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Title: Oriental Women
Author: Pollard, Edward Bagby, 1864-1927?
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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Of the George Washington University

[Illustration: 1: REBEKAH AND ISAAC'S AGENT, ELIEZER After the painting
by A. Cabanel Probably no feature in the social life of a people is of
so universal an interest as its marriage customs, and there is no
courtship, either ancient or modern, which has more enkindled the
imagination and awakened the interest of men than that between Isaac and
Rebekah..... It is a truly picturesque and even romantic story, which
never loses its charm; and Rebekah, whether at the well or in her
household, will always present a unique picture of womanly grace and

The ancient wooing of Rebekah is Isaac, though it is by no means
typical in all its details, contains many elements that mark Oriental
weddings..... The courage of Rebekah in consenting to mount the camel of
a stranger and go into a far country to be wed is noteworthy. With all
the apparent grace and gentleness of Rebekah, here was a pluck most


In All Ages and In All Countries




Of the George Washington University


George Barrie & Sons, Publishers


The relative position which woman occupies in any country is an index to
the civilization which that country enjoys, and this test applied to the
Orient reveals many stages yet to be achieved. The frequent appearance
of woman in Holy Writ is sufficient evidence of the high position
accorded her in the Hebrew nation. Such characters as Ruth, Esther, and
Rebekah have become famous. Wicked women there were, such as Jezebel,
but happily their influence was not of lasting duration. No other
ancient people so highly prized chastity in woman; motherhood was
regarded as an evidence of divine favor, while barrenness was considered
a curse. The home life was one of singular purity and sweetness.
Idleness was deplored as a crime, and every child was taught to work
with his own hands.

The deities of the Babylonians and Assyrians were feminine as well as
masculine. Ishtar was the Venus of classical mythology--the goddess of
love, and the Babylonian Hades was presided over by a feminine deity.
Rank, however, determined social freedom; the woman of the lowest class
might go and come at will, but the woman of the high class was condemned
to a life of isolation. Woman's position of honor in Egypt is evidenced
by the presence of temples and monuments erected to her memory. She
assisted her husband in the management of his affairs, and was granted a
part in religious worship.

In the countries in which Brahmanism and Mohammedanism is the prevailing
religion, the position of woman is relatively low. The Hindoo woman has
no spiritual life apart from her husband; she can only hope for ultimate
happiness through a union with him. The harem prevails, and woman is the
slave of man.

In contrast to the position of woman in these countries and in China is
the position she holds in Japan. While not yet occupying a place of
respect equal to that accorded her in the Occident, she is coming
gradually to be regarded as she deserves. There yet remain the loose
morals, characteristic of the Oriental nature, and it is still regarded
as right and proper that a good wife should barter her chastity if it is
necessary in order to save her husband the disgrace of imprisonment for
debt. The higher classes, however, are coming to treat woman with a
respect far higher than that usually accorded her in the Orient. The
process of her elevation must of necessity be slow, for no great reform
is accomplished by a _coup d'état_, but only through the ameliorating
effects of enlightenment and education, and this alone will accomplish
the final emancipation of the woman of the Orient from her present
condition of servitude.
                                                             E.B. POLLARD.



The story of the first woman in the Hebrew Scriptures and Semitic myth
is as familiar as a household tale. Jewish and Christian literature
alike have frequent mention of the part she played in the race's
infancy, though in the sacred writings themselves she is but rarely

What the Book of Genesis furnishes upon the creation of the first woman
may not be considered of great interest as a scientific treatise upon
the first appearance of feminine life on the earth, but it is of marked
importance as revealing the idea around which the life and character of
the Hebrew woman were developed. Here we find a pure monotheism (the
presence of no goddess at the birth of things), a high morality, the
dignity of marriage and of motherhood, that give to the Hebrew women
great advantage over their sisters of many another country.

Very early was it discovered, say the Hebrew records, that it is "not
good for man to be alone." The method by which this fact was first made
manifest is of no little suggestiveness. Would it be possible from the
many creatures of earth, sky, and sea, already made, for man to find a
companion in whom he might confide, with whom the long hours might be
made more joyous? God tries the man whom he has made. Could he be
satisfied with a creature of a lower order as fellow and friend? Could
he, by subduing and having dominion, find in dog, camel, or favorite
steed a sufficient helpfulness, a satisfaction for his human longings?
No! As one by one the living creatures passed in solemn order before
him, it was soon realized by the names that Adam gave them, that he
found no true fellowship in all that earth-born throng. "And the man
gave names to all cattle and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast
of the field, but for man there was not found an helpmeet for him."

The epoch-making "deep sleep" that fell upon Adam, the taking of the
rib, the making of the first woman, the closing again of the wound, and
the presentation of a helpmeet for the man--all this is a familiar
Scripture story. Whether it be intended to be literal history is of
little moment here. Very beautifully have Matthew Henry and others,
following the rabbis, commented upon the essential meaning of this
narrative in suggesting that woman is not represented as taken from the
head of man that she should rule over him; nor from his feet, to be
trampled under foot; but she was taken from his side that she might be
his equal; from under his arm that she might be protected by him; near
his heart that he might cherish and love her. "This is now bone of my
bone and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called _Ishshah_"--that is, if
man is to be called _Ish_, woman shall be _Ishshah_, simply his equal.

It is not strange that there should have arisen many legends about this
first Oriental woman. According to one of the Jewish stories contained
in the Talmud, Adam was at first very huge. When he stood, his head
reached to the very heavens; and when he reclined, he covered the earth
with his gigantic form. But in a deep sleep which God caused to fall
upon him, Eve was made from parts of all his members. After the creation
of Eve, therefore, Adam was never again quite so large. Some of the
Jewish rabbis taught that Adam, the first man, had in his body thirteen
ribs,--one more than was possessed by any of his descendants,--and that
this surplus bone became, in the hands of the Creator, the physical
basis for the creation of the mother of all.

The thought has been suggested that as man was commissioned to subdue
and have dominion over the beasts of the field and all the forces of
Nature, the reason for woman's creation lies in her ability to _tame
man_. Whether this be true or not, the student of Hebrew history will
not lack ample evidence to show that to the women of Israel is due
largely the place that their people hold in history as teachers of
religion and morals; to them is due, also, that conservative quality
which has made the Hebrews a peculiar and permanent people.

One of the old rabbis, commenting upon the Biblical account of woman's
creation from the rib of Adam, remarked: "It is as if Adam had changed a
pot of earth for a jewel." Good Dr. South, of pious memory, unaffected
by the modern views of development, is credited with the remark that
"Aristotle was but the rubbish of an Adam." If this be true, what must
Eve have been!

About the beauty of the first woman, the Scriptures are silent, though,
in _Paradise Lost_, Milton finds no hesitancy in creating her with
surpassing physical grace, so that it was possible for her, like
Narcissus, to fall in love with her own charms. Poets have not been slow
to sing her praises:

      "The world was sad, the garden was a wild
      And man the hermit sighed, till woman smiled."

The Hebrews called the first woman Eve--that is, _living_ or
_expanded_, "the mother of all living." But these Oriental records
attribute to Eve the advent into the world of death and human woes. The
discord that came from the apple once tossed into a famous company of
frolicking Greeks cannot compare with that which grew out of the fatal
fruit, forbidden to the primal tenants of the Garden of Eden.

      "Earth felt the wound--And Nature from her seat
      Sighing through all her works, gave sign of woe,
      That all was lost."

The French saying _cherchez la femme_ has been in some form upon the
lips of men from the earliest dawn of time. "The woman which thou gavest
me," is Adam's lame apology for his weakness, as in one brief sentence
he shifts the blame with dexterity upon God--the giver,--and woman--the

In marked contrast with this dark view of the first woman's legacy to
the world is the account of the first promise, the light that burst
forth suddenly as through a rift in the overshadowing cloud: "The seed
of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Thus Lamartine's remark
that "woman is at the beginning of all great things," becomes as
pertinent as it is true. It is impossible to estimate the effect upon
Israelitish motherhood of the belief in that ancient promise that some
mother's son should yet arise to crush the monster of evil that was
loosed in the world. Many a Hebrew mother came to feel that her own babe
might become the hero chosen to strangle the serpent. This thought made
motherhood the more prized, it became the aim of every Hebrew woman.

What if we could reproduce the sensations of that mother-love when the
first woman enfolded in her bosom the first infant born, and heard its
first cry for a mother's care? Of much interest is the Hebrew narrative
here; for when Eve beheld her firstborn son she is said to have made an
exclamation which many Hebrew scholars interpret as meaning, "I have
obtained the promised One," believing that the pledge of Jehovah
concerning the woman's seed had even then been realized. But the first
son was to bring pangs to his mother's soul by slaying the first
brother. Who can adequately describe the effect which that first death
must have had upon the maternal heart? Instead of the lost Abel came a
new son to console the mother-heart, Seth, the good; and the struggle
between good and evil goes on throughout the Hebrew records, woman
usually taking her place with the forces that made for righteousness.

Concerning the first bad woman, Lilith, held by some to have been the
wife of the first man, very curious are the legends. Later rabbinic
literature is rife with these stories. Among the Babylonians and
Assyrians, Lilith was a _night-fairy_, as the derivation of the name
would indicate, though some derive it from _lilu_, the wind. Popular
superstition among the Hebrews, either through inheritance from the
early days before Abraham, their father, lived in the Mesopotamian
valley, or through the contacts with this region during the Babylonian
exile, looked upon Lilith as a female demon of the night. She was
supposed to be especially hostile to children, and this is why the Latin
translations of the Vulgate version of the Scriptures rendered the word
as _lamia_, a hag or witch who was supposed to be harmful to the little
folk--though grown up people, also, might well beware of her baneful
power. She is mentioned but once in Scriptures, and then in that highly
graphic portrayal by the prophet Isaiah concerning the coming desolation
that should soon befall the land of Edom, which was to become a place
where "the wild beasts of the deserts meet with the wolves, and the
satyr cries to his fellows, and _Lilith_ (rendered in the accepted
version, _Screech Owl_, and in the later version, _Night Monster_) takes
up her abode."

It is Lilith's earlier history that is of especial interest, for, as
runs the Jewish legend which one often meets in Talmudic literature,
Lilith was the first wife of Adam, but becoming angered, she flew away
and became a demon of the night. But the world will probably never
concede that the first woman was a wicked one. The subtlety of an evil
woman's charms is probably the underlying motive of the story of this
"sweet snake of Eden," of whom Rossetti, in his _Eden Bower_, affirms
consolingly, "not a drop of her blood was human."

"Who was Cain's wife?" is one of the perplexing questions asked by those
who delight in hard sayings. The late Professor Winchell believed in a
race of pre-Adamites, and many persons are committed to the theory of
several centres of human origin. To those holding such views the
question of Cain's marriage does not present particular difficulties.
But those who hold to the theory that there was but one pair from whom
all the family of mankind has sprung find difficulty in reconciling
their theory with Biblical statements, and they are driven to
acknowledging the necessity for marital relations between near kindred
when the race was in its beginning--relations which would offend the
best moral sentiment of to-day.

There is a curious passage in the Book of Genesis which tells of the
marriage of the "sons of God" with the "daughters of men." Have we here
the echo of that ancient tradition that once the gods and men
intermarried and from the union the great heroes of the past were born?
The close position of this statement concerning the "sons of God" and
the "daughters of men" with the account of the great growth of evil in
the world has led some to hold that these "daughters of men" were women
from the unrighteous line of the murderous Cain, while the "sons of God"
were men from the more upright family of Seth. Others, however, seeing
also in close connection the statement that giants were on the earth in
those days, find here a remnant of a very general tradition that from
the gods had descended great heroes and giants who in past ages had
fallen in love with daughters of human parentage. Since the Hebrews,
however, were so strong in their monotheistic conceptions, this latter
theory loses a great part of its force.

The state of society presented in the earliest Hebrew records indicates
that the practice of polygamy was general. There are some who see
indications among the Hebrew customs that there was a period, earlier
than that of which any Hebrew records tell, in which polyandry and not
polygamy was the fashion--when one woman had several husbands, rather
than one husband several wives. The so-called Levirate marriage which
was in vogue among the Hebrews is perhaps the strongest evidence that
the customs of polyandry and mother-right were practised among them.

In common, then, with other peoples, the Hebrews practised polygamy; and
while the influence of the best thought and teaching was, except in the
earlier, patriarchal period, distinctly against it, the practice was
still customary even down to the Christian era. The law of Moses, while
not forbidding plurality of wives, discouraged the custom, and
especially forbade the king from "multiplying wives."

The earliest example of polygamy of which the Hebrew records speak is
that involving one of the most unique and interesting families of this
early twilight of human existence. One Lamech, a descendant of Cain, is
said to have married two wives, who bore the rather musical names of
Adah and Zillah. And here we are introduced into the presence of a most
remarkable household. For not only is Lamech to be awarded the
distinction of having made the earliest attempt at verse which the
Hebrew tradition has recorded, but Adah and Zillah became the mothers of
a most talented family; the former of Jabel, "the father of such as
dwell in tents and have cattle," and of Jubal, the inventor and patron
saint of the harp and the pipe; while Zillah was the mother of
Tubal-Cain, the first forger of implements of brass and iron. Lamech,
the father, having doubtless received a sword from the forge of his son,
used it in revenge upon an enemy, and gave utterance to the first
recorded lines of poetry, which are possibly a fragment from what has
been called _The Lay of the Sword_. It is a crude poem, dedicated by
Lamech to his wives--for it was not uncommon among the early Semites to
call the women to witness a hero's deeds of prowess:

      "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice,
       Ye wives of Lamech, hearken to my speech,
       For I have slain a man for wounding me,
       Even a young man for bruising me.
       If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,
       Truly Lamech, seventy and seven."

It is not to be wondered at that in the very midst of dry genealogical
tables the writer of Genesis should have stopped for a moment to tell of
this epoch-making household.

Whether the women of this unique family, Adah, Zillah, and her daughter
Naamah, were equally gifted with the men of the household, we are not
told; but surely there must have been some genius in those feminine
members of the home, who were so closely connected with the beginnings,
not only of the fine arts of poetry and music, but also of the
industrial pursuits of cattle raising and of metal working.

The early Hebrews were nomads. At first glance it might appear that
woman's part in such an order of society would be scant, and her life
one of comparative inactivity. But this view would lead into error, for
in the nomadic life, while the men were guarding their flocks from the
depredations of hostile bands or from the ravages of wild beasts, the
women were the home makers and the home keepers.

Mason, in his _Woman's Share in Primitive Culture_, commenting upon
Herbert Spencer's division of the life history of civilization into the
period of Militancy, and the later period of Industrialism, raises the
question whether it may not after all be more in accord with the
facts--at least in the early history of the race--to speak of a _sex_ of
militancy and a _sex_ of industrialism. The Hebrew woman, from her place
in the tent or seated about the tent door, not only tended the fire, but
invented, developed, and carried on many a handicraft into which not
until later the men themselves entered.

For centuries the story of the lives of the patriarchs has thrilled and
edified many a young heart, but what of the credit due to the
_matriarchs_? What part do we find them playing in the early life of
these Oriental peoples! The patriarch was not only father of his family
or clan, but was their king and high priest. Yet it would be a mistake
to suppose that the mother of the family was not an important factor in
that early society, as the lives of many a Hebrew woman will easily
demonstrate. The names of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Miriam, Huldah, and a
host of others will readily occur to the mind of anyone at all familiar
with the literature of the Old Testament.

A fair type of the life of the wife and partner of an ancient chief
(_sheik_) of the higher order is found in that of Sarah, wife of the
first and greatest Hebrew patriarch, "Abraham, the faithful." Living the
life of nomad and shepherd, this pioneer of a new monotheism took his
spouse away from the land of her fathers in the valley of Mesopotamia.
Sarah's reverence for her husband became proverbial, and her conduct has
been taken as the type of what was best in the domestic life of
Israel--chaste behavior coupled with reverence. And Peter, known as the
Apostle to the Hebrews, writing over two thousand years after the body
of Sarah had been laid in its last home in the cave of Machpelah, gives
a glimpse of the Hebrew conception of the ideal relation between husband
and wife typified in Abraham and Sarah. While enjoining upon the women
to whom he wrote the need of a "meek and quiet spirit," a spirit not
discoverable in jewels and elaborate apparel, but in what he terms "the
hidden man of the heart," he said: "For after this manner in the old
time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being
in subjection unto their own husbands: even as Sarah obeyed Abraham,
calling him lord; whose daughters ye are as long as ye do well." Thus
did the virtues of Sarah impress themselves upon later generations.
Sarah is not to be classed among the strong-minded women. Probably she
was not virile in any true sense of the term, since in the traditions of
her people she does not seem to have made for herself a place as leader
that at all corresponds to the rank of her husband. He was to all
Hebrews "Father Abraham," the first and foremost of his race; and no Jew
could esteem his future life as giving promise of happiness unless his
head might at length rest in Abraham's bosom. There is an ancient legend
which says that Sarah, hearing of the plan of Abraham to sacrifice Isaac
on the sacred spot of Moriah, died from the shock to her maternal heart.
The father returned, bringing his only son alive with him, but Sarah had
passed away. The narrative distinctly says that Abraham "_came_ to mourn
for Sarah and weep for her," as though the end had come during the
absence of her husband. The Hebrew respect for women is illustrated in
the costly burial accorded Sarah in a cave which was purchased from the
sons of Heth--a place reverenced by the people of Israel for many
centuries, because Sarah was buried there.

There is but one blot upon the life of this first mother of the Hebrews.
Sarah was a faithful wife and devoted mother, but on at least one
occasion she revealed a character capable of hasty, jealous, and cruel
conduct. It is the time for the weaning of her only son--an occasion of
more than usual interest in a Hebrew home. The family feast is at its
height; Sarah discovers that her handmaid, an Egyptian woman, Hagar,
whom she herself had given to Abraham as wife, for thus we may call her,
was jesting at her expense. Quickly and hotly she demands that the
bondwoman and her son Ishmael be immediately driven from the home, to
which request Abraham reluctantly yields. Like most other women, Sarah,
though now aged, could brook no rival in her home, and her womanly
instinct at once discerned that only a step thus sharp and decisive
would prevent, in the circle of domestic life, endless friction, more
bitter than the sufferings occasioned by her cruel action.

Hagar in the thirsty wilderness, laying her perishing child under a bit
of shrubbery and then departing a little distance that her mother-eyes
may not behold the end, has powerfully awakened the imagination of the
artist, as, indeed, she touched the heart of the Almighty, as the record
tells us. For although Hagar wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba,
the region of "the seven wells," no water had she found--so far was she
from the life-giving draught; and yet was she so near--for lo! her eyes
now fell upon a well of water, from which she and the lad quenched their
mortal thirst. Thus was preserved him who was to become the father of
the Ishmaelites, a people whose hand was to be against every man, and
every man's hand against them. The breach that day in the tent of
Abraham, between his two wives, one bond and the other free, was to be
deep and abiding, as N. P. Willis, in describing Hagar's feelings in the
wilderness, has written:

      "May slighted woman turn
       And, as a vine the oak hath shaken off,
       Bend lightly to her leaning trust again?
       O, no!"

And an apostle versed in rabbinic lore uses the story of Sarah as
typical of the abiding difference between the principles of law and the
precepts of grace.

Probably no feature in the social life of a people is of so universal an
interest as its marriage customs, and there is no courtship, either
ancient or modern, which has more enkindled the imagination and awakened
the interest of men than that between Isaac and Rebekah. The English
prayerbook, in its ceremony of marriage, has chosen Isaac and Rebekah as
the ideal pair to whose fidelity the young couples of the later years
are directed for inspiration and example. It is a truly picturesque and
even romantic story, which never loses its charm; and Rebekah, whether
at the well or in her household, will always present a unique picture of
womanly grace and beauty.

This ancient wooing of Rebekah by Isaac, though it is by no means
typical in all its details, contains many elements that mark Oriental
weddings. The prominence of the parents in the negotiations is
characteristic. It cannot be said, however, that the choice of either
Isaac or Rebekah was constrained.

When Isaac and his parents have reached the conclusion to which Richter
has given voice--"No man can live piously or die righteously without a
wife"--the faithful Eliezer is made to thrust his hand under the thigh
of his master and swear that he will see that Isaac is wedded not to a
daughter of the people around, but to a woman of his own kindred living
in the regions of Aramea. This habit of marrying within one's own tribe
became firmly fixed in Hebrew custom. The use of marriage presents, here
so rich and costly, is almost as old as marriage itself; and how much
Rebekah and Laban, her brother, were influenced by this manifestation of
the riches of her wooer none can ever know. The part taken by Laban in
this marital transaction is by no means unusual. Brothers in the East
often played an important rôle on such occasions. When Shechem, the
Hivite, wished to marry Dinah, daughter of Jacob, he consulted not only
her father, but her brothers as well; and the brothers of the heroine of
the _Song of Songs_ are represented as saying: "What shall we do for our
sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?"

The courage of Rebekah in consenting to mount the camel of a stranger
and go into a far country to be wed is noteworthy. With all the apparent
grace and gentleness of Rebekah, here was a pluck most commendable. We
may say with Dickens: "When a young lady is as mild as she is game and
as game as she is mild, that's all I ask and more than I expect." But it
turned out to be but one of the many cases, since the world began, of
"love at first sight"; and affection strengthened with the years! The
frequent and cynical remark that marriage is after all but a lottery
will probably long survive. Isaac did not act upon the sentiment
expressed in the remark of Francesco Sforza: "Should one desire to take
unto himself a wife, to buy a horse, or to invest in a melon, the wise
man will recommend himself to Providence and draw his bonnet over his
eyes." The daughters of Heth and of Canaan around him were not to his
liking, and Providence seems greatly to have helped him in the
emergency, for in the unseen Rebekah (whose very name means "to tie" or
"to bind") Isaac found a lifelong blessing; and probably nothing could
better disclose the wisdom of his matrimonial choice than the words of
the Bible narrative, "and he loved her, and Isaac _was comforted_ after
his mother's death."

