Emma Spaulding Bryant Letters
An On-line Archival Collection
Special Collections Library, Duke University
Wakeman, Aug. 7, 1873
My Darling Husband,
I wish to add something to what I sent in Lucy's letter yesterday (I retract nothing of it) First of all, I want to tell you that from the very depths of my heart I grieve that you have been and are so distressed. Even my woman's indignation at the unspeakably dreadful things that you have written to me is overborne by my sorrow for you, and my desire to help you out of your distress.
Have you forgotten the old saying that "Whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad."? You are mad, both angry and insane. And beware that you do not thereby destroy the happiness of both of us!
Do you imagine that I could ever lay my head upon your breast again without the fullest recall of every sentiment and insinuation of your letters of the past week? without the assurance of your full, unmeasured confidence in me?
If you think that I could or would you have not learned to know me in these nine years of our wedded life.
Now, my darling, in true honest love let me remind you of the confidence I have had in you, and the confidence (or lack of it) that you have returned me for it. In all your social relations with ladies I have always trusted you fully -- have never allowed circumstances which even seemed suspicious to make me doubt your honor -- have been ready to believe that I was mistaken, that circumstance lied -- anything but to believe you false.
If I even had doubts of any lady the fact that she was a trusted friend of yours has been sufficient for me to battle against those doubts and refuse to entertain them. Whenever you venture to visit any lady -- to be with her alone at night -- or under any circumstances without first "consulting me" I do not reproach you with lack of obedience or falsity to your duties as a husband. There should be no chains in love (those pertain to slavery instead).
I expect and wish you to exercise your own judgement when away from me: I grant you "the same right -- to do as you please" not as a "single person" has, but as a married woman has.
I never wrote you in more sincere honest love than I write this letter!
Now look at the other side. Since I married you I have never felt other than repulsion at the thought of a kiss or caress of any kind from any man but you unless it be my immediate family or yours.
Have never had that feeling toward any man but yourself that would make his kiss pleasant to me. From the present time till now not only my acts but the thoughts of my heart have been open to your inspection.
Now for the medical question.
When I was sick in Augusta you did not scruple to send old Dr. Em in to see me with the expectation that he would treat me for uterine difficulties which of course presupposed the "examination" (of which you have such a distorted idea) you were in the house at the time and I really wished you with me and yet you did not come in you left me in my room alone -- "abed" in the room -- expecting an examination -- and Dr. Em I would quite as soon suspect of licentiousness as Dr. Saunders, of indelicacy with his patients much sooner. I have been informed by a woman who has employed Dr. Em and who has been with him in other cases that he is sometimes a very vulgar old fellow with his patients. The only cases in which my person was ever exposed in the least degree to the gaze of any man but you were slightly in Portland when Dr. Fitch examined me with the speculum (which Dr. Saunders does not use), and at the birth of our first baby when a Dr. of your selection raised the clothes in applying the cloths to me after birth (as Mrs. Sherman tells me), I was in that condition that I did not realize it and was not able to defend myself, as, Thank God! I now am --
Still again when I went with you and baby to consult a strange physician in Savannah, after we received direction regarding baby you took baby out for a walk and left me alone with a strange physician in his office (in a much more retired spot than Dr. Saunders office is) to consult him about uterine difficulties, when the natural expectation always is that a physician will wish to make an examination when there are such difficulties, or otherwise he cannot tell what treatment the case requires.
After all these things do you wonder that I supposed you had lost your old objection to my being alone with a physician for consultation on treatment of uterine difficulties? It had so far made me forget your former scruples that the thought of them never even entered my mind.
Now we come to going to Dr. Saunders --
For ten years or more I have suffered from this weakness, to your distress as well as mine -- Lucy has been under Dr. Saunders treatment for the same difficulties, only much more serious ones, for three years -- she recommends him to me -- I have found no physician in the South to whose skill I could trust. Mr. Sherman has treated me, helping but not curing me and not able to tell me why I do not fully recover. I go to Dr. Saunders and by making an examination by inserting the finger in the vagina (which is what I meant by saying that his treatment is like Mr. Sherman, i.e. that neither of them use the speculum, which is attended with something of pain and exposure) he tells me that there is ulceration of long standing, that it is gradually weakening me (as I have so long realized) that it will be comparatively easy of cure and that by a weeks treatment he can alleviate it and give me remedies with which to heal myself.
Lucy had not the funds to enable her to remain with me, but she would take baby home and take care of her.
On thinking over my funds I concluded I had barely enough to take me through the weeks treatment -- If I waited I should not incur the expense of going again -- If I went to Earl I could not have treatment short of Chicago then it would be alone with a strange physician, for my sister could not leave her family to go with me and would consider it the greatest absurdity if she could. I remained supposing that my husband would be delighted to hear that there was so good a prospect of my being restored to sound health. The Dr. gave no more indication of sensual feeling or of thinking that he was doing anything indelicate than he would if he had been treating my face or my hand.
If he had shown passion, do you think so meanly of me as to believe that I could not and would not instantly have repulsed him and left for home? Why have you sought to humiliate your wife, and injure yourself by such dreadful suspicions as you have cast upon me. I was safe both because I could have detected the designs of a passionate man in the very beginning and defended myself, and because no physician of the character and standing of Dr. Saunders or indeed of any standing in the medical fraternity would compromise himself by offering insult to his patients, much less by overcoming them by brute force.
