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Title: Women and the Alphabet - A Series of Essays
Author: Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 1823-1911
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A Series of Essays





The first essay in this volume, "Ought Women to learn the Alphabet?"
appeared originally in the "Atlantic Monthly" of February, 1859, and has
since been reprinted in various forms, bearing its share, I trust, in the
great development of more liberal views in respect to the training and
duties of women which has made itself manifest within forty years. There
was, for instance, a report that it was the perusal of this essay which led
the late Miss Sophia Smith to the founding of the women's college bearing
her name at Northampton, Massachusetts.

The remaining papers in the volume formed originally a part of a book
entitled "Common Sense About Women" which was made up largely of papers
from the "Woman's Journal." This book was first published in 1881 and was
reprinted in somewhat abridged form some years later in London
(Sonnenschein). It must have attained a considerable circulation there, as
the fourth (stereotyped) edition appeared in 1897. From this London reprint
a German translation was made by Fräulein Eugenie Jacobi, under the title
"Die Frauenfrage und der gesunde Menschenverstand" (Schupp: Neuwied and
Leipzig, 1895).





       Too Much Natural History
       Darwin, Huxley, and Buckle
       The Spirit of Small Tyranny
       The Noble Sex
       The Truth about our Grandmothers
       The Physique of American Women
       The Limitations of Sex

       The Invisible Lady
       Sacred Obscurity
       Virtues in Common
       Individual Differences
       Angelic Superiority
       Vicarious Honors
       The Gospel of Humiliation
       Celery and Cherubs
       The Need of Cavalry
       The Reason Firm, the Temperate Will
       Allures to Brighter Worlds, and leads the Way

       The Origin of Civilization
       The Low-Water Mark
       Woman in the Chrysalis
       Two and Two
       A Model Household
       A Safeguard for the Family
       Women as Economists
       Greater includes Less
       A Copartnership
       One Responsible Head
       Asking for Money
       Womanhood and Motherhood
       A German Point of View
       Childless Women
       The Prevention of Cruelty to Mothers

       Foam and Current
       In Society
       The Battle of the Cards
       Some Working-Women
       The Empire of Manners
       Are Women Natural Aristocrats?
       Mrs. Blank's Daughters
       The European Plan

       Intellectual Cinderellas
       Self-Supporting Wives
       Literary Aspirants
       The Career of Letters
       Talking and Taking
       How to speak in Public

       We the People
       The Use of the Declaration of Independence
       Some Old-Fashioned Principles
       Founded on a Rock
       The Good of the Governed
       Ruling at Second-Hand

       Drawing the Line
       For Self-Protection
       Womanly Statesmanship
       Too Much Prediction
       First-Class Carriages
       Education _via_ Suffrage
       Follow Your Leaders
       How to make Women understand Politics
       Inferior to Man, and near to Angels

       The Fact of Sex
       How will it Result?
       I have all the Rights I want
       Sense Enough to Vote
       An Infelicitous Epithet
       The Rob Roy Theory
       The Votes of Non-Combatants
       Manners repeal Laws
       Dangerous Voters
       How Women will legislate
       Individuals _vs._ Classes
       Defeats before Victories




Paris smiled, for an hour or two, in the year 1801, when, amidst Napoleon's
mighty projects for remodelling the religion and government of his empire,
the ironical satirist, Sylvain Maréchal, thrust in his "Plan for a Law
prohibiting the Alphabet to Women."[1] Daring, keen, sarcastic, learned,
the little tract retains to-day so much of its pungency, that we can hardly
wonder at the honest simplicity of the author's friend and biographer,
Madame Gacon Dufour, who declared that he must be insane, and soberly
replied to him.

His proposed statute consists of eighty-two clauses, and is fortified by a
"whereas" of a hundred and thirteen weighty reasons. He exhausts the range
of history to show the frightful results which have followed this taste of
fruit of the tree of knowledge; quotes from the Encyclopédie, to prove that
the woman who knows the alphabet has already lost a portion of her
innocence; cites the opinion of Molière, that any female who has unhappily
learned anything in this line should affect ignorance, when possible;
asserts that knowledge rarely makes men attractive, and females never;
opines that women have no occasion to peruse Ovid's "Art of Love," since
they know it all in advance; remarks that three quarters of female authors
are no better than they should be; maintains that Madame Guion would have
been far more useful had she been merely pretty and an ignoramus, such as
Nature made her,--that Ruth and Naomi could not read, and Boaz probably
would never have married into the family had they possessed that
accomplishment,--that the Spartan women did not know the alphabet, nor the
Amazons, nor Penelope, nor Andromache, nor Lucretia, nor Joan of Arc, nor
Petrarch's Laura, nor the daughters of Charlemagne, nor the three hundred
and sixty-five wives of Mohammed; but that Sappho and Madame de Maintenon
could read altogether too well; while the case of Saint Brigitta, who
brought forth twelve children and twelve books, was clearly exceptional,
and afforded no safe precedent.

It would seem that the brilliant Frenchman touched the root of the matter.
Ought women to learn the alphabet? There the whole question lies. Concede
this little fulcrum, and Archimedea will move the world before she has done
with it: it becomes merely a question of time. Resistance must be made here
or nowhere. _Obsta principiis_. Woman must be a subject or an equal: there
is no middle ground. What if the Chinese proverb should turn out to be,
after all, the summit of wisdom, "For men, to cultivate virtue is
knowledge; for women, to renounce knowledge is virtue"?

No doubt, the progress of events is slow, like the working of the laws of
gravitation generally. Certainly there has been but little change in the
legal position of women since China was in its prime, until within the last
half century. Lawyers admit that the fundamental theory of English and
Oriental law is the same on this point: Man and wife are one, and that one
is the husband. It is the oldest of legal traditions. When Blackstone
declares that "the very being and existence of the woman is suspended
during the marriage," and American Kent echoes that "her legal existence
and authority are in a manner lost;" when Petersdorff asserts that "the
husband has the right of imposing such corporeal restraints as he may deem
necessary," and Bacon that "the husband hath, by law, power and dominion
over his wife, and may keep her by force within the bounds of duty, and may
beat her, but not in a violent or cruel manner;" when Mr. Justice Coleridge
rules that the husband, in certain cases, "has a right to confine his wife
in his own dwelling-house, and restrain her from liberty for an indefinite
time," and Baron Alderson sums it all up tersely, "The wife is only the
_servant_ of her husband,"--these high authorities simply reaffirm the
dogma of the Gentoo code, four thousand years old and more: "A man, both
day and night, must keep his wife so much in subjection that she by no
means be mistress of her own actions. If the wife have her own free will,
notwithstanding she be of a superior caste, she will behave amiss."

Yet behind these unchanging institutions, a pressure has been for centuries
becoming concentrated, which, now that it has begun to act, is threatening
to overthrow them all. It has not yet operated very visibly in the Old
World, where, even in England, the majority of women have not till lately
mastered the alphabet sufficiently to sign their own names in the marriage
register. But in this country the vast changes of the last few years are
already a matter of history. No trumpet has been sounded, no earthquake has
been felt, while State after State has ushered into legal existence one
half of the population within its borders. Surely, here and now, might poor
M. Maréchal exclaim, the bitter fruits of the original seed appear. The sad
question recurs, Whether women ought ever to have tasted of the alphabet.

It is true that Eve ruined us all, according to theology, without knowing
her letters. Still there is something to be said in defence of that
venerable ancestress. The Veronese lady, Isotta Nogarola, five hundred and
thirty-six of whose learned epistles were preserved by De Thou, composed a
dialogue on the question, Whether Adam or Eve had committed the
greater sin. But Ludovico Domenichi, in his "Dialogue on the Nobleness of
Women," maintains that Eve did not sin at all, because she was not even
created when Adam was told not to eat the apple. It was "in Adam all
died," he shrewdly says; nobody died in Eve: which looks plausible. Be
that as it may, Eve's daughters are in danger of swallowing a whole
harvest of forbidden fruit, in these revolutionary days, unless
something be done to cut off the supply.

It has been seriously asserted, that during the last half century more
books have been written by women and about women than during all the
previous uncounted ages. It may be true; although, when we think of the
innumerable volumes of _Mémoires_ by French women of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries,--each justifying the existence of her own ten
volumes by the remark, that all her contemporaries were writing as
many,--we have our doubts. As to the increased multitude of general
treatises on the female sex, however,--its education, life, health,
diseases, charms, dress, deeds, sphere, rights, wrongs, work, wages,
encroachments, and idiosyncrasies generally,--there can be no doubt
whatever; and the poorest of these books recognizes a condition of
public sentiment of which no other age ever dreamed.

Still, literary history preserves the names of some reformers before the
Reformation, in this matter. There was Signora Moderata Fonte, the
Venetian, who left a book to be published after her death, in 1592, "Dei
Meriti delle Donne." There was her townswoman, Lucrezia Marinella, who
followed, ten years after, with her essay, "La Nobilità e la Eccelenza
delle Donne, con Difetti e Mancamenti degli Uomini,"--a comprehensive
theme, truly! Then followed the all-accomplished Anna Maria Schurman, in
1645, with her "Dissertatio de Ingenii Muliebris ad Doctrinam et meliores
Literas Aptitudine," with a few miscellaneous letters appended in Greek
and Hebrew. At last came boldly Jacquette Guillaume, in 1665, and threw
down the gauntlet in her title-page, "Les Dames Illustres; où par bonnes
et fortes Raisons il se prouve que le Sexe Feminin surpasse en toute
Sorte de Genre le Sexe Masculin;" and with her came Margaret Boufflet
and a host of others; and finally, in England, Mary Wollstonecraft,
whose famous book, formidable in its day, would seem rather conservative
now; and in America, that pious and worthy dame, Mrs. H. Mather Crocker,
Cotton Mather's grandchild, who, in 1848, published the first book on the
"Rights of Woman" ever written on this side the Atlantic.

Meanwhile there have never been wanting men, and strong men, to echo these
appeals. From Cornelius Agrippa and his essay (1509) on the excellence of
woman and her preëminence over man, down to the first youthful thesis of
Agassiz, "Mens Feminae Viri Animo superior," there has been a succession of
voices crying in the wilderness. In England, Anthony Gibson wrote a book,
in 1599, called "A Woman's Woorth, defended against all the Men in the
World, proving them to be more Perfect, Excellent, and Absolute in all
Vertuous Actions than any Man of what Qualitie soever, _Interlarded with
Poetry_." _Per contra_, the learned Acidalius published a book in Latin,
and afterwards in French, to prove that women are not reasonable creatures.
Modern theologians are at worst merely sub-acid, and do not always say so,
if they think so. Meanwhile most persons have been content to leave the
world to go on its old course, in this matter as in others, and have thus
acquiesced in that stern judicial decree with which Timon of Athens sums up
all his curses upon womankind,--"If there sit twelve women at the table,
let a dozen of them be--as they are."

Ancient or modern, nothing in any of these discussions is so valuable as
the fact of the discussion itself. There is no discussion where there is no
wrong. Nothing so indicates wrong as this morbid self-inspection. The
complaints are a perpetual protest, the defences a perpetual confession. It
is too late to ignore the question; and, once opened, it can be settled
only on absolute and permanent principles. There is a wrong; but where?
Does woman already know too much, or too little? Was she created for man's
subject, or his equal? Shall she have the alphabet, or not?

Ancient mythology, which undertook to explain everything, easily accounted
for the social and political disabilities of woman. Goguet quotes the story
from Saint Augustine, who got it from Varro. Cecrops, building Athens, saw
starting from the earth an olive-plant and a fountain, side by side. The
Delphic oracle said that this indicated a strife between Minerva and
Neptune for the honor of giving a name to the city, and that the people
must decide between them. Cecrops thereupon assembled the men, and the
women also, who then had a right to vote; and the result was that Minerva
carried the election by a glorious majority of one. Then Attica was
overflowed and laid waste: of course the citizens attributed the calamity
to Neptune, and resolved to punish the women. It was therefore determined
that in future they should not vote, nor should any child bear the name
of its mother.

Thus easily did mythology explain all troublesome inconsistencies; but it
is much that it should even have recognized them as needing explanation.
The real solution is, however, more simple. The obstacle to the woman's
sharing the alphabet, or indeed any other privilege, has been thought by
some to be the fear of impairing her delicacy, or of destroying her
domesticity, or of confounding the distinction between the sexes. These may
have been plausible excuses. They have even been genuine, though minor,
anxieties. But the whole thing, I take it, had always one simple,
intelligible basis,--sheer contempt for the supposed intellectual
inferiority of woman. She was not to be taught, because she was not worth
teaching. The learned Acidalius aforesaid was in the majority. According to
Aristotle and the Peripatetics, woman was _animal occasionatum_, as if a
sort of monster and accidental production. Mediæval councils, charitably
asserting her claims to the rank of humanity, still pronounced her unfit
for instruction. In the Hindoo dramas she did not even speak the same
language with her master, but used the dialect of slaves. When, in the
sixteenth century, Françoise de Saintonges wished to establish girls'
schools in France, she was hooted in the streets; and her father called
together four doctors, learned in the law, to decide whether she was not
possessed by demons, to think of educating women,--_pour s'assurer
qu'instruire des femmes n'était pas un oeuvre du démon_.

It was the same with political rights. The foundation of the Salic Law was
not any sentimental anxiety to guard female delicacy and domesticity; it
was, as stated by Froissart, a blunt, hearty contempt: "The kingdom of
France being too noble to be ruled by a woman." And the same principle was
reaffirmed for our own institutions, in rather softened language, by
Theophilus Parsons, in his famous defence of the rights of Massachusetts
men (the "Essex Result," in 1778): "Women, what age soever they are of, are
not considered as having a sufficient acquired discretion [to exercise the

In harmony with this are the various maxims and _bon-mots_ of eminent men,
in respect to women. Niebuhr thought he should not have educated a girl
well,--he should have made her know too much. Lessing said, "The woman who
thinks is like the man who puts on rouge, ridiculous." Voltaire said,
"Ideas are like beards: women and young men have none." And witty Dr.
Maginn carries to its extreme the atrocity, "We like to hear a few words of
sense from a woman, as we do from a parrot, because they are so
unexpected." Yet how can we wonder at these opinions, when the saints have
been severer than the sages?--since the pious Fénelon taught that true
virgin delicacy was almost as incompatible with learning as with vice; and
Dr. Channing complained, in his "Essay on Exclusion and Denunciation," of
"women forgetting the tenderness of their sex," and arguing on theology.

Now this impression of feminine inferiority may be right or wrong, but it
obviously does a good deal towards explaining the facts it assumes. If
contempt does not originally cause failure, it perpetuates it.
Systematically discourage any individual, or class, from birth to death,
and they learn, in nine cases out of ten, to acquiesce in their
degradation, if not to claim it as a crown of glory. If the Abbé Choisi
praised the Duchesse de Fontanges for being "beautiful as an angel and
silly as a goose," it was natural that all the young ladies of the court
should resolve to make up in folly what they wanted in charms. All
generations of women having been bred under the shadow of intellectual
contempt, they have, of course, done much to justify it. They have often
used only for frivolous purposes even the poor opportunities allowed them.
They have employed the alphabet, as Molière said, chiefly in spelling the
verb _Amo_. Their use of science has been like that of Mlle. de Launay,
who computed the decline in her lover's affection by his abbreviation of
their evening walk in the public square, preferring to cross it rather
than take the circuit; "from which I inferred," she says, "that his
passion had diminished in the ratio between the diagonal of a rectangular
parallelogram and the sum of two adjacent sides." And their conception,
even of art, has been too often on the scale of Properzia de Rossi, who
carved sixty-five heads on a walnut, the smallest of all recorded symbols
of woman's sphere.

All this might, perhaps, be overcome, if the social prejudice which
discourages women would only reward proportionately those who surmount the
discouragement. The more obstacles, the more glory, if society would only
pay in proportion to the labor; but it does not. Women being denied, not
merely the training which prepares for great deeds, but the praise and
compensation which follow them, have been weakened in both directions. The
career of eminent men ordinarily begins with college and the memories of
Miltiades, and ends with fortune and fame: woman begins under
discouragement, and ends beneath the same. Single, she works with half
preparation and half pay; married, she puts name and wages into the keeping
of her husband, shrinks into John Smith's "lady" during life, and John
Smith's "relict" on her tombstone; and still the world wonders that her
deeds, like her opportunities, are inferior.

Evidently, then, the advocates of woman's claims--those who hold that "the
virtues of the man and the woman are the same," with Antisthenes, or that
"the talent of the man and the woman is the same," with Socrates in
Xenophon's "Banquet"--must be cautious lest they attempt to prove too much.
Of course, if women know as much as the men, without schools and colleges,
there is no need of admitting them to those institutions. If they work as
well on half pay, it diminishes the inducement to give them the other
half. The safer position is, to claim that they have done just enough
to show what they might have done under circumstances less discouraging.
Take, for instance, the common remark, that women have invented nothing.
It is a valid answer, that the only implements habitually used by woman
have been the needle, the spindle, and the basket; and tradition reports
that she herself invented all three. In the same way it may be shown that
the departments in which women have equalled men have been the
departments in which they have had equal training, equal encouragement,
and equal compensation; as, for instance, the theatre. Madame Lagrange,
the _prima donna_, after years of costly musical instruction, wins the
zenith of professional success; she receives, the newspapers affirm,
sixty thousand dollars a year, travelling expenses for ten persons,
country-houses, stables, and liveries, besides an uncounted revenue of
bracelets, bouquets, and _billets-doux._ Of course, every young
_débutante_ fancies the same thing within her own reach, with only a
brief stage-vista between. On the stage there is no deduction for sex,
and, therefore, woman has shown in that sphere an equal genius. But
every female common-school teacher in the United States finds the
enjoyment of her four hundred dollars a year to be secretly embittered
by the knowledge that the young college stripling in the next schoolroom
is paid twice that sum for work no harder or more responsible than her
own, and that, too, after the whole pathway of education has been
obstructed for her, and smoothed for him. These may be gross and
carnal considerations; but Faith asks her daily bread, and fancy must
be fed. We deny woman her fair share of training, of encouragement, of
remuneration, and then talk fine nonsense about her instincts and
intuitions. We say sentimentally with the Oriental proverbialist,
"Every book of knowledge is implanted by nature in the heart of
woman,"--and make the compliment a substitute for the alphabet.

Nothing can be more absurd than to impose entirely distinct standards, in
this respect, on the two sexes, or to expect that woman, any more than man,
will accomplish anything great without due preparation and adequate
stimulus. Mrs. Patten, who navigated her husband's ship from Cape Horn to
California, would have failed in the effort, for all her heroism, if she
had not, unlike most of her sex, been taught to use her Bowditch's
"Navigator." Florence Nightingale, when she heard of the distresses in the
Crimea, did not, as most people imagine, rise up and say, "I am a woman,
ignorant but intuitive, with very little sense and information, but
exceedingly sublime aspirations; my strength lies in my weakness; I can
do all things without knowing anything about them." Not at all: during
ten years she had been in hard training for precisely such services; had
visited all the hospitals in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, Lyons,
Rome, Brussels, and Berlin; had studied under the Sisters of Charity,
and been twice a nurse in the Protestant Institution at Kaiserswerth.
Therefore she did not merely carry to the Crimea a woman's heart, as her
stock in trade, but she knew the alphabet of her profession better than
the men around her. Of course, genius and enthusiasm are, for both sexes,
elements unforeseen and incalculable; but, as a general rule, great
achievements imply great preparations and favorable conditions. To
disregard this truth is unreasonable in the abstract, and cruel in its
consequences. If an extraordinary male gymnast can clear a height of ten
feet with the aid of a springboard, it would be considered slightly absurd
to ask a woman to leap eleven feet without one; yet this is precisely what
society and the critics have always done. Training and wages and social
approbation are very elastic springboards; and the whole course of history
has seen these offered bounteously to one sex, and as sedulously withheld
from the other. Let woman consent to be a doll, and there was no finery so
gorgeous, no baby-house so costly, but she might aspire to share its
lavish delights; let her ask simply for an equal chance to learn, to labor,
and to live, and it was as if that same doll should open its lips, and
propound Euclid's forty-seventh proposition. While we have all deplored the
helpless position of indigent women, and lamented that they had no
alternative beyond the needle, the wash-tub, the schoolroom, and the
street, we have usually resisted their admission into every new occupation,
denied them training, and cut their compensation down. Like Charles Lamb,
who atoned for coming late to the office in the morning by going away early
in the afternoon, we have first, half educated women, and then, to restore
the balance, only half paid them. What innumerable obstacles have been
placed in their way as female physicians; what a complication of
difficulties has been encountered by them, even as printers, engravers,
and designers! In London, Mr. Bennett was once mobbed for lecturing to
women on watchmaking. In this country, we have known grave professors
refuse to address lyceums which thought fit to employ an occasional female
lecturer. Mr. Comer stated that it was "in the face of ridicule and
sneers" that he began to educate American women as bookkeepers many years
ago; and it was a little contemptible in Miss Muloch to revive the same
satire in "A Woman's Thoughts on Women," when she must have known that
in half the retail shops in Paris her own sex rules the ledger, and
Mammon knows no Salic law.

We find, on investigation, what these considerations would lead us to
expect, that eminent women have commonly been exceptional in training and
position, as well as in their genius. They have excelled the average of
their own sex because they have shared the ordinary advantages of the other
sex. Take any department of learning or skill; take, for instance, the
knowledge of languages, the universal alphabet, philology. On the great
stairway at Padua stands the statue of Elena Cornaro, professor of six
languages in that once renowned university. But Elena Cornaro was educated
like a boy, by her father. On the great door of the University of Bologna
is inscribed the epitaph of Clotilda Tambroni, the honored correspondent of
Porson, and the first Greek scholar of southern Europe in her day. But
Clotilda Tambroni was educated like a boy, by Emanuele Aponte. How fine are
those prefatory words, "by a Right Reverend Prelate," to that pioneer book
in Anglo-Saxon lore, Elizabeth Elstob's grammar: "Our earthly possessions
are indeed our patrimony, as derived to us by the industry of our fathers;
but the language in which we speak is our mother tongue, and who so proper
to play the critic in this as the females?" Yet this particular female
obtained the rudiments of her rare education from her mother, before she
was eight years old, in spite of much opposition from her right reverend
guardians. Adelung declares that all modern philology is founded on the
translation of a Russian vocabulary into two hundred different dialects
by Catherine II. But Catherine shared, in childhood, the instructors of
her brother, Prince Frederick, and was subject to some reproach for
learning, though a girl, so much more rapidly than he did. Christina of
Sweden ironically reproved Madame Dacier for her translation of
Callimachus: "Such a pretty girl as you are, are you not ashamed to be so
learned?" But Madame Dacier acquired Greek by contriving to do her
embroidery in the room where her father was teaching her stupid brother;
and her queenly critic had herself learned to read Thucydides, harder
Greek than Callimachus, before she was fourteen. And so down to our own
day, who knows how many mute, inglorious Minervas may have perished
unenlightened, while Margaret Fuller Ossoli and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
were being educated "like boys."

This expression simply means that they had the most solid training which
the times afforded. Most persons would instantly take alarm at the very
words; that is, they have so little faith in the distinctions which Nature
has established, that they think, if you teach the alphabet, or anything
else, indiscriminately to both sexes, you annul all difference between
them. The common reasoning is thus: "Boys and girls are acknowledged to
be very unlike. Now, boys study Greek and algebra, medicine and
bookkeeping. Therefore girls should not." As if one should say: "Boys
and girls are very unlike. Now, boys eat beef and potatoes. Therefore,
obviously, girls should not."

The analogy between physical and spiritual food is precisely in point.
The simple truth is, that, amid the vast range of human powers and
properties, the fact of sex is but one item. Vital and momentous in
itself, it does not constitute the whole organism, but only a part.
The distinction of male and female is special, aimed at a certain end;
and, apart from that end, it is, throughout all the kingdoms of
Nature, of minor importance. With but trifling exceptions, from
infusoria up to man, the female animal moves, breathes, looks,
listens, runs, flies, swims, pursues its food, eats it, digests it, in
precisely the same manner as the male: all instincts, all
characteristics, are the same, except as to the one solitary fact of
parentage. Mr. Ten Broeck's race-horses, Pryor and Prioress, were
foaled alike, fed alike, trained alike, and finally ran side by side,
competing for the same prize. The eagle is not checked in soaring by
any consciousness of sex, nor asks the sex of the timid hare, its
quarry. Nature, for high purposes, creates and guards the sexual
distinction, but keeps it subordinate to those still more important.

Now all this bears directly upon the alphabet. What sort of philosophy is
that which says, "John is a fool; Jane is a genius: nevertheless, John,
being a man, shall learn, lead, make laws, make money; Jane, being a
woman, shall be ignorant, dependent, disfranchised, underpaid"? Of course,
the time is past when one would state this so frankly, though Comte comes
quite near it, to say nothing of the Mormons; but this formula really lies
at the bottom of the reasoning one hears every day. The answer is, Soul
before sex. Give an equal chance, and let genius and industry do the rest.
_La carrière ouverte aux talens_! Every man for himself, every woman for
herself, and the alphabet for us all.

Thus far, my whole course of argument has been defensive and explanatory. I
have shown that woman's inferiority in special achievements, so far as it
exists, is a fact of small importance, because it is merely a corollary
from her historic position of degradation. She has not excelled, because
she has had no fair chance to excel. Man, placing his foot upon her
shoulder, has taunted her with not rising. But the ulterior question
remains behind. How came she into this attitude originally? Explain the
explanation, the logician fairly demands. Granted that woman is weak
because she has been systematically degraded: but why was she degraded?
This is a far deeper question,--one to be met only by a profounder
philosophy and a positive solution. We are coming on ground almost wholly
untrod, and must do the best we can.

I venture to assert, then, that woman's social inferiority has been, to a
great extent, in the past a legitimate thing. To all appearance, history
would have been impossible without it, just as it would have been
impossible without an epoch of war and slavery. It is simply a matter of
social progress,--a part of the succession of civilizations. The past has
been inevitably a period of ignorance, of engrossing physical necessities,
and of brute force,--not of freedom, of philanthropy, and of culture.
During that lower epoch, woman was necessarily an inferior, degraded by
abject labor, even in time of peace,--degraded uniformly by war, chivalry
to the contrary notwithstanding. Behind all the courtesies of Amadis and
the Cid lay the stern fact,--woman a child or a toy. The flattering
troubadours chanted her into a poet's paradise; but alas! that kingdom of
heaven suffered violence, and the violent took it by force. The truth
simply was, that her time had not come. Physical strength must rule for a
time, and she was the weaker. She was very properly refused a feudal grant,
by reason, say "Les Coustumes de Normandie," of her unfitness for war or
policy: _C'est l'homme ki se bast et ki conseille_. Other authorities put
it still more plainly: "A woman cannot serve the emperor or feudal lord in
war, on account of the decorum of her sex; nor assist him with advice,
because of her limited intellect; nor keep his counsel, owing to the
infirmity of her disposition." All which was, no doubt, in the majority of
cases, true; and the degradation of woman was simply a part of a system
which has, indeed, had its day, but has bequeathed its associations.

From this reign of force, woman never freed herself by force. She could not
fight, or would not. Bohemian annals, to be sure, record the legend of a
literal war between the sexes, in which the women's army was led by Libussa
and Wlasla, and which finally ended with the capture, by the army of men,
of Castle Dziewin, Maiden's Tower, whose ruins are still visible near
Prague. The armor of Libussa is still shown at Vienna; and the guide calls
attention to the long-peaked toes of steel, with which, he avers, the
tender princess was wont to pierce the hearts of her opponents, while
careering through the battle. And there are abundant instances in which
women have fought side by side with men, and on equal terms. The ancient
British women mingled in the wars of their husbands, and their princesses
were trained to the use of arms in the Maiden's Castle at Edinburgh, in the
Isle of Skye. The Moorish wives and maidens fought in defence of their
European peninsula; and the Portuguese women fought on the same soil,
against the armies of Philip II. The king of Siam has, at present, a
body-guard of four hundred women: they are armed with lance and rifle, are
admirably disciplined, and their commander (appointed after saving the
king's life at a tiger-hunt) ranks as one of the royal family, and has ten
elephants at her service. When the all-conquering Dahomian army marched
upon Abbeokuta, in 1851, they numbered ten thousand men and six thousand
women. The women were, as usual, placed foremost in the assault, as being
most reliable; and of the eighteen hundred bodies left dead before the
walls, the vast majority were of women. The Hospital of the Invalides, in
Paris, has sheltered, for half a century, a fine specimen of a female
soldier, "Lieutenant Madame Bulan," who lived to be more than eighty years
old, had been decorated by Napoleon's own hand with the cross of the
Legion of Honor, and was credited on the hospital books with "seven years'
service, seven campaigns, three wounds, several times distinguished,
especially in Corsica, in defending a fort against the English." But these
cases, though interesting to the historian, are still exceptional; and the
instinctive repugnance they inspire is a condemnation, not of women, but
of war.

The reason, then, for the long subjection of woman has been simply that
humanity was passing through its first epoch, and her full career was to be
reserved for the second. As the different races of man have appeared
successively upon the stage of history, so there has been an order of
succession of the sexes. Woman's appointed era, like that of the Teutonic
races, was delayed, but not omitted. It is not merely true that the empire
of the past has belonged to man, but that it has properly belonged to him;
for it was an empire of the muscles, enlisting, at best, but the lower
powers of the understanding. There can be no question that the present
epoch is initiating an empire of the higher reason, of arts, affections,
aspirations; and for that epoch the genius of woman has been reserved. The
spirit of the age has always kept pace with the facts, and outstripped the
statutes. Till the fulness of time came, woman was necessarily kept a slave
to the spinning-wheel and the needle; now higher work is ready; peace has
brought invention to her aid, and the mechanical means for her emancipation
are ready also. No use in releasing her till man, with his strong arm, had
worked out his preliminary share in civilization. "Earth waits for her
queen" was a favorite motto of Margaret Fuller Ossoli; but it would be more
correct to say that the queen has waited for her earth, till it could be
smoothed and prepared for her occupancy. Now Cinderella may begin to think
of putting on her royal robes.

Everybody sees that the times are altering the whole material position of
woman; but most people do not appear to see the inevitable social and moral
changes which are also involved. As has been already said, the woman of
ancient history was a slave to physical necessities, both in war and peace.
In war she could do too little; in peace she did too much, under the
material compulsions which controlled the world. How could the Jews, for
instance, elevate woman? They could not spare her from the wool and the
flax, and the candle that goeth not out by night. In Rome, when the bride
first stepped across her threshold, they did not ask her, Do you know the
alphabet? they asked simply, Can you spin? There was no higher epitaph than
Queen Amalasontha's,--_Domum servavit, lanam fecit_. In Boeotia, brides
were conducted home in vehicles whose wheels were burned at the door, in
token that they were never to leave the house again. Pythagoras instituted
at Crotona an annual festival for the distaff; Confucius, in China, did the
same for the spindle; and these celebrated not the freedom, but the
serfdom, of woman.

And even into modern days this same tyrannical necessity has lingered. "Go
spin, you jades! go spin!" was the only answer vouchsafed by the Earl of
Pembroke to the twice-banished nuns of Wilton. Even now, travellers agree
that throughout civilized Europe, with the partial exception of England and
France, the profound absorption of the mass of women in household labors
renders their general elevation impossible. But with us Americans, and in
this age, when all these vast labors are being more and more transferred to
arms of brass and iron; when Rochester grinds the flour and Lowell weaves
the cloth, and the fire on the hearth has gone into black retirement and
mourning; when the wiser a virgin is, the less she has to do with oil in
her lamp; when the needle has made its last dying speech and confession in
the "Song of the Shirt," and the sewing-machine has changed those doleful
marches to delightful measures,--how is it possible for the blindest to
help seeing that a new era is begun, and that the time has come for woman
to learn the alphabet?

Nobody asks for any abolition of domestic labor for women, any more than of
outdoor labor for men. Of course, most women will still continue to be
mainly occupied with the indoor care of their families, and most men with
their external support. All that is desirable for either sex is such an
economy of labor, in this respect, as shall leave some spare time to be
appropriated in other directions. The argument against each new
emancipation of woman is precisely that always made against the liberation
of serfs and the enfranchisement of plebeians,--that the new position will
take them from their legitimate business. "How can he [or she] get wisdom
that holdeth the plough [or the broom],--whose talk is of bullocks [or of
babies]?" Yet the American farmer has already emancipated himself from
these fancied incompatibilities; and so will the farmer's wife. In a nation
where there is no leisure class and no peasantry, this whole theory of
exclusion is an absurdity. We all have a little leisure, and we must all
make the most of it. If we will confine large interests and duties to those
who have nothing else to do, we must go back to monarchy at once. If
otherwise, then the alphabet, and its consequences, must be open to woman
as to man. Jean Paul says nobly, in his "Levana," that, "before and after
being a mother, a woman is a human being, and neither maternal nor conjugal
relation can supersede the human responsibility, but must become its means
and instrument." And it is good to read the manly speech, on this subject,
of John Quincy Adams, quoted at length in Quincy's life of him, in which,
after fully defending the political petitions of the women of Plymouth, he
declares that "the correct principle is that women are not only justified,
but exhibit the most exalted virtue, when they do depart from the domestic
circle, and enter on the concerns of their country, of humanity, and of
their God."

There are duties devolving on every human being,--duties not small nor few,
but vast and varied,--which spring from home and private life, and all
their sweet relations. The support or care of the humblest household is a
function worthy of men, women, and angels, so far as it goes. From these
duties none must shrink, neither man nor woman; the loftiest genius cannot
ignore them; the sublimest charity must begin with them. They are their own
exceeding great reward; their self-sacrifice is infinite joy; and the
selfishness which discards them is repaid by loneliness and a desolate old
age. Yet these, though the most tender and intimate portion of human life,
do not form its whole. It is given to noble souls to crave other interests
also, added spheres, not necessarily alien from these; larger knowledge,
larger action also; duties, responsibilities, anxieties, dangers, all the
aliment that history has given to its heroes. Not home less, but humanity
more. When the high-born English lady in the Crimean hospital, ordered to
a post of almost certain death, only raised her hands to heaven, and said,
"Thank God!" she did not renounce her true position as woman: she claimed
it. When the queen of James I. of Scotland, already immortalized by him in
stately verse, won a higher immortality by welcoming to her fair bosom the
dagger aimed at his; when the Countess of Buchan hung confined in her iron
cage, outside Berwick Castle, in penalty for crowning Robert the Bruce;
when the stainless soul of Joan of Arc met God, like Moses, in a burning
flame,--these things were as they should be. Man must not monopolize these
privileges of peril, the birthright of great souls. Serenades and
compliments must not replace the nobler hospitality which shares with woman
the opportunity of martyrdom. Great administrative duties also, cares of
state, for which one should be born gray-headed, how nobly do these sit
upon a woman's brow! Each year adds to the storied renown of Elizabeth of
England, greatest sovereign of the greatest of historic nations. Christina
of Sweden, alone among the crowned heads of Europe (so says Voltaire),
sustained the dignity of the throne against Richelieu and Mazarin. And
these queens most assuredly did not sacrifice their womanhood in the
process; for her Britannic Majesty's wardrobe included four thousand gowns;
and Mile, de Montpensier declares that when Christina had put on a wig of
the latest fashion, "she really looked extremely pretty."

_Les races se féminisent_, said Buffon,--"The world is growing more
feminine." It is a compliment, whether the naturalist intended it or not.
Time has brought peace; peace, invention; and the poorest woman of to-day
is born to an inheritance of which her ancestors never dreamed. Previous
attempts to confer on women social and political equality,--as when
Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany, made them magistrates; or when the
Hungarian revolutionists made them voters; or when our own New Jersey
tried the same experiment in a guarded fashion in early times, and then
revoked the privilege, because (as in the ancient fable) the women
voted the wrong way;--these things were premature, and valuable only
as recognitions of a principle. But in view of the rapid changes now
going on, he is a rash man who asserts the "Woman Question" to be
anything but a mere question of time. The fulcrum has been already
given in the alphabet, and we must simply watch, and see whether the
earth does not move.

There is the plain fact: woman must be either a subject or an equal; there
is no middle ground. Every concession to a supposed principle only involves
the necessity of the next concession for which that principle calls. Once
yield the alphabet, and we abandon the whole long theory of subjection and
coverture: tradition is set aside, and we have nothing but reason to fall
back upon. Reasoning abstractly, it must be admitted that the argument has
been, thus far, entirely on the women's side, inasmuch as no man has yet
seriously tried to meet them with argument. It is an alarming feature of
this discussion, that it has reversed, very generally, the traditional
positions of the sexes: the women have had all the logic; and the most
intelligent men, when they have attempted the other side, have limited
themselves to satire and gossip. What rational woman can be really
convinced by the nonsense which is talked in ordinary society around
her,--as, that it is right to admit girls to common schools, and equally
right to exclude them from colleges; that it is proper for a woman to sing
in public, but indelicate for her to speak in public; that a post-office
box is an unexceptionable place to drop a bit of paper into, but a
ballot-box terribly dangerous? No cause in the world can keep above
water, sustained by such contradictions as these, too feeble and slight
to be dignified by the name of fallacies. Some persons profess to think
it impossible to reason with a woman, and such critics certainly show
no disposition to try the experiment.

But we must remember that all our American institutions are based on
consistency, or on nothing: all claim to be founded on the principles of
natural right; and when they quit those, they are lost. In all European
monarchies it is the theory that the mass of the people are children to be
governed, not mature beings to govern themselves; this is clearly stated
and consistently applied. In the United States we have formally abandoned
this theory for one half of the human race, while for the other half it
flourishes with little change. The moment the claims of woman are broached,
the democrat becomes a monarchist. What Americans commonly criticise in
English statesmen, namely, that they habitually evade all arguments based
on natural right, and defend every legal wrong on the ground that it works
well in practice, is the precise defect in our habitual view of woman. The
perplexity must be resolved somehow. Most men admit that a strict adherence
to our own principles would place both sexes in precisely equal positions
before law and constitution, as well as in school and society. But each has
his special quibble to apply, showing that in this case we must abandon all
the general maxims to which we have pledged ourselves, and hold only by
precedent. Nay, he construes even precedent with the most ingenious rigor;
since the exclusion of women from all direct contact with affairs can be
made far more perfect in a republic than is possible in a monarchy, where
even sex is merged in rank, and the female patrician may have far more
power than the male plebeian. But, as matters now stand among us, there is
no aristocracy but of sex: all men are born patrician, all women are
legally plebeian; all men are equal in having political power, and all
women in having none. This is a paradox so evident, and such an anomaly in
human progress, that it cannot last forever, without new discoveries in
logic, or else a deliberate return to M. Maréchal's theory concerning the

Meanwhile, as the newspapers say, we anxiously await further developments.
According to present appearances, the final adjustment lies mainly in the
hands of women themselves. Men can hardly be expected to concede either
rights or privileges more rapidly than they are claimed, or to be truer to
women than women are to each other. In fact, the worst effect of a
condition of inferiority is the weakness it leaves behind; even when we
say, "Hands off!" the sufferer does not rise. In such a case, there is but
one counsel worth giving. More depends on determination than even on
ability. Will, not talent, governs the world. Who believed that a poetess
could ever be more than an Annot Lyle of the harp, to soothe with sweet
melodies the leisure of her lord, until in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's
hands the thing became a trumpet? Where are gone the sneers with which
army surgeons and parliamentary orators opposed Mr. Sidney Herbert's first
proposition to send Florence Nightingale to the Crimea? In how many towns
was the current of popular prejudice against female orators reversed by
one winning speech from Lucy Stone! Where no logic can prevail, success
silences. First give woman, if you dare, the alphabet, then summon her to
her career: and though men, ignorant and prejudiced, may oppose its
beginnings, they will at last fling around her conquering footsteps more
lavish praises than ever greeted the opera's idol,--more perfumed flowers
than ever wooed, with intoxicating fragrance, the fairest butterfly of the

[Footnote 1: _Projet d'une loi portant defense d'apprendre à lire aux



    "Allein, bevor und nachdem man Mutter ist, ist Man ein Mensch; die
    mütterliche Bestimmung aber, oder gar die heeliche, kann nicht die
    menschliche überwiegen oder ersetzen, sondern sie muss das Mittel,
    nicht der Zweck derselben sein."--J.P.F. Richter: Levana, § 89.

    "But, before and after being a mother, one is a human being; and
    neither the motherly nor the wifely destination can overbalance or
    replace the human, but must become its means, not its end."


Lord Melbourne, speaking of the fine ladies in London who were fond of
talking about their ailments, used to complain that they gave him too much
of their natural history. There are a good many writers--usually men--who,
with the best intentions, discuss woman as if she had merely a physical
organization, and as if she existed only for one object, the production and
rearing of children. Against this some protest may well be made.

Doubtless there are few things more important to a community than the
health of its women. The Sandwich Island proverb says:--

  "If strong is the frame of the mother,
  The son will give laws to the people."

And, in nations where all men give laws, all men need mothers of strong

Moreover, there is no harm in admitting that all the rules of our structure
are imperative; that soul and body, whether of man or woman, are made in
harmony, so that each part of our nature must accept the limitations of the
other. A man's soul may yearn to the stars; but so long as the body cannot
jump so high, he must accept the body's veto. It is the same with any veto
interposed in advance by the physical structure of woman. Nobody objects to
this general principle. It is only when clerical gentlemen or physiological
gentlemen undertake to go a step farther, and put in that veto on their own
responsibility, that it is necessary to say, "Hands off, gentlemen!
Precisely because women are women, they, not you, are to settle
that question."

One or two points are clear. Every specialist is liable to overrate his own
specialty; and the man who thinks of woman only as a wife and mother is apt
to forget, that, before she was either of these, she was a human being.
"Women, as such," says an able writer, "are constituted for purposes of
maternity and the continuation of mankind." Undoubtedly, and so were men,
as such, constituted for paternity. But very much depends on what relative
importance we assign to the phrase, "as such." Even an essay so careful, so
moderate, and so free from coarseness, as that here quoted, suggests, after
all, a slight one-sidedness,--perhaps a natural reaction from the
one-sidedness of those injudicious reformers who allow themselves to speak
slightingly of "the merely animal function of child-bearing." Higher than
either--wiser than both put together--is that noble statement with which
Jean Paul begins his fine essay on the education of girls in "Levana."
"Before being a wife or mother, one is a human being; and neither motherly
nor wifely destination can overbalance or replace the human, but must
become its means, not end. As above the poet, the painter, or the hero, so
above the mother, does the human being rise preëminent."

Here is sure anchorage. We can hold to this. And, fortunately, all the
analogies of nature sustain this position. Throughout nature the laws of
sex rule everywhere; but they rule a kingdom of their own, always
subordinate to the greater kingdom of the vital functions. Every
creature, male or female, finds in its sexual relations only a
subordinate part of its existence. The need of food, the need of
exercise, the joy of living, these come first, and absorb the bulk of
its life, whether the individual be male or female. This _Antiope_
butterfly, that flits at this moment past my window,--the first of the
season,--spends almost all its existence in a form where the distinction
of sex lies dormant: a few days, I might almost say a few hours,
comprise its whole sexual consciousness, and the majority of its race
die before reaching that epoch. The law of sex is written absolutely
through the whole insect world. Yet everywhere it is written as a
secondary and subordinate law. The life which is common to the sexes is
the principal life; the life which each sex leads, "as such," is a minor
and subordinate thing.

The same rule pervades nature. Two riders pass down the street before my
window. One rides a horse, the other a mare. The animals were perhaps
foaled in the same stable, of the same progenitors. They have been reared
alike, fed alike, trained alike, ridden alike; they need the same exercise,
the same grooming; nine tenths of their existence are the same, and only
the other tenth is different. Their whole organization is marked by the
distinction of sex; but, though the marking is ineffaceable, the
distinction is not the first or most important fact.

If this be true of the lower animals, it is far more true of the higher.
The mental and moral laws of the universe touch us first and chiefly as
human beings. We eat our breakfasts as human beings, not as men or women;
and it is the same with nine tenths of our interests and duties in life.
In legislating or philosophizing for woman, we must neither forget that
she has an organization distinct from that of man, nor must we
exaggerate the fact. Not "first the womanly and then the human," but
first the human and then the womanly, is to be the order of her training.


