The more frequently the Hebrews relapsed into idolatry, the less inclined were they to allow women their legitimate privileges. The administrators of the laws constantly curtailed female liberty, tenaciously exacting from them the service and obedience of slaves. A woman, even among the Jews, must have had no small amount of both courage and wisdom, to have surmounted the difficulties which hedged up the path to fame and honor, and risen to the distinction which some of them reached. "The rabbins"—not Moses—"taught that a woman should know nothing but the use of her distaff." Their idea of the education fitting for a woman was, that she should understand merely how to manage the work of a house; in other words, know nothing but how to minister to the appetites or whims of her husband, regarding him as her lord, her irresponsible master. Rabbi Eliezer said, "Let the words of the law be burned rather than that they should be delivered to a woman." Why, we wonder? Because they might, if they read it, learn what privileges it accorded them, and perhaps claim them—a state of things to be prevented by any means, no matter how unscrupulous.
Notwithstanding the teachings of the rabbins, however, and dark as was the day just prior to the coming of the Messiah, we find a woman who was prophesying in the temple even then. The prediction of Anna the prophetess is mentioned in the New Testament without a word of censure on the unwomanliness of her conduct, or her profanation of the temple by it. Modern writers would perhaps have been wiser, and treated her with what they considered deserved contempt.
[Footnote F: Gen. i, 26, 27, 28.]
[Footnote G: Gen. ii, 18, 20, 21, 22.]
[Footnote H: For the original meaning of the word woman see Dr. Clarke on Genesis ii, 23.]
[Footnote I: Gen. vi, 6.]
[Footnote J: Clarke on Exodus xxi, 7.]
New Testament Teachings.
In this enlightened age, the sentiment of the Rabbi Eliezer, that the law should be burned rather than delivered to women, would be execrated by the right-minded of every Christian country. But was such a sentiment any farther from right, either in theory or practice, than are those held and openly avowed by some of the advocates of the theory of the inferiority of women; who, while asserting that these inferior creatures are, by the constitution of their minds, incapable of comprehending the meaning of a law, yet hold them equally accountable with men—who are supposed to understand all about it—for any violation of that law? If, indeed, there is any difference made in the punishment of delinquents, the greater severity is most frequently meted out to the woman.
Those who insist on the absolute, unqualified subjection of women to the opposite sex, and place them in a subordinate place in the Christian Church, persistently quote the writings of St. Paul as authority for the position which they take. We apprehend that the great apostle to the Gentiles is as wrongfully misapprehended and misrepresented by certain classes of believers now, as he was by the Jews at the memorable time when he was brought before Felix. Paul, therefore, must "answer for himself in the things whereof he is accused."
In I Cor. xi, 3-5, he says to the Church at Corinth: "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered, dishonoreth her head." Here is a positive direction given to a woman, as to the manner of her procedure when she either prayed or prophesied in public, and not a prohibition of either act, as we might expect from the rendering given by many divines.
Christ is the head of the man, because he is the first-born from the dead—the Redeemer of mankind—and because "he was before all things, and by him all things consist." Having made provision for the life of the world, he is therefore entitled to the love, devotion, and fidelity of man. Christ is also mentioned under the figure of the vine, of which his people are the branches.
Man is the head of the woman, because he was before her; and because, being physically stronger, he has been constituted her protector. A man, therefore, is to love his wife ever as himself, with an unselfish intensity, only to be compared with the love which Christ bears to his Church; and the wife is bound by the same sacred law to be, in heart and practice, undeviating in her love and fidelity to her husband.
"And the head of Christ is God." Is Christ therefore not equal with God? Is there superiority and inferiority between the Father and the Son? If because the apostle declares that the man is the head of the woman, the proposition is to be taken for granted that, in consequence, she is not his equal but an inferior, we may, with equal propriety and fairness, quote the same text to prove, and prove as conclusively, that the Son is not equal with, but is inferior to, the Father. God may be understood to be the head of Christ in regard to his manhood, and that only. The Scriptures amply testify that he is not only co-eternal with the Father, but coequal with him as well. There is neither inferiority nor superiority in the Divine nature between the Father and the Son; and so also, since man and woman are derived from one nature, being both human, there is neither superiority nor inferiority between them. They are coequal.
Is there, then, no distinction made between the sexes in the text? Certainly there is. Men were directed to remove their caps or turbans when they prayed or prophesied in public, while women, on the contrary, were to remain with their heads covered; that is, to keep veiled when they prayed or prophesied in public. The latter, it is evident, was simply a prudential or local arrangement. Throughout the East, and more especially in heathen countries, it was the custom for women to be veiled when they made their appearance in public; but immodest women not unfrequently violated the usage, appearing in public unveiled. In the state of society then in Corinth, for a Christian woman to have appeared in public, or to have taken any prominent part in an assembly with her head uncovered, would have placed her in a false position before unbelievers, both Jews and Gentiles. That their liberty under the Gospel, then, might not be made occasion of offense by gainsayers, against the cause of Christ, that their good should not be evil spoken of by the profane multitude, the apostle counseled them to submit to the usages and restraints which the customs of the times and place imposed on women, wherever the usages or restraints so imposed were not in themselves sinful. In the same spirit he returned Onesimus to his master; not that he thereby gave his sanction to slavery, but in this, as other directions regarding civil affairs, advising submission to the existing state of things, "that the Gospel be not blamed." The effecting of civil or political reforms, however much they might be needed, was not the immediate object of Paul's preaching or writing. His grand, all-absorbing business was to proclaim the Gospel in all its fullness, trusting to its benign influence to right every wrong. There is no doubt Paul clearly understood and did not intend to controvert the declaration of the prophet Joel (ii, 28), which was quoted by Peter as being one evidence of the ushering in of the Christian dispensation (Acts ii, 17, 18): "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy." "The last days" evidently means the Gospel dispensation; and this text alone, twice given by inspiration, even if there were no other, would establish the right of women to all the immunities and ordinances of the Christian Church.
I Cor. xiv, 34, 35, is always presented by the opponents of women's privileges as positive proof that women should not take a public part in religious worship: "Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for a woman to speak in the Church."
In the passage first quoted in this chapter, Paul gives explicit directions for the manner in which women should be arrayed while speaking in the Church. Since, then, there can be no contradiction in the Word of God, and we have positive proof that women did speak in public assemblies by permission of the apostles, nothing remains but to reconcile the two texts so apparently contradictory, by ascertaining to what kind of a public assembly the apostle had reference in the text last quoted. By reference to the verses preceding this text in the fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians, it will be seen that the apostle is pointing out the impropriety and unprofitableness of speaking in unknown tongues; and of the contention and disorder that then existed at Corinth. False teachers had caused dissension and tumults in the Church; and, besides, the whole system of Christianity was violently assailed by both the Jews and the pagans. The disciples at Corinth were in the midst of a great controversy. According to Eastern ideas, it was an outrage upon propriety and decency, not only for a woman to take part by publicly asking questions, or teaching in any such disorderly assembly, but even for her to be present therein. To avoid the very appearance of evil, they were to absent themselves from these contentious meetings because it was a shame for a woman to speak or contend in such riotous assemblies. It is more than probable that Christian women had done so prior to this; and therefore Paul warns them against such improprieties; not, however, forbidding them to pray or prophesy in the Church, providing they "covered their heads." The Gospel proclaims an equal freedom to all; Paul earnestly asserting (Gal. in, 28), that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Nevertheless, lest the cause of God should be hindered by women asserting their Christian liberty, by speech or action, he desired them to comply with the common usages of the society in which they lived, where those usages were not in themselves immoral or contrary to the Word of God. Kindred to I Cor. xiv, 34, 35, and referring to the same thing, is I Tim. ii, 11, 12: "Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." For a woman to attempt any thing either in public or private that man claimed as his peculiar function, was strictly prohibited by Roman law; and Christian women, as well as men, were to be submissive to the "powers that be." Those who contend, from their rendering of these texts, that women are prohibited by them from taking part in the public worship of God, to be consistent, should also insist that they must not enter the house of God at all; because they are as strictly charged by Paul to remain at home and learn in silence from their husbands, as to refrain from speaking.
