men pounced upon her with a sheriff, so vigorously and rigorously that Mr. Woodward slipped away from them, money and all. Therefore, the female school-teachers have displayed no more credulity than the Boston bankers. And the female school-teachers and other depositors were acting each on her own account, risking only her own money. They were under no obligations to any one to supervise Mrs. Howe. But the treasurer and committee were especially appointed to care for a trust fund, for other people’s money. In the act of the women, therefore, there is no element of immorality, while in the oversight of the Boston committee there is the element of a breach of trust. But I have seen no attempt on the part of the Boston press to disfranchise, demoralize, and degrade the merchants and bankers of Boston; nor has the Rev. T. W. Higginson published in the Commercial Bulletin an article to show State Street that a committee of financial inspection should not allow accountants to present their accounts on the principle of the old nursery trick, —
One named Jack, one named Gill:
Fly away, Jack, fly away, Gill;
Come again, Jack, come again, Gill.”
After the detection of Mr. Woodward and the apprehension of Mrs. Woodward, Sumner Albee, Esq., permitted himself to be retained in their defense. Why should not Mr. Albee be instantly expelled from Prospect Street Church for defending theft, conspiracy, profaneness, and the variety theatre ? He is in precisely the attitude of those women who, after the charges against Mrs. Howe had been published, refused to condemn her on the strength of anonymous newspaper reports and contradictory assertions, and demanded, not that fraud should be justified, but that fraud should be proved before it should be punished. Neither Mrs. Howe, nor Mr. Woodward, nor any other creature of the world, the flesh, or the devil, has done anything to forfeit his right to the truth. Legal investigation is not a mere arbitrary fashion. It is the formulation of what time and trial have shown to be the most real investigation. The forms of law are not imperative because they are legal. They are legal because they are imperative. Evidence is not sifted because courts of justice require it. Courts of justice require it because only by sifting evidence can truth and justice be secured.
Now let us take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example. The Advertiser stoutly maintained that no woman could achieve such a “ gigantic conspiracy,” and that behind the offending woman there must be a gang of offending men, and on October 18th, in brief but significant summary, called attention to the fact that itself had caught and caged the woman, and prudently exhorted the police to go for the men ! It bade the conscious blood to the policemen’s cheek, if the policeman’s cheek had not forgotten how to blush, — though nothing less than the Advertiser’s extraordinary mental confusion would ever bring a blush and a policeman together, — and it was ashamed to think of the contempt which would rage in the breast of the Paris detectives when they heard the story!
Let the heathen rage and the policemen blush ; what I wish to ascertain is why women, hundreds of miles away in the country, are required to know more about Boston notions than the Bostonians themselves? The Advertiser says that the Ladies’ Deposit has been going on “ for several years, — three by the lowest estimate. The police have either been as blind as bats, or they have known of its existence for the past two years.” Yet the Advertiser declares that the police have done literally nothing towards detecting or arresting it. “ When they were approached they said they had looked into it, and its managers were all right, all right! ” So, then, this “ gigantic conspiracy ” could flourish three years in the heart of Boston, under the very eyes of the police and the antennæ of the newspapers, without menacing an iota of man’s intelligence, or honesty, or capacity for self-government; but the moment it struck a woman she must see through it completely, or instantly forfeit sense and suffrage. Women do not make the laws which protect property and detect fraud. Men make the laws. I beg to know if the fact that an institution has existed for three years, as the Advertiser says, “ in no sense private,” openly in the face of Boston, under the full inspection of the whole costly detective force which is organized to distinguish between the legal and the illegal, and has been pronounced by them all right, — I beg to know if that is not a fact on which women have a right to rely as affording at least presumptive evidence of legitimacy. If three weeks were enough to break up the Deposit and imprison its managers, who were most immoral and credulous, — the women of the suburbs who thought it might be a charity, or the men of the city who knew it must be a cheat, yet let it go on unmolested for three years ?
