Frederick Douglass Quotes on Women's Rights

Frederick Douglass editing newspaper at his desk, 1870s

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Frederick Douglass was an American abolitionist and formerly enslaved Black man, and one of the most famous 19th-century orators and lecturers. He was present at the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention of 1848 and advocated for women's rights along with abolition and the rights of African Americans.

Douglass' last speech was to the National Council of Women in 1895; he died of a heart attack suffered the evening of the speech.

Selected Frederick Douglass Quotations

[Masthead of his newspaper, North Star, founded 1847] "Right is of no sex - Truth is of no color - God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren."
"When the true history of the antislavery cause shall be written, women will occupy a large space in its pages, for the cause of the slave has been peculiarly woman's cause." [Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,1881]
"Observing woman's agency, devotion and efficiency in pleading the cause of the slave, gratitude for this high service early moved me to give favorable attention to the subject of what is called "woman's rights" and caused me to be denominated a woman's rights man. I am glad to say I have never been ashamed to be thus designated." [Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,1881]
"[A] woman should have every honorable motive to exertion which is enjoyed by man, to the full extent of her capacities and endowments. The case is too plain for argument. Nature has given woman the same powers, and subjected her to the same earth, breathes the same air, subsists on the same food, physical, moral, mental and spiritual. She has, therefore, an equal right with man, in all efforts to obtain and maintain a perfect existence."
"Woman should have justice as well as praise, and if she is to dispense with either, she can better afford to part with the latter than the former."
"Woman, however, like the colored man, will never be taken by her brother and lifted to a position. What she desires, she must fight for."
"We hold woman to be justly entitled to all we claim for man. We go farther, and express our conviction that all political rights which it is expedient for man to exercise, it is equally so for women." [At the 1848 Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, according to Stanton et al in [History of Woman Suffrage]
"A discussion of the rights of animals would be regarded with far more complacency by many of what are called the wise and the good of our land, than would be a discussion of the rights of woman." [From an 1848 article in the North Star about the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention and its reception by the general public]
"Should the females of New York be placed on a level of equality with males before the law? If so, let us petition for this impartial justice for women. In order to insure this equal justice should the females of New York, like the males, have a voice in appointing the law makers and the law administrators? If so, let us petition for Woman's Right to Suffrage." [1853]
"On putting a priority, after the Civil War, on votes for African Americans males before women in general] When women, because they are women, are dragged from their homes and hung upon lampposts; when their children are torn from their arms and their brains dashed upon the pavement;... then they will have the urgency to obtain the ballot."
"When I ran away from slavery, it was for myself; when I advocated emancipation, it was for my people; but when I stood up for the rights of women, self was out of the question, and I found a little nobility in the act."
[About Harriet Tubman] "Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you."

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Frederick Douglass Quotes on Women's Rights." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2021, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2021, September 3). Frederick Douglass Quotes on Women's Rights. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Frederick Douglass Quotes on Women's Rights." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).

Watch Now: Profile of Frederick Douglass