The Woman Who Dared Part 19

"_Not by evading or profaning Nature_."

In his recent "History of European Morals," Mr. Lecky, referring to the fact that the prevalent doctrine is, that the very highest interest of society is not to stimulate but to restrain multiplication, diminishing the number of marriages and of children, presents the following comments:--

"In consequence of this belief, and of the many fact.i.tious wants that accompany a luxurious civilization, a very large and increasing proportion of women are left to make their way in life without any male protector, and the difficulties they have to encounter through physical weakness have been most unnaturally and most fearfully aggravated by laws and customs which, resting on the old a.s.sumption that every woman should be a wife, habitually deprive them of the pecuniary and educational advantages of men, exclude them absolutely from very many of the employments in which they might earn a subsistence, enc.u.mber their course in others by a heartless ridicule or by a steady disapprobation, and consign, in consequence, many thousands to the most extreme and agonizing poverty, and perhaps a still larger number to the paths of vice.

"At the same time a momentous revolution, the effects of which can as yet be but imperfectly descried, has taken place in the chief spheres of female industry that remain. The progress of machinery has destroyed its domestic character. The distaff has fallen from the hand. The needle is being rapidly superseded, and the work which, from the days of Homer to the present century, was accomplished in the centre of the family, has been transferred to the crowded manufactory."

The necessity of those reforms which many n.o.ble women are now urging upon public attention is clearly set forth in eloquent facts like these.

PAGE 198.

"_Is against nature._"

A curious instance of the temerity with which flagrant errors are pressed into the service of criticism is presented in some remarks in the _N. Y. Nation_. "There is probably," it says, "no incident of woman's condition which is more clearly natural than her pa.s.sivity in all that relates to marriage. In waiting to be wooed, she not only complies with one of the conventional proprieties, but obeys what appears to be a law of s.e.x, _not amongst human beings only, but among all animals_."

These remarks have been adopted by many American journalists, and have been accepted perhaps by many readers as settling the whole question with scientific accuracy and force, so far as a.n.a.logies drawn from the habits of the lower animals can settle it. But if the critic, while b.u.t.tering his daily bread or putting cream into his daily coffee, had acquainted himself with the habits of the useful animal to which he is indebted, he would never have been guilty of so prodigious a blunder. So far from pa.s.sively "waiting to be wooed," the cow, when the s.e.xual impulse is awakened, will disturb the whole neighborhood by her bellowings. Should the critic reply that this is because she is kept in an unnatural state of restraint, such reply would add only additional force to the contradiction of the argument which he would offer.

Other examples in abundance, in confutation of his a.s.sumption, could no doubt be furnished. But even were that a.s.sumption true, we might sometimes be led to rather awkward results if we were to take the habits of the lower animals as authoritative. Certain animals have not infrequently an eccentric habit of destroying their offspring. Some of our Chinese brethren, borrowing a hint perhaps from the brute creation, are said to think it no sin to kill such female children as they have no use for. We hope that no enterprising critic will recommend such a solution as this of the woman problem.


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