When any woman, old or young, asks the question, Which among all modern
books ought I to read first? the answer is plain. She should read Buckle's
lecture before the Royal Institution upon "The Influence of Woman on the
Progress of Knowledge." It is one of two papers contained in a thin volume
called "Essays by Henry Thomas Buckle." As a means whereby a woman may
become convinced that her sex has a place in the intellectual universe,
this little essay is almost indispensable. Nothing else quite takes its

Darwin and Huxley seem to make woman simply a lesser man, weaker in body
and mind,--an affectionate and docile animal, of inferior grade. That
there is any aim in the distinction of the sexes, beyond the perpetuation
of the race, is nowhere recognized by them, so far as I know. That there is
anything in the intellectual sphere to correspond to the physical
difference; that here also the sexes are equal yet diverse, and each the
natural completion and complement of the other,--this neither Huxley nor
Darwin explicitly recognizes. And with the utmost admiration for their
great teachings in other ways, I must think that here they are open to the
suspicion of narrowness.

Huxley wrote in "The Reader," in 1864, a short paper called "Emancipation--
Black and White," in which, while taking generous ground in behalf of the
legal and political position of woman, he yet does it pityingly, _de haut
en bas_, as for a creature hopelessly inferior, and so heavily weighted
already by her sex that she should be spared all further trials. Speaking
through an imaginary critic, who seems to represent himself, he denies
"even the natural equality of the sexes," and declares "that in every
excellent character, whether mental or physical, the average woman is
inferior to the average man, in the sense of having that character less in
quantity and lower in quality." Finally he goes so far as "to defend the
startling paradox that even in physical beauty man is the superior." He
admits that for a brief period of early youth the case may be doubtful, but
claims that after thirty the superior beauty of man is unquestionable. Thus
reasons Huxley; the whole essay being included in his volume of "Lay
Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews." [1]

Darwin's best statements on the subject may be found in his "Descent of
Man."[2] He is, as usual, more moderate and guarded than Huxley. He says,
for instance: "It is generally admitted that with women the powers of
intuition, of rapid perception, and perhaps of imitation, are more strongly
marked than in man; but some, at least, of these faculties are
characteristic of the lower races, and therefore of a past and lower state
of civilization." Then he passes to the usual assertion that man has thus
far attained to a higher eminence than woman. "If two lists were made of
the most eminent men and women in poetry, painting, sculpture, music,--
comprising composition and performance,--history, science, and philosophy,
with half a dozen names under each subject, the two lists would not bear
comparison." But the obvious answer, that nearly every name on his list,
upon the masculine side, would probably be taken from periods when woman
was excluded from any fair competition,--this he does not seem to recognize
at all. Darwin, of all men, must admit that superior merit generally
arrives later, not earlier, on the scene; and the question for him to
answer is, not whether woman equalled man in the first stages of the
intellectual "struggle for life," but whether she is not gaining on him

If, in spite of man's enormous advantage in the start, woman is already
overtaking his very best performances in several of the highest
intellectual departments,--as, for instance, prose fiction and dramatic
representation,--then it is mere dogmatism in Mr. Darwin to deny that she
may yet do the same in other departments. We in this generation have
actually seen this success achieved by Rachel and Ristori in the one art,
by "George Sand" and "George Eliot" in the other. Woman is, then, visibly
gaining on man in the sphere of intellect; and, if so, Mr. Darwin, at
least, must accept the inevitable inference.

But this is arguing the question on the superficial facts merely. Buckle
goes deeper, and looks to principles. That superior quickness of women,
which Darwin dismisses so lightly as something belonging to savage epochs,
is to Buckle the sign of a quality which he holds essential, not only to
literature and art, but to science itself. Go among ignorant women, he
says, and you will find them more quick and intelligent than equally
ignorant men. A woman will usually tell you the way in the street more
readily than a man can; a woman can always understand a foreigner more
easily; and Dr. Currie says in his letters, that when a laborer and his
wife came to consult him, the man always got all the information from the
wife. Buckle illustrates this at some length, and points out that a woman's
mind is by its nature deductive and quick; a man's mind, inductive and
slow; that each has its value, and that science profoundly needs both.

"I will endeavor," he says, "to establish two propositions. First, that
women naturally prefer the deductive method to the inductive. Secondly,
that women, by encouraging in men deductive habits of thought, have
rendered an immense though unconscious service to the progress of science,
by preventing scientific investigators from being as exclusively inductive
as they would otherwise be."

Then he shows that the most important scientific discoveries of modern
times--as of the law of gravitation by Newton, the law of the forms of
crystals by Haüy, and the metamorphosis of plants by Goethe--were all
essentially the results of that _a priori_ or deductive method "which,
during the last two centuries, Englishmen have unwisely despised." They
were all the work, in a manner, of the imagination,--of the intuitive or
womanly quality of mind. And nothing can be finer or truer than the words
in which Buckle predicts the benefits that are to come from the
intellectual union of the sexes for the work of the future. "In that field
which we and our posterity have yet to traverse, I firmly believe that the
imagination will effect quite as much as the understanding. Our poetry will
have to reinforce our logic, and we must feel quite as much as we must
argue. Let us, then, hope that the imaginative and emotional minds of one
sex will continue to accelerate the great progress by acting upon and
improving the colder and harder minds of the other sex. By this coalition,
by this union of different faculties, different tastes, and different
methods, we shall go on our way with the greater ease."

[Footnote 1: Pp. 22, 23, Am. ed.]

[Footnote 2: Vol. ii. p. 311, Am. ed]


When Mr. John Smauker and the Bath footmen invited Sam Weller to their
"swarry," consisting of a boiled leg of mutton, each guest had some
expression of contempt and wrath for the humble little green-grocer who
served them,--"in the true spirit," Dickens says, "of the very smallest
tyranny." The very fact that they were subject to being ordered about in
their own persons gave them a peculiar delight in issuing tyrannical orders
to others: just as sophomores in college torment freshmen because other
sophomores once teased the present tormentors themselves; and Irishmen
denounce the Chinese for underbidding them in the labor market, precisely
as they were themselves denounced by native-born Americans thirty years
ago. So it has sometimes seemed to me that the men whose own positions and
claims are really least commanding are those who hold most resolutely that
women should be kept in their proper place of subordination.

A friend of mine maintains the theory that men large and strong in person
are constitutionally inclined to do justice to women, as fearing no
competition from them in the way of bodily strength; but that small and
weak men are apt to be vehemently opposed to anything like equality in the
sexes. He quotes in defence of his theory the big soldier in London who
justified himself for allowing his little wife to chastise him, on the
ground that it pleased her and did not hurt him; and on the other hand
cites the extreme domestic tyranny of the dwarf Quilp. He declares that
in any difficult excursion among woods and mountains, the guides and the
able-bodied men are often willing to have women join the party, while it
is sure to be opposed by those who doubt their own strength or are
reluctant to display their weakness. It is not necessary to go so far as
my friend goes; but many will remember some fact of this kind, making
such theories appear not quite so absurd as at first.

Thus it seems from the "Life and Letters" of Sydney Dobell, the English
poet, that he was opposed both to woman suffrage and woman authorship,
believing the movement for the former to be a "blundering on to the
perdition of womanhood." It appears that against all authorship by women
his convictions yearly grew stronger, he regarding it as "an error and an
anomaly." It seems quite in accordance with my friend's theory to hear,
after this, that Sydney Dobell was slight in person and a lifelong invalid;
nor is it surprising, on the same theory, that his poetry took no deep
root, and that it will not be likely to survive long, except perhaps in his
weird ballad of "Ravelston." But he represents a large class of masculine
intellects, of secondary and mediocre quality, whose opinions on this
subject are not so much opinions as instinctive prejudices against a
competitor who may turn out their superior. Whether they know it, or not,
their aversion to the authorship of women is very much like the conviction
of a weak pedestrian, that women are not naturally fitted to take long
walks; or the opinion of a man whose own accounts are in a muddle, that his
wife is constitutionally unfitted to understand business.

It is a pity to praise either sex at the expense of the other. The social
inequality of the sexes was not produced so much by the voluntary tyranny
of man, as by his great practical advantage at the outset; human history
necessarily beginning with a period when physical strength
was sole ruler. It is unnecessary, too, to consider in how many cases women
may have justified this distrust; and may have made themselves as obnoxious
as Horace Walpole's maids of honor, whose coachman left his savings to his
son on condition that he should never marry a maid of honor. But it is safe
to say that on the whole the feeling of contempt for women, and the love to
exercise arbitrary power over them, is the survival of a crude impulse
which the world is outgrowing, and which is in general least obvious in the
manliest men. That clear and able English writer, Walter Bagehot, well
describes "the contempt for physical weakness and for women which marks
early society. The non-combatant population is sure to fare ill during the
ages of combat. But these defects, too, are cured or lessened; women have
now marvellous means of winning their way in the world; and mind without
muscle has far greater force than muscle without mind." [1]

[Footnote 1: _Physics and Politics_, p. 79.]


A highly educated American woman of my acquaintance once employed a French
tutor in Paris to assist her in teaching Latin to her little grandson. The
Frenchman brought with him a Latin grammar, written in his own language,
with which my friend was quite pleased, until she came to a passage
relating to the masculine gender in nouns, and claiming grammatical
precedence for it on the ground that the male sex is the noble
sex,--"_le sexe noble_." "Upon that," she said, "I burst forth in
indignation, and the poor teacher soon retired. But I do not believe,"
she added, "that the Frenchman has the slightest conception, up to this
moment, of what I could find in that phrase to displease me."

I do not suppose he could. From the time when the Salic Law set French
women aside from the royal succession, on the ground that the kingdom of
France was "too noble to be ruled by a woman," the claim of nobility has
been all on one side. The State has strengthened the Church in this theory,
the Church has strengthened the State; and the result of all is, that
French grammarians follow both these high authorities. When even the good
Père Hyacinthe teaches, through the New York "Independent," that the
husband is to direct the conscience of his wife, precisely as the father
directs that of his child, what higher philosophy can you expect of any
Frenchman than to maintain the claims of "_le sexe noble_"?

We see the consequence, even among the most heterodox Frenchmen. Rejecting
all other precedents and authorities, the poor Communists still held to
this. Consider, for instance, this translation of a marriage contract under
the Commune, which lately came to light in a trial reported in the "Gazette
des Tribunaux:"--


    The citizen Anet, son of Jean Louis Anet, and the _citoyenne_ Maria
    Saint; she engaged to follow the said citizen everywhere and to
    love him always.--ANET. MARIA SAINT.

    Witnessed by the under-mentioned citizen and _citoyenne._--FOURIER.

    PARIS, April 22, 1871.

What a comfortable arrangement is this! Poor _citoyenne_ Maria Saint, even
when all human laws have suspended their action, still holds by her
grammar, still must annex herself to _le sexe noble_. She still must follow
citizen Anet as the feminine pronoun follows the masculine, or as a verb
agrees with its nominative case in number and in person. But with what a
lordly freedom from all obligation does citizen Anet, representative of
this nobility of sex, accept the allegiance! The citizeness may "follow
him," certainly,--so long as she is not in the way,--and she must "love him
always;" but he is not bound. Why should he be? It would be quite

Yet, after all is said and done, there is a brutal honesty in this frank
subordination of the woman according to the grammar. It has the same merit
with the old Russian marriage consecration: "Here, wolf, take thy lamb,"
which at least put the thing clearly, and made no nonsense about it. I do
not know that anywhere in France the wedding ritual is now so severely
simple as this, but I know that in some French villages the bride is still
married in a mourning-gown. I should think she would be.


Every young woman of the present generation, so soon as she ventures to
have a headache or a set of nerves, is immediately confronted by indignant
critics with her grandmother. If the grandmother is living, the fact of her
existence is appealed to: if there is only a departed grandmother to
remember, the maiden is confronted with a ghost. That ghost is endowed with
as many excellences as those with which Miss Betsey Trotwood endowed the
niece that never had been born; and just as David Copperfield was
reproached with the virtues of his unborn sister who "would never have run
away," so that granddaughter with the headache is reproached with the
ghostly perfections of her grandmother, who never had a headache--or, if
she had, it is luckily forgotten. It is necessary to ask, sometimes, what
was really the truth about our grandmothers? Were they such models of
bodily perfection as is usually claimed?

If we look at the early colonial days, we are at once met by the fact, that
although families were then often larger than is now common, yet this
phenomenon was by no means universal, and was balanced by a good many
childless homes. Of this any one can satisfy himself by looking over any
family history; and he can also satisfy himself of the fact,--first pointed
out, I believe, by Mrs. Ball,--that third and fourth marriages were then
obviously and unquestionably more common than now. The inference would seem
to be, that there is a little illusion about the health of those days, as
there is about the health of savage races. In both cases, it is not so much
that the average health is greater under rude social conditions, as that
these conditions kill off the weak, and leave only the strong. Modern
civilized society, on the other hand, preserves the health of many men and
women--and permits them to marry, and become parents--who under the
severities of savage life or of pioneer life would have died, and given way
to others.

On this I will not dwell; because these primeval ladies were not strictly
our grandmothers, being farther removed. But of those who were our
grandmothers,--the women of the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary
epochs,--we happen to have very definite physiological observations
recorded; not very flattering, it is true, but frank and searching. What
these good women are in the imagination of their descendants, we know. Mrs.
Stowe describes them as "the race of strong, hardy, cheerful girls that
used to grow up in country places, and made the bright, neat New England
kitchens of olden times;" and adds, "This race of women, pride of olden
time, is daily lessening; and in their stead come the fragile, easily
fatigued, languid girls of a modern age, drilled in book-learning, ignorant
of common things."

What, now, was the testimony of those who saw our grandmothers in the
flesh? As it happens, there were a good many foreigners, generally
Frenchmen, who came to visit the new Republic during the presidency of
Washington. Let us take, for instance, the testimony of the two following.

The Abbé Robin was a chaplain in Rochambeau's army during the Revolution,
and wrote thus in regard to the American ladies in his "Nouveau Voyage
dans l'Amerique Septentrionale," published in 1782:--

    "They are tall and well-proportioned; their features are generally
    regular; their complexions are generally fair and without color....
    At twenty years of age the women have no longer the freshness of
    youth. At thirty-five or forty they are wrinkled and decrepit. The
    men are almost as premature."

Again: The Chevalier Louis Félix de Beaujour lived in the United States
from 1804 to 1814, as consul-general and _chargé d'affaires;_ and wrote a
book, immediately after, which was translated into English under the title,
"A Sketch of the United States at the Commencement of the Present Century."
In this he thus describes American women:--

    "The women have more of that delicate beauty which belongs to their
    sex, and in general have finer features and more expression in their
    physiognomy. Their stature is usually tall, and nearly all are
    possessed of a light and airy shape,--the breast high, a fine head,
    and their color of a dazzling whiteness. Let us imagine, under this
    brilliant form, the most modest demeanor, a chaste and virginal air,
    accompanied by those single and unaffected graces which flow from
    artless nature, and we may have an idea of their beauty; but this
    beauty fades and passes in a moment. At the age of twenty-five their
    form changes, and at thirty the whole of their charms have

These statements bring out a class of facts, which, as it seems to me, are
singularly ignored by some of our physiologists. They indicate that the
modification of the American type began early, and was, as a rule, due to
causes antedating the fashions or studies of the present day. Here are our
grandmothers and great-grandmothers as they were actually seen by the eyes
of impartial or even flattering critics. These critics were not Englishmen,
accustomed to a robust and ruddy type of women, but Frenchmen, used to a
type more like the American. They were not mere hasty travellers; for the
one lived here ten years, and the other was stationed for some time at
Newport, R.I., in a healthy locality, noted in those days for the beauty
of its women. Yet we find it their verdict upon these grandmothers of
nearly a hundred years ago, that they showed the same delicate beauty, the
same slenderness, the same pallor, the same fragility, the same early
decline, with which their granddaughters are now reproached.

In some respects, probably, the physical habits of the grandmothers were
better: but an examination of their portraits will satisfy any one that
they laced more tightly than their descendants, and wore their dresses
lower in the neck; and as for their diet, we have the testimony of another
French traveller, Volney, who was in America from 1795 to 1798, that "if
a premium were offered for a regimen most destructive to the teeth, the
stomach, and the health in general, none could be devised more efficacious
for these ends than that in use among this people." And he goes on to give
particulars, showing a far worse condition in respect to cookery and diet
than now prevails in any decent American society.

We have therefore strong evidence that the essential change in the American
type was effected in the last century, not in this. Dr. E.H. Clarke says,
"A century does not afford a period long enough for the production of great
changes. That length of time could not transform the sturdy German
_fräulein_ and robust English damsel into the fragile American miss." And
yet it is pretty clear that the first century and a half of our colonial
life had done just this for our grandmothers. And, if so, our physiologists
ought to conform their theories to the facts.


I was talking the other day with a New York physician, long retired from
practice, who after an absence of a dozen years in Europe has returned
within a year to this country. He volunteered the remark, that nothing had
so impressed him since his return as the improved health of Americans. He
said that his wife had been equally struck with it; and that they had
noticed it especially among the inhabitants of cities, among the more
cultivated classes, and in particular among women.

It so happened, that within twenty-four hours almost precisely the same
remark was made to me by another gentleman of unusually cosmopolitan
experience, and past middle age. He further fortified himself by a similar
assertion made him by Charles Dickens, in comparing his second visit to
this country with his first. In answer to an inquiry as to what points of
difference had most impressed him, Dickens said, "Your people, especially
the women, look better fed than formerly."

It is possible that in all these cases the witnesses may have been led to
exaggerate the original evil, while absent from the country, and so may
have felt some undue reaction on their arrival. One of my informants went
so far as to express confidence that among his circle of friends in Boston
and in London a dinner party of half a dozen Americans would outweigh an
English party of the same number. Granting this to be too bold a statement,
and granting the unscientific nature of all these assertions, they still
indicate a probability of their own truth until refuted by facts on the
other side. They are further corroborated by the surprise expressed by
Huxley and some other recent Englishmen at finding us a race more
substantial than they had supposed.

The truth seems to be, that Nature is endeavoring to take a new departure
in the American, and to produce a race more finely organized, more
sensitive, more pliable, and of more nervous energy, than the races of
Northern Europe; that this change of type involves some risk to health in
the process, but promises greater results whenever the new type shall be
established. I am confident that there has been within the last
half-century a great improvement in the physical habits of the more
cultivated classes, at least, in this country,--better food, better air,
better habits as to bathing and exercise. The great increase of athletic
games; the greatly increased proportion of seaside and mountain life in
summer; the thicker shoes and boots of women and little girls, permitting
them to go out more freely in all weathers,--these are among the permanent
gains. The increased habit of dining late, and of taking only a lunch at
noon, is of itself an enormous gain to the professional and mercantile
classes, because it secures time for eating and for digestion. Even the
furnaces in houses, which seemed at first so destructive to the very breath
of life, turn out to have given a new lease to it; and open fires are being
rapidly reintroduced as a provision for enjoyment and health, when the main
body of the house has been tempered by the furnace. There has been,
furthermore, a decided improvement in the bread of the community, and a
very general introduction of other farinaceous food. All this has happened
within my own memory, and gives _a priori_ probability to the alleged
improvement in physical condition within twenty years.

And, if these reasonings are still insufficient on the one side, it must be
remembered that the facts of the census are almost equally inadequate when
quoted on the other. If, for instance, all the young people of a New
Hampshire village take a fancy to remove to Wisconsin, it does not show
that the race is dying out because their children swell the birth-rate of
Wisconsin instead of New Hampshire. If in a given city the births among the
foreign-born population are twice as many in proportion as among the
American, we have not the whole story until we learn whether the deaths are
not twice as many also. If so, the inference is that the same recklessness
brought the children into the world and sent them out of it; and no
physiological inference whatever can be drawn. It was clearly established
by the medical commission of the Boston Board of Health, a few years ago,
that "the general mortality of the foreign element is much greater than
that of the native element of our population." "This is found to be the
case," they add, "throughout the United States as well as in Boston."

So far as I can judge, all our physiological tendencies are favorable
rather than otherwise: and the transplantation of the English race seems
now likely to end in no deterioration, but in a type more finely organized,
and more comprehensive and cosmopolitan; and this without loss of health,
of longevity, or of physical size and weight. And, if this is to hold true,
it must be true not only of men, but of women.


Are there any inevitable limitations of sex?

Some reformers, apparently, think that there are not, and that the best way
to help woman is to deny the fact of limitations. But I think the great
majority of reformers would take a different ground, and would say that the
two sexes are mutually limited by nature. They would doubtless add that
this very fact is an argument for the enfranchisement of woman: for, if
woman is a mere duplicate of man, man can represent her; but if she has
traits of her own, absolutely distinct from his, then he cannot represent
her, and she should have a voice and a vote of her own.

To this last body of believers I belong. I think that all legal or
conventional obstacles should be removed, which debar woman from
determining for herself, as freely as man determines, what the real
limitations of sex are, and what restrictions are merely conventional. But,
when all is said and done, there is no doubt that plenty of limitations
will remain on both sides.

That man has such limitations is clear. No matter how finely organized he
may be, how sympathetic, how tender, how loving, there is yet a barrier,
never to be passed, that separates him from the most precious part of the
woman's kingdom. All the wondrous world of motherhood, with its unspeakable
delights, its holy of holies, remains forever unknown by him; he
may gaze, but never enter. That halo of pure devotion, which makes a
Madonna out of so many a poor and ignorant woman, can never touch his brow.
Many a man loves children more than many a woman: but, after all, it is not
he who has borne them; to that peculiar sacredness of experience he can
never arrive. But never mind whether the loss be a great one or a small
one: it is distinctly a limitation; and to every loving mother it is a
limitation so important that she would be unable to weigh all the
privileges and powers of manhood against this peculiar possession of her

Now, if this be true, and if man be thus distinctly limited by the mere
fact of sex, can the woman complain that she also should have some natural
limitations? Grant that she should have no unnecessary restrictions; and
that the course of human progress is constantly setting aside, as
unnecessary, point after point that was once held essential. Still, if she
finds--as she undoubtedly will find--that some natural barriers and
hindrances remain at last, and that she can no more do man's whole work in
the world than he can do hers, why should she complain? If he can accept
his limitations, she must be prepared also to accept hers.

Some of our physiological reformers, declare that a girl will be perfectly
healthy if she can only be sensibly dressed, and can "have just as much
outdoor exercise as the boys, and of the same sort, if she choose it." But
I have observed that matter a good deal, and have watched the effect of
boyish exercise on a good many girls; and I am satisfied that so far from
being safely turned loose, as boys can be, they need, for physical health,
the constant supervision of wise mothers. Otherwise the very exposure that
only hardens the boy may make the girl an invalid for life. The danger
comes from a greater sensitiveness of structure,--not weakness, properly so
called, since it gives, in certain ways, more power of endurance,--a
greater sensitiveness which runs through all a woman's career, and is the
expensive price she pays for the divine destiny of motherhood. It is
another natural limitation.

No wise person believes in any "reform against Nature," or that we can get
beyond the laws of Nature. If I believed the limitations of sex to be
inconsistent with woman suffrage for instance, I should oppose it; but I do
not see why a woman cannot form political opinions by her baby's cradle, as
well as her husband in his workshop, while her very love for the child
commits her to an interest in good government. Our duty is to remove all
the artificial restrictions we can. That done, it will not be hard for man
or woman to acquiesce in the natural limitations.



[Greek: 'Andros kai gunaikos ae autae antae aretae.]--ANTISTHENES in
Diogenes Laertius, vi. i, 5.

"Virtue in man and woman is the same."


The Invisible Lady, as advertised in all our cities a good many years ago,
was a mysterious individual who remained unseen, and had apparently no
human organs except a brain and a tongue. You asked questions of her, and
she made intelligent answers; but where she was, you could no more discover
than you could find the man inside the Automaton Chess-Player. Was she
intended as a satire on womankind, or as a sincere representation of what
womankind should be? To many men, doubtless, she would have seemed the
ideal of her sex, could only her brain and tongue have disappeared like the
rest of her faculties. Such men would have liked her almost as well as that
other mysterious personage on the London signboard, labelled "The Good
Woman," and represented by a female figure without a head.

It is not that any considerable portion of mankind actually wishes to
abolish woman from the universe. But the opinion dies hard that she is best
off when least visible. These appeals which still meet us for "the sacred
privacy of woman" are only the Invisible Lady on a larger scale. In ancient
Boeotia, brides were carried home in vehicles whose wheels were burned at
the door in token that they would never again be needed. In ancient Rome,
it was a queen's epitaph, "She stayed at home, and spun,"--_Domum servavit,
lanam fecit_. In Turkey, not even the officers of justice can enter the
apartments of a woman without her lord's consent. In Spain and Spanish
America, the veil replaces the four walls of the house, and is a portable
seclusion. To be visible is at best a sign of peasant blood and
occupations; to be high-bred is to be invisible.

In the Azores I found that each peasant family endeavored to secure for one
or more of its daughters the pride and glory of living unseen. The other
sisters, secure in innocence, tended cattle on lonely mountain-sides, or
toiled bare-legged up the steep ascents, their heads crowned with
orange-baskets. The chosen sister was taught to read, to embroider, and to
dwell indoors; if she went out it was only under escort, and with her face
buried in a hood of almost incredible size, affording only a glimpse of
the poor pale cheeks, quite unlike the rosy vigor of the damsels on the
mountain-side. The girls, I was told, did not covet this privilege of
seclusion; but let us be genteel, or die.

Now all that is left of the Invisible Lady among ourselves is only the
remnant of this absurd tradition. In the seaside town where I write, ladies
of fashion usually go veiled in the streets, and so general is the practice
that little girls often veil their dolls. They all suppose it to be done
for complexion or for ornament; just as people still hang straps on the
backs of their carriages, not knowing that it is a relic of the days when
footmen stood there and held on. But the veil represents a tradition of
seclusion, whether we know it or not; and the dread of hearing a woman
speak in public, or of seeing a woman vote, represents precisely the same
tradition. It is entitled to no less respect, and no more.

Like all traditions, it finds something in human nature to which to attach
itself. Early girlhood, like early boyhood, needs to be guarded and
sheltered, that it may mature unharmed. It is monstrous to make this an
excuse for keeping a woman, any more than a man, in a condition of
perpetual subordination and seclusion. The young lover wishes to lock up
his angel in a little world of her own, where none may intrude. The harem
and the seraglio are simply the embodiment of this desire. But the maturer
man and the maturer race have found that the beloved being should be
something more.

After this discovery is made, the theory of the Invisible Lady disappears.
It is less of a shock for an American to hear a woman speak in public than
it is for an Oriental to see her show her face in public at all. Once open
the door of the harem, and she has the freedom of the house: the house
includes the front door, and the street is but a prolonged doorstep. With
the freedom of the street comes inevitably a free access to the platform,
the tribunal, and the pulpit. You might as well try to stop the air in its
escape from a punctured balloon, as to try, when woman is once out of the
harem, to put her back there. Ceasing to be an Invisible Lady, she must
become a visible force: there is no middle ground. There is no danger that
she will not be anchored to the cradle, when cradle there is; but it will
be by an elastic cable, that will leave her as free to think and vote as to
pray. No woman is less a mother because she cares for all the concerns of
the world into which her child is born. It was John Quincy Adams who said,
defending the political petitions of the women of Plymouth, that "women are
not only justified, but exhibit the most exalted virtue, when they do
depart from the domestic circle, and enter on the concerns of their
country, of humanity, and of their God."


In the preface to that ill-named but delightful book, the "Remains of the
late Mrs. Richard Trench," there is a singular remark by the editor, her
son. He says that "the adage is certainly true in regard to the British
matron, _Bene vixit quae bene latuit,_" the meaning of this phrase being,
"She has lived well who has kept herself well out of sight." Applying this
to his beloved mother, he further expresses a regret at disturbing her
"sacred obscurity." Then he goes on to disturb it pretty effectually by
printing a thick octavo volume of her most private letters.

It is a great source of strength and advantage to reformers, that there are
always men preserved to be living examples of this good old Oriental
doctrine of "sacred obscurity." Just as Mr. Darwin needs for the
demonstration of his theory that the lower orders of creation should still
be present in visible form for purposes of comparison, so every reformer
needs to fortify his position by showing examples of the original attitude
from which society has been gradually emerging. If there had been no
Oriental seclusion, many things in the present position of woman would be
inexplicable. But when we point to that; when we show that even in the more
enlightened Eastern countries it is still held indecorous to allude to the
feminine members of a man's family; when we see among the Christian nations
of Southern Europe many lingering traits of this same habit of seclusion;
and when we find an archdeacon of the English Church still clinging to the
theory, even while exhibiting his mother's family letters to the whole
world,--we more easily understand the course of development.

These reassertions of the Oriental theory are simply reversions, as a
naturalist would say, to the original type. They are instances of
"atavism," like the occasional appearance of six fingers on one hand in a
family where the great-great-grandfather happened to possess that
ornament. Such instances can always be found, when one takes the pains to
look for them. Thus a critic, discussing in the "Atlantic Monthly" Mr.
Mahaffy's book on "Social Life in Greece," is surprised that this writer
should quote, in proof of the degradation of woman in Athens, the remark
attributed to Pericles, "That woman is best who is least spoken of among
men, whether for good or for evil." "In our opinion," adds the reviewer,
"that remark was wise then, and is wise now." The Oriental theory is not
then, it seems, extinct; and we are spared the pains of proving that it
ever existed.

If this theory be true, how falsely has the admiration of mankind been
given! If the most obscure woman is best, the most conspicuous must
undoubtedly be worst. Tried by this standard, how unworthy must have
been Elizabeth Barrett Browning, how reprehensible must be Dorothea Dix,
what a model of all that is discreditable is Rosa Bonheur, what a
crowning instance of human depravity is Florence Nightingale! Yet how
consoling the thought, that, while these disreputable persons were thus
wasting their substance in the riotous performance of what the world
weakly styled good deeds, there were always women who saw the folly of
such efforts; women who by steady devotion to eating, drinking, and
sleeping continued to keep themselves in sacred obscurity, and to prove
themselves the ornaments of their sex, inasmuch as no human being ever
had occasion to mention their names!

But alas for human inconsistency! As for this inverse-ratio theory,--this
theory of virtue so exalted that it has never been known or felt or
mentioned among men,--it is to be observed that those who hold it are the
first to desert it when stirred by an immediate occasion. Just as a
slaveholder, in the old times, after demonstrating to you that freedom was
a curse to the negro, would instantly turn round, and inflict this greatest
of all curses on some slave who had saved his life; so, I fear, would one
of these philosophers, if he were profoundly impressed with any great
action done by a woman, give the lie to all his theories, and celebrate her
fame. In spite of all his fine principles, if he happened to be rescued
from drowning by Grace Darling, he would put her name in the newspaper; if
he were tended in hospital by Clara Barton, he would sound her praise; and
if his mother wrote as good letters as did Mrs. Trench, he would probably
print them to the extent of five hundred pages, as the archdeacon did, and
all his gospel of silence would exhale itself in a single sigh of regret in
the preface.


A young friend of mine, who was educated at one of the very best schools
for girls in New York city, told me that one day her teacher requested the
older girls to write out a list of virtues suitable to manly character,
which they did. A month or more later, when this occurrence was well
forgotten, the same teacher bade them write out a list of womanly virtues,
she making no reference to the other list. Then she made each girl compare
her lists; and they all found with surprise that there was no substantial
difference between them. The only variation, in most cases, was, that they
had put in a rather vague special virtue of "manliness" in the one case,
and "womanliness" in the other; a sort of miscellaneous department or "odd
drawer," apparently, in which to group all traits not easily analyzed.

The moral is that, as tested by the common sense of these young people,
duty is duty, and the difference between ethics for men and ethics for
women lies simply in practical applications, not in principles.

Who can deny that the philosopher Antisthenes was right when he said, "The
virtues of the man and the woman are the same"? Not the Christian,
certainly; for he accepts as his highest standard the being who in all
history best united the highest qualities of both sexes. Not the
metaphysician; for his analysis deals with the human mind as such, not with
the mind of either sex. Not the evolutionist; for he is accustomed to trace
back qualities to their source, and cannot deny that there is in each sex
at least a "survival" of every good and every bad trait. We may say that
these qualities are, or may be, or ought to be, distributed unequally
between the sexes; but we cannot reasonably deny that each sex possesses a
share of every quality, and that what is good in one sex is also good in
the other. Man may be the braver, and yet courage in a woman may be nobler
than cowardice. Woman may be the purer, and yet purity may be noble in a

So clear is this, that some of the very coarsest writers in all literature,
and those who have been severest upon women, have yet been obliged to
acknowledge it. Take, for instance, Dean Swift, who writes:--

    "I am ignorant of any one quality that is amiable in a woman, which
    is not equally so in a man. I do not except even modesty and
    gentleness of nature; nor do I know one vice or folly which is not
    equally detestable in both."

Mrs. Jameson, in her delightful "Commonplace Book," illustrates this
admirably by one or two test cases. She takes, for instance, from one of
Humboldt's letters a much-admired passage on manly character:--

    "Masculine independence of mind I hold to be in reality the first
    requisite for the formation of a character of real manly worth. The
    man who allows himself to be deceived and carried away by his own
    weakness may be a very amiable person in other respects, but cannot
    be called a good man: such beings should not find favor in the eyes
    of a woman, for a truly beautiful and purely feminine nature should
    be attracted only by what is highest and noblest in the character of

"Take now this same bit of moral philosophy," she says, "and apply it to
the feminine character, and it reads quite as well:--

    "'Feminine independence of mind I hold to be in reality the first
    requisite for the formation of a character of real feminine worth.
    The woman who allows herself to be deceived and carried away by her
    own weakness may be a very amiable person in other respects, but
    cannot be called a good woman; such beings should not find favor in
    the eyes of a man, for a truly beautiful and purely manly nature
    should be attracted only by what is highest and noblest in the
    character of woman.'"

I have never been able to perceive that there was a quality or grace of
character which really belonged exclusively to either sex, or which failed
to win honor when wisely exercised by either. It is not thought necessary
to have separate editions of books on ethical science, the one for man, the
other for woman, like almanacs calculated for different latitudes. The
books that vary are not the scientific works, but little manuals of
practical application,--"Duties of Men," "Duties of Women." These vary with
times and places: where women do not know how to read, no advice on reading
will be found in the women's manuals; where it is held wrong for women to
uncover the face, it will be laid down in these manuals as a sin. But
ethics are ethics: the great principles of morals, as proclaimed either by
science or by religion, do not fluctuate for sex; their basis is in the
very foundations of right itself.

This grows clearer when we remember that it is equally true in mental
science. There is not one logic for men, and another for women; a separate
syllogism, a separate induction: the moment we begin to state intellectual
principles, that moment we go beyond sex. We deal then with absolute truth.
If an observation is wrong, if a process of reasoning is bad, it makes
no difference who brings it forward. Any list of mental processes, any
inventory of the contents of the mind, would be identical, so far as sex
goes, whether compiled by a woman or a man. These things, like the
circulation of the blood or the digestion of food, belong clearly to the
ground held in common. The London "Spectator" well said some time since,--

    "After all, knowledge is knowledge; and there is no more a
    specifically feminine way of describing correctly the origin of the
    Lollard movement, or the character of Spenser's poetry, than there
    is a specifically feminine way of solving a quadratic equation, or
    of proving the forty-seventh problem of Euclid's first book."

All we can say in modification of this is, that there is, after all, a
foundation for the rather vague item of "manliness" and "womanliness" in
these schoolgirl lists of duties. There is a difference, after all is said
and done; but it is something that eludes analysis, like the differing
perfume of two flowers of the same genus and even of the same species. The
method of thought must be essentially the same in both sexes; and yet an
average woman will put more flavor of something we call instinct into her
mental action, and the average man something more of what we call logic
into his. Whipple tells us that not a man guessed the plot of Dickens's
"Great Expectations," while many women did; and this certainly indicates
some average difference of quality or method. So the average opinions of a
hundred women, on some question of ethics, might very probably differ from
the average of a hundred men, while it yet remains true that "the virtues
of the man and the woman are the same."


Blackburn, in his entertaining book, "Artists and Arabs," draws a contrast
between Frith's painting of the "Derby Day" and Rosa Bonheur's "Horse
Fair,"--"the former pleasing the eye by its cleverness and prettiness, the
latter impressing the spectator by its power and its truthful rendering of
animal life. The difference between the two painters is probably more one
of education than of natural gifts. But whilst the style of the former is
grafted on a fashion, the latter is founded on a rock,--the result of a
close study of nature, chastened by classic feeling and a remembrance, it
may be, of the friezes of the Parthenon."

Now it is to be observed that this description runs precisely counter to
the popular impression as to the work of the two sexes. Novelists like
Charles Reade, for instance, who have apparently seen precisely one woman
in their lives, and hardly more than one man, and who keep on sketching
these two figures most felicitously and brilliantly thenceforward, would be
apt to assign these qualities of the artist very differently. Their typical
man would do the truthful and powerful work, and everybody would say, "How
manly!" Their woman would please by cleverness and prettiness, and
everybody would say, "How womanly!" Yet Blackburn shows us that these
qualities are individual, not sexual; that they result from temperament,
or, he thinks, still more from training. If Rosa Bonheur does better work
than Frith, it is not because she is a woman, nor is it in spite of that;
but because, setting sex aside, she is a better artist.

This is not denying the distinctions of sex, but only asserting that they
are not so exclusive and all-absorbing as is supposed. It is easy to name
other grounds of difference which entirely ignore those of sex, striking
directly across them, and rendering a different classification necessary.
It is thus with distinctions of race or color, for instance. An Indian man
and woman are at many points more like to each other than is either to a
white person of the same sex. A black-haired man and woman, or a
fair-haired man and woman, are to be classified together in these
physiological aspects. So of differences of genius: a man and woman of
musical temperament and training have more in common than has either with
a person who is of the same sex, but who cannot tell one note from another.
So two persons of ardent or imaginative temperament are thus far alike,
though the gulf of sex divides them; and so are two persons of cold or
prosaic temperament. In a mixed school the teacher cannot class together
intellectually the boys as such, and the girls as such: bright boys take
hold of a lesson very much as bright girls do, and slow girls as slow boys.
Nature is too rich, too full, too varied, to be content with a single basis
of classification: she has a hundred systems of grouping, according to sex,
age, race, temperament, training, and so on; and we get but a narrow view
of life when we limit our theories to one set of distinctions.

As a matter of social philosophy, this train of thought logically leads to
coeducation, impartial suffrage, and free cooperation in all the affairs of
life. As a matter of individual duty, it teaches the old moral to "act well
your part." No wise person will ever trouble himself or herself much about
the limitations of sex in intellectual labor. Rosa Bonheur was not trying
to work like a woman, or like a man, or unlike either, but to do her work
thoroughly and well. He or she who works in this spirit works nobly,
and gives an example which will pass beyond the bounds of sex, and help
all. The Abbé Liszt, the most gifted of modern pianists, told a friend of
mine, his pupil, that he had learned more of music from hearing Madame
Malibran sing, than from anything else whatever.


It is better not to base any plea for woman on the ground of her angelic
superiority. The argument proves too much. If she is already so perfect,
there is every inducement to let well alone. It suggests the expediency of
conforming man's condition to hers, instead of conforming hers to man's. If
she is a winged creature, and man can only crawl, it is his condition that
needs mending.

Besides, one may well be a little incredulous of these vast claims.
Granting some average advantage to woman, it is not of such completeness as
to base much argument upon it. The minister, looking on his congregation,
rarely sees an unmixed angel, either at the head or at the foot of any pew.
The domestic servant rarely has the felicity of waiting on an absolute
saint at either end of the dinner-table. The lady's-maid has to compare her
little observations of human infirmity with those of the valet de chambre.
The lover worships the beloved, whether man or woman; but marriage bears
rather hard on the ideal in either case; and those who pray out of the same
book, "Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners," are not supposed to be
offering up petitions for each other only.

We all know many women whose lives are made wretched by the sins and
follies of their husbands. There are also many men whose lives are turned
to long wretchedness by the selfishness, the worldliness, or the bad temper
of their wives. Domestic tyranny belongs to neither sex by monopoly. If man
tortures or depresses woman, she also has a fearful power to corrupt and
deprave man. On the other hand, to quote old Antisthenes once more, "the
virtues of the man and woman are the same." A refined man is more refined
than a coarse woman. A child-loving man is infinitely tenderer and sweeter
toward children than a hard and unsympathetic woman. The very qualities
that are claimed as distinctively feminine are possessed more abundantly by
many men than by many of what is called the softer sex.

Why is it necessary to say all this? Because there is always danger that we
who believe in the equality of the sexes should be led into
over-statements, which will react against ourselves. It is not safe to say
that the ballot-box would be reformed if intrusted to feminine votes
alone. Had the voters of the South been all women, it would have plunged
earlier into the gulf of secession, dived deeper, and come up even more
reluctantly. Were the women of Spain to rule its destinies unchecked, the
Pope would be its master, and the Inquisition might be reëstablished. For
all that we can see, the rule of women alone would be as bad as the rule of
men alone. It would be as unsafe to give women the absolute control of man
as to make man the master of woman.

Let us be a shade more cautious in our reasonings. Woman needs equal
rights, not because she is man's better half, but because she is his other
half. She needs them, not as an angel, but as a fraction of humanity. Her
political education will not merely help man, but it will help herself. She
will sometimes be right in her opinions, and sometimes be altogether wrong;
but she will learn, as man learns, by her own blunders. The demand in her
behalf is that she shall have the opportunity to make mistakes, since it is
by that means she must become wise.

In all our towns there is a tendency toward "mixed schools." We rarely hear
of the sexes being separated in a school after being once united; but we
constantly hear of their being brought together after separation. This
union is commonly, but mistakenly, recommended as an advantage to the boys
alone. I once heard an accomplished teacher remonstrate against this
change, when thus urged. "Why should my girls be sacrificed," she said,
"to improve your boys?" Six months after, she had learned by experience.
"Why," she asked, "did you rest the argument on so narrow a ground? Since
my school consisted half of boys, I find with surprise that the change
has improved both sexes. My girls are more ambitious, more obedient, and
more ladylike. I shall never distrust the policy of mixed schools again."

What is true of the school is true of the family and of the state. It is
not good for man, or for woman, to be alone. Granting the woman to be, on
the whole, the more spiritually minded, it is still true that each sex
needs the other. When the rivet falls from a pair of scissors, we do not
have than mended because either half can claim angelic superiority over
the other half, but because it takes two halves to make a whole.


There is a story in circulation--possibly without authority--to the effect
that a certain young lady has ascended so many Alps that she would have
been chosen a member of the English Alpine Club but for her misfortune in
respect to sex. As a matter of personal recognition, however, and, as it
were, of approximate courtesy, her dog, who has accompanied her in all her
trips, and is not debased by sex, has been elected into the club. She has
therefore an opportunity for exercising in behalf of her dog that beautiful
self-abnegation which is said to be a part of woman's nature, impelling her
always to prefer that her laurels should be worn by somebody else.

The dog probably made no objection to these vicarious honors; nor is any
objection made by the young gentlemen who reply eloquently to the toast,
"The Ladies," at public dinners, or who kindly consent to be educated at
masculine colleges on "scholarships" perhaps founded by women. Those who
receive the emoluments of these funds must reflect within themselves,
occasionally, how grand a thing is this power of substitution given to
women, and how pleasant are its occasional results to the substitute. It is
doubtless more blessed to give than to receive, but to receive without
giving has also its pleasures. Very likely the holder of the scholarship,
and the orator who rises with his hand on his heart to "reply in behalf of
the ladies," may do their appointed work well; and so did the Alpine dog.
Yet, after all, but for the work done by his mistress, the dog would have
won no more honor from the Alpine Club than if he had been a chamois.

Nothing since Artemus Ward and his wife's relations has been finer than the
generous way in which fathers and brothers disclaim all desire for profits
or honors on the part of their feminine relatives. In a certain system of
schools once known to me, the boys had prizes of money on certain
occasions, but the successful girls at those times received simply a
testimonial of honor for each; "the committee being convinced," it was
said, "that this was more consonant with the true delicacy and generosity
of woman's nature." So in the new arrangements for opening the University
of Copenhagen to young women, Karl Blind writes to the New York "Evening
Post," that it is expressly provided that they shall not "share in the
academic benefices and stipends which have been set apart for male
students." Half of these charities may, for aught that appears, have been
established originally by women, like the American scholarships already
mentioned. Women, however, can avail themselves of them only by deputy, as
the Alp-climbing young lady is represented by her dog.