Now, if women are to be silent in the Church; that is, if they are neither to pray, speak, nor sing in public—for singing is certainly one method of conveying instruction to those who hear, and is therefore teaching them how to ascribe praise to God—if they are, upon Scriptural authority, to know nothing but what they may learn from their husbands at home,—then our whole system of civilized education with regard to women is out of place; we had better borrow a leaf from the Turks or Chinese. Girls here are sent to school, and encouraged to exert their mental energies to the utmost in acquiring knowledge. Both mothers and daughters are taken to church, and if they have tuneful voices they are expected to sing; all of which is manifestly improper and unchristian, if women are to receive all religious instruction from their "husbands at home" only, and in silence. The taking of women to church, or indeed out of the house, therefore, is exposing them to the temptation of hearing and receiving instruction from unauthorized lips; for—fearfully depraved though it may be in the sight of some—women are quite as prone as men to listen to what is told them and to remember what they hear, and—worse still—to reason out difficult problems for themselves.
And what is to be done for widows, or poor women who have never been blessed with husbands? Are they to go down to death in heathenish darkness, because the genial light of a husband's countenance has ceased to shine upon them, or, perhaps, has never done so? Must unmarried women forever continue in ignorance of the glorious Gospel of Christ, because they have no husbands to teach them? As girls, according to such a rendering, they ought not to have learned any thing; for a father's teaching—if it were proper for him to give it—and a husband's might differ widely. Besides, what is to be done for those women who are blessed with husbands incapable of teaching them; or, as is notoriously so frequently the case, who choose rather to spend their time in places of disreputable character than at their homes with their families!
Such a rendering of these texts as is frequently given, and the homilies derived therefrom, are an outrage upon common sense. They are at variance with the direct teachings of St. Paul, and contrary to what the Scriptures prove to have been his practice. Surely, none will dare to accuse the apostle of inconsistency; and yet we have his own testimony that Phoebe was a "servant of the Church at Cenchrea;" that is, she was a deaconess, having a charge at Cenchrea. Priscilla, quite as much as Aquila, was Paul's helper in "Christ Jesus," acknowledged by him as such. Priscilla was associated with Aquila in "expounding the way of God more perfectly to Apollos." (Acts xvii, 62.) Strange that the great Apollos should receive religious instruction from a woman; stranger still, if it were contrary to the will of God, that she was permitted to give it! Why was she not severely rebuked for her presumption, and put in her place, and taught to keep silence, as becometh a woman? On the contrary, creditable mention is made of the fact that she did instruct him, and that through that instruction he was made useful to the world; and all this upon the authority of inspiration, without one word of censure as to her unwomanliness. Over and over again, Paul names her in his salutations.
In Philippians iv, 3, he entreats help for certain women, counting them as fellow-laborers. "Help," says he, "those women which labored with me in the Gospel." Honorable mention, too, is made by name of Tryphena, Tryphosa, and of the beloved Persis, who "labored much in the Lord." Philip had four daughters which "did prophesy" (Acts xxi, 19); and we nowhere hear of their being forbidden to do so. If Paul, influenced as he was by the Holy Spirit, had designed to prevent women from attending religious meetings, or taking a public part therein, when there would he have allowed all this laboring and prophesying and instructing to go on? Instead of stopping it, however, he at different times commends Phoebe and her sister-laborers to the kind regards of other Churches. Let the utterances of Paul be properly and fairly interpreted, and it will be manifest that men and women are one in Christ Jesus. Decidedly, it is wrong for a woman to usurp authority over the man; and just as decidedly wrong is it for a man to usurp authority over the woman. According to history, the office of deaconess continued until between the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when, the midnight of the Dark-Ages having come, it was abolished in both the Greek and Latin Churches. Which sex usurped authority in that case?
The next point coming under consideration is Paul's direction to the Ephesian Church: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and he is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." (Eph. v, 22-24.)
From the verses preceding this quotation, and those following, it is evident the apostle had reference to the marriage covenant, and not to the inferiority of woman or superiority of man. Fidelity of wives to their husbands was the thing being enjoined; hence the comparison between the marriage state and the Church of Christ. As the Church was to be pure from idolatry, acknowledging but one God, even the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son, so the wife was to be pure, submitting herself only to her husband. It is not surprising that, in planting the Christian Church, such directions should be given to its members, gathered in as they were from a dark, immoral pagan world, where the marriage tie was so lightly regarded. The husband should be to his wife the earthly "munition of rocks." It is in this sense that the man is the head of the woman and the Savior of her body. The apostle continues: "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies." "Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." Not worship him; but treat him with marked and becoming respect, making his interest her own, loving him above every earthly object, and seeking his happiness in every possible manner. It is in this mutual sense that a wife is to be subject to her husband in every thing. Even the greatest sticklers for the absolute subjection of women explain the latter clause of the text by adding the word lawful. If a woman's husband is to be her irresponsible lord, to whom she is to go for instruction, who is the qualified judge of what is lawful? But the reasoning of the entire question as given in the chapter, portions of which have been quoted, does not bear out the assertion that the wife is mentally inferior to her husband, or that he has any right to treat her as such. She is neither his servant nor his slave, so far as God's law is concerned. The wife has the same right to expect fidelity from her husband that he has to expect it from her. The covenant of marriage is a mutual one, equally binding on both.
The injunction to the Ephesians concerning the relations in the married state is also given to the Colossians, very evidently relating to the same thing: love and unwavering fidelity between man and wife. Peter also enjoins the subjection of wives in his First Epistle, third chapter, first and second verses; but he also explains that this subjection is chastity, mild and gentle conversation, that their husbands, if not Christians, might be won over by them. In this very injunction there is a supposition by the apostle that the husband and wife might be of different faith, that she might have learned something not taught by him, and have been in a position to instruct him; and by her chastity, her love and gentleness, and her instructions—coupled with fear for his state out of Christ—might succeed in winning him to the truth.
Though Christianity greatly purified the moral atmosphere of the world, and caused those embracing it to renounce polygamy, yet even those who had become Christian clung to the false assumptions and arbitrary prerogatives claimed by men while yet in heathen darkness. To reconcile women to the injustice done them, or to overawe them into submission, it was sought to make them believe that the disabilities of their condition were by Divine appointment, though this doctrine the apostles took pains to correct.
A lamentable amount of infidelity has been engendered by the manner in which the Scriptures have been distorted to make them seem to sanction almost every social and civil wrong. They have been quoted as authority for the absolute subjection of woman; and, with equal fairness, for servile submission to despotic monarchs, for the use of intoxicating drinks, for the burning of heretics, and for the justification of slavery. Within a very few years past, these very Epistles have been brought forward to prove the "sum of all villainies" a God-given boon to man, the slave included—Colossians iii, 22, being deemed unanswerable.
Those who advocated the cause of human freedom, who desired the privilege of worshiping God according to the dictates of their own consciences, who strove to drive intemperance from the land, or who pleaded for the liberty of the slave, were alike denounced as advocating what was contrary to the revealed will of God; and in like manner, now, are those denounced who advocate the perfect equality of woman with man. With regard to political and religious freedom, the cause of temperance, and the slavery question, time has proved that the Lord of Hosts, so far from being against, was on the side of, those who advocated these great reforms, and led them on to victory; and there is no reason to doubt that this last reform will, by the same hand, be led to similar triumph.
It is continually objected, that infidels, immoral men, and women of ill-repute, array themselves upon the side of equal rights to women: so do infidels, libertines, and women lost to shame, array themselves against it; therefore, the one counterbalances the other.
But suppose this were not so, to what would the objection amount? The cause of human freedom has more than once been advocated by rank infidels; but did God therefore curse a cause good in itself, because wicked men and women for once saw clearly, and said they thought that cause right and reasonable? History answers, No. The children of this generation were simply wiser than many of the children of light. The same may be said of each of the other reforms. The abolition of slavery had its infidel advocates; so had the temperance movement, etc.; and these advocates have to a certain extent damaged their respective causes by their advocacy of them; yet the tide of human progress has been onward. A claim which is based upon justice may be injured by an extravagant, irreverent, or profane advocacy; but it is still a just claim, and as such, without respect to its advocates, entitled to recognition.
