« ZurückWeiter »
in her fingers, what louder or more significant protest could she make, though she sought some platform to declaim her indignation against the social system which has starved her mind and rudely tried heart?
We consider that there is an overwhelming necessity to discuss the question of woman's rights; but we have never yet found in the programme of a single meeting convened for that purpose a statement of the actual wrong which our civilization does to woman. It is a shameful thing that selfish traders should cut down the wages of the poor seamstress to a point where her only choice remains between vice and misery. Let all such employers, in whatsoever trade, be reminded of their dastardly conduct in language of appropriate strength and significance; they are forbidding the poor to thrive, and that is a right common both to man and woman. It is also a cruel oversight of legislation which permits the drunkard to complete his ruin with the little earnings of his wife, wrung amid care and sorrow out of the universal competition. Let that point too be agitated till the law interposes between drunken tyranny and defenceless toil. Let the female teacher demand her just compensation for a degree of labor and nervous exhaustion fully equal to that which is shared by all who exercise the sacred function. Instead of the very inadequate pittance which the common notion of the cheapness of female labor assigns to her, let her receive grade for grade, time for time, work for work, with man, — and a little more, as a premium to win such fair and delicate organization to the depressing labor. Let all people who task and drive the nerves of women, whether committee-men or master-tradesmen, hear plain language upon her right to have her toil a source of revenue, and the foundation of her prosperity and freedom. And if there be a single point relating to property, or touching divorce and the destination of the children, which bears harshly and unnaturally upon the woman, let it be urged upon the public conscience. Some of the above details might be easily adjusted by legislation, and were they simply stated, with the arguments strictly appropriate to them, would meet with little opposition. Others will depend for redress upon the refinement of public opinion; and when we reflect how steadily and joyously woman has
emerged from her former constraint, vindicating with every step her ability to help and to instruct, as well as to adorn and serve, we may expect to see every prejudice which prolongs a real grievance soon subsiding, and the rights of woman restrained only by the inexorable conditions of her nature. But such conditions are not accepted in the public eloquence which is devoted to this question. The real trouble lies far deeper than the grievances above mentioned, and would not be reached were women to mix freely in all public and political affairs, enjoy the right of suffrage, and be eligible to the chairs of education and of government. We propose now to consider these claims which are made in behalf of woman; and we shall introduce herself as the most powerful witness against the cause which bears her name.
Shall woman mix freely in all public and political affairs, and be eligible to administrative posts? Some think that they are safely answering this question by saying, “ She shall if she can.” We say, she ought not if she could, for the reason that the ability and opportunity to exercise those functions would be fatal to finer and nobler ones, for which every governnent stands in pressing need. The most delicate and responsible public duty is coarse and mechanical compared with the penetrating, organizing power of a faithful, genuine woman. When we hear a woman urging her right to be a politician if she can, and to be a cabinet minister if she can train appropriate faculties, we seem to hear a queen uttering her voluntary abdication, and asking to exchange her sceptre for a hod. Indeed, according to our analysis of the feminine nature, a woman thus betraying such an ambition has little but her sex and her attire to vouch for her feminality. The organic conditions and elements which make a woman, as distinguished from a female, have been warped or stunted in her according to some law of inheritance; and she resembles the doubtful specimens which occupy the penumbra between different species, in whom the normal type has been disturbed. So we find some men who possess in minus that peculiar grouping of mental faculties which characterizes men, and of which sex and countenance are only the most superficial indications. We call such men feminine, not because
they share the womanly elements ; for no man can be well balanced or complete who does not share them. They are, indeed, the presence of Christianity within the manly mind, and the true woman inherits and preserves for us the quality of that power which her Master once represented when he displayed the meek courage and truth of his beatitudes. Within the limits of his manly nature there grew into life the perfection possible to every real woman, — equally impossible to her who is only a female or to him who is effeminate. We call such a man feminine, not because he has the spirit of the beatitudes, — for if he had that, he would possess a man's essential saving power, — but because he has not the internal masculine characteristics. So that whether there be much or little of the woman in him, at any rate he is not a man. He bears the same relation to the masculine type as the womanish female bears to the womanly type, and he too has nothing but his sex and his attire to vindicate his name of John or James. Imagine now this feminine individual pleading for the right to share the occupations of the women; not that he means to unsex himself, and lay aside the robust, masculine elements, – O no! but he insists upon the identity of his capacity with that of a woman, and will no longer be debarred from his natural privilege to knit and starch, to sew and mend. Heaven defend us from such sowing and mending, and equally from the administrative efforts of discontented females! Their assumption of a man's right has no more corroboration in woman's essential, typical nature, than the leaning of this effeminate male person towards womanly employments has in the intrinsic nature of a man.