It is all a beautiful tribute to the disinterestedness of woman. The only
pity is that this virtue, so much admired, should not be reciprocated by
showing the like disinterestedness toward her. It does not appear that the
butchers and bakers of Copenhagen propose to reduce in the case of women
students "the benefices and stipends" which are to be paid for daily food.
Young ladies at the university are only prohibited from receiving money,
not from needing it. Nor will any of the necessary fatigues of Alpine
climbing be relaxed for any young lady because she is a woman. The fatigues
will remain in full force, though the laurels be denied. The
mountain-passes will make small account of the "tenderness and delicacy of
her sex." When the toil is over she will be regarded as too delicate to be
thanked for it; but, by way of compensation, the Alpine Club will allow her
to be represented by her dog.


"The silliest man who ever lived," wrote Fanny Fern once, "has always known
enough, when he says his prayers, to thank God he was not born a woman."
President ---- of ---- College is not a silly man at all, and he is
devoting his life to the education of women; yet he seems to feel as
vividly conscious of his superior position as even Fanny Fern could wish.
If he had been born a Jew, he would have thanked God, in the appointed
ritual, for not having made him a woman. If he had been a Mohammedan, he
would have accepted the rule which forbids "a fool, a madman, or a woman"
to summon the faithful to prayer. Being a Christian clergyman, with several
hundred immortal souls, clothed in female bodies, under his charge, he
thinks it his duty, at proper intervals, to notify his young ladies, that,
though they may share with men the glory of being sophomores, they still
are in a position, as regards the other sex, of hopeless subordination.
This is the climax of his discourse, which in its earlier portions contains
many good and truthful things:--

    "And, as the woman is different from the man, so is she relative to
    him. This is true on the other side also. They are bound together by
    mutual relationship so intimate and vital that the existence of
    neither is absolutely complete except with reference to the other.
    But there is this difference, that the relation of woman is,
    characteristically, that of subordination and dependence. This does
    not imply inferiority of character, of capacity, of value, in the
    sight of God or man; and it has been the glory of woman to have
    accepted the position of formal inferiority assigned her by the
    Creator, with all its responsibilities, its trials, its possible
    outward humiliations and sufferings, in the proud consciousness that
    it is not incompatible with an essential superiority; that it does
    not prevent her from occupying, if she will, an inward elevation of
    character, from which she may look down with pitying and helpful
    love on him she calls her lord. Jesus said, 'Ye know that the
    princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that
    are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among
    you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your
    minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your
    servant, even as the Son of man came, not to be ministered unto, but
    to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.' Surely woman
    need not hesitate to estimate her status by a criterion of dignity
    sustained by such authority. She need not shrink from a position
    which was sought by the Son of God, and in whose trials and griefs
    she will have his sympathy and companionship."

There is a comforting aspect to this discourse, after all. It holds out the
hope, that a particularly noble woman may not be personally inferior to a
remarkably bad husband, but "may look down with pitying and helpful love on
him she calls her lord." The drawback is not only that it insults woman by
a reassertion of a merely historical inferiority, which is steadily
diminishing, but that it fortifies this by precisely the same talk about
the dignity of subordination which has been used to buttress every
oppression since the world began. Never yet was there a pious slaveholder
who did not quote to his slaves, on Sunday, precisely the same texts with
which President ---- favors his meek young pupils. Never yet was there a
slaveholder who would not shoot through the head anybody who should attempt
to place him in that beautiful position of subjection whose spiritual
merits he had just been proclaiming. When it came to that, he was like
Thoreau, who believed resignation to be a virtue, but preferred "not to
practice it unless it was quite necessary."

Thus, when the Rev. Charles C. Jones of Savannah used to address the slaves
on their condition, he proclaimed the beauty of obedience in a way to bring
tears to their eyes. And this, he frankly assures the masters, is the way
to check insurrection and advance their own "pecuniary interests." He says
of the slave, that under proper religious instruction "his conscience is
enlightened and his soul is awed;... to God he commits the ordering of his
lot, and in his station renders to all their dues, obedience to whom
obedience, and honor to whom honor. _He dares not wrest from God his own
care and protection._ While he sees a preference in the various conditions
of men, he remembers the words of the apostle: 'Art thou called being a
servant? care not for it; but if thou mayest be free, use it rather. For he
that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman:
likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.'"[1]

I must say that the Rev. Mr. Jones's preaching seems to me precisely as
good as Dr.------'s, and that a sensible woman ought to be as much
influenced by the one as was Frederick Douglass by the other--that is, not
at all. Let the preacher try "subordination" himself, and see how he likes
it. The beauty of service, such as Jesus praised, lay in the willingness of
the service: a service that is serfdom loses all beauty, whether rendered
by man or by woman. My objection to separate schools and colleges for women
is that they are too apt to end in such instructions as this.

[Footnote 1: _Religious Instruction of the Negroes._ Savannah, 1842, pp.


There was once a real or imaginary old lady who had got the metaphor of
Scylla and Charybdis a little confused. Wishing to describe a perplexing
situation, this lady said,--

"You see, my dear, she was between Celery on one side and Cherubs on the
other! You know about Celery and Cherubs, don't you? They was two rocks
somewhere; and if you didn't hit one, you was pretty sure to run smack on
the other."

This describes, as a clever writer in the New York "Tribune" declares, the
present condition of women who "agitate." Their Celery and Cherubs are
tears and temper. It is a good hit, and we may well make a note of it. It
is the danger of all reformers, that they will vibrate between
discouragement and anger. When things go wrong, what is it one's impulse to
do? To be cast down, or to be stirred up; to wring one's hands, or clench
one's fists,--in short, tears or temper.

"Mother," said a resolute little girl of my acquaintance, "if the dinner
was all spoiled, I wouldn't sit down, and cry! I'd say, 'Hang it!'" This
cherub preferred the alternative of temper, on days when the celery turned
out badly. Probably her mother was addicted to the other practice, and
exhibited the tears.

But as this alternative is found to exist for both sexes, and on all
occasions, why charge it especially on the woman-suffrage movement? Men
are certainly as much given to ill temper as women; and, if they are less
inclined to tears, they make it up in sulks, which are just as bad.
Nicholas Nickleby, when the pump was frozen, was advised by Mr. Squeers to
"content himself with a' dry polish;" and so there is a kind of dry despair
into which men fall, which is quite as forlorn as any tears of women. How
many a man has doubtless wished at such times that the pump of his
lachrymal glands could only thaw out, and he could give his emotions
something more than a "dry polish"! The unspeakable comfort some women feel
in sitting for ten minutes with a handkerchief over their eyes! The
freshness, the heartiness, the new life visible in them, when the crying is
done, and the handkerchief comes down again!

And, indeed, this simple statement brings us to the real truth, which
should have been more clearly seen by the writer who tells this story. She
is wrong in saying, "It is urged that men and women stand on an equality,
are exactly alike." Many of us urge the "equality:" very few of us urge the
"exactly alike." An apple and an orange, a potato and a tomato, a rose and
a lily, the Episcopal and the Presbyterian churches, Oxford and Cambridge,
Yale and Harvard,--we may surely grant equality in each case, without being
so exceedingly foolish as to go on and say that they are exactly alike.

And precisely here is the weak point of the whole case, as presented by
this writer. Women give way to tears more readily than men? Granted. Is
their sex any the weaker for it? Not a bit. It is simply a difference of
temperament: that is all. It involves no inferiority. If you think that
this habit necessarily means weakness, wait and see! Who has not seen women
break down in tears during some domestic calamity, while the "stronger sex"
were calm; and who has not seen those same women, that temporary excitement
being over, rise up and dry their eyes, and be thenceforth the support and
stay of their households, and perhaps bear up the "stronger sex" as a
stream bears up a ship? I said once to an experienced physician, watching
such a woman, "That woman is really great."--"Of course she is," he
answered; "did you ever see a woman who was not great, when the emergency

Now, will women carry this same quality of temperament into their public
career? Doubtless: otherwise they would cease to be women. Will it be
betraying confidence if I own that I have seen two of the very bravest
women of my acquaintance--women who have swayed great audiences--burst into
tears, during a committee meeting, at a moment of unexpected adversity for
"the cause"? How pitiable! our critical observers would have thought. In
five minutes that April shower had passed, and those women were as resolute
and unconquerable as Queen Elizabeth: they were again the natural leaders
of those around them; and the cool and tearless men who sat beside them
were nothing--men were "a lost art," as some one says--compared with the
inexhaustible moral vitality of those two women.

No: the dangers of "Celery and Cherubs" are exaggerated. For temper, women
are as good as men, and no better. As for tears, long may they flow! They
are symbols of that mighty distinction of sex which is as ineffaceable and
as essential as the difference between land and sea.


In the interesting Buddhist book, "The Wheel of the Law," translated by
Henry Alabaster, there is an account of a certain priest who used to bless
a great king, saying, "May your majesty have the firmness of a crow, the
audacity of a woman, the endurance of a vulture, and the strength of an
ant." The priest then told anecdotes illustrating all of these qualities.
Who has not known occasions wherein some daring woman has been the Joan of
Arc of a perfectly hopeless cause, taken it up where men shrank, carried it
through where they had failed, and conquered by weapons which men would
never have thought of using, and would have lacked faith to employ even if
put into their hands? The wit, the resources, the audacity of women, have
been the key to history and the staple of novels, ever since that larger
novel called history began to be written.

How is it done? Who knows the secret of their success? All that any man can
say is that the heart takes a large share in the magic. Rogers asserts in
his "Table-Talk," that often, when doubting how to act in matters of
importance, he had received more useful advice from women than from men.
"Women have the understanding of the heart," he said, "which is better than
that of the head." Then this instinct, that begins from the heart, reaches
other hearts also, and through that controls the will. "Win hearts," said
Lord Burleigh to Queen Elizabeth, "and you have hands and purses;" and the
greatest of English sovereigns, in spite of ugliness and rouge, in spite of
coarseness and cruelty and bad passions, was adored by the nation that she
first made great.

It seems to me that women are a sort of cavalry force in the army of
mankind. They are not always to be relied upon for that steady "hammering
away," which was Grant's one method; but there is a certain Sheridan
quality about them, light-armed, audacious, quick, irresistible. They go
before the main army; their swift wits go scouting far in advance; they are
the first to scent danger, or to spy out chances of success. Their charge
is like that of a Tartar horde, or the wild sweep of the Apaches. They are
upon you from some wholly unexpected quarter; and this respectable,
systematic, well-drilled masculine force is caught and rolled over and over
in the dust, before the man knows what has hit him. Even if repelled and
beaten off, this formidable cavalry is unconquered: routed and in
confusion to-day, it comes back upon you to-morrow--fresh, alert, with
new devices, bringing new dangers. In dealing with it, as the French
complained of the Arabs in Algiers, "Peace is not to be purchased by
victory." And, even if all seems lost, with what a brilliant final charge
it will cover a retreat!

Decidedly, we need cavalry. In older countries, where it has been a merely
undisciplined and irregular force, it has often done mischief; and public
men, from Demosthenes down, have been lamenting that measures which the
statesman has meditated a whole year may be overturned in a day by a woman.
Under our American government we have foolishly attempted to leave out this
arm of the service altogether; and much of the alleged dulness of our
American history has come from this attempt. Those who have been trained in
the various reforms where woman has taken an equal part--the anti-slavery
reform especially--know well how much of the energy, the dash, the daring,
of those movements have come from her. A revolution with a woman in it is
stronger than the established order that omits her. It is not that she is
superior to man, but she is different from man; and we can no more spare
her than we could spare the cavalry from an army.


It is a part of the necessary theory of republican government, that every
class and race shall be judged by its highest types, not its lowest. The
proposition of the French revolutionary statesman, to begin the work of
purifying the world by arresting all the cowards and knaves, is liable to
the objection that it would find victims in every circle. Republican
government begins at the other end, and assumes that the community
generally has good intentions at least, and some common sense, however
it may be with individuals. Take the very quality which the newspapers so
often deny to women,--the quality of steadiness. "In fact, men's great
objection to the entrance of the female mind into politics is drawn from a
suspicion of its unsteadiness on matters in which the feelings could by
any possibility be enlisted." Thus says the New York "Nation." Let us
consider this implied charge against women, and consider it not by
generalizing from a single instance,--"just like a woman," as the editors
would doubtless say, if a woman had done it,--but by observing whole
classes of that sex, taken together.

These classes need some care in selection, for the plain reason that there
are comparatively few circles in which women have yet been allowed enough
freedom of scope, or have acted sufficiently on the same plane with men, to
furnish a fair estimate of their probable action, were they enfranchised.
Still there occur to me three such classes,--the anti-slavery women, the
Quaker women, and the women who conduct philanthropic operations in our
large cities. If the alleged unsteadiness of women is to be felt in public
affairs, it would have been felt in these organizations. Has it been so

Of the anti-slavery movement I can personally testify--and I have heard the
same point fully recognized among my elders, such as Garrison, Phillips,
and Quincy--that the women contributed their full share, if not more than
their share, to the steadiness of that movement, even in times when the
feelings were most excited, as, for instance, in fugitive-slave cases. Who
that has seen mobs practically put down, and mayors cowed into decency, by
the silent dignity of those rows of women who sat, with their knitting,
more imperturbable than the men, can read without a smile these doubts of
the "steadiness" of that sex? Again, among Quaker women, I have asked the
opinion of prominent Friends, as of John G. Whittier, whether it has been
the experience of that body that women were more flighty and unsteady
than men in their official action; and have been uniformly answered in the
negative. And finally, as to benevolent organizations, a good test is given
in the fact,--first pointed out, I believe, by that eminently practical
philanthropist, Rev. Augustus Woodbury of Providence,--that the whole
tendency has been, during the last twenty years, to put the management,
even the financial control, of our benevolent societies, more and more into
the hands of women, and that there has never been the slightest reason to
reverse this policy. Ask the secretaries of the various boards of State
Charities, or the officers of the Social Science Associations, if they have
found reason to complain of the want of steadfast qualities in the "weaker
sex." Why is it that the legislation of Massachusetts has assigned the
class requiring the steadiest of all supervision--the imprisoned
convicts--to "five commissioners of prisons, two of whom shall be women"?
These are the points which it would be worthy of our journals to consider,
instead of hastily generalizing from single instances. Let us appeal from
the typical woman of the editorial picture,--fickle, unsteady,
foolish,--to the nobler conception of womanhood which the poet Wordsworth
found fulfilled in his own household:--

  "A being breathing thoughtful breath,
  A traveller betwixt life and death;
  _The reason firm, the temperate will;
  Endurance, foresight, strength and skill;_
  A perfect woman, nobly planned
  To warn, to comfort, to command,
  And yet a spirit still, and bright
  With something of an angel light."


When a certain legislature had "School Suffrage" under consideration, the
other day, the suggestion was made by one of the pithiest and quaintest of
the speakers, that men were always better for the society of women, and
therefore ought to vote in their company. "If all of us," he said, "would
stay away from all places where we cannot take our wives and daughters with
us, we should keep better company than we now do." This expresses a feeling
which grows more and more common among the better class of men, and which
is the key to much progress in the condition of women. There can be no
doubt that the increased association of the sexes in society, in school, in
literature, tends to purify these several spheres of action. Yet, when we
come to philosophize on this, there occur some perplexities on the way.

For instance, the exclusion of woman from all these spheres was in ancient
Greece almost complete; yet the leading Greek poets, as Homer and the
tragedians, are exceedingly chaste in tone, and in this respect beyond most
of the great poets of modern nations. Again, no European nation has quite
so far sequestered and subordinated women as has Spain; and yet the whole
tone of Spanish literature is conspicuously grave and decorous. This
plainly indicates that race has much to do with the matter, and that the
mere admission or exclusion of women is but one among several factors. In
short, it is easy to make out a case by a rhetorical use of the facts on
one side; but, if we look at all the facts, the matter presents greater

Again, it is to be noted that in several countries the first women who have
taken prominent part in literature have been as bad as the men; as, for
instance, Marguerite of Navarre and Mrs. Aphra Behn. This might indeed be
explained by supposing that they had to gain entrance into literature by
accepting the dissolute standards which they found prevailing. But it would
probably be more correct to say that these standards themselves were
variable, and that their variation affected, at certain periods, women as
well as men. Marguerite of Navarre wrote religious books as well as merry
stories; and we know from Lockhart's Life of Scott, that ladies of high
character in Edinburgh used to read Mrs. Behn's tales and plays aloud, at
one time, with delight,--although one of the same ladies found, in her old
age, that she could not read them to herself without blushing. Shakespeare
puts coarse repartees into the mouths of women of stainless virtue. George
Sand is not considered an unexceptionable writer; but she tells us in her
autobiography that she found among her grandmother's papers poems and
satires so indecent that she could not read them through, and yet they bore
the names of _abbés_ and gentlemen whom she remembered in her childhood as
models of dignity and honor. Voltaire inscribes to ladies of high rank, who
doubtless regarded it as a great compliment, verses such as not even a poet
of the English "fleshly school" would now print at all. In "Poems by
Eminent Ladies,"--published in 1755 and reprinted in 1774,--there are one
or two poems as gross and disgusting as anything in Swift; yet their
authors were thought reputable women. Allan Ramsay's "Tea-Table
Miscellany"--a collection of English and Scottish songs--was first
published in 1724; and in his preface to the sixteenth edition the editor
attributes its great success, especially among the ladies, to the fact that
he has carefully excluded all grossness, "that the modest voice and ear of
the fair singer might meet with no affront;" and adds, "the chief bent of
all my studies being to attain their good graces." There is no doubt of the
great popularity enjoyed by the book in all circles; yet it contains a few
songs which the most licentious newspaper would not now publish. The
inference is irresistible, from this and many other similar facts, that the
whole tone of manners and decency has very greatly improved among the
European races within a century and a half.

I suspect the truth to be, that, besides the visible influence of race and
religion, there has been an insensible and almost unconscious improvement
in each sex, with respect to these matters, as time has passed on; and that
the mutual desire to please has enabled each sex to help the other,--the
sex which is naturally the more refined taking the lead. But I should lay
more stress on this mutual influence, and less on mere feminine
superiority, than would be laid by many. It is often claimed by teachers
that co-education helps not only boys, but also girls, to develop greater
propriety of manners. When the sexes are wholly separate, or associate on
terms of entire inequality, no such good influence occurs: the more equal
the association, the better for both parties. After all, the Divine model
is to be found in the family; and the best ingenuity cannot improve much
upon it.



    "In respect to the powers and rights of married women, the law is by
    no means abreast of the spirit of the age. Here are seen the old
    fossil footprints of feudalism. The law relating to woman tends to
    make every family a barony or a monarchy or a despotism, of which
    the husband is the baron, king, or despot, and the wife the
    dependent, serf, or slave. That this is not always the fact, is not
    due to the law, but to the enlarged humanity which spurns the narrow
    limits of its rules. The progress of civilization has changed the
    family from a barony to a republic; but the law has not kept pace
    with the advance of ideas, manners, and customs."--W.W. STORY'S
    Treatise on Contracts not under Seal, § 84, third edition, p. 89.


We see advertisements, occasionally, of "Homes for Aged Women," and more
rarely "Homes for Aged Men." The question sometimes suggests itself,
whether it would not be better to begin the provision earlier, and see that
homes are also provided, in some form, for the middle-aged and even the
young. The trouble is, I suppose, that as it takes two to make a bargain,
so it takes at least two to make a home; and unluckily it takes only one to
spoil it.

Madame Roland once defined marriage as an institution where one person
undertakes to provide happiness for two; and many failures are accounted
for, no doubt, by this false basis. Sometimes it is the man, more often the
woman, of whom this extravagant demand is made. There are marriages which
have proved a wreck almost wholly through the fault of the wife. Nor is
this confined to wedded homes alone. I have known a son who lived alone,
patiently and uncomplainingly, with that saddest of all conceivable
companions, a drunken mother. I have known another young man who supported
in his own home a mother and sister, both habitual drunkards. All these
were American-born, and all of respectable social position. A house
shadowed by such misery is not a home, though it might have proved such but
for the sins of women. Such instances are, however, rare and occasional
compared with the cases where the same offence in the husband makes ruin of
the home.

Then there are the cases where indolence, or selfishness, or vanity, or the
love of social excitement, in the woman, unfits her for home life. Here we
come upon ground where perhaps woman is the greater sinner. It must be
remembered, however, that against this must be balanced the neglect
produced by club-life, or by the life of society-membership, in a man. A
brilliant young married belle in London once told me that she was glad her
husband was so fond of his club, for it amused him every night while she
went to balls. "Married men do not go much into society here," she said,
"unless they are regular flirts,--which I do not think my husband would
ever be, for he is very fond of me,--so he goes every night to his club,
and gets home about the same time that I do. It is a very nice
arrangement." It is perhaps needless to add that they are long since

It is common to denounce club-life in our large cities as destructive of
the home. The modern club is simply a more refined substitute for the
old-fashioned tavern, and is on the whole an advance in morals as well as
manners. In our large cities a man in a certain social coterie belongs to a
club, if he can afford it, as a means of contact with his fellows, and to
have various conveniences which he cannot so economically obtain at home. A
few haunt clubs constantly; the many use them occasionally. More absorbing
than these, perhaps, are the secret societies which have so revived among
us since the war, and which consume time so fearfully. There was a case
mentioned in the newspapers lately of a man who belonged to some twenty of
these associations; and when he died, and each wished to conduct his
funeral, great was the strife! In the small city where I write there are
seventeen secret societies down in the directory, and I suppose as many
more not so conspicuous. I meet men who assure me that they habitually
attend a society meeting every evening of the week except Sunday, when
they go to church meeting. These are rarely men of leisure; they are
usually mechanics or business men of some kind, who are hard at work all
day, and never see their families except at meal-times. Their case is far
worse, so far as absence from home is concerned, than that of the
"club-men" of large cities; for these are often men of leisure, who, if
married, at least make home one of their lounging-places, which such
secret-society men do not.

I honestly believe that this melancholy desertion of the home is largely
due to the traditional separation between the alleged spheres of the sexes.
The theory still prevails largely, that home is the peculiar province of
the woman, that she has almost no duties out of it; and hence, naturally
enough, that the husband has almost no duties in it. If he is amused there,
let him stay there; but, as it is not his recognized sphere of duty, he is
not actually violating any duty by absenting himself. This theory even
pervades our manuals of morals, of metaphysics, and of popular science; and
it is not every public teacher who has the manliness, having once stated
it, to modify his statement, as did the venerable President Hopkins of
Williams College, when lecturing the other day to the young ladies of

"I would," he said, "at this point correct my teaching in 'The Law of Love'
to the effect that home is peculiarly the sphere of woman, and civil
government that of man. _I now regard the home as the joint sphere of man
and woman, and the sphere of civil government more of an open question as
between the two._ It is, however, to be lamented that the present agitation
concerning the rights of woman is so much a matter of 'rights' rather than
of 'duties,' as the reform of the latter would involve the former."

If our instructors in moral philosophy will only base their theory of
ethics as broadly as this, we shall no longer need to advertise "Homes
Wanted;" for the joint efforts of men and women will soon provide them.


Nothing throws more light on the whole history of woman than the first
illustration in Sir John Lubbock's "Origin of Civilization." A young girl,
almost naked, is being dragged furiously along the ground by a party of
naked savages, armed literally to the teeth, while those of another band
grasp her by the arm, and almost tear her asunder in the effort to hold her
back. These last are her brothers and her friends; the others are--her
enemies? As you please to call them. They are her future husband and his
kinsmen, who have come to aid him in his wooing.

This was the primitive rite of marriage. Vestiges of it still remain among
savage nations. And all the romance and grace of the most refined modern
marriage--the orange-blossoms, the bridal veil, the church service, the
wedding feast--these are only the "bright consummate flower" reared by
civilization from that rough seed. All the brutal encounter is softened
into this. Nothing remains of the barbarism except the one word "obey," and
even that is going.

Now, to say that a thing is going, is to say that it will presently be
gone. To say that anything is changed, is to say that it is to change
further. If it never has been altered, perhaps it will not be; but a proved
alteration of an inch in a year opens the way to an indefinite
modification. The study of the glaciers, for instance, began with the
discovery that they had moved; and from that moment no one doubted that
they were moving all the time.

It is the same with the position of woman. Once open your eyes to the fact
that it has changed, and who is to predict where the matter shall end? It
is sheer folly to say, "Her relative position will always be what it has
been," when one glance at Sir John Lubbock's picture shows that there is no
fixed "has been," but that her original position was long since altered and
revised. Those who still use this argument are like those who laughed at
the lines of stakes which Agassiz planted across the Aar glacier in 1840.
But the stakes settled the question, and proved the motion. _Però sim
muove_: "But it moves."

The motion once proved, the whole range of possible progress is before us.
The amazement of that Chinese visitor in Boston, the other day, when he saw
a woman addressing a missionary meeting; the astonishment of all English
visitors when young ladies teach classes in geometry and Latin, in our high
schools; the surprise of foreigners at seeing the rough throng in the
Cooper Institute reading-room submit to the sway of one young woman with a
crochet-needle--all these simply testify to the fact that the stakes have
moved. That they have yet been carried halfway to the end, who knows?

What a step from the horrible nuptials of those savage days to the poetic
marriage of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett--the "Sonnets from the
Portuguese" on one side, the "One Word More" on the other! But who can say
that the whole relation between man and woman reached its climax there, and
that where the past has brought changes so vast the future is to add
nothing? Who knows that, when "the world's great bridals come," people may
not look back with pity, even on this era of the Brownings? Perhaps even
Elizabeth Barrett promised to obey!

At any rate, it is safe to say that each step concedes the probability of
another. Even from the naked barbarian to the veiled Oriental, from the
savage hut to the carefully enshrined harem, there is a step forward. One
more step in the spiral line of progress has brought us to the unveiled
face and comparatively free movements of the English or American woman.
From the kitchen to the public lecture-room, from that to the
lecture-platform, and from that again to the ballot-box,--these are far
slighter steps than those which gradually lifted the savage girl of Sir
John Lubbock's picture into the possession of the alphabet and the dignity
of a home. So easy are these future changes beside those of the past, that
to doubt their possibility is as if Agassiz, after tracing year by year the
motion of his Alpine glacier, should deny its power to move one inch
farther into the sunny valley, and there to melt harmlessly away.


We constantly see it assumed, in arguments against any step in the
elevation of woman, that her position is a thing fixed permanently by
nature, so that there can be in it no great or essential change. Every
successive modification is resisted as "a reform against nature;" and this
argument from permanence is always that which appears most convincing to
conservative minds. Let us see how the facts confirm it.

A story is going the rounds of the newspapers in regard to a Russian
peasant and his wife. For some act of disobedience the peasant took the law
into his own hands; and his mode of discipline was to tie the poor creature
naked to a post in the street, and to call on every passer-by to strike her
a blow. Not satisfied with this, he placed her on the ground, and tied
heavy weights on her limbs until one arm was broken. When finally released,
she made a complaint against him in court. The court discharged him on the
ground that he had not exceeded the legal authority of a husband.
Encouraged by this, he caused her to be arrested in return; and the same
court sentenced her to another public whipping for disobedience.

No authority was given for this story in the newspaper where I saw it; but
it certainly did not first appear in a woman-suffrage newspaper, and
cannot therefore be a manufactured "outrage." I use it simply to illustrate
the low-water mark at which the position of woman may rest, in the largest
Christian nation of the world. All the refinements, all the education, all
the comparative justice, of modern society, have been gradually upheaved
from some such depth as this. When the gypsies described by Leland treat
even the ground trodden upon by a woman as impure, they simply illustrate
the low plane from which all the elevation of woman has begun. All these
things show that the position of that sex in society, so far from being a
thing in itself permanent, has been in reality the most changing of all
factors in the social problem. And this inevitably suggests the question,
Are we any more sure that her present position is finally and absolutely
fixed than were those who observed it at any previous time in the world's
history? Granting that her condition was once at low-water mark, who is
authorized to say that it has yet reached high tide?

It is very possible that this Russian wife, once scourged back to
submission, ended her days in the conviction, and taught it to her
daughters, that such was a woman's rightful place. When an American woman
of to-day says, "I have all the rights I want," is she on any surer ground?
Grant that the difference is vast between the two. How do we know that even
the later condition is final, or that anything is final but entire equality
before the laws? It is not many years since William Story--in a legal work
inspired and revised by his father, the greatest of American jurists--wrote
this indignant protest against the injustice of the old common law:--

    "In respect to the powers and rights of married women, the law is by
    no means abreast of the spirit of the age. Here are seen the old
    fossil footprints of feudalism. The law relating to woman tends to
    make every family a barony or a monarchy, or a despotism, of which
    the husband is the baron, king, or despot, and the wife the
    dependent, serf, or slave. That this is not always the fact is not
    due to the law, but to the enlarged humanity which spurns the narrow
    limits of its rules. The progress of civilization has changed the
    family from a barony to a republic; but the law has not kept pace
    with the advance of ideas, manners, and customs. And, although
    public opinion is a check to legal rules on the subject, the rules
    are feudal and stern. Yet the position of woman throughout history
    serves as the criterion of the freedom of the people or an age. When
    man shall despise that right which is founded only on might, woman
    will be free and stand on an equal level with him,--a friend and not
    a dependent."[1]

We know that the law is greatly changed and ameliorated in many places
since Story wrote this statement; but we also know how almost every one of
these changes was resisted: and who is authorized to say that the final and
equitable fulfilment is yet reached?

[Footnote 1: Story's _Treatise on the Law of Contracts not under Seal_, §
84, p. 89.]


After witnessing the marriage ceremony of the Episcopal Church, the other
day, I walked down the aisle with the young rector who had officiated. It
was natural to speak of the beauty of the Church service on an occasion
like that; but, after doing this, I felt compelled to protest against the
unrighteous pledge to obey. "I hope," I said, "to live to see that word
expunged from the Episcopal service, as it has been from that of the
Methodists. The Roman Catholics, you know, have never had it."

"Why do you object?" he asked. "Is it because you know that they will not

"Because they ought not," I said.

"Well," said he, after a few moments' reflection, and looking up frankly,
"I do not think they ought!"

Here was a young clergyman of great earnestness and self-devotion, who
included it among the sacred duties of his life to impose upon ignorant
young girls a solemn obligation, which he yet thought they ought not to
incur, and did not believe that they would keep. There could hardly be a
better illustration of the confusion in the public mind, or the manner in
which "the subjection of woman" is being outgrown, or the subtile way in
which this subjection has been interwoven with sacred ties, and baptized

The advocates of woman suffrage are constantly reproved for using the terms
"subjection," "oppression," and "slavery," as applied to woman. They simply
commit the same sin as that committed by the original abolitionists. They
are "as harsh as truth, as uncompromising as justice." Of course they talk
about oppression and emancipation. It is the word _obey_ that constitutes
the one, and shows the need of the other. Whoever is pledged to obey is
technically and literally a slave, no matter how many roses surround the
chains. All the more so if the slavery is self-imposed, and surrounded by
all the prescriptions of religion. Make the marriage tie as close as church
or state can make it; but let it be equal, impartial. That it may be so,
the word _obey_ must be abandoned or made reciprocal. Where invariable
obedience is promised, equality is gone.

That there may be no doubt about the meaning of this word in the marriage
covenant, the usages of nations often add symbolic explanations. These are
generally simple, and brutal enough to be understood. The Hebrew ceremony,
when the bridegroom took off his slipper and struck the bride on the neck
as she crossed his threshold, was unmistakable. As my black sergeant said,
when a white prisoner questioned his authority, and he pointed to the
_chevrons_ on his sleeve, "Dat mean guv'ment." All these forms mean simply
government also. The ceremony of the slipper has now no recognition, except
when people fling an old shoe after the bride, which is held by
antiquarians to be the same observance. But it is all preserved and
concentrated into a single word, when the bride promises to obey.

The deepest wretchedness that has ever been put into human language, or
that has exceeded it, has grown out of that pledge. There is no misery on
earth like that of a pure and refined woman who finds herself owned, body
and soul, by a drunken, licentious, brutal man. The very fact that she is
held to obedience by a spiritual tie makes it worse. Chattel slavery was
not so bad; for, though the master might pervert religion for his own
satisfaction, he could not impose upon the slave. Never yet did I see a
negro slave who thought it a duty to obey his master; and therefore there
was always some dream of release. But who has not heard of some delicate
and refined woman, one day of whose torture was equivalent to years of that
possible to an obtuse frame,--who had the door of escape ready at hand for
years, and yet died a lingering death rather than pass through it; and this
because she had promised to obey!

It is said of one of the most gifted women who ever trod American soil,--
she being of English birth,--that, before she obtained the divorce which
separated her from her profligate husband, she once went for counsel to the
wife of her pastor. She unrolled before her the long catalogue of merciless
outrages to which she had been subject, endangering finally her health, her
life, and that of her children born and to be born. When she turned at last
for advice to her confessor, with the agonized inquiry, "What is it my duty
to do?"--"Do?" said the stern adviser: "Lie down on the floor, and let your
husband trample on you if he will. That is a woman's duty."

The woman who gave this advice was not naturally inhuman nor heartless: she
had simply been trained in the school of obedience. The Jesuit doctrine,
that a priest should be as a corpse, _perinde ac cadaver_, in the hands of
a superior priest, is not worse. Woman has no right to delegate, nor man to
assume, a responsibility so awful. Just in proportion as it is consistently
carried out, it trains men from boyhood into self-indulgent tyrants; and,
while some women are transformed by it to saints, others are crushed into
deceitful slaves. That this was the result of chattel slavery, this nation
has at length learned. We learn more slowly the profounder and more subtile
moral evil that follows from the unrighteous promise to obey.


When the bride receives the ring upon her finger, and utters--if she utters
it--the promise to obey, she sees a poetic beauty in the rite. Turning of
her own free will from her maiden liberty, she voluntarily takes the yoke
of service upon her. This is her view; but is this the historic fact in
regard to marriage? Not at all. The pledge of obedience--the whole theory
of inequality in marriage--is simply what is left to us of a former state
of society, in which every woman, old or young, must obey somebody. The
state of tutelage, implied in such a marriage, is merely what is left of
the old theory of the "Perpetual Tutelage of Women," under the Roman law.

Roman law, from which our civil law is derived, has its foundation
evidently in patriarchal tradition. It recognized at first the family only,
and that family was held together by paternal power _(patria potestas)_. If
the father died, his powers passed to the son or grandson, as the possible
head of a new family; but these powers could never pass to a woman, and
every woman, of whatever age, must be under somebody's legal control. Her
father dying, she was still subject through life to her nearest male
relations, or to her father's nominees, as her guardians. She was under
perpetual guardianship, both as to person and property. No years, no
experience, could make her anything but a child before the law.

In Oriental countries the system was still more complete. "A man," says the
Gentoo Code of Laws, "must keep his wife so much in subjection that she by
no means be mistress of her own action. If the wife have her own free will,
notwithstanding she be of a superior caste, she will behave amiss." But
this authority, which still exists in India, is not merely conjugal. The
husband exerts it simply as being the wife's legal guardian. If the woman
be unmarried or a widow, she must be as rigorously held under some other
guardianship. It is no uncommon thing for a woman in India to be the ward
of her own son. Lucretia Mott or Florence Nightingale would there be in
personal subjection to somebody. Any man of legal age would be recognized
as a fit custodian for them, but there must be a man.

With some variation of details at different periods, the same system
prevailed essentially at Rome, down to the time when Rome became Christian.
Those who wish for particulars will find them in an admirable chapter (the
fifth) of Maine's "Ancient Law." At one time the husband was held to
possess the _patria potestas_, or paternal power, in its full force. By law
"the woman passed _in manum viri_, that is, she became the daughter of her
husband." All she had became his, and after his death she was retained in
the same strict tutelage by any guardians his will might appoint.
Afterwards, to soften this rigid bond, the woman was regarded in law as
being temporarily deposited by her family with her husband; the family
appointed guardians over her; and thus, between the two tyrannies, she won
a sort of independence. Then came Christianity, and swept away the merely
parental authority for married women, concentrating all upon the husband.
Hence our legislation bears the mark of a double origin, and woman is half
recognized as an equal and half as a slave.

It is necessary to remember, therefore, that all the relation of subjection
in marriage is merely the residue of an unnatural system, of which all else
is long since outgrown. It would have seemed to an ancient Roman a matter
of course that a woman should, all her life long, obey the guardians set
over her person. It still seems to many people a matter of course that she
should obey her husband. To others among us, on the contrary, both these
theories of obedience seem barbarous, and the one is merely a relic of the

We cannot disregard the history of the Theory of Tutelage. If we could
believe that a chrysalis is always a chrysalis, and a butterfly always a
butterfly, we could easily leave each to its appropriate sphere; but when
we see the chrysalis open, and the butterfly come half out of it, we know
that sooner or later it must spread wings, and fly. The theory of tutelage
implies the chrysalis. Woman is the butterfly. Sooner or later she will be
wholly out.


A young man of very good brains was telling me, the other day, his dreams
of his future wife. Rattling on, more in joke than in earnest, he said,
"She must be perfectly ignorant, and a bigot: she must know nothing, and
believe everything. I should wish to have her from the adjoining room call
to me, 'My dear, what do two and two make?'"

It did not seem to me that his demand would be so very hard to fill, since
bigotry and ignorance are to be had almost anywhere for the asking; and, as
for two and two, I should say that it had always been the habit of women to
ask that question of some man, and to rest easily satisfied with the
answer. They have generally called, as my friend wished, from some other
room, saying, "My dear, what do two and two make?" and the husband or
father or brother has answered and said, "My dear, they make four for a
man, and three for a woman."

At any given period in the history of woman, she has adopted man's whim as
the measure of her rights; has claimed nothing; has sweetly accepted
anything; the law of two-and-two itself should be at his discretion. At any
given moment, so well was his interpretation received, that it stood for
absolute right. In Rome a woman, married or single, could not testify in
court; in the middle ages, and down to quite modern times, she could not
hold real estate; thirty years ago she could not, in New England, obtain a
collegiate education; even now she can only vote for school officers.

The first principles of republican government are so rehearsed and
re-rehearsed, that one would think they must become "as plain as that two
and two make four." But we find throughout, that, as Emerson said of
another class of reasoners, "Their two is not the real two; their four
is not the real four." We find different numerals and diverse
arithmetical rules for the two sexes; as, in some Oriental countries,
men and women speak different dialects of the same language.

In novels the hero often begins by dreaming, like my friend, of an ideal
wife, who shall be ignorant of everything, and have only brains enough to
be bigoted. Instead of sighing, like Falstaff, "Oh for a fine young thief,
of the age of two and twenty or thereabouts!" the hero sighs for a fine
young idiot of similar age. When the hero is successful in his search and
wooing, the novelist sometimes mercifully removes the young woman early,
like David Copperfield's Dora, she bequeathing the bereaved husband, on her
deathbed, to a woman of sense. In real life these convenient interruptions
do not commonly occur, and the foolish youth regrets through many years
that he did not select an Agnes instead.

The acute observer Stendhal says,--

    "In Paris, the highest praise for a marriageable girl is to say,
    'She has great sweetness of character and the disposition of a
    lamb.' Nothing produces more impression on fools who are looking out
    for wives. I think I see the interesting couple, two years after,
    breakfasting together on a dull day, with three tall lackeys waiting
    upon them!"

And he adds, still speaking in the interest of men:--

    "Most men have a period in their career when they might do something
    great, a period when nothing seems impossible. The ignorance of
    women spoils for the human race this magnificent opportunity: and
    love, at the utmost, in these days, only inspires a young man to
    learn to ride well, or to make a judicious selection of a

Society, however, discovers by degrees that there are conveniences in every
woman's knowing the four rules of arithmetic for herself. Two and two come
to the same amount on a butcher's bill, whether the order be given by a man
or a woman; and it is the same in all affairs or investments, financial or
moral. We shall one day learn that with laws, customs, and public affairs
it is the same. Once get it rooted in a woman's mind, that for her, two and
two make three only, and sooner or later the accounts of the whole human
race fail to balance.

[Footnote 1: _De L'Amour_, par de Stendhal (Henri Beyle). Paris, 1868
[written in 1822], pp. 182, 198.]


There is an African bird called the hornbill, whose habits are in some
respects a model. The female builds her nest in a hollow tree, lays her
eggs, and broods on them. So far, so good. Then the male feels that he must
also contribute some service; so he walls up the hole closely, giving only
room for the point of the female's bill to protrude. Until the eggs are
hatched, she is thenceforth confined to her nest, and is in the mean time
fed assiduously by her mate, who devotes himself entirely to this object.
Dr. Livingstone has seen these nests in Africa, Layard and others in Asia,
and Wallace in Sumatra.

Personally I have never seen a hornbill's nest. The nearest approach I ever
made to it was when in Fayal I used to pass near a gloomy mansion, of which
the front windows were walled up, and only one high window was visible in
the rear, beyond the reach of eyes from any neighboring house. In this
cheerful abode, I was assured, a Portuguese lady had been for many years
confined by her jealous husband. It was long since any neighbor had caught
a glimpse of her, but it was supposed that she was alive. There is no
reason to doubt that her husband fed her well. It was simply a case of
human hornbill, with the imprisonment made perpetual.

I have more than once asked lawyers whether, in communities where the old
common law prevailed, there was anything to prevent such an imprisonment of
a married woman; and they have always answered, "Nothing but public
opinion." Where the husband has the legal custody of the wife's person, no
_habeas corpus_ can avail against him. The hornbill household is based on a
strict application of the old common law. A Hindoo household was a hornbill
household: "a woman, of whatsoever age, should never be mistress of her own
actions," said the code of Menu. An Athenian household was a hornbill's
nest, and great was the outcry when some Aspasia broke out of it. When the
remonstrant petitions legislatures against the emancipation of woman, we
seem to hear the twittering of the hornbill mother, imploring to be left

Under some forms, the hornbill theory becomes respectable. There are many
peaceful families, innocent though torpid, where the only dream of
existence is to have plenty of quiet, plenty of food, and plenty of
well-fed children. For them this African household is a sufficient model.
The wife is "a home body." The husband is "a good provider." These are
honest people, and have a right to speak. The hornbill theory is only
dishonest when it comes--as it often comes--from women who lead the
life, not of good stay-at-home fowls, but of paroquets and
hummingbirds,--who sorrowfully bemoan the active habits of enlightened
women, while they themselves

  "Bear about the mockery of woe
  To midnight dances and the public show."

It is from these women, in Washington, New York, and elsewhere, that the
loudest appeal for the hornbill standard of domesticity proceeds. Put them
to the test, and give them their chicken-salad and champagne through a hole
in the wall only, and see how they like it.

But even the most honest and peaceful conservatives will one day admit that
the hornbill is not the highest model. Plato thought that "the soul of our
grandame might haply inhabit the body of a bird;" but Nature has kindly
provided various types of bird-households to suit all varieties of taste.
The bright orioles, filling the summer boughs with color and with song, are
as truly domestic in the freedom of their airy nest as the poor hornbills
who ignorantly make home into a dungeon. And certainly each new generation
of orioles, spreading free wings from that pendent cradle, affords a
happier illustration of judicious nurture than is to be found in the
uncouth little offspring of the hornbills, which Wallace describes as "so
flabby and semi-transparent as to resemble a bladder of jelly, furnished
with head, legs, and rudimentary wings, but with not a sign of a feather,
except a few lines of points indicating where they would come."


Many German-Americans are warm friends of woman suffrage; but the editors
of "Puck," it seems, are not. In a certain number of that comic journal,
there was an unfavorable cartoon on this reform; and in a following
number,--the number, by the way, which contains that amusing illustration
of the vast seaside hotels of the future, with the cheering announcement,
"Only one mile to the barber's shop," and "Take the cars to the
dining-room,"--a lady came to the rescue, and bravely defended woman
suffrage. It seems that the original cartoon depicted in the corner a
pretty family scene, representing father, mother, and children seated
happily together, with the melancholy motto, "Nevermore, nevermore!"
And when the correspondent, Mrs. Blake, very naturally asks what this
touching picture has to do with woman suffrage, Puck says, "If the
husband in our 'pretty family scene' should propose to vote for the
candidate who was obnoxious to his wife, would this 'pretty family
scene' continue to be a domestic paradise, or would it remind the
spectator of the region in which Dante spent his 'fortnight off'?"