Polygamy, slavery, drunkenness, and the doctrine of the inferiority of woman to man, are all alike the offspring of sin—all alike relics of barbarism—alike the enemies of God and human freedom.
Long-established prejudices and old usages, no matter how false and oppressive, are, like the everlasting hills, hard to be removed. But, as the mountains themselves have been overcome by skill and hard work, and the valleys are being filled by persevering toil; as the crooked is being made straight and the rough places plain, so that the people of this mighty continent may travel with ease in palace-cars from sea to sea; so must the strong barriers of prejudice, ignorance, misrepresentation, and indifference, be removed by the force of truth and sound reason, and women be admitted to their legitimate position in society, with equal prerogatives accorded to them, that they may thereby more perfectly exert their natural influence in improving the world.
Woman Before the Law.
The fact that men and women are held amenable to the same Divine law, and held equally accountable for any infraction of it, and that human law, with regard to criminal actions, is based upon the same principle, clearly proves that God has created men and women, as a race, with equal mental and moral capacity, and that, so far as it suited them to do so, men have acknowledged the equality in framing the laws, especially those relating to the punishment for crimes committed. It was only where masculine arrogance and selfishness were concerned, that the privileges of equality were denied to women; and they are still denied for the same reason. Such is man's consistency. If women, because of their sex—indeed, in consequence of it—are inferior to men in mental and moral capacity, then it is unjust to judge them by the same law; for where little is given little should be required. Imbecile men are not judged by the same code as men of sound mind. If men and women are mentally and morally equal—and we hold they are—then they are justly held to be equally accountable by the laws, provided they have been equally represented in the making of those laws; and if held equally accountable with men to the laws, they ought, in common justice, to be entitled to the enjoyment of equal immunities with men, and an equal voice in the making of the laws that are to govern them.
To urge that, because the house is the legitimate place for a woman, she is therefore inferior to man, and in consequence ought not to enjoy the same rights, is no more logical than to contend that, because the farm is the legitimate place for the farmer, he is therefore inferior to the lawyer, who is somewhat better skilled in legal lore, and that consequently the farmer is not entitled to equal political and religious rights and privileges with the lawyer; or that, because neither of these classes understands the minutiae of housekeeping, therefore they are inferior to women, and in consequence not entitled to equal rights and privileges with them. Good housekeeping is quite as essential to the world's good, and to the healthful development of humanity, as good farming or the proper construing of well-made laws, neither of which is to be undervalued. Where, then, is the inferiority?
It requires as much good judgment and tact to manage a house properly as it does to conduct a farm, make out a legal form, carry on an extensive commercial business, or attend to a banking establishment as it ought to be attended to; and quite as much wisdom and prudence are needed to rear up successfully and govern a family with discretion, as is needed in the government of a province or state. Indeed more practical good sense is shown in the government of the majority of those homes where the wife and mother is allowed to govern without interference, than is usually exhibited in the exclusively masculine government of states and empires.
It "is the mind that makes the man," sings one of Britain's most honored poets; the mind, not the social position he occupies. And so with woman; it is the mind, and not her local habitation or employment, that entitles her to consideration—that entitles her to equality, to justice. With equal advantages, women are no whit behind men in any thing except physical strength. Are men deprived of civil rights because some of them are puny?
It is an established fact that, where girls have had the same advantages, and often when they have had not nearly such good ones, they have maintained equally honorable positions in their classes, frequently outstripping their masculine competitors in the literary contest.
Should any doubt that this can be done, all that is necessary, to prove the truth or falsity of the assertion, is to select any given number of boys and girls of average intellect, of the same or nearly the same ages, and afford precisely the same advantages to them all, for a given length of time, and then subject boys and girls to a like critical examination. Even with the disadvantages under which they labor in our ordinary and even higher schools, girls have surmounted the difficulties of their position, and without favor—indeed, in spite of ridicule, partiality, and opposition—have come out first in their examinations. Send such a class of young women as this to a university that will honestly admit them to all its advantages, and allow them to compete with the most studious young men admitted to the same university; let both enjoy precisely similar facilities throughout the entire course; and see if there will not be as many brilliant scholars who will graduate with honors among the women as among the men. It is said there are more talented men, more men eminent in science or in history, than there are women. Certainly. The advantage has all been on the side of the man, the disadvantage on the side of the woman; besides which, the doctrine that it is unwomanly to emerge from the retirement befitting her sex into public notice has been preached so persistently, that many women truly great have shrunk from the ribald criticism—to use no stronger term—with which insolent men assailed them. Consequently, learned women have frequently given their works to the world anonymously, or allowed them to be attributed to their male relatives. An instance in point is Miss Herschel. It is well known, not only that she gave her brother valuable assistance in his astronomical pursuits, but that some of the discoveries attributed to him were actually made by her; not because he wished to defraud her of the honor of her achievement, but because she shrank from public notice.
But history has given us the record of learned women enough to show that, with any thing like fair play, there would have been more. As it is, the list of them is longer—very much longer—than those given to decry their ability are willing to admit, or are perhaps aware of. The names of women are found who have been famous for the founding of empires, the carrying on successfully of civil governments, and the leading on to glorious victory of armies which, under the generalship of men, had suffered defeat after defeat, till they were not only disheartened, but almost disorganized; and yet a woman reorganized these shattered bands and roused them once more to determined action. They have been found, in times of trouble, giving to statesmen sound counsel, which, followed, has led to beneficial results; and, alas! they have, equally with men, been found capable of base intrigue. Cleopatra was fully on a par with Marc Antony, Madame de Pompadour with Richelieu or Mazarin.
Women noted for piety and for patriotism are not found lacking on this list. Retired lives as they have led, compared with men, history, both sacred and profane, abounds with them. They shine out conspicuously, bright lights in a very dark world. Miriam stands side by side with Moses, Deborah a little in advance of Barak. They contribute their jewels to adorn the tabernacle or to save the State; and, in time of need, they cheerfully endure every privation, that the commonwealth may prosper. They were found last lingerers about the cross, and the first to visit the sepulcher of Christ; and they were the first commissioned by him to proclaim his resurrection.
In philanthropic enterprise, Mrs. Fry is the peer of Howard. Who, among men, have been found to excel the world-honored Florence Nightingale in intelligent arrangements and administrative talent, as displayed in her management of the important department to which she devoted herself, and where her courage, promptitude, and sound judgment were as conspicuous as her sweet, womanly compassion?
Similar qualities distinguish in a marked degree both Miss Rye and Miss McPherson, and also the power of influencing and controlling juveniles unaccustomed to moral restraints. These, though only a few of the many noble women whose business talents have been used to bless the needy and suffering, may suffice to prove that women have not only the heart to devise philanthropic undertakings, but the ability to carry them out successfully.
Mothers of great mental power rear sons whose names never die. The mother of the Wesleys, and the mother of Washington, are named as reverently as are these illustrious men themselves. In fine, how few great men there are who do not, when they speak upon the subject, attribute their greatness or success to their mothers!
Since, then, women have in a measure shown the capabilities of which they are possessed, it remains to be ascertained what rights and privileges are accorded them, and to be shown whether these are in any proportion to what they are entitled to; and, as the women of Europe and America enjoy more liberty than those of the other portions of the globe, it is their condition that will be inquired into. Whatever may be amiss in Christianized and civilized lands, the state of woman is incomparably worse where the light of the Gospel does not shine.