There is one blot upon Rebekah's record as a wife and mother, which,
however, no less reveals a fault in Isaac's character as a father. It is
a defect that was doubtless inherent in the ancient Oriental system
itself. It was more usual than otherwise for mothers as well as for
fathers to have _favorite_ children. When both parents centred their
affection upon the same child, usually a boy, it was ill for the rest;
when mother and father were divided, it was ill for family felicity.
Rebekah loved Jacob, the younger; Isaac loved Esau, the elder. And it is
in this unfortunate distribution of parental affection that is to be
found the beginning of a violent fratricidal feud, a long separation, as
well as the causes which led to the bringing within the confines of
Hebrew history two of the most important women of ancient Israel,--Leah
and Rachel. Here again we find illustrated the fixed habit among the
Hebrews to seek wives among their own people.

Among the Hebrews it was the custom that one who would acquire a wife
must pay for her, either in money or in service. Usually, the young
girl's consent was not thought to be a necessary part of the matrimonial
bargain, and a father delivered a daughter to the purchasing suitor, as
he might a slave that he had sold to the highest bidder. The woman
herself played but a secondary part. It is thus quite plain that in this
early day, marriage did not depend upon a contract entered into between
one man and one woman, but between two or more men. And yet, in ancient
Israel, while daughters were sold for wives,--or, to put it less
harshly, given away for a consideration,--there is no intimation that a
wife was in any sense regarded as a slave; nor are there instances of a
husband selling his wife for a consideration. Parents were usually the
parties to matrimonial bargains. In the case of Jacob and Rachel,
however, we do not find the parents making the match, for the parents of
the pair are widely separated. Jacob falls in love with Rachel at his
first sight of her, as she, at close of day, leads the flock of Laban,
her father, to drink from the open well hard by the dwelling. Laban
readily agrees to surrender his daughter to Jacob,--who doubtless had no
purchase money to procure a wife,--if the young man will serve him for
seven years. But at the close of the stipulated period, the wily Laban
falls back upon an unwritten law among the people of the day, that the
daughters must be taken in marriage in the order of their seniority.
Thus Leah, the elder sister, is accorded to Jacob, and seven years'
additional service is necessary for the possession of Rachel.
Persistence wins, and Jacob is at length in possession of both Laban's
daughters, but the victory was the beginning of a life of struggle. Some
one has remarked: "The music at a marriage always reminds me of the
music of soldiers entering upon a battle;" it was so with Jacob. There
must be a battle with Laban, the uncle and father-in-law, in which the
daughters both take the part of the husband against their father, and
agree to flee from that parent's house with the man to whom they had
linked their destinies. There must be a battle with Esau, when mothers
and little ones were to be exposed to great dangers and hardships;
indeed, a long life of vicissitudes awaited the women whose lives were
one with Jacob's, and contests between rival sons of rival mothers were
to follow.

It has already been remarked that Sarah, wife of Abraham (whose name,
Sarah, means "the princess"), occupies no such place in the imagination
and tradition of the Hebrews as did Abraham, their _father_. It is
around Leah and Rachel that the tribes of Israel group themselves, and
the book of Ruth speaks of them as having built the house of Israel, and
Leah and Rachel were the mothers of the twelve patriarchs for whom the
tribes were subsequently named. Especially does Rachel occupy a high
place, not only because she was Jacob's most favorite wife, but because
of those personal qualities which more readily stirred the poetic and
religious imagination of the people. The poet-prophet, Jeremiah, writing
of the loss of life among the sons of Israel, because of the invasion
and cruelty of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, represents the people's
sadness at the terrible calamity as "Rachel weeping for her children
because they are not"--an expression which may have been suggested by
Rachel's early condition of childlessness, followed by the loss of both
her sons, Joseph and Benjamin, in the land of Egypt. The expression has
borrowed new force, because it is quoted as again exemplified in "the
slaughter of the innocents" by Herod the Great at the time of the birth
of Jesus.



In the early history of the Hebrews, the people followed the free,
roving life of the shepherd. In a climate where water supply was by no
means sure, where a flowing stream which gave drink to the flocks to-day
might be a rocky ravine to-morrow, families must needs have no certain
abiding place. Woman the homekeeper must of course be affected by this
Bedouin manner of life. Many daughters, like Rebekah and Rachel, were
shepherdesses of their father's flocks of sheep and goats. When the
Israelites went down into Egypt because the fertile valley of the Nile
made famines less frequent than in the land of Canaan, they were
somewhat ashamed, we are told, of the fact that they were shepherds, on
account of Egyptian prejudices against that occupation, but in their
native country they were proud of their occupation, and rather looked
down upon merchantmen. The hated "Canaanite" became the synonym for
"trafficker." It was the later exigencies of exile and dispersion that
forced the Jews to buy and sell, and right well did they learn the
lesson the world forced upon them. But in the beginning it was not so.
And hence we find Israel, even after the twelve patriarchs had settled
in the plains of Goshen, their Egyptian home, keeping their flocks and
developing their home life in their own way in the kingdom of the

Among the many notable women of Israel's heroic age, Miriam must not be
forgotten. The romantic story of the hiding of her infant brother, in
the rushes of the Nile, when King Pharaoh would have destroyed every
Hebrew boy, is a familiar chapter. The sisterly tenderness and devotion
which stationed the girl of twelve years to watch what might happen to
the infant brother, to fight away wild beasts, and at length to direct
the living treasure to the bosom of its own mother, is one of the best
examples in literature of womanly tact and sisterly devotion.

The daughter of Pharaoh, a child of the Nile, comes down to the sacred
stream to wash her garments or bathe her body in the saving water, and
quickly, indeed quite willingly, falls into the well-wrought plan of
Jokabed, the mother of the child Moses, and Miriam, the sister--a
counterplot to that of the princess's father, and so ancient history is
written with new headlines.

It is Miriam who enjoys the distinction of being the first prophetess
in Israel, as her brother Moses is the first who was called a prophet,
and her brother Aaron the first high priest. The part she took in
leading the intractable people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage into
the land of the Canaanites, must have been considerable, though
according to the record she was nearing the century mark before the
journeying began. As a poetess and musician, also, Miriam holds no mean
place, for we are told that when her people had successfully crossed the
arm of the sea, and Pharaoh's pursuing hosts had been cut off in the
descending floods, Miriam organized the women into a chorus, and going
before them with timbrel in her hand she led in voicing the refrain sent
back in antiphonal strains to the song of the great camp, while her
companions followed with timbrels and dances. This aged woman had music
and patriotic fervor still present in her soul, as victory was assured
to her people. The Hebrew song that grew out of this incident which is
recorded in the Book of Exodus has been termed "Israel's Natal Hymn," a
sort of poetic Declaration of Independence, and is far more majestic in
its qualities than Moore's poem based upon the same event:

      "Sound the loud timbrel; O'er Egypt's dark sea
      Jehovah hath triumphed--His people are free."

By a singular confusion, the Koran identifies Miriam, sister of Moses,
with Mary, the mother of Jesus. This may be partly due to the fact that
the New Testament Scriptures as well as the Septuagint Greek translation
of the Old spell both names alike, "Miriam."

But great women, like great men, sometimes make mistakes, and their
blunders are often just at the point where they have achieved greatness.
Miriam's distinction lay in her insight into the merits of her brother's
mission and in her unselfish devotion to the cause to which he had been
dedicated. Her greatest grief befell her by her unfortunate effort to
break that very influence and to destroy his leadership, because she was
displeased with a marriage he had contracted. She was smitten with
leprosy, but the esteem with which she was held may be discovered when
we read that the whole camp grieved at her calamity and consequent
isolation from the people, and "journeyed not till Miriam was brought in

Miriam, the first prophetess and one of the strongest women that Israel
ever produced, died during the wilderness wandering, and was buried in
the region west of the Jordan. For many generations her tomb was pointed
out in the land of Moab. Jerome, the Christian father, tells us that he
saw the reputed grave close to Petra in Arabia. But, like the place of
the entombment of her more distinguished brother, "no man knoweth it
unto this day."

Among no people has the national consciousness been more thoroughly
developed or more deeply seated than among the Hebrews. It is not to be
wondered at, therefore, that among the women of Israel may be discovered
the most ardent spirit of patriotism. Miriam's part in the founding of
the Hebrew Commonwealth has already been noticed. When in the wanderings
of the wilderness it became necessary to erect a temporary structure for
the worship of Jehovah, the God of Israel, the women willingly tore
their jewels from their ears, their ornaments from their arms and
ankles, and devoted them to the rearing of the tabernacle. With their
own fingers they spun in blue, purple, and scarlet, and wrought fine
linen for the hangings and the service of their temple in the desert. In
a theocracy, piety and patriotism were one. Not even the Spartan mother,
who wished her son to return from the wars bringing his shield with him
or being borne upon it, nor the women of Carthage, who plucked out their
hair for bowstrings, could surpass the women of Israel in their
sacrifices for national independence and political glory. In the days of
Octavia, the ministers of Rome levied a tax upon Roman matrons to carry
on a foreign war, and demanded a sacrifice of their jewels; and the
Roman women thronged the public places, appealing to the high and
influential in their vigorous protest against this taxation, and thus
saved their ornaments. But the women of Israel did not need to be urged
to tear off their ornaments and devote them to the common welfare. It
was a woman who received the first recognition for services rendered the
victorious hosts of Joshua, after the first campaign against the
Canaanites had been waged. This was Rahab, a woman of Jericho, who,
though her past life had been far from exemplary, seemed to see in the
approaching Israelites a people of destiny. She therefore hid the Hebrew
spies who had come to inspect the land, and, letting them down over the
walls of the city, saved their lives. Thus did Rahab, the harlot of
Jericho, preserve her own life when Joshua entered the city a victor;
and, being admitted among the people of Israel, she became the
ancestress of their greatest king, David, and, through him, the
ancestress of Christ.

During that era in Israel's life, when the people were no longer merely
an aggregation of shepherd clans, but had not yet been moulded into a
national existence by a strong feeling of unity or the recognition of a
common need, woman's life was exceptionally severe in its hardships and
dangers. The unorganized tribes, engaged in their agricultural and
pastoral pursuits, with hostile clans about them and hostile cities and
strongholds as yet unsubdued, were subject to frequent incursions from
bands of marauders and from armies of neighboring tribes, which would
suddenly swoop down upon them like vultures on their prey. It was under
such conditions as this that the women suffered untold indignities and
misery. Kidnappers sold the women and children to slave traders of the
coast, who carried them to Egyptian and Greek ports; so that even before
the great dispersion of the children of Jacob which the kings of Assyria
and of Babylonia brought about in the eighth and sixth centuries prior
to the Christian era, the Hebrews were being scattered throughout the

It was in the period of transition and chaos which immediately
followed the entrance of the people into the land of Palestine that
Israel's most manlike woman appears as a veritable savior of her people.
She is the second woman to whom the title of _prophetess_ is accorded.
The record reveals the fact that she was not only a woman strong in
deeds of valor, but a leader in the religious life of Israel. The days
were dark enough for the descendants of Abraham. For two decades now had
Jabin, with his "nine hundred chariots of iron," struck with terror the
ill-equipped, disorganized Hebrews. But there dwelt "under the palm
tree" between Ramah and Bethel among the hills of Ephraim a woman who,
by force of will and recognized wisdom, _judged_ the people of Israel.
"The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until
that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel." It is from the
sanctuary of this woman's mind and heart that deliverance from the king
of the Canaanites is to break forth. She is called Deborah, _i.e._,
"woman of torches," or "flames," either because she made wicks for the
lamps of the sanctuary, or because of her fiery, ardent nature.
Certainly there was warmth in her heart and fire in her love of her
native land. She speedily sends for Barak, a chief man of Naphtali, and
enjoins upon him to prepare an army of ten thousand men to meet Jabin's
army, which is approaching under its captain Sisera, on the banks of the
river Kishon. Barak hesitates, but at length answers: "If thou wilt go
with me, I will go,"--so necessary did this strong, magnetic woman's
presence seem for the enlistment of the people in the holy order of the
enterprise. Deborah did not flinch in the presence of this challenge.
The army is raised. The battle is joined, and Sisera's host is
discomfited before Israel. The captain himself becomes a fugitive before
the victors. But the end is not yet. Another woman appears upon the
stage of this tragedy. The fleeing Sisera seeks shelter in the secret
place of Jael's tent. Weary to exhaustion, the captain of the enemies of
her people sinks down to sleep, the more profound because of the great
draught of buttermilk or curds which Jael gave the thirsty man; and then
with tent pin, a hammer, and an unquivering hand, Jael struck the sharp
instrument through the sleeping man's temple and pinned him swooning to
the dirt floor of her tent.

It was this bloody, but daring, deed which gave rise to one of the
earliest of Israel's epic songs, the Song of Deborah. It is a remarkable
poem, given in full in the Book of Judges. It sets forth praises to
Jehovah for deliverance, and to Jael for the deadly stroke. A few lines
from this epic, which many consider the earliest piece of Old Testament
writing, will disclose the patriotic spirit of Israel's womanhood in
those days of social and political disorder. The people are represented
as crying out to the strong woman who lived under the solitary palm:

      "Awake, awake, Deborah,
       Awake, awake, utter a song."

Deborah comes at the call of distress. The people are rapidly marshalled
to her help. But some hold back:

      "Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds,
      To hear the bleatings of the flocks?
      Gilead abode beyond Jordan
      And why did Dan remain in ships?"

The battle is joined. Canaan is worsted before the followers of the
woman of the hour.

      "The stars in their courses fought against Sisera.
      The river Kishon swept them away,
      That ancient river, the river Kishon.
      O my soul, march on with strength."

Then, turning upon the indifferent and laggard hosts that held back and
refused to strike the blow for liberty, the poetess exclaims:

      "Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord,
      Curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof,
      Because they came not to the help of the Lord,
      To the help of the Lord against the mighty."

Concerning the woman whose unfailing hand had struck the fatal blow, the
poetess sings:

      "Blessed above women shall Jael be,
      The wife of Heber the Kenite.
      Blessed shall she be above women in the tent.

      "He asked water
      And she gave him milk,
      She brought forth butter in a lordly dish."

The tent pin has pierced the temples of the oppressor of Israel:

      "At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down,
      At her feet he bowed, he fell,
      When he bowed, he fell down--dead."

Very dramatic do the lines become when, imagining the mother of Sisera
waiting for her son to return victorious from the battle, and looking
out through the lattice of her dwelling wondering at his long delay, she

      "Why is his chariot so long in coming,
      Why tarry the wheels of his chariots?"

But Sisera never returns to his maternal roof. For forty years did the
people enjoy the freedom of Deborah's deliverance, the woman whose
influence went out from "the sanctuary of the palm."

It is said of this period, commonly known as the Age of the Judges,
that "every man did that which was right in his own eyes." This would be
known in political theory as well as in practical government as nothing
short of anarchy. And indeed, it was, for while each man did that which
was right in his own eyes, the "right" of each was so frequently wrong,
that social chaos reigned with almost unbroken sway. And while one woman
of the period became a deliverer for four decades, for more than a
century many women suffered untold misery for lack of unity among the
tribes and leaders capable of bringing the life of the reign to rights.

It is often affirmed that sons more frequently inherit characteristics
of their mothers, while to the daughters are bequeathed the traits of
their fathers. An unnamed woman of this period of the political chaos,
the wife of a certain Manoah, from the family of the Danites, was chosen
to be the mother of a giant. Now, giants were rare in Israel, though in
the earlier days of Palestinian occupation, _Nephelim_, and "the sons of
Anak," are mentioned as among those enemies of the Hebrews. Their huge
forms, it is written, were a menace to Israel's peace, and in comparison
with these monsters her sons were said to be "as grass-hoppers." One
day, as the story runs, an angel appears to this nameless, hitherto
childless, wife of Manoah, and informs her that a son who is to be born,
and nourished at her own bosom, is to have a remarkable history. She
herself is to take care neither to drink wine nor any strong drink, for
her son is to be dedicated to the abstemious life of the Nazarite. The
woman is obedient to the angelic voice; and she with her husband offers
up a burnt offering to Jehovah in grateful praise. The son is born. He
is taught that no intoxicating draught shall enter his lips, nor should
a razor touch his head, that his long-grown locks might speak outwardly
of his vows. But wine is not the only temptation that is to beset this
giant youth. The daughters of neighboring Philistia were to his eyes
more than passing fair.

The influence of these young women, whose features, we may suppose,
bore some characteristics of Grecian beauty,--as their progenitors had
landed on the shores of Canaan from the island of Crete, gradually
adopting a Semitic language and civilization,--was very potent over the
heart of the muscular but susceptible young Hebrew. A love affair in
which the long-haired Nazarite plays a prominent rôle will introduce us,
somewhat at least, into woman's world of this disorganized period in the
early life of Western Palestine at a day more than a thousand years
before the Christian Era.

This affair of the heart was brought to light when one day the young man
came in to tell his father and his mother that a fair damsel in Timnah,
a city of the Philistines, had captured the very citadel of his being.
Neither the protestations of his parents, nor their careful descanting
upon the virtues of the daughters of his own people could move the young
man. His heart was set. Neither parents at home nor the lion that met
him on the way to secure his bride could thwart his firm-set purpose.
Mother and father are for the moment forgotten, and the lion is torn
asunder by the strong arms of this young giant. Every obstacle is
surmounted and Delilah is in the arms of Samson.

Now, George Sand was doubtless correct in the rather prosaic remark: "It
is not so easy to see through a woman as through a man." Samson did not
quite penetrate the wiles of his lady love. Her beauty hid all else, and
Samson fell. "The whisper of a beautiful woman," says Diana of Poitiers,
"can be heard further than the loudest call of duty." The Nazarite vow,
so strong and binding, became in Delilah's hands, as she held the
shears, weaker than the withes she bound about the arms of the captured
giant. Robert Burns has, in a characteristic fashion, given what might
well be inscribed to Samson's memory:

      "As Father Adam first was fooled,
      A case that's still too common,
      Here lies a man a woman ruled
      The devil ruled the woman."

Delilah, the Philistine, is to be contrasted with the typical Hebrew
women, not only in the matter of feminine chastity for which they stand
out among ancient women as preëminent, but also in that fidelity to
husband and to native land which made the Hebrews the most stable and
persistent race with which the world is acquainted.

In marked contrast with this witch of the Philistine plains, stands out
the heroic daughter of Jephtha. Her purity, patriotism, and her deep
respect for the sacredness of a religious oath, place her at the very
opposite pole. "Great women," says Leigh Hunt, "belong to the history of
self-sacrifice." If this be true, Jephtha's daughter must be enrolled
among the great, as her heroic self-devotion shines through the dimness
of ancient history. Her father was one of Israel's deliverers in the
days of tribal division and political chaos. Returning from victory over
the hostile Ammonites, Jephtha purposes to give, as sacrifice to Jehovah
for bringing him success in arms, the first creature that comes forth to
meet him as he turns his face homeward. It is his own daughter, his only
child, going out to meet him with the timbrel and with dances. In his
eyes a "very daughter of the gods, divinely tall, and most divinely
fair." Will he break his vow? Will the young woman herself, this Hebrew
Alcestis, shrink from the sacrifice? "My father, thou hast opened thy
mouth unto the Lord, do unto me according to that which hath proceeded
out of thy mouth."

For a woman to die childless in Israel was looked upon as a calamity, a
mark of divine displeasure, and the daughter of Jephtha was a virgin. It
is for this reason that she begged the coveted privilege of two months'
respite that, with her maidens, she might withdraw to the neighboring
mountain and there "bewail her virginity." At the end of the required
period, returning to her father's house, she yields herself a sacrifice
to the hasty but well-meant vow of her patriotic father. So deeply did
her pure devotion to filial and patriotic ideals impress the daughters
of Israel, that every year they went out to lament, four days, in honor
of the daughter of Jephtha, the Gileadite, of whom N. P. Willis has drawn
this appreciative picture:

      "Now she who was to die, the calmest one
      In Israel at that hour, stood up alone
      And waited for the sun to set. Her face
      Was pale but very beautiful, her lip
      Had a more delicate outline and the tint
      Was deeper; but her countenance was like
      The majesty of angels!"

Among no ancient people was the love of chastity in women so thorough
and imperative. There is probably no better illustration of this fact
than in the very ingenious method by which the men of Benjamin obtained
their wives, at a time when total extinction of the tribe seemed to
stare them in the face. An aged Levite, with his wife, who had been
unfaithful to him, but by his efforts had been reclaimed and with him
was returning home, is passing through the land of Benjamin. When they
reach the city of Jebus, afterward named Jerusalem, the famous centre of
Israel's later life, no one offered the customary hospitality, so the
man and his wife were about to lodge in the street, a disgrace to the
city, according to the common customs of entertainment. It is then a
temporary resident of the city invites the homeless ones into his house.
When the Benjamites saw them go in, they took the woman from the house
and shamefully maltreated her, leaving her helpless upon the steps till
morning. The Levite, incensed at the terrible crime, took the woman, cut
her in pieces and sent the fragments throughout the tribes, telling the
story of the deed of some of the sons of Benjamin. It is pronounced by
all the worst blot upon the land since the sojourn in Egypt. The whole
people is aroused to anger. They collect men of war from the tribes, and
go up to battle against their brethren of Benjamin, till the entire
tribe seems about to be exterminated. Especially was the destruction of
their women grievous. What must be done when the dust of battle has
rolled away? Shall a tribe be lost to Israel? This must not be. The
sacred number must be preserved. How shall Benjamin obtain wives, for
all the rest of Israel had made a solemn oath that they would never give
their daughters to the sons of Benjamin because of this horrible crime
which had been so peremptorily punished. At length, the elders of all
the people devise a plan. Marriage with the Gentile peoples is, of
course, not sanctioned, and all the tribes of Israel have refused to
give their daughters to Benjamin--there is yet a way out of the dilemma.
Some one remembers that every year at harvest time there is given a
feast at Shiloh, where many Hebrew damsels come together to enjoy the
religious and festal dances. It is agreed that the sons of Benjamin
shall hide themselves in the adjacent vineyards, and while the maidens
are dancing, each man is to run out, seize a wife and make his way
swiftly homeward. But what say the fathers and brothers of the purloined
damsels to this high-handed procedure of the young men of Benjamin? The
elders agree to step in then and to advise all to acquiesce in
quietness, for the people had not violated their oaths. Their daughters
had not been given to Benjamin; they were stolen! So Benjamin obtained
wives and the tribal existence was preserved by the same method in which
Rome was repeopled at the expense of the Sabines.

