1868 Toast To Woman

By Mark Twain
The Washington Star (Jan 13 1868).

Mark Twain's Eulogy of the Fair Sex.

The Washington Correspondents' Club held its anniversary on Saturday night. Mr. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, responded to the toast "Woman, the pride of the professions and the jewel of ours." He said:

MR. PRESIDENT: I do not know why I should have been singled out to receive the greatest distinction of the evening -- for so the office of replying to the toast to woman has been regarded in every age. [Applause.] I do not know why I have received this distinction, unless it be that I am a trifle less homely than the other members of the Club. But, be this as I may, Mr. President, I am proud of the position, and you could not have chosen anyone who would have accepted it more gladly, or labored with a heartier good will to do the subject justice, than I. Because, sir, I love the sex. [Laughter.] I love all the women, sir, irrespective of age or color. [Laughter.]

Human intelligence cannot estimate what we owe to woman, sir. She sews our buttons [laughter], she mends our clothes [laughter], she ropes us in at the church fairs -- she confides in us; she tells us whatever she can find out about the little private affairs of the neighbors -- she gives us good advice, and plenty of it -- she gives us a piece of her mind, sometimes -- and sometimes all of it -- she soothes our aching brows -- she bears our children. In all the relations of life, sir, it is but just, and a graceful tribute to woman to say of her that she is a brick. [Great laughter.]

Wheresoever you place woman, sir -- in whatever position or estate -- she is an ornament to that place she occupies, and a treasure to the world. [Here Mr. Twain paused, looked inquiringly at his hearers and remarked that the applause should come in at this point. It came in. Mr. Twain resumed his eulogy.] Look at the noble names of history! Look at Cleopatra! look at Desdemona! look at Florence Nightengale! look at Joan of Arc! look at Lucretia Borgia! [Disapprobriation expressed. "Well," said Mr. Twain, scratching his head doubtfully, "suppose we let Lucretia slide."] Look at Joyce Heth! look at Mother Eve! I repeat, sir, look at the illustrious names of history! Look at the Widow Machree! Look at Lucy Stone! Look at Elizabeth Cady Stanton! Look at George Francis Train! [Great laughter.] And, sir, I say with bowed head and deepest veneration, look at the mother of Washington! She raised a boy that could not lie -- could not lie. [Applause.] But he never had any chance. It might have been different with him if he had belonged to a newspaper correspondent's club. [Laughter, groans, hisses, cries of "put him out." Mark looked around placidly upon his excited audience and resumed.]

I repeat, sir, that in whatever position you place a woman she is an ornament to society and a treasure to the world. As a sweetheart she has few equals and no superiors -- [laughter;] -- as a cousin she is convenient; as a wealthy grandmother with an incurable distemper, she is precious; as a wet nurse she has no equal among men! [Laughter.]

What, sir, would the people of this earth be, without woman? They would be scarce, sir. Then let us cherish her -- let us protect her -- let us give her our support, our encouragement, our sympathies -- ourselves, if we get the chance. [Laughter.]

But, jesting aside, Mr. President, woman is lovable, gracious, kind of heart, beautiful -- worthy of all respect, of all esteem, of all deference. Not any here will refuse to drink her health right cordially, for each and every one of us has personally known, and loved, and honored, the very best one of them all -- his own mother! [Applause.]

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