It is beautiful to see how much anxiety there is to preserve the family.
Every step in the modification of the old common law, whereby the wife was,
in Baron Alderson's phrase, "the servant of her husband," was resisted as
tending to endanger the family. The proposal that the wife should control
her own earnings, so that her husband should not have the right to collect
them in order to pay his gambling debts, was declared by English advocates,
in the celebrated case of the Hon. Mrs. Norton, the poetess, to imperil all
the future peace of British households.

Even the liberal-minded "Punch," about the time Girton College was founded
in England, expressed grave doubts whether the harmony of wedded unions
would not receive a blow, from the time when wives should be liable to know
more Greek than their husbands. Yet the marriage relation has withstood
these innovations. It has not been impaired, either by separate rights,
private earnings, or independent Greek: can it be possible that a little
voting will overthrow it?

The very ground on which woman suffrage is opposed by its enemies might
assuage these fears. If, as we are told, women will not take the pains to
vote except upon the strongest inducements, who has so good an opportunity
as the husband to bring those inducements to bear? and, if so, what is the
separation? Or if, as we are told, women will merely reflect their
husbands' political opinions, why should they dispute about them? The mere
suggestion of a difference deep enough to quarrel for, implies a real
difference of convictions or interests, and indicates that there ought to
be an independent representation of each; unless we fall back, once for
all, on the common-law tradition that man and wife are one, and that one is
the husband. Either the antagonisms which occur in politics are
comparatively superficial, in which case they would do no harm; or else
they touch matters of real interest and principle, in which case every
human being has a right to independent expression, even at a good deal of
risk. In either case, the objection falls to the ground.

We have fortunately a means of testing, with some fairness of estimate, the
probable amount of this peril. It is generally admitted--and certainly no
German-American will deny--that the most fruitful sources of hostility and
war in all times have been religious, not political. All merely political
antagonism, certainly all which is possible in a republic, fades into
insignificance before this more powerful dividing influence. Yet we leave
all this great explosive force in unimpeded operation,--at any
moment it may be set in action, in any one of those "pretty family scenes"
which "Puck" depicts,--while we are solemnly warned against admitting the
comparatively mild peril of a political difference! It is like cautioning a
manufacturer of dynamite against the danger of meddling with mere
edge-tools. Even with all the intensity of feeling on religious matters,
few families are seriously divided by them; and the influence of political
differences would be still more insignificant.

The simple fact is that there is no better basis for union than mutual
respect for each other's opinions; and this can never be obtained
without an intelligent independence, "I would rather have a thorn in my
side than an echo," said Emerson of friendship; and the same is true of
married life. It is the echoes, the nonentities, of whom men grow tired; it
is the women with some flavor of individuality who keep the hearts of their
husbands. This is only applying in a higher sense what Shakespeare's
Cleopatra saw. When her handmaidens are questioning how to hold a lover,
and one says,--

    "Give way to him in all: cross him in nothing,"--

Cleopatra, from the depth of an unequalled experience, retorts,--

    "Thou speakest like a fool: the way to lose him!"

And what "the serpent of old Nile" said, the wives of the future, who are
to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, may well ponder. It takes two
things different to make a union; and part of that difference may as well
lie in matters political as anywhere else.


An able lawyer of Boston, arguing the other day before a legislative
committee in favor of giving to the city council a check upon the
expenditures of the school committee, gave as one reason that this body
would probably include more women henceforward, and that women were
ordinarily more lavish than men in their use of money. The truth of this
assumption was questioned at the time; and, the more I think of it, the
more contrary it is to my whole experience. I should say that women, from
the very habit of their lives, are led to be more particular about details,
and more careful as to small economies. The very fact that they handle less
money tends to this. When they are told to spend money, as they often are
by loving or ambitious husbands, they no doubt do it freely: they have
naturally more taste than men, and quite as much love of luxury. In some
instances in this country they spend money recklessly and wickedly, like
the heroines of French novels; but as, even in brilliant Paris, the women
of the middle classes are notoriously better managers than the men, so we
often see, in our scheming America, the same relative superiority. Often
have I heard young men say, "I never knew how to economize until after my
marriage;" and who has not seen multitudes of instances where women
accustomed to luxury have accepted poverty without a murmur for the sake of
those whom they loved?

I remember a young girl, accustomed to the gayest society of New York, who
engaged herself to a young naval officer, against the advice of the friends
of both. One of her near relatives said to me, "Of all the young girls I
have ever known, she is the least fitted for a poor man's wife." Yet from
the very moment of her marriage she brought their joint expenses within his
scanty pay, and even saved a little money from it. Everybody knows such
instances. We hear men denounce the extravagance of women, while those very
men spend on wine and cigars, on clubs and horses, twice what their wives
spend on their toilet. If the wives are economical, the husbands perhaps
urge them on to greater lavishness. "Why do you not dress like Mrs.
So-and-so?"--"I can't afford it."--"But _I_ can afford it;" and then, when
the bills come in, the talk of extravagance recommences. At one time in
Newport, that lady among the summer visitors who was reported to be Worth's
best customer was also well known to be quite indifferent to society, and
to go into it mainly to please her husband, whose social ambition was

It has often happened to me to serve in organizations where both sexes were
represented, and where expenditures were to be made for business or
pleasure. In these I have found, as a rule, that the women were more
careful, or perhaps I should say more timid, than the men, less willing to
risk anything: the bolder financial experiments came from the men, as one
might expect. In talking the other day with the secretary of an important
educational enterprise, conducted by women, I was surprised to find that it
was cramped for money, though large subscriptions were said to have been
made to it. On inquiry it appeared that these ladies, having pledged
themselves for four years, had divided the amount received into four parts,
and were resolutely limiting themselves, for the first year, to one quarter
part of what had been subscribed. No board of men would have done so. Any
board of men would have allowed far more than a quarter of the sum for the
first year's expenditures, justly reasoning that if the enterprise began
well it would command public confidence, and bring in additional
subscriptions as time went on. I would appeal to any one whose experience
has been in joint associations of men and women, whether this is not a fair
statement of the difference between their ways of working. It does not
prove that women are more honest than men, but that their education or
their nature makes them more cautious in expenditure.

The habits of society make the dress of a fashionable woman far more
expensive than that of a man of fashion. Formerly it was not so; and, so
long as it was not so, the extravagance of men in this respect quite
equalled that of women. It now takes other forms, but the habit is the
same. The waiters at any fashionable restaurant will tell you that what is
a cheap dinner for a man would be a dear dinner for a woman. Yet after all,
the test is not in any particular class of expenditures, but in the
business-like habit. Men are of course more business-like in large
combinations, for they are more used to them; but for the small details of
daily economy women are more watchful. The cases where women ruin their
husbands by extravagance are exceptional. As a rule, the men are the
bread-winners; but the careful saving and managing and contriving come
from the women.


I was once at a little musical party in New York, where several
accomplished amateur singers were present, and with them the eminent
professional, Miss Adelaide Phillipps. The amateurs were first called on.
Each chose some difficult operatic passage, and sang her best. When it came
to the great opera-singer's turn, instead of exhibiting her ability to
eclipse those rivals on her own ground, she simply seated herself at the
piano, and sang "Kathleen Mavourneen" with such thrilling sweetness that
the young Irish girl who was setting the supper-table in the next room
forgot all her plates and teaspoons, threw herself into a chair, put her
apron over her face, and sobbed as if her heart would break. All the
training of Adelaide Phillipps--her magnificent voice, her stage
experience, her skill in effects, her power of expression--went into the
performance of that simple song. The greater included the less. And thus
all the intellectual and practical training that any woman can have, all
her public action and her active career, will make her, if she be a true
woman, more admirable as a wife, a mother, and a friend. The greater
includes the less for her also.

Of course this is a statement of general facts and tendencies. There must
be among women, as among men, an endless variety of individual
temperaments. There will always be plenty whose career will illustrate the
infirmities of genius, and whom no training can convince that two and two
make four. But the general fact is sure. As no sensible man would seriously
prefer for a wife a Hindoo or Tahitian woman rather than one bred in
England or America, so every further advantage of education or opportunity
will only improve, not impair, the true womanly type.

Lucy Stone once said, "Woman's nature was stamped and sealed by the
Almighty, and there is no danger of her unsexing herself while his eye
watches her." Margaret Fuller said, "One hour of love will teach a woman
more of her true relations than all your philosophizing." These were the
testimony of women who had studied Greek, and were only the more womanly
for the study. They are worth the opinions of a million half-developed
beings like the Duchess de Fontanges, who was described as being "as
beautiful as an angel and as silly as a goose." The greater includes the
less. Your view from the mountain-side may be very pretty, but she who has
taken one step higher commands your view and her own also. It was no dreamy
recluse, but the accomplished and experienced Stendhal, who wrote, "The
joys of the gay world do not count for much with happy women."[1]

If a highly educated man is incapable and unpractical, we do not say that
he is educated too well, but not well enough. He ought to know what he
knows, and other things also. Never yet did I see a woman too well educated
to be a wife and a mother; but I know multitudes who deplore, or have
reason to deplore, every day of their lives, the untrained and unfurnished
minds that are so ill-prepared for these sacred duties. Every step towards
equalizing the opportunities of men and women meets with resistance, of
course; but every step, as it is accomplished, leaves men still men, and
women still women. And as we who heard Adelaide Phillipps felt that she had
never had a better tribute to her musical genius than this young Irish
girl's tears, so the true woman will feel that all her college training for
instance, if she has it, may have been well invested, even for the sake of
the baby on her knee. And it is to be remembered, after all, that each
human being lives to unfold his or her own powers, and do his or her own
duties first, and that neither woman nor man has the right to accept a
merely secondary and subordinate life. A noble woman must be a noble human
being; and the most sacred special duties, as of wife or mother, are all
included in this, as the greater includes the less.

[Footnote 1: _De l'Amour_, par de Stendhal (Henri Beyle): "Les plaisirs du
grand monde n'en sont pas pour les femmes heureuses," p. 189.]


Marriage, considered merely in its financial and business relations, may be
regarded as a permanent copartnership.

Now, in an ordinary copartnership there is very often a complete division
of labor among the partners. If they manufacture locomotive-engines, for
instance, one partner perhaps superintends the works, another attends to
mechanical inventions and improvements, another travels for orders, another
conducts the correspondence, another receives and pays out the money. The
latter is not necessarily the head of the firm. Perhaps his place could be
more easily filled than some of the other posts. Nevertheless, more money
passes through his hands than through those of all the others put together.
Now, should he, at the year's end, call together the inventor and the
superintendent and the traveller and the correspondent, and say to them,
"I have earned all this money this year, but I will generously give you
some of it,"--he would be considered simply impertinent, and would hardly
have a chance to repeat the offence the year after.

Yet precisely what would be called folly in this business partnership is
constantly done by men in the copartnership of marriage, and is there
called "common sense" and "social science" and "political economy."

For instance, a farmer works himself half to death in the hayfield, and his
wife meanwhile is working herself wholly to death in the dairy. The
neighbors come in to sympathize after her demise; and during the few
months' interval before his second marriage they say approvingly, "He was
always a generous man to his folks! He was a good provider!" But where was
the room for generosity, any more than the member of any other firm is to
be called generous, when he keeps the books, receipts the bills, and
divides the money?

In case of the farming business, the share of the wife is so direct and
unmistakable that it can hardly be evaded. If anything is earned by the
farm, she does her distinct and important share of the earning. But it is
not necessary that she should do even that, to make her, by all the rules
of justice, an equal partner, entitled to her full share of the financial

Let us suppose an ordinary case. Two young people are married, and begin
life together. Let us suppose them equally poor, equally capable, equally
conscientious, equally healthy. They have children. Those children must be
supported by the earning of money abroad, by attendance and care at home.
If it requires patience and labor to do the outside work, no less is
required inside. The duties of the household are as hard as the duties of
the shop or office. If the wife took her husband's work for a day, she
would probably be glad to return to her own. So would the husband if he
undertook hers. Their duties are ordinarily as distinct and as equal as
those of two partners in any other copartnership. It so happens that the
outdoor partner has the handling of the money; but does that give him a
right to claim it as his exclusive earnings? No more than in any other
business operation.

He earned the money for the children and the household. She disbursed it
for the children and the household. The very laws of nature, by giving her
the children to bear and rear, absolve her from the duty of their support,
so long as he is alive who was left free by nature for that purpose. Her
task on the average is as hard as his: nay, a portion of it is so
especially hard that it is distinguished from all others by the name
"labor." If it does not earn money, it is because it is not to be measured
in money, while it exists,--nor to be replaced by money, if lost. If a
business man loses his partner, he can obtain another: and a man, no doubt,
may take a second wife; but he cannot procure for his children a second
mother. Indeed, it is a palpable insult to the whole relation of husband
and wife when one compares it, even in a financial light, to that of
business partners. It is only because a constant effort is made to degrade
the practical position of woman below even this standard of comparison,
that it becomes her duty to claim for herself at least as much as this.

There was a tradition in a town where I once lived, that a certain Quaker,
who had married a fortune, was once heard to repel his wife, who had asked
him for money in a public place, with the response, "Rachel, where is that
ninepence I gave thee yesterday?" When I read in "Scribner's Monthly" an
article deriding the right to representation of the Massachusetts women who
pay two millions of tax on one hundred and thirty-two million dollars of
property,--asserting that they produced nothing of it; that it was only
"men who produced this wealth, and bestowed it upon these women;" that it
was "all drawn from land and sea by the hands of men whose largess
testifies alike of their love and their munificence,"--I must say that I am
reminded of Rachel's ninepence.


When we look through any business directory, there seem to be almost as
many copartnerships as single dealers; and three quarters of these
copartnerships appear to consist of precisely two persons, no more, no
less. These partners are, in the eye of the law, equal. It is not found
necessary, under the law, to make a general provision that in each case one
partner should be supreme and the other subordinate. In many cases, by the
terms of the copartnership there are limitations on one side and special
privileges on the other,--marriage settlements, as it were; but the general
law of copartnership is based on the presumption of equality. It would be
considered infinitely absurd to require that, as the general rule, one
party or the other should be in a state of _coverture_, during which the
very being and existence of the one should be suspended, or entirely merged
and incorporated into that of the other.

And yet this requirement, which would be an admitted absurdity in the case
of two business partners, is precisely that which the English common law
still lays down in case of husband and wife. The words which I employed to
describe it, in the preceding sentence, are the very phrases in which
Blackstone describes the legal position of women. And though the English
common law has been, in this respect, greatly modified and superseded by
statute law; yet, when it comes to an argument on woman suffrage, it is
constantly this same tradition to which men and even women habitually
appeal,--the necessity of a single head to the domestic partnership, and
the necessity that the husband should be that head. This is especially
true of English men and women; but it is true of Americans as well.
Nobody has stated it more tersely than Fitzjames Stephen, in his "Liberty,
Equality, and Fraternity" (p. 216), when arguing against Mr. Mill's view
of the equality of the sexes.

    "Marriage is a contract, one of the principal objects in which is
    the government of a family.

    "This government must be vested, either by law or by contract, in
    the hands of one of the two married persons."

[Then follow some collateral points, not bearing on the present question.]

    "Therefore if marriage is to be permanent, the government of the
    family must be put by law and by morals into the hands of the
    husband, for no one proposes to give it to the wife."

This argument he calls "as clear as that of a proposition in Euclid." He
thinks that the business of life can be carried on by no other method. How
is it, then, that when we come to what is called technically and especially
the "business" of every day, this whole fine-spun theory is disregarded,
and men come together in partnership on the basis of equality?

Nobody is farther than I from regarding marriage as a mere business
partnership. But it is to be observed that the points wherein it differs
from a merely mercantile connection are points that should make equality
more easy, not more difficult. The tie between two ordinary business
partners is merely one of interest: it is based on no sentiments, sealed by
no solemn pledge, enriched by no home associations, cemented by no new
generation of young life. If a relation like this is found to work well on
terms of equality,--so well that a large part of the business of the world
is done by it,--is it not absurd to suppose that the same equal relation
cannot exist in the married partnership of husband and wife? And if law,
custom, society, all recognize this fact of equality in the one case, why,
in the name of common-sense, should they not equally recognize it in the

And, again, it may often be far easier to assign a sphere to each partner
in marriage than in business; and therefore the double headship of a family
will involve less need of collision. In nine cases out of ten, the external
support of the family will devolve upon the husband, unquestioned by the
wife; and its internal economy upon the wife, unquestioned by the husband.
No voluntary distribution of powers and duties between business partners
can work so naturally, on the whole, as this simple and easy demarcation,
with which the claim of suffrage makes no necessary interference. It may
require angry discussion to decide which of two business partners shall
buy, and which shall sell; which shall keep the books, and which do the
active work, and so on; but all this is usually settled in married life by
the natural order of things. Even in regard to the management of children,
where collision is likely to come, if anywhere, it can commonly be settled
by that happy formula of Jean Paul's, that the mother usually supplies the
commas and the semicolons in the child's book of life, and the father the
colons and periods. And as to matters in general, the simple and practical
rule, that each question that arises should be decided by that partner who
has personally most at stake in it, will, in ninety-nine times out of a
hundred, carry the domestic partnership through without shipwreck. Those
who cannot meet the hundredth case by mutual forbearance are in a condition
of shipwreck already.


One of the very best wives and mothers I have ever known once said to me,
that, whenever her daughters should be married, she should stipulate in
their behalf with their husbands for a regular sum of money to be paid
them, at certain intervals, for their personal expenditures. Whether this
sum was to be larger or smaller, was a matter of secondary importance,--
that must depend on the income, and the style of living; but the essential
thing was, that it should come to the wife regularly, so that she should no
more have to make a special request for it than her husband would have to
ask her for a dinner. This lady's own husband was, as I happened to know,
of a most generous disposition, was devotedly attached to her, and denied
her nothing. She herself was a most accurate and careful manager. There was
everything in the household to make the financial arrangements flow
smoothly. Yet she said to me, "I suppose no man can possibly understand how
a sensitive woman shrinks from _asking_ for money. If I can prevent it, my
daughters shall never have to ask for it. If they do their duty as wives
and mothers they have a right to their share of the joint income, within
reasonable limits; for certainly no money could buy the services they
render. Moreover, they have a right to a share in determining what those
reasonable limits are."

Now, it so happened that I had myself gone through an experience which
enabled me perfectly to comprehend this feeling. In early life I was for a
time in the employ of one of my relatives, who paid me a fair salary but at
no definite periods: I was at liberty to ask him for money up to a certain
amount whenever I needed it. This seemed to me, in advance, a most
agreeable arrangement; but I found it quite otherwise. It proved to be very
disagreeable to apply for money: it made every dollar seem a special favor;
it brought up all kinds of misgivings, as to whether he could spare it
without inconvenience, whether he really thought my services worth it, and
so on. My employer was a thoroughly upright and noble man, and I was much
attached to him. I do not know that he ever refused or demurred when I made
my request. The annoyance was simply in the process of asking; and this
became so great, that I often underwent serious inconvenience rather than
do it. Finally, at the year's end, I surprised my relative very much by
saying that I would accept, if necessary, a lower salary, on condition that
it should be paid on regular days, and as a matter of business. The wish
was at once granted, without the reduction; and he probably never knew what
a relief it was to me.

Now, if a young man is liable to feel this pride and reluctance toward an
employer, even when a kinsman, it is easy to understand how many women may
feel the same, even in regard to a husband. And I fancy that those who feel
it most are often the most conscientious and high-minded women. It is
unreasonable to say of such persons, "Too sensitive! Too fastidious!" For
it is just this quality of finer sensitiveness which men affect to prize in
a woman, and wish to protect at all hazards. The very fact that a husband
is generous; the very fact that his income is limited,--these may bring in
conscience and gratitude to increase the restraining influence of pride,
and make the wife less willing to ask money of such a husband than if he
were a rich man or a mean one. The only dignified position in which a man
can place his wife is to treat her at least as well as he would treat a
housekeeper, and give her the comfort of a perfectly clear and definite
arrangement as to money matters. She will not then be under the necessity
of nerving herself to solicit from him as a favor what she really needs and
has a right to spend. Nor will she be torturing herself, on the other side,
with the secret fear lest she has asked too much and more than
they can really spare. She will, in short, be in the position of a woman
and a wife, not of a child or a toy.

I have carefully avoided using the word "allowance" in what has been said,
because that word seems to imply the untrue and mean assumption that the
money is all the husband's to give or withhold as he will. Yet I have heard
this sort of phrase from men who were living on a wife's property or a
wife's earnings; from men who nominally kept boarding-houses, working a
little, while their wives worked hard,--or from farmers, who worked hard,
and made their wives work harder. Even in cases where the wife has no
direct part in the money-making, the indirect part she performs, if she
takes faithful charge of her household, is so essential, so beyond all
compensation in money, that it is an utter shame and impertinence in the
husband when he speaks of "giving" money to his wife as if it were an act
of favor. It is no more an act of favor than when the business manager of a
firm pays out money to the unseen partner who directs the indoor business
or runs the machinery. Be the joint income more or less, the wife has a
claim to her honorable share, and that as a matter of right, without the
daily ignominy of sending in a petition for it.


I always groan in spirit when any advocate of woman suffrage, carried away
by zeal, says anything disrespectful about the nursery. It is contrary to
the general tone of feeling among reformers, I am sure, to speak of this
priceless institution as a trivial or degrading sphere, unworthy the
emancipated woman. It is rarely that anybody speaks in this way; but a
single such utterance hinders progress more than any arguments of the
enemy. For every thoughtful person sees that the cares of motherhood,
though not the whole duty of woman, are an essential part of that duty,
wherever they occur; and that no theory of womanly life is good for
anything which undertakes to leave out the cradle. Even her school
education is based on this fact, were it only on Stendhal's theory that the
sons of a woman who reads Gibbon and Schiller will be more likely to show
talent than those of one who only tells her beads and reads Mme. de Genlis.
And so clearly is this understood among us, that, when we ask for suffrage
for woman, it is almost always claimed that she needs it for the sake of
her children. To secure her in her right to them; to give her a voice in
their education; to give her a vote in the government beneath which they
are to live,--these points are seldom omitted in our statement of her
claims. Anything else would be an error.

But there is an error at the other extreme, which is still greater. A woman
should no more merge herself in her child than in her husband. Yet we often
hear that she should do just this. What is all the public sphere of woman,
it is said,--what good can she do by all her speaking and writing and
action,--compared with that she does by properly training the soul of one
child? It is not easy to see the logic of this claim.

For what service is that child to render in the universe, except that he,
too, may write and speak and act for that which is good and true? And if
the mother foregoes all this that the child, in growing up, may simply do
what the mother has left undone, the world gains nothing. In sacrificing
her own work to her child's, moreover, she exchanges a present good for a
prospective and merely possible one. If she does this through overwhelming
love, we can hardly blame her; but she cannot justify it before reason and
truth. Her child may die, and the service to mankind be done by neither.
Her child may grow up with talents unlike hers, or with none at all; as the
son of Howard was selfish, the son of Chesterfield a boor, and the son of
Wordsworth in the last degree prosaic.

Or the special occasion when she might have done great good may have passed
before her boy or girl grows up to do it. If Mrs. Child had refused to
write "An Appeal for that Class of Americans called Africans," or Mrs.
Stowe had laid aside "Uncle Tom's Cabin," or Florence Nightingale had
declined to go to the Crimea, on the ground that a woman's true work was
through the nursery, and they must all wait for that, the consequence would
be that these things would have remained undone. The brave acts of the
world must be performed _when occasion offers, by the first brave soul_ who
feels moved to do them, man or woman.

If all the children in all the nurseries are thereby helped to do other
brave deeds when their turn comes, so much the better. But when a great
opportunity offers for direct aid to the world, we have no right to
transfer that work to other hands--not even to the hands of our own
children. We must do the work, and train the children besides.

I am willing to admit, therefore, that the work of education, in any form,
is as great as any other work; but I fail to see why it should be greater.
Usefulness is usefulness: there is no reason why it should be postponed
from generation to generation, or why it is better to rear a serviceable
human being than to be one in person. Carry the theory consistently out: if
each mother must simply rear her daughter that she in turn may rear
somebody else, then from each generation the work will devolve upon a
succeeding generation, so that it will be only the last woman who will
personally do any service, except that of motherhood; and when her time
comes it will be too late for any service at all.

If it be said, "But some of these children will be men, who are necessarily
of more use than women," I deny the necessity. If it be said, "The children
may be many, and the mother, who is but one, may well be sacrificed," it
might be replied that, as one great act may be worth many smaller ones, so
all the numerous children and grandchildren of a woman like Lucretia Mott
may not collectively equal the usefulness of herself alone. If she, like
many women, had held it her duty to renounce all other duties and interests
from the time her motherhood began, I think that the world, and even her
children, would have lost more than could ever have been gained by her more
complete absorption in the nursery.

The true theory seems a very simple one. The very fact that during one half
the years of a woman's average life she is made incapable of child-bearing
shows that there are, even for the most prolific and devoted mothers,
duties other than the maternal. Even during the most absorbing years of
motherhood, the wisest women still try to keep up their interest in
society, in literature, in the world's affairs--were it only for their
children's sake. Multitudes of women will never be mothers; and those more
fortunate may find even the usefulness of their motherhood surpassed by
what they do in other ways. If maternal duties interfere in some degree
with all other functions, the same is true, though in a far less degree,
of those of a father. But there are those who combine both spheres. The
German poet Wieland claimed to be the parent of fourteen children and
forty books; and who knows by which parentage he served the world the


Many Americans will remember the favorable impression made by Professor
Christlieb of Germany, when he attended the meeting of the Evangelical
Alliance in New York some years ago. His writings, like his presence, show
a most liberal spirit; and perhaps no man has ever presented the more
advanced evangelical theology of Germany in so attractive a light. Yet I
heard a story of him the other day, which either showed him in an aspect
quite undesirable, or else gave an unpleasant view of the social position
of women in Germany.

The story was to the effect that a young American student recently called
on Professor Christlieb with a letter of introduction. The professor
received him cordially, and soon entered into conversation about the United
States. He praised the natural features of the country, and the
enterprising spirit of our citizens, but expressed much solicitude about
the future of the nation. On being asked his reasons, he frankly expressed
his opinion that "the Spirit of Christ" was not here. Being still further
pressed to illustrate his meaning, he gave, as instances of this
deficiency, not the Crédit Mobilier or the Tweed scandal, but such alarming
facts as the following. He seriously declared that, on more than one
occasion, he had heard an American married woman say to her husband, "Dear,
will you bring me my shawl?" and the husband had brought it. He further had
seen a husband return home at evening, and enter the parlor where his wife
was sitting,--perhaps in the very best chair in the room,--and the wife
not only did not go and get his dressing-gown and slippers, but she even
remained seated, and left him to find a chair as he could. These things,
as Professor Christlieb pointed out, suggested a serious deficiency of the
spirit of Christ in the community.

With our American habits and interpretations, it is hard to see this matter
just as the professor sees it. One would suppose that, if there is any
meaning in the command, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the
law of Christ," a little of such fulfilling might sometimes be good for the
husband, as for the wife. And though it would undoubtedly be more pleasing
to see every wife so eager to receive her husband that she would naturally
spring from her chair and run to kiss him in the doorway, yet, where such
devotion was wanting, it would be but fair to inquire which of the two had
done the more fatiguing day's work, and to whom the easy-chair justly
belonged. The truth is, I suppose, that the good professor's remark
indicated simply a "survival" in his mind, or in his social circle, of a
barbarous tradition, under which the wife of a Mexican herdsman cannot eat
at the table with her "lord and master," and the wife of a German professor
must vacate the best armchair at his approach.

If so, it is not to be regretted that we in this country have outgrown a
relation so unequal. Nor am I at all afraid that the great Teacher, who,
pointing to the multitude for whom he was soon to die, said of them,
"Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and my sister
and my mother," would have objected to any mutual and equal service between
man and woman. If we assume that two human beings have immortal souls,
there can be no want of dignity to either in serving the other. The greater
equality of woman in America seems to be, on this reasoning, a proof of the
presence not the absence, of the spirit of Christ; nor does Dr. Christlieb
seem quite worthy of the beautiful name he bears, if he feels otherwise.

But if it is really true that a German professor has to cross the Atlantic
to witness a phenomenon so very simple as that of a lover-like husband
bringing a shawl for his wife, I should say, Let the immigration from
Germany be encouraged as much as possible, in order that even the most
learned immigrants may discover something new.


It has not always been regarded as a thing creditable to woman that she was
the mother of the human race. On the contrary, the fact was often
mentioned, in the Middle Ages, as a distinct proof of inferiority. The
question was discussed in the mediæval Council of Maçon, and the position
taken that woman was no more entitled to rank as human, because she brought
forth men, than the garden-earth could take rank with the fruit and flowers
it bore. The same view was revived by a Latin writer of 1595, on the thesis
"_Mulieres non homines esse_," a French translation of which essay was
printed under the title of "_Paradoxe sur les femmes_," in 1766. Napoleon
Bonaparte used the same image, carrying it almost as far:--

"Woman is given to man that she may bear children. Woman is our property;
we are not hers: because she produces children for us; we do not yield any
to her: she is therefore our possession, as the fruit-tree is that of the

Even the fact of parentage, therefore, has been adroitly converted into a
ground of inferiority for women; and this is ostensibly the reason why
lineage has been reckoned, almost everywhere, through the male line only,
ignoring the female; just as, in tracing the seed of some rare fruit, the
gardener takes no genealogical account of the garden where it grew. This
view is now seldom expressed in full force: but one remnant of it is to be
found in the lingering impression, that, at any rate, a woman who is not
a mother is of no account; as worthless as a fruitless garden or a barren
fruit-tree. Created only for a certain object, she is of course valueless
unless that object be fulfilled.

But the race must have fathers as well as mothers; and if we look for
evidence of public service in great men, it certainly does not always lie
in leaving children to the republic. On the contrary, the rule has rather
seemed to be, that the most eminent men have left their bequest of service
in any form rather than in that of a great family. Recent inquiries into
the matter have brought out some remarkable facts in this regard.

As a rule, there exist no living descendants in the male line from the
great authors, artists, statesmen, soldiers, of England. It is stated that
there is not one such descendant of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Butler,
Dryden, Pope, Cowper, Goldsmith, Scott, Byron, or Moore; not one of Drake,
Cromwell, Monk, Marlborough, Peterborough, or Nelson; not one of Strafford,
Ormond, or Clarendon; not one of Addison, Swift, or Johnson; not one of
Walpole, Bolingbroke, Chatham, Pitt, Fox, Burke, Grattan, or Canning; not
one of Bacon, Locke, Newton, or Davy; not one of Hume, Gibbon, or Macaulay;
not one of Hogarth or Reynolds; not one of Garrick, John Kemble, or Edmund
Kean. It would be easy to make a similar American list, beginning with
Washington, of whom it was said that "Providence made him childless that
his country might call him Father."

Now, however we may regret that these great men have left little or no
posterity, it does not occur to any one as affording any serious drawback
upon their service to their nation. Certainly it does not occur to us that
they would have been more useful had they left children to the world, but
rendered it no other service. Lord Bacon says that "he that hath wife and
children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great
enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of
greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or
childless men; which, both in affection and means, have married and endowed
the public." And this is the view generally accepted,--that the public is
in such cases rather the gainer than the loser, and has no right to

Since, therefore, every child must have a father and a mother both, and
neither will alone suffice, why should we thus heap gratitude on men who
from preference or from necessity have remained childless, and yet
habitually treat women as if they could render no service to their country
except by giving it children? If it be folly and shame, as I think, to
belittle and decry the dignity and worth of motherhood, as some are said to
do, it is no less folly, and shame quite as great, to deny the grand and
patriotic service of many women who have died and left no children among
their mourners. Plato puts into the mouth of a woman,--the eloquent
Diotima, in the "Banquet,"--that, after all, we are more grateful to Homer
and Hesiod for the children of their brain than if they had left human


From the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals we have now
advanced to a similar society for the benefit of children. When shall we
have a movement for the prevention of cruelty to mothers?

A Rhode Island lady, who had never taken any interest in the woman-suffrage
movement, came to me in great indignation the other day, asking if it was
true that under Rhode Island laws a husband might, by his last will,
bequeath his child away from its mother, so that she might, if the guardian
chose, never see it again. I said that it was undoubtedly true, and that
such were still the laws in many States of the Union.

"But," she said, "it is an outrage. The husband may have been one of the
weakest or worst men in the world; he may have persecuted his wife and
children; he may have made the will in a moment of anger, and have
neglected to alter it. At any rate, he is dead, and the mother is living.
The guardian whom he appoints may turn out a very malicious man, and may
take pleasure in torturing the mother; or he may bring up the children in a
way their mother thinks ruinous for them. Why do not all the mothers cry
out against such a law?"

"I wish they would," I said. "I have been trying a good many years to make
them understand what the law is; but they do not. People who do not vote
pay no attention to the laws until they suffer from them."

She went away protesting that she, at least, would not hold her tongue on
the subject, and I hope she will not. The actual text of the law to which
she objected is as follows:--

    "Every person authorized by law to make a will, except married
    women, shall have a right to appoint by his will a guardian or
    guardians for his children during their minority."[1]

There is not associated with this, in the statute, the slightest clause in
favor of the mother; nor anything which could limit the power of the
guardian by requiring deference to her wishes, although he could, in case
of gross neglect or abuse, be removed by the court, and another guardian
appointed. There is not a line of positive law to protect the mother. Now,
in a case of absolute wrong, a single sentence of law is worth all the
chivalrous courtesy this side of the Middle Ages.

It is idle to say that such laws are not executed. They are executed. I
have had letters, too agonizing to print, expressing the sufferings of
mothers under laws like these. There lies before me a letter,--not from
Rhode Island,--written by a widowed mother who suffers daily tortures, even
while in possession of her child, at the knowledge that it is not legally
hers, but held only by the temporary permission of the guardian appointed
under her husband's will.

"I beg you," she says, "to take this will to the hilltop, and urge
law-makers in our next legislature to free the State record from the
shameful story that no mother can control her child unless it is born out
of wedlock."

"From the moment," she says, "when the will was read to me, I have made no
effort to set it aside. I wait till God reveals his plans, so far as my own
condition is concerned. But out of my keen comprehension of this great
wrong, notwithstanding my submission for myself, my whole soul is
stirred,--for my child, who is a little woman; for all women, that the laws
may be changed which subject a true woman, a devoted wife, a faithful
mother, to such mental agonies as I have endured, and shall endure till I

In a later letter she says, "I now have his [the guardian's] solemn promise
that he will not remove her from my control. To some extent my sufferings
are allayed; and yet never, till she arrives at the age of twenty-one,
shall I fully trust." I wish that mothers who dwell in sheltered and happy
homes would try to bring to their minds the condition of a mother whose
possession of her only child rests upon the "promise" of a comparative
stranger. We should get beyond the meaningless cry, "I have all the rights
I want," if mothers could only remember that among these rights, in most
States of the Union, the right of a widowed mother to her child is not

By strenuous effort, the law on this point has in Massachusetts been
gradually amended, till it now stands thus: The father is authorized to
appoint a guardian by will; but the powers of this guardian do not entitle
him to take the child from the mother.

    "The guardian of a minor ... shall have the custody and tuition of
    his ward; and the care and management of all his estate, except that
    the father of the minor, if living, and in case of his death the
    mother, they being respectively competent to transact their own
    business, shall be entitled to the custody of the person of the
    minor and the care of his education."[2]

Down to 1870 the cruel words "while she remains unmarried" followed the
word "mother" in the above law. Until that time, the mother if remarried
had no claim to the custody of her child, in case the guardian wished
otherwise; and a very painful scene once took place in a Boston court-room,
where children were forced away from their mother by the officers, under
this statute, in spite of her tears and theirs; and this when no sort of
personal charge had been made against her. This could not now happen in
Massachusetts, but it might still happen in some other States. It is true
that men are almost always better than their laws; but while a bad law
remains on the statute-book it gives to any unscrupulous man the power to
be as bad as the law.

[Footnote 1: Gen. Statutes R.I., chap. 154, sect. 1]

[Footnote 2: Public Statutes, chap. 139, sect. 4.]



    "Place the sexes in right relations of mutual respect, and a severe
    morality gives that essential charm to woman which educates all that
    is delicate, poetic, and self-sacrificing, breeds courtesy and
    learning, conversation and wit, in her rough mate; so that I have
    thought a sufficient measure of civilization is the influence of
    good women."--EMERSON, Society and Solitude, p. 21.


Sometimes, on the beach at Newport, I look at the gayly dressed ladies in
their phaetons, and then at the foam which trembles on the breaking wave,
or lies palpitating in creamy masses on the beach. It is as pretty as they,
as light, as fresh, as delicate, as changing; and no doubt the graceful
foam, if it thinks at all, fancies that it is the chief consummate product
of the ocean, and that the main end of the vast currents of the mighty deep
is to yield a few glittering bubbles like those. At least, this seems to me
what many of the fair ladies think, as to themselves.

Here is a nation in which the most momentous social and political
experiment ever tried by man is being worked out, day by day. There is
something ocean-like in the way in which the great currents of life, race,
religion, temperament are here chafing with each other, safe from the
storms through which all monarchical countries may yet have to pass. As
these great currents heave, there are tossed up in every watering-place and
every city in America, as on an ocean beach, certain pretty bubbles of
foam; and each spot, we may suppose, counts its own bubbles brighter than
those of its neighbors, and christens them "society."

It is an unceasing wonder to a thoughtful person, at any such resort, to
see the unconscious way in which fashionable society accepts the foam, and
ignores the currents. You hear people talk of "a position in society," "the
influential circles in society," as if the position they mean were not
liable to be shifted in a day; as if the essential influences in America
were not mainly to be sought outside the world of fashion. In other
countries it is very different. The circle of social caste, whose centre
you touch in London, radiates to the farthest shores of the British empire;
the upper class controls, not merely fashion, but government; it rules in
country as well as city; genius and wealth are but its tributaries.
Wherever it is not so, it is because England is so far Americanized. But in
America the social prestige of the cities is nothing in the country; it is
a matter of the pavement, of a three-mile radius.

Go to the farthest borders of England: there are still the "county
families," and you meet servants in livery. On the other hand, in a little
village in northern New Hampshire, my friend was visited in the evening by
the landlady, who said that several of their "most fashionable ladies" had
happened in, and she would like to show them her guest's bonnet. Then the
different cities ignore each other: the rulers of select circles in New
York may find themselves nobodies in Washington, while a Washington social
passport counts for as little in New York. Boston and Philadelphia affect
to ignore both; and St. Louis and San Francisco have their own standards.
The utmost social prestige in America is local, provincial, a matter of the
square inch: it is as if the foam of each particular beach along the
seacoast were to call itself "society."

There is something pathetic, therefore, in the unwearied pains taken by
ambitious women to establish a place in some little, local, transitory
domain, to "bring out" their daughters for exhibition on a given evening,
to form a circle for them, to marry them well. A dozen years hence the
millionaires whose notice they seek may be paupers, or these ladies may be
dwelling in some other city, where the visiting cards will bear wholly
different names. How idle to attempt to transport into American life the
social traditions and delusions which require monarchy and primogeniture,
and a standing army, to keep them up--and which cannot always hold their
own in England, even with the aid of these!

Every woman, like every man, has a natural desire for influence; and if
this instinct yearns, as it often should yearn, to take in more than her
own family, she must seek it somewhere outside. I know women who bring to
bear on the building-up of a frivolous social circle--frivolous, because it
is not really brilliant, but only showy; not really gay, but only bored--
talent and energy enough to influence the mind and thought of the nation,
if only employed in some effective way. Who are the women of real influence
in America? They are the schoolteachers, through whose hands each
successive American generation has to pass; they are those wives of public
men who share their husbands' labor, and help mould their work; they are
those women who, through their personal eloquence or through the press, are
distinctly influencing the American people in its growth. The influence of
such women is felt for good or for evil in every page they print, every
newspaper column they fill: the individual women may be unworthy their
posts, but it is they who have got hold of the lever, and gone the right
way to work. As American society is constituted, the largest "social
success" that can be attained here is trivial and local; and you have to
"make believe very hard," like that other imaginary Marchioness, to find in
it any career worth mentioning. That is the foam, but these other women are
dealing with the main currents.


One sometimes hears from some lady the remark that very few people "in
society" believe in any movement to enlarge the rights or duties of women.
In a community of more marked social gradations than our own, this
assertion, if true, might be very important; and even here it is worth
considering, because it leads the way to a little social philosophy. Let
us, for the sake of argument, begin by accepting the assumption that there
is an inner circle, at least in our large cities, which claims to be
"society," _par excellence_. What relation has this favored circle, if
favored it be, to any movement relating to women?

It has, to begin with, the same relation that "society" has to every
movement of reform. The proportion of smiles and frowns bestowed from this
quarter upon the woman-suffrage movement, for instance, is about that
formerly bestowed upon the anti-slavery agitation: I see no great
difference. In Boston, for example, the names contributed by "society" to
the woman-suffrage festivals are about as numerous as those which used to
be contributed to the anti-slavery bazaars; no more, no less. Indeed, they
are very often the same names; and it has been curious to see, for nearly
fifty years, how radical tendencies have predominated in some of the
well-known Boston families, and conservative tendencies in others.

The traits of blood seem to outlast successive series of special reforms.
Be this as it may, it is safe to assume, that, as the anti-slavery movement
prevailed with only a moderate amount of sanction from "our best society,"
the woman-suffrage agitation, which has at least an equal amount, has no
reason to be discouraged.

On looking farther, we find that not reforms alone, but often most
important and established institutions, exist and flourish with only
incidental aid from those "in society." Take, for instance, the whole
public school system of our larger cities. Grant that out of twenty ladies
"in society," taken at random, not more than one would personally approve
of women's voting: it is doubtful whether even that proportion of them
would personally favor the public school system so far as to submit their
children, or at least their girls, to it. Yet the public schools flourish,
and give a better training than most private schools, in spite of this
inert practical resistance from those "in society." The natural inference
would seem to be, that if an institution so well established as the public
schools, and so generally recognized, can afford to be ignored by
"society," then certainly a wholly new reform must expect no better fate.

As a matter of fact, I apprehend that what is called "society," in the
sense of the more fastidious or exclusive social circle in any community,
exists for one sole object,--the preservation of good manners and social
refinements. For this purpose it is put very largely under the sway of
women, who have, all the world over, a better instinct for these important
things. It is true that "society" is apt to do even this duty very
imperfectly, and often tolerates, and sometimes even cultivates, just the
rudeness and discourtesy that it is set to cure. Nevertheless, this is its
mission; but so soon as it steps beyond this, and attempts to claim any
special weight outside the sphere of good manners, it shows its weakness,
and must yield to stronger forces.

One of these stronger forces is religion, which should train men and women
to a far higher standard than "society" alone can teach. This standard
should be embodied, theoretically, in the Christian Church; but unhappily
"society" is too often stronger than this embodiment, and turns the church
itself into a mere temple of fashion. Other opposing forces are known as
science and common-sense, which is only science written in shorthand. On
some of these various forces all reforms are based, the woman-suffrage
reform among them. If it could really be shown that some limited social
circle was opposed to this, then the moral would seem to be, "So much the
worse for the social circle." It used to be thought in anti-slavery days
that one of the most blessed results of that agitation was the education it
gave to young men and women who would otherwise have merely grown up "in
society," but were happily taken in hand by a stronger influence. It is
Goethe who suggests, when discussing Hamlet in "Wilhelm Meister," that, if
an oak be planted in a flower-pot, it will be worse in the end for the
flower-pot than for the tree. And to those who watch, year after year, the
young human seedlings planted "in society," the main point of interest lies
in the discovery which of these are likely to grow into oaks.

But the truth is that the very use of the word "society" in this sense is
narrow and misleading. We Americans are fortunate enough to live in a
larger society, where no conventional position or family traditions exert
an influence that is to be in the least degree compared with the influence
secured by education, energy, and character. No matter how fastidious the
social circle, one is constantly struck with the limitations of its
influence, and with the little power exerted by its members as compared
with that which may easily be wielded by tongue and pen. No merely
fashionable woman in New York, for instance, has a position sufficiently
important to be called influential compared with that of a woman who can
speak in public so as to command hearers, or can write so as to secure
readers. To be at the head of a normal school, or to be a professor in a
college where co-education prevails, is to have a sway over the destinies
of America which reduces all mere "social position" to a matter of cards
and compliments and page's buttons.