Israel holds a high place among the people of the earth because of the
prevalence of piety among its women. Religion is deeply grounded in the
intuitions and feelings of the race, and derives force, at least, from
the sense of dependence upon higher powers, as Schliermacher has taught.
Since women are far truer in their intuitions and feelings than men and
the sense of dependence is more highly developed, it is not strange that
women everywhere are more religious than men. Among the holy women of
old none can be accorded higher place than Hannah, the mother of Samuel.

One may at first be astonished that childlessness is so frequently
mentioned as characteristic of women in the Scriptures. Among them,
Sarah, Rebekah, Rachael, the unnamed wife of Manoah, Hannah, and
Elisabeth,--mother of John the Forerunner,--are all familiar examples.
But barrenness was probably not more common among the Hebrews than among
other peoples. Only, in Israel, childlessness was accounted a calamity,
if not a direct visitation of the Almighty. Hence, every pious woman
wished to be released from the curse. The women themselves ridiculed and
ever despised those who were not blessed with offspring. Besides, every
man among the Hebrews wished to live in his descendants. To die without
children was to be "cut off" from the face of the earth, and to be
forgotten. There was a yearning to live forever in the land.

The contrast between the great emphasis which the Egyptian laid upon
immortality, the large place it held not only in their religious
teachings, but in the development of their civilization, as modern
excavations have revealed it, and the lack of such emphasis in the
writings of the Hebrew Scriptures has frequently been noticed, and by
many greatly wondered at. But the Hebrews gave little thought to
immortality in the next world. Their prophets spent most of their time
stressing the importance of righteousness in this life, and the people
emphasized the earthward side of immortality--that is, one's power to
live forever in one's posterity.

The writer in the one hundred and twenty-eighth Psalm expressed the
common Hebrew conception, as, in recounting the blessings of a truly
happy man, he said: "Thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy
shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a
fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive
plants round about thy table." Or as another psalmist, in the same
spirit, prays: "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;
that our daughters may be as cornerstones, polished after the similitude
of a palace." Many a time in the Hebrew Scriptures is this ideal
prominent. For a psalmist again writes: "As arrows in the hand of a
mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his
quiver full of them. They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak
with the enemies in the gate." And when the prophet Zachariah foretells
the coming glory of Jerusalem, which should supersede the then present
distress, he gives as one item of blessing: "And the streets of the city
shall be full of boys and girls, playing in the streets thereof."

It may therefore be readily surmised how a woman of Hannah's piety
might feel in the thought of her condition of childlessness. And while
the hardships of the barren woman in Israel could in no way compare with
those of some other peoples, as in Australia, where the childless woman
of the aborigines is driven out to a dire struggle for existence, yet
the feeling that her God was, for some cause, against her and that her
husband might in his secret heart despise her, must have been agony
indeed. "The brain-woman," says Oliver Wendell Holmes, "never interests
us like the heart-woman; white roses please us less than red." Hannah
was preëminently a heart woman; the red blood of warm devotion coursed
through her veins. When at length her prayers, made in bitterness of
suffering, were answered, and heaven gave her a son, she named him
Samuel, for, she said, "God hath heard," and dedicated him wholly to
Jehovah, placing him at the service of the tabernacle. When the time
came to wean the lad, she journeyed with him to Shiloh, the place of the
sanctuary, with her offering, as the custom was, and "lent him" forever
to Jehovah, her God.

"I think it must somewhere be written that the virtues of the mothers
are occasionally visited upon their children, as well as the sins of the
fathers." These words of Dickens suggest one of the occasions in which
motherly virtues seem to have been visited upon the child, for Samuel
became the earliest representative of a long line of prophets who, for
many centuries, were the spiritual leaders of Israel. He was the father
and founder of a "school of the prophets," the earliest theological
seminary of which we have any record. The prayer of thanksgiving which
the records say Hannah uttered when God blessed her with this precious
gift of a son, influenced not only the famous _Magnificat_ of Mary, when
she was told of the birth of her greater Son, but also that of Zacharias
when the birth of John the Baptist was predicted by the angel who talked
with him in the temple.

History records several famous cases of friendship between men; that
between David and Jonathan, and that between Damon and Pythias of
Syracuse, have become proverbial. Fewer have been the friendship among
women. Indeed, some have argued the impossibility of such friendships.
But there is probably no more attractive story of womanly devotion in
all the range of literature than that which tells of the love between
Ruth and Naomi. The Book of Ruth is a beautiful idyll of early Hebrew
life, and the heroine here stands the test. The scene is laid in the
time when judges ruled in Israel; and in this, as in many instances in
the early days of Palestine, an epoch was born out of a famine.
Elimelech, with his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion,
hunger-driven, set out for the land of Moab. Death lays its claim to the
husband and father, and Naomi, with her boys, is left widowed in a
strange land. Mahlon and Chilion, now grown to manhood, marry two
daughters of Moab, by name Orpah and Ruth. A decade passes, and the sons
themselves die. Bereaved and broken in spirit, Naomi at length turns her
heart toward her native Judean hills. Finding her daughters-in-law
inclined to follow her into the uncertainty of her future subsistence in
her former home, Naomi counsels their return, each to her mother's
house. "And they lifted up their voice and wept." Orpah reluctantly
obeys, but Ruth cleaves to her mother-in-law, with those unsurpassed and
memorable words, which the author of the book of Ruth throws into Hebrew

      "Intreat me not to leave thee,
      Or to return from following after thee;
      For whither thou goest, I will go;
      And where thou lodgest I will lodge;
      Thy people shall be my people,
        And thy God, my God.
      Where thou diest, will I die,
        And there will I be buried.
      The Lord do so to me, and more also,
      If aught but death part thee and me."

"Some women's faces are in their brightness a prophecy, and some in
their sadness a history." As these two women stood with their faces set
toward Palestine, upon one was written a history of sorrow; upon the
other there fell the sunrise of a new day. In Ruth's determination to
follow Naomi, even to death,--for "a woman can die for her friend as
well as a Roman knight" when she has one, as Jeremy Taylor has
declared,--the young widow of Moab began a new life, which was destined
to make her the ancestress of Judah's royal house, the great grandmother
of David the king.

As the poetic story of Ruth proceeds, it records several interesting
ancient marriage customs among the people of Israel. In marked contrast
with the Hindoo custom of condemning widows to a life of scarcely
bearable hardships, the Hebrew law was so framed as to make widowhood as
far as possible a temporary state. The custom of Levirate marriage
enforced upon the brother or nearest of kin to the deceased husband the
obligation of taking the widow of his brother to wife, in order that the
brother might not be without heir and memory in the land. Ruth's
deceased husband had rights in the ancestral estate, and the Hebrew law
was careful that estates should not pass out of the hands of the
original owners, if it were possible to prevent it. Ruth, the widow,
suddenly appears at Bethlehem, the old home of her husband's people. It
is the time of the barley harvest. Naomi plays the role of the scheming
mother. She would have her beautiful young daughter-in-law find a
husband among her kindred, that her lamented son might have an heir to
honor his memory and that the portion of the estate which was Elimelech
her husband's might be redeemed. The love plot sends Ruth into the field
of Boaz, a wealthy farmer and near kinsman of Elimelech, to glean after
the reapers, for no man was permitted by the law to deprive the poor of
whatever pickings they might find when the reapers had passed. The quick
success of the plot, the fascination that Boaz feels for the graceful
but unknown woman, the command given the reapers to leave behind by
purposeful accident a little more of the grain than was usual and be
gracious to the girl; the invitation at mealtime to come and partake of
the repast of parched corn with the reapers; the resolve of Boaz that
should there be found no nearer kinsman--whose duty it would first be to
take the young woman to wife--he himself would choose her. All these
incidents pass in rapid and romantic succession. The observation is
apparently true that "women are never stronger than when they arm
themselves with their own weakness." Boaz at once pledged himself to be
the damsel's friend and protector. The next of kin declines or waives
his right to the young widow, for he does not care to redeem Elimelech's
portion of the land, a necessary part of such a matrimonial transaction.
Boaz therefore summons the young man, next of kin, who has declined to
redeem the land of his deceased brother and raise up heirs for him, to
appear at the gate of the city as the law required. Here ten elders sit
to witness and make legal the transaction. The shoe of the refusing
kinsman is taken from his foot, in the presence of the assembled people,
and given to Boaz, symbolizing the relinquishment of all rights in the
premises. Then follows the custom of spitting in the face of the "man
with the loosed shoe," which became a term of reproach, and was applied
to the man who refused to fulfil toward a deceased kinsman the duties of
the Levirate marriage. Time passes and the aged Naomi, whose mother
named her "winsome," forgets the bitterness of her later years as she
holds in her arms the infant Obed, in whom she exultingly sees the
pledge that the house of her son shall live on, and a prophecy that his
name will become famous among his people. "And Obed begat Jesse and
Jesse begat David," the king.



As we pass out of the unsettled age of the judges into the period when
the commonwealth of Israel began to take definite shape, we come upon a
corresponding change in the life of the Hebrew woman. The heroism in
female virtue was perhaps no less frequent, but when the "heroic age" is
behind us there is less opportunity for women to stand out in so strong
a glare. And, indeed, all through this history the remark of Ruskin is
close to the truth when he says: "Woman's function is a guiding, not a
determining one." While epoch-making women occasionally appeared in the
earlier period, they became fewer and fewer as the social order became
more settled.

It was not till the days of the kings that the Mosaic law, in the
broadest sense of the term, could exert any very potential influence
over the life and conduct of the people. In a disorganized condition of
society, of which it was said, "Every man did that which was right in
his own eyes," to enforce Mosaic precepts would have been an
impossibility, even had the people at large been acquainted with that
law. Now, the law of Moses became one of the most powerful factors in
giving to the women of Israel the high place they held in the
commonwealth. The fifth of the "Ten Words"--which commands were the very
nucleus about which the whole law was developed--reads: "Honor thy
father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the
Lord thy God giveth thee." Thus, in this, the very first law of the
Decalogue respecting duties to man, the duty of honoring the mother was
made equally imperative with that of showing honor to the father. And it
may be truly affirmed that Israel's remarkable permanence and
persistency as a people may be traced to its domestic health, and that
this vigorous domesticity is due largely to a better understanding of
the true relation of the sexes than is discoverable among any other
ancient nation.

That honor for parents makes for the permanence of a people both reason
and history affirm. Any nation which honors its ancestry will hold
tenaciously to ancestral ideals. Notwithstanding China's limitations in
other directions, that nation, because of its worship of the fathers,
has lived through many centuries and seen more powerful nations rise and

The position of Israel as a separate people abides in strength because
both father and mother have for ages been respected; and even though
most of her sons and daughters are no longer "upon the land which the
Lord their God gave them," they are still holding with wonderful
firmness to the faith and ideals of their fathers. The Mosaic teachings
concerning woman are not a little responsible for this remarkable state
of racial longevity. The Hebrew woman's standing before the law gave her
great advantage over her sisters of the other Semitic and Oriental
peoples. The Mosaic law tended greatly to lessen the inequalities and
mitigate the hardships of womankind. Even a woman captured in war was
protected against the caprice of her captors. Under the law, her life
was equally as precious as that of a man, and therefore the taking of a
woman's life was punishable with the same severity as was the murder of
a man. The law was especially solicitous of her welfare during the
period of child bearing, and greatly lessened the sorrows and isolation
of widowhood.

While divorces were given almost at the will of the man, yet he could
not without formality at once eject the woman from his house. He must
give her a "writing of divorcement," which set forth the fact that she
had been his wife. Thus was she protected from subsequent suspicion that
she had lived with a man unlawfully. Wives of bond-servants were to go
out free with their husbands on the seventh year of service, unless the
master himself had given the wife to his manservant, in which case the
woman and her children still belonged to the master.

Daughters were allowed inheritance as well as sons, though in earlier
times than those of the kings they did not inherit their father's
property except there were no sons. Fathers were not allowed to
discriminate against a firstborn son and pass the inheritance to another
because the mother of the oldest child happened to have lost favor in
his eyes.

Laws forbidding unchastity and vice were explicit and severe. One who
had taken criminal advantage of another's daughter was to marry her and
pay the father the usual dowry; if not, he was to be amerced fifty
shekels of silver, the ordinary dowry of virgins. If a husband suspected
his wife of being unfaithful to him, an elaborate, but not severe,
ordeal was laid upon the woman, called "drinking the waters of
jealousy." If she passed this examination successfully, her husband had
no power further to punish her; if not, she was to suffer for her shame.

The widow and the fatherless were given special consideration under the
law. In the feast days when the people's hearts were merry and they were
rejoicing in the increase of their lands, the widow was not to be
forgotten. In business transactions the people were to take heed that
the widow suffer not injustice. Her garments could never be taken in
pledge, and judges were enjoined to see that no violence was done to her
rights. The fallen sheaf in the harvest field, the forgotten gleanings
of the olive trees, the droppings of the vintage were not to be withheld
from her.

How deep-seated this sense of obligation to the widow was in Israel may
be discovered in the Book of Job. The friends who visited Job in his
bewildering grief could find no more probable cause for so severe a
divine chastisement upon the arch-sufferer than that Job had neglected
the widow or taken her in pledge. One effect of the attitude of the
customary law toward widows is discovered in a most signal way in the
Second Book of Maccabees, which relates that in the period of which it
tells, about B.C. 150, it was customary to lay up large sums of money in
the temple treasury for the relief of widows and of fatherless children.

Such women as Miriam and Deborah were factors to be reckoned with in the
political movements of their times. So it was with the prophetesses
generally, for just as the great prophets dealt with the politics of
state, so a prophetess could not always escape the problems of
statesmanship to which her time might give birth. Both prophet and
prophetess were looked upon as the chosen spokesmen for Jehovah. Because
of this, Huldah acted as a sort of prime minister and adviser of both
king and high priests in their Jehovistic reforms during the reign of

That women generally took a deep interest in political matters may be
perceived in the way in which the exploits of David appealed to the
imaginations of the women when Saul's star was setting and David's
appearing above the horizon; for young women went out to meet the coming
hero and king with musical instruments, singing a song whose refrain

      "Saul hath slain his thousands,
      David his tens of thousands."

The power of the feminine idea may be forcefully seen in the very common
conception of the nation itself as a young woman. Both prophet and
poet--and the prophets were usually poets--refer many times to the
"daughter of Zion," meaning the people of Israel.

The prophet Jeremiah, foreseeing the coming destruction of the army of
Babylon, says: "I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and
delicate woman" who is about to be ravaged by the invader. And Isaiah,
seeing the time at hand for the people to return from Babylonish exile,
cries out: "Loose thyself, O captive daughter of Zion."

Affection for the native land was strong among the women as well as
among the men. Lot's wife did not turn because of curiosity, but by
reason of the strong attachment to locality; she looked back longingly
toward her forsaken and burning home. The little Hebrew maid, torn by an
invading army of Syrians from her native land, was quick to tell Naaman,
the leper,--her new master,--of the virtues of her country and impelled
him to seek out Elisha, the prophet of Israel.

The social position of Hebrew women was exceptionally free and
independent. While a daughter's matrimonial plans were largely in the
hands of father and brother, and wives were expected to look up to their
husbands with all reverence, yet the recorded examples of independent
action and influence among the women reveal a place of social equality
and power, a lack of masculine restraint and domination that would do
credit to more modern times.

Deborah accompanied, if she did not lead, the soldiers into battle and
cheered them on to victory. The daughters of Shiloh, unaccompanied, were
accustomed annually to attend festal dances in the vineyards of
Benjamin. Women often went without escorts upon difficult and dangerous
missions. Prophetesses frequently exerted not only a powerful but at
times a decisive influence.

Marriage customs among the Hebrews in the days of the kings were not
greatly different from those of other Oriental people of the same era.
They differed but slightly from those of an earlier period. As a rule,
marriage was not born out of impulse of the heart; though there were
many marriages that surely ripened into love. If, as Jean Paul Richter
says, "Nature sent woman into the world with a bridal dower of love," we
have an explanation of the fact that there are many happy marriages in
Israel, notwithstanding the fact that the arrangements continued to be
largely in the hands of the parents. A daughter belonged to her father
till of age: after this she could not be betrothed except by her own
consent. Among the Hebrews betrothal was of the nature of an inviolable
contract, and could be annulled only by divorce. If not in early days,
yet in the later periods of Hebrew history there were writings of
betrothal which set forth the mutual agreements between the parties.
Later, there followed the marriage contract, also in writing. The amount
paid for a maiden came to be at least two hundred denars, and just
one-half as much for a widow. The father was to provide dowry according
to his ability, and an orphan girl's dowry was bestowed by the

The marriage ceremony consisted of leading the bride from her father's
house to that of the bridegroom. At which time there was a season of
festivity and rejoicing. The marriage of a maiden usually occurred on
Wednesday evening, that of a widow on Thursday. The "children of the
bride chamber," the name by which the invited guests were called, made
merry at the "marriage feast," which was always provided and lasted
several days. As the procession passed along, going from the bride's to
the bridegroom's house, people along the route might join in the

Grains of corn, nuts, and other edibles were the confetti tossed
good-humoredly at the bridal pair. It became the custom, which still
exists among Jews to-day, to break a glass bottle at Hymen's altar to
indicate that the former life is no more, and that the bride has entered
upon a new estate. Among the Hebrews the married woman was better
protected in her rights than among most people of ancient times. While
her property was usually under control of her husband, yet the dowry
came to be considered her own, whether it be money, property, or jewels.
A husband could not compel his wife to remove from the land of her
fathers; and in many ways her individual rights were protected. Woman's
inferior position in Greece was one element in the decline of that
remarkable country; the defilement of the womanhood of Rome hastened the
downfall of that city's power; but the protection given to Hebrew
wifehood and widowhood became an element of great strength in the life
of Israel.

The Greek attitude toward woman could probably be reflected in the old
saying: "A woman who is never spoken of is praised most." In the period
of Rome's decay women became immodestly conspicuous in the social and
public functions of the day. As opposed to both these conditions the
Hebrew, the wise man in the Proverbs, calls her a virtuous woman whom
her husband can praise in the very gates.

Edersheim calls attention to a suggestive custom which sprung up from
the slight difference of sound in the words for "find" in two passages
of Scripture concerning women, both of which occur in the wisdom
writings. The first of these reads: "Whoso findeth a wife, findeth a
good thing." (Proverbs 18: 22.) The other, "I find more bitter than
death the woman whose heart is snares and nets." Hence arose the habit
of saying to a newly married man, "_Maza_ or _Moze?_" "Have you found a
'good thing' or a 'bitter'?"

The tendency in Israel continued to restrict marriage to one's own
tribe. The law of inheritance gave force to this custom. Those very near
of kin were thus regarded as most eligible for wedlock. Jacob married
two of his first cousins. A similar situation is seen in the marriage of
Abraham and Sarah, of Isaac and Rebecca. Each husband, under specially
trying circumstances, had claimed that his wife was his "sister," and so
she was,--for in the patriarchal form of society all who belonged to the
same family or clan were brother and sister,--but not in the strict
sense which the word was intended to convey. While brothers and sisters
of the whole blood might not marry, yet it would not have been regarded
as altogether out of place for half-brothers and sisters to marry,
especially if they had a different mother.

The story of Amnon and Tamar not only throws light upon this point, but
illustrates how brother and sister by the same father as well as the
same mother stood in a greatly different relation, the one to the other,
in the matter of brotherly protection from that of half-brother and

Amnon, son of David, fell desperately in love with his half-sister,
David's daughter, Tamar. By a cunningly devised plot Amnon succeeded in
bringing the beautiful damsel into his chamber. When Absalom, Tamar's
brother and half-brother to Amnon, heard that his sister had thus been
dealt with, he felt himself under obligation to defend her honor, by
slaying his half-brother, which he did at a feast given during the
season of sheep shearing, when the king's sons were all making merry.

The remark of Frances Power Cobbe is as true in Israel as elsewhere. "A
man may build a castle or a palace, but poor creature! be he as wise as
Solomon or as rich as Croesus, he cannot turn it into a home. No
masculine mortal can do that. It is a woman, and only a woman,--a woman
all by herself if she must, or prefers, without any man to help
her,--who can turn a house into a home." It was the Hebrew wife and
mother who largely gave to the homes of the Israelites their peculiar
quality. But it may be said it was seldom her necessity or her
preference to set up a home without the presence of some son of Israel.

The birth of children was always considered an occasion for rejoicing.
Hebrew women were, as a rule, active and strong, and natural in their
mode of life. There are but two cases in all the Hebrew Scriptures of
death at the time of childbirth. One is that of Rachel, who, when upon a
fatiguing journey with her husband and family, gave birth to Benjamin
and died; the other is the wife of Phineas, who, when she heard the sad
news of the victory of the Philistines over Israel, the capture of the
Ark of Jehovah, of her father Eli's and her husband's death in the
battle, gave birth to a child whom the nurse called Ichabod, for said
she: "The glory is departed from Israel." In the naming of her children
the Hebrew mother thus often revealed a poetic imagination that is of a
high order. In this the Hebrew language was helpful, for, as one has
remarked of it: "Every word is a picture."