I am not safer walking the crowded street than I was in the Dr's office. Do you think I have no love of my own virtue, no pride,no temper or will of my own that you fancied me so helpless in his hands? The matter of going at bet. 7 & 8 o'clock in the evening is a mere bugaboo -- I asked him if it would be as well for me to go in the afternoon and when he gave me the reasons why it would not I readily see the reasonableness of it -- It was precisely this -- he inserted a small piece of medicated sponge between the lip of the uterus and the rectum, the sponge to keep the uterus in position and the medicine upon it to cure the ulceration. He inserted one in the morning which I was to retain through the day till after tea when I withdrew it using my syringe and went to the office between 7 & 8 PM and had a fresh one put in which was to remain till the next morning -- he had no office hour later than four, 4 PM until evening and that would have permitted the morning sponge to remain too short a time and the evening too long a time.
He treated me twice a day simply because I could remain so short a time. His manner of treatment was perfectly delicate and such as all women afflicted with such disease and wishing to recover must receive at the hands of some male physician until there are sufficient educated female physicians to supersede the males.
I consider treatment at a physician's office if it is situated like Dr. Saunders as safer and therefore better than at a lady's home.
It is not customary among ladies to have anyone with them when treated -- I know that Clarinda told me years ago when she was under Dr. Getcher's care that she would not have any one but the Dr. present (that it added to her mortification). These ladies have told me the same thing. My character has been and is above suspicion and you would pity me if you knew how humiliated I feel to even explain to you. I resolved that I would not but hoping to restore you from your present state of insanity I have done it and I have written very fully meaning it to be the only and final vindication of my character on my part.
In regard to going out to church on Sunday night the Dr. had left the office when we returned and after waiting some little time for him Charlie took me home and I missed treatment altogether for that night. To sum up -- I have applied to a physician of skill and standing well known to sister Lucy for more than three years -- and have received medical treatment precisely the same as thousands of pure women have done and are doing and my husband repays my full trust in him by torturing himself with the vilest suspicions of me -- even incling to the opinion that I am "ruined" or at the very least, injured -- panic!
Taunts me with leaving my baby for a few days in care of her Grandma and aunty! Morally raises the lash over me and says "now will you obey? will you be my inferior, my obedient child?" To him I answer Never -- I will be your true loving wife, your companion and equal in every and the fullest sense -- the mother of your children -- nothing less and nothing else With a true love kiss for my husband -- the man whom I married and have been happy with all these years -- not the diseased imagination which has addresses these terrible letters to me, I am
Your loving wife, Emma
August 7 -- At night
I have just received yours of last Saturday and Sunday and am more and more deeply wounded. What am I to suppose - that you believe me ruined by my own voluntary act, or that if I had been in any manner insulted by brute force you would lose your love for me and put me from you -- which of the two terrible meanings must I put upon your words? Are you my husband, or are you some false spirit entered into him?
Have you never thought that if my ruin had been compassed or attempted, I was as utterly wretched as you could possibly be? and yet you have not one word of love for me -- of pity for me -- your arms stretch out toward me, not in love, but in reproach and anger -- To the wife who has never in all her married life received from any other man than you the lightest token of love or passion you can address these selfish unloving insulting words that you have written me. I cannot realize it -- I am stupified by it. You do not even call our baby by my name, and yet you profess at the worst to fear that I have only been a helpless victim in the hands of a bad man. This utter lack of love for me -- this perfection of selfishness is harder for me to bear than your insulting suspicions have been. Did you ever really love me, or did you only hold me as a possession tributary to your pleasure to be cast aside if you became displeased with it? If it were possible for you to do so I should entreat you to come to me immediately. Do you realize how cruelly you have stabbed me? Through all these terrible suspicions which you have entertained of me I have never been so heartbroken as I am to-night to think that if I had been in any way injured my husband would push me from him, reproaching me for the misery to himself without one single thought of my wretchedness -- Through all these terrible things that you have written me I have never lost my love, never ceased to be sorry that you were in distress, but I have watched in vain for a single unselfish loving thought toward me. It is not you, it is not like you -- write and tell me that some raving madness has possessed you and that you in your own proper self never wrote such things. If it were in my power I think I should start for Savannah to-morrow leaving baby here. I want to see you face to face.
Aug. 8 A.M. I have sent to Earlville for my letter. If I receive that on Monday or Tuesday I shall probably go to Earl on Wednesday -- or rather leave him on Wed. morning -- reach Swanton beyond Toledo after noon stop the night with my cousins there and go on to Chicago by the next forenoon train -- I shall expect sister to meet me in Chicago.
In my present state of mind I would much prefer to go without stopping but I had before this terrible occurrence written to my cousin that I would visit her: and she writes me that she has lost her only sister and her brother (an only one) is lying with consumption -- her mother is already dead, too, and she feels very lonely and depends much upon seeing her. If my own heart is heavy I will not refuse to comfort another if in my power.
Our baby is well -- has improved much since she came here in size, strength and talking. Mother has received yours of 4th. I probably shall wait a week or two longer instead of going to Earl on Wed.
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