Christianity and its attendant civilization have done much for the amelioration of the condition of woman. Except in Turkey and in Utah, the idea that a man is to have more than one wife at the same time is not tolerated. In referring to the continents of Europe and America, it will be understood that Turkey in the one, Utah in the other, are always excepted. In neither Europe nor America are women subject to the surveillance of the East; they are not bought and sold in the markets. They are, if they do not marry before coming of age, mistresses of their own personal actions. The halls of science, literature, and the arts, have been partially opened to them. The doors have been set ajar, and they allowed to peep in. They may now attend the house of God without being railed in behind a lattice; and they may, without censure, move about the streets without veils, if it is not the fashion, or it does not please them to wear them. They are accorded a measure of liberty in forming their own religious opinions; that is, the law does not prevent them from doing so. They may, if they can, acquire property in their own names, or they may inherit it. In such cases they, perhaps, if unmarried, may be allowed to manage such property. Once married, it is managed, or mismanaged, as the case may be, by the husband, except in very special cases. They are not compelled by law to marry unless they choose, and are supposed to have a choice with regard to those they do marry, though outside pressure is very frequently brought to bear with regard to both. And, finally, they are allowed a share of authority in the joint government of their respective families. This is about the sum total of the privileges accorded to them.
In the population of both continents, men and women are about equally divided. It is not estimated that there are any more idiots or imbeciles among women than there are among men. Here, then, one-half of this mighty population are prohibited by law from having any voice in the making of the laws by which they are governed, or the carrying of them out after they are made. Where is justice in this case? One slight exception may be made here: in some of the Western States women are allowed to vote and to hold some few positions of profit and trust in the State. It is only a trifling advantage, but still it is an advantage, and is one step gained in the right direction.
The law allows the mother's holiest feelings to be outraged with impunity. It does not recognize her right to the custody of her own children, except at the husband's pleasure. She may be intelligent and educated, virtuous and pious. Yet, if he so wills, he may remove her children from her care, deprive her of their society, and even of the comfort of occasionally seeing them; and he may place them under the tutelage of the ignorant and vicious; while the deeply wronged mother is powerless, according to law, to help either herself or her children.
It is counted among one of woman's privileges that she may hold property in her own right. Upon what tenure is she allowed to hold it? If the property be acquired or inherited, without entail of any sort; if it be real estate, it is hers in fee-simple till she marries. After that event—unless she has guarded her rights by a legal pre-nuptial contract, properly signed and attested to by him who is to be her husband—she may not dispose of any part of it without his express sanction. He may not legally sell it away from her, it is true; but by law he is her master, and may manage it according to his supreme pleasure while he lives. Even a will made by her does not take effect, except her husband pleases, till his death. If the property be in ready money or in funds—except it be guarded in the contract—the husband becomes possessed of it at once, and may appropriate and apply it to any purpose he pleases, without consulting the wishes of his wife. She has no redress. He may, despite her remonstrances, take this her substance and her money, and spend it in foolish speculation; or, worse still, in gambling, drunkenness, and debauchery. He may maltreat her and insult her by the presence in her own house of his mistress. If, no longer able to endure his brutality, she is obliged to leave him, he may, unless the law grant a divorce and alimony, keep possession of her houses and lands, while she must leave home and children behind, and go out upon the world penniless. She can not force him to return one dollar of the wealth that was her own; and after the separation, unless legal papers warranting it have been executed, he can follow her and collect her scanty earnings. Thousands upon the back of thousands of times has all this occurred. Does not civilized law give a woman a lien upon her husband's property? and does not this counterbalance his lien upon hers? About as equally as are all other privileges balanced between the sexes; no more.
She has no legal voice whatever in the management of her husband's estate. His real estate is the only thing upon which she has any claim, and this is only a life interest—after his death—of the one-third of the estate; and of this she may only draw the interest upon the valuation. She may refuse to bar her dower[K] in a sale of land, but if the bargain goes on, her refusal does not invalidate the title; all she can do is, in the event of her husband's death, to claim her interest on her "thirds." This is all she can claim. The furniture of her home, the very beds which she may have brought to the house, are included in the inventory of her husband's effects; and, unless she agrees to accept them as part of her thirds, she may be left without, one on which to rest her weary limbs; and that, too, though the property may have been purchased with money brought by her into the matrimonial firm; or though she may have been the working-bee who in reality acquired it. This is not an overdrawn picture. It is the law in civilized countries; and men are found every day who avail themselves of its conditions. That all men are not mean enough to take advantage of such laws, is no excuse for their existence. It is barbarous that, by laws in the enacting of which women have had no voice, they are left to the mercy of unscrupulous men, without the possibility of better men coming to their help, except by repealing the iniquitous statutes.
It is quite true that all women are not made to feel the full force of this bitter oppression, because of the kindness of their husbands, or the prudent forethought of their fathers in providing for unlooked-for emergencies which might occasion poverty or distress; but the laws, and the makers of them, deserve little credit for any comfort or degree of independence enjoyed by women. More sorrowful than it is, infinitely more sorrowful, would woman's condition be, if true Christianity had not made many men more just than the laws require them to be. Many of the slaves had kind masters; but was slavery any the less an iniquitous outrage upon humanity, a curse upon the land, a blot that could only be wiped away by a bloody war? The present social condition of women is merely one system of domestic slavery, which is hourly calling out to God for redress; and, though he tarry long, yet his afflicted children's cry is never lifted up in vain.
Society is even yet so constituted, and the minds of those who are administrators of the law so blinded, by the prejudices which long usage has established, that even the very few laws which are on record for her so-called protection, are rendered of little avail.
The sufferings of women and children from the effects of the liquor-traffic, is perfectly frightful; and what help is there for it? Lately, in Canada, the wife may, after she is reduced to poverty, forbid the dram-seller to sell her husband any more liquor. If he pays attention to the prohibition, well and good; if not, when in a drunken fit the husband has well-nigh killed her, she may have him bound over to keep the peace—if she can find a magistrate who will do it—and she may complain of the man who sold him the liquor. Perhaps he will be fined a dollar, perhaps not. More likely the latter, with a not very gentle hint that she has stepped out of her sphere by presuming to meddle in such matters.
If women had a voice in the making of the laws, how long would the dram-shop and low groggery send out their liquid poison to pollute civilized lands? But all women are not on the side of right. Neither are the very large majority of men. Many women are drunkards themselves, and worse. True, alas! too true. Sin has corrupted human nature, and men and women have sunk to fearful depths of degradation. Statistics go to show, however, that fallen women happily bear only a very small proportion to those upon whose moral character there is no stain. The virtuous and good are in the large majority.
Men are not allowed by law to murder their wives. Indeed, the law forbids them to beat them; but for this trifle, husbands frequently escape with an "admonition." Yet, though the letter of the law is explicit, they must stop short of killing their victims. There is a case on record, within a few years back and in a British province, where a man beat his wife to death. He was found guilty of the crime. The jury—composed of men, of course—brought in a verdict of manslaughter, and he was sentenced to three months in the common jail. The plea in his behalf was that she was a drunkard. The poor fellow had only gone a little too far; the court must be merciful. At this same assize, there was a man indicted for theft. He had made good his entrance into a jeweler's shop, and stolen therefrom a watch. The theft was proved, and the culprit sent to the penitentiary for three years. Query: Which was the greater crime, killing a woman or stealing a watch?
The law professes to punish seduction and rape; but when either or both are proved, what are the sentences? In nine cases out of ten, scarcely so severe as for damaging an animal belonging to a neighbor. Occasionally, when the cases have been atrociously aggravating, a man has been hung for poisoning his wife, or one has been sent to the penitentiary for rape; but the instances are more frequent in which the criminal escapes punishment. It is contended that, usually, the women who are murdered, or otherwise maltreated, are ill-tempered, drunken creatures, and therefore not worthy the protection of the law. Would these same parties contend that because a man was ill-tempered, drunken, or dissolute, therefore his wife was scarcely to be punished for foully murdering him? Not at all. The universal testimony would be that she was a shockingly wicked wretch.
Women, as well as men, have to contend with infirmities of temper; and they quite as well succeed in controlling or keeping them in check. There are both men and women, unfortunately, who let their evil passions run riot till they are torments to all who have any thing to do with them. Some women, naturally gentle and kind, have been so ill-treated, so shamefully tyrannized over, that in process of time the "milk of human kindness in their breasts has turned to gall;" and the gall is then bitter enough. Would not men, in similar circumstances, be just as bitter?
