The following is an excerpted conversation between Sally Morley, one of the principles of Reverberation, The Novel, and Lucy McDougal, a supporting character. Lucy is patterned after early 19th-century reformers such as Fanny Wright and the Grimke sisters. These women spearheaded feminism in the first quarter of the 19th century when they broke with convention and spoke to mixed audiences in public forums on revolutionary subjects such as women’s rights, sexuality, free education and anti-slavery.
Sally faced the seated woman [Lucy McDougal]. “You have a well-earned reputation as an influential reformer. I have read your discourses on abolition and the subjugation of women. They are compatible with the convictions we hold here. We, too, believe that no man has the right to own another; that each person, black or white, male or female, should have the right to pursue the profession of his choosing and to receive equal compensation; that everyone, rich or poor, should have the right to an education, to own property, to vote, to hold office. Free-thinking people espouse your views and you are accepted in many social and intellectual circles throughout our country and abroad. You must continue to pursue your calling.”
Lucy slumped back in her chair and confessed. “I have depleted my funds. I have nowhere to go.”
“Unfortunately, you have overstepped your bounds while you’ve been with us. Besides which, you do not belong here. We are a self-contained society, and while we welcome visitors and encourage the exchange of ideas, we have limited exposure to outsiders. You need a wide audience and…,” Sally looked accusingly at Lucy, “I fear your mission has been seriously compromised by the complacency you have embraced since coming to Pleasant Valley. You need to be out in the world, not cloistered on a farm surrounded by fields instead of people.”
Sally eyed her up and down and announced, “I have no doubt that you will land on your feet. You are a resourceful woman who has parlayed your intellect, social skills and eloquence into a position of influence and respect. You will have no trouble charming your way into your next refuge.”
Sally smiled ruefully. “Don’t let your dark side re-emerge, Lucy McDougal. I believed in you….
They were also prominent in anti-slavery movement and women’s rights advocates and abolitionists were very closely related in their joint efforts.
Absolutely–many of these early feminists were Quakers and their activities were supported by like-minded husbands who were as dedicated to the movements as they were.