The great winter's contest of the visiting-cards recommences at the end of
every autumn. Suspended during the summer, or only renewed at Newport and
such thoroughbred and thoroughly sophisticated haunts, it will set in with
fury in the habitable regions of our cities before the snow falls. Now will
the atmosphere of certain streets and squares be darkened--or whitened--at
the appointed hour by the shower of pasteboard transmitted from dainty
kid-gloved hands to the cotton-gloved hands of "John," and destined
through him to reach the possibly gloveless hands of some other John,
who stands obsequious in the doorway. Now will every lady, after John
has slammed the door, drive happily on to some other door, rearranging,
as she goes, her display of cards, laid as if for a game on the opposite
seat of her carriage, and dealt perhaps in four suits,--her own cards,
her daughters', her husband's, her "Mr. and Mrs." cards, and who knows
how many more? With all this ammunition, what a very _mitrailleuse_ of
good society she becomes; what an accumulation of polite attentions she
may discharge at any door! That one well-appointed woman, as she sits
in her carriage, represents the total visiting power of self, husband,
daughters, and possibly a son or two beside. She has all their
counterfeit presentments in her hands. How happy she is! and how happy
will the others be on her return, to think that dear mamma has disposed
of so many dear, beloved, tiresome, social foes that morning! It will
be three months at least, they think, before the A's and the B's and
the C's will have to be "done" again.

Ah! but who knows how soon these fatiguing letters of the alphabet,
rallying to the defence, will come, pasteboard in hand, to return the
onset? In this contest, fair ladies, "there are blows to take as well as
blows to give," in the words of the immortal Webster. Some day, on
returning, you will find a half-dozen cards on your own table that will
undo all this morning's work, and send you forth on the warpath again. Is
it not like a campaign? It is from this subtle military analogy, doubtless,
that when gentlemen happen to quarrel, in the very best society, they
exchange cards as preliminary to a duel; and that, when French journalists
fight, all other French journalists show their sympathy for the survivor by
sending him their cards. When we see, therefore, these heroic ladies riding
forth in the social battle's magnificently stern array, our hearts render
them the homage due to the brave. When we consider how complex their
military equipment has grown, we fancy each of these self-devoted mothers
to be an Arnold Winkelried, receiving in her martyr-breast the points of a
dozen different cards, and shouting, "Make way for liberty!" For is it not
securing liberty to have cleared off a dozen calls from your list, and
found nobody at home?

If this sort of thing goes on, who can tell where the paper warfare shall
end? If ladies may leave cards for their husbands, who are never seen out
of Wall Street, except when they are seen at their clubs; or for their
sons, who never forsake their billiards or their books,--why can they not
also leave them for their ancestors, or for their remotest posterity? Who
knows but people may yet drop cards in the names of the grandchildren whom
they only wish for, or may reconcile hereditary feuds by interchanging
pasteboard in behalf of two hostile grandparents who died half a century

And there is another social observance in which the introduction of the
card system may yet be destined to save much labor,--the attendance on
fashionable churches. Already, it is said, a family may sometimes reconcile
devout observance with a late breakfast, by stationing the family carriage
near the church-door--empty. Really, it would not be a much emptier
observance to send the cards alone by the footman; and doubtless in the
progress of civilization we shall yet reach that point. It will have many
advantages. The _effete_ of society, as some cruel satirist has called
them, may then send their orisons on pasteboard to as many different
shrines as they approve; thus insuring their souls, as it were, at several
different offices. Church architecture may be simplified, for it will
require nothing but a card-basket. The clergyman will celebrate his solemn
ritual, and will then look in that convenient receptacle for the names of
his fellow-worshippers, as a fine lady, after her "reception," looks over
the cards her footman hands her, to know which of her dear friends she has
been welcoming. Religion, as well as social proprieties, will glide
smoothly over a surface of glazed pasteboard; and it will be only very
humble Christians, indeed, who will do their worshipping in person, and
will hold to the worn-out and obsolete practice of "No Cards."


It is almost a stereotyped remark, that the women of the more fashionable
and worldly class, in America, are indolent, idle, incapable, and live
feeble and lazy lives. It has always seemed to me that, on the contrary,
they are compelled, by the very circumstances of their situation, to lead
very laborious lives, requiring great strength and energy. Whether many of
their pursuits are frivolous, is a different question; but that they are
arduous, I do not see how any one can doubt. I think it can be easily shown
that the common charges against American fashionable women do not hold
against the class I describe.

There is, for instance, the charge of evading the cares of housekeeping,
and of preferring a boarding-house or hotel. But no woman with high aims in
the world of fashion can afford to relieve herself from household cares in
this way, except as an exceptional or occasional thing. She must keep house
in order to have entertainments, to form a circle, to secure a position.
The law of give and take is as absolute in society as in business; and the
very first essential to social position in our larger cities is a household
and a hospitality of one's own. It is far more practicable for a family of
high rank in England to live temporarily in lodgings in London, than for
any family with social aspirations to do the same in New York. The married
woman who seeks a position in the world of society must, therefore, keep

And, with housekeeping, there comes at once to the American woman a world
of care far beyond that of her European sisters.

Abroad, everything in domestic life is systematized; and services of any
grade, up to that of housekeeper or steward, can be secured for money, and
for a moderate amount of that. The mere amount of money might not trouble
the American woman; but where to get the service? Such a thing as a trained
housekeeper, who can undertake, at any salary, to take the work off the
shoulders of the lady of the house,--such a thing America hardly affords.
Without this, the multiplication of servants only increaseth sorrow; the
servants themselves are often but an undisciplined mob, and the lady of the
house is like a general attempting to drill his whole command personally,
without the aid of a staff-officer or so much as a sergeant. For an
occasional grand entertainment, she can, perhaps, import a special force;
some fashionable sexton can arrange her invitations, and some genteel
caterer her supper. But for the daily routine of the household--guests,
children, door-bell, equipage--there is one vast, constant toil every day;
and the woman who would have these things done well must give her own
orders, and discipline her own retinue. The husband may have no "business,"
his wealth may supersede the necessity of all toil beyond daily billiards;
but for the wife wealth means business, and the more complete the social
triumph, the more overwhelming the daily toil.

For instance, I know a fair woman in an Atlantic city who is at the head of
a household including six children and nine servants. The whole domestic
management is placed absolutely in her hands: she engages or dismisses
every person employed, incurs every expense, makes every purchase, and
keeps all the accounts; her husband only ordering the fuel, directing the
affairs of the stable, and drawing checks for the bills. Every hour of her
morning is systematically appropriated to these things. Among other things,
she has to provide for nine meals a day; in dining-room, kitchen, and
nursery, three each. Then she has to plan her social duties, and to drive
out, exquisitely dressed, to make her calls. Then there are constantly
dinner-parties and evening entertainments; she reads a little, and takes
lessons in one or two languages. Meanwhile her husband has for daily
occupation his books, his club, and the above-mentioned light and easy
share in the cares of the household. Many men in his position do not even
keep an account of personal expenditures.

There is nothing exceptional in this lady's case, except that the work may
be better done than usual: the husband could not well contribute more than
his present share without hurting domestic discipline; nor does the wife do
all this from pleasure, but in a manner from necessity. It is the condition
of her social position: to change it, she must withdraw herself from her
social world. A few improvements, such as "family hotels," are doing
something to relieve this class to whom luxury means labor. The great
undercurrent which is sweeping us all toward some form of associated life
is as obvious in this new improvement in housekeeping, as in coöperative
stores or trades-unions; but it will nevertheless be long before the "women
of society" in America can be anything but a hard-working class.

The question is not whether such a life as I have described is the ideal
life. My point is that it is, at any rate, a life demanding far more of
energy and toil, at least in America, than the men of the same class are
called upon to exhibit. There is growing up a class of men of leisure in
America; but there are no women of leisure in the same circle. They hold
their social position on condition of "an establishment," and an
establishment makes them working-women. One result is the constant exodus
of this class to Europe, where domestic life is just now easier. Another
consequence is that you hear woman suffrage denounced by women of this
class, not on the ground that it involves any harder work than they already
do, but on the ground that they have work enough already, and will not bear
the suggestion of any more.


I was present at a lively discourse, administered by a young lady just from
Europe to a veteran politician. "It is of very little consequence," she
said, "what kind of men you send out as foreign ministers. The thing of
real importance is that they should have the right kind of wives. Any man
can sign a treaty, I suppose, if you tell him what kind of treaty it must
be. But all his social relations with the nations to which you send him
will depend on his wife." There was some truth, certainly, in this
audacious conclusion. It reminded me of the saying of a modern thinker,
"The only empire freely conceded to women is that of manners,--but it is
worth all the rest put together."

Every one instinctively feels that the graces and amenities of life must be
largely under the direction of women. The fact that this feeling has been
carried too far, and has led to the dwarfing of women's intellect, must not
lead to a rejection of this important social sphere. It is too strong a
power to be ignored. George Eliot says well that "the commonest man, who
has his ounce of sense and feeling, is conscious of the difference between
a lovely, delicate woman, and a coarse one. Even a dog feels a difference
in their presence." At a summer resort, for instance, one sees women who
may be intellectually very ignorant and narrow, yet whose mere manners give
them a social power which the highest intellects might envy. To lend joy
and grace to all one's little world of friendship; to make one's house a
place which every guest enters with eagerness, and leaves with reluctance;
to lend encouragement to the timid, and ease to the awkward; to repress
violence, restrain egotism, and make even controversy courteous,--these
belong to the empire of woman. It is a sphere so important and so
beautiful, that even courage and self-devotion seem not quite enough,
without the addition of this supremest charm.

This courtesy is so far from implying falsehood, that its very best basis
is perfect simplicity. Given a naturally sensitive organization, a loving
spirit, and the early influence of a refined home, and the foundation of
fine manners is secured. A person so favored may be reared in a log hut,
and may pass easily into a palace; the few needful conventionalities are so
readily acquired. But I think it is a mistake to tell children, as we
sometimes do, that simplicity and a kind heart are absolutely all that are
needful in the way of manners. There are persons in whom simplicity and
kindness are inborn, and who yet never attain to good manners for want of
refined perceptions. And it is astonishing how much refinement alone can
do, even if it be not very genuine or very full of heart, to smooth the
paths and make social life attractive.

All the acute observers have recognized the difference between the highest
standard, which is nature's, and that next to the highest, which is art's.
George Eliot speaks of that fine polish which is "the expensive substitute
for simplicity," and Tennyson says of manners,--

  "Kind nature's are the best: those next to best
  That fit us like a nature second-hand;
  Which are indeed the manners of the great."

In our own national history we have learned to recognize that the personal
demeanor of women may be a social and political force. The slave-power owed
much of its prolonged control at Washington, and the larger part of its
favor in Europe, to the fact that the manners of Southern women had been
more sedulously trained than those of Northern women. Even
at this moment, one may see at any watering-place that the relative social
influence of different cities does not depend upon the intellectual
training of their women, so much as on the manners. And, even if this is
very unreasonable, the remedy would seem to be, not to go about lecturing
on the intrinsic superiority of the Muses to the Graces, but to pay due
homage at all the shrines.

It is a great deal to ask of reformers, especially, that they should be
ornamental as well as useful; and I would by no means indorse the views of
a lady who once told me that she was ready to adopt the most radical views
of the women-reformers if she could see one well-dressed woman who
accepted them. The place where we should draw the line between independence
and deference, between essentials and non-essentials, between great ideas
and little courtesies, will probably never be determined--except by actual
examples. Yet it is safe to fall back on Miss Edgeworth's maxim in "Helen,"
that "Every one who makes goodness disagreeable commits high treason
against virtue." And it is not a pleasant result of our good deeds, that
others should be immediately driven into bad deeds by the burning desire to
be unlike us.


They tell the story of a little boy, a young scion of the house of Beecher,
that, on being rebuked for some noisy proceeding, in which his little
sister had also shared, he claimed that she also should be included in the
indictment. "If a boy makes too much noise," he said, "you tell him he
mustn't be boisterous. Well, then, when a girl makes just as much noise,
you ought to tell her not to be so _girlsterous_."

I think that we should accept, with a sense of gratitude, this addition to
the language. It supplies a name for a special phase of feminine demeanor,
inevitably brought out of modern womanhood. Any transitional state of
society develops some evil with the good. Good results are unquestionably
proceeding from the greater freedom now allowed to women. The drawback is
that we are developing, here and now, more of "girlsterousness" than is apt
to be seen in less enlightened countries.

The more complete the subjection of woman, the more "subdued" in every
sense she is. The typical woman of savage life is, at least in youth,
gentle, shy, retiring, timid. A Bedouin woman is modest and humble; an
Indian girl has a voice "gentle and low." The utmost stretch of the
imagination cannot picture either of them as "girlsterous." That perilous
quality can only come as woman is educated, self-respecting, emancipated.
"Girlsterousness" is the excess attendant on that virtue, the shadow which
accompanies that light. It is more visible in England than in France, in
America than in England.

It is to be observed, that, if a girl wishes to be noisy, she can be as
noisy as anybody. Her noise, if less clamorous, is more shrill and
penetrating. The shrieks of schoolgirls, playing in the yard at
recess-time, seem to drown the voices of the boys. As you enter an evening
party, it is the women's tones you hear most conspicuously. There is no
defect in the organ, but at least an adequate vigor. In travelling by rail,
when sitting near some rather underbred party of youths and damsels, I have
commonly noticed that the girls were the noisiest. The young men appeared
more regardful of public opinion, and looked round with solicitude, lest
they should attract too much attention. It is "girlsterousness" that dashes
straight on, regardless of all observers. Of course reformers exhibit their
full share of this undesirable quality. Where the emancipation of women is
much discussed in any circle, some young girls will put it in practice
gracefully and with dignity, others rudely. Yet even the rudeness may be
but a temporary phase, and at last end well. When women were being first
trained as physicians, years ago, I remember a young girl who came from a
Southern State to a Northern city, and attended the medical lectures.
Having secured her lecture-tickets, she also bought season-tickets to the
theatre and to the pistol-gallery, laid in a box of cigars, and began her
professional training. If she meant it as a satire on the pursuits of the
young gentlemen around her, it was not without point. But it was, I
suppose, a clear case of "girlsterousness;" and I dare say that she sowed
her wild oats much more innocently than many of her male contemporaries,
and that she has long since become a sedate matron. But I certainly cannot
commend her as a model.

Yet I must resolutely deny that any sort of hoydenishness or indecorum is
an especial characteristic of radicals, or even "provincials," as a class.
Some of the fine ladies who would be most horrified at the
"girlsterousness" of this young maiden would themselves smoke their
cigarettes in much worse company, morally speaking, than she ever
tolerated. And, so far as manners are concerned, I am bound to say that the
worst cases of rudeness and ill-breeding that have ever come to my
knowledge have not occurred in the "rural districts," or among the lower
ten thousand, but in those circles of America where the whole aim in life
might seem to be the cultivation of its elegances.

And what confirms me in the fear that the most profound and serious types
of this disease are not to be found in the wildcat regions is the fact that
so much of it is transplanted to Europe, among those who have the money to
travel. It is there described broadly as "Americanism;" and, so surely as
any peculiarly shrill group is heard coming through a European
picture-gallery, it is straightway classed by all observers as belonging to
the great Republic. If the observers are enamoured at sight with the beauty
of the young ladies of the party, they excuse the voices;

  "Strange or wild, or madly gay,
  They call it only pretty Fanny's way."

But other observers are more apt to call it only Columbia's way; and if
they had ever heard the word "girlsterousness," they would use that too.

Emerson says, "A gentleman makes no noise; a lady is serene." If we
Americans often violate this perfect maxim of good manners, it is something
that America has, at least, furnished the maxim. And, between Emerson and
"girlsterousness," our courteous philosopher may yet carry the day.


A clergyman's wife in England has lately set on foot a reform movement in
respect to dress; and, like many English reformers, she aims chiefly to
elevate the morals and manners of the lower classes, without much reference
to her own social equals. She proposes that "no servant, under pain of
dismissal, shall wear flowers, feathers, brooches, buckles or clasps,
earrings, lockets, neck-ribbons, velvets, kid gloves, parasols, sashes,
jackets, or trimming of any kind on dresses, and, above all, no crinoline;
no pads to be worn, or frisettes, or _chignons_, or hair-ribbons. The dress
is to be gored and made just to touch the ground, and the hair to be drawn
closely to the head, under a round white cap, without trimming of any kind.
The same system of dress is recommended for Sunday-school girls,
schoolmistresses, church-singers, and the lower orders generally."

The remark is obvious, that in this country such a course of discipline
would involve the mistress, not the maid, in the "pain of dismissal." The
American clergyman and clergyman's wife who should even "recommend" such a
costume to a schoolmistress, church-singer, or Sunday-school girl,--to say
nothing of the rest of the "lower orders,"--would soon find themselves
without teachers, without pupils, without a choir, and probably without a
parish. It is a comfort to think that even in older countries there is less
and less of this impertinent interference: the costume of different ranks
is being more and more assimilated; and the incidental episode of a few
liveries in our cities is not enough to interfere with the general current.
Never yet, to my knowledge, have I seen even a livery worn by a white
native American; and to restrain the Sunday bonnets of her handmaidens,
what lady has attempted?

This is as it should be. The Sunday bonnet of the Irish damsel is only the
symbol of a very proper effort to obtain her share of all social
advantages. Long may those ribbons wave! Meanwhile I think the fact that it
is easier for the gentleman of the house to control the dress of his groom
than for the lady to dictate that of her waiting-maid,--this must count
against the theory that it is women who are the natural aristocrats.

Women are no doubt more sensitive than men upon matters of taste and
breeding. This is partly from a greater average fineness of natural
perception, and partly because their more secluded lives give them less of
miscellaneous contact with the world. If Maud Muller and her husband had
gone to board at the same boarding-house with the Judge and his wife, that
lady might have held aloof from the rustic bride, simply from inexperience
in life, and not knowing just how to approach her. But the Judge, who might
have been talking politics or real estate with the young farmer on the
doorsteps that morning, would certainly find it easier to deal with him as
a man and a brother at the dinner-table. From these different causes women
get the credit or discredit of being more aristocratic than men are; so
that in England the Tory supporters of female suffrage base it on the
ground that these new voters at least will be conservative.

But, on the other hand, it is women, even more than men, who are attracted
by those strong qualities of personal character which are always the
antidote to aristocracy. No bold revolutionist ever defied the established
conventionalisms of his times without drawing his strongest support from
women. Poet and novelist love to depict the princess as won by the outlaw,
the gypsy, the peasant. Women have a way of turning from the insipidities
and proprieties of life to the wooer who has the stronger hand; from the
silken Darnley to the rude Bothwell. This impulse is the natural corrective
to the aristocratic instincts of womanhood; and though men feel it less, it
is still, even among them, one of the supports of republican institutions.
We need to keep always balanced between the two influences of refined
culture and of native force. The patrician class, wherever there is one, is
pretty sure to be the more refined; the plebeian class, the more energetic.
That woman is able to appreciate both elements is proof that she is quite
capable of doing her share in social and political life. This English
clergyman's wife, who devotes her soul to the trimmings and gored skirts of
the lower orders, is no more entitled to represent her sex than are those
ladies who give their whole attention to the "novel and intricate bonnets"
advertised this season on Broadway.


Mrs. Blank, of Far West--let us not draw her from the "sacred privacy of
woman" by giving the name or place too precisely--has an insurmountable
objection to woman's voting. So the newspapers say; and this objection is
that she does not wish her daughters to encounter disreputable characters
at the polls.

It is a laudable desire, to keep one's daughters from the slightest contact
with such persons. But how does Mrs. Blank precisely mean to accomplish
this? Will she shut up the maidens in a harem? When they go out, will she
send messengers through the streets to bid people hide their faces, as when
an Oriental queen is passing? Will she send them travelling on camels,
veiled by _yashmaks?_ Will she prohibit them from being so much as seen by
a man, except when a physician must be called for their ailments, and Miss
Blank puts her arm through a curtain, in order that he may feel her pulse
and know no more?

Who is Mrs. Blank, and how does she bring up her daughters? Does she send
them to the post-office? If so, they may wait a half-hour at a time for the
mail to open, and be elbowed by the most disreputable characters, waiting
at their side. If it does the young ladies no harm to encounter this for
the sake of getting their letters out, will it harm them to do it in order
to get their ballots in? If they go to hear a concert they may be kept half
an hour at the door, elbowed by saint and sinner indiscriminately. If they
go to Washington to the President's inauguration, they may stand two hours
with Mary Magdalen on one side of them and Judas Iscariot on the other. If
this contact is rendered harmless by the fact that they are receiving
political information, will it hurt them to stay five minutes longer in
order to act upon the knowledge they have received?

This is on the supposition that the household of Blank are plain, practical
women, unversed in the vanities of the world. If they belong to fashionable
circles, how much harder to keep them wholly clear of disreputable contact!
Should they, for instance, visit Newport, they may possibly be seen at the
Casino, looking very happy as they revolve rapidly in the arms of some very
disreputable characters; they will be seen in the surf, attired in the most
scanty and clinging drapery, and kindly aided to preserve their balance by
the devoted attentions of the same companions. Mrs. Blank, meanwhile, will
look complacently on, with the other matrons: they are not supposed to know
the current reputation of those whom their daughters meet "in society;"
and, so long as there is no actual harm done, why should they care? Very
well; but why, then, should they care if they encounter those same
disreputable characters when they go to drop a ballot in the ballot-box? It
will be a more guarded and distant meeting. It is not usual to dance
round-dances at the ward-room, so far as I know, or to bathe in clinging
drapery at that rather dry and dusty resort. If such very close intimacies
are all right under the gas-light or at the beach, why should there be
poison in merely passing near a disreputable character at the City Hall?

On the whole, the prospects of Mrs. Blank are not encouraging. Should she
consult a physician for her daughters, he may be secretly or openly
disreputable; should she call in a clergyman, he may, though a bishop, have
carnal rather than spiritual eyes. If Miss Blank be caught in a shower, she
may take refuge under the umbrella of an undesirable acquaintance; should
she fall on the ice, the woman who helps to raise her may have sinned.
There is not a spot in any known land where a woman can live in absolute
seclusion from all contact with evil. Should the Misses Blank even turn
Roman Catholics, and take to a convent, their very confessor may not be a
genuine saint; and they may be glad to flee for refuge to the busy, buying,
selling, dancing, voting world outside.

No: Mrs. Blank's prayers for absolute protection will never be answered, in
respect to her daughters. Why not, then, find a better model for prayer in
that made by Jesus for his disciples: "I pray Thee, not that Thou shouldst
take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the
evil." A woman was made for something nobler in the world, Mrs. Blank, than
to be a fragile toy, to be put behind a glass case, and protected from
contact. It is not her mission to be hidden away from all life's evil, but
bravely to work that the world may be reformed.


Every mishap among American women brings out renewed suggestions of what
may be called the "European plan" in the training of young girls,--the
plan, that is, of extreme seclusion and helplessness. It is usually
forgotten, in these suggestions, that not much protection is really given
anywhere to this particular class as a whole. Everywhere in Europe the
restrictions are of caste, not of sex. Even in Turkey, travellers tell us,
women of the humbler vocations are not much secluded. It is not the object
of the "European plan," in any form, to protect the virtue of young women,
as such, but only of young ladies; and the protection is pretty effectually
limited to that order. Among the Portuguese in the island of Fayal I found
it to be the ambition of each humble family to bring up one daughter in a
sort of lady-like seclusion: she never went into the street alone, or
without a hood which was equivalent to a veil; she was taught indoor
industries only; she was constantly under the eye of her mother. But in
order that one daughter might be thus protected, all the other daughters
were allowed to go alone, day or evening, bareheaded or bare-footed, by the
loneliest mountain-paths, to bring oranges or firewood or whatever their
work may be--heedless of protection. The safeguard was for a class: the
average exposure of young womanhood was far greater than with us. So in
London, while you rarely see a young lady alone in the streets, the
housemaid is sent on errands at any hour of the evening with a freedom at
which our city domestics would quite rebel; and one has to stay but a short
time in Paris to see how entirely limited to a class is the alleged
restraint under which young French girls are said to be kept.

Again, it is to be remembered that the whole "European plan," so far as it
is applied on the continent of Europe, is a plan based upon utter distrust
and suspicion, not only as to chastity, but as to all other virtues. It is
applied among the higher classes almost as consistently to boys as to
girls. In every school under church auspices, it is the French theory that
boys are never to be left unwatched for a moment; and it is as steadily
assumed that girls will be untruthful if left to themselves, as that they
will do every other wrong. This to the Anglo-Saxon race seems very
demoralizing. "Suspicion," said Sir Philip Sidney, "is the way to lose that
which we fear to lose." Readers of the Bronte novels will remember the
disgust of the English pupils and teachers in French schools at the
constant espionage around them; and I have more than once heard young girls
who had been trained at such institutions say that it was a wonder if they
had any truthfulness left, so invariable was the assumption that it was the
nature of young girls to lie. I cannot imagine anything less likely to
create upright and noble character, in man or woman, than the systematic
application of the "European plan."

And that it produces just the results that might be feared, the whole tone
of European literature proves. Foreigners, no doubt, do habitual injustice
to the morality of French households; but it is impossible that fiction can
utterly misrepresent the community which produces and reads it. When one
thinks of the utter lightness of tone with which breaches, both of truth
and chastity, are treated even in the better class of French novels and
plays, it seems absurd to deny the correctness of the picture. Besides, it
is not merely a question of plays and novels. Consider, for instance, the
contempt with which Taine treats Thackeray for representing the mother of
Pendennis as suffering agonies when she thinks that her son has seduced a
young girl, a social inferior. Thackeray is not really considered a model
of elevated tone, as to such matters, among English writers; but the
Frenchman is simply amazed that the Englishman should describe even the
saintliest of mothers as attaching so much weight to such a small affair.

An able newspaper writer, quoted with apparent approval by the "Boston
Daily Advertiser," praises the supposed foreign method for the "habit of
dependence and deference" that it produces; and because it gives to a young
man a wife whose "habit of deference is established." But it must be
remembered, that, where this theory is established, the habit of deference
is logically carried much farther than mere conjugal convenience would take
it. Its natural outcome is the authority of the priest, not of the husband.
That domination of the women of France by the priesthood which forms even
now the chief peril of the republic--which is the strength of legitimism
and imperialism and all other conspiracies against the liberty of the
French people--is only the visible and inevitable result of this dangerous

One thing is certain, that the best preparation for freedom is freedom; and
that no young girls are so poorly prepared for American life as those whose
early years are passed in Europe. Some of the worst imprudences, the most
unmaidenly and offensive actions, that I have ever heard of in decent
society, have been on the part of young women educated abroad, who have
been launched into American life without its early training,--have been
treated as children until they suddenly awakened to the freedom of women.
On the other hand, I remember with pleasure, that a cultivated French
mother, whose daughter's fine qualities were the best seal of her
motherhood, once told me that the models she had chosen in her daughter's
training were certain families of American young ladies, of whom she had,
through peculiar circumstances, seen much in Paris.


One of the most amusing letters ever quoted in any book is that given in
Curzon's "Monasteries of the Levant," as the production of a Turkish
sultana who had just learned English. It is as follows:--



    MY NOBLE FRIEND:--Here are the featherses sent my soul, my noble
    friend, are there no other featherses leaved in the shop besides
    these featherses? and these featherses remains, and these featherses
    are ukly. They are very dear, who buyses dheses? And my noble
    friend, we want a noat from yourself; those you brought last tim,
    those you sees were very beautiful; we had searched; my soul, I want
    featherses again, of those featherses. In Kalada there is plenty of
    feather. Whatever bees, I only want beautiful featherses; I want
    featherses of every desolation to-morrow.

    (Signed) YOU KNOW WHO.

The first steps in culture do not, then, it seems, remove from the feminine
soul the love of pretty things. Nor do the later steps wholly extinguish
it; for did not Grace Greenwood hear the learned Mary Somerville conferring
with the wise Harriet Martineau as to whether a certain dress should be
dyed to match a certain shawl? Well! why not? Because women learn the use
of the quill, are they to ignore "featherses "? Because they learn science,
must they unlearn the arts, and, above all, the art of being beautiful? If
men have lost it, they have reason to regret the loss. Let women hold to
it, while yet within their reach.

Mrs. Rachel Rowland of New Bedford, much prized and trusted as a public
speaker among Friends, and a model of taste and quiet beauty in costume,
delighted the young girls at a Newport Yearly Meeting, a few years since,
by boldly declaring that she thought God meant women to make the world
beautiful, as much as flowers and butterflies, and that there was no sin in
tasteful dress, but only in devoting to it too much money or too much time.
It is a blessed doctrine. The utmost extremes of dress, the love of colors,
of fabrics, of jewels, of "featherses," are, after all, but an effort after
the beautiful. The reason why the beautiful is not always the result is
because so many women are ignorant or merely imitative. They have no sense
of fitness: the short wear what belongs to the tall, and brunettes
sacrifice their natural beauty to look like blondes. Or they have no
adaptation; and even an emancipated woman may show a disregard for
appropriateness, as where a fine lady sweeps the streets, or a fair orator
the platform, with a silken or velvet train which accords only with a
carpet as luxurious as itself. What is inappropriate is never beautiful.
What is merely in the fashion is never beautiful. But who does not know
some woman whose taste and training are so perfect that fashion becomes to
her a means of grace instead of a despot, and the worst excrescence that
can be prescribed--a _chignon_, a hoop, a panier--is softened into
something so becoming that even the Parisian bondage seems but a chain of

In such hands, even "featherses" become a fine art, not a matter of vanity.
Are women so much more vain than men? No doubt they talk more about their
dress, for there is much more to talk about; yet did you never hear the men
of fashion discuss boots and hats and the liveries of grooms? A good friend
of mine, a shoemaker, who supplies very high heels for a great many pretty
feet on Fifth Avenue in New York, declares that women are not so vain in
that direction as men. "A man who thinks he has a handsome foot," quoth our
fashionable Crispin, "is apt to give us more trouble than any lady among
our customers. I have noticed this for twenty years." The testimony is
consoling--to women.

And this naturally suggests the question, What is to be the future of
masculine costume? Is the present formlessness and gracelessness and
monotony of hue to last forever, as suited to the rough needs of a workaday
world? It is to be remembered that the difference in this respect between
the dress of the sexes is a very recent thing. Till within a century or so,
men dressed as picturesquely as women, and paid as minute attention to
their costume. Even the fashions in armor varied as extensively as the
fashions in gowns. One of Henry III.'s courtiers, Sir J. Arundel, had
fifty-two complete suits of cloth of gold. No satin, no velvet, was too
elegant for those who sat to Copley for their pictures. In Puritan days the
laws could hardly be made severe enough to prevent men from wearing
silver-lace and "broad bone-lace," and shoulder-bands of undue width, and
double ruffs and "immoderate great breeches." What seemed to the Cavaliers
the extreme of stupid sobriety in dress would pass now for the most
fantastic array. Fancy Samuel Pepys going to a wedding of to-day in his
"new colored silk suit and coat trimmed with gold buttons, and gold broad
lace round his hands, very rich and fine." It would give to the ceremony
the aspect of a fancy ball; yet how much prettier a sight is a fancy ball
than the ordinary entertainment of the period!

At intervals the rigor of masculine costume is a little relaxed; velvets
resume their picturesque sway: and, instead of the customary suit of solemn
black, gentlemen even appear in blue and gold editions at evening parties.
Let us hope that good sense and taste may yet meet each other, for both
sexes; that men may borrow for their dress some womanly taste, women some
masculine sense; and society may again witness a graceful and appropriate
costume, without being too much absorbed in "featherses."



    "Movet me ingens scientiarum admiratio, seu legis communis aequitas,
    ut in nostro sexu, rarum non esse feram, id quod omnium votis
    dignissimum est. Nam cum sapientia tantum generis humani ornamentum
    sit, ut ad omnes et singulos (quoad quidem per sortem cujusque
    liceat) extendi jure debeat, non vidi, cur virgini, in qua excolendi
    sese ornandique sedulitatem admittimus, non conveniat mundus hic
    omnium longè pulcherrimus."--ANNAE MARIAE À SCHURMAN EPISTOLAE.

    "A great reverence for knowledge and the natural sense of justice
    urge me to encourage in my own sex that which is most worthy the
    aspirations of all. For, since wisdom is so great an ornament of the
    human race that it should of right be extended (so far as
    practicable) to each and every one, I have not perceived why this
    fairest of ornaments should not be appropriate for the maiden, to
    whom we permit all diligence in the decoration and adornment of


Why is it, that, whenever anything is done for women in the way of
education, it is called "an experiment,"--something that is to be long
considered, stoutly opposed, grudgingly yielded, and dubiously watched,--
while, if the same thing is done for men, its desirableness is assumed as a
matter of course, and the thing is done? Thus, when Harvard College was
founded, it was not regarded as an experiment, but as an institution. The
"General Court," in 1636, "agreed to give 400 _l_. towards a schoale or
colledge," and the affair was settled. Every subsequent step in the
expanding of educational opportunities for young men has gone in the same
way. But when there seems a chance of extending, however irregularly, some
of the same collegiate advantages to women, I observe that respectable
newspapers, in all good faith, are apt to speak of the measure as an

It seems to me no more of an "experiment" than when a boy who has usually
eaten up his whole apple becomes a little touched with a sense of justice,
and finally decides to offer his sister the smaller half. If he has ever
regarded that offer as an experiment, the first actual trial will put the
result into the list of certainties; and it will become an axiom in his
mind that girls like apples. Whatever may be said about the position of
women in law and society, it is clear that their educational disadvantages
have been a prolonged disgrace to the other sex, and one for which women
themselves are in no way accountable. When Françoise de Saintonges, in the
sixteenth century, wished to establish girls' schools in France, she was
hooted in the streets, and her father called together four doctors of law
to decide whether she was possessed of a devil in planning to teach
women,--"_pour s'assurer qu'instruire des femmes n'était pas un oeuvre du
démon_." From that day to this we have seen women almost always more ready
to be taught than was any one else to teach them. Talk as you please about
their wishing or not wishing to vote: they have certainly wished for
instruction, and have had it doled out to them almost as grudgingly as if
it were the ballot itself.

Consider the educational history of Massachusetts, for instance. The wife
of President John Adams was born in 1744; and she says of her youth that
"female education, in the best families, went no farther than writing and
arithmetic." Barry tells us in his "History of Massachusetts," that the
public education was first provided for boys only; "but light soon broke
in, and girls were allowed to attend the public schools two hours a
day."[1] It appears from President Quincy's "Municipal History of
Boston,"[2] that from 1790 girls were there admitted to such schools, but
during the summer months only, when there were not boys enough to fill
them,--from April 20 to October 20 of each year. This lasted until 1822,
when Boston became a city. Four years after, an attempt was made to
establish a high school for girls, which was not, however, to teach Latin
and Greek. It had, in the words of the school committee of 1854, "an
alarming success;" and the school was abolished after eighteen months'
trial, because the girls crowded into it; and as Mr. Quincy, with exquisite
simplicity, records, "not one voluntarily quitted it, and there was no
reason to suppose that any one admitted to the school would voluntarily
quit for the whole three years, except in case of marriage!"

How amusing seems it now to read of such an "experiment" as this, abandoned
only because of its overwhelming success! How absurd now seem the
discussions of a few years ago!--the doubts whether young women really
desired higher education, whether they were capable of it, whether their
health would bear it, whether their parents would permit it. An address I
gave before the Social Science Association on this subject, at Boston, May
14, 1873, now seems to me such a collection of platitudes that I hardly see
how I dared come before an intelligent audience with such needless
reasonings. It is as if I had soberly labored to prove that two and two
make four, or that ginger is "hot i' the mouth." Yet the subsequent
discussion in that meeting showed that around even these harmless and
commonplace propositions the battle of debate could rage hot; and it really
seemed as if even to teach women the alphabet ought still to be mentioned
as "a promising experiment." Now, with the successes before us of so many
colleges; with the spectacle at Cambridge of young women actually reading
Plato "at sight" with Professor Goodwin,--it surely seems as if the higher
education of women might be considered quite beyond the stage of
experiment, and might henceforth be provided for in the same common-sense
and matter-of-course way which we provide for the education of young men.

And, if this point is already reached in education, how long before it will
also be reached in political life, and women's voting be viewed as a matter
of course, and a thing no longer experimental?

[Footnote 1: Vol. iii. 323.]

[Footnote 2: Page 21.]


When, some thirty years ago, the extraordinary young mathematician, Truman
Henry Safford, first attracted the attention of New England by his rare
powers, I well remember the pains that were taken to place him under
instruction by the ablest Harvard professors: the greater his abilities,
the more needful that he should have careful and symmetrical training. The
men of science did not say, "Stand off! let him alone! let him strive
patiently until he has achieved something positively valuable, and he may
be sure of prompt and generous recognition--when he is fifty years old." If
such a course would have been mistaken and ungenerous if applied to
Professor Safford, why is it not something to be regretted that it was
applied to Mrs. Somerville? In her case, the mischief was done: she was,
happily, strong enough to bear it; but, as the English critics say, we
never shall know what science has lost by it. We can do nothing for her
now; but we could do something for future women like her, by pointing this
obvious moral for their benefit, instead of being content with a mere tardy
recognition of success, after a woman has expended half a century in

It is commonly considered to be a step forward in civilization, that
whereas ancient and barbarous nations exposed children to special
hardships, in order to kill off the weak and toughen the strong, modern
nations aim to rear all alike carefully, without either sacrificing or
enfeebling. If we apply this to muscle, why not to mind? and if to men's
minds, why not to women's? Why use for men's intellects, which are claimed
to be stronger, the forcing process,--offering, for instance, many thousand
dollars a year in gratuities at our colleges, that young men may be induced
to come and learn,--and only withhold assistance from the weaker minds of
women? A little schoolgirl once told me that she did not object to her
teacher's showing partiality, but thought she "ought to show partiality to
all alike." If all our university systems are wrong, and the proper diet
for mathematical genius consists of fifty years' snubbing, let us employ
it, by all means; but let it be applied to both sexes.

That it is the duty of women, even under disadvantageous circumstances, to
prove their purpose by labor, to "verify their credentials," is true
enough; but this moral is only part of the moral of Mrs. Somerville's book,
and is cruelly incomplete without the other half. What a garden of roses
was Mrs. Somerville's life, according to some comfortable critics! "All
that for which too many women nowadays are content to sit and whine, or
fitfully and carelessly struggle, came naturally and quietly to Mrs.
Somerville. And the reason was that she never asked for anything until she
had earned it; or, rather, she never asked at all, but was content to
earn." Naturally and quietly! You might as well say that Garrison fought
slavery "quietly," or that Frederick Douglass's escape came to him
"naturally." Turn to the book itself, and see with what strong, though
never actually bitter, feeling, the author looks back upon her hard

    "I was intensely ambitious to excel in something; for I felt in my
    own breast that women were capable of taking a higher place in
    creation than that assigned them in my early days, which was very
    low" (p. 60). "Nor ... should I have had courage to ask any of them
    a question, for I should have been laughed at. I was often very sad
    and forlorn; not a hand held out to help me" (p. 47). "My father
    came home for a short time, and, somehow or other finding out what I
    was about, said to my mother, 'Peg, we must put a stop to this, or
    we shall have Mary in a strait-jacket one of these days'" (p. 54).
    "I continued my mathematical and other pursuits, but under great
    disadvantages; for, although my husband did not prevent me from
    studying, I met with no sympathy whatever from him, as he had a very
    low opinion of the capacity of my sex, and had neither knowledge of
    nor interest in science of any kind" (p. 75). "I was considered
    eccentric and foolish; and my conduct was highly disapproved of by
    many, especially by some members of my own family" (p. 80). "A man
    can always command his time under the plea of business: a woman is
    not allowed any such excuse" (p. 164). And so on.

At last, in 1831,--Mrs. Somerville being then fifty-one,--her work on "The
Mechanism of the Heavens" appeared. Then came universal recognition,
generous if not prompt, a tardy acknowledgment. "Our relations," she says,
"and others who had so severely criticised and ridiculed me, astonished at
my success, were now loud in my praise."[1] No doubt. So were, probably,
Cinderella's sisters loud in her praise, when the prince at last took her
from the chimney-corner, and married her. They had kept for themselves, to
be sure, as long as they could, the delights and opportunities of life;
while she had taken the place assigned her in her early days,--"which was
very low," as Mrs. Somerville says. But, for all that, they were very kind
to her in the days of her prosperity; and no doubt packed their little
trunks and came to visit their dear sister at the palace as often as she
could wish. And, doubtless, the Fairyland Monthly of that day, when it came
to review Cinderella's "Personal Recollections," pointed out that, as soon
as that distinguished lady had "achieved something positively valuable,"
she received "prompt and generous recognition."

[Footnote 1: Page 176.]


The learned Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, England, is frequently
facetious; and his jokes are quoted with the deference due to the chief
officer of the chief college of that great university. Now it is known that
the Cambridge colleges, and Trinity College in particular, are doing a
great deal for the instruction of women. The young women of Girton College
and Newnham College--both of these being institutions for their benefit, in
or near Cambridge--not only enjoy the instruction of the university, but
they share it under a guaranty that it shall be of the best quality;
because they attend, in many cases, the very same lectures with the young
men. Where this is not done, they sometimes use the vacant lecture-rooms of
the college; and it was in connection with an application for this
privilege that the Master of Trinity College made a celebrated joke. When
told that the lecture-room was needed for a class of young women in
psychology, he said, "Psychology? What kind of psychology?
Cupid-and-Psychology, I suppose."

Cupid-and-Psychology is, after all, not so bad a department of instruction.
It may be taken as a good enough symbol of that mingling of head and heart
which is the best result of all training. One of the worst evils of the
separate education of the sexes has been the easy assumption that men were
to become all head, and women all heart. It was to correct the evils of
this that Ben Jonson proposed for his ideal woman

    "a learned and a manly soul."

It was an implied recognition of it from the other side when the great
masculine intellect, Goethe, held up as a guiding force in his Faust "the
eternal womanly" (_das ewige weibliche_). After all, each sex must teach
the other, and impart to the other. It will never do to have all the brains
poured into one human being, and christened "man;" and all the affections
decanted into another, and labelled "woman." Nature herself rejects this
theory. Darwin himself, the interpreter of nature, shows that there is a
perpetual effort going on, by unseen forces, to equalize the sexes, since
sons often inherit from the mother, and daughters from the father. And we
all take pleasure in discovering in the noblest of each sex something of
the qualities of the other,--the tender affections in great men, the
imperial intellect in great women.

On the whole, there is no harm, but rather good, in the new science of
Cupid-and-Psychology. There are combinations for which no single word can
suffice. The phrase belongs to the same class with Lowell's witty
denunciation of a certain tiresome letter-writer, as being, not his
incubus, but his "pen-and-inkubus." It is as well to admit it first as
last: Cupid-and-Psychology will be taught wherever young men and women
study together. Not in the direct and simple form of mutual love-making,
perhaps; for they tell the visitor, at universities which admit both sexes,
that the young men and maidens do not fall in love with each other, but are
apt to seek their mates elsewhere. The new science has a wider bearing, and
suggests that the brain is incomplete, after all, without the affections;
and so are the affections without the brain. A certain professorship at
Harvard University which the Rev. Dr. Francis G.

Peabody now fills, and which Phillips Brooks was once invited to fill, was
founded by a woman, Miss Plummer; and the name proposed by her for it was
"a professorship of the heart," though they after all called it only a
professorship of "Christian morals." We need the heart in our colleges, it
seems, even if we only get it under the ingenious title of


For one, I have never been fascinated by the style of domestic paradise
that English novels depict,--half a dozen unmarried daughters round the
family hearth, all assiduously doing worsted-work and petting their papa. I
believe a sufficiency of employment to be the only normal and healthy
condition for a human being; and where there is not work enough to employ
the full energies of all at home, it seems as proper for young women as for
young birds to leave the parental nest. If this additional work is done for
money, very well. It is the conscious dignity of self-support that removes
the traditional curse from labor, and woman has a right to claim her share
in that dignified position.

