| Cook continued
the argument for womens right to participate in public discourse. She praised the
reformist role women have played throughout history, mentioning in particular the
temperance work of Frances Harper and Francis Willard, but argued again under the
assumption of an essentialist, caregiving, nurturing role: "It belongs to
womans tender nature, sympathy, and love, to uplift the fallen. A home can not be
raised above the mother, nor the race above the type of womanhood, and no women are more
read to respond to the call than the women of the Baptist church" (53). Minus its
advocacy for black Baptist women, Cooks speech to the Episcopalian clergy, when she
writes, "A stream cannot rise higher than its source. The atmosphere of homes is no
rarer and purer and sweeter than re the mothers in those homes. A race is but a total of
families. The nation is the aggregate of its homes" ("Womanhood" 29). This
clustering of maxims grounds both propositions in established wisdom.
It seems then that the church work of Cooks black woman radiates out from the home. Having located woman in the public sphere-advising, leading, teaching, lecturing, writing-Cook always attributed the source of ultimate satisfaction to her work at home. Higginbotham points to the way in which black Baptist women "continually shifted back and forth from feminine to masculine metaphors," expressing "a dual gendered consciousness-defining themselves as both homemakers and soldiers," resulting in a destabilization and blurring of meaning of race and gender work roles (Righteous 142). These shifts represent their attempts to define a work space that best served other black women and the race as a whole. Cook ended her speech with a direct plea to the men and women in her immediate audience for acceptance: "The pulpit, the pew, the choir, the superintendents chair, the Sunday School teachers place, the Bible student, the prayer circle, the sick bed, the house of mourning, the foreign mission field, all these are her place" (55).