First Wave Feminists- Eleanor Kirk

Eleanor Kirk was the pen name of essayist and novelist Eleanor “Nellie” Ames (1831-1908). Abandoned by her husband after ten years of violence and infidelity, Kirk argued passionately for self-reliance, urging women (in The Revolution columns like “A Word to Abused Wives”) to leave their abusers, with or without the vote. In answer to critics who supposed women’s suffrage would breed domestic upheaval, Kirk wrote “What Will Become of the Babies?”—a blistering editorial citing women’s dependence on men and exploitation by abortion practitioners. In her novel Up Broadway (1870), Kirk depicts the extremes to which women without means must go to protect themselves and their children, and reiterates that abortion and infanticide are among “the most terrible and glaring evils possible to conceive of …”

“What will become of your babies, madam, should you be suddenly deprived of the means of their support? Have you the courage, stamina, ay, ability, to fight the world single-handed? … What will become of the babies? Why doesn’t somebody ask—what has become of the babies? Ask Restelle [sic, alias for Ann Lohman, abortion provider] and thousands of physicians, male and female, who have been engaged in their work of destruction for years. Physicians who have graduated from our first medical colleges, physicians with high-sounding diplomas, whose elegant equipages stand in front of Fifth Avenue mansions, who pocket a big fee and a little bundle of flesh at the same time, and nobody’s the wiser! … Can you not see that the idea is to educate women that they may be self-reliant, self-sustaining, self-respected? … God speed the time, for the sake of the babies. Little ones will then be welcome, and mothers will know enough to instruct them sensibly, with a view to the practical side of life.”

– From “What Will Become of the Babies?” The Revolution, May 28, 1868