There is a certain class of women, however, who as a rule are likely to become fretful and ill-tempered as they grow in years: girls who are allowed to grow up with uninformed judgments, who are taught that the chief end and aim of woman is to captivate and please the opposite sex, who are taught to think a pretty face and delicate figure of more importance than good sense or a thorough education. And yet it is a fact worthy of notice, that those who most eloquently assert their great superiority over the entire sex, are the very men most easily led—ay, and duped—by dressy, frivolous, brainless women. It would be a misfortune, scarcely to be endured, for such men to have wives who know too much.
That there should be a head to every family, is self-evident. A man and his wife, according to Scripture, should be one; and the corporate head is best qualified to govern a family, or manage an estate in which both have a common interest, and therefore ought to have an equal voice. What one lacks, the other may have. The man may be overconfident, the woman too cautious; by counseling together, a proper and safe medium is arrived at.
One-half of the property in the matrimonial firm should always be regarded as belonging to the wife. And if a man and his wife fail to agree as to the advantage, or even safety, of a proposed scheme, and he is still determined to act upon his own judgment, contrary to that of his wife, he should never, in such case, risk more than one-half of the property.
What right has a man, except that "might makes right," to hazard all he has in wild speculations, or by indorsing for some friend or boon companion, despite his wife's expostulations, or without her knowledge? Yet it is done every day, and all lost; and if women who see their children and themselves thus reduced to poverty, complain, they are stigmatized as fretful, unwomanly grumblers. Their husbands, says the world, had a right to do as they pleased with the property in their possession. What if the wife had earned or inherited half, or even the whole, of it! what should women know about business?
In indorsing, especially, a man should be restrained by law, under pains and penalties, from indorsing to amounts exceeding one-half of his property; and no indorsement in excess of that amount should be allowed to constitute a legal claim.
But is it really right to indorse for any one, under any circumstances? Why should a third party encumber his estate, and run the risk of ruining himself and his family, to secure the payment of a debt in which he has no personal interest, simply to make a capitalist secure in the investing of his funds, or in the profitable disposal of his property on credit? If the lender can not trust the party who deals directly with him, let there be no credit. It is manifestly a departure from the line of duty for a man to jeopard the means of maintenance for his family, without any prospect of advantage to himself or them. It is as much a great moral wrong for a man to rob his wife and children as it is to rob strangers, although commercial usage and the laws of mankind may declare the reverse. "He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretyship is sure." (Proverbs xi, 15.)
It may be said that to refuse to indorse would retard trade. Let it be retarded, then; for why should the capitalist have two chances to the trader's one? If the man trusted is unsuccessful, why, to enrich the capitalist who loans his money for his own gain, should an innocent family be impoverished, who reaped no benefit, and were expected to reap no benefit, from the transaction? How many families have thus been brought to ruin, the day of Judgment alone will reveal.
In many countries the law of primogeniture prevails, though, happily, in the United States and Canada it has been abolished. Whether the interests of the mothers and younger members of families ever were in any degree the better provided for by every thing being placed at the absolute disposal of the eldest son, is a doubtful question. It may have been that, in the old barbaric times, when women and children were a prey to every bold marauder who chose to prey upon them, that the law was intended for their protection, the eldest son or brother being the person most likely to be able to protect them; and the property, not being subdivided and scattered, was more easily defended; and it might have been expected that natural affection would cause the heir to deal justly with his mother and the other children.
But with the passing away of these days of barbarous forays, passed away the need of any such arrangement; if indeed any good ever was accomplished by it. Certainly, much mischief has been wrought and foul injustice sanctioned by it, for many centuries.
An arrangement so well calculated to foster selfishness and arrogance, so long established, produced its legitimate fruit. Since at his father's death every thing, or nearly so, would come under his control, the eldest son became the one important member of his family. As his mother could have but her interest on the third of the value of the estate, unless specially provided for by marriage settlement, she necessarily became dependent upon him who inherited the estate; and therefore the lad, even while a lad, was constantly deferred to, until he deemed himself superior to the rest of his family. The elder members of a family might have been girls, and, there being no boys, might have arrived at the conclusion that the property of their father might be theirs; but a boy born late in the life of their father would sweep away the delusion, and leave them to poverty. Eldest sons have been known to send their brothers and sisters out into the world penniless, and sell from over their mothers' heads the homes in which they had hoped to die, obliging them to subsist or starve, as they might, upon their meagre "thirds." Whether justice to mother or children was done or not, depended entirely upon this one boy. And this was the brightest side of primogeniture. In cases of entailed property, very often the entail specified that it was to go to the heir male for all time. A father in this case, dying without a son, could do nothing besides willing to these girls such loose property as he might have acquired independently of his estate. It might revert to his daughter's most bitter enemy; it was not in his power to help it.
From the hour of a woman's birth to her death, there is a continuous system of belittling her, which, if it does not succeed in destroying her self-respect, thus teaching her that she may, as her only means of retaliation, allow herself in any little meanness which may occur to her, is so galling to that self-respect, that the wonder is that her very nature has not become revolutionized. But women have so long been trained in this school, that they have, to a large extent, adopted the language expressive of their own inferiority, if not the sentiment itself.
Emma and John, as children, play together; Emma aged five and John three years respectively. Their toys are suited to their sex—Emma's a doll, John's a toy carriage and ponies. For a time all goes on harmoniously; they use each other's toys indiscriminately; for as yet their minds have not been contaminated by outside influences. By and by, as will come in play, both children wish entire possession of the same toy. There is a contest, and John appeals to mother: "Emma has my carriage, and won't give it up." "For shame!" says mother, "Emma, give John his toy directly. Don't you know that a carriage with ponies is a toy for little gentlemen? Besides, if you are good, when you both grow up perhaps he will give you a ride with real carriage and live ponies." Awed by the command, and charmed by the distant prospect of the actual ride, the little girl—as indeed she ought—gives up the toy, and peace is restored for the time. But presently a shrill cry is heard: "Johnnie's rubbing all the paint off my dolly's cheeks. He won't give her to me. O, he has broken her arm." The mother's reply to this cry is stern and sharp. "Don't be so cross with your little brother." Then to John. "O, John, you ought not to have broken sister's pretty dolly; it wasn't half so nice as your own little carriage and ponies. Why didn't you play with them? Boys should be gentlemen. Emma is only a little girl;" with a tone emphatic of inferiority upon the word girl. "Little boys should never stoop to play with girl's toys." Later on, where a girl's enjoyment is in a measure provided for in connection with her brother, he is made almost invariably the purse-bearer. What she has is of his generosity. Girls must be yielding, submissive, and dependent, as becomes their sex. Boys may be overbearing or rough; it is a sign of a manly spirit to be so.
Thus arrogance and injustice is fostered in the boy, and a sense of wrong begotten in the girl; the one is degraded in her own eyes, and in the eyes of her brother; the other is elevated above his just level in his own eyes and his sister's; and heart-burning and jealousies engendered that often last through life. A girl may hardly choose her own husband. Her father, brother, or some friend will introduce some eligible party. She is an undutiful girl if—when he honors her by asking her hand—she do not thankfully consent. To the credit of humanity be it said, that girls have more liberty of choice in this respect than they had formerly. There is still room for improvement. The sooner match-making and match-makers die out, the better for the world. If man or woman make a mistake in marrying unfortunately, and in consequence suffer unhappiness, let those more fortunately situated, pity and be kind to the sufferer; but let none incur the responsibility of having made such a match.
[Footnote K: By recent legislation in Ontario, she is deprived of her right of dower in wild lands.]
Woman and Legislation.
What rights, it may be asked, ought women to have accorded to them which they do not now enjoy according to law? From what rights does custom debar them? We claim that women, being held equally responsible to the law with men, are as well entitled to have a voice in making that law. It is a fundamental principle of all governments, not despotic, that "taxation without representation" is a gross infringement upon the civil rights of the subject or citizen. When, in spite of the disadvantages under which women labor, they have, by unflagging industry and prudent management, acquired real estate, their property is taxed according to the same rule by which the property of men is taxed; and still the elective franchise is denied them. Men in legislating for men know their wants and understand their particular needs, because they have experience of them; but in legislating for women they look at things from their own stand-point; and because of its being impossible for them to experience the various annoyances and humiliations to which women are subjected, they do not realize the injustice toward women of the existing state of things, or the nature and extent of the changes which justice to them requires. To secure any thing like impartial justice in civil affairs for women, they should have an equal voice in making the laws.