Yet I cannot agree, on the other hand, with those who maintain that the
true woman should be self-supporting, even in marriage. Woman's part of the
family task--the care of home and children--is just as essential to
building up the family fortunes as the very different toil of the out-door
partner. For young married women to undertake any more direct aid to the
family income is in most cases utterly undesirable, and is asking of
themselves a great deal too much. And this is not because they are to be
encouraged in indolence, but because they already, in a normal condition of
things, have their hands full. As, on this point, I may differ from some of
my readers, let me explain precisely what I mean.

As I write, there are at work, in another part of the house, two
paper-hangers, a man and his wife, each forty-five or fifty years of age.
Their children are grown up, and some of them married: they have a daughter
at home, who is old enough to do the housework, and leave the mother free.
There is no way of organizing the labors of this household better than
this: the married pair toil together during the day, and go home together
to their evening rest. A happier couple I never saw; it is a delight to see
them cheerily at work together, cutting, pasting, hanging: their life seems
like a prolonged industrial picnic; and if I had the ill-luck to own as
many palaces as an English duke I should keep them permanently occupied in
putting fresh papers on the walls.

But the merit of this employment for the woman is that it interferes with
no other duty. Were she a young mother with little children, and obliged by
her paper-hanging to neglect them, or to leave them at a "day-nursery," or
to overwork herself by combining too many cares, then the sight of her
would be very sad. So sacred a thing is motherhood, so paramount and
absorbing the duty of a mother to her child, that in a true state of
society I think she should be utterly free from all other duties,--even, if
possible, from the ordinary cares of housekeeping. If she has spare health
and strength to do these other things as pleasures, very well; but she
should be relieved from them as duties. And as to the need of
self-support, I can hardly conceive of an instance where it can be to the
mother of young children anything but a disaster. As we all know, this
calamity often occurs; I have seen it among the factory operatives at the
North, and among the negro women in the cotton-fields at the South: in both
cases it is a tragedy, and the bodies and brains of mother and children
alike suffer. That the mother should bear and tend and nurture, while the
father supports and protects,--this is the true division.

Does this bear in any way upon suffrage? Not at all. The mother can inform
herself upon public questions in the intervals of her cares, as the father
among his; and the baby in the cradle is a perpetual appeal to her, as to
him, that the institutions under which that baby dwells may be kept pure.
One of the most devoted young mothers I ever knew--the younger sister of
Margaret Fuller Ossoli--made it a rule, no matter how much her children
absorbed her, to read books or newspapers for an hour every day; in order,
she said, that she should be more to them than a mere source of physical
nurture, and that her mind should be kept fresh and alive for them. But to
demand in addition that such a mother should earn money for them is to ask
too much; and there is many a tombstone in New England, which, if it told
the truth, would tell what comes of such an effort.


"The hopeless defect of women in all practical matters," said a shrewd
merchant the other day, "is that it is impossible to make them thorough."
It was a shallow remark, and so I told him. Women are thorough in the
things which they have been expected to regard as their sphere,--in their
housekeeping and their dress and their social observances. There is nothing
more thorough on earth than the way housework is done in a genuine New
England household. There is an exquisite thoroughness in the way a
milliner's or a dressmaker's work is done,--a work such as clumsy man
cannot rival, and can hardly estimate. No general plans his campaigns or
marshals his armies better than some women of society--the late Mrs. Paran
Stevens, for instance--manage the circles of which they are the centre. Day
and night, winter and summer, at city or watering-place, year in and year
out, such a woman keeps open house for her gay world. She has a perpetual
series of guests who must be fed luxuriously, and amused profusely; she
talks to them in three or four languages; at her entertainments she notes
who is present and who absent, as carefully as Napoleon watched his
soldiers; her interchange of cards, alone, is a thing as complex as the
army muster-rolls: thus she plans, organizes, conquers, and governs. People
speak of her existence as that of a doll or a toy, when she is the most
untiring of campaigners. Grant that her aim is, after all, unworthy, and
that you pity the worn face which has to force so many smiles. No matter:
the smiles are there, and so is the success. I often wish that the
reformers would do their work as thoroughly as the women of society do

No, there is no constitutional want of thoroughness in women. The trouble
is that into the new work upon which they are just entering they have not
yet brought their thoroughness to bear. They suffer and are defrauded and
are reproached, simply because they have not yet nerved themselves to do
well the things which they have asserted their right to do. A distinguished
woman, who earns one of the largest incomes ever honestly earned by any one
of her sex, off the stage, told me the other day that she left all her
business affairs to the management of others, and did not even know how to
draw a check on a bank. What a melancholy self-exhibition was that of a
clever American woman, whom I knew, the author of half a dozen successful
books, refusing to look her own accounts in the face until they had got
into such a tangle that not even her own referees could disentangle them to
suit her! These things show, not that women are constitutionally wanting in
thoroughness, but that it is hard to make them carry this quality into new

I wish I could possibly convey to the young women who write for advice on
literary projects something of the meaning of this word "thorough" as
applied to literary work. Scarcely any of them seem to have a conception of
it. Dash, cleverness, recklessness, impatience of revision or of patient
investigation, these are the common traits. To a person of experience,
no stupidity is so discouraging as a brilliancy that has no roots. It
brings nothing to pass; whereas a slow stupidity, if it takes time enough,
may conquer the world. Consider that for more than twenty years the path of
literature has been quite as fully open for women as for men, in America,--
the payment the same, the honor the same, the obstacles no greater.
Collegiate education has until quite recently been denied them, but how
many men succeed as writers without that advantage! Yet how little, how
very little, of permanent literary work has yet been done by American
women! Young girls appear one after another: each writes a single clever
story or a single sweet poem, and then disappears forever. Look at
Griswold's "Female Poets of America," and you are disposed to turn back to
the title-page, and see if these utterly forgotten names do not really
represent the "female poets" of some other nation. They are forgotten, as
most of the more numerous "female prose writers" are forgotten, because
they had no root. Nobody doubts that women have cleverness enough, and
enough of power of expression. If you could open the mails, and take out
the women's letters, as somebody says, they would prove far more graphic
and entertaining than those of the men. They would be written, too, in what
Macaulay calls--speaking of Madame d'Arblay's early style--"true woman's
English, clear, natural, and lively." What they need, in order to convert
this epistolary brilliancy into literature, is to be thorough.

You cannot separate woman's rights and her responsibilities. In all ages of
the world she has had a certain limited work to do, and has done that well.
All that is needed, when new spheres are open, is that she should carry the
same fidelity into those. If she will work as hard to shape the children of
her brain as to rear her bodily offspring, will do intellectual work as
well as she does housework, and will meet her moral responsibilities as she
meets her social engagements, then opposition will soon disappear. The
habit of thoroughness is the key to all high success. Whatever is worth
doing is worth doing well. Only those who are faithful in a few things will
rightfully be made rulers over many.


The brilliant Lady Ashburton used to say of herself that she had never
written a book, and knew nobody whose books she would like to have written.
This does not seem to be the ordinary state of mind among those who write
letters of inquiry to authors. If I may judge from these letters, the
yearning for a literary career is now almost greater among women than among
men. Perhaps this is because of some literary successes lately achieved by
women. Perhaps it is because they have fewer outlets for their energies.
Perhaps they find more obstacles in literature than young men find, and
have, therefore, more need to write letters of inquiry about it. It is
certain that they write such letters quite often; and ask questions that
test severely the supposed omniscience of the author's brain,--questions
bearing on logic, rhetoric, grammar, and orthography; where to find a
publisher, and how to obtain a well-disciplined mind.

These letters may sometimes be too long or come too often for convenience,
nor is the consoling postage-stamp always remembered. But they are of great
value as giving real glimpses of American social life, and of the present
tendencies of American women. They sometimes reveal such intellectual ardor
and imagination, such modesty, and such patience under difficulties, as to
do good to the reader, whatever they may do to the writer. They certainly
suggest a few thoughts, which may as well be expressed, once for all, in

Behind almost all these letters there lies a laudable desire to achieve
success. "Would you have the goodness to tell us how success can be
obtained?" How can this be answered, my dear young lady, when you leave it
to the reader to guess what your definition of success may be? For
instance, here is Mr. Mansfield Tracy Walworth, who was murdered the other
day in New York. He was at once mentioned in the newspapers as a
"celebrated author."

Never in my life having heard of him, I looked in a "Manual of American
Literature," and there found that Mr. Walworth's novel of "Warwick" had a
sale of seventy-five thousand copies, and his "Delaplaine" of forty-five
thousand. Is it a success to have secured a sale like that for your books,
and then to die, and have your brother penmen ask, "Who was he?" Yet,
certainly, a sale of seventy-five thousand copies is not to be despised;
and I fear I know many youths and maidens who would willingly write novels
much poorer than "Warwick" for the sake of a circulation like that. I do
not think that Hawthorne, however, would have accepted these conditions;
and he certainly did not have this style of success.

Nor do I think he had any right to expect it. He had made his choice, and
had reason to be satisfied. The very first essential for literary success
is to decide what success means. If a young girl pines after the success of
Marion Harland and Mrs. Southworth, let her seek it. It is possible that
she may obtain it, or surpass it; and though she might do better, she might
do far worse. It is, at any rate, a laudable aim to be popular: popularity
may be a very creditable thing, unless you pay too high a price for it. It
is a pleasant thing, and has many contingent advantages,--balanced by this
great danger, that one is apt to mistake it for real success.

"Learning hath made the most," said old Fuller, "by those books on which
the booksellers have lost." If this be true of learning, it is quite as
true of genius and originality. A book may be immediately popular and also
immortal, but the chances are the other way. It is more often the case that
a great writer gradually creates the taste by which he is enjoyed.
Wordsworth in England and Emerson in America were striking instances of
this; and authors of far less fame have yet the same choice which they had.
You can take the standard which the book market offers, and train yourself
for that. This will, in the present age, be sure to educate certain
qualities in you,--directness, vividness, animation, dash,--even if it
leaves other qualities untrained. Or you can make a standard of your own,
and aim at that, taking your chance of seeing the public agree with you.
Very likely you may fail; perhaps you may be wrong in your fancy, after
all, and the public may be right: if you fail, you may find it hard to
bear; but, on the other hand, you may have the inward "glory and joy" which
nothing but fidelity to an ideal standard can give. All this applies to all
forms of work, but it applies conspicuously to literature.

Instead, therefore, of offering to young writers the usual comforting
assurance, that, if they produce anything of real merit, it will be sure to
succeed, I should caution them first to make their own definition of
success, and then act accordingly. Hawthorne succeeded in his way, and Mr.
M.T. Walworth in his way; and each of these would have been very
unreasonable if he had expected to succeed in both ways. There is always an
opening for careful and conscientious literary work; and by such work many
persons obtain a modest support. There are also some great prizes to be
won; but these are commonly, though not always, won by work of a more
temporary and sensational kind. Make your choice; and, when you have got
precisely what you asked for, do not complain because you have missed what
you would not take.


A young girl of some talent once told me that she had devoted herself to
"the career of letters." I found, on inquiry, that she had obtained a
situation as writer of society gossip for a New York newspaper. I can
hardly imagine any life that leads more directly away from any really
literary career, or any life about which it is harder to give counsel. The
work of a newspaper correspondent, especially in the "society" direction,
is so full of trials and temptations, for one of either sex, in our dear,
inquisitive, gossiping America, that one cannot help watching with especial
solicitude all women who enter it. Their special gifts as women are a
source of danger: they are keener of observation from the very fact of
their sex, more active in curiosity, more skilful in achieving their ends;
in a world of gossip they are the queens, and men but their subjects, hence
their greater danger.

In Newport, New York, Washington, it is the same thing. The unbounded
appetite for private information about public or semi-public people creates
its own purveyors; and these, again, learn to believe with unflinching
heartiness in the work they do. I have rarely encountered a successful
correspondent of this description who had not become thoroughly convinced
that the highest desire of every human being is to see his name in print,
no matter how. Unhappily, there is a great deal to encourage this belief: I
have known men to express great indignation at an unexpected
newspaper-puff, and then to send ten dollars privately to the author. This
is just the calamity of the profession, that it brings one in contact with
this class of social hypocrites; and the "personal" correspondent gradually
loses faith that there is any other class to be found. Then there is the
perilous temptation to pay off grudges in this way, to revenge slights, by
the use of a power with which few people are safely to be trusted. In many
cases, such a correspondent is simply a child playing with poisoned arrows:
he poisons others; and it is no satisfaction to know that in time he may
also poison himself, and paralyze his own power for mischief.

There lies before me a letter written some years ago to a young lady
anxious to enter on this particular "career of letters,"--a letter from an
experienced New York journalist. He has employed, he says, hundreds of lady
correspondents, for little or no compensation; and one of his few
successful writers he thus describes: "She succeeds by pushing her way into
society, and extracting information from fashionable people and officials
and their wives.... She flatters the vain, and overawes the weak, and gets
by sheer impudence what other writers cannot.... I would not wish you to be
like her, or reduced to the necessity of doing what she does, for any
success journalism can possibly give." And who can help echoing this
opinion? If this is one of the successful laborers, where shall we place
the unsuccessful; or, rather, is success, or failure, the greater honor?

Personal journalism has a prominence in this country with which nothing in
any other country can be compared. What is called publicity in England or
France means the most peaceful seclusion, compared with the glare of
notoriety which an enterprising correspondent can flash out at any time--as
if by opening the bull's-eye of a dark lantern--upon the quietest of his
contemporaries. It is essentially an American institution, and not one of
those in which we have reason to feel most pride. It is to be observed,
however, that foreigners, if in office, take to it very readily; and it is
said that no people cultivate the reporters at Washington more assiduously
than the diplomatic corps, who like to send home the personal notices of
themselves, in order to prove to their governments that they are highly
esteemed in the land to which they are appointed. But however it may be
with them, it is certain that many people still like to keep their public
and private lives apart, and shrink from even the inevitable eminence of
fame. One of the very most popular of American authors has said that he
never, to this day, has overcome a slight feeling of repugnance on seeing
his own name in print.


Every time a woman does anything original or remarkable,--inventing a
rat-trap, let us say, or carving thirty-six heads on a walnut-shell,--all
observers shout applause. "There's a woman for you, indeed! Instead of
talking about her rights, she takes them. That's the way to do it. What a
lesson to these declaimers upon the platform!"

It does not seem to occur to these wise people that the right to talk is
itself one of the chief rights in America, and the way to reach all the
others. To talk is to make a beginning, at any rate. To catch people with
your ideas is more than to contrive a rat-trap; and Isotta Nogarola,
carving thirty-six empty heads, was not working in so practical a fashion
as Mary Livermore when she instructs thirty-six hundred full ones.

It shows the good sense of the woman-suffrage agitators, that they have
decided to begin with talk. In the first place, talking is the most
lucrative of all professions in America; and therefore it is the duty of
American women to secure their share of it. Mrs. Frances Anne Kemble used
to say that she read Shakespeare in public "for her bread;" and when, after
melting all hearts by a course of farewell readings, she decided to begin
reading again, she said she was doing it "for her butter." So long as women
are often obliged to support themselves and their children, and perhaps
their husbands, by their own labor, they have no right to work cheaply,
unless driven to it. Anna Dickinson had no right to make fifteen dollars a
week by sewing, if, by stepping out of the ranks of needle-women into the
ranks of the talkers, she could make a hundred dollars a day. Theorize as
we may, the fact is that there is no kind of work in America which brings
such sure profits as public speaking. If women are unfitted for it, or if
they "know the value of peace and quietness," as the hand-organ man says,
and can afford to hold their tongues, let them do so. But if they have
tongues, and like to use them, they certainly ought to make some money by
the performance.

This is the utilitarian view. And when we bring in higher objects, it is
plain that the way to get anything in America is to talk about it. Silence
is golden, no doubt, and like other gold remains in the bank-vaults, and
does not just now circulate very freely as currency. Even literature in
America is utterly second to oratory as a means of immediate influence. Of
all sway, that of the orator is the most potent and most perishable; and
the student and the artist are apt to hold themselves aloof from it, for
this reason. But it is the one means in America to accomplish immediate
results, and women who would take their rights must take them through
talking. It is the appointed way.

Under a good old-fashioned monarchy, if a woman wished to secure anything
for her sex, she must cajole a court, or become the mistress of a monarch.

That epoch ended with the French Revolution. When Bonaparte wished to
silence Madame de Staël, he said, "What does that woman want? Does she want
the money the government owes to her father?" When Madame de Staël heard of
it, she said, "The question is not what I want, but what I think."
Henceforth women, like men, are to say what they think. For all that
flattery and seduction and sin, we have substituted the simple weapon of
talk. If women wish education, they must talk; if better laws, they must
talk. The one chief argument against woman suffrage, with men, is that so
few women even talk about it.

As long as the human voice can effect anything, it is the duty of women to
use it; and in America, where it effects everything, they should talk all
the time. When they have obtained, as a class, absolute equality of rights
with men, their appeals on this subject may cease, and they may accept, if
they please, that naughty masculine definition of a happy marriage,--the
union of a deaf man with a dumb woman.


There are other things that women wish to do, it seems, beside studying and
voting. There are a good many--if I may judge from letters that
occasionally come to me--who are taking, or wish to take, their first
lessons in public speaking. Not necessarily very much in public, or before
mixed audiences, but perhaps merely to say to a roomful of ladies, or
before the committee of a Christian Union, what they desire to say. "How
shall I make myself heard? How shall I learn to express myself? How shall I
keep my head clear? Is there any school for debate?" And so on. My dear
young lady, it does not take much wisdom, but only a little experience, to
answer some of these questions. So I am not afraid to try.

The best school for debate is debating. So far as mere confidence and
comfort are concerned, the great thing is to gain the habit of speech, even
if one speaks badly. And the practice of an ordinary debating society has
also this advantage, that it teaches you to talk sense (lest you be laughed
at), to speak with some animation (lest your hearers go to sleep), to think
out some good arguments (because you are trying to convince somebody), and
to guard against weak reasoning or unfounded assertion (lest your opponent
trip you up). Speaking in a debating society thus gives you the same
advantage that a lawyer derives from the presence of an opposing counsel:
you learn to guard yourself at all points. It is the absence of this check
which is the great intellectual disadvantage of the pulpit When a lawyer
says a foolish thing in an argument, he is pretty sure to find it out; but
a clergyman may go on repeating his foolish thing for fifty years without
discovering it, for want of an opponent.

For the art of making your voice heard, I must refer you to an
elocutionist. Yet one thing at least you might acquire for yourself,--a
thing that lies at the foundation of all good speaking,--the complete and
thorough enunciation of every syllable. So great is the delight, to my ear
at least, of a perfectly distinct and clear-cut utterance, that I fear I
should rather listen for an hour to the merest nonsense, so uttered, than
to the very wisdom of angels if given in a confused or nasal or slovenly
way. If you wish to know what I mean by a clear and satisfactory utterance,
go to a woman-suffrage convention, and hear Miss Mary F. Eastman.

As to your employment of language, the great aim is to be simple, and, in a
measure, conversational; and then let eloquence come of itself. If most
people talked as well in public as in private, public meetings would be
more interesting. To acquire a conversational tone, there is good sense in
Edward Everett Hale's suggestion, that every person who is called on to
speak,--let us say, at a public dinner,--instead of standing up and talking
about his surprise at being called on, should simply make his last remark
to his neighbor at the table the starting-point for what he says to the
whole company. He will thus make sure of a perfectly natural key, to begin
with; and can go on from this quiet "As I was just saying to Mr. Smith," to
discuss the gravest question of Church or State. It breaks the ice for him,
like the remark upon the weather by which we open our interview with the
person whom we have longed for years to meet. Beginning in this way at the
level of the earth's surface, we can join hands and rise to the clouds.
Begin in the clouds,--as some of my most esteemed friends are wont to do,--
and you have to sit down before reaching the earth.

And, to come last to what is first in importance, I am taking it for
granted that you have something to say, and a strong desire to say it.
Perhaps you can say it better for writing it out in full beforehand. But
whether you do this or not, remember that the more simple and consecutive
your thought, the easier it will be both to keep it in mind and to utter
it. The more orderly your plan, the less likely you will be to "get
bewildered," or to "lose the thread." Think it out so clearly that the
successive parts lead to one another, and then there will be little strain
upon your memory. For each point you make, provide at least one good
argument and one good illustration, and you can, after a little practice,
safely leave the rest to the suggestion of the moment. But so much as this
you must have, to be secure. Methods of preparation of course vary
extremely; yet I suppose the secret of the composure of an experienced
speaker to lie usually in this, that he has made sure beforehand of a
sufficient number of good points to carry him through, even if nothing good
should occur to him on the spot. Thus wise people, in going on a fishing
excursion, take with them not merely their fishing tackle, but a few fish;
and then, if they are not sure of their luck, they will be sure of their

These are some of the simple hints that might be given, in answer to
inquiring friends. I can remember when they would have saved me some
anguish of spirit; and they may be of some use to others now. I write,
then, not to induce any one to talk for the sake of talking,--Heaven
forbid!--but that those who are longing to say something should not fancy
the obstacles insurmountable, when they are really slight.



    "That liberty, or freedom, consists in having an actual share in
    the appointment of those who frame the laws, and who are to be the
    guardians of every man's life, property, and peace; for the all of
    one man is as dear to him as the all of another, and the poor man
    has an equal right, but more need, to have representatives in the
    legislature than the rich one. That they who have no voice nor vote
    in the electing of representatives do not enjoy liberty, but are
    absolutely enslaved to those who have votes, and to their
    representatives; for to be enslaved is to have governors whom other
    men have set over us, and be subject to laws made by the
    representatives of others, without having had representatives of our
    own to give consent in our behalf."--BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, in Sparks's
    Franklin, ii. 372.


I remember that when I went to school I used to look with wonder on the
title of a now forgotten newspaper of those days which was then often in
the hands of one of the older scholars. I remember nothing else about the
newspaper, or about the boy, except that the title of the sheet he used to
unfold was "We the People;" and that he derived from it his school
nickname, by a characteristic boyish parody, and was usually mentioned as
"Us the Folks."

Probably all that was taught in that school, in regard to American history,
was not of so much value as the permanent fixing of this phrase in our
memories. It seemed very natural, in later years, to come upon my old
friend "Us the Folks," reproduced in almost every charter of our national
government, as thus:--

    "WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
    union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for
    the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the
    blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and
    establish this Constitution for the United States of
    America."--_United States Constitution, Preamble_.

    "WE THE PEOPLE of Maine do agree," etc.--_Constitution of Maine_.

    "All government of right originates from THE PEOPLE, is founded in
    their consent, and instituted for the general good."--_Constitution
    of New Hampshire_.

    "The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of
    individuals; it is a social compact, 'by which THE WHOLE PEOPLE
    covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people,
    that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common
    good."--_Constitution of Massachusetts_.

    "WE THE PEOPLE of the State of Rhode Island and Providence
    Plantations ... do ordain and establish this constitution of
    government."--_Constitution of Rhode Island_.

    "The people of Connecticut do, in order more effectually to define,
    secure, and perpetuate the liberties, rights, and privileges which
    they have derived from their ancestors, hereby ordain and establish
    the following constitution and form of civil
    government."--_Constitution of Connecticut_.

And so on through the constitutions of almost every State in the Union. Our
government is, as Lincoln said, "a government of the people, by the people,
and for the people." There is no escaping it. To question this is to deny
the foundations of the American government. Granted that those who framed
these provisions may not have understood the full extent of the principles
they announced. No matter: they gave us those principles; and, having them,
we must apply them.

Now, women may be voters or not, citizens or not; but that they are a part
of the people, no one has denied in Christendom--however it may be in
Japan, where, as Mrs. Leonowens tells us, the census of population takes in
only men, and the women and children are left to be inferred. "WE THE
PEOPLE," then, includes women. Be the superstructure what it may, the
foundation of the government clearly provides a place for them: it is
impossible to state the national theory in such a way that it shall not
include them. It is impossible to deny the natural right of women to vote,
except on grounds which exclude all natural right.

The fundamental charters are on our side. There are certain statute
limitations which may prove greater or less. But these are temporary and
trivial things, always to be interpreted, often to be modified, by
reference to the principles of the Constitution. For instance, when a
constitutional convention is to be held, or new conditions of suffrage to
be created, the whole people should vote upon the matter, including those
not hitherto enfranchised. This is the view insisted on, many years since,
by that eminent jurist, William Beach Lawrence. He maintained, in a letter
to Charles Sumner and in opposition to his own party, that if the question
of "negro suffrage" in the Southern States of the Union were put to vote,
the colored people themselves had a natural right to vote on the question.
The same is true of women. It should never be forgotten by advocates of
woman suffrage, that the deeper their reasonings go, the stronger
foundation they find; and that we have always a solid fulcrum for our lever
in that phrase of our charters, "We the people."


When young people begin to study geometry, they expect to begin with hard
reasoning on the very first page. To their surprise, they find that the
early pages are not occupied by reasoning, but by a few simple, easy, and
rather commonplace sentences, called "axioms," which are really a set of
pegs on which all the reasoning is hung. Pupils are not expected to go back
in every demonstration and prove the axioms. If Almira Jones happens to be
doing a problem at the blackboard on examination day, at the high school,
and remarks in the course of her demonstration that "things which are equal
to the same thing are equal to one another," and if a sharp questioner
jumps up, and says, "How do you know it?" she simply lays down her bit of
chalk, and says fearlessly, "That is an axiom," and the teacher sustains
her. Some things must be taken for granted.

The same service rendered by axioms in the geometry is supplied in America,
as to government, by the simple principles of the Declaration of
Independence. Right or wrong, they are taken for granted. Inasmuch as all
the legislation of the country is supposed to be based in them,--they
stating the theory of our government, while the Constitution itself only
puts into organic shape the application,--we must all begin with them. It
is a great advantage, and saves great trouble in all reforms. To the
Abolitionists, for instance, what an inestimable labor-saving machine was
the Declaration of Independence! Let them have that, and they asked no
more. Even the brilliant lawyer Rufus Choate, when confronted with its
plain provisions, could only sneer at them as "glittering generalities,"
which was equivalent to throwing down his brief, and throwing up his case.
It was an admission that, if you were so foolish as to insist on applying
the first principles of the government, it was all over with him.

Now, the whole doctrine of woman suffrage follows so directly from these
same political axioms, that they are especially convenient for women to
have in the house. When the Declaration of Independence enumerates as among
"self-evident" truths the fact of governments "deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed," then that point may be considered as
settled. In this school-examination of maturer life, in this grown-up
geometry class, the student is not to be called upon by the committee to
prove that. She may rightfully lay down her demonstrating chalk, and say,
"That is an axiom. You admit that yourselves."

It is a great convenience. We cannot always be going back, like a Hindoo
history, to the foundations of the world. Some things may be taken for
granted. How this simple axiom sweeps away, for instance, the cobweb
speculations as to whether voting is a natural right, or a privilege
delegated by society! No matter which. Take it which way you please. That
is an abstract question; but the practical question is a very simple one.
"Governments owe their just powers to the consent of the governed." Either
that axiom is false, or, whenever women as a class refuse their consent to
the present exclusively masculine government, it can no longer claim just
powers. The remedy then may be rightly demanded, which the Declaration of
Independence goes on to state: "Whenever any form of government becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to
abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on
such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall
seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

This is the use of the Declaration of Independence. Women, as a class, may
not be quite ready to use it. It is the business of this book to help make
them ready. But so far as they are ready these plain provisions are the
axioms of their political faith. If the axioms mean anything for men, they
mean something for women. If men deride the axioms, it is a concession,
like that of Rufus Choate, that these fundamental principles are very much
in their way. But so long as the sentences stand in that document they can
be made useful. If men try to get away from the arguments of women by
saving, "But suppose we have nothing in our theory of government which
requires us to grant your demand?" then women can answer, as the
straightforward Traddles answered Uriah Heep, "But you have, you know:
therefore, if you please, we won't suppose any such thing."


There has been an effort, lately, to show that when our fathers said,
"Taxation without representation is tyranny," they referred not to personal
liberties, but to the freedom of a state from foreign power. It is
fortunate that this criticism has been made, for it has led to a more
careful examination of passages; and this has made it clear, beyond
dispute, that the Revolutionary patriots carried their statements more into
detail than is generally supposed, and affirmed their principles for
individuals, not merely for the state as a whole.

In that celebrated pamphlet by James Otis, for instance, published as early
as 1764, "The Rights of the Colonies Vindicated," he thus clearly lays down
the rights of the individual as to taxation:--

    "The very act of taxing, exercised over those who are not
    represented, appears to me to be depriving them of one of their most
    essential rights as freemen; and, if continued, seems to be, in
    effect, an entire disfranchisement of every civil right. For what
    one civil right is worth a rush, after a man's property is subject
    to be taken from him at pleasure, without his consent? If a man is
    not his own assessor, in person or by deputy, his liberty is gone,
    or he is entirely at the mercy of others." [1]

This fine statement has already done duty for liberty, in another contest;
for it was quoted by Mr. Sumner in his speech of March 7, 1866, with this

    "Stronger words for universal suffrage could not be employed. His
    argument is that if men are taxed without being represented, they
    are deprived of essential rights; and the continuance of this
    deprivation despoils them of every civil right, thus making the
    latter depend upon the right of suffrage, which by a neologism of
    our day is known as a political right instead of a civil right.
    Then, to give point to this argument, the patriot insists that in
    determining taxation, 'every man must be his own assessor, in person
    or by deputy,' without which his liberty is entirely at the mercy of
    others. Here, again, in a different form, is the original
    thunderbolt, 'Taxation without representation is tyranny;' and the
    claim is made not merely for communities, but for 'every man.'"

In a similar way wrote Benjamin Franklin, some six years after, in that
remarkable sheet found among his papers, and called "Declaration of those
Rights of the Commonalty of Great Britain, without which they cannot be
free." The leading propositions were these three:--

    "That every man of the commonalty (excepting infants, insane
    persons, and criminals) is of common right and by the laws of God a
    freeman, and entitled to the free enjoyment of liberty. That
    liberty, or freedom, consists in having an actual share in the
    appointment of those who frame the laws, and who are to be the
    guardians of every man's life, property, and peace; for the all of
    one man is as dear to him as the all of another; and the poor man
    has an equal right, but more need, to have representatives in the
    legislature than the rich one. That they who have no voice nor vote
    in the electing of representatives do not enjoy liberty, but are
    absolutely enslaved to those who have votes, and to their
    representatives; for to be enslaved is to have governors whom other
    men have set over us, and be subject to laws made by the
    representatives of others, without having had representatives of our
    own to give consent in our behalf."[2]

In quoting these words of Dr. Franklin, one of his biographers feels moved
to add, "These principles, so familiar to us now and so obviously just,
were startling and incredible novelties in 1770, abhorrent to nearly all
Englishmen, and to great numbers of Americans." Their fair application is
still abhorrent to a great many; or else, not willing quite to deny the
theory, they limit the application by some such device as "virtual
representation." Here, again, James Otis is ready for them; and Charles
Sumner is ready to quote Otis, as thus:--

    "No such phrase as virtual representation was ever known in law or
    constitution. It is altogether a subtlety and illusion, wholly
    unfounded and absurd. We must not be cheated by any such phantom, or
    any other fiction of law or politics, or any monkish trick of deceit
    or blasphemy."

These are the sharp words used by the patriot Otis, speaking of those who
were trying to convince American citizens that they were virtually
represented in Parliament Sumner applied the same principle to the
freedmen: it is now applied to women. "Taxation without representation is
tyranny." "Virtual representation is altogether a subtlety and illusion,
wholly unfounded and absurd." No ingenuity, no evasion, can give any escape
from these plain principles. Either you must revoke the maxims of the
American Revolution, or you must enfranchise woman. Stuart Mill well says
in his autobiography, "The interest of woman is included in that of man
exactly as much (and no more) as that of subjects in that of kings."

[Footnote 1: Otis, _Rights of the Colonies_, p. 58.]

[Footnote 2: Sparks's _Franklin_, ii. 372.]


If there is any one who is recognized as a fair exponent of our national
principles, it is our martyr-president Abraham Lincoln; whom Lowell calls,
in his noble Commemoration Ode at Cambridge,--

    "New birth of our new soil, the first American."

What President Lincoln's political principle was, we know. On his journey
to Washington for his first inauguration he said, "I have never had a
feeling that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration
of Independence." To find out what was his view of those sentiments, we
must go back several years earlier, and consider that remarkable letter of
his to the Boston Republicans who had invited him to join them in
celebrating Jefferson's birthday, in April, 1859. It was well called by
Charles Sumner "a gem in political literature;" and it seems to me almost
as admirable, in its way, as the Gettysburg address.

    "The principles of Jefferson are the definitions and axioms of free
    society. And yet they are denied and evaded with no small show of
    success. One dashingly calls them 'glittering generalities.' Another
    bluntly styles them 'self-evident lies.' And others insidiously
    argue that they apply only to 'superior races.'"

    "These expressions, differing in form, are identical in object and
    effect,--the subverting the principles of free government, and
    restoring those of classification, caste, and legitimacy. They would
    delight a convocation of crowned heads plotting against the people.
    They are the vanguard, the sappers and miners of returning
    despotism. We must repulse them, or they will subjugate us."

    "All honor to Jefferson.'--the man who, in the concrete pressure of
    a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the
    coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely
    revolutionary document _an abstract truth applicable to all men and
    all times_, and so to embalm it there that to-day and in all coming
    days it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the harbingers of
    reappearing tyranny and oppression."

The special "abstract truth" to which President Lincoln thus attaches a
value so great, and which he pronounces "applicable to all men and all
times," is evidently the assertion of the Declaration that governments
derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, following the
assertion that all men are born free and equal; that is, as some one has
well interpreted it, equally men. I do not see how any person but a dreamy
recluse can deny that the strength of our republic rests on these
principles; which are so thoroughly embedded in the average American mind
that they take in it, to some extent, the place occupied in the average
English mind by the emotion of personal loyalty to a certain reigning
family. But it is impossible to defend these principles logically, as
Senator Hoar has well pointed out, without recognizing that they are as
applicable to women as to men. If this is the case, the claim of women
rests on a right,--indeed, upon the same right which is the foundation of
all our institutions.

The encouraging fact in the present condition of the whole matter is not
that we get more votes here or there for this or that form of woman
suffrage--for experience has shown that there are great ups and downs in
that respect; and States that at one time seemed nearest to woman suffrage,
as Maine and Kansas, now seem quite apathetic. But the real encouragement
is that the logical ground is more and more conceded; and the point now
usually made is not that the Jeffersonian maxim excludes women, but that
"the consent of the governed" is substantially given by the general consent
of women. That this argument has a certain plausibility may be conceded;
but it is equally clear that the minority of women, those who do wish to
vote, includes on the whole the natural leaders,--those who are foremost in
activity of mind, in literature, in art, in good works of charity. It is,
therefore, pretty sure that they only predict the opinions of the rest, who
will follow them in time. And even while waiting it is a fair question
whether the "governed" have not the right to give their votes when they
wish, even if the majority of them prefer to stay away from the polls. We
do not repeal our naturalization laws, although only the minority of our
foreign-born inhabitants as yet take the pains to become naturalized.


In Paris, some years ago, I was for a time a resident in a cultivated
French family, where the father was non-committal in politics, the mother
and son were republicans, and the daughter was a Bonapartist. Asking the
mother why the young lady thus held to a different creed from the rest, I
was told that she had made up her mind that the streets of Paris were kept
cleaner under the empire than since its disappearance: hence her

I have heard American men advocate the French empire at home and abroad,
without offering reasons so good as those of the lively French maiden. But
I always think of her remark when the question is seriously asked, as Mr.
Parkman, for instance, once gravely put it in "The North American
Review,"--"The real issue is this: Is the object of government the good of
the governed, or is it not?" Taken in a general sense, there is probably no
disposition to discuss this conundrum, for the simple reason that nobody
dissents from it. But the important point is: What does "the good of the
governed" mean? Does it merely mean better street cleaning, or something
more essential?

There is nothing new in the distinction. Ever since De Tocqueville wrote
his "Democracy in America," forty years ago, this precise point has been
under active discussion. That acute writer himself recurs to it again and
again. Every government, he points out, nominally seeks the good of the
people, and rests on their will at last. But there is this difference: A
monarchy organizes better, does its work better, cleans the streets better.
Nevertheless De Tocqueville, a monarchist, sees this advantage in a
republic, that when all this is done by the people for themselves, although
the work done may be less perfect, yet the people themselves are more
enlightened, better satisfied, and, in the end, their good is better
served. Thus in one place he quotes "a writer of talent" who complains of
the want of administrative perfection in the United States, and says, "We
are indebted to centralization, that admirable invention of a great man,
for the uniform order and method which prevails alike in all the municipal
budgets (of France) from the largest town to the humblest commune." But,
says De Tocqueville,--

    "Whatever may be my admiration of this result, when I see the
    communes (municipalities) of France, with their excellent system of
    accounts, plunged in the grossest ignorance of their true interests,
    and abandoned to so incorrigible an apathy that they seem to
    vegetate rather than to live; when, on the other hand, I observe the
    activity, the information, and the spirit of enterprise which keeps
    society in perpetual labor, in these American townships, whose
    budgets are drawn up with small method and with still less
    uniformity,--I am struck by the spectacle; _for, to my mind, the end
    of a good government is to insure the welfare of a people_, and not
    to establish order and regularity in the midst of its misery and its

The italics are my own; but it will be seen that he uses a phrase almost
identical with Mr. Parkman's, and that he uses it to show that there is
something to be looked at beyond good laws,--namely, the beneficial effect
of self-government. In another place he comes back to the subject again:--

    "It is incontestable that the people frequently conducts public
    business very ill; but it is impossible that the lower order should
    take a part in public business without extending the circle of their
    ideas, and without quitting the ordinary routine of their mental
    acquirements; the humblest individual who is called upon to
    cooperate in the government of society acquires a certain degree of
    self-respect; and, as he possesses authority, he can command the
    services of minds much more enlightened than his own. He is
    canvassed by a multitude of applicants, who seek to deceive him in a
    thousand different ways, but who instruct him by their deceit....
    Democracy does not confer the most skilful kind of government upon
    the people; but it produces that which the most skilful governments
    are frequently unable to awaken, namely, an all-pervading and
    restless activity, a superabundant force, and an energy which is
    inseparable from it, and which may, under favorable circumstances,
    beget the most amazing benefits. These are the true advantages of

These passages and others like them are worth careful study. They clearly
point out the two different standards by which we may criticise all
political systems. One class of thinkers, of whom Froude is the most
conspicuous, holds that the "good of the people" means good laws and good
administration, and that, if these are only provided, it makes no sort of
difference whether they themselves make the laws, or whether some Cæsar or
Louis Napoleon provides them. All the traditions of the early and later
Federalists point this way. But it has always seemed to me a theory of
government essentially incompatible with American institutions. If we could
once get our people saturated with it, they would soon be at the mercy of
some Louis Napoleon of their own.

When President Lincoln claimed, following Theodore Parker, that ours was
not merely a government for the people, but of the people, and by the
people as well, he recognized the other side of the matter,--that it is not
only important what laws we have, but who makes the laws; and that "the end
of a good government is to insure the welfare of a people," in this far
wider sense. That advantage which the French writer admits in democracy,
that it develops force, energy, and self-respect, is as essentially a part
of "the good of the governed" as is any perfection in the details of
government. And it is precisely these advantages which we expect that
women, sooner or later, are to share. For them, as for men, "the good of
the governed" is not genuine unless it is that kind of good which belongs
to the self-governed.

[Footnote 1: Sparks's _Franklin_, ii. 372.]

[Footnote 2: De Tocqueville, vol. ii. pp. 74, 75.]


In the last century the bitter satirist, Charles Churchill, wrote a verse
which will do something to keep alive his name. It is as follows:--

  "Women ruled all; and ministers of state
  Were at the doors of women forced to wait,--
  Women, who we oft as sovereigns graced the land,
  But never governed well at second-hand."

He touches the very kernel of the matter, and all history is on his side.
The Salic Law excluded women from the throne of France,--"the kingdom of
France being too noble to be governed by a woman," as it said. Accordingly
the history of France shows one long line of royal mistresses ruling in
secret for mischief; while more liberal England points to the reigns of
Elizabeth and Anne and Victoria, to show how usefully a woman may sit upon
a throne.

It was one of the merits of Margaret Fuller Ossoli, that she always pointed
out this distinction. "Any woman can have influence," she said, "in some
way. She need only to be a good cook or a good scold, to secure that. Woman
should not merely have a share in the power of man,--for of that omnipotent
Nature will not suffer her to be defrauded,--but it should be a _chartered_
power, too fully recognized to be abused." We have got to meet, at any
rate, this fact of feminine influence in the world. Demosthenes said that
the measures which a statesman had meditated for a year might be overturned
in a day by a woman. How infinitely more sensible then, to train the woman
herself in statesmanship, and give her open responsibility as well as
concealed power!

The same demoralizing principle of subordination runs through the whole
position of women. Many a husband makes of his wife a doll, dresses her in
fine clothes, gives or withholds money according to his whims, and laughs
or frowns if she asks any questions about his business. If only a petted
slave, she naturally develops the vices of a slave; and when she wants more
money for more fine clothes, and finds her husband out of humor, she
coaxes, cheats, and lies. Many a woman half ruins her husband by her
extravagance, simply because he has never told her frankly what his income
is, or treated her, in money matters, like a rational being. Bankruptcy,
perhaps, brings both to their senses; and thenceforward the husband
discovers that his wife is a woman, not a child. But for want of this whole
families and generations of women are trained to deception. I knew an
instance where a fashionable dressmaker in New York urged an economical
young girl, about to be married, to buy of her a costly _trousseau_ or
wedding outfit.

"But I have not the money," said the maiden. "No matter," said the
complaisant tempter: "I will wait four years, and send in the bill to your
husband by degrees. Many ladies do it." Fancy the position of a pure young
girl, wishing innocently to make herself beautiful in the eyes of her
husband, and persuaded to go into his house with a trick like this upon her
conscience! Yet it grows directly out of the whole theory of life which is
preached to many women,--that all they seek must be won by indirect
manoeuvres, and not by straightforward living.

It is a mistaken system. Once recognize woman as born to be the equal, not
inferior, of man, and she accepts as a right her share of the family
income, of political power, and of all else that is capable of
distribution. As it is, we are in danger of forgetting that woman, in mind
as in body, was-born to be upright. The women of Charles Reade--never by
any possibility moving in a straight line where it is possible to find a
crooked one--are distorted women; and Nature is no more responsible for
them than for the figures produced by tight lacing and by high-heeled
boots. These physical deformities acquire a charm, when the taste adjusts
itself to them; and so do those pretty tricks and those interminable lies.
But after all, to make a noble woman you must give a noble training.



    "No such phrase as virtual representation was ever known in law or
    constitution. It is altogether a subtlety and illusion, wholly
    unfounded and absurd. We must not be cheated by any such phantom or
    any other trick of law and politics."--JAMES OTIS, quoted by Charles
    Sumner in speech, March 7, 1866.


When in Dickens's "Nicholas Nickleby" the coal-heaver calls at the
fashionable barber's to be shaved, the barber declines that service. The
coal-heaver pleads that he saw a baker being shaved there the day before.
But the barber points out to him that it is necessary to draw the line
somewhere, and he draws it at bakers.

It is, doubtless, an inconvenience, in respect to woman suffrage, that so
many people have their own theories as to drawing the line, and deciding
who shall vote. Each has his hobby; and as the opportunity for applying it
to men has passed by, each wishes to catch at the last remaining chance,
and apply it to women. One believes in drawing an educational line;
another, in a property qualification; another, in new restrictions on
naturalization; another, in distinctions of race; and each wishes to keep
women, for a time, as the only remaining victims for his experiment.

Fortunately the answer to all these objections, on behalf of woman
suffrage, is very brief and simple. It is no more the business of its
advocates to decide upon the best abstract basis for suffrage, than it is
to decide upon the best system of education, or of labor, or of marriage.
Its business is to equalize, in all these directions; nothing more. When
that is done, there will be plenty still left to do, without doubt; but it
will not involve the rights of women, as such. Simply to strike out the
word "male" from the statute,--that is our present work. "What is sauce for
the goose"--but the proverb is somewhat musty. These educational and
property restrictions may be of value; but wherever they are already
removed from the men they must be removed from women also. Enfranchise them
equally, and then begin afresh, if you please, to legislate for the whole
human race. What we protest against is that you should have let down the
bars for one sex, and should at once become conscientiously convinced that
they should be put up again for the other.