The bright eyes and graceful form of the gazelle suggested the name for
a daughter of Tabitha, of which Dorcas is the Greek. Zipporah was a
little bird; Deborah, the busy bee; Esther, a star; Tamar, a palm tree;
Zillah, a shadow; Sarah, the princess; Keturah, fragrance; Hadassah, the
myrtle. Thus, some resemblance or poetic association suggested to the
mother, either at the birth of the child, or because of some fact or
incident of later experience, the name the little one was to bear. Often
there is a tragedy or a mother's sorrowful life history crystallized in
a name. When Rachel, Jacob's favored wife, brought forth her second son
amidst the suffering which was to take away her life, the woman standing
by tried to comfort her in the fact that another son had been born to
bless her. The mother, with her last faint breath, replied: "Call his
name Benoni (son of my sorrow)." But the father, unwilling thus to
perpetuate his wife's anguish, called him Benjamin (son of my right
hand). When Naomi, the widow, bereft of her husband and sons, returns to
her native Bethlehem after many years of absence and of sorrow, the
women came out to meet her, saying: "Is this Naomi?" She answered them:
"Call me not Naomi (pleasant or winsome), call me Mara (bitter), for the
Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." So, among the Hebrews, names
not only were given to both men and women at birth, but were frequently
changed at some critical moment or because of some extraordinary
experience in their life. Ordinarily, however, the favorite method of
naming sons connected the boy in some way with his God; as when Hannah
named her baby boy Samuel (God hath heard), and the name of Jacob (the
supplanter), was changed to Israel (the prince of God). The girls seldom
if ever bore names ending in _el_ (God), _ajah_ (Jehovah), but were
called by some name of poetic association or natal experience. In no
respect do the Hebrew mothers deserve greater praise than for their
share in the upbringing of children. While the Jewish law placed the
responsibility for the training of the Hebrew youth upon the father, a
very large share of the responsibility fell upon the mother. With the
Hebrew child, as with the children of all nations, it is impossible to
say exactly where its education begins. The famous dictum: "If you would
bring up a child in the way it should go, you must begin with its
great-grandmother," finds special force among the Israelites. The women
held an honored place in the education of the Jewish youth. Before the
child could walk or could lisp a syllable, while still in its mother's
arms, it would see her, as she passed from one room to another in the
house, stop and touch the _mesusah_ on the doorpost, and then kiss the
finger that had thus come in contact with the sacred words of the law
encased there. The little one would easily learn to put out its own tiny
finger and touch the aperture of the sacred box on the doorpost, and
then press it to the baby lips.

Here was the first lesson in the law of its fathers. Very early the
mother took her babe to the temple, and offered a sacrifice for it.
Especially was the birth of the firstborn significant, for the firstborn
son belonged to Jehovah, just as the firstborn of the herd and the flock
and the first-fruits of the ground. These must be sacrificed on the
altar of the Lord. But, happily for the mother heart, the firstborn son
might be redeemed by the sacrifice of a lamb, or, if the mother were
poor, by a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons. So the young
mother brought her boy to the altar, made her offering, and took her
babe back to her bosom.

From the time of offering onward, the mother greatly aided in shaping
the life of the young Israelite. In this training the sacred Scriptures
played an important part. The rabbis, however, never regarded women as
becoming masters of the intricacies of the law. It was a saying among
them that "Women are of a light mind." This was doubtless an appropriate
remark, for it is certainly true that much of the rabbinic lore is
heavy, almost beyond expression. There were not a few women, though, who
were well versed in the Scriptures and also in rabbinical teaching. The
synagogues were open to the women, where they occupied seats partitioned
from those of the men. The attendance of women upon the great feasts,
where much could be learned of custom, tradition, and teaching, also
gave them opportunity to be instructed in the religion of their fathers.
The Christian apostle Paul congratulated his young friend Timothy, that
from a babe he had known the Hebrew Scriptures, which he had learned
from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. These are typical
mothers of the higher order; and while probably only the richer homes
owned a copy of the entire Bible, most families possessed at least one
or more scrolls containing parts of the sacred writings.

The strength of motherly devotion was nowhere stronger than among the
mothers of Israel. The spirit of Rizpah was the spirit of most of them.
For when seven of her sons, the sons of Saul, had been slain and their
bodies exposed, in the revolution which brought David to the throne,
Rizpah took a piece of sackcloth, and, spreading it upon a rock near by,
guarded the bodies of her offspring from the beginning of barley harvest
till the early rains: that neither birds might molest them by day nor
beasts of the field by night.

Home life among the Hebrews of Palestine to-day is marked by much that
characterized that life ten or even twenty centuries ago; therefore a
few facts concerning the home life in the Jerusalem of to-day will teach
us much concerning that of the past. Probably nine-tenths of the native
homes of Jerusalem are unpretentious, unattractive, uncomfortable, and
show signs of poverty. The people have learned the fine art of economy
in house room. Father, mother, and the multitude of little ones with
which the Jewish home is usually blessed do not find it difficult to be
tucked snugly away in two or three rooms. These give ample space for
cooking, dining, sleeping, and performing the necessary labor of
domestic life; besides furnishing opportunity for the hospitality for
which the East is still justly noted. Call any time you will, on any
business bent, and your hostess, if there be no servant, will, before
you are permitted to mention the matter of your call, bring to you a
glass of wine or perhaps a cup of coffee to refresh you. This, too,
though the family be poor and it be deprivation for even this repast to
be served to the guest. And though you know of the sacrifice the hostess
makes, you must not refuse, lest you offend and wound the spirit of
hospitality at its very heart.

The brunt of the work of the house falls, of course, upon the wife and
mother. And it is doubtful if the place of the woman of the Palestine of
to-day, even among the Jewish families, is as high as in the days of
Israel's independence and power. While great respect is shown the father
as head of the family, the mother is often scarcely more than the
servant of her children. The sons especially do not give her the respect
that was once her unquestioned due. The girl is from her birth looked
upon and treated as inferior to her brothers. Patiently, all women of
the Orient seem to bear this inferiority--a sort of penalty they must
pay because Heaven made them women and not men. The young girl's
matrimonial prospects are never in her own hands. She tamely submits to
arrangements made for her, and, without test or questioning, assumes
that her husband is her superior in all things.

Education among the girls of modern Palestine has been almost hopelessly
neglected--except as teachers from England and America have been able to
supply the deficiency or overcome the indifference. There is little
wonder that home life is unattractive and the housekeeping miserable
with so little possibility for the women to catch even a glimpse of the
higher things that elevate and refine. Sometimes the Jewish girl is a
wife as early as ten or twelve, and frequently at the age of fourteen.
Thus home life is often rendered unhappy and divorce frequent. Physical,
mental, and moral anguish follow in the wake of many of these early
marriages. The young Jewish maiden's life is cheerless before her
wedlock, as she is shut out from the joys of social gatherings; and,
after marriage, cheerlessness gives way to impenetrable gloom. To say
that there are no happy marriages would be wide of the mark. But
divorces are sadly common among the Jews of Palestine to-day; the
husband having almost unlimited power to break, under very slight
provocation, the bond that binds him to his wife. The rabbi must of
course confirm the dissolution of the bond, and thirty piasters is the
price. The effect of this custom upon modern Jewish womanhood in the
venerated land of Rebekah and Rachel is most unhappy.

Home life in ancient Israel was singularly sweet, pure, and industrious.
The family was both the social and the religious unit. Idleness was
considered a curse; and every child was taught to train his hands as
well as to cultivate his heart.

The occupations of women were numerous and varied. Everywhere in the
East needlework was and is highly prized. Mothers set their children at
it at a very early age and great skill is often attained. The poorer
women frequently earn with their own fingers the amount of their
marriage portion; and in the hours of seclusion wives of the harem have
always found embroidery and other forms of rich needlework a common
pastime for the empty hours.

While working in skins, clay, and in metals was reserved for the men,
the Hebrew women were very largely the producers of the food and the
wearing apparel. They assisted in the cultivation of the fields, were
the millers, grinding with their primitive stone mortar and pestle, the
bakers, the weavers and spinners, making use of the hand spindle which
may be seen in Syria and in Egypt to-day, though in the latter country
the men shared with the women the skill in this handicraft. Among the
Hebrews, as with the Greeks, Clotho is a woman.

We find the virtuous woman, as ideally drawn in the Book of Proverbs, to
be one who finds good wool and flax and works willingly with her hands;
distaff and spindle fly at her finger's bidding, so that her whole
household sits doubly clothed in scarlet, and even fine linen is wrought
in her house, and rich girdles go out to the merchantmen. She makes the
field and vineyard turn out profitably and imports her food from afar.
Whether as shepherdess, gleaner, or the maker of food stuffs or
textiles, the Hebrew woman may justly hold a place of respect among her

Among the amusements in which women specially engaged, those of music
and dancing should be given first place. These often had a religious or
semi-religious character. Women did not usually sit down, or rather
recline, at banquets with the opposite sex. Their songs and dances were
generally among themselves; dancing with the opposite sex was unknown.
Instrumental music frequently accompanied their singing, a sort of
tambourine or hand drum being a favorite instrument. Women played an
important part also in mourning customs. Professional female mourners
were hired to go up and down the highways, wailing piteously as part of
the funeral rites. The prophet Nahum in predicting the overthrow of
Nineveh uses a figure suggested by frequent observation of mourning:
"Her maids shall lead her, as with the voice of doves, tabering upon
their breasts."

The religious status of woman is one of the most significant facts in
Israel's history. Passing out of the patriarchal stage of life, when the
father was high priest in his home, into a more complex existence, it is
not surprising that woman's place should become subordinated. Besides
this, the Hebrew worshipped no goddesses, except in times of religious
lapses. The women of Israel, however, are often found engaged in
sacrifices, prayers, and active service to their God Jehovah.

While only the men were required to attend the annual feasts, the
attendance of women in large numbers is often recorded. Their presence
seems to be presupposed in the accounts of Hebrew worship; though for
them the annual religious pilgrimages to Jerusalem were not obligatory.

In the temple worship they had a separate court, further removed from
the inner precincts of the holy altar than the court of the men. And
while they might join in the eating of some sacrificial meals, the sin
offering was only to be partaken of by males. The official duties of the
sanctuary were performed by men, but there were "serving women" who
performed certain menial tasks about the sacred enclosure. When the
temple ritual became elaborated, women were among the singers in the
temple choirs, and they often aided in the music and by singing and
dancing in times of great national rejoicing. And it is not without its
suggestiveness that the Hebrews spoke of a divine revelation as _Bath
Kol_, or "daughter voice."

In the days when religious secretism became popular in Israel, and the
people began to divide the exclusive adoration they had hitherto given
to Jehovah and to worship other gods and even goddesses, women became
prominent in idolatrous rites. Jezebel, who was a worshipper of the
Phoenician goddess Ashtoreth, not only became the patron of the priests
and puppets of the Baal cult, but endeavored to break down Jehovah
worship by the destruction of his prophets. Maachah, the mother of King
Asa of the southern kingdom of Judah, introduced the worship of the
Assyrian goddess Astarte. Devotion to Ishtar, the chief goddess of
Babylon became the fashion in Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah the
prophet, who tells of Hebrew women kneading dough and baking cakes in
shape of the silvery moon in honor of the "queen of heaven," Ishtar, the
moon goddess; or perhaps, as some hold, this was the worship of the
planet Venus, for similar offerings were made in Arabia to the goddess
Al-Uzza, who was represented by the star Venus; and the Athenians too,
we are told, offered cakes of the shape of the full moon in honor of

During the period of the Babylonish captivity, before the final fall of
Jerusalem, Ezekiel rebukes the women of Jerusalem for worshipping
Tammuz, the Babylonian Adonis, who had been taken to the under world;
for, says the prophet, "There sat the women weeping for Tammuz," the
departed husband of Ishtar.

There was never among the Israelites that reverence for women, akin to
awe, which was manifested among the Teutonic tribes--a reverence which
made women natural oracles. Doubtless in Israel, as everywhere, the
instinctive, intuitive nature of women was discovered by the men of
Israel as in other parts of the world. But women as oracles are isolated
and exceptional. There were witches, who were under the ban. The highest
spiritual influence and leadership in Israel was that of the prophet,
for he was regarded as the mouthpiece of God, and, though of a far
higher order, corresponded to the oracle among heathen peoples. Could a
woman hold this place of dignity and power? The first person of this
class mentioned in the literature of Israel is Miriam the prophetess. In
the days of political confusion, before the time of the monarchy,
Deborah the prophetess arose; and it was Huldah the prophetess who
directed the reforms instituted by King Josiah, when the worship of
Jehovah was purified, the temple repaired, and Mosaism restored to
power. Just as there were false prophets in the days of religious
decline, so there arose false prophetesses, like Noadiah, who attempted
to thwart the reforms of Nehemiah and put his life in jeopardy. In the
early days, the counterfeit of the prophetess, namely, the witch and
sorceress, was not unknown in the land of Palestine. The law, however,
was very stringent against such persons, though King Saul himself once
went disguised to consult the Witch of Endor. Scripture says: "Thou
shalt not suffer a sorceress to live." These are the words which were
thought to give sanction to the burning of witches in New England a
century or more ago.

In writing of the women in the days of the kings, one naturally turns
to the days of David, the first who brought Israel to a state of
political stability. The familiar saying, "The great men are not always
wise," is well illustrated in the matrimonial experiences of King David.
Many times was he married. Four of the wives of David are worthy of
note. The first may be called his wife of youthful romance, Michal,
Saul's daughter; the next, Abigail, the wife of manhood's admiration;
the third, Bathsheba, the wife of lustful passion; the fourth, Maachah,
the wife of old age's sorrow, for she bore unto him Absalom, the rebel.
It was a giddy and dangerous height to which David the youth had
suddenly arisen when the people were giving him, because of his prowess
in slaying Goliath of Gath, greater honor than the king. Even the young
Princess Michal could not disguise her admiration for the new and
youthful hero. But he must slay one hundred Philistines if he is to
possess Michal, says Saul, thinking David would lose his life in the
attempt. But the young man slew two hundred, and claimed his bride.
While her father was plotting the life of his young rival, Michal was
plotting more skilfully to save it; for, overhearing her father give
orders that her husband and lover should be slain, she let him down from
the window, substituting for her absent lord an image resting in her
bed, beneath the covering, in such wise as to support her statement to
the messengers, who came to take him before Saul, that David was sick.
Michal, having to make choice between her father and her husband, chose
the latter; and though she was long separated from him while David
warred with Saul, when at last David reigned he sent and recovered her,
his first love, and Michal became his wife again.

But there were women of affairs in Israel, as well as women of
sentiment and devotion. The story of Abigail, wife of Nabal, and how she
became espoused to David, is a pleasing chapter of woman's power to
excite the admiration of a manly heart by combining the grace and the
tact of the womanly character with worldly wisdom and courage. It is one
of the finest illustrations recorded of woman's independence in the land
of the Hebrews. The story of Bathsheba's marriage to David is well
known. Falling in love with Bathsheba's beautiful form, the king plotted
the life of her husband, put him in the front rank in the battle, and,
when he fell, took her to his own house as wife. And while Maachah
became the mother of a son who was to be a very thorn in the heart of
his father, the wickedness which brought about the marriage to Bathsheba
became the cause of the bitterest expression of penitential anguish in
all the range of literature. For an ancient tradition, embodied in the
introduction to the fifty-first Psalm, affirms that that poem of
heart-stinging grief was written when Nathan the prophet had shown King
David the heinous blackness of his sin toward Uriah the Hittite.

Diplomatic marriages were not uncommon in the ancient commonwealth of
Israel. They were not provided for in the law of Moses. Indeed, they
were distinctly prohibited both by the genius of that law and by its
positive enactments. And yet, no less influential a name than that of
Solomon might have been quoted as giving sanction to this method of
assuring national peace.

Even modern governments might be cited--not only of the East, but of
the countries of Europe--as pernicious examples of the very ancient
custom of cementing political friendship by the interchange of
daughters. The Tel El Marna tablets present a number of illustrations of
diplomatic correspondence between Oriental kings concerning daughters
who had been given as wives to brother monarchs as a seal of friendship.
Now this well-nigh universal custom of diplomatic marriages, though
discouraged by the law of the Hebrews, spoken against by their prophets,
and forbidden by the very genius of their religion, was not uncommon in
the land of Israel. Saul, the first king, can scarcely be said to have
welded the tribes into a stable and recognized nationality. David, his
successor, was a warrior, who depended for his successes more upon
military prowess than upon the skill of diplomacy. The third King of
Israel fell heir to a nation made by the master hand of his father. The
Hebrews were now recognized by contemporary peoples as a great nation,
and, being respected for their power, peace reigned in Palestine.
Solomon, a man of peaceful temperament, resolved to sway the sceptre and
enhance his influence by the arts of diplomacy rather than by the
instruments of war. Among these arts was that of knowing how to be
wisely and numerously wed. He it was who introduced the harem, in the
modern meaning of the word, into Palestine.

The living wives--in number seven hundred--that are said to have been
possessed by King Solomon shows that the prayer made by the people when
first they sought a king "like all the nations" had been answered. Here
was the beginning, as some of the prophets thought, of Israel's
subsequent disaster and final undoing as a kingdom. To them Jehovah was
the one unifying cause, the great power that was to preserve their
national integrity, their very existence as a people. To admit foreign
wives into the palace, bringing with them their gods, and becoming
perchance the mothers of their future kings was to defile the religion
of the realm at its heart, to undermine the worship of Jehovah in the
house of him who should be its main defender. In the life and reign of
King Solomon we have the strange contradiction which is not infrequently
discovered between theoretical wisdom and practical folly, between
private life and public conduct. No man of ancient days appears to have
understood woman better than Solomon, nor said more wise things
concerning them. His dealing with the rival claimants of a certain baby,
his wisdom in answering the hard questions of the Queen of Sheba have
made his name famous. And yet it was his lack of practical wisdom in
arranging his own household that sowed the seed of discord and
dissolution which were later to cause great distress and at last



Altogether the most glorious reign in all the history of the Hebrew
commonwealth was that of Solomon. David his father's military prowess
and his own skill in diplomacy had brought peace with foreign nations,
and rapid internal development. But even now germs of decay were
perceptible. The custom of diplomatic marriage with daughters of heathen
kings, the incoming of luxury, which was destined to undermine the
social, political, and religious hardihood which had previously
characterized the people, were destined powerfully to influence the life
and character of Hebrew women. For here, elements of weakness will often
first show themselves. It was inevitable that with the harem should come
immorality, luxury, effeminacy, and the encroachments of foreign
influence, through the women of many lands bringing their forms of
worship and also their deities with them. It was in anticipation of all
these dangers that the law forbade the king to "multiply wives to
himself." It will be remembered that it was the increased taxation
necessary to keep up such an establishment as that which Solomon brought
into being in Israel that led at his death to a disruption of the
kingdom into two antagonistic parts. It was the violation of this law
that later led the northern kingdom of Israel into one of the bitterest
struggles, one of the most cruel wars of extermination, ever enacted
among a people which has suffered many grievous national experiences.
King Ahab married a Princess of Phoenicia, the daughter of Eth-baal,
King of the Zidonians. With her came her worship of Baal, the very name
of which divinity was imbedded in the name of her father, Eth-baal.

For force of character, Jezebel is probably unexcelled in the Scripture
records. But that character was, unfortunately, villainous. Molière
affirms that "It is more difficult to rule a wife than a kingdom." Ahab
must have found it so, and surrendered both enterprises to Jezebel.
When--like the famous miller of Potsdam who would not part with his mill
even to the great Frederick--Naboth refused to sell the vineyard which
was so coveted by the king, Jezebel says tauntingly to the disappointed,
fretting husband: "Dost thou rule over the Kingdom of Israel?" This Lady
Macbeth cries: "Give me the dagger." She prepares a great feast, invites
Naboth as a guest of honor, accuses him falsely and has him killed.
Triumphantly she now can present her husband with the much-coveted
vineyard. Her horrible death in the revolution which the fast-driving
Jehu led is held up by the prophets as a warning to subsequent
generations, for, unburied and eaten by dogs, Jezebel's body was cast
away, so that none could afterward honor her memory or say: "This is
Jezebel." And in the same revolution, by a Nemesis so common in history,
Jezebel's son Joram was slain in the field of Naboth. That her name made
a deep impression upon the Hebrew mind, however, may be seen in the fact
that in the book of Revelation, written nearly ten centuries afterward,
an heretical and idolatrous influence is referred to as "that woman
Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess to teach my servants to
commit fornification and to eat things sacrificed to idols."

In marked contrast with the motherly devotion which generally
characterized the "daughters of Rachel" stands out the example of
Athaliah the unnatural; since she was the daughter of Jezebel, the fact
is not strange. To the truthfulness of the remark of La Bruyère that
"Women are ever extreme, they are better or they are worse than men,"
history has often testified. The woman who is usually satisfied to sit
behind the throne has occasionally had ambitions to sit upon it. So it
was with Athaliah. The law of the Hebrews, while it made provision for
inheritance of daughters along with the sons, does not contemplate the
dominion of a queen. Only one woman ever sat upon the throne of the

When King Ahaziah, the reigning King of Judah, had been slain by Jehu in
a revolution directed against Joram, King of Israel, and all the seed
royal, Ahaziah's mother, seized with ambitions to be herself the
sovereign, proceeded to put to death all the possible heirs to the
throne. Fortunately for the Davidic dynasty, however, a sister of the
dead king rescued one of his sons, an infant, from the bloody massacre,
and hid him in one of the apartments of the temple. When the proper time
came, the high priest Jehoiada brought forth the lad, now seven years of
age, and with the aid of mighty men, proclaimed him king. Athaliah was
surprised and overwhelmed and was slain; but she had given Judah six
years of unrighteous government.

The religious influence of Jezebel in the northern kingdom and of
Athaliah, her daughter, in the southern was of greater consequence in
the shaping of the history of the times than their lack of moral worth.
Jezebel was an ardent worshipper of Baal; indeed, she was the patroness
of Baal's prophets, the very bulwark of idolatrous practices in Israel.
Over against her stood the prophet Elijah, the representative of what
was apparently a lost hope. Jezebel had driven the prophets of Jehovah
into the dens and caves of the earth. It is commonly thought that while
men have more vices than women, women have stronger prejudices. But here
is a woman of whom it may be stated--altering a remark made concerning
Nero--"There is no better description of her than to say she

The Baal worship which she would foster, and did greatly succeed in
fastening upon Israel until its overthrow by Shalmaneser, King of
Assyria, was a debasing nature-worship, which tended to destroy manhood
and drag womanhood into shame. And while there was set up no material
monument of her power in Israel, yet it required generations for the
pernicious influence of her life to die away. If, as Dean Stanley
suggested, that Hebrew epithalamium, the forty-fifth Psalm, was written
in honor of Jezebel's marriage to Ahab, none of its ideals concerning
the new-made queen was ever realized in Israel. She must stand in the
history with Jeroboam whose constant literary monument is disclosed in
the oft-repeated words, "He made Israel to sin."