And what of the newspapers ? The Advertiser boasts that in three weeks it brought the fraud practically to an end. But why did it wait three years before beginning ? It says, “ The business was not only covered all over with the marks of its fraudulent purpose, but it was an open, palpable, certain, self-evident swindle,” and at any time when the work was properly taken hold of, “ in a few days thereafter the Ladies’ Deposit would have fallen to pieces.” How, then, can the Advertiser avoid being accessory to all the guilt incurred and all the disaster caused by the institution during all these years ? It knew the guilt and the swindle, yet let women go on depositing their poor little hardly-gained capital for three years without opening its mouth. In one week from the time I first heard of the Deposit I had my finger on its pulse !
Will the Advertiser claim that it did not know of the Ladies’ Deposit ? It says, “The affair was in no sense private; it was, and bore from the start the marks of being, a gigantic conspiracy.” Can a gigantic conspiracy go on in public three years, and an enterprising newspaper in the same city know nothing about it, or an honest newspaper say nothing about it, or a decent newspaper turn about and trample upon country women for not having known all about it in the beginning, or for not turning a corner at the end as fast as a man ?
Further than this, it now appears that as long ago as the preceding January the Boston Herald made an exposé of this affair which the Advertiser calls “ the largest piece of knavery which has ever been perpetrated in Boston.” This enormous knavery the Advertiser boasts of having demolished in three weeks, but what was the Advertiser doing all these nine months after attention was publicly called to it ? Was not the very fact that attention was publicly directed to it without effect a strong indication of its solidity ? Did not the Advertiser by its silence become part and parcel of a conspiracy to allure the unwary ? Did they not set a trap for women to fall into ? Or if it has taken the Advertiser, on the spot, and with all detective appliances, nine months to lay the wires in order to secure the rogues, why does it argue intellectual fatuity in women that they did not detect roguery at once ?
The Boston newspapers said, — I will quote but one, the sentiment was common, — “ Who are the fools [of the Ladies’ Deposit] ? Quite a large proportion of them were school-teachers. . . . Probably only a small portion of them were actually deceived, . . . there was . . . knavery in their folly.” Here, then, is a gigantic conspiracy in which a large proportion of the conspirators are schoolteachers. Have these school-teachers been dismissed from their schools ? Has a single one of them been dismissed on account of her connection with the Ladies’ Deposit? Have the Boston newspapers made any effort to dismiss them ? I have not heard of a case. I do not believe a school-teacher has been expelled for this offense. I do not believe the Boston press has attempted to discharge one of these foolish and fraudulent teachers. It is therefore guilty of the unspeakable crime of permitting without protest the young children, the future citizens of the republic, to be committed to the charge of knaves and fools, and to remain in such charge after the knavery and folly were exposed. Either the newspaper press has slandered the school-teachers, or it has itself been guilty of a betrayal of trust compared with which any pecuniary knavery and folly sink into insignificance.
In its eagerness to rival the exploits of the New York Times with the Tweed robberies, and of the New York Tribune with the Cipher Dispatches, the Boston Advertiser, by strenuous and longcontinued exertion, inflated one poor, deaf, illiterate old woman into a formidable and gigantic conspirator. Under the manipulations of the law she was speedily reduced to the more probable proportions of “ a crazy old fool.” But whichever or whatever she may be, there are no laurels on her brow for a man’s wearing. The glory and crown of man is not in the discrimination, the justice, the watchful wisdom, revealed in him by the Ladies’ Deposit or by his own. The argument against woman business, woman teaching, woman suffrage, is not that women are dishonest and imbecile, while men are wise and invincible. The glory of men and the safety of women is this : that men have wrought so faithfully, and fought so valiantly, and died so heroically, that security is achieved even for the defenseless ; that the pink and pet of Boston, The Atlantic, which may not approve me, in the very heart of Boston which does not love me, gives me, in the chivalrous instinct of fair play, room to say my say, even against those whom it does love and approve ; that when an army of men combine in a wild, petty, and cowardly folly, I — alone, a coward and a weakling like themselves — can tell them how poor a figure they make just as plainly, promptly, and safely as if I also were an army with banners !
M. A. Dodge.