What is the spiritual difference between the two sexes ? “ God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Here is a text, to whose literalness both science and the Gospel lend an unexpected meaning. It was necessary, then, in order to represent the image of God in humanity, to create both a male and female nature; either one, alone, could not furnish a human representation of the creative intention. The nature of God comprehends the
spiritual characteristics of both sexes, existing in undis. tinguishable unity. There must be a previous reason in
the nature of the Creator for this division of humanity into two permanent types; mere physical and terrestrial convenience will not account for this duality, and we may expect to find that the types are absolutely distinct in spiritual quality, while each is complemental to the other. If the divine tendencies could have been satisfied by the creation of man alone, woman would have been alike impossible and unimaginable. When, therefore, we plainly find that God did not attain the crowning act of his creation without expressing himself in two separate forms, which are constantly tending back into the original unity, we ought to look for the spiritual difference which is the ground of this double creation. It cannot be accidental, it cannot be a temporary and corruptible convenience. On the other hand, the difference which commenced with the creation of the first vegetation, and was continued in the creation of the first animals, was only physical, not symbolical of spiritual distinctions, but only perfecting the superficial relations of the soul's first state. What was previously in the mind of God is therefore to be found in the dual human mind which is the image of God. Let us therefore examine it.
The commonly received notion makes woman to differ from man in lack of judgment and in an unreflecting exuberance of the emotional nature. It is said that man thinks and woman feels. It is true that woman herself has lent color to this idea, by submitting, too contentedly, to the sway of sentiment, except when temporal exigencies within her sphere have compelled her to judge and to reflect. But upon such compulsion she has invariably refuted the popular idea, by manifesting a natural good sense, a power of adaptation, a choice of means, and a rational foresight, that are very far from being universal with the thinking man. Especially among the middle classes and the self-dependent, where man's resources are tasked to the utmost, woman also unfolds resources, and admirably meets the constraint or misery of her condition. She is the ready-witted helpmeet, inexhaustible in contrivances, alike valuable for good sense and for good cheer, and possessing the rare power to exercise the judgment while the stupor of despair pervades the home. If the annals of the middle and lower classes could be written, not a page would go unilluminated with the memory of some coansellor and heroine, whose blessed Scripture name was rebaptized in the wisdom and the power of God. The tact and sagacity of woman in educating and directing the minds of her children are particularly noticeable. Where man, with his public, his literary, his artistic ability, would be at a loss for counsel, or very likely would defeat by his meddling the salutary purpose, the woman speaks the inevitable word that was wanted, and skilfully modifies the tone and shape of her instruction to the various temperaments of her children. This in man is called judgment; why should it be called instinct in a woman? It is a reflecting process flowing out of her combined causality and constructiveness, and directed by the will. Of course we shall find that the feminine quality modifies and predestines the expression of woman's brain; but so long as it presents, in some form and combination, the same organs with that of a man, so that an exigency almost always finds her capable, it is useless to attribute emotion or intuitive sensibility to her, as her essential, sexual characteristic. And how much more capable will she become, when a liberal, manifold, and long-sustained education gives to her mental powers the necessary drill!
What then is the sexual distinction of her soul? How can we explain something which according to its very essence is to be felt? When we can explain warmth or joy, then we can explain the womanly elements. It is not the addition or subtraction of a faculty, but it is an original refinement in the devising of the soul itself, which colors and penetrates all the faculties, and contrasts the feminine with the masculine objectiveness. It is not that man is active and woman is passive, for woman has an activity equal to, though distinct from, that of man. It is not that man organizes life for her, bestows his gifts upon her, while she is simply receptive of his energies; for the organizing and encircling power of woman's spirit is greater than that of man's, even as the beatitudes are greater and more profoundly constructive than the categories of Aristotle or the induction of Bacon. If you could analyze a woman's influence, you could detect the spiritual element of her sex. Does she refine and exalt our life? Those are very vague phrases, to be found in every sonnet to a woman's eye