In contrast with the proud and cruel queen whose aim had been to slay
Elijah and all who stood for Jehovah worship are certain obscure women
who protected and comforted the prophet. "You will find a tulip of a
woman," says Thackeray, "to be in fashion when a humble violet or daisy
of creation is passed over without remark." We shall not fall under the
implied condemnation by forgetting the nameless widow of Zarephath who,
though found gathering a few sticks to make a meal of the last handful
of flour and a little oil left in the cruse, yet when asked took the
fleeing Tishbite into her frugal home and shared with him her poor
repast. For fully a year did Elijah live under the widow's roof, and the
meal in the barrel wasted not, nor did the oil in the cruse fail, till
the famine was broken by the coming of the long delayed rains.

A people's religion will register its mark quickly upon its women. A
most suggestive Semitic conception is found in the use of the figure of
marriage to describe the relationship between a people and their god, or
perhaps more accurately, between a land and its governing divinity. This
entire conception finds its best illustration in the term _Baal_, which
means husband, or lord. The god was conceived of as father and the land
as mother of the people and of all the products of the soil.

The influence of the Baal cult upon Israelitish society, especially upon
woman, cannot be understood without reference to the nature of that
worship. Picture before your mind's eye the rustic prophet Amos, with
wandering staff in hand, impelled by a divine impulse, making his way
northward, and carrying a divine message to the people. He reaches
Bethel in the southern part of the kingdom of Israel--a city that from
time immemorial had been a sanctuary. He is shocked at the terrible
orgies practised about the altars there in the name of religion; at the
unbridled passion and lewdness in the name of the god and goddess of
fertility, Baal and Ashtoreth; at the men and women revelling in shame,
that the increase of the land might be celebrated and productiveness

It is while looking upon such a scene of bestialized worship and
debauched womanhood that Amos cries out in prophetic grief:

      "The virgin of Israel is fallen,
      She shall no more rise.
      She is forsaken upon her land
      There is none to raise her up."

The domestic life of the prophet Hosea furnishes perhaps the best
illustration of the condition and dark possibilities of womanhood in
Israel during this era of religious lapse and of consequent moral decay.
When religion sanctions prostitution at the altar, profligacy is not
unnatural. Hosea had married one Gomer, daughter of Diblaim. Soon she
forgets her marriage vows and gives herself to a life of shame. Hosea,
not then a prophet, more than once tried to reclaim the erring wife of
his love; but she again falls into evil ways. His home is destroyed; and
as he thinks of the meaning of this fatal blow to his domestic
happiness, he can but see in it a divine call to go forth to correct a
condition of society which could foster such vice and make such sorrows
possible. The whole meaning of his ministry, as he starts out with his
children as object lessons of his and the people's great humiliation, is
but an enlarged reproduction of his own bitter experience.

That the god and his land were related as husband and wife, was a very
familiar conception in Israel, as well as with the nations round about.
Even Isaiah proclaimed that the land of the Hebrew should be called
Beulah, that is, "married," a land wedded to Jehovah, in pure and
abiding love. But it remained for the worship of Baal, which means both
"lord" and "husband," to fasten upon Israel the basest practices between
the sexes, as a part of the worship of the god to whom the land was

Hosea sees in his own poignant grief an epitome of Israel's relation of
apostasy from Jehovah. She should have been a wife of purity, keeping
her covenant vows with her Lord, but instead, she had gone away to
consort with other gods and was playing the harlot against her first
love. Repeated efforts had failed to reclaim her, and now she is given
up to horrible vice as she sacrifices her virtue at the altar of Baal.
It is a fearful arraignment, hot with his own experiences and saturated
with tears. The words of Hosea are themselves the best representation of
society of the day, as we speak under the figure of his own bitter

"Plead with your mother, plead, for she is not my wife and I am not her
husband. Let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight and
her adulteries from between her breasts." This is the earnest plea for a
purified Israel and a redeemed womanhood.

The day is to come, says the prophet with the broken heart, when "she
shall follow after her lovers but she shall not overtake them. Then
shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it
better with me than now." "For she did not know," says Hosea for
Jehovah, "that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her
silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal." And looking forward to a
day when the sensual worship of Baal which so debauched womanhood,
should be no longer known in Israel, the prophet, again as the
mouthpiece of Jehovah, still carrying out the same figure of wedlock,
says to Israel: "And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will
betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving
kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in
faithfulness; and thou shalt know Jehovah. And it shall come to pass in
that day that I will hear, saith Jehovah, I will hear the heavens, and
they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear (with) the corn, and
the wine, and the oil."

It was only after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in B.
C. 586, and the consequent exile of the Hebrews, that this nature
worship which so endangered womanly virtue was exterminated.

During the long, synchronous reign of Uzziah, King of Judah, and of
Jeroboam II., King of Israel, in the eighth century before the Christian
era, prosperity both at home and abroad had given the people of both
kingdoms great wealth. The Syrians had for a long series of years been a
breakwater against the growing power of Assyria. In the meantime, there
was unsurpassed opportunity for internal development, commercial
expansion, and the accumulation of wealth. Riches had led to luxury, and
commerce had made the people more hospitable to foreign ideals, both
social and religious.

It was in the reign of Uzziah's successor, Jotham, that a new and
eloquent voice was lifted up on behalf of reform, calling the people
back to the ideals of the fathers and of the prophets. This new force in
Jerusalem was the young Isaiah, whose striking vision in the year King
Uzziah died caused him to give up a profane life for the prophet's
office; and upon none of the Hebrew prophets do the condition and
character of woman seem to have made so deep an impress. Among the very
earliest of his public utterances, so far as they have been preserved to
us, is that severe arraignment of the women of Jerusalem for their
wanton haughtiness, their wasteful extravagance, their love of show,
their self-indulgence and vice. Thus in detail does the prophet draw for
us the moving picture of female pride: "Moreover, the Lord saith:
Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth
necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing (or tripping delicately) as
they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: therefore, the Lord will
smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and
the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will
take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments (anklets) about their
feet, and their cauls (net works), and their round tires like the moon
(crescents), the chains (or ear pendants), and the bracelets, and the
mufflers, the bonnets (head tires), and the ornaments of the legs (ankle
chains), and the headbands, and the tablets (or smelling boxes), and the
earrings, the rings, and the nose jewels, the changeable suits of
apparel (festal robes), and the mantles, and the wimples (probably,
shawls), and the crisping pins, the glasses (hand mirrors), and the fine
linen, and the hoods (or turbans), and the vails. And it shall come to
pass that instead of sweet smell (of Oriental spices) there shall be
stink; and instead of a girdle, a rent; and instead of well set hair,
baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; and
burning instead of beauty. Thy husbands shall fall by the sword, and thy
mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being
desolate, shall sit upon the ground."

In this period, the women as they went along scented the air with the
perfume from the boxes that hung at their girdles; they lolled idly and
luxuriantly upon ivory beds and silken cushions sprinkled with perfume,
and they gossiped to the sound of music.

In predicting the great disaster and slaughter that were to come upon
the people through the Assyrian invasion, made successful by the
effeminacy of the people, the prophet discloses not only the dire
extremity to which the people were to be reduced, but reveals the
feminine ideal among the Hebrews, already alluded to in this volume,
namely, that which makes motherhood the aim of every Hebrew woman and
the absence of it a calamity. In that day seven women shall take hold
of one man, saying, "We will eat our own bread and wear our own apparel;
only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach." Widowhood
and celibacy were equally sources of deepest grief among the women of
Israel, and both were to be among the results of the luxury and vice of
the land.

Woman, as well as man, in this era of decay, had fallen into the habit
of the most cruel covetousness, and, when occasion offered, the rich and
powerful women oppressed the poor. The herdsman-prophet Amos, coming
from his home in the rural districts of Judah, was shocked at the
corruption into which even the women of Samaria, the capital of the
northern kingdom of Israel, had fallen, and so, with a rustic boldness
that would not mince matters of such grave concern, he compared the
women to the fat cattle of the land of Bashan, saying to the wives and
mothers of the corrupt and luxury-loving city: "Hear this word, ye kine
of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor,
which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring and let us

In the age of decline, it is a noteworthy fact that not a woman appears
to have lifted up prophetic voice against the moral and religious decay.
Prophets there were, but apparently no prophetesses, except those whom
Jeremiah rebukes with scathing earnestness,--women who prophesied
according to their own feelings and desires rather than in harmony with
the eternal principles as applied to the then present conditions.
Indeed, in the entire period of decline which preceded the fall of
Samaria in B.C. 722 and of Jerusalem in B.C. 586, no prophetess appears
in the record, except that Isaiah speaks of his wife as the prophetess.
This involves an entire change in the meaning of the word.

But there were patriotic women, just as there were patriotic men,
during the days of decline. There was no greater suffering than that of
women when they saw the Babylonian soldiery laying Jerusalem in ashes.
Hugging their babes to their breasts, some were hewn in pieces, while
others suffered shameful indignities and were led away among the
captives, to sojourn in a strange land. The prophets had foreseen the
coming anguish of the women; and when Jeremiah foretold the restoration
of Israel to her land, he proclaimed that the eyes of Rachel, which had
wept for her children "because they were not," should at length be
dried, and her mourning turned into rejoicing. Thus the picture drawn in
that elegiac poem--the greatest of all Hebrew threnodies, known as the
Lamentations of Jeremiah--when he saw the sacred city in ruins, was

      "How doth the city sit solitary
        That was full of people!
      How is she become as a widow!
        She that was great among the nations,
      And princess among the provinces,
        How is she become tributary!

      "She weepeth sore in the night
        And her tears are on her cheeks:
      Among all her lovers
        She hath none to comfort:
      All her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
        They have become her enemies."

This was but the enlargement and national application of the distress
experienced by the women of Israel during the siege and final overthrow
of the city in which all Jewish hopes centred.

Of the Hebrew women during the period of the exile, we know
comparatively little. And yet no woman of later Biblical Judaism made so
deep an impression upon the Jewish mind as did Esther. By her beauty and
the wise cunning of her uncle, she became the wife of King Ahasuerus,
the famous Persian who attempted to measure arms with the Greeks--an
effort which turned out so disastrously for the gigantic but
undisciplined Persian army. The story of Vashti's deposal, because she
refused to lend herself to the immodest proposal of the king, befuddled
by the wine of banqueting and revelry; of the subsequent selection of
Esther as queen; of her entreaty for her people, against whom a
deep-laid and cruel plot was soon to be executed,--is a familiar

That a Jewish woman should have been elevated to such a position in the
Persian palace seems so improbable that some have been inclined to doubt
the accuracy of the story which the Book of Esther records, especially
since profane history tells of but one wife of Ahasuerus, Amestris. But
the argument from silence is always precarious. Vashti and Esther may
easily have been extra-legal wives of the king, even though Amestris
were his only legally recognized wife. The well-known custom of Oriental
monarchies makes such a view highly probable. At all events, there
stands the well-known feast of Purim, the "festival of the Lots," as a
monument in Jewish religious life of the substantial accuracy of the
events recorded in the Book of Esther.

The power of Esther's life and of her service to her people in exile
may be in a measure estimated by the fact that no book in all the Bible
was so much copied, or was so generally in possession of the Jewish
families as that of Esther. Indeed, it was asserted by Maimonides and
believed by many that when at the coming of Messiah all the rest of the
Old Testament should pass away, there would still remain the five books
of the law and the Book of Esther. Written as it was, upon separate
scrolls, it was in thousands of Jewish houses. Even at the present day
rolls containing Esther are the prized possession of Jewish families;
and these are sometimes even now passed down from parents to their
children upon the wedding day. On the day of Purim, the book is read in
public as a part of the service, that the way in which Esther became the
savior of her people may never be forgotten. The power of Esther's story
over the Jewish mind has seemed the more remarkable, since it is the
single book in the Hebrew Canon which does not contain the name of God.
But on the other hand, there is no Hebrew writing that is so intense in
its national spirit; none which breathes and burns so deeply with the
characteristic genius of "the peculiar people."

There was perhaps no time in the history of the Hebrews when social
life received a more severe shock than during the days of the reforms
instituted by Nehemiah about the middle of the fifth century before
Christ. When the Jews returned from their exile in Babylonia many of
them married women of gentile blood and religion, daughters of those who
had peopled the land of Palestine during the exile. Children of Jews
were being born and taught heathen language and heathen worship by their
mothers. Nehemiah, under appointment as governor, when he saw that Jews
had married "wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab," commanded that all
foreign women be immediately divorced, and that only Jewish women should
be taken for wives. Great was the temporary suffering involved, to be
sure, but the aim in view, namely that of keeping the people henceforth
free from idolatry seemed to justify even so drastic a measure. A
grandson of the high priest, himself in priestly line, had married
Nicaso, daughter of Sanballat, the Horonite, the very crafty and
troublesome ruler of Samaria. When Nehemiah demanded of him that he give
up his wife he refused. The governor accordingly expelled him from
Jerusalem, chasing him out of his presence, as the Biblical narrative
informs us. Josephus says that when the people demanded that he give up
his alien wife or his priestly office,--as the law flatly forbade
priests from having foreign wives,--he decided first in favor of his
office. But when Sanballat, his father-in-law, heard of it, he told him
not to move hastily, but if he would keep Nicaso his wife, he,
Sanballat, would build him a temple of his own, so that he might be not
only a priest, but high priest, and Nicaso's husband at the same time.
This appealed to Manasseh's judgment, and he chose the plan of his
father-in-law. Thus was built the temple on Mount Gerizim, which became
thereafter the centre of Samaritan life and worship. It was concerning
Mount Gerizim that the Samaritan woman at the well spoke when she said
to Jesus: "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in
Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

The suffering of the women during the grievous persecution of the Jews
under Antiochus Epiphanes, "the illustrious"--nicknamed Epimanes, "the
madman"--was frightful in the extreme. Some men, but fewer women,
yielded to the pressure of the effort to destroy the Jewish religion by
forcing the Greek pantheon, Greek games and theatre, and the Greek
culture upon the Jews. The struggle into which the people were plunged
brought the self-sacrifice of the women into prominence. A typical case
of suffering is given in the Second Book of Maccabees. King Antiochus
had laid hold of a mother and seven sons, and commanded that they
violate their law by eating swine's flesh. The eldest was first put to
the test. He refused to obey. The king commanded that the tongue of him
who spoke thus defiantly should be cut out, his limbs mutilated, and his
living body roasted in hot pans, and that his mother and her younger
sons should witness the awful sight. One after another the sons were
cruelly dealt with and slain. Each one was given opportunity to save his
life by eating the forbidden flesh, but each refused. At length the
youngest only remained. The king appealed to the mother, standing by, to
advise her boy to obey and save his life. But the sturdy Jewish mother
turned to this son and strengthened him in his determination to die
rather than prove faithless to the religion of his fathers by obeying
the merciless tyrant. He too was then murdered, even more cruelly than
the rest. And at length, the mother herself lost her life upon the same
altar of faithfulness, rather than transgress the law. Of such sturdy
stuff were the Jewish mothers of this awful period made. There is little
wonder that the sons of such women succeeded in winning their
independence and in setting up again a Jewish state, which had been
suppressed for more than four centuries.

A look into this period would be incomplete without reference to one of
the apochryphal or deutero-canonical books of the Old Testament, highly
prized by the Jews as containing a picture of pious home life among the
Jews in the captivity. A devout Jew, as the story goes, with his wife
Anna and his son Tobias were among those whom Shalmaneser, King of
Assyria, had taken captive from the land of Israel and placed in the
city of Nineveh when Samaria fell about B. C. 722. Loyal to his religion,
Tobit, even in exile, refused to eat the bread of the Gentiles; but by
dint of hard work and fidelity he at length became purveyor to the king.
By the revolving wheel of fortune, Tobit is at length reduced to
poverty. Here Anna his wife, with devoted womanly faithfulness, comes to
the rescue with her skilful fingers, weaving and spinning for a
livelihood; for her husband was now both poor and blind. One day Anna,
wearied and provoked, reproaches her husband for his blindness--such
calamities were esteemed a divine curse in Israel, whereupon Tobit
prayed that he might die. On the self-same day, a young Jewess, Sara,
daughter of Raguel, a captive in Ecbatana of Media, was offering up a
similar prayer that the end of her life might come. For her father's
maid had charged her with killing her seven husbands, who had died one
after another, each on the very first night of the wedding feast, though
the strange deaths had been the work of Asmodeus, the evil spirit, who
was not willing that the maiden should wed. Now these two widely
separated and unrelated prayers were to be brought together into one
romantic story by the help of an angel, who becomes a guide to the son
of Tobit, young Tobias, who is about to start out in life in quest of a
fortune. The angel guides him to Ecbatana, bids him make the eighth to
offer marriage to Sara, whose seven husbands had perished on the nuptial
night. Though Tobias had never seen the young woman before, he was to
her the next of living kin and so should be (according to the Mosaic
law) the one to offer his hand to the youthful, much-married widow.
Would the young Tobias prove strong enough bravely to face the record of
the seven deaths? The angel here comes to the rescue, and calls Tobias's
attention to the heart and liver of a great fish which had been caught
in the Euphrates as the two had journeyed together from Nineveh to
Ecbatana. These, burned with perfumes in the bridal chamber, drove the
evil spirit Asmodeus away, and the marriage festivities went on merrily.
The life of Tobias had been saved. He takes his newly wedded wife back
to his father's house in joy and triumph, cures his father's blindness
by the same magic charm which had saved his own life in the bridal
chamber, and peace and wealth and long life follow in rich profusion.

This story is chiefly of interest to us as it shows the continuation,
even into the period of exile, of the Levirate marriage custom. While
the story of the marriage of Sara, daughter of Raguel, is a Jewish
romance, the literature of the inter-biblical period is not without its
tragedies, in which woman plays an important rôle. Among these is the
well-known story of Judith and Holofernes.

Many Jewish women have passed into literature and art. Rebekah at the
wellside, Miriam watching by the reeds or singing the pæan of victory
with timbrel, Ruth gleaning in the field of Boaz, Delilah the
voluptuous, and Athaliah the monster, have exerted their influence both
upon the makers of art and writers of drama, but probably no Hebrew
woman before the birth of Jesus has made a deeper impress upon the
imagination of men than Judith, the beautiful woman and patriot of
Bethulia. A woman once saved the city of Rome from overthrow. Several
times in the history of Israel was it given to a woman to be the
deliverer of the people. The names of Deborah, Esther, and Judith have
come down the centuries as those of women who risked their lives for the
salvation of their people from the enemy, and succeeded because of their
tact and prowess.

The story of Judith and Holofernes is told in the apocryphal Book of
Judith. The Assyrians are at war with Israel, whose cities are being
besieged and wasted in the merciless onslaught. Holofernes, the Assyrian
general, at length lays siege to Bethulia in his onward march to the
holy city of Jerusalem. The people are reduced to straits most direful
and bitter. Women and little ones perish in the streets, and the people
cry out to their leaders to sue Asshur for peace. The rulers, thus
urged, promise within five days to yield to their besiegers. It is then
that Judith, wealthy and pious, a widow of the city, comes forward to
strengthen the fainting heart of the governors and to bid them trust God
and stand firm. She promises, in the meantime, that she herself will aid
them. Praying earnestly that God will help her in her purpose, she lays
aside the habiliments of widowhood, and, arraying herself in garments of
gladness, goes forth with her maids to the camp of Holofernes. Charmed
with her beauty and grace, the Assyrian gives a feast, to which the
bewitching Judith is invited. Holofernes makes merry, and, drinking to
drowsiness, lies down in his tent to sleep. Others depart in the night,
leaving him and the Jewess alone. Seeing her opportunity, Judith seizes
the scimiter that hung on the pillar of Holofernes's bed, and, laying
hold upon the hair of the sleeping man's head, severed it from his body,
and made her way in the darkness back to the city. In the early morning
a sally was made from the city gates, and the Assyrians, finding their
captain headless, were thrown into utter confusion and completely
routed. Thus did Judith become the deliverer of Israel. The women of the
city ran together to see her who had been their savior, made a great
dance for her, sang her praises, and bestowed their benedictions,
placing garlands of olive upon her brow.

Portia's shrewd dealing with Shylock, the Jewish money lender, called
forth the frequent applause of the onlookers: "A Daniel come to
judgment, yea, a Daniel!" It is in the _History of Susanna_, an
apocryphal addition to the canonical Book of Daniel, in which the great
prophet is presented in the rôle of arbiter. He appears in a cause
against a woman, Susanna, a Jewish lady of great beauty, the wife of a
wealthy and distinguished Hebrew whose home was in Babylon. Susanna
excited the amours of two judges, elders of the people, who were
frequently at her husband's home; but she spurned all their advances,
till, angered and resentful, they united in a plot to destroy her, and
accused her of unfaithfulness to Joachim, her husband. The penalty for
adultery was death, and the people crowded to the trial; for if there
was conviction, stoning would follow. The two elders, standing, with
their hands upon the innocent woman's head, tell the story agreed upon,
how they saw the wife of Joachim in the very shameful act of which they
accused her; and the assembly, believing the testimony of the two elders
and judges of the people, condemned Susanna to death. At this juncture,
the young man Daniel appears upon the scene, much as Portia in the trial
of Antonio, and, by adroitly cross-questioning the two witnesses
separately, involved them in contradictions, revealing the cowardly plot
against the virtuous woman and convicting them of false witnessing. And
since the law of Moses prescribed the same penalty for those who bore
false testimony as that which would have come to the accused, the elders
were put to death, and Susanna was given honor before all the people.
This is but one of the many examples in Hebrew history which reveal the
unusually high moral character and purity of life that prevailed among
the Hebrew women.

It is one of the noteworthy and distressing facts of late Jewish
history that in the later teaching of the rabbis woman is placed upon a
distinctly lower plane. Her inferiority to man is frequently emphasized.
And yet there was one factor which came into the life of Judaism, after
the Babylonian exile, which gave to Jewish women an advantage which they
had not previously enjoyed. It was the establishment of the synagogue.
The secondary place given to women in the temple worship has already
been referred to. The man, as head of the family, was representative of
the family and responsible, therefore, for the performance of the
ceremonies required of every Hebrew household. With the destruction of
the temple and the dispersion of the Jews, the temple rites were
rendered impossible. When the synagogue arose to fill the vacancy made
by these conditions, women were given a place in attendance at the
instruction given in these new centres of Jewish life. And while they
were never strictly considered members of the congregation, yet, seated
in a separate part of the room, they heard the Scriptures read and
expounded; and it was not unknown for women even to read on the Sabbath
as among the seven appointees for the day. The _Torah_, or law, however,
was considered rather too sacred and important to be committed to their

Judging from a remark in the _Halacha_ it is just to infer that in the
days when the Jews had become dispersed throughout the Roman world,
there were two facts that had a very powerful influence upon Jewish
women, one of them of Hebraic, the other of Greco-Roman origin. For the
_Halacha_, in speaking of the women leaving their homes, said that there
were two causes which took the women away from their domestic duties:
one was the synagogue, the other, the baths,--not, indeed, an altogether
uncomplimentary comment upon the women of the times, for it would seem
they believed in the oft-coupled virtues of cleanliness and godliness.