It is contended that, if women were entitled to the franchise, it would make no difference with a party vote, since as many women would vote on one ticket as on the other. What of it? The franchise has been extended from time to time for centuries to various classes of men, and these classes did not, as a class, confine themselves to one particular ticket or party. Was it any the less the unalienable right of these men to enjoy their liberty to vote as they saw fit, or as they deemed for the best interests of the country? Certainly not. Neither is it just that women should be denied the right to vote because it would make no perceptible difference to a party ticket.
If women had a right to vote, say some, it would occasion family contention. Why should it? If a woman thinks as her husband, she will vote as he does; if not, none but an unreasonable and overbearing man would insist that his wife must think as he does, and vote in accordance with his views, whether they agree with her own or not. It would be quite as just and as reasonable to urge that, because the peace of families is sometimes disturbed by fathers and sons voting for opposite parties, therefore, the sons should not be allowed to exercise the franchise during the life-time of their fathers. There are differences of opinion concerning politics in families now; there always have been, and always will be, unless some process can be devised whereby women will be deprived of the power of thought. Are these existing differences less to be deprecated than those likely to result from extending the franchise to women? How can it be supposed that the peace of families is secured by men only having the liberty to give practical expression to their views, by recording votes which may tell for the good or ill of the country, while women have not? though very frequently a woman has the outrage put upon her of knowing that her husband is recording a vote upon her property, not his, for a party to which she is conscientiously opposed. And this in a civilized, not a barbarous, land! Where is either the justice or the moral honesty of such a course of procedure? Surely, if a woman did vote for a candidate or for a measure to which her husband is opposed, it is no worse, and ought to produce no more disturbance in the family, than for him to vote for a candidate or measure to which she is opposed, especially where the property qualification is in her own right, or where—as is very frequently the case—she has worked equally hard in earning it; nor would disturbance be produced by it at any time, were men as much disposed to be just as women are to forgive injury.
Then, there are many intelligent, industrious, and enterprising women who never marry; and many more who do, are left widows early in life, and remain so to its end. These women contribute quite as much to the public good as do unmarried men in similar circumstances. Why, then, should the one enjoy the privilege of the ballot-box or the polls, and it be denied to the other? There is no just reason whatever. Nothing but usage makes such an injustice tolerated; nothing but the love of arbitrary power causes it to be advocated.
The assertion that the majority of women care nothing about politics or the exercise of any right not now enjoyed by them, is about as true as the asseverations of those who opposed the passage of the late "Reform Bill" in England, that the majority of the middle and poorer classes were satisfied with the privileges enjoyed, and would scarcely—the poorer classes especially—be able to vote intelligently if the privilege were allowed. It was roundly asserted, too, that all this reform agitation was the work of demagogues and infidels. Time has proved that the common people of England were able to record intelligent votes, and that they did prize the privileges which were so reluctantly granted; neither is infidelity any more rampant since liberty has been given to the people to express their opinions than it was before. Indeed, it has less material upon which to feed and grow than it then had. It is asserted by reverend divines that, to accord women equal rights and privileges with men, is to countenance infidelity. Such assertions have yet to be proved to be truthful. Logically, the position is untenable. There are many thousands more infidels among men than among women. How, then, can these divines make it appear that giving to women equal civil and political privileges with men would countenance infidelity, or tend to its increase? Women being so much more generally religiously disposed than men, the influence of the former, if allowed its due weight in public affairs, would be much more likely to neutralize the influence of the infidel men now exercising the rights and privileges from which women are debarred, and would thus contribute to the development of a higher moral and religious tone in community. Apply these men's theory to themselves, and they would quickly observe its absurdity, as well as its shameful injustice. It is said, too, that women are amply represented by their husbands, brothers, or fathers; which is not true, since wives do not always think as their husbands do; daughters do not always see matters from the same stand-point that their fathers do, any more than sons; and sisters do not agree in opinion with brothers, any more than brothers agree with brothers. It is a well-known fact that, in all countries, fathers and sons have entertained different views, both political and religious, and have given public expression of them; so, also, brothers have arrayed themselves against brothers in civil and ecclesiastical contests. It is absurd, therefore, to say that one member of a family—even though he be the "head"—of necessity represents the views of the entire family. But, supposing it were true that the thing could be done, it would be just as reasonable for women to represent their fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers at the polls as to be represented there by them.
It is urged that many women are frivolous, that they seem scarcely to have a serious thought, that the energies of their minds—if they have any—are bent upon the acquirement of a thorough knowledge of the latest foreign fashion, heedless whether they ruin father or husband or not. So there are—those especially who are taught to think it very "unfeminine" to be "strong-minded" enough to be independent, who deem it a fearful thing to bend mind or body to work for their own living, asserting, with an unwitting sarcasm, that "papa" or "husband" is the responsible head of the house, and that it is his business to supply their wants. There are frivolous young men, too, in this world of ours, whose whole minds seem bent on the exquisite parting of their back hair, the peculiar shape of their collar and shade of gloves or neck-tie, and the exact height of the heel of their French boots; men who run up bills and ruin fathers and wives without any apparent compunctions of conscience, and who feel no shame that their wives or daughters support them while they squander both time and money. Yet these men, frivolous as it is possible to be, are not denied equal privileges with the rest of their sex, nor is their frivolity pleaded as a reason why sensible men should not be allowed the franchise.
Why, then, should the frivolity of some women be urged against the whole sex? Rather, educate them. Let them realize that they are equally with man responsible to God for the powers of mind given them. And let them know, too, that they shall have equal opportunities for the development and exercise of those powers; that with equality in responsibility there is equality in privilege; and the next half-century will number fewer frivolous women—by many hundreds.
The dread is entertained by some that, if granted the elective franchise, women would be mixed up in election rows and drunken squabbles, as men are now. Such an event does not necessarily follow; neither is it at all probable. Men of good principle and well-balanced judgment do not make either fools or beasts of themselves now, badly as elections are managed; nor would sensible, right-minded women degrade themselves by unseemly conduct while exercising their right to vote.
No law has ever yet existed which entirely prevented evil-minded men and evil-minded women from making public exhibition of their degradation; and, as society is now constructed, where wicked men congregate, some wicked women will be found. Elevate women to perfect equality with man, and fewer wicked ones will prey upon society.
The great objection, the one which rises above all others, with regard to women taking an active part in civil and ecclesiastical matters, is, that they would thereby neglect their houses and families.
This objection has some weight; it is not altogether so unreasonable as most of the others raised. But even here the event dreaded does not necessarily follow, any more than because men are allowed to vote therefore their business and families must suffer in consequence. Prudent men, when they accept offices of public trust, so order their business arrangements that they shall be properly attended to without allowing the one to interfere with the other. So also would prudent women. It might with as much propriety be argued that a farmer must not be permitted to accept any public office, not even that of juryman, because the acceptance of it might call him from home, either in Springtime or harvest; nor a doctor to become a candidate for public honors, lest some one might be sick while he was away,—as to argue that a woman must not be permitted to take an active part in public affairs because the house is to be attended to, and the comfort and well-being of her husband and children provided for. Are the recognized duties and ordinary occupations of women necessarily so all-engrossing as to be inconsistent with any other demand upon their time or thoughts; or of so much graver importance than the duties which men owe to their business and families, as to require her constant presence and the entire devotion of all her energies; while men, who have families and large business transactions on their hands, are justified in devoting a large portion of their time and attention to other objects, whether literature, science, or politics?
