One observer remarked after hearing Cook speak on the history of the Baptist Women’s Educational Convention that "[s}he left the well-beaten tracks of most of the lady speakers, and dealt entirely with facts, and without sentiment traced the Convention from its incipiency until the present time... Miss Cook is never more in earnest than when saying a word for the women’s work" (Penn 372).  The remark highlights two contemporary perceptions of women speakers and women’s work. According to the spectator, the speech was effective because it presented the facts "without sentiment," unlike most speeches by women.  Sentiment and emotion, associated with women, were considered weaknesses and were, therefore, to be avoided. Papers read by Lucy Smith before national church gatherings are described as showing "carefulness of thought, as well as logical arrangement of her subject matter" (Penn 378). This rejection of emotionalism prefigures Ida Wells’s similar annoyance several years later when during her first public speech she gave way to "woman’s weakness" and began to cry when narrating the lynching of her three Memphis friends. Such reactions remind us that these women were speaking out of a tradition attributing intellect to men and emotionalism to women. Further, the observer’s claim that Cook was most earnest when speaking of "women’s work," signifies the value attached to that activity.

     In his introduction to The Negro Baptist Pulpit: A Collection of Sermons and Papers by Colored Baptist Ministers, Edward M. Brawley, editor, defined the book’s exigence: "Much has been done by the living voices to train and lead the people, but the time had come when the pen must also be employed. Our trained leaders must write" (7). Published in 1890, the collection contained twenty-eight original essays, explaining the confessions of faith generally held by black Baptists and recording black Baptist church history. Cook wrote the one essay by a woman, "The Work for Baptist Women," three years after her address to the ANBC.  Written for publication rather than delivery and addressed to the established converted, the essay is an epideictic for the black Baptist denomination. 

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August 1999