From the days of John Hyrcanus, the influence of the Jewish rulers had
been decidedly in favor of Hellenic culture. Thus the revolution brought
about by the Maccabean revolt seemed about to be undone by the
successors of the Maccabees. Jewish independence had been won in an
effort to resist Antiochus Epiphanes and others in their attempts to
destroy Judaism by making the Greek religion and customs prevalent
throughout Palestine. Would the sons and successors of the sturdy
Maccabeans give away the fruits of the hard-won victory? When to
Alexandra was bequeathed the government by her husband, she decided to
espouse the cause of the Pharisaic party, who hated the encroachments of
foreign influence. But, alas, for the queen's inability to cope with a
situation so strained! In her effort to appease the opposite party she
put weapons into their hands, which were soon turned against her. As an
old woman of seventy-three, she saw her two sons in bitter contest, at
the head of opposing forces, each trying to rule over a tumultuous,
faction-torn nation. She passed away, deploring a condition which she
was utterly unable to correct. It was not till Pompey brought his Roman
legions to the gates of Jerusalem, and set up the Roman eagles in the
holy city itself that intrigue and battling for the Jewish throne was
brought to a close. Then Jewish independence was no more.

A great granddaughter of Alexandra was destined indirectly at least to
play a prominent rôle in later Jewish history. This was Mariamne. Herod,
afterward known as the Great, had hoped by marrying this descendant of
both the contending Jewish parties, to unite the influence of the two
branches of the Asmonean house. In this, however, Herod was
disappointed, and he proceeded to accomplish by force what he had hoped
to do by wiles. In the frightful war of extermination waged by Herod
against the whole Asmonean line, which he feared might endanger the
rulership secured to him by the Roman power and his own political
prowess, there figured a Jewish woman who, because of her sagacity, is
not to be passed over in silence. She was Alexandra, a granddaughter of
the queen of the same name. When Herod attempted to place in the office
of Jewish high priest a young man who would be simply a tool for him,
Alexandra advocated the candidature of Aristobulus,--her son and a
brother of Mariamne,--who by birthright was in line of official
succession. Alexandra shrewdly wrote to Cleopatra that the wily woman of
the Nile might use her influence with Antony to force Herod to terms.
Herod was compelled to yield and appointed Aristobulus, but determined
that Alexandra as well as the new high priest should be put out of the
way. One day after both Herod and Aristobulus had been enjoying a
banquet given by Alexandra, Herod successfully plotted the killing of
the high priest in a fishpond attached to the house of feasting, Herod's
minions holding him playfully under the water until he was drowned. But
Alexandra was not so stupid as to fail to take in the situation. Through
Cleopatra she again succeeded in forcing Herod upon the defensive. Being
summoned to appear before Antony, Herod succeeded, however, in again
ingratiating himself with the Roman, and he returned as strong as ever
to Jerusalem.

But his return was not altogether happy; for on his departure, he had
given command that should his interview with Antony be ill-fated,
Mariamne, his Jewish wife, should be slain, that no other man might have
her for wife. The secret leaked out, and came to Mariamne's ears. She
violently resented the treatment of Herod and on his return reproached
him for his cruelty; but the insanely jealous and wily Herod was not to
be changed by reproaches. On his absence from home on the occasion when
he went to meet Octavius, the new star which arose on Antony's downfall,
Herod again commanded that both Mariamne and Alexandra be put to death
should he not return alive. Mariamne on his return received him with
cold resentment. With the help of Herod's mother and sister the
estrangement became more and more bitter. The king's cupbearer was
bribed by them to declare that Mariamne had attempted to poison her
husband. The jury, as well as the evidence, being well-arranged
before-hand, the unfortunate Mariamne was led away to execution in B.C.
29, to be followed next year by Alexandra, who had watched her
opportunity and, taking advantage of an illness of Herod, had attempted
to gain possession of Jerusalem and overthrow the reign of Herod. It was
a bold stroke for a woman. It failed, and she was executed. With her
death the line of Asmonean claimants to the throne was ended.

But the end of this chapter in which womanly hate and intrigue played so
prominent a part was not yet. When Herod's sister, Salome, who had taken
so large a part in the death of Mariamne, saw Herod's sons return from
their studies in Rome, with the looks and royal bearing of their mother,
Mariamne; when she perceived the people's joy at their likeness to the
late Jewish queen who had been so cruelly murdered, her jealousy became
most bitter, and she began to plot against them as she had against their
mother. Herod for a time seemed unmoved and married one of them to
Berenice, Salome's own daughter. This only intensified Salome's hate;
and step after step of domestic hatred and unhappiness led at length to
the order by Herod that the two sons of his Jewish wife, Alexander and
Aristobulus, should be strangled at Sebaste, where years before their
mother Mariamne had become his bride. No wonder Augustus Cæsar could
utter his famous pun in the Greek language which may be reproduced in
the words: "I would rather be Herod's _swine_ than his _son_!"

This was the same Herod who issued an edict that rent the heart of many
a mother "in Bethlehem and in all the coasts thereof," a command which
sent Mary, the mother of the infant Jesus, into exile with her newborn
Son, whose coming into the world was destined to open a new volume, as
the narrative passes from Hebrew to Christian womanhood.

Among the Semitic peoples it is not usual, certainly in strictly
historic times, to find women holding the first place in the seat of
government. Semiramis in the prehistoric period of Assyria is a
noteworthy exception to the general custom; and queens sometimes ruled
among the Arabians, and "the Queen of Sheba" in southern Arabia became
famous. But the common Semitic conception that the king was son and
special representative of the deity made it more difficult for women to
hold the sceptre. Among the Hebrews there is no instance of a woman
being legally recognized as queen. Deborah, before the days of the
kingdom, "judged Israel" by virtue of her prophetic character and her
ability as a woman of affairs, and Athaliah was enabled to usurp the
throne through the murder and banishment of male heirs to the crown. In
speaking of her reign it was said that she was the only woman who ever
reigned over Israel. There is, however, one other woman who held the
Jewish sceptre. After the bloody struggle led by the Maccabees, the Jews
at length obtained their liberty from the yoke of the Seleucid kings.
Israel then enjoyed about a century of independence. During this period
there arose one woman who for nine years ruled the nation. This was
Alexandra, the widow of Alexander Janneus, whose unhappy reign came to
an end by strong drink, B. C. 78. The conception of the government as a
pure theocracy where the king reigned as representative of Jehovah
himself rendered it impossible for women to be recognized as lawful
sovereigns. The second Psalm, which seems to be a sort of coronation
ode, written at the time of the incoming of a new king, expresses the
relationship between Jehovah and the earthly ruler:

      "The Lord said unto me, Thou art my Son,
      This day have I begotten thee."

Even wives of the Kings of Israel, as a rule, are not called queens,
though Jezebel,--the Phoenician wife of Ahab,--king of the Ten Tribes,
is a notable exception. This may be accounted for, however, by the fact
that she was not an Israelite and worshipper of Jehovah, but a devotee
of Ashtoreth, the queen divinity of Phoenicia; and withal she was a far
stronger, more aggressive personality than her inefficient husband. It
is of interest to observe also that Jezebel is called queen only in
connection with her sons. The idea of queen-mother is far more common
among the Hebrews than that of queen-wife. Mothers of kings were given
especial honor. King Solomon takes his seat upon his throne and sends,
not for his wife to sit by his side, but for Bathsheba, his mother,
whose adjacent throne is set at the king's right hand. Asa, in his
religious reforms, removed his mother from being queen because she had
set up an image or sacred pillar in honor of Baal worship. Jeremiah the
prophet called upon the King of Israel and his queen-mother--who seems
to have been most active in opposing the prophet's proposed policy in
submitting to the Babylonians without a struggle--to humble themselves,
because their crowns were even then toppling from their heads. Thus the
semi-royal character of the mothers of the kings is evident. This will
account, at least in part, for the wording of the chronicles of the
kings of Israel and Judah, for this is the set formula: "And A----slept
with his fathers, and B----, his son, reigned in his stead. And his
mother's name was M----. And he did that which was right (or evil) in
the sight of the Lord."

Thus is the importance of the queen-mother constantly emphasized in
the Hebrew records.



Archæology here puts on her apron, takes her pick and spade in hand to
help us uncover the story of the woman of Babylonia and Assyria. Skulls,
jewels, cylinders, tablets, monuments, mural decorations must be brought
to light after their long sleep beneath the surface of the ground. As
alive from the dead these come forth to tell, at least in broken story,
of those women who helped to make the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates
among the most noteworthy spots upon the face of the Eastern world.

What we may know concerning the women of this early Assyro-Babylonian
civilization may be derived in part from the Greek annalists who taught
the world to write history, but chiefly from the discoveries in modern
excavations. And even with these sources at our command, we shall find
that many things which we would like to know about Assyrian and
Babylonian women are still obscure.

The Sumer-Accadian question shall not disturb us here. That there was a
non-Semitic people living in the region of the Euphrates and the Tigris,
and that they developed a civilization from which the Babylonian and
Assyrians later borrowed, seems clearly established. What the Sumerian
and Accadian women left to their Semitic sisters who came at length into
the ancient heritage, it would now be impossible to say with any degree
of certainty.

The ancient mythology and the epic poems of these people contain many
female characters, which may throw some light upon woman's place in
their civilization. A people's mythology is the dim daguerreotype of
their childhood thinking. Fortunately for us, the last fifty years have
brought to light a whole series of epic poems from early Babylonian
life, some of them in fragmentary form, others more or less well
preserved. In nearly all these the feminine character has its place.

It will be remembered that in the Hebrew account of the creation no
female divinity plays a part. In the kindred Semitic accounts from
Babylonia and Assyria, however, Tihâmat, or Mummu Tohâmat, becomes the
primeval mother of all things. She was chaos--corresponding to the
Hebrew _Tehôm_, or "abyss." And thus, from the womb of dark chaos, with
the ocean as father, came the divinity, the sun, moon and stars, earth,
man, everything. But, strangely enough, after the birth of the first
gods from chaos, a strife arose between them and their mother Tihâmat.
It is, however, the old story of light's struggle with darkness. Anu
would decide the dispute, but Tihâmat declares that the war must go on.
Marduk, the god of light, becomes the special champion of the forces
arrayed against primeval darkness, and Tihâmat is vanquished and cut
asunder. From one part he makes the firmament of the heaven, to which
the gods of the heavenly lights, sun, moon, and stars, are assigned, and
from the other half he fashions the earth.

So, also, in the story of the Deluge, the Babylonian Noah, called
Sît-Napishti, takes his wife with him into the ark; and when the floods
subside and the ship rests, stranded upon the land, Ishtar, the goddess
of the rainbow, greatly rejoices as she smells the sweet incense that
arises from the grateful altar of Sît-Napishti. The god Bel is persuaded
never again to destroy the earth with a flood, and so takes Sît-Napishti
and his faithful wife by the hand, blesses them, and at length
translates them to paradise.

One of the most prominent heroines of early Babylonian epic is Ishtar.
Indeed, there are many variant stories concerning her. Ishtar's descent
into Hades is, in fact, one of the most important legends of Oriental
mythology. She is the goddess of love, corresponding to the Canaanite
and Phoenician divinities Ashtoreth and Astarte. She is the Aphrodite,
the Venus of classic myth. Earlier she did not hold power over men's
minds. She was a goddess of war, and the earlier warriors honored her as
their patroness. It was Esarhaddon who enlarged the honors paid her; and
he is said once to have interrupted his scribe, while reading of two
important expeditions of arms, to send and fetch _The Descent of Ishtar
into Hades_.

This romantic story of adventure on the part of the goddess is well
set out in early Assyro-Babylonian literature. Tammuz, the young husband
of Ishtar, has been cut off by the boar's tusk (of winter). Ishtar
mourned incessantly for her lover, but in vain. She resolved to rescue
him if possible from the realm of shade, the kingdom of Allat, whence he
had gone; for, though god he was, he must keep company with all the rest
whom death claimed. Only one method of restoring him to the realm of
life was possible. There was a spring which issued from under the
threshold of Allat's own palace. One who could bathe in and drink of
these wonderful waters would live again. But, alas! they were zealously
guarded; for a stone lay upon the fountain, and seven spirits of earth
watched with assiduous care lest some might drink and live. Of these
waters Ishtar resolved to go and fetch a draught. But no one, not even a
goddess, can descend into this Hades alive. So we read: "To the land
from whence no traveller returns, to the regions of darkness, Ishtar,
the daughter of Sin, has directed her spirit to the house of darkness,
the seat of the God Iskala, to the house which those who enter can never
leave, by the road over which no one travels a second time, to the house
the inhabitants of which never again see the light, the place where
there is no bread, but only dust, no food, but wind. No one can see the
light there, ... upon the gate and the lock on all sides the dust lies
thick." But Ishtar, in her quest of love, is nothing daunted by the
difficulties or the forbidding aspects of her task. She descends to the
gates of Allat's abode and knocks upon them, calling commandingly to the
doorkeeper to unlock the bolts: "Guardian of life's waters, open thy
doors, open thy doors that I may go in. If thou do not open thy gate and
let me in, I will sound the knocker, I will break the lock, I will
strike the threshold and break through the portal. I will raise the dead
to devour the living, the dead shall be more numerous than the living."
The porter goes and tells his mistress, Allat, of the imperious demand
of Ishtar. "O goddess, thy sister Ishtar has come in search of the
living water; she has shaken the strong bolts, she threatens to break
down the doors." Allat treats her with contempt, but finally commands
her messenger: "Go, then, O guardian, open the gates to her, but unrobe
her according to the ancient laws." Since men come naked into the world,
they must go out unclad, and the older custom among the Babylonians was
to bury the dead without clothing. Ishtar is stripped of her garments
and jewels, and at each successive gate more of her ornaments were
appropriated. First went her crown, for Allat alone was queen in that
gloomy realm; then her earrings, her jewelled necklace; then her veil,
her belt, her bracelets, and her anklets. When through the seventh gate
she passed, all her garments were taken away; and Allat commanded her
demon Namtar--the plague devil--to take her from the queen's presence
and strike her down with disease of every sort. Meanwhile, in the upper
world all are mourning because of her absence; for, as goddess of love
and procreation, all nature was perishing, and there was no renewal. All
the forces of the upper world, therefore, united to bring her back to
light; for the world would be depopulated and barren, if some means were
not found to restore her.

Here the supreme god Hea comes to the rescue, for he alone, as
controller of the universe, can violate the laws which he himself has
imposed thereon. Hea commands that Allat give life again to Ishtar by
the application of the water of life to her. She was informed that power
over the life of her consort Tammuz was given into her hands. The water
of life was poured upon him, he was anointed with precious perfumes and
clothed in purple. Thus "Nature revived with Tammuz: Ishtar had
conquered death."

That the Babylonian Hades was presided over by a queen; that the real
sceptre in the underworld was swayed by a woman is a matter of some
significance. In the old Norse mythology the goddess Hel, without a
husband, ruled in the abode of Hell, or the place of death. Among the
Greeks, Persephone divided with her husband, Pluto, the control of the
underworld. With the Babylonians it is the goddess Allat whose power
controls the realm of the dead; and even her scribe, contrary to what we
might expect, was also a woman, whose name was Belit-Iseri. Allat, the
mistress of death, is not represented as an attractive woman, but ill
shaped, with the wings and claws of a bird of prey. She goes to and fro
in her realm, exploring the river which flows from the world to her own
abode. A huge serpent is brandished in each hand, with which, as "an
animated sceptre," she strikes and poisons those against whom her enmity
is directed. The boat in which she navigates the dark river has a fierce
bird's beak upon its prow, and a bull's head upon its stern. Her power
is irresistible; and even the gods cannot invade her realm except they
die like men, and graciously acknowledge her supremacy over them. Just
as the dead eat and drink and sleep, so does Allat. Her daily portion,
as with other divinities, comes from the table of the gods, brought by
her faithful messenger, Namtar. Libations poured out in sacrifice by the
living also trickle down to her through the earth. Thus Allat lives and
reigns in the land from which no traveller returns, a kingdom into which
twice seven gates open to receive the dead; but none opens for their

Professor Peter Jensen, of Marburg, Germany, has raised the question:
Why in the realm of the dead is the power of woman so important, and
even monarchical in character? He answers it by the very simple
explanation that just as the Hebrews personified their Sheol, and the
North Germanic nations their Hel, so the Assyrians and Babylonians
regarded their country of the dead as a person. And that since names of
places and lands are of feminine gender, in Assyrian thought as in the
Hebrew, the land of the dead was conceived of under the form of a woman.
Whether this be the true explanation or not, certain it is that the
female principle played an important part in the religious thinking of
the Assyro-Babylonian peoples.

It is not difficult, therefore, to perceive that women would hold an
important place in Babylonian and Assyrian religious life, and in the
Phoenician cult. When the goddess plays an important part in religion,
especially when the renovative and procreative powers of nature are
worshipped, woman will naturally find a place. While the Hebrews have
their prophetesses, the religion of Babylonia and Assyria has its
priestesses as well as prophetesses.

No account of the women of Assyria would seem complete without
reference to the legend of Semiramis and her wonderful exploits. And as
is the case with much of the history of the dawn of nations, we are
indebted to the Greeks for preserving for us the story of this
superlative queen. Ctesias, Diodorus, Herodotus, Strabo, and others tell
her story or mention her achievements. This remarkable woman was said to
be the daughter of Derceto, the goddess of reproductive nature and of a
youthful mortal with whom she had fallen in love. The babe was exposed
by its mother, but was found and cared for by a shepherd named Simmas.
Having developed into a very beautiful damsel, she won the hand of
Oannes, Governor of Syria. In the war against Bactria she so
distinguished herself for bravery, disguising herself as a soldier and
scaling the wall of the besieged capital, that the King Ninus, founder
of the city of Nineveh, took her to be his own queen. Soon Ninus died
and Semiramis became sole ruler of the realm. Unbounded ambition,
coupled with surpassing genius, caused her to undertake the labor of
eclipsing the glory of all her predecessors. She built cities, threw up
defences, conquered kings, and extended her territory in every
direction. She made the city of Babylon one of her capitals, fortifying
it with gigantic walls of sun-dried brick, cemented with asphalt. She
built wonderful bridges supported by huge pillars of stone. Diodorus
Siculus, quoting Ctesias, thus describes her work upon the walls of the
city of Babylon: "When the first part of the work was completed,
Semiramis fixed on the place where the Euphrates was narrowest, and
threw across it a bridge five stadia long. She contrived to build in the
bed of the stream pillars twelve feet apart, the stones of which were
joined with strong iron clamps, fixed into the mortises with melted
lead. The side of these pillars toward the run of the stream was built
at an angle, so as to divide the water and cause it to run smoothly past
and lessen the pressure against the massive pillars. On these pillars
were laid beams of cedar and cypress, with large trunks of palm trees,
so as to form a platform thirty feet wide. The queen then built at great
cost, on either bank of the river, a quay with a wall as broad as that
of the city and one hundred and sixty stadia long, that is, nearly
twenty miles. In front of each end of the bridge, she built a castle
flanked by towers, and surrounded by triple walls. Before the bricks
used in these buildings were baked, she modelled on them, figures of
animals of every kind, colored to represent living nature. Semiramis
then constructed another prodigious work: she had a huge basin, or
square reservoir, dug in some low ground. When it was finished the river
was directed into it, and she at once commenced building in the dry bed
of the river, a covered way leading from one castle to the other. This
work was completed in seven days, and the river was then allowed to
return to its bed, and Semiramis could then pass dry-shod under water
from one of her castles to the other. She placed at the two ends of the
tunnel, gates of bronze, said by Ctesias to be still in existence in the
time of the Persians. Lastly, she built in the midst of the city the
temple of the god Bel."

It will be seen from such a paragraph as this just quoted how Semiramis
anticipated much of the best work of engineering of modern times. The
mountains and valleys yielded to her daring when highways were to be
built for the extension of her power and her commerce. In Armenia,
Media, and all the regions around she exhibited her genius and prowess.
Even Egypt and Ethiopia fell before her. Only when she undertook to
carry her arms into far-off India did she meet with reverses.
Stabrobatis, King of India, with the aid of elephants, utterly routed
the army of the valiant queen, and she never again attempted an
expedition to the Far East. As an example of what Semiramis thought of
herself, we may quote the words attributed to her: "Nature gave me the
body of a woman, but my deeds have equalled those of the most valiant
men. I ruled the empire of Ninus, which reaches eastward to the river
Hinaman (the Indus), southward to the land of incense and myrrh (Arabia
Felix), northward to the Saces and Sogdians. Before me no Assyrian had
seen a sea; I have seen four that no one had approached, so far were
they distant. I compelled the rivers to run where I wished, and directed
them to the places where they were required. I made barren land fertile
by watering it with my rivers; I built impregnable fortresses; with iron
tools I made roads across impassable rocks; I opened roads for my
chariots, where the very wild beasts were unable to pass. In the midst
of these occupations, I have found time for pleasure and love!"

What are we to think of this story of the very wonderful lady of the
Orient of long ago? Did she ever live, move, and have her remarkable
being? It is needless to reply that the story is purely legendary, that
none of the modern excavations which have been so fruitful in character
have confirmed the story of Ctesias. On the contrary, the monuments have
as yet failed even to certify to the existence of such a woman. The fact
that her birth is given as from a goddess, that at her death she was
changed into a dove, and was thereafter herself worshipped as a goddess,
is some evidence of the unreliable character of the narrative. A queen
who bore the name of Sammuramat and lived between B.C. 812 and B.C. 783
has been discovered as a historical personage, a name that may possibly
have influenced that given the great prehistoric queen. But the
marvellous achievements attributed to Semiramis are discovered to be the
work of man through a long series of years, and that, too, highly
idealized in the numerous details.

That the imaginary queen, as the story goes, had a power over the minds
of the people is evident from the fact that many later achievements of
arms and of building were attributed to her. And yet, notwithstanding
the mythological character of the story of Semiramis, there is reflected
much truth concerning Assyro-Babylonian history in these legends. That
so great achievements should have been attributed to a woman is evidence
of a lack of that prejudice against woman which is discoverable among
many Oriental people. In the region of the Euphrates and the Tigris,
women had a noteworthy degree of independence, and in some respects a
recognized equality. The legend could have developed only in such an
atmosphere. The comparison of feminine and masculine virtues has been
made time out of mind; the following words from Plutarch are, in this
connection, of interest: "Neither can a man truly any better learn the
resemblance and difference between feminine and virile virtue than by
comparing together lives with lives, exploits with exploits, as the
product of some great art, duly considering whether the magnanimity of
Semiramis carries with it the same character and impression with that of
Sesostris, or the cunning of Tanaquil the same with that of King
Servius, or the discretion of Portia the same with that of Brutus, or
that of Pelopidas with that of Timoclea, regarding that quality of these
virtues wherein lie their chiefest point and force."

It is certain that if early Assyrian myth is to be consulted, the
Assyrians had no hesitancy in recognizing the possibility of real
greatness in woman's accomplishments and womanly genius.

While there are few queens of note among the prominent personages of
whom we read upon the monuments, and while the name of no woman occurs
in the Eponym Canon by which the chronology of the nation's life is
reckoned, yet the place of woman among the Assyrians and Babylonians was
one of greater privilege and honor than among most ancient nations.
Those unsurpassed walls that protected the great city of Babylon and the
hydraulic works which Cyrus, the conqueror of Babylon, was forced to
capture before the city fell into his hands are attributed by Herodotus
to a woman,--Queen Nitocris.

In the Code of Hammurabi, who was King of Babylon about B. C. 2250, the
most ancient of all known codes of law, woman fares well for so early a
period. One of these quaint laws reads: "If a woman hates her husband
and says, 'Thou shalt not have me,' they shall inquire into her
antecedents for her defects. If she has been a careful mistress and
without reproach, and her husband has been going about and greatly
belittling her, that woman has no blame. She shall receive her presents,
and shall go to her father's house." "If she has not been a careful
mistress, has gadded about, has neglected her house and belittled her
husband, they shall throw that woman into the water!" Under this code, a
man might sell his wife to pay his debts. For three years she might work
in the house of the purchaser; after which she was to be given her
freedom. Where the law of Moses says: "He that smiteth his father _or
his mother_ shall be surely put to death," Hammurabi's code enjoins:
"Who smites his father, loses the offending limb."

From the many contract tablets that have been exhumed much fresh light
has been thrown upon the social customs of the people in the valleys of
the Euphrates and the Tigris. In Babylonia the woman did not suffer
greatly before the law from the fact that she was the weaker vessel.
Indeed, the scales were held quite evenly as between the sexes. A woman
might hold her own property, appear in public, and attend to her own
business. Frequently, Assyrian women are depicted upon monuments riding
on the highways upon mules. Woman might even hold office and plead in a
court of justice--so far did Babylonia anticipate the progress of modern
Western ideas. Agreements have been discovered upon tablets by which it
was covenanted between a man and his wife that should the husband marry
another during the lifetime of the first wife, all the dowry of the
first shall be returned to her and she shall be allowed to go where she
pleases. The law concerning divorce, however, would seem to lack that
fairness which characterizes many other regulations of social life. A
man might divorce his wife by the payment of a pecuniary consideration;
but if a woman undertook the initiative in annulling the marriage
contract, she might be condemned to death by drowning.

In the formula for the exorcism used by the priests to break the spell
the gods had sent upon one possessed or sick, we discover that despising
the mother was regarded as being as culpable as dishonoring the father.
"Has he perchance set his parents or relations at variance, sinned
against God, despised father or mother, lied, cheated, dishonored his
neighbor's wife, shed his neighbor's blood, etc. Indeed, an ancient law,
which is thought to go back even to Accadian precedents, even gives to
the woman, if she be a mother, greater honor than to the man for it is
prescribed that if a son denies his father he is to be fined; if he
denies his mother, he is to be banished."

It must be said, however, that the social freedom of the women depended
much upon their social rank. The women of the lower walks of life were
singularly independent for an Oriental community. Indeed, their liberty
was practically unrestricted. They could be seen upon the public
highways, with both head and face uncovered. They could make their
purchases at the market place, attend to any business that they might
find necessary, and visit the homes of their friends without restraint.
While all women, whatever might be their rank, had the same standing
before the laws of the land, unbending custom kept women of the highest
plane of social life within the seclusion of the home. Even when allowed
the privilege of being seen in public, they must go attended by eunuchs
or pages, so that both seeing and being seen were difficult processes.
Of course, in the highest lady of the land, the queen, was found the
culmination of dignity and exclusiveness, and she was rarely seen by
anyone except her husband, members of the royal family, and her
servants. Thus rank, instead of giving freedom and enlarged powers,
tended only to bring monotony and seclusion.

The women of the lower classes usually went with bare feet, as well as
bare heads. With their long shaggy garments they did not present a very
picturesque or attractive appearance. The truth is, the costumes of the
people of Babylonia and Assyria were wanting in that grace and beauty
which is discoverable among some other people of the Orient. The
garments lacked that lightness of effect which flowing robes and drapery
make possible. The designs and materials were stiff, and with the
profusion of borders and fringes presented a heavy aspect. The women did
not choose so to dress as to show their natural figure, but by
concealing themselves in heavy and sometimes padded garments, their
forms were far from beautiful, and contrast most unfavorably with the
Greek and Egyptian grace of womanly dress and carriage. The women as
well as the men used much embroidery, which was generally very heavy and
often elaborate. Some of the designs were highly ornate and beautiful.

Of the education of women in Babylonia and Assyria little definite is
known, except that it was common for women as well as men to read and
write. Exercises and translations of school children have been exhumed
from the mounds of ancient Babylonian cities. Dolls and other playthings
of the children have also been brought to light, showing that the
children of all ages have much the same tastes and occupations. Music,
dancing, embroidery, besides reading and writing, were among the
accomplishments of the girls of these lands.

Households were amply equipped religiously, for every home must be
provided with some method of keeping itself free from the power of evil
spirits. When all believe that the world is peopled with demons who are
perpetually trying to ensnare men and bring them to ruin if possible, we
might expect that the women would be especially superstitious and
punctilious to the last degree in order that all evil spirits may be
frightened from their dwellings. Hence, they hung amulets in almost
every conceivable place. Talismans, statuettes of the dreaded spirits
might be seen in every home. Every charm was used to thwart the enemies
of human happiness in their attempt to destroy domestic peace, estrange
husband from wife, drive the head of the family from his own roof, and
send barrenness and blight in every quarter.

The ancient Babylonians had a queer way of marrying off their daughters,
if we may believe Herodotus--which we do not. Not any period in the year
might the maiden select as the time to become a matron, but only on one
occasion during the year, and that a public festival, was marriage
permitted. On this occasion, the daughters of marriageable age were put
up at public auction. The crier took his place, while the young men who
were looking for wives or the young men's parents who were to pay for
them, stood about watching their opportunity to exchange their money for
feminine values. It is said that the girls were put up for purchase,
according to their beauty--the prettiest first, and so on to the end of
the sale. Often the contest of buyers would run high in excitement, and
large prices were offered for the coveted prize.

After the good-looking damsels were all sold at fair prices, then came
the less attractive maidens, who, we are informed, were not sold, but
offered as wives with a dowry, the proceeds of the beauties being used
to add to the value of their less fortunate sisters. When the auction
was over, the marriage followed, and the brides accompanied their
new-made husbands to their homes. There was no escape from this method
of wedlock. The procedure was not optional, but imperative. There was no
marriage ring or bracelet to commemorate the event, but each new wife
was given a bit of baked clay in the form of an olive. Through this
model a hole was pierced so that it might be worn continually about the
neck, and upon it were inscribed the names of the parties to the
transaction and the date of their marriage. Several of these clay
memorials have been found as mute witnesses of the days when girls were
put up at the annual sale of wives in the month of Sabat and knocked
down to the highest bidder.

Later, however, this custom gave way to one more rational, when marriage
came to be considered both "an act of civil law and a rite of domestic
worship." It became a contract entered into by two parties. A scribe
must be called in to draw up the marriage bond. It is to be properly
witnessed and filed away with a public notary for future reference.
There is a long period of social evolution between these two methods of
conducting marriage. And it is not to be supposed that all trace of
bargain and sale have disappeared. Not at all. The following happy
effort has been made at reproducing a scene which might have easily
occurred between the father of a young man who seeks in marriage the
hand of a certain damsel and the father of the girl at the home of the

"'Will you give your daughter Bilitsonnon in marriage to my son
Zamamanadin?' The father consents and without further delay the two men
arrange the dowry. Both fathers are generous and rich, but they are also
men of business habits. One begins by asking too much, the other replies
by offering too little; it is only after some hours of bargaining that
they finally agree and settle upon what each knew from the beginning was
a reasonable dowry--a mana of silver, three servants, a trousseau and
furniture, with permission for the father to substitute articles of
equal value for the cash." There being no further obstacles the marriage
is accordingly fixed for a day of the next week.

But does not the young lady need a longer time to prepare for an event
of so great moment in her life? No, because she has been anticipating
for some time that such a transaction will be effected by her parents;
for has she not already arrived at the age of thirteen? She has
therefore not let the past months slip idly through her fingers. She has
been busy sewing, embroidering, and making other things of beauty and
usefulness for her expected home. But nothing has concerned her more
than to see that her own person shall be attractive to her new husband
when the veil is lifted on her wedding day. Odors and ornaments ample
have been provided.

Early upon the appointed day the friends may be seen moving toward the
home of the bride-elect. The scribe who is to draw up the marriage
contract is present ready to perform his important task. With his
triangular stylus he indents the covenant in soft clay. This is to be
inserted in an envelope also of clay that there may be a double
impression of the words of the contract. This is to be carefully baked
and filed away for possible future use--it may be to be found thousands
of years afterward by some explorer digging in the ruins of a long
buried city. The day has dawned beautiful, for the astrologer has said
that all would be propitious. The hands of the bride and groom are tied
together with a thread of wool, the customary emblem of the union into
which they have now entered. The marriage contract is clearly read
before the assembled company, and the witnesses make their mark upon the
soft tablet, the dowry and other presents are given over. Prayer is made
to the proper gods for the happy pair, and curses are invited upon any
who shall undertake to annul the covenant or revoke the gifts.

Next comes the banqueting, of which the Assyrians were so fond. Music
and dancing, jesting and telling happy tales, with eating and drinking,
make up the round of merriment. At length the time comes for the bridal
party to make its way to the home of the groom's parents. All along the
way are signs of rejoicing, in which all are expected to join. The
groom's house is reached, and here the festivities are resumed and
carried on for several days, till all are fatigued and sated with mirth
and quite ready to see the young couple settle down to their new life as
home makers.

Polygamy was rare for the Orient, especially at so early a period; but
where polygamy was practised at all, the harem existed. In Assyria, the
king might have more than one legitimate wife, to say nothing of those
who were not so ranked. Sargon had three lawful wives, for each of whom
he erected a separate apartment in his royal palace of Dur-Sargina. Like
Oriental houses generally, the several apartments are entered from a
central court. The queen's apartments were usually rich in decoration
and furnishings. The harem of Sargon's palace, which may be taken as
typical, was entered by gates. One of these had upon the front two huge
bronze palm trees, on each side one. Since the palm tree is emblematic
of both grace and fecundity, the significance of its use is apparent.
There were anterooms and drawing rooms, as well as bedrooms, for the
use of the queen. These were plastered, and mural decorations were
abundant, the designs being sometimes conventional, sometimes depicting
religious ideas in symbolism. Of course, the winged bull and the winged
lion, watchful guardians of Assyrian interest, were often painted upon
the walls. The gods were favorite subjects. In the women's apartments
were chairs, stools, tables, and the floors of brick or stone were
covered with carpets and mats. The bed, more like a modern lounge, was
raised upon wooden legs, and held a mattress and appropriate coverings,
and placed in a highly ornamented alcove, gave to the bedroom an
attractive air.

But how does the queen amuse herself? for long indeed must the hours
often have seemed as she lived out her life a comparative prisoner. G.
Maspero, the noted French assyriologist, has thus described the
occupation of the queens, as they try to fill the idle hours: "Dress,
embroidery, needlework, and housekeeping, long conversation with their
slaves, the exchange of visits, and the festivals, with dancing and
singing with which they entertained each other, serve for occupation and
amusement. From time to time the king passes some hours amongst them, or
invites them to dine with him and amuse themselves in the hanging
gardens of the palace. The wives of the princes and great nobles are
sometimes admitted to pay homage to them, but very rarely, for fear they
should serve as intermediaries between the recluses and the outer

The kings of both Assyria and Babylonia were, as a rule, kings of
insatiable conquest. Hence, much of the year was spent with the army in
some distant territory, or, it may be, in lion hunting, a sport which
had great attractiveness to a number of the kings. It will be thus seen
how little the wives of the monarch enjoyed his real companionship.
There was ample time for monotony, broken now and again by jealousies,
followed by bitter hatred and deadly plottings. One wife would almost
inevitably share more of the attention of the king than the rest. Those
who had reason to believe themselves neglected would certainly be
incensed against the more favored rival. The servants of the palace
would often be drawn into the disputes, which sometimes had a tragic
end. The whole harem, combining against a favorite, might, through the
use of poison or by some other clandestine means, end the life of her
who was so unfortunate as to be loved by the king beyond the measure
thought by her rivals to be her due.

One happy effort tended to relieve at least a little the dull seclusion
of the ladies of the harem. This was the planting of a garden in a court
adjacent to the house of the women. Often these gardens would be most
elaborate and beautiful. The hanging gardens of Babylon, accounted as
among the Seven Wonders of the World, were built in honor of a favorite
queen. The garden of the harem consisted of trees, such as the sycamore,
the poplar, or the cypress, and other plants selected to please the eye
of those whose seclusion must have made this suggestion of the country
most grateful.

Feasting played an important rôle in the heyday of Nineveh's grandeur,
as also in the Babylon of later days. The king has just returned from a
great triumph in the Westland. The whole city is agog. For days the
round of drinking and carousing has proceeded, till the whole city is
drunken. The queen wishes to have a part in the expressions of victory
and rejoicing. She, with some trepidation, invites the king to dine with
her in her apartments in the harem. At the appointed hour all is
arranged. The gorgeous couch the queen has prepared for the king to
recline upon while he sips his wine scented with aromatic spices, the
rich drapery of the couch, the small table near by, laden with golden
and silver vessels of costliness and elegance, the slaves who attend
upon the lord's wishes, the poet-laureate to sing the conqueror's
praises in elaborate lines of flattery--all conspire to make the
occasion one of great magnificence. Thus, from king and queen to the
lowliest of the great city, the spirit of revelry, the love of carousal,
and the habit of intoxication, took hold of the luxuriant capital. We
recognize the appropriateness of the familiar words of Nahum, the Hebrew
prophet of Elkosh, who had been an eyewitness of the growing effeminacy
of the great Assyrian capital, Nineveh, when he foretold the fall of the
once glorious city: "Behold, thy people in the midst of thee are women,
the gates of thy land shall be set wide open unto thy enemies; the fire
shall devour thy bars."

How did the ordinary housewife spend her time? M. Maspero attempts to
reproduce the daily life of the Assyrian woman of about the eighth
century before the Christian era in these graphic words:

"The Assyrian women spend a great deal of time upon the roofs. They
remain there all the morning till driven away by the noonday heat, and
they go back as soon as the sun declines in the evening. There they
perform all their household duties, chatting from one terrace to the
other. They knead the bread, prepare the cooking, wash the linen and
hang it out to dry, or if they have slaves to relieve them from these
menial labors, they install themselves upon cushions, and chat or
embroider in the open air. During the hottest hours of the day they
descend and take refuge indoors. The coolest room in the house is often
below the level of the courtyard and receives very little light." Thus
the Assyrian lady adapts herself as well as she may to her surroundings,
which were usually very simple as to furnishings and such things as a
modern inhabitant of the West would classify under the head of
"comforts." An Assyrian housewife was usually satisfied with a few
chairs and stools of various heights and sizes. There were few beds,
except among the rich. The people generally slept upon mats, which could
be folded and put away during the daytime. Taking care of the house was
woman's work, unless the family was rich enough to own slaves to attend
to the menial work of domestic life. The women had the care of the oven,
which was usually built in one corner of the court, and the meats were
cooked by them at the open fireplace. Care of the culinary work of an
Assyrian home was no small task, for the Assyrians were good
feeders,--and as for drinking, here they surpassed even their powers at
eating. So the woman of the house would find it necessary to care for
the wine skins and water jars that might be seen hanging about the
porches to keep them cool.

The people along the waterways lived largely upon fish. These were
caught in great numbers and dried. The industrious housewife would take
these dried fish, pound them in a crude mortar, and then make them into
cakes, which Herodotus tells us were almost the sole diet of those who
lived in the lower or marshy regions of the Mesopotamian valley.
Ordinarily, men and women partook together their daily repast from a
common dish, into which all dipped, but on the occasion of great
banquets it was customary for the women to be served separately.



"Concerning the virtues of women, O Cleanthes, I am not of the same mind
with Thucydides, for he would prove that she is the best woman
concerning whom there is least discourse made by people abroad, either
to her praise or her dispraise; judging that, as the person, so the very
name of a good woman ought to be retired and not gad abroad. But to us
Gorgias seems more accurate, who requires that not only the face, but
the fame of a woman should be known to many. For the Roman law seems
exceedingly good, which permits due praise to be given publicly both to
men and to women after death." These words of Plutarch find application
in the life of the women of the land of the Nile. There is no lack of
praise for the Egyptian women both while living and after they had
passed away, as the testimony of the monuments amply prove.

It should be remembered that the history of Egypt extends over a very
wide stretch of time, and that changes are to be reckoned with even in a
region where everything moves slowly. For this reason it is not always
possible to say that this or that was true of the Egyptian women. For
there were the ancient, middle and later kingdoms, with each of which
came new influences, and these differed in many respects from the period
of Greek or Macedonian power; and the Egypt of to-day is a very
different Egypt from that of the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies.

There are many widely differing people in the land of the Nile to-day.
The traveller finds great diversity of scenery and of social conditions,
and one has said of this marvellous land as the great dramatist wrote of
one of her most notable daughters:

      "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
       Her infinite variety."

The oldest book in the world is an ancient Egyptian papyrus discovered
by M. Prisse at Thebes. It goes back to a period probably not later than
B.C. 3580, being a collection of didactic sayings, or precepts, of
Phtahhotep, a prince of the fifth dynasty. What so early an Egyptian
sage has to say concerning women should be of no little interest. In
giving advice to husbands, he gives this counsel, which we might imagine
a wise man of to-day might easily have written: "If thou be wise, guard
thy house; honor thy wife, and love her exceedingly; feed her stomach
and clothe her back, for this is the duty of a husband. Give her
abundance of ointment, fail not each day to caress her, let the desire
of her heart be fulfilled, for verily he that is kind to his wife and
honoreth her, the same honoreth himself. Withhold thy hand from
violence, and thy heart from cruelty, softly entreat her and win her to
thy way, consider her desires and deny not the wish of her heart. Thus
shalt thou keep her heart from wandering; but if thou harden thyself
against her, she will turn from thee. Speak to her, yield her thy love,
she will have respect unto thee; open thy arms, she will come unto

Ancient Egyptian literature does not lack its reference to women. One
of the most famous of the stories that have been presented to us from
Egyptian sources is _The Tale of the Two Brothers_. This goes back to
the day of Moses, and has suggested to many the Hebrew account of
Joseph. It reveals the charms of her whose beauty the sea leaped up to
embrace, and the acacia flowers envied. This romance, written for the
entertainment of Seti II. when he was yet crown prince, and considered,
by Mr. Flinders Petrie, to be connected with the ancient Phrygian of
Atys, gives us an early illustration of the fact that many ills and many
pleasures have been born to the race through love of a woman.

The women of Babylonia and Assyria enjoyed a measure of freedom that was
exceptional for the Orient, and yet the Egyptian woman was more
independent still. Indeed, the respect that was paid to womankind by the
Egyptians is one of the fairest elements in the civilization of the
valley of the Nile. Motherhood also was highly respected. But one
illustration, referred to by Lenormant, will suffice to prove this
statement. A woman while _enceinte_, condemned to death for murder or
any other crime, could not be executed till after the birth of the
child; for it was considered the height of injustice to make the
innocent participate in the punishment of the guilty, and to visit the
crime of one person upon two. And he adds: "The judges who put to death
an innocent person were held as guilty as if they had acquitted a

Before the law woman's rights were respected. In the division of the
paternal estate, the daughters shared equally with the sons, and were
more responsible than the sons for the care of the parents. In worship,
the queen is sometimes depicted as standing near her husband in the
temple--behind him, to be sure, as the king was the head of the religion
and indeed "son of the Sun," but with him, like Isis behind Osiris,
lifting her hand in sympathetic protection and shaking the sistrum, or
beating the tambourine to dispel all evil spirits, or holding the
libation vase or bouquet.

The Egyptian woman, of the lower or middle classes at least, suffered no
enforced seclusion. She came and went as her will led her, appearing in
public without covered face, and chatting with acquaintances whom she
met without having her conduct questioned or her modesty placed under
suspicion. She might enjoy a banquet with the opposite sex, and at its
close look upon the weird figure of a corpse carved in wood, placed in a
coffin, which Herodotus says was carried around by a servant. As he
shows the image to each guest in turn the servant says: "Gaze here and
drink and be merry; for when you die such you will be." Thus was
Epicurus anticipated in ancient Egypt. _Dum vivimus, vivamus._ The
Egyptians generally, however, kept the next world always in view, and
immortality played no small part in shaping the Egyptian life, both as
to its men and its women. The Greek influence, which, after the days of
Alexander, was destined to revolutionize Egyptian thought and custom,
notwithstanding the efforts of the Ptolemies to win favor of the
populace by revolutionizing the waning worship of Osiris, is illustrated
in a poem written about one hundred years before Christ, a _Lament for
the Dead Wife of Pasherenptah._ In this poem, the ancient hope of
immortality is overcast, and the weeping spouse is enjoined:

      "Love woman while you may
      Make life a holiday,
      Drive every care away
      And earthly sadness."