There is no more honorable position on earth than that of a wife, possessing the undivided affection of a good husband, surrounded by an orderly and interesting family of children. Neither is there a more honorable position among men than that of a husband, possessing the undivided affection of a good wife, who sympathizes with him in his every care, surrounded by a family of well-behaved, intelligent children. A well-regulated household is a picture upon which the good of either sex love to look. The responsibility of regulating and ordering a household properly, devolves equally upon both the husband and wife. It can not be a well-regulated house if either fails to share the responsibility equally. Is the careful wife and mother, then, to be cut off from the rights of citizenship because she is a wife and mother? There is no valid reason why an intelligent woman should not be permitted to carry the weight of her judicious influence beyond the charmed circle of her home, any more than that she should not be permitted to exercise it there. Even in the limited sphere now assigned to women, many of them have proved that they could be faithful to the interests of their husbands and children, and yet accomplish much for the benefit of the world besides. Admitting, however—and we do admit it, heartily—that women are endowed with peculiar talents for the management of children, and men are better fitted than women for training horses or managing swine,—which occupation requires the greater mental culture? Which is likely to do the most for the benefit of mankind? The proper care for her children, and attention to them, does not necessarily prevent a woman from attending to matters of public utility outside of her house.
And then there are the unmarried women, who were referred to previously, that have not these household claims resting upon them. The objection concerning the neglect of households does not touch their cases at all; for they have neither children nor husbands to be neglected. That unmarried women, who step out from the "private sanctity of their homes," often accomplish much good by entering on the so much censured public career, the lives of Florence Nightingale, Miss McPherson, and Miss Dix, if there were no others, amply prove.
It is argued by some that, if women would exercise the privilege of the franchise, she must be prepared to take the field as a soldier, or enter the navy, as circumstances might require, in time of war. History informs us that women have given valuable assistance in time of war, even taking the field and fighting nobly for their country when their valor was needed; and, in our own day, there is on record an instance of a woman commanding a vessel during a long voyage over exceedingly dangerous seas, and bringing it successfully into the desired port. But apart from this, the fact is, the argument is simply used as a bugbear to frighten the timid and deter them from claiming their just position, both social and civil. By law, certain classes of men are exempt from war, except in extreme cases, so that by no means all who vote, now, are expected to fight. Then, women render an equivalent to the State, and risk their lives in doing it, quite as much as soldiers or sailors; not, however, in destroying human life, but in perpetuating it. As recruiting agents, therefore, and the first drill-masters or instructors of the members of future battalions, they serve the Government as effectually as any standing army.
It does not follow, then, that as a consequence of being permitted to vote, or being admitted to other privileges, women must load the cannon or wield the sword. We wonder if the originator of such an attempt at intimidation ever heard of Joan of Arc or Margaret of Anjou.
It is claimed that women are unfit for public life because—another unproved assertion—they are incapable of reasoning logically or speaking fluently. Women have had but little opportunity afforded them for public speaking; yet, even with the slight advantages which they have possessed, they have proved themselves quite as capable of arriving at a high standard of reasoning or oratory as the majority of the opposite sex. Anna Dickinson will draw a full house in any city in the United States; and disinterested listeners (men) have pronounced her lectures unsurpassed, in close reasoning and power of fervid eloquence, by any male lecturer in the Union. But, say some, all women are not equally gifted; there are few endowed with the talents or voice of Miss Dickinson. Just so; and but few men are endowed with the talents of Theodore Cuyler, or gifted with the versatile wit of J.B. Gough; yet other men speak in public, and in their humbler sphere render the State good service.
The various Churches have not done what they might in drawing out this talent in women, and using it for the good of the world. Indeed, while quoting and straining the writings of the apostles to suit their own narrow views, those who have given tone to the various branches of the Christian Church, and virtually fixed the position of women therein, have wandered far, very far, from the practice of the Pauline days with regard to the employment of women in the public workings of the Church, as is shown by a comparison of the present working of the several Christian Churches with the sacred records, as given in Acts and the Epistles themselves.
The Society of Friends, upon examination, becoming convinced of the falsity of the reasoning, assumed to be predicated upon the Word of God, that there was inferiority between the sexes, and not believing that the assumption was borne out by a careful perusal of the Scriptures, granted perfect equality to men and women in the exercise of religious services. Having been the foremost religious body of modern times in granting liberty of speech to Christian women, they have been more highly honored than most other denominations in the number of gifted speakers among their women.
In the early days of Methodism, too, women were allowed to exercise the talent for public speaking, with which God had endowed them; and Dinah Evans and Mrs. Fletcher—the one in the humbler walks of life, the other a lady of position, education, and refinement—stand forth conspicuously upon the pages of history, giving evidence that the ministry of Christian women was honored by God in leading the wicked to forsake their unrighteous ways. As Methodism became older, like the primitive Church, it departed from the first usage, and as a consequence, like it, it lost for the time a powerful agency for doing good. Latterly, however, women, especially in the United States, are breaking through the fetters—ecclesiastical as well as civil—which have so long bound them. In a measure, at least, their day of civil and religious slavery is drawing to a close. They now very frequently preside and speak at public religious meetings, and are admitted by candid, well-informed men to be quite as competent to discharge the duties of a presiding officer, or to present the ideas they wish to convey in a clear and logical manner, as any of the learned clergymen or clear-headed laymen in the same meeting. Some of the most eloquent public advocates of the missionary enterprise in the United States are earnest Christian women.
In the halcyon days of Queen Victoria, before the sad bereavement came upon her which has darkened her latter years and caused her to retire as much as possible from public view—at the time when she read her own speeches from the throne—she was pronounced, by competent critics, to be unsurpassed, as a reader, by any elocutionist in Europe.
A thoroughly liberal education, and the practice of conversing with persons of intelligence, renders material assistance to both men and women, by enabling them to express their thoughts in the clearest and most forcible language possible; and the same thing may be remarked of declamation. In social circles, where men and women of average mental culture meet together, there is no perceptible difference between the conversational powers of the sexes. Let the facilities for the education of men and women once be made equal throughout the civilized world, and the hackneyed cry of her mental inferiority will be heard of no more, excepting when mentioned among the other exploded theories of the Dark Ages and of barbaric times. The cramping of the mental powers of women, or the attempting to cramp them, lest they might claim equal advantages with the other half of the race, will be classed—and justly so—with the cramping of women's feet by the Chinese, lest they might claim and exercise the liberty of walking the streets at pleasure, as their husbands do. A woman will be no more expected to give credence to every thing her husband believes, no matter how absurd the belief may be, at his dictation, because he is her husband, or to yield implicit obedience to his commands, no matter how tyrannical, than she will be to follow him to the funeral pyre.
Already ladies, by dint of untiring industry and perseverance, have mounted to honorable positions, and have acquired meritorious fame as artists, both in painting and in sculpture. Who, in our times, stands higher on the list of artists than Rosa Bonheur or Miss Hosmer? In the study of medicine, women have been met by the most scandalous opposition and insult by those conservators of good morals, male medical students. Yet, believing that women were as capable of acquiring skill in the healing art as men, and that, where the peculiar diseases of women were concerned, they were better adapted to it, and that there was less impropriety in their attending their own sex than in men doing so, they persevered, and have won for themselves honorable distinction. That women have, for years, distinguished themselves in connection with medical science, may be seen from the following interesting historical facts presented by Caroline H. Ball:
Madame Francoise, the midwife of Catharine de Medici, lectured ably to students of both sexes. James Guillemeau was a French surgeon of great eminence, who died in 1813; but the obstetrical observations which gave value to his books were contributed by Madame Veronne. It was to the Countess of Cinchon, and the influence which she used at every court in Europe, and finally at the Court of Rome, that the world owed the use of Peruvian bark, and consequently of quinine. Its early name, "Jesuit's Bark," showed one step of her process. (See "Anastasis Corticis Peruviani, Seu China Defensis.") Madame Breton patented a system of artificial nourishment for infants, in use in France as late as 1830.
At the age of twenty-four, in the year 1736, Elizabeth Blackwell, of London, published a work on Medical Botany. It was in three volumes, folio, well illustrated, and was the first of its kind in any country. Madame Ducoudray, born in Paris, 1712, was the first lecturer who used a manikin, which she herself invented and perfected. Physicians persist in ignoring this fact, although it was publicly approved by the French Academy of Surgeons, December 1, 1758.