When it was proposed to apply an educational qualification at the South
after the war, the Southern white loyalists all objected to it. If you make
it universal, they said, it cuts off many of the whites. If you apply it to
the blacks alone, it is manifestly unjust. The case is the same with women
in regard to men. As woman needs the ballot primarily to protect herself,
it is manifestly unjust to restrict the suffrage for her, when man has it
without restriction. If she needs protection, then she needs it all the
more from being poor, or ignorant, or Irish, or black. If we do not see
this, the freedwomen of the South did. There is nothing like personal wrong
to teach people logic.

We hear a great deal said in dismay, and sometimes even by old
abolitionists, about "increasing the number of ignorant voters." In
Massachusetts, there is an educational restriction for men, such as it is;
in Rhode Island, a property qualification is required for voting on certain
questions. Personally, I believe with "Warrington," that, if ignorant
voting be bad, ignorant non-voting is worse; and that the enfranchised
"masses," which have a legitimate outlet for their political opinions, are
far less dangerous than disfranchised masses, which must rely on mobs and
strikes. I will go farther, and say that I believe our republic is, on the
whole, in less danger from its poor men, who have got to stay in it and
bring up their children, than from its rich men, who have always Paris and
London to fall back upon. I do not see that even a poll-tax or registry-tax
is of any use as a safeguard; for if men are to be bought the tax merely
offers a more indirect and palatable form in which to pay the price. Many a
man consents to have his poll-tax paid by his party or his candidate, when
he would reject the direct offer of a dollar bill.

But this is all private speculation, and has nothing to do with the
woman-suffrage movement. All that we can ask, as advocates of this reform,
is that the inclusion or the exclusion should be the same for both sexes.
We cannot put off the equality of woman till that time, a few centuries
hence, when the Social Science Association shall have succeeded in agreeing
on the true basis of "scientific legislation." It is as if we urged that
wives should share their husbands' dinners, and were told that the
physicians had not decided whether beefsteak were wholesome. The answer
is, "Beefsteak or tripe, yeast or saleratus, which you please. But,
meanwhile, what is good enough for the wife is good enough for the


I remember to have read, many years ago, the life of Sir Samuel Romilly,
the English philanthropist. He was the author of more beneficent legal
reforms than any man of his day, and there was in that very book a long
list of the changes he still meant to bring about. It struck me very much,
that among these proposed reforms not one of any importance referred to the
laws about women.

It shows--what all experience has shown--that no class or race or sex can
safely trust its protection in any hands but its own. The laws of England
in regard to woman were then so bad that Lord Brougham afterwards said they
needed total reconstruction, if they were to be touched at all. Yet it is
only since woman suffrage began to be talked about, that the work of
law-reform has really taken firm hold. In many cases in America the
beneficent measures are directly to be traced to some appeal from feminine
advocates. Even in Canada, as was once stated by Dr. Cameron of Toronto,
the bill protecting the property of married women was passed under the
immediate pressure of Lucy Stone's eloquence. And even where this direct
agency could not be traced, the general fact that the atmosphere was full
of the agitation had much to do with all the reforms that took place.
Legislatures, unwilling to give woman the ballot, were shamed into giving
her something. The chairman of the judiciary committee in Rhode Island told
me that until he heard women argue before the committee he had not
reflected upon their legal disabilities, or thought how unjust these were.
While the matter was left to the other sex only, even men like Sir Samuel
Romilly forgot the wrongs of woman. When she began to advocate her own
cause men also waked up.

But now that they are awake they ask, Is not this sufficient? Not at all If
an agent who has cheated you surrenders reluctantly one half your stolen
goods, you do not stop there and say, "It is enough. Your intention is
honorable. Please continue my agent with increased pay." On the contrary,
you say, "Your admission of wrong is a plea of guilty. Give me the rest of
what is mine." There is no defence like self-defence, no protection like

All theories of chivalry and generosity and vicarious representation fall
before the fact that woman has been grossly wronged by man. That being the
case, the only modest and honest thing for man to do is to say,
"Henceforward have a voice in making your own laws." Till this is done, she
has no sure safeguard, since otherwise the same men who made the old
barbarous laws may at any time restore them.

It is common to say that woman suffrage will make no great difference; that
women will think very much as men do, and it will simply double the vote
without varying the result. About many matters this may be true. To be
sure, it is probable that on questions of conscience, like slavery and
temperance, the woman's vote would by no means coincide with man's. But
grant that it would. The fact remains,--and all history shows it,--that on
all that concerns her own protection a woman needs her own vote. Would a
woman vote to give her husband the power of bequeathing her children to the
control and guardianship of somebody else? Would a woman vote to sustain
the law by which a Massachusetts chief justice bade the police take those
crying children from their mother's side in the Boston court-room a few
years ago, and hand them over to a comparative stranger, because that
mother had married again? You might as well ask whether the colored vote
would sustain the Dred Scott decision. Tariffs or banks may come or go the
same, whether the voters be white or black, male or female; but when the
wrongs of an oppressed class or sex are to be righted the ballot is the
only guaranty. After they have gained a potential voice for themselves, the
Sir Samuel Romillys will remember them.


The newspapers periodically express a desire to know whether women have
given evidence, on the whole, of superior statesmanship to men. There are
constant requests that they will define their position as to the tariff and
the fisheries and the civil-service question. If they do not speak, it is
naturally assumed that they will forever after hold their peace. Let us see
how that matter stands.

It is said that the greatest mechanical skill in America is to be found
among professional burglars who come here from England. Suppose one of
these men were in prison, and we were to stand outside and taunt him
through the window: "Here is a locomotive engine: why do you not mend or
manage it? Here is a steam printing-press: if you know anything, set it up
for me! You a mechanic, when you have not proved that you understand any of
these things? Nonsense!"

But Jack Sheppard, if he condescended to answer us at all, would coolly
say, "Wait a while, till I have finished my present job. Being in prison,
my first business is to get out of prison. Wait till I have picked this
lock, and mined this wall; wait till I have made a saw out of a
watch-spring, and a ladder out of a pair of blankets. Let me do my first
task, and get out of limbo, and then see if your little printing-presses
and locomotives are too puzzling for my fingers."

Politically speaking, woman is in jail, and her first act of skill must be
in getting through the wall. For her there is no tariff question, no
problem of the fisheries. She will come to that by and by, if you please;
but for the present her statesmanship must be employed nearer home. The
"civil-service reform" in which she is most concerned is a reform which
shall bring her in contact with the civil service. Her political creed, for
the present, is limited to that of Sterne's starling in the cage,--"I can't
get out." If she is supposed to have any common-sense at all, she will best
show it by beginning at the point where she is, instead of at the point
where somebody else is. She would indeed be as foolish as these editors
think her if she now spent her brains upon the tariff question, which she
cannot reach, instead of upon her own enfranchisement, which she is
gradually reaching.

The woman-suffrage movement in America, in all its stages and subdivisions,
has been the work of woman. No doubt men have helped in it: much of the
talking has been done by them, and they have furnished many of the printed
documents. But the energy, the methods, the unwearied purpose, of the
movement, have come from women: they have led in all councils; they have
established the newspapers, got up the conventions, addressed the
legislatures, and raised the money. Thirty years have shown, with whatever
temporary variations, one vast wave of progress toward success, both in
this country and in Europe. Now success is statesmanship.

I remember well the shouts of laughter that used to greet the anti-slavery
orators when they claimed that the real statesmen of the country were not
the Clays and Calhouns, who spent their strength in trying to sustain
slavery, and failed, but the Garrisons, who devoted their lives to its
overthrow, and were succeeding. Yet who now doubts this? Tried by the same
standard, the statesmanship of to-day does not lie in the men who can find
no larger questions before them than those which concern the fisheries, but
in the women whose far-reaching efforts will one day make every existing
voting-list so much waste paper.

Of course, when the voting-lists with the women's names are ready to be
printed, it will be interesting to speculate as to how these new monarchs
of our destiny will use their power. For myself, a long course of
observation in the anti-slavery and woman-suffrage movements has satisfied
me that women are not idiots, and that, on the whole, when they give their
minds to a question, whether moral or practical, they understand it quite
as readily as men. In the anti-slavery movement it is certain that a woman,
Elizabeth Heyrick, gave the first impulse to its direct and simple solution
in England; and that another woman, Mrs. Stowe, did more than any man,
except perhaps Garrison and John Brown, to secure its right solution here.
There was never a moment, I am confident, when any great political question
growing out of the anti-slavery struggle might not have been put to vote
more safely among the women of New England than among the clergy, or the
lawyers, or the college professors. If they did so well in that great
issue, it is fair to assume that, after they have a sufficient inducement
to study out future issues, they at least will not be very much behind the

But we cannot keep it too clearly in view, that the whole question, whether
women would vote better or worse than men on general questions, is a minor
matter. It was equally a minor matter in case of the negroes. We gave the
negroes the ballot, simply because they needed it for their own protection;
and we shall by and by give it to women for the same reason. Tried by that
test, we shall find that their statesmanship will be genuine. When they
come into power, drunken husbands will no longer control their wives'
earnings, and a chief justice will no longer order a child to be removed
from its mother, amid its tears and outcries, merely because that mother
has married again. And if, as we are constantly assured, woman's first duty
is to her home and her children, she may count it a good beginning in
statesmanship to secure to herself the means of protecting both. That once
settled, it will be time enough to "interview" her in respect to the proper
rate of duty on pig-iron.


"Seek not to proticipate," says Mrs. Gamp, the venerable nurse in "Martin
Chuzzlewit"--"but take 'em as they come, and as they go." I am persuaded
that our woman-suffrage arguments would be improved by this sage counsel,
and that at present we indulge in too many bold anticipations.

Is there not altogether too much tendency to predict what women will do
when they vote? Could that good time come to-morrow, we should be startled
to find to how many different opinions and "causes" the new voters were
already pledged. One speaker wishes that women should be emancipated,
because of the fidelity with which they are sure to support certain
desirable measures, as peace, order, freedom, temperance, righteousness,
and judgment to come. Then the next speaker has his or her schedule of
political virtues and is equally confident that women, if once
enfranchised, will guarantee clear majorities for them all. The trouble is
that we thus mortgage this new party of the future, past relief, beyond
possibility of payment, and incur the ridicule of the unsanctified by
committing our cause to a great many contradictory pledges.

I know an able and high-minded woman of foreign birth, who courageously,
but as I think mistakenly, calls herself an atheist, and who has for years
advocated woman suffrage as the only antidote to the rule of the clergy. On
the other hand, an able speaker in a Boston convention soon after advocated
the same thing as the best way of defeating atheism, and securing the
positive assertion of religion by the community. Both cannot be correct:
neither is entitled to speak for woman. That being the case, would it not
be better to keep clear of this dangerous ground of prediction, and keep to
the argument based on rights and needs? If our theory of government be
worth anything, woman has the same right to the ballot that man has: she
certainly needs it as much for self-defence. How she will use it, when she
gets it, is her own affair. It may be that she will use it more wisely than
her brothers; but I am satisfied to believe that she will use it as well.
Let us not attribute infallible wisdom and virtue, even to women; for, as
dear Mrs. Poyser says in "Adam Bede," "God Almighty made some of 'em
foolish, to match the men."

It is common to assume, for instance, that all women by nature favor peace;
and that, even if they do not always seem to promote it in their social
walk and conversation, they certainly will in their political. When we
consider how all the pleasing excitements, achievements, and glories of
war, such as they are, accrue to men only, and how large a part of the
miseries are brought home to women, it might seem that their vote on this
matter, at least, would be a sure thing. Thus far the theory: the fact
being that we have been through a civil war which convulsed the nation, and
cost half a million lives; and which was, from the very beginning,
fomented, stimulated, and applauded, at least on one side, by the united
voice of the women. It will be generally admitted by those who know, that,
but for the women of the seceding States, the war of the Rebellion would
have been waged more feebly, been sooner ended, and far more easily
forgotten. Nay, I was told a few days since by an able Southern lawyer, who
was long the mayor of one of the largest Southern cities, that in his
opinion the practice of duelling--which is an epitome of war--owes its
continued existence at the South to a sustaining public sentiment among the
fair sex.

Again, where the sympathy of women is wholly on the side of right, it is by
no means safe to assume that their mode of enforcing that sentiment will be
equally judicious. Take, for instance, the temperance cause. It is quite
common to assume that women are a unit on that question. When we look at
the two extremes of society,--the fine lady pressing wine upon her
visitors, and the Irishwoman laying in a family supply of whiskey to last
over Sunday,--the assumption seems hasty. But grant it. Is it equally sure,
that when woman takes hold of that most difficult of all legislation, the
license and prohibitory laws, she will handle them more wisely than men
have done? Will her more ardent zeal solve the problem on which so much
zeal has already been lavished in vain? In large cities, for instance,
where there is already more law than is enforced, will her additional
ballots afford the means to enforce it? It may be so; but it seems wiser
not to predict nor to anticipate, but to wait and hope.

It is no reproach on woman to say that she is not infallible on particular
questions. There is much reason to suppose that in politics, as in every
other sphere, the joint action of the sexes will be better and wiser than
that of either singly. It seems obvious that the experiment of republican
government will be more fairly tried when one half the race is no longer
disfranchised. It is quite certain, at any rate, that no class can trust
its rights to the mercy and chivalry of any other, but that, the weaker it
is, the more it needs all political aids and securities for
self-protection. Thus far we are on safe ground; and here, as it seems to
me, the claim for suffrage may securely rest. To go farther in our
assertions seems to me unsafe, although many of our wisest and most
eloquent may differ from me; and the nearer we approach success, the more
important it is to look to our weapons. It is a plausible and tempting
argument, to claim suffrage for woman on the ground that she is an angel;
but I think it will prove wiser, in the end, to claim it for her as
being human.


In a hotly contested municipal election, the other day, an active political
manager was telling me his tactics. "We have to send carriages for some of
the voters," he said. "First-class carriages! If we undertake to wait on
'em, we must do it in good shape, and not leave the best carriages to be
hired by the other party."

I am not much given to predicting just what will happen when women vote;
but I confidently assert that they will be taken to the polls, if they
wish, in first-class carriages. If the best horses are to be harnessed, and
the best cushions selected, and every panel of the coach rubbed till you
can see your face in it, merely to accommodate some elderly man who lives
two blocks away, and could walk to the polls very easily, then how much
more will these luxuries be placed at the service of every woman, young or
old, whose presence at the polls is made doubtful by mud, or snow, or the
prospect of a shower.

But the carriage is only the beginning of the polite attentions that will
soon appear. When we see the transformation undergone by every ferryboat
and every railway station, so soon as it comes to be frequented by women,
who can doubt that voting-places will experience the same change? They will
soon have--at least in the "ladies' department"--elegance instead of
discomfort, beauty for ashes, plenty of rocking-chairs, and no need of
spittoons. Very possibly they may have all the modern conveniences and
inconveniences,--furnace registers, teakettles, Washington pies, and a
young lady to give checks for bundles. Who knows what elaborate comforts,
what queenly luxuries, may be offered to women at voting-places, when the
time has finally arrived to sue for their votes?

The common impression has always been quite different from this. People
look at the coarseness and dirt now visible at so many voting-places, and
say, "Would you expose women to all that?" But these places are not dirtier
than a railway smoking-car; and there is no more coarseness than in any
ferryboat which is, for whatever reason, used by men only. You do not look
into those places, and say with indignation, "Never, if I can help it,
shall my wife or my beloved great-grandmother travel by steamboat or by
rail!" You know that with these exemplary relatives will enter order and
quiet, carpets and curtains, brooms and dusters. Why should it be otherwise
with ward rooms and town halls?

There is not an atom more of intrinsic difficulty in providing a decorous
ladies' room for a voting-place, than for a post-office or a railway
station; and it is as simple a thing to vote a ticket as to buy one. This
being thus easily practicable, all men will desire to provide it. And the
example of the first-class carriages shows that the parties will vie with
each other in these pleasing arrangements. They will be driven to it,
whether they wish it or not. The party which has most consistently and
resolutely kept woman away from the ballot-box will be the very party
compelled, for the sake of self-preservation, to make her "rights"
agreeable to her when once she gets them. A few stupid or noisy men may
indeed try to make the polls unattractive to her, the very first time; but
the result of this little experiment will be so disastrous that the
offenders will be sternly suppressed by their own party leaders, before
another election day comes. It will soon become clear, that of all possible
ways of losing votes the surest lies in treating women rudely.

Lucy Stone tells a story of a good man in Kansas who, having done all he
could to prevent women from being allowed to vote on school questions, was
finally comforted, when that measure passed, by the thought that he should
at least secure his wife's vote for a pet schoolhouse of his own. Election
day came, and the newly enfranchised matron showed the most culpable
indifference to her privileges. She made breakfast as usual, went about her
housework, and did on that perilous day precisely the things that her
anxious husband had always predicted that women never would do under such
circumstances. His hints and advice found no response; and nothing short of
the best pair of horses and the best wagon finally sufficed to take the
farmer's wife to the polls. I am not the least afraid that women will find
voting a rude or disagreeable arrangement. There is more danger of their
being treated too well, and being too much attacked and allured by these
cheap cajoleries. But women are pretty shrewd, and can probably be trusted
to go to the polls, even in first-class carriages.


I know a rich bachelor of large property who fatigues his friends by
perpetual denunciations of everything American, and especially of universal
suffrage. He rarely votes; and I was much amazed, when the popular vote was
to be taken on building an expensive schoolhouse, to see him go to the
polls, and vote in the affirmative. On being asked his reason, he explained
that, while we labored under the calamity of universal (male) suffrage, he
thought it best to mitigate its evils by educating the voters. In short, he
wished, as Mr. Lowe said in England when the last Reform Bill passed, "to
prevail upon our future masters to learn their alphabets."

These motives may not be generous; but the schoolhouses, when they are
built, are just as useful. Even girls get the benefit of them, though the
long delay in many places before girls got their share came in part from
the want of this obvious stimulus. It is universal male suffrage that
guarantees schoolhouse and school. The most selfish man understands that
argument: "We must educate the masses, if it is only to keep them from our

But there is a wider way in which suffrage guarantees education. At every
election time political information is poured upon the whole voting
community till it is deluged. Presses run night and day to print newspaper
extras; clerks sit up all night to send out congressional speeches; the
most eloquent men in the community expound the most difficult matters to
the ignorant. Of course each party affords only its own point of view; but
every man has a neighbor who is put under treatment by some other party,
and who is constantly attacking all who will listen to his provoking and
pestilent counter-statements. All the common school education of the United
States does not equal the education of election day; and as in some States
elections are held very often, this popular university seems to be kept in
session almost the whole year round. The consequence is a remarkable
average popular knowledge of political affairs,--a training which American
women now miss, but which will come to them with the ballot.

And in still another way there will be an education coming to woman from
the right of suffrage. It will come from her own sex, proceeding from
highest to lowest. We often hear it said that after enfranchisement the
more educated women will not vote, while the ignorant will. But Mrs. Howe
admirably pointed out, at a Philadelphia convention, that the moment women
have the ballot it will become the pressing duty of the more educated
women, even in self-protection, to train the rest The very fact of the
danger will be a stimulus to duty, with women, as it already is with men.

It has always seemed to me rather childish, in a man of superior education,
or talent, or wealth, to complain that when election day comes he has no
more votes than the man who plants his potatoes or puts in his coal The
truth is that under the most thorough system of universal suffrage the man
of wealth or talent or natural leadership has still a disproportionate
influence, still casts a hundred votes where the poor or ignorant or feeble
man throws but one. Even the outrages of New York elections turned out to
be caused by the fact that the leading rogues had used their brains and
energy, while the men of character had not. When it came to the point, it
was found that a few caricatures by Nast and a few columns of figures in
the "Times" were more than a match for all the repeaters of the ring. It is
always so. Andrew Johnson, with all the patronage of the nation, had not
the influence of "Nasby" with his one newspaper. The whole Chinese question
was perceptibly and instantly modified when Harte wrote "The Heathen

These things being so, it indicates feebleness or dyspepsia when an
educated man is heard whining, about election time, with his fears of
ignorant voting. It is his business to enlighten and control that
ignorance. With a voice and a pen at his command, with a town hall in every
town for the one, and a newspaper in every village for the other, he has
such advantages over his ignorant neighbors that the only doubt is whether
his privileges are not greater than he deserves. For one, in writing for
the press, I am impressed by the undue greatness, not by the littleness, of
the power I wield. And what is true of men will be true of women. If the
educated women of America have not brains or energy enough to control, in
the long run, the votes of the ignorant women around them, they will
deserve a severe lesson, and will be sure, like the men in New York, to
receive it. And thenceforward they will educate and guide that ignorance,
instead of evading or cringing before it.

But I have no fear about the matter. It is a libel on American women to say
that they will not go anywhere or do anything which is for the good of
their children and their husbands. Travel West on any of our great lines of
railroad, and see what women undergo in transporting their households to
their new homes. See the watching and the feeding, and the endless answers
to the endless questions, and the toil to keep little Sarah warm, and
little Johnny cool, and the baby comfortable. What a hungry, tired, jaded,
forlorn mass of humanity it is, as the sun rises on it each morning, in the
soiled and breathless railway-car! Yet that household group is America in
the making; those are the future kings and queens, the little princes and
princesses, of this land. Now, is the mother who has undergone for the
transportation of these children all this enormous labor to shrink at her
journey's end from the slight additional labor of going to the polls to
vote whether those little ones shall have schools or rumshops? The thought
is an absurdity. A few fine ladies in cities will fear to spoil their silk
dresses, as a few foppish gentlemen now fear for their broadcloth. But the
mass of intelligent American women will vote, as do the mass of men.


"There go thirty thousand men," shouted the Portuguese, as Wellington, with
a few staff-officers, rode along the mountain-side. The action of the
leaders' minds, in any direction, has a value out of all proportion to
their numbers. In a campaign there is a council of officers,--Grant and
Sherman and Sheridan perhaps. They are but a trifling minority, yet what
they plan the whole army will do; and such is the faith in a real leader,
that, were all the restraints of discipline for the moment relaxed, the
rank and file would still follow his judgment. What a few general officers
see to be the best to-day, the sergeants and corporals and private soldiers
will usually see to be best to-morrow.

In peace, also, there is a silent leadership; only that in peace, as there
is more time to spare, the leaders are expected to persuade the rank and
file, instead of commanding them. Yet it comes to the same thing in the
end. The movement begins with certain guides, and if you wish to know the
future, keep your eye on them. If you wish to know what is already decided,
ask the majority; but if you wish to find out what is likely to be done
next, ask the leaders.

It is constantly said that the majority of women do not yet desire to vote,
and it is true. But to find out whether they are likely to wish for it, we
must keep our eyes on the women who lead their sex. The representative
women,--those who naturally stand for the rest, those most eminent for
knowledge and self-devotion,--how do they view the thing? The rank and file
do not yet demand the ballot, you say; but how is it with the general

Now, it is a remarkable fact, about which those who have watched this
movement for twenty years can hardly be mistaken, that almost any woman who
reaches a certain point of intellectual or moral development will presently
be found desiring the ballot for her sex. If this be so, it predicts the
future. It is the judgment of Grant and Sherman and Sheridan as against
that of the average private soldier of the Two Hundredth Infantry. Set
aside, if you please, the specialists of this particular agitation,--those
who were first known to the public through its advocacy. There is no just
reason why they should be set aside, yet concede that for a moment. The
fact remains that the ablest women in the land--those who were recognized
as ablest in other spheres, before they took this particular duty upon
them--are extremely apt to assume this cross when they reach a certain
stage of development.

When Margaret Fuller first came forward into literature, she supposed that
literature was all she wanted. It was not till she came to write upon
woman's position that she discovered what woman needed. Clara Barton,
driving her ambulance or her supply wagon at the battle's edge, did not
foresee, perhaps, that she should make that touching appeal, when the
battle was over, imploring her own enfranchisement from the soldiers she
had befriended. Lydia Maria Child, Julia Ward Howe, Harriet Beecher Stowe,
Louisa Alcott, came to the claim for the ballot earlier than a million
others, because they were the intellectual leaders of American womanhood.
They saw farthest, because they were in the highest place. They were the
recognized representatives of their sex before they gave in their adhesion
to the new demand. Their judgment is as the judgment of the council of
officers, while Flora McFlimsey's opinion is as the opinion of John Smith,
unassigned recruit. But if the generals make arrangements for a battle, the
chance is that John Smith will have to take a hand in it, or else run away.

It is a rare thing for the petition for suffrage from any town to comprise
the majority of women in that town. It makes no difference: if there are
few women in the town who want to vote, there is as much propriety in their
voting as if there were ten millions, so long as the majority are equally
protected in their right to stay at home. But when the names of petitioners
come to be weighed as well as counted, the character, the purity, the
intelligence, the social and domestic value of the petitioners is seldom
denied. The women who wish to vote are not the idle, the ignorant, the
narrow-minded, or the vicious; they are not "the dangerous classes:" they
represent the best class in the community, when tried by the highest
standard. They are the natural leaders. What they now see to be right will
also be perceived even by the foolish and the ignorant by and by.

In a poultry-yard in spring, when the first brood of duckling's goes
toddling to the waterside, no doubt all the younger or feebler broods, just
hatched out of similar eggs, think these innovators dreadfully mistaken.
"You are out of place," they feebly pipe. "See how happy we are in our safe
nests. Perhaps, by and by, when properly introduced into society, we may
run about a little on land, but to swim!--never!" Meanwhile their elder
kindred are splashing and diving in ecstasy; and, so surely as they are
born ducklings, all the rest will swim in their turn. The instinct of the
first duck solves the problem for all the rest. It is a mere question of
time. Sooner or later, all the broods in the most conservative yard will
follow their leaders.


An English member of Parliament said in a speech, some years ago, that the
stupidest man had a clearer understanding of political questions than the
brightest woman. He did not find it convenient to say what must be the
condition of a nation which for many years has had a woman for its
sovereign; but he certainly said bluntly what many men feel. It is not
indeed very hard to find the source of this feeling. It is not merely that
women are inexperienced in questions of finance or administrative practice,
for many men are equally ignorant of these. But it is undoubtedly true of a
large class of more fundamental questions,--as, for instance, of some now
pending at Washington,--which even many clear-headed women find it hard to
understand, while men of far less general training comprehend them

Questions of the distribution of power, for instance, between the
executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government,--or between
the United States government and those of the separate States,--belong to
the class I mean. Many women of great intelligence show a hazy
indistinctness of views when the question arises whether it is the business
of the general government to preserve order at the voting-places at a
congressional election, for instance, as the Republicans hold; or whether
it should be left absolutely in the hands of the state officials, as the
Democrats maintain. Most women would probably say that so long as order was
preserved, it made very little difference who did it. Yet, if one goes into
a shoe-shop or a blacksmith's shop, one may hear just these questions
discussed in all their bearings by uneducated men, and it will be seen that
they involve a principle. Why is this difference? Does it show some
constitutional inferiority in women, as to this particular faculty?

The question is best solved by considering a case somewhat parallel. The
South Carolina negroes were considered very stupid, even by many who knew
than; and they certainly were densely ignorant on many subjects. Put face
to face with a difficult point of finance legislation, I think they would
have been found to know even less about it than I do. Yet the abolition of
slavery was held in those days by many great statesmen to be a subject so
difficult that they shrank from discussing it; and nevertheless I used to
find that these ignorant men understood it quite clearly in all its
bearings. Offer a bit of sophistry to them, try to blind them with false
logic on this subject, and they would detect it as promptly, and answer it
as keenly, as Garrison or Phillips would have done; and, indeed, they would
give very much the same answers. What was the reason? Not that they were
half wise and half stupid; but that they were dull where their own
interests had not trained them, and they were sharp and keen where their
own interests were concerned.

I have no doubt that it will be so with women when they vote. About some
things they will be slow to learn; but about all that immediately concerns
themselves they will know more at the very beginning than many wise men
have learned since the world began. How long it took for English-speaking
men to correct, even partially, the iniquities of the old common law!--but
a parliament of women would have set aside at a single sitting the alleged
right of the husband to correct his wife with a stick no bigger than his
thumb. It took the men of a certain State of this Union a good many years
to see that it was an outrage to confiscate to the State one half the
property of a man who died childless, leaving his widow only the other
half; but a legislature of women would have annihilated that enormity by a
single day's work. I have never seen reason to believe that women on
general questions would act more wisely or more conscientiously, as a rule,
than men: but self-preservation is a wonderful quickener of the brain; and
in all questions bearing on their own rights and opportunities as women, it
is they who will prove shrewd and keen, and men who will prove obtuse, as
indeed they have usually been.

Another point that adds force to this is the fact that wherever women, by
their special position, have more at stake than usual in public affairs,
even as now organized, they are apt to be equal to the occasion. When the
men of South Carolina were ready to go to war for the "State-Rights"
doctrines of Calhoun, the women of that State had also those doctrines at
their fingers'-ends. At Washington, where politics make the breath of life,
you will often find the wives of members of Congress following the debates,
and noting every point gained or lost, because these are matters in which
they and their families are personally concerned; and as for that army of
women employed in the "departments" of the government, they are politicians
every one, because their bread depends upon it.

The inference is, that if women as a class are now unfitted for politics it
is because they have not that pressure of personal interest and
responsibility by which men are unconsciously trained. Give this, and
self-interest will do the rest, aided by that power of conscience and
affection which is certainly not less in them than in men, even if we claim
no more. A young lady of my acquaintance opposed woman suffrage in
conversation on various grounds, one of which was that it would, if
enacted, compel her to read the newspapers, which she greatly disliked.
I pleaded that this was not a fatal objection; since many men voted
"early and often" without reading them, and in fact without knowing
how to read at all. She said, in reply, that this might do for men,
but that women were far more conscientious, and, if they were once
compelled to vote, they would wish to know what they were voting for.
This seemed to me to contain the whole philosophy of the matter; and
I respected the keenness of her suggestion, though it led me to an
opposite conclusion.


If it were anywhere the custom to disfranchise persons of superior virtue
because of their virtue, and to present others with the ballot, simply
because they had been in the state prison,--then the exclusion of women
from political rights would be a high compliment, no doubt. But I can find
no record in history of any such legislation, unless so far as it is
contained in the doubtful tradition of the Tuscan city of Pistoia, where
men are said to have been ennobled as a punishment for crime. Among us
crime may often be a covert means of political prominence, but it is not
the ostensible ground; nor are people habitually struck from the
voting-lists for performing some rare and eminent service, such as saving
human life, or reading every word of a presidential message. If a man has
been President of the United States, we do not disfranchise him
thenceforward; if he has been governor, we do not declare him thenceforth
ineligible to the office of United States senator. On the contrary, the
supposed reward of high merit is to give higher civic privileges. Sometimes
these are even forced on unwilling recipients, as when Plymouth Colony in
1633 imposed a fine of twenty pounds on any one who should refuse the
office of governor.

It is utterly contrary to all tradition and precedent, therefore, to
suppose that women have been hitherto disfranchised because of any supposed
superiority. Indeed, the theory is self-annihilating, and has always
involved all supporters in hopeless inconsistency. Thus the Southern
slaveholders were wont to argue that a negro was only blest when a slave,
and there was no such inhumanity as to free him. Then, if a slave happened
to save his master's life, he was rewarded by emancipation immediately,
amid general applause. The act refuted the theory. And so, every time we
have disfranchised a rebel, or presented some eminent foreigner with the
freedom of a city, we have recognized that enfranchisement, after all,
means honor, and disfranchisement implies disgrace.

I do not see how any woman can avoid a thrill of indignation when she first
opens her eyes to the fact that it is really contempt, not reverence, that
has so long kept her sex from an equal share of legal, political, and
educational rights. In spite of the duty paid to individual women as
mothers, in spite of the reverence paid by the Greeks and the Germanic
races to certain women as priestesses and sibyls, the fact remains that
this sex has been generally recognized, in past ages of the human race, as
stamped by hopeless inferiority, not by angelic superiority. This is
carried so far that a certain taint of actual inferiority is held to attach
to women, in barbarous nations. Among certain Indian tribes, the service of
the gods is defiled if a woman but touches the implements of sacrifice; and
a Turk apologizes to a Christian physician for the mention of the women of
his family, in the very phrases used to soften the mention of any degrading
creature. Mr. Leland tells us that among the English gypsies any object
that a woman treads upon, or sweeps with the skirts of her dress, is
destroyed or made away with in some way, as unfit for use. In reading the
history of manners, it is easy to trace the steps from this degradation up
to the point now attained, such as it is. Yet even the habit of
physiological contempt is not gone, and I do not see how any one can read
history without seeing, all around us, in society, education, and politics,
the tradition of inferiority. Many laws and usages which in themselves
might not strike all women as intrinsically worth striving for--as the
exclusion of women from colleges or from the ballot-box--assume great
importance to a woman's self-respect, when she sees in these the plain
survival of the same contempt that once took much grosser forms.

And it must be remembered that in civilized communities the cynics, who
still frankly express this utter contempt, are better friends to women than
the flatterers, who conceal it in the drawing-room, and only utter it
freely in the lecture-room, the club, and the "North American Review."
Contempt at least arouses pride and energy. To be sure, in the face of
history, the contemptuous tone in regard to women seems to me untrue,
unfair, and dastardly; but, like any other extreme injustice, it leads to
reaction. It helps to awaken women from that shallow dream of
self-complacency into which flattery lulls them. There is something tonic
in the manly arrogance of Fitzjames Stephen, who derides the thought that
the marriage contract can be treated as in any sense a contract between
equals; but there is something that debilitates in the dulcet counsel given
by an anonymous gentleman, in an old volume of the "Ladies' Magazine" that
lies before me,--"She ought to present herself as a being made to please,
to love, and to seek support; _a being inferior to man, and near to



    "When you were weak and I was strong, I toiled for you. Now you are
    strong and I am weak. Because of my work for you, I ask your aid. I
    ask the ballot for myself and my sex. As I stood by you, I pray you
    stand by me and mine."--CLARA BARTON.

    [Appeal to the returned soldiers of the United States, written from
    Geneva, Switzerland, by Clara Barton, invalidated by long service in
    the hospitals and on the field daring the civil war.]


It is constantly said that the advocates of woman suffrage ignore the fact
of sex. On the contrary, they seem to me to be the only people who do not
ignore it.

Were there no such thing as sexual difference, the wrong done to woman by
disfranchisement would be far less. It is precisely because her traits,
habits, needs, and probable demands are distinct from those of man, that
she is not, never was, never can, and never will be, justly represented by
him. It is not merely that a vast number of human individuals are
disfranchised; it is not even because in many of our States the
disfranchisement extends to a majority, that the evil is so great; it is
not merely that we disfranchise so many units and tens: but we exclude a
special element, a peculiar power, a distinct interest,--in a word, a sex.

Whether this sex is more or less wise, more or less important, than the
other sex, does not affect the argument: it is a sex, and, being such, is
more absolutely distinct from the other than is any mere race from any
other race. The more you emphasize the fact of sex, the more you strengthen
our argument. If the white man cannot justly represent the negro,--
although the two races are now so amalgamated that not even the microscope
can always decide to which race one belongs,--how impossible that one sex
should stand in legislation for the other sex!

This is so clear that, so soon as it is stated, there is a shifting of the
ground. "But consider the danger of introducing the sexual influence into
legislation!" ... Then we are sure to be confronted with the case of Miss
Vinnie Ream, the sculptor. See how that beguiling damsel cajoled all
Congress into buying poor statues! they say. If one woman could do so much,
how would it be with one hundred? Precisely the Irishman's argument against
the use of pillows: he had put one feather on a rock, and found it a very
uncomfortable support. Grant, for the sake of argument, that Miss Ream gave
us poor art; but what gave her so much power? Plainly that she was but a
single feather. Congress being composed exclusively of men, the mere fact
of her sex gave her an exceptional and dangerous influence. Fill a dozen of
the seats in Congress with women, and that danger at least will be
cancelled. The taste in art may be no better; but an artist will no more be
selected for being a pretty girl than now for being a pretty boy. So in all
such cases. Here, as everywhere, it is the advocate of woman suffrage who
wishes to recognize the fact of sex, and guard against its perils.

It is precisely so in education. Believing boys and girls to be unlike, and
yet seeing them to be placed by the Creator on the same planet and in the
same family, we hold it safer to follow his method. As they are born to
interest each other, to stimulate each other, to excite each other, it
seems better to let this impulse work itself off in a natural way,--to let
in upon it the fresh air and the daylight, instead of attempting to
suppress and destroy it. In a mixed school, as in a family, the fact of sex
presents itself as an unconscious, healthy, mutual stimulus. It is in the
separate schools that the healthy relation vanishes, and the thought of sex
becomes a morbid and diseased thing. This observation first occurred to me
when a pupil and a teacher in boys' boarding-schools years ago: there was
such marked superiority as to sexual refinement in the day-scholars, who
saw their sisters and the friends of their sisters every day. All later
experience of our public-school system has confirmed this opinion. It is
because I believe the distinction of sex to be momentous, that I dread to
see the sexes educated apart.

The truth of the whole matter is that Nature will have her rights--
innocently if she can, guiltily if she must; and it is a little amusing
that the writer of an ingenious paper on the other side, called "Sex in
Politics," in an able New York journal, puts our case better than I can put
it, before he gets through, only that he is then speaking of wealth, not
women: "Anybody who considers seriously what is meant by the conflict
between labor and capital, of which we are only just witnessing the
beginning, and what is to be done _to give money legitimately that
influence on legislation which it now exercises illegitimately,_ must
acknowledge at once that the next generation will have a thorny path to
travel." The italics are my own. Precisely what this writer wishes to
secure for money, we claim for the disfranchised half of the human race,--
open instead of secret influence; the English tradition instead of the
French; women as rulers, not as kings' mistresses; women as legislators,
not merely as lobbyists; women employing in legitimate form that power
which they will otherwise illegitimately wield. This is all our demand.


"It would be a great convenience, my hearers," said old Parson Withington
of Newbury, "if the moral of a fable could only be written at the beginning
of it, instead of the end. But it never is." Commonly the only thing to be
done is to get hold of a few general principles, hold to those, and trust
that all will turn out well. No matter how thoroughly a reform may have
been discussed,--negro emancipation or free-trade, for instance,--it is a
step in the dark at last, and the detailed results never turn out to be
precisely according to the programme.

An "esteemed correspondent," who has written some of the best things yet
said in America in behalf of the enfranchisement of woman, writes privately
to express some solicitude, since, as she thinks, we are not ready for it
yet. "I am convinced," she writes, "of the abstract right of women to vote;
but all I see of the conduct of the existing women, into whose hands this
change would throw the power, inclines me to hope that this power will not
be conceded till education shall have prepared a class of women fit to take
the responsibilities."

Gradual emancipation, in short!--for fear of trusting truth and justice to
take care of themselves. Who knew, when the negroes were set free, whether
they would at first use their freedom well, or ill? Would they work? would
they avoid crimes? would they justify their freedom? The theory of
education and preparation seemed very plausible. Against that, there was
only the plain theory which Elizabeth Heyrick first announced to
England,--"Immediate, unconditional emancipation." "The best preparation
for freedom is freedom." What was true of the negroes then is true of women

"The lovelier traits of womanhood," writes earnestly our correspondent,
"simplicity, faith, guilelessness, unfit them to conduct public affairs,
where one must deal with quacks and charlatans.... We are not all at once
'as gods, knowing good and evil;' and the very innocency of our lives, and
the habits of pure homes, unfit us to manage a certain class who will flock
to this standard."

But the basis of all republican government is in the assumption that good
is ultimately stronger than evil. If we once abandon this, our theory has
gone to pieces, at any rate. If we hold to it, good women are no more
helpless and useless than good men. The argument that would here
disfranchise women has been used before now to disfranchise clergymen. I
believe that in some States they are still disfranchised; and, if they are
not, it is partly because good is found to be as strong as evil, after all,
and partly because clergymen are not found to be so angelically good as to
be useless. I am very confident that both these truths will be found to
apply to women also.

Whatever else happens, we may be pretty sure that one thing will. The first
step towards the enfranchisement of women will blow to the winds the
tradition of the angelic superiority of women. Just so surely as women
vote, we shall occasionally have women politicians, women corruptionists,
and women demagogues. Conceding, for the sake of courtesy, that none such
now exist, they will be born as inevitably, after enfranchisement, as the
frogs begin to pipe in the spring. Those who doubt it ignore human nature;
and, if they are not prepared for this fact, they had better consider it in
season, and take sides accordingly. In these pages, at least, they have
been warned.

What then? Suppose women are not "as gods, knowing good and evil:" they are
not to be emancipated as gods, but as fallible human beings. They are to
come out of an ignorant innocence, that may be only weakness, into a wise
innocence that will be strength. It is too late to remand American women
into a Turkish or Jewish tutelage: they have emerged too far not to come
farther. In a certain sense, no doubt, the butterfly is safest in the
chrysalis. When the soft thing begins to emerge, the world certainly seems
a dangerous place; and it is hard to say what will be the result of the
emancipation. But when she is once half out, there is no safety for the
pretty creature but to come the rest of the way, and use her wings.


When Dr. Johnson had published his English Dictionary, and was asked by a
lady how he chanced to make a certain mistake that she pointed out, he
answered, "Ignorance, madam, pure ignorance." I always feel disposed to
make the same comment on the assertion of any woman that she has all the
rights she wants. For every woman is, or may be, or might have been, a
mother. And when she comes to know that even now, in many parts of the
Union, a married mother has no legal right to her child, I should think her
tongue would cleave to her mouth before she would utter those foolish words

All the things I ever heard or read against slavery did not fix in my soul
such a hostility to it as a single scene in a Missouri slave-jail many
years ago. As I sat there, a purchaser came in to buy a little girl to wait
on his wife. Three little sisters were brought in, from eight to twelve
years old: they were mulattoes, with sweet, gentle manners; they had
evidently been taken good care of, and their pink calico frocks were clean
and whole. The gentleman chose one of them, and then asked her,
good-naturedly enough, if she did not wish to go with him. She burst into
tears, and said, "I want to stay with my mother." But her tears were as
powerless, of course, as so many salt drops from the ocean.

That was all. But all the horrors of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the stories told
me by fugitive slaves, the scarred backs I afterwards saw by dozens among
colored recruits, did not impress me as did that hour in the jail. The
whole probable career of that poor, wronged, motherless, shrinking child
passed before me in fancy. It seemed to me that a man must be utterly lost
to all manly instincts who would not give his life to overthrow such a
system. It seemed to me that the woman who could tolerate, much less defend
it, could not herself be true, could not be pure, or must be fearfully and
grossly ignorant.

You acquiesce, fair lady. You say it was horrible indeed, but, thank God!
it is past. Past? Is it so? Past, if you please, as to the law of slavery,
but as to the legal position of woman still a fearful reality. It is not
many years since a scene took place in a Boston court-room, before Chief
Justice Chapman, which was worse, in this respect, than that scene in St.
Louis, inasmuch as the mother was present when the child was taken away,
and the wrong was sanctioned by the highest judicial officer of the State.
Two little girls, who had been taken from their mother by their guardian,
their father being dead, had taken refuge with her against his wishes; and
he brought them into court under a writ of habeas corpus, and the court
awarded them to him as against their mother. "The little ones were very
much affected," says the "Boston Herald," "by the result of the decision
which separated them from their mother; and force was required to remove
them from the court-room. The distress of the mother was also very

There must have been some special reason, you say, for such a seeming
outrage: she was a bad woman. No: she was "a lady of the highest
respectability." No charge was made against her; but, being left a widow,
she had married again; and for that, and that only, so far as appears, the
court took from her the guardianship of her own children,--bone of her
bone, and flesh of her flesh, the children for whom she had borne the
deepest physical agony of womanhood,--and awarded them to somebody else.