The first lady of the land was of course a queen. The queens of Egypt
not unfrequently had a wide outlook upon the material progress of the
people. This is well exemplified in the expedition of Queen Chuenemtamun
of which we know from discovered monuments, which represent the ship
being ladened with large and costly stores under her direction. Queen
Hatshepsu fitted out a fleet of five ships and sent them to the land of
Punt,--the southern coast of Arabia, or, as some suppose, the African
coast south of Abyssinia,--that they might bring back scented fig trees
which she would transplant in her gigantic orchard at Thebes. The
tallest monolith in the world, of reddish granite and one hundred and
eight feet high, said once to have been covered with a coating of gold,
was the work of this famous queen.

In a few cases queens ruled in Egypt, wives of kings governed jointly
with their husbands, and there are instances in which pretenders to the
throne married women of royal lineage that their claims might have at
least the show of being legitimate. This was the case with Piankhi, one
of the Ethiopian dynasty of kings, whose wife Ameniritis is described as
a woman of rare intelligence and of superior merit; one who, because of
her rare strength of character and wisdom, exerted a powerful influence
in the government and won for herself great popularity in Thebes and the
entire region around.

A modern traveller may easily be reminded of the honor paid to women in
ancient Egypt by visiting the sites where temples and tombs were erected
in honor of some beloved wife and queen. The temple of Hathor at the
modern Aboo Simbel, which was erected by the famous builder Rameses II.
in honor at once of Hathor the goddess of love, and of his wife
Nofreari. Six statues adorn the entrance to the temple. They are thirty
feet high, and represent Rameses and his beloved queen, who appears
under the favor of the goddess Hathor. On the brow of the goddess is the
crown--the moon resting within the horns of a cow; she wears also the
ostrich feathers, which are the sign of royalty. Their children, as
often portrayed upon Egyptian monuments, have their places beside their
parents: the daughters stand close to the queen; the sons, near to the
father. About the sculptured forms is recorded in hieroglyphic
characters the love which the king felt for his fair queen, whose name
meant "beautiful and good." The temple and statues are hewn out of the
living rock, and, on entering, there is the shrine of Hathor, "the
supreme type of divine maternity."

There is a touch of romance here, for on the outer wall the inscriptions
tell us that this temple was reared "by Rameses the Strong in Faith, the
Beloved of Ammon, for his royal wife Nofreari, whom he loves"; while
within the doorway of this same temple may be read the legend, it was
for Rameses that "his royal wife who loves him, Nofreari the Beloved of
Maat, constructed for him this abode in the mountain of the Pure
Waters." Thus beautiful was the enduring love between this royal husband
and his wife.

No period of ancient Egyptian history is entirely wanting in the names
of conspicuous women. There is a legend that comes down from the days of
the Ptolemies, to the effect that when King Ptolemy Euergetes started
out upon his expeditions against Syria, the strong rival of Egypt for
the supremacy over the East, his queen, the beautiful Berenice (a
favorite name for princesses for two centuries), made a vow that if her
husband should be permitted to return from his expedition in safety, she
would dedicate her hair to the gods. Her prayer was answered; and,
faithful to her solemn vow, she cut off her hair and hung "the beautiful
golden tresses that had adorned her head in the temple, whose ruins
still stand on the promontory of Zephyrium." But, alas! they were not
long allowed to adorn the walls of the holy place, for some sacrilegious
thief carried them away from the shrine. The priests were bewildered,
the king was wroth, no one knew what to do. At length the astronomers
came to the relief of all concerned by announcing that it could have
been no ordinary thief who plundered the temple for the beautiful
tresses, but that the gods themselves had taken them, and that the keen
eye had only to be turned heavenward to discover a new constellation
which they now separated from Leo. The king and all concerned were now
reconciled and happy. The constellation shines on.

Among the most beautiful of ancient buildings is the temple of
Denderah. While magnificent in itself, much of its interest to us here
is due to the fact that it was erected and dedicated to the Egyptian
goddess of love and beauty, Hathor, nurse of Horus, the son of Osiris
and Isis; and further, that it was begun by that fascinator of kings,
the notorious Cleopatra. On the outside walls of the temple are figures
of this famous queen, and of Cæsarion, her son by Julius Cæsar. One
would judge from these representations that Cleopatra's beauty was of
the most voluptuous and sensual type, the features being not only full
but fat, though regular. On her head is placed the horned disc,--in
honor of Hathor,--the sacred vulture, and the horns of Isis. Thus have
been perpetuated the personal and religious features of the most
remarkable woman Egypt ever produced. Pascal's oft-quoted comment upon
the beauty of this Egyptian character doubtless contains a modicum of
truth: "If the nose of Cleopatra had been shorter, the whole face of the
earth would have been changed." Cleopatra, however, whose charms subdued
victors, was more a Greek than an Egyptian beauty. The women of the Nile
country, however, were not lacking in personal grace and physical charm.
Their complexions were dark, their features generally regular, and their
bodies athletic, though not large.

One might judge from the paintings that have come down to us, which
depict the form and vesture of the Egyptian woman, that she was greatly
lacking both in grace of figure and in taste for arraying herself
attractively. But we are not to be misled by the elongated, wiry-looking
figures that the monuments portray for us. Some of the blame must,
without doubt, be laid upon the Egyptian artist, who had little idea
either of proportion or perspective.

Egyptian women spent much time upon their toilettes. Great attention was
given to the care of the complexion. For this beautifying process a
powder was used consisting of antimony and charcoal, powdered fine and
applied with so much skill that the skin by contrast is made to stand
out in soft whiteness. For this cosmetic regimen a mirror of highly
polished metal was found to be of indispensable value. The finger nails
came in for a full share of attention, henna being used to stain them.
As for the feet, scarcely less care was given them, and anklets and toe
rings frequently adorned them. Shoes, or sandals, seem never to have
been in high favor in Egypt, and, even when clothed in the most costly
apparel, women preferred to go with bare feet.

It would seem very difficult, to modern taste, to attain to real beauty
by means of tattooing. But we have grounds for asserting that the
Egyptian beauties, at least at a certain period of their national
history, covered their forehead, chin, and breasts, and sometimes the
arms, with indelible painting in color. They were fond of rouging their
faces, especially the lips, and the eye was a feature to which much time
and art were given. Large eyes were the fashion, as may be readily
judged from the many pictures of ox-eyed maids which have been
preserved. A band of black pigment almost entirely surrounded the eyes,
and extended across the temples to the roots of the hair. By painting
the eyebrows and eyelids, the eyes were made to appear not only larger
but more brilliant.

The Egyptian woman was fond of the use of oil, which was rubbed
generously upon the body. Perfumes also played an important part in her
life. Women made and sold perfumes and used them profusely. They were
exceedingly fond of flowers, especially if they were new varieties.
Extracts and essences from sweet-scented plants were much sought after.
Favorite shrubs and flowers were transported from distant lands and
transplanted in the land of the Nile. This was often done upon a large
scale. Even the liquors drunk at banquets were scented with sweet

The women usually dressed in a long, close-fitting smock-frock, clinging
closely to the body and reaching quite to the ankles. The shoulders and
upper part of the breast were left uncovered, the frock being held in
place by two straps running across the shoulders. But it is not to be
supposed that the women of Egypt knew nothing of fashion; though it must
be confessed that fashions changed slowly. And in this matter the men
were as fond of fashion as the women; for they wore linen skirts usually
reaching to the knees, although their length was regulated by the
prevailing style.

Under the New Empire woman's dress did not leave both shoulders bare,
as formerly, but covered the left shoulder; the right shoulder and arm
being left free. At length drapery began to be more common, and instead
of the heavy, straight garment of earlier days, graceful folds appeared.
With the drapery came a lengthening of the skirt. When this change
occurred only the priests retained the simple skirt of former days. Most
men wore a double skirt, consisting of an inner short garment, and an
outer. Indeed, the men seemed quite as fond of their costume as the
women, and were more varied in their tastes, loving finery, and leaving
it to the women to be more conservative in matters of dress.

From the paintings and the other representations that have come down to
us, both the peasant maid and the princess wore the same kind of
garments, so far as the cut of them is concerned. Mother, daughter, and
maid were dressed much alike and without much variety of color. The rich
often wore a profusion of beads.

There was no part of the Egyptian woman's toilet upon which so much care
was bestowed as upon the hair. Indeed, the Egyptians prided themselves
upon their coiffure. Herodotus is authority for the statement that there
were fewer bald-headed people in Egypt than in any other country.
Civilization, in the valley of the Nile, at least, did not seem greatly
to increase the tendency to baldness. There were cases, but they were of
the nature of a calamity. Woe to the physician whose skill did not
succeed in checking the falling hair. Pomades of various ingredients
were common remedies for this ill. Oil, dog's feet, and date kernels
were considered of great virtue, as was also a donkey's tooth pulverized
and mixed with honey. And there was no more direful or more frequent
imprecation pronounced by an Egyptian lady upon her rival than that the
hair of her whom she hated might fall out!

[Illustration 2: GHAWAZI _After the painting by C. L. Muller
The "dancing girls" known as_ ghawazi, _are often in evidence. They
clothe themselves in gay garments of various colors. Sometimes they are
pretty and attractive specimens of female grace, but, as might be
expected from their character and profession, they soon become coarse
and repulsive. They may be seen at the public places, and their dances
are indecorous and immodest. They play a leading rôle in those wild
orgies known as_ Fantasia.]

Wigs were commonly used by women as well as by men of the Ancient
Empire. There was a coiffure of straight hair down to the shoulders or
to the breasts. Examples have been found, however, in which the wigs
reached not so far, as is the case in the statuette of the Lady Takusit,
which is now among the ancient ornaments in the Museum of Athens. She
wears a wig of stiff curly locks in rigidly regular lines plastered
closely to the head, reaching almost from the eyes in front to the nape
of the neck, and hiding the ears. The plaiting of the hair became common
in later times, the hair hanging stiffly over the shoulders.

This piece of statuary, that of Lady Takusit, or Takoushet, as it is
sometimes spelled, one of the most perfect of its kind, shows a woman of
good form and regular features, standing erect with one foot in advance,
her right arm hanging gracefully by her side, her left pressed naturally
against her bosom. She is dressed in the closely fitting skirt already
described, supported by straps over the shoulders and reaching to a
point just above the ankles. Her robe is richly embroidered with scenes
of a religious character, and her wrists are adorned with bracelets.

Besides the ordinary hair dress of the women, the queen enjoyed the
exceptional privilege of wearing a diadem or headdress, representing a
vulture, which was the sacred bird of Egypt and was accounted the
special protector of the king in battle. This royal bird is represented
as stretching out its strong wings over the head of the first lady of
the land.

The women were great lovers of trinkets and jewelry of all kinds, and
the men were not far behind them in this. They put an ornament wherever
it could be appropriately worn. And this ruling passion was even strong
in death, for the dead were often literally loaded with jewels upon
their arms, fingers, ears, brow, neck, and ankles. Favorite jewels,
specially, were entombed with the dead. In the Boulak Museum has been
preserved probably the most complete collection of funeral jewelry, that
of Queen Aahhotep, mother of Ahmes, the first king of the eighteenth
dynasty. The following are some of the womanly belongings buried with
Queen Aahhotep: a fan handle plated with gold, a bronze-gilt mirror
mounted upon an ebony handle, on which was a lotus of chased gold,
bracelets of various designs, anklets, armlets, gold rings, ornaments
for the wrist made of small beads in "gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian and
green feldspar, strung on gold wire in a chequer pattern," and many
other ornaments of fine gold, of chased and repoussé work of great

The women of Egypt to-day are dark in complexion and generally slender.
The women of the poorer classes are ill kept and poorly clothed. They
generally wear long, and frequently tattered, garments of blue and black
cotton. Their feet are bare, but the love of decoration is manifest
still; for, though they be dirty and begrimed through lack of care and
suitable clothing, the silver anklets, the rings for their fingers and
even for their toes, and the bracelets for their arms, tell the tale of
their fondness for adornment. Mohammedanism has caused the universal use
of the veil. A narrow strip of black is caught by a brass or silver
spiral directly between the eyes. The falling veil, therefore, covers
all the face below the eyes. Ladies of the higher classes wear
transparent Turkish veils of costly material, and their costly silk
garments are loaded with embroideries.

Mothers in Egypt carry their babes on their backs or shoulders. The
mother holds fast to the feet or the legs of her offspring, while the
child throws his hands about her head and seems well satisfied with his
position. The tattooing, which we have noted as existent in early Egypt,
is no longer general; it, however, may be seen to-day among the women of
Nubia. Some of the Berber women not only are tattooed, but place blue
lines on their under lip and on the cheeks and arms. The men, women, and
children of that region are very dark. The women plait their hair into
numerous tiny curls, which stay well in place, for the hair has first
been soaked in castor oil, partly because of the æsthetic effect, and
partly as a protection against the hot rays of the tropical sun. The
dress of the younger women is very scant; the older females are
generally clothed in long blue garments, which they gather about them in
folds. The younger girls, however, with much unadorned innocence, wear
simply a leathern girdle and a complacent smile, for the Berber women
appear good-humored and happy. This costume, a girdle of leather, soaked
well in castor oil and adorned with shells, worn by the younger belles
of Nubia, is known as "Madam Nubia."

The "dancing girls," known as _ghawazi_, are often in evidence in the
towns of modern Egypt. They clothe themselves in gay garments of various
colors. Sometimes they are pretty and attractive specimens of female
grace, but, as might be expected from their character and profession,
they soon become coarse and repulsive. They may be seen at the public
cafés, and their dances are indecorous and immodest. They play a leading
rôle in those wild orgies known as _fantasia_.

The modern Egyptian water girl is often an interesting bit of humanity.
Canon Bell thus describes her in his _Winter on the Nile_: "You may be
accompanied, if you like it, by a little girl clad in blue, adorned with
a necklace of beads, earrings and bracelets, and sometimes a nose-ring,
carrying a water jar on her head, from which she will supply you at
luncheon among the temples and tombs, for a small backsheesh. She will
run beside your donkey for miles, and never seem tired, and if you will
drink from her jar, of the same shape which you will see sculptured on
the temple walls, will reward you with a sweet smile from her coral
lips. And what teeth she and all the people have! I never saw teeth so
regular and so white. They are like a string of orient pearls; and it is
a pleasure when the lips part, and you see them gleaming white as driven

In ancient Egypt the woman was queen of her own house, the real mistress
of domestic life. When the husband was at home, he was looked upon
rather in the light of a "privileged guest," and the housewife was the
respected hostess, holding everything beneath her undisputed sway. In
short, she was the very soul and centre of the domestic activity, rising
early and stirring the household into life and movement.

Let us take a peep into an Egyptian home. Excavation has revealed that
the palaces of the kings of Babylonia were built in a much more
substantial and enduring fashion than were the temples of the gods. The
reverse is true of Egypt. Egyptian temples were built not for time, but
for eternity. The palaces, however, were of far lighter character, being
erected of brick or undressed freestone, but rarely of granite or the
more enduring materials. Eternity played an important part in the
religious thinking of the Egyptians. This will account in a measure for
the more enduring character of the houses of the gods. The dwellings of
members of the richer classes were made up of an aggregation of houses,
suggesting a miniature village. There were separate houses for the
various members of the family: the master, the chief wife, the harem
women, the visitors, and the several classes of servants. Storehouses
were separate from buildings designed for habitation, and the several
domestic offices had their individual buildings. The court, which every
villa had, was planted with trees and flowers, and frequently was
provided with a fountain and a pool. The women of the harem found
opportunity for amusement in these beautiful courts. During the day
these secluded beauties whiled away their time in gossiping, playing
upon instruments, and indulging in the games in vogue. When night came
they lay down to rest with their heads upon pillows consisting of a
piece of curved wood, upon which was usually carved an image of the god
Bisou, who guarded the sleeper. This little dwarf, a divinity with short
legs and rotund stomach, drives away the demons who infest the night and
are liable to injure the sleeping one, unless protected by this
well-disposed and well-armed deity.

The wife in the average Egyptian home was the companion of her husband,
assisting him to manage his affairs. She encouraged him in his own daily
work, and there are pictures of wife and children, seemingly in a most
interested mood, standing by while the husband and father is busily
engaged in some engrossing occupation. Often the king will take his wife
fully into his life. The queen is frequently pictured by the king's side
in some public function. The wife of Amenophis IV., with the rest of the
royal family, is represented, probably on some important state occasion,
as standing upon the gallery of the royal residence and tossing golden
collars to the people. Indeed, Amenophis IV. is discovered to have been
most domestic in his tastes, giving his wife and daughters a place of
respect and honor in his kingdom. Some of his monuments represent him
riding in his chariot, followed by his seven daughters, who were his
companions even in battle. Sometimes the queen of the Pharaohs is found
riding in state processions in her own chariot behind that of her

How did the average women of the Nile busy themselves during the long
days? While they were not the hewers of wood, women were usually the
drawers of water, as in Palestine and Syria. They were not idlers,
though men did the spinning, weaving, and laundry work. In truth, as we
have before stated, it was the daughter, or daughters, and not the sons
who were expected to provide for their parents in times of want and old
age. This did not permit women to be in any sense a dependent class.

The relation of the Egyptian woman to the practical affairs of life is
significant and of great interest. It is in the matter of buying and
selling that we perhaps have most frequent representations upon the
monuments. And women as well as men are portrayed driving their bargains
with the venders of all sorts of wares. Women both buy and sell in the
public places. One has perfume of her own manufacture, upon the merits
of which she glibly descants, even in terms poetic, as she thrusts the
jars under the nostrils of the hoped-for purchaser. Women jewelers are
discovered attempting to dispose of their rings, bracelets, and
necklaces, while other women are trying to obtain goods at the lowest
possible prices. "Cheapening" was fashionable even among the women of
Egypt. Sometimes groups of women are represented as bargaining in the
shops. Herodotus in his travels observed what to him was a striking
contrast between the industrial and commercial customs of the Greeks and
those of the Egyptians in that the men of Egypt worked at the looms and
carried on the handicraft, while the women frequently transacted
business. But it should not be thought that women did not weave. They
often worked at the loom, and men as well as women bought and sold the
ordinary commodities of life.

In the house Egyptian women not only engaged in weaving, spinning, and
the making of fabrics generally, but they assisted in the curing of
fowls, birds, and fish. Of this kind of food the Egyptians were very
fond. When the husband, who was very partial to hunting, returned with
the game he had killed or trapped, it was at once preserved for later
use upon the table. Strangely enough, the cooks are usually represented
as men, though the women were not strangers to the preparation of food
for family use. The Egyptians laid much stress upon their dietary. They
believe, Herodotus tells us, that the diseases men are heir to are all
caused by the materials upon which they feed. Swine's flesh was, as with
the Israelites, forbidden flesh, except upon certain extraordinary
occasions. Their staff of life was bread made of spelt. Their drink was
chiefly a beer made from barley. Salt fish, and dried fowls, such as
ducks, geese, and quail, were eaten with great relish. Some birds, as
well as some fish, were tabooed because of religious scruples.

The recreations that were allowable to the Egyptian women were quite
numerous and varied. But dancing, singing, and performing upon musical
instruments were their favorite amusements. The kettle drum and the
castanet were in common use among them, and pictures of girls playing on
the lute are not infrequent. A wall painting in a Theban tomb discloses
the fact that dancing girls were often employed to afford merriment at
the feasts. It was not against Egyptian etiquette for women to attend
banquets, and they are often represented as drinking freely, even to
drunkenness, lying about with forms exposed, and vomiting from

In this connection it is curious to note the relation of the women of
Egypt to gymnastic feats. In the Turin Museum there is an example of a
female acrobat, who is in the very act of performing with wonderful
agility a very difficult feat. The young woman is nude, with the
exception of a double belt, one thong of which encircles the waist, the
other confines the hips. She is willowy in form and with great ease and
grace she throws herself backward, apparently about to turn a
somersault, but she keeps her feet upon the ground, and her hands almost
touch her heels. Her hair flows out loosely as she seems about to whirl
her lithe body through the air.

That the Egyptian women were pleasure-loving may be learned by many a
monument. Portrayals of elaborate festivals have been unearthed, others
are recorded by early historians. Herodotus gives a description of one
of these in honor of the Egyptian Diana in the city of Bubastis. "They
hold public festival not only once in a year but several times.... Now
when they are being conveyed to the city of Bubastis they act as
follows; for men and women embark together, and great numbers of both
sexes in every barge; some of the women have castanets on which they
play, and the men play on the lute during the whole voyage, the rest of
the women sing and clap their hands together at the same time. When in
course of their passage they come to any town, they lay their barge near
to land, and do as follows: Some of the women do as I have described,
others shout and scoff at the women of the place; some dance, while
others stand and pull up their clothes; this they do at every town at
the river-side. When they arrive at Bubastis, they celebrate the feast,
offering up great sacrifices and more wine is consumed at this festival
than in all the rest of the year. What with men and women, besides
children, they congregate, as the inhabitants say, to the number of
seven hundred thousand."

The law of Egypt prescribed that there should be in each family but one
legitimate wife. From numerous representations upon the monuments it
would seem that great affection usually existed between spouses.
Marriage was termed "founding for one's self a home." Temporary or
tentative marriages were often made for one year. After the expiration
of the trial period, by the payment of a certain sum, the man might
annul the agreement.

The Tel-el-Amarna tablets brought to light in 1887, furnish some very
interesting and informing materials concerning diplomatic marriages.
Many letters passed between the kings of Egypt and the rulers of the
land of Mitanni, and other Asiatic provinces concerning the marriage of
royal daughters to the King of Egypt or to the king's son. Even
bargaining concerning dowry finds a place in this correspondence.
Inquiries respecting the treatment of a daughter