Morandi, born in Bologna in 1716, and Beheron, born at Paris in 1730, invented and perfected the use of wax preparations to represent diseases. Beheron's collection was purchased by Catharine II, of Russia, and went to St. Petersburg. Hunter acknowledged his obligations to her. Morandi's collection, at Bologna, was visited and purchased by Joseph II. She was Professor of Anatomy at the university. Lady Mary Wortley Montague introduced inoculation into Europe; and the intelligent observation of a farmer's wife led Dr. Jenner to his experiments with vaccine matter.
The services of regularly qualified lady physicians are now eagerly sought, not only in the United States, where they in later times first proved their capability, but also in foreign countries. Medical universities, the sage faculties of which once frowned with scorn upon "women who would be guilty of the indelicacy of pushing themselves into the medical profession," now gladly open their doors to them; the more candid of the professors admitting that the "indelicacy," not to say indecency, is upon the side of men who would push themselves into the sick-chamber of a woman, and make inquiries of her concerning symptoms peculiar to her sex, when there are women who are competent to attend to her case.
Little by little the mists of superstition and error, incident to barbaric times, are being dispelled by the genial light of a brighter day. Even now, genteel ignorance is not esteemed the acme of feminine perfection, except by those theorists who would degrade woman mentally, that they themselves may thus acquire so much a higher elevation—at least in their own imaginations—as to stand to them in God's stead, or, at the very least, to be a semi-deity whose superior wisdom is to be worshiped.
The facilities for acquiring a good common education, of late years afforded to the masses, in which there was not so wide a distinction made between the sexes as formerly, have accomplished much in removing old-time prejudices; as the searching examinations of these public schools have fairly tested the capabilities of both boys and girls, and have established the fact that, with equal opportunities, the girls were fully equal to the boys in mental ability and attainments. Grudgingly, girls have been allowed to enter the grammar and higher schools; and here, too, by their proficiency, they have proved their right to enter.
There was a great outcry raised when the first genuine university which admitted women, allowed them to pursue precisely the same studies as young men. It was predicted that almost unheard-of evils would ensue. Woman, if they succeeded, would be unfitted for her "sphere," and become unwilling to soothe, with tender hand, the suffering and the distressed, etc. The wail was terrific. The experiment, however, succeeded. Women not only commenced a real collegiate course, but pursued it to the end, graduating with honors; and, despite prophecy, college-bred women made faithful wives, judicious mothers, and good housekeepers. A cruel war ravaged the fair fields of a portion of the United States, bringing with it its attendant train of misery. What was the employment of ladies who had graduated in universities in this crisis of their country? Had their knowledge of Latin and Greek made them either inefficient or hard? The weary, wounded soldier in the hospitals would testify that the kind hand of an educated and refined woman bathed his feverish temples, while her gentle voice breathed into his ear the glad tidings of a peace to be attained by repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Delicacies were needed for the invalid soldiers, and were not to be bought for money; the educated woman, side by side with her uneducated sister, bared her white arms above the elbow, and molded delicate pastry, and sealed and pickled and preserved as diligently and as deftly as if she had never demonstrated a problem in Euclid or heard of Sophocles. In what way had women become unfitted for their sphere by a liberal education? In no way whatever. If some highly educated women are inefficient housekeepers, and slatternly in their persons, so also are many who neither know how to read nor write; just as there are many impracticable, inefficient, and slovenly men who are highly educated, and ignorant men who are also incompetent and inefficient. Education has nothing to do with making either men or women inefficient; the inefficient would be inefficient to the end of time, though their minds were never troubled with literature.
No fearful calamity having ensued as a consequence of the admission of ladies to one university, others also began slowly, and with great caution, to open their doors to them; and now their admission on the same footing as their brothers to the same universities, and their capability to complete the same curriculum is no longer an experiment, but an established fact. Even in conservative, staid old England, ladies are admitted to the examinations at Cambridge. But all are by no means open. No: there are those, and some of them men of sense in other respects, who can not come down from the lofty pedestal on which they have placed themselves, and are not willing to allow their sisters or daughters to mount, lest they should reach their side. These sneer and frown, and prophesy evil just as vehemently as did narrow-minded men of the same class fifty or twenty years ago; and their influence will, for a time, keep some of the colleges closed to women. But this is a matter of little consequence now. There are universities now open to them of as high a literary grade as those which are closed against them; and consequently they may drink at will at the fountain of knowledge, despite the sneers and frowns of those who would prevent it if they could, but happily can not altogether.
Though there is still much fierce opposition to the movement for granting them equal civil and ecclesiastical rights and privileges, and for allowing them to compete fairly with men in business transactions or in the learned professions; and though it may be expected that this opposition will be continued for some time to come,—yet women have cause for thankful rejoicing, and may take courage. The long night of their bitter servitude is nearly over, the dawn of better days is beginning to tinge the horizon; and hope may now be entertained that erelong they shall occupy the position to which they are entitled, as man's compeer—the position of equality with him in all the relations of life—and enjoy the full rights and privileges of civilized and Christianized citizenship.
The morning is breaking.
Famous Women of Antiquity.
It has been so often asserted that women are incompetent to form any thing like correct opinions on civil or political questions, or to govern with discretion, even when by chance the reins are committed to their control for a brief season; and that they have always been found so; and, also, that they are naturally incapable of a sufficiently great degree of mental effort to entitle them to celebrity,—that the statement has come to be regarded as a fact by the masses, who have lacked either the ability or the desire to investigate the matter. With the majority of men, as such assertions fostered their love of power, and the idea of their own self-consequence, it was natural for them to accept them without question, as undoubted truth. With women, until within the present century, the facilities for acquiring an education have been so meagre that, except where they were possessed of both a large fortune and an unlimited amount of perseverance, they had slight opportunities for acquiring accurate information on that or any other subject. What their fathers, husbands, or brothers told them, they might believe if they chose; for the rest, to the very large majority of women, history was a sealed book; so that, for want of correct information, they were not in a position to contradict any assertion, however extravagant, untruthful, or absurd it might be.
In the foregoing pages of this treatise, it has been maintained that the statements concerning the alleged mental inferiority of women are untruthful; and that history, both ancient and modern, proves them to be so. In order, therefore, to establish this proposition more fully, the following sketches have been added, giving an account of a few women eminent for the founding of colonies, for piety, for patriotism, and for attainments in science, literature, and arts; and some, alas! for wickedness.
ELISA, OR DIDO, FOUNDER OF CARTHAGE.
Carthage, one of the most noted nations of antiquity, was founded by a woman, and flourished under her rule. A Tyrian princess, Dido—or Elisa, as she is indiscriminately named in history—was in jeopardy from the tyranny and oppression of an unnatural brother, who, not content with what he had inherited from his father, had cast covetous eyes upon the immense possessions of his sister's husband, whose death he compassed. All the powers of mind which had hitherto lain dormant within her, being roused by the horrid act of her brother, Dido at once set about rescuing her treasure from his grasp, and her retainers from his unbridled fury. Not choosing to seek protection from any of the princes of the surrounding countries, and knowing herself to be unsafe while in the vicinity of her brother, she, as speedily as possible, and with the utmost secresy, gathered what she was possessed of together, and, with her followers, embarked in search of some country where she might live free from tyranny and oppression. Undaunted by the dangers, real and imaginary, which beset the paths of the early navigators of the Mediterranean, the little band of adventurers pursued their course, steering westward, ever westward; away past Egypt, and past Libya, until they came in sight of a peninsula on the northern coast of Africa hitherto unknown to history, but ever afterward to be famous as the landing-place of the heroic woman. At a point only a short distance from the site of the present city of Tunis, Dido, with her followers, established herself; not taking possession of the territory on which she set her foot, as became the fashion some time later, but purchasing it from the natives at a given price. According to the usage of the times, she at once set about founding a city; and one hundred years before the founding of Rome—its after rival and destroyer—the work of building Carthage, or the New City, as Dido named it, began. The city being advantageously situated for commerce, and the rule of Dido more mild than that of Pygmalion, her brother, hundreds of the Tyrians flocked to her standard. These men of Tyre brought with them their old home-love of commercial enterprise and maritime adventure; and, in a marvelously short time, Carthage took high rank among the nations of the world; and it was conceded, by one of the most renowned philosophers of Greece, that it enjoyed one of the most perfect governments of antiquity.