You say, "But her second husband might have misused the children." Might?
So the guardian might, and that where they had no mother to protect them.
Had the father been left a widower, he might have made a half-dozen
successive marriages, have brought stepmother after stepmother to control
these children, and no court could have interfered. The father is
recognized before the law as the natural guardian of the children. The
mother, even though she be left a widow, is not. The consequence is a
series of outrages of which only a few scattered instances come before the
public; just as in slavery, out of a hundred little girls sold away from
their parents, only one case might ever be mentioned in any newspaper.

This case led to an alteration of the law in Massachusetts, but the same
thing might yet happen in some States of the Union. The possibility of a
single such occurrence shows that there is still a fundamental wrong in the
legal position of woman. And the fact that most women do not know it only
deepens the wrong--as Dr. Channing said of the contentment of the Southern
slaves. The mass of men, even of lawyers, pass by such things, as they
formerly passed by the facts of slavery.

There is no lasting remedy for these wrongs, except to give woman the
political power to protect herself. There never yet existed a race, nor a
class, nor a sex, which was noble enough to be trusted with political power
over another sex, or class, or race. It is for self-defence that woman
needs the ballot. And in view of a single such occurrence as I have given,
I charge that woman who professes to have "all the rights she wants,"
either with a want of all feeling of motherhood, or with "ignorance, madam,
pure ignorance."


There is one special point on which men seem to me rather insincere toward
women. When they speak to women, the objection made to their voting is
usually that they are too angelic. But when men talk to each other, the
general assumption is, that women should not vote because they have not
brains enough--or, as old Theophilus Parsons wrote a century ago, have not
"a sufficient acquired discretion."

It is an important difference. Because, if women are too angelic to vote,
they can only be fitted for it by becoming more wicked, which is not
desirable. On the other hand, if there is no objection but the want of
brains, then our public schools are equalizing that matter fast enough.
Still, there are plenty of people who have never got beyond this objection.
Listen to the first discussion that you encounter among men on this
subject, wherever they may congregate. Does it turn upon the question of
saintliness, or of brains? Let us see.

I travelled the other day upon the Boston and Providence Railroad with a
party of mechanics, mostly English and Scotch. They were discussing this
very question, and, with the true English habit, thought it was all a
matter of property. Without it a woman certainly should not vote, they
said; but they all favored, to my surprise, the enfranchisement of women of
property. "As a general rule," said the chief speaker, "a woman that's got
property has got sense enough to vote."

There it was! These foreigners, who had found their own manhood by coming
to a land which not only the Pilgrim Fathers but the Pilgrim Mothers had
settled, and subdued, and freed for them, were still ready to disfranchise
most of the daughters of those mothers, on the ground that they had not
"sense enough to vote." I thanked them for their blunt truthfulness, so
much better than the flattery of most of the native-born.

My other instance shall be a conversation overheard in a railway station
near Boston, between two intelligent citizens, who had lately listened to
Anna Dickinson. "The best of it was," said one, "to see our minister
introduce her." "Wonder what the Orthodox churches would have said to that
ten years ago?" said the other. "Never mind," was the answer. "Things have
changed. What I think is, it's all in the bringing up. If women were
brought up just as men are, they'd have just as much brains." (Brains
again!) "That's what Beecher says. Boys are brought up to do business, and
take care of themselves: that's where it is. Girls are brought up to dress
and get married. Start 'em alike! That's what Beecher says. Start 'em
alike, and see if girls haven't got just as much brains."

"Still harping on my daughter," and on the condition of her brains! It is
on this that the whole question turns, in the opinion of many men. Ask ten
men their objections to woman suffrage. One will plead that women are
angels. Another fears discord in families. Another points out that women
cannot fight,--he himself being very likely a non-combatant. Another quotes
St. Paul for this purpose,--not being, perhaps, in the habit of consulting
that authority on any other point. But with the others, very likely,
everything will turn on the question of brains. They believe, or think they
believe, that women have not sense enough to vote. They may not say so to
women, but they habitually say it to men. If you wish to meet the common
point of view of masculine voters, you must find it here.

It is fortunate that it is so. Of all points, this is the easiest to
settle; for every intelligent woman, even if she be opposed to woman
suffrage, helps to settle it. Every good lecture by a woman, every good
book written by one, every successful business enterprise carried on, helps
to decide the question. Every class of girls that graduates from every good
school helps to pile up the argument on this point. And the vast army of
women, constituting nine out of ten of the teachers in our American
schools, may appeal as logically to their pupils, and settle the argument
based on brains. "If we had sense enough to educate you," they may say to
each graduating class of boys, "we have sense enough to vote beside you."

    "The ladies actively working to secure the cooperation of their sex
    in caucuses and citizens' conventions are not actuated by love of
    notoriety, and are not, therefore, to be classed with the absolute
    woman suffragists."--Boston Daily Transcript, Sept. 1, 1879.


When the eloquent colored abolitionist, Charles Remond, once said upon the
platform that George Washington, having been a slaveholder, was a villain,
Wendell Phillips remonstrated by saying, "Charles, the epithet is not
felicitous." Reformers are apt to be pelted with epithets quite as
ill-chosen. How often has the charge figured in history, that they were
"actuated by love of notoriety"! The early Christians, it was generally
believed, took a positive pleasure in being thrown to the lions, under the
influence of this motive; and at a later period there was a firm conviction
that the Huguenots consented readily to being broken on the wheel, or sawed
in pieces between two boards, and felt amply rewarded by the pleasure of
being talked about. During the whole anti-slavery movement, while the
abolitionists were mobbed, fined, and imprisoned,--while they were tabooed
by good society, depleted of their money, kept out of employment, by the
mere fact of their abolitionism,--there never was a moment when their
motive was not considered by many persons to be the love of notoriety. Why
should the advocates of woman suffrage expect any different treatment now?

It is not necessary, in order to dispose of this charge, to claim that all
reformers are heroes or saints. Even in the infancy of any reform, it takes
along with it some poor material; and unpleasant traits are often developed
by the incidents of the contest. Doubtless many reformers attain to a
certain enjoyment of a fight, at last: it is one of the dangerous
tendencies which those committed to this vocation must resist. But, so far
as my observation goes, those who engage in reform for the sake of
notoriety generally hurt the reform so much that they render it their chief
service when they leave it; and this happy desertion usually comes pretty
early in their career. The besetting sin of reformers is not, so far as I
can judge, the love of notoriety, but the fate of power and of flattery
within their own small circle,--a temptation quite different from the
other, both in its origin and its results.

Notoriety comes so soon to a reformer that its charms, whatever they may
be, soon pall upon the palate, just as they do in case of a popular poet or
orator, who is so used to seeing himself in print that he hardly notices
it. I suppose there is no young person so modest that he does not, on first
seeing his name in a newspaper, cut out the passage with a certain tender
solicitude, and perhaps purchase a few extra copies of the fortunate
journal. But when the same person has been battered by a score or two of
years in successive unpopular reforms, I suppose that he not only would
leave the paper uncut or unpurchased, but would hardly take the pains even
to correct a misstatement, were it asserted that he had inherited a fortune
or murdered his grandmother. The moral is that the love of notoriety is
soon amply filled, in a reformer's experience, and that he will not, as a
rule, sacrifice home and comfort, money and friends, without some stronger
inducement. This is certainly true of most of the men who have interested
themselves in this particular movement, the "weak-minded men," as the
reporters, with witty antithesis, still describe them; and it must be much
the same with the "strong-minded women" who share their base career.

And it is to be remembered, above all, that, considered as an engine for
obtaining notoriety, the woman-suffrage agitation is a great waste of
energy. The same net result could have been won with far less expenditure
in other ways. There is not a woman connected with it who could not have
achieved far more real publicity as a manager of charity fairs or as a
sensation letter-writer. She could have done this, too, with far less
trouble, without the loss of a single genteel friend, without forfeiting a
single social attention, without having a single ill-natured thing said
about her--except perhaps that she bored people, a charge to which the
highest and lowest forms of prominence are equally open. Nay, she might
have done even more than this, if notoriety was her sole aim: for she might
have become a "variety" minstrel or a female pedestrian; she might have
written a scandalous novel; she might have got somebody to aim at her that
harmless pistol, which has helped the fame of so many a wandering actress,
while its bullet somehow never hits anything but the wall. All this she
might have done, and obtained a notoriety beyond doubt. Instead of this,
she has preferred to prowl about, picking up a precarious publicity by
giving lectures to willing lyceums, writing books for eager publishers,
organizing schools, setting up hospitals, and achieving for her sex
something like equal rights before the law. Either she has shown herself,
as a seeker after notoriety, to be a most foolish or ill-judging person,--
or else, as was said of Washington's being a villain, "the epithet is not


"The Saturday Review," in an article which denounces all equality in
marriage laws and all plans of woman suffrage, admits frankly the practical
obstacles in the way of the process of voting. "Possibly the presence of
women as voters would tend still further to promote order than has been
done by the ballot." It plants itself wholly on one objection, which goes
far deeper, thus:--

    "If men choose to say that women are not their equals, women have
    nothing to do but to give in. Physical force, the ultimate basis of
    all society and all government, must be on the side of the men; and
    those who have the key of the position will not consent permanently
    to abandon it."

It is a great pleasure when an opponent of justice is willing to fall back
thus frankly upon the Rob Roy theory:--

      "The good old rule
    Sufficeth him, the simple plan
  That they should take who have the power,
    And they should keep who can."

It is easy, I think, to show that the theory is utterly false, and that the
basis of civilized society is not physical force, but, on the contrary,

In the city where the "Saturday Review" is published, there are three
regiments of "Guards" which are the boast of the English army, and are
believed by their officers to be the finest troops in the world. They have
deteriorated in size since the Crimean war; but I believe that the men of
one regiment still average six feet two inches in height; and I am sure
that nobody ever saw them in line without noticing the contrast between
these magnificent men and the comparatively puny officers who command them.
These officers are from the highest social rank in England, the governing
classes; and if it were the whole object of this military organization to
give a visible proof of the utter absurdity of the "Saturday Review's"
theory, it could not be better done. There is no country in Europe, I
suppose, where the hereditary aristocracy is physically equal to that of
England, or where the intellectual class has so good a physique. But set
either the House of Lords or the "Saturday Review" contributors upon a
hand-to-hand fight against an equal number of "navvies" or
"coster-mongers," and the patricians would have about as much chance as a
crew of Vassar girls in a boat-race with Yale or Harvard. Take the men of
England alone, and it is hardly too much to say that physical force,
instead of being the basis of political power in any class, is apt to be
found in inverse ratio to it. In case of revolution, the strength of the
governing class in any country is not in its physical, but in its mental
power. Rank and money, and the power to influence and organize and command,
are merely different modifications of mental training, brought to bear by

In our country, without class distinctions, the same truth can be easily
shown. Physical power lies mainly in the hands of the masses: wherever a
class or profession possesses more than its numerical share of power, it
has usually less than its proportion of physical vigor. This is easily
shown from the vast body of evidence collected during our civil war. In the
volume containing the medical statistics of the Provost Marshal General's
Bureau, we have the tabulated reports of about 600,000 persons subject to
draft, and of about 500,000 recruits, substitutes, and drafted men; showing
the precise physical condition of more than a million men.

It appears that, out of the whole number examined, rather more than 257 in
each 1000 were found unfit for military service. It is curious to see how
generally the physical power among these men is in inverse ratio to the
social and political prominence of the class they represent. Out of 1000
unskilled laborers, for instance, only 348 are physically disqualified;
among tanners, only 216; among iron-workers, 189. On the other hand, among
lawyers, 544 out of 1000 are disqualified; among journalists, 740; among
clergymen, 954. Grave divines are horrified at the thought of admitting
women to vote, since they cannot fight; though not one in twenty of their
own number is fit for military duty, if he volunteered. Of the editors who
denounce woman suffrage, only about one in four could himself carry a
musket; while of the lawyers who fill Congress, the majority could not be
defenders of their country, but could only be defended. If we were to
distribute political power with reference to the "physical basis" which the
"Saturday Review" talks about, it would be a wholly new distribution, and
would put things more hopelessly upside down than did the worst phase of
the French Commune. If, then, a political theory so utterly breaks down
when applied to men, why should we insist on resuscitating it in order to
apply it to women? The truth is that as civilization advances the world is
governed more and more unequivocally by brains; and whether those brains
are deposited in a strong body or a weak one becomes a matter of less and
less importance. But it is only in the very first stage of barbarism that
mere physical strength makes mastery; and the long head has controlled the
long arm since the beginning of recorded time.

And it must be remembered that even these statistics very imperfectly
represent the case. They do not apply to the whole male sex, but actually
to the picked portion only, to the men presumed to be of military age,
excluding the very old and the very young. Were these included, the
proportion unfit for military duty would of course be far greater.
Moreover, it takes no account of courage or cowardice, patriotism or zeal.
How much all these considerations tell upon the actual proportion may be
seen from the fact that in the town where I am writing, for instance, out
of some twelve thousand inhabitants and about three thousand voters, there
are only some three hundred who actually served in the civil war,--a number
too small to exert a perceptible influence on any local election. When we
see the community yielding up its voting power into the hands of those who
have actually done military service, it will be time enough to exclude
women for not doing such service. If the alleged physical basis operates as
an exclusion of all non-combatants, it should surely give a monopoly to the
actual combatants.


The tendency of modern society is not to concentrate power in the hands of
the few, but to give a greater and greater share to the many. Read
Froissart's Chronicles, and Scott's novels of chivalry, and you will see
how thoroughly the difference between patrician and plebeian was then a
difference of physical strength. The knight, being better nourished and
better trained, was apt to be the bodily superior of the peasant, to begin
with; and this strength was reinforced by armor, weapons, horse, castle,
and all the resources of feudal warfare. With this greater strength went
naturally the assumption of greater political power. To the heroes of
"Ivanhoe," or "The Fair Maid of Perth," it would have seemed as absurd that
yeomen and lackeys should have any share in the government, as it would
seem to the members in an American legislature that women should have any
such share. In a contest of mailed knights, any number of unarmed men were
but so many women. As Sir Philip Sidney said, "The wolf asketh not how many
the sheep may be."

But time and advancing civilization have tended steadily in one direction.
"He giveth power to the weak, and to them who have no might He increaseth
strength." Every step in the extension of political rights has consisted in
opening them to a class hitherto humbler. From kings to nobles, from nobles
to burghers, from burghers to yeomen; in short, from strong to weak, from
high to low, from rich to poor. All this is but the unconscious following
out of one sure principle,--that legislation is mainly for the protection
of the weak against the strong, and that for this purpose the weak must be
directly represented. The strong are already protected by their strength:
it is the weak who need all the vantage-ground that votes and legislatures
can give them. The feudal chiefs were stronger without laws than with them.
"Take care of yourselves in Sutherland," was the anxious message of the old
Highlander: "the law has come as far as Tain." It was the peaceful citizen
who needed the guaranty of law against brute force.

But can laws be executed without brute force? Not without a certain amount
of it, but that amount under civilization grows less and less. Just in
proportion as the masses are enfranchised, statutes execute themselves
without crossing bayonets. "In a republic," said De Tocqueville, "if laws
are not always respectable, they are always respected." If every step in
freedom has brought about a more peaceable state of society, why should
that process stop at this precise point? Besides, there is no possibility
in nature of a political division in which all the men shall be on one side
and all the women on the other. The mutual influence of the sexes forbids
it. The very persons who hint at such a fear refute themselves at other
times, by arguing that "women will always be sufficiently represented by
men," or that "every woman will vote as her husband thinks, and it will
merely double the numbers." As a matter of fact, the law will prevail in
all English-speaking nations: a few men fighting for it will be stronger
than many fighting against it; and if those few have both the law and the
women on their side, there will be no trouble.

The truth is that in this age _cedant arma togae:_ it is the civilian who
rules on the throne or behind it, and who makes the fighting-men his mere
agents. Yonder policeman at the corner looks big and formidable: he
protects the women and overawes the boys. But away in some corner of the
City Hill there is some quiet man, out of uniform, perhaps a consumptive or
a dyspeptic or a cripple, who can overawe the burliest policeman by his
authority as city marshal or as mayor. So an army is but a larger police;
and its official head is that plain man at the White House, who makes or
unmakes, not merely brevet-brigadiers, but major-generals in command,--who
can by the stroke of the pen convert the most powerful man of the army into
the most powerless. Take away the occupant of the position, and put in a
woman, and will she become impotent because her name is Elizabeth or Maria
Theresa? It is brains that more and more govern the world; and whether
those brains be on the throne, or at the ballot-box, they will soon make
the owner's sex a subordinate affair. If woman is also strong in the
affections, so much the better. "Win the hearts of your subjects," said
Lord Burleigh to Queen Elizabeth, "and you will have their hands and

War is the last appeal, and happily in these days the rarest appeal, of
statesmanship. In the multifarious other duties that make up statesmanship
we cannot spare the brains, the self-devotion, and the enthusiasm of woman.
One of the most important treaties of modern history, the peace of Cambray,
in 1529, was negotiated, after previous attempts had failed, by two
women,--Margaret, aunt of Charles V., and Louisa, mother of Francis I.
Voltaire said that Christina of Sweden was the only sovereign of her time
who maintained the dignity of the throne against Mazarin and Richelieu.
Frederick the Great said that the Seven Years' War was waged against three
women,--Elizabeth of Russia, Maria Theresa, and Mme. Pompadour. There is
nothing impotent in the statesmanship of women when they are admitted to
exercise it: they are only powerless for good when they are obliged to
obtain by wheedling and flattery a sway that should be recognized,
responsible, and limited.


There is in Boswell's "Life of Johnson" a correspondence which is well
worth reading by both advocates and opponents of woman suffrage. Boswell,
who was of an old Scotch family, had a difference of opinion with his
father about an entailed estate which had descended to them. Boswell wished
the title so adjusted as to cut off all possibility of female heirship. His
father, on the other hand, wished to recognize such a contingency. Boswell
wrote to Johnson in 1776 for advice, urging a series of objections,
physiological and moral, to the inheritance of a family estate by a woman;
though, as he magnanimously admits, "they should be treated with great
affection and tenderness, and always participate of the prosperity of the

Dr. Johnson, for a wonder, took the other side, defended female heirship,
and finally summed up thus: "It cannot but occur that women have natural
and equitable claims as well as men, and these claims are not to be
capriciously or lightly superseded or infringed. When fiefs inspired
military service, it is easily discerned why females could not inherit
them; but the reason is at an end. _As manners make laws, so manners
likewise repeal them_."

This admirable statement should be carefully pondered by those who hold
that suffrage should be only coextensive with military duty. The position
that woman cannot properly vote because she cannot fight for her vote
efficiently is precisely like the position of feudalism and of Boswell,
that she could not properly hold real estate because she could not fight
for it. Each position may have had some plausibility in its day, but the
same current of events has made each obsolete. Those who in these days
believe in giving woman the ballot argue precisely as Dr. Johnson did in
1776. Times have changed, manners have softened, education has advanced,
public opinion now acts more forcibly; and the reference to physical force,
though still implied, is implied more and more remotely. The political
event of the age, the overthrow of American slavery, would not have been
accomplished without the "secular arm" of Grant and Sherman, let us agree:
but neither would it have been accomplished without the moral power of
Garrison the non-resistant, and Harriet Beecher Stowe the woman. When the
work is done, it is unfair to disfranchise any of the participants. Dr.
Johnson was right: "When fiefs [or votes] implied military service, it is
easily discerned why women should not inherit [or possess] them; but the
reason is at an end. As manners make laws, so manners likewise repeal

Under the feudal system it would have been absurd that women should hold
real estate, for the next armed warrior could dispossess her. By Gail
Hamilton's reasoning, it is equally absurd now: "One man is stronger than
one woman, and ten men are stronger than ten women; and the nineteen
millions of men in this country will subdue, capture, and execute or expel
the nineteen millions of women just as soon as they set about it." Very
well: why, then, do not all the landless men in a town unite, and take away
the landed property of all the women? Simply because we now live in
civilized society and under a reign of law; because those men's respect for
law is greater than their appetite for property; or, if you prefer, because
even those landless men know that their own interest lies, in the long-run,
on the side of law. It will be precisely the same with voting. When any
community is civilized up to the point of enfranchising women, it will be
civilized up to the point of sustaining their vote, as it now sustains
their property rights, by the whole material force of the community. When
the thing is once established, it will no more occur to anybody that a
woman's vote is powerless because she cannot fight, than it now occurs to
anybody that her title to real estate is invalidated by the same

Woman is in the world; she cannot be got rid of: she must be a serf or an
equal; there is no middle ground. We have outgrown the theory of serfdom in
a thousand ways, and may as well abandon the whole. Women have now a place
in society: their influence will be exerted, at any rate, in war and in
peace, legally or illegally; and it had better be exerted in direct,
legitimate, and responsible methods, than in ways that are dark, and by
tricks that have not even the merit of being plain.


One of the few plausible objections brought against women's voting is this:
that it would demoralize the suffrage by letting in very dangerous voters;
that virtuous women would not vote, and vicious women would. It is a very
unfounded alarm.

For, in the first place, our institutions rest--if they have any basis at
all--on this principle, that good is stronger than evil, that the majority
of men really wish to vote rightly, and that only time and patience are
needed to get the worst abuses righted. How any one can doubt this, who
watches the course of our politics, I do not see. In spite of the great
disadvantage of having masses of ignorant foreign voters to deal with,--and
of native black voters, who have been purposely kept in ignorance,--we
certainly see wrongs gradually righted, and the truth by degrees prevail.
Even the one great, exceptional case of New York city has been reached at
last; and the very extent of the evil has brought its own cure. Now, why
should this triumph of good over evil be practicable among men, and not
apply to women also?

It must be either because women, as a class, are worse than men,--which
will hardly be asserted,--or because, for some special reason, bad women
have an advantage over good women such as has no parallel in the other sex.
But I do not see how this can be. Let us consider.

It is certain that good women are not less faithful and conscientious than
good men. It is generally admitted that those most opposed to suffrage will
very soon, on being fully enfranchised, feel it their duty to vote. They
may at first misuse the right through ignorance, but they certainly will
not shirk it. It is this conscientious habit on which I rely without fear.
Never yet, when public duty required, have American women failed to meet
the emergency; and I am not afraid of it now. Moreover, when they are once
enfranchised and their votes are needed, all the men who now oppose or
ridicule the demand for suffrage will begin to help them to exercise it.
When the wives are once enfranchised, you may be sure that the husbands
will not neglect those of their own household: they will provide them with
ballots, vehicles, and policemen, and will contrive to make the
voting-places pleasanter than many parlors, and quieter than some churches.

On the other hand, it seems altogether probable that the very worst women,
so far from being ostentatious in their wickedness upon election day, will,
on the contrary, so disguise and conceal themselves as to deceive the very
elect, and, if it were possible, the very policemen. For whatever party
they may vote, they will contribute to make the voting-places as orderly as
railway stations. These covert ways are the very habit of their lives, at
least by daylight; and the women who have of late done the most conspicuous
and open mischief in our community have done it, not in their true
character as evil, but, on the contrary, under a mask of elevated purpose.

That women, when they vote, will commit their full share of errors I have
always maintained. But that they will collectively misuse their power seems
to me out of the question; and that the good women are going to stay at
home, and let bad women do the voting, appears quite as incredible. In
fact, if they do thus, it is a fair question whether the epithets "good"
and "bad" ought not, politically speaking, to change places. For it
naturally occurs to every one, on election day, that the man who votes,
even if he votes wrong, is really a better man, so far as political duties
go, than the very loftiest saint who stays at home and prays that other
people may vote right And it is hard to see why it should be otherwise with


It is often said that when women vote their votes will make no difference
in the count, became they will merely duplicate the votes of their husbands
and brothers. Then these same objectors go on and predict all sorts of evil
things for which women will vote quite apart from their husbands and
brothers. Moreover, the evils thus predicted are apt to be diametrically
opposite. Thus Goldwin Smith predicts that women will be governed by
priests, and then goes on to predict that women will vote to abolish
marriage; not seeing that these two predictions destroy each other.

On the other hand, I think that the advocates of woman suffrage often err
by claiming too much,--as that all women will vote for peace, for total
abstinence, against slavery, and the rest. It seems better to rest the
argument on general principles, and not to seek to prophesy too closely.
The only thing which I feel safe in predicting is that woman suffrage will
be used, as it should be, for the protection of woman. Self-respect and
self-protection,--these are, as has been already said, the two great things
for which woman needs the ballot.

It is not in the nature of things, I take it, that a class politically
subject can obtain justice from the governing class. Not the least of the
benefits gained by political equality for the colored people of the South
is that the laws now generally make no difference of color in penalties for
crime. In slavery times there were dozens of crimes which were punished
more severely by the statute if committed by a slave or a free negro than
if done by a white. I feel very sure that under the reign of impartial
suffrage we should see fewer such announcements as this, which I cut from a
late New York "Evening Express:"--

    "Last night Capt. Lowery, of the Twenty-seventh Precinct, made a
    descent upon the dance-house in the basement of 96 Greenwich Street,
    and arrested fifty-two men and eight women. The entire batch was
    brought before Justice Flammer, at the Tombs Police Court, this
    morning. Louise Maud, the proprietoress, was held in five hundred
    dollars bail to answer at the Court of General Sessions. _The
    fifty-two men were fined three dollars each, all but twelve paying
    at once; and the eight women were fined ten dollars each, and sent
    to the Island for one month._"

The italics are my own. When we reflect that this dance-house, whatever it
was, was unquestionably sustained for the gratification of men, rather than
of women; when we consider that every one of these fifty-two men came
there, in all probability, by his own free will, and to spend money, not to
earn it; and that probably a majority of the women were driven there by
necessity or betrayal, or force or despair,--it would seem that even an
equal punishment would have been cruel injustice to the women. But when we
observe how trifling a penalty was three dollars each to these men, whose
money was likely to go for riotous living in some form, and forty of whom
had the amount of the fine in their pockets; and how hopelessly large an
amount was ten dollars each to women who did not, probably, own even the
clothes they wore, and who were to be sent to prison for a month in
addition,--we see a kind of injustice which would stand a fair chance of
being righted, I suspect, if women came into power. Not that they would
punish their own sex less severely; probably they would not: but they would
put men more on a level as to the penalty.

It may be said that no such justice is to be expected from women; because
women in what is called "society" condemn women for mere imprudence, and
excuse men for guilt. But it must be remembered that in "society" guilt is
rarely a matter of open proof and conviction, in case of men: it is usually
a matter of surmise; and it is easy for either love or ambition to set the
surmise aside, and to assume that the worst reprobate is "only a little
wild." In fact, as Margaret Fuller pointed out years ago, how little
conception has a virtuous woman as to what a dissipated young man really
is! But let that same woman be a Portia, in the judgment-seat, or even a
legislator or a voter, and let her have the unmistakable and actual
offender before her, and I do not believe that she will excuse him for a
paltry fine, and give the less guilty woman a penalty more than quadruple.

Women will also be sure to bring special sympathy and intelligent attention
to the wrongs of children. Who can read without shame and indignation this
report from "The New York Herald"?


    Peter Hallock, committed on a charge of abducting Lena Dinser, a
    young girl thirteen years old, whom, it was alleged, her father,
    George Dinser, had sold to Hallock for purposes of prostitution, was
    again brought yesterday before Judge Westbrook in the Supreme Court
    Chambers, on the writ of habeas corpus previously obtained by Mr.
    William F. Howe, the prisoner's counsel. Mr. Howe claimed that
    Hallock could not be held on either section of the statute for
    abduction. Under the first section the complaint, he insisted,
    should set forth that the child was taken contrary to the wish and
    against the consent of her parents. On the contrary, the evidence,
    he urged, showed that the father was a willing party. Under the
    second section, it was contended that the prisoner could not be
    held, as there was no averment that the girl was of previous chaste
    character. Judge Westbrook, a brief counter argument having been
    made by Mr. Dana, held that the points of Mr. Howe were well taken,
    and ordered the prisoner's discharge.

Here was a father who, as the newspapers allege, had previously sold two
other daughters, body and soul, and against whom the evidence seemed to be
in this case clear. Yet through the defectiveness of the statute, or the
remissness of the prosecuting attorney, he goes free, without even a trial,
to carry on his infamous traffic for other children. Grant that the points
were technically well taken and irresistible,--though this is by no means
certain,--it is very sure that there should be laws that should reach such
atrocities with punishment, whether the father does or does not consent to
his child's ruin; and that public sentiment should compel prosecuting
officers to be as careful in framing their indictments where human souls
are at stake as where the question is of dollars only. It is upon such
matters that the influence of women will make itself felt in legislation.


As the older arguments against woman suffrage are abandoned, we hear more
and more of the final objection, that the majority of women have not yet
expressed themselves on the subject. It is common for such reasoners to
make the remark, that if they knew a given number of women--say fifty, or a
hundred, or five hundred--who honestly wished to vote, they would favor it.
Produce that number of unimpeachable names, and they say that they have
reconsidered the matter, and must demand more,--perhaps ten thousand. Bring
ten thousand, and the demand again rises. "Prove that the majority of women
wish to vote, and they shall vote." "Precisely," we say: "give us a chance
to prove it by taking a vote;" and they answer, "By no means."

And, in a certain sense, they are right. It ought not to be settled that
way,--by dealing with woman as a class, and taking the vote. The agitators
do not merely claim the right of suffrage for her as a class: they claim it
for each individual woman, without reference to any other. If there is only
one woman in the nation who claims the right to vote, she ought to have it.
In Oriental countries all legislation is for classes, and in England it is
still mainly so. A man is expected to remain in the station in which he is
born; or, if he leaves it, it is by a distinct process, and he comes under
the influence, in various ways, of different laws. If the iniquities of the
"Contagious Diseases" act in England, for instance, had not been confined
in their legal application to the lower social grades, the act would never
have passed. It was easy for men of the higher classes to legislate away
the modesty of women of the lower classes; but if the daughter of an earl
could have been arrested, and submitted to a surgical examination at the
will of any policeman, as the daughter of a mechanic might be, the law
would not have stood a day. So, through all our slave States, there was
class legislation for every person of negro blood: the laws of crime, of
punishment, of testimony, were all adapted to classes, not individuals.
Emancipation swept this all away, in most cases: classes ceased to exist
before the law, so far as men at least were concerned; there were only
individuals. The more progress, the less class in legislation. We claim the
application of this principle as rapidly as possible to women.

Our community does not refuse permission for women to go unveiled till it
is proved that the majority of women desire it; it does not even ask that
question: if one woman wishes to show her face, it is allowed. If a woman
wishes to travel alone, to walk the streets alone, the police protects her
in that liberty. She is not thrust back into her house with the reproof,
"My dear madam, at this particular moment the overwhelming majority of
women are indoors: prove that they all wish to come out, and you shall
come." On the contrary, she comes forth at her own sweet will: the
policeman helps her tenderly across the street, and waves back with
imperial gesture the obtrusive coal-cart. Some of us claim for each
individual woman, in the same way, not merely the right to go shopping, but
to go voting; not merely to show her face, but to show her hand.

There will always be many women, as there are many men, who are indifferent
to voting. For a time, perhaps always, there will be a larger percentage of
this indifference among women. But the natural right to a share in the
government under which one lives, and to a voice in making the laws under
which one may be hanged,--this belongs to each woman as an individual; and
she is quite right to claim it as she needs it, even though the majority of
her sex still prefer to take their chance of the penalty, without
perplexing themselves about the law. The demand of every enlightened woman
who asks for the ballot--like the demand of every enlightened slave for
freedom--is an individual demand; and the question whether they represent
the majority of their class has nothing to do with it. For a republic like
ours does not profess to deal with classes, but with individuals; since
"the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the
whole people, for the common good," as the constitution of Massachusetts

And, fortunately, there is such power in an individual demand that it
appeals to thousands whom no abstract right touches. Five minutes with
Frederick Douglass settled the question, for any thoughtful person, of that
man's right to freedom. Let any woman of position desire to enter what is
called "the lecture-field," to support herself and her children, and at
once all abstract objections to women's speaking in public disappear: her
friends may be never so hostile to "the cause," but they espouse her
individual cause; the most conservative clergyman subscribes for tickets,
but begs that his name may not be mentioned. They do not admit that women,
as a class, should speak,--not they; but for this individual woman they
throng the hall. Mrs. Dahlgren abhors politics: a woman in Congress, a
woman in the committee-room,--what can be more objectionable? But I
observe that when Mrs. Dahlgren wishes to obtain more profit by her
husband's inventions all objections vanish: she can appeal to Congressmen,
she can address committees, she can, I hope, prevail. The individual ranks
first in our sympathy: we do not wait to take the census of the "class."
Make way for the individual, whether it be Mrs. Dahlgren pleading for the
rights of property, or Lucy Stone pleading for the rights of the mother to
her child.


After one of the early defeats in the War of the Rebellion, the commander
of a Massachusetts regiment wrote home to his father: "I wish people would
not write us so many letters of condolence. Our defeat seemed to trouble
them much more than it troubles us. Did people suppose there were to be no
ups and downs? We expect to lose plenty of battles, but we have enlisted
for the war."

It is just so with every successful reform. While enemies and half-friends
are proclaiming its defeats, those who advocate it are rejoicing that they
have at last got an army into the field to be defeated. Unless this war is
to be an exception to all others, even the fact of having joined battle is
a great deal. It is the first step. Defeat first; a good many defeats, if
you please: victory by and by.

William Wilberforce, writing to a friend in the year 1817, said, "I
continue faithful to the measure of Parliamentary reform brought forward by
Mr. Pitt. I am firmly persuaded that at present a prodigious majority of
the people of this country are adverse to the measure. In my view, so far
from being an objection to the discussion, this is rather a
recommendation." In 1832 the reform bill was passed.

In the first Parliamentary debate on the slave trade, Colonel Tarleton, who
boasted to have killed more men than any one in England, pointing to
Wilberforce and others, said, "The inspiration began on that side of the
house;" then turning round, "The revolution has reached to this also, and
reached to the height of fanaticism and frenzy." The first vote in the
House of Commons, in 1790, after arguments in the affirmative by
Wilberforce, Pitt, Fox, and Burke, stood, ayes, 88; noes, 163: majority
against the measure, 75. In 1807 the slave trade was abolished, and in 1834
slavery in the British colonies followed; and even on the very night when
the latter bill passed, the abolitionists were taunted by Gladstone, the
great Demerara slaveholder, with having toiled for forty years and done
nothing. The Roman Catholic relief bill, establishing freedom of thought in
England, had the same experience. It passed in 1829 by a majority of a
hundred and three in the House of Lords, which had nine months before
refused by a majority of forty-five to take up the question at all.

The English corn laws went down a quarter of a century ago, after a similar
career of failures. In 1840 there were hundreds of thousands in England who
thought that to attack the corn laws was to attack the very foundations of
society. Lord Melbourne, the prime minister, said in Parliament, that "he
had heard of many mad things in his life, but, before God, the idea of
repealing the corn laws was the very maddest thing of which he had ever
heard." Lord John Russell counselled the House to refuse to hear evidence
on the operation of the corn laws. Six years after, in 1846, they were
abolished forever.

How Wendell Phillips, in the anti-slavery meetings, used to lash
pro-slavery men with such formidable facts as these,--and to quote how Clay
and Calhoun and Webster and Everett had pledged themselves that slavery
should never be discussed, or had proposed that those who discussed it
should be imprisoned,--while, in spite of them all, the great reform was
moving on, and the abolitionists were forcing politicians and people to
talk, like Sterne's starling, nothing but slavery!

We who were trained in the light of these great agitations have learned
their lesson. We expect to march through a series of defeats to victory.
The first thing is, as in the anti-slavery movement, so to arouse the
public mind as to make this the central question. Given this prominence,
and it is enough for this year or for many years to come. Wellington said
that there was no such tragedy as a victory, except a defeat. On the other
hand, the next best thing to a victory is a defeat, for it shows that the
armies are in the field. Without the unsuccessful attempt of to-day, no
success to-morrow.

When Mrs. Frances Anne Kemble came to this country, she was amazed to find
Americans celebrating the battle of Bunker Hill, which she had always heard
claimed as a victory for King George. Such it was doubtless called; but
what we celebrated was the fact that the Americans there threw up
breastworks, stood their ground, fired away their ammunition,--and were
defeated. Thus the reformer, too, looking at his failures, often sees in
them such a step forward, that they are the Bunker Hill of a new
revolution. Give us plenty of such defeats, and we can afford to wait a
score of years for the victories. They will come.


Acidalius, Valens
Adams, J.Q.
Adams, Mrs. John
Addison, Joseph
Adelung, J.C.
Agassiz, Alexander
Agrippa, Cornelius
Alabaster, Henry
Alcott, Louisa
Alderson, Baron
Amalasontha, Queen
Anne, Queen
Aponte, Emanuele
Arblay, Madame d'
Ashburton, Lady

Bacon, Francis
Bagehot, Walter
Barry, J.S.
Barton, Clara
Beaujour, L.F. de
Beecher, H.W.
Behn, Mrs. Aphra
Bennett, Mr.
Beyle, Henri (Stendhal)
Blackburn, Henry
Blackstone, William
Blind, Karl
Bolingbroke, H.S.
Bonaparte, Napoleon
Bonheur, Rosa
Boswell, James
Boufflet, Margaret
Brigitta, Saint
Brooks, Phillips
Brougham, Lord
Brown, John
Browne, C.F. (Artemus Ward)
Browning, Elizabeth B.
Browning, Robert
Buchan, Countess of
Buckle, H.T.
Buffon, Count de
Bulan, Madame
Burke, Edmund
Burleigh, Lord
Butler, Samuel
Byron, Lord

Cæsar, Julius
Calhoun, J.C.
Cameron, Dr.
Canning, George,
Catherine II., Empress
Channing, W.E.
Chapman, Chief Justice
Chatham, Earl of
Chaucer, Geoffrey
Chesterfield, Earl of
Child, Lydia M.
Choate, Rufus
Choisi, Abbé
Christina of Sweden
Christlieb, Professor
Churchill, Charles
Clarendon, Earl of
Clarke, E.H.
Clay, Henry
Coleridge, Justice
Comer, Mr.
Comte, Auguste
Copley, J.S.
Cornaro, Elena
Cowper, William
Crocker, Mrs. H. (Mather)
Cromwell, Oliver
Currie, James
Curzon, George

Dacier, Madame
Dahlgren, Mrs. M.V.
Dall, Mrs. Caroline A.
Dana, Mr.
Dante degli Alighieri
Darling, Grace
Darwin, Charles
Davy, Sir Humphry
Dickens, Charles
Dickinson, Anna
Dinser, George
Dinser, Lena
Dix, Dorothea
Dobell, Sidney
Domenichi, Ludovico
Douglass, Frederick
Drake, Sir Francis
Dryden, John
Dudevant, Madame (George Sand)
Dufour, Madame Gacon

Eastman, Mary F.
Edgeworth, Maria
Elizabeth, Queen
Elizabeth of Russia
Elstob, Elizabeth
Emerson, R.W.
Everett, Edward

Fénelon, Francis de S. de la M.
Fern, Fanny. _See_ Parton.
Flammer, Justice
Fontanges, Duchesse de
Fonte, Moderata
Fox, C.J.
Franklin, Benjamin
Frederick II.
Frederick, Prince
Frith, W.P.
Froissart, John
Froude J.A.
Fuller, Thomas

Garrick, David
Garrison, W.L.
Genlis, Mme. de
Gibbon, Edward
Gibson, Anthony
Gladstone, W.E.
Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft
Goethe, J.W. von
Goguet, A.Y.
Goldsmith, Oliver
Goodwin, W.W.
Grant, U.S.
Grattan, Henry
Greenwood, Grace. _See_ Lippincott
Griswold, R.W.
Guillaume, Jacquette
Guion, Madame

Hale, E.E.
Hallock, Peter
Hamilton, Gail
Harland, Marion
Harte, F.B.
Haüy, R.J.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel
Herbert, Sidney
Heyrick, Elizabeth
Hoar, G.F.
Hogarth, William
Hopkins, Mark
Howard, John
Howe, Mrs. Julia W.
Howe, W.F.
Howland, Rachel
Humboldt, F.H.A. von
Hume, David
Huxley, T.H.
Hyacinthe, Père

James I., King
Jameson, Mrs. Anna
Jefferson, Thomas
Joan of Arc
Johnson, Andrew
Johnson, Samuel
Jones, C.C.
Jonson, Ben

Kean, Edmund
Kemble, Frances A.
Kemble, John
Kent, James

Lagrange, Madame
Lamb, Charles
Launay, Mlle. de
Lawrence, W.B.
Layard, Sir A.H.
Leland, C.G.
Leonowens, Mrs.
Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Lessing, G.E.
Lewes, Mrs. (George Eliot)
Lincoln, Abraham
Lippincott, Mrs. S.J. (Grace Greenwood)
Liszt, Abbé
Livermore, Mary
Livingstone, David
Locke, John
Lockhart, J.G.
Louise of Savoy
Lowe. _See_ Sherbrooke
Lowell, J.R.
Lowery, Captain
Lubbock, Sir John

Macaulay, T.B.
Magann, William
Mahaffy, J.P.
Maintenon, Madame de
Malibran, Madame
Maréchal, Sylvain
Margaret of Austria
Marguerite of Navarre
Maria Theresa, Empress
Marmella, Lucrezia
Marlborough, Duke of
Martineau, Harriet
Mazarm, Julius
Melbourne, Lord
Mill, J S.
Molière, J.B.P. de
Monk, George
Montpensier, Mlle. de
Moore, Thomas
Mott, Lucretia
Muloch, D.M.

Napoleon, Louis
Nelson, Horatio
Newton, Sir Isaac
Niebuhr, Carsten
Nightingale, Florence
Nogarola, Isotta
Norton, Hon. Mrs. Caroline

Ormond, James Butler, Duke of
Ossoli, Margaret (Fuller)
Otis, James

Parker, Theodore
Parkman, Francis
Parsons, Theophilus
Parton, Mrs. (Fanny Fern)
Patten, Mrs.
Paul, Jean _See_ Richter
Peabody, F.G.
Pembroke, Earl of
Pepys, Samuel
Peterborough, Charles Mordaunt, Earl of
Philip II, King
Phillipps, Adelaide
Phillips, Wendell
Pitt, William
Plummer, Miss
Pompadour, Mme.
Pope, Alexander
Porson, Richard

Quincy, Edmund
Quincy, Josiah

Ramsay, Allan
Reade, Charles
Ream, Vinme
Remond, Charles
Reynolds, Sir Joshua
Richelieu, Armand J. Duplessis, Cardinal
Richter, J.P.F.
Robert the Bruce
Robin, Abbé
Robinson, W.S. (Warrington)
Rochambeau, General
Rogers, Samuel
Roland, Madame
Romilly, Sir Samuel
Rossi, Properzia de
Russell, Lord John

Safford, T.H.
Saint Augustine
Saintouges, Françoise de
Sand George. _See_ Dudevant
Schiller, J.C.F. von
Schurman, Anna Maria
Scott, Sir Walter
Shakespeare, William
Sheppard, Jack
Sherbrooke, Lord (Robert Lowe)
Sheridan, P.H.
Sherman W.T.
Sidney, Sir Philip
Smith, Goldwin
Somerville, Mrs. Mary
Southworth, E.D E.N.
Sparks, Jared
Spenser Edmund
Stael, Madame de
Stendhal _See_ Beyle.
Stephen, Fitzjames
Sterne, Laurence
Stevens, Mrs. Paran
Stone, Lucy
Story, W.W.
Stove, Harriet (Beecher)
Strafford, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of
Sumner, Charles
Swift, Jonathan

Taine, H.A.
Tambroni, Clotilda
Tarleton, Colonel
Ten Broeck
Tennyson, Alfred
Thackeray, W.P.
Thoreau, H.D.
Thou, J.A. De
Timon of Athens
Tocqueville, Alexis de
Trench, Mrs. Richard

Varro, M.T.
Victoria, Queen
Volney, C.F. Chasseboeuf, Count de
Voltaire, F.M.A. de

Wallace, A.R.
Walpole, Horace
Walworth, M.T.
Ward, Artemus. _See_ Browne, C.F.
Warrington. _See_ Robinson.
Washington, George
Webster, Daniel,
Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of,
Westbrook, Judge
Whipple, E.P.
Whittier, J.G.
Wieland, C.M.
Wilberforce, William
Winkelried, Arnold
Withington, Leonard
Wollstonecraft, Mary. _See_ Godwin.
Woodbury, Augustus
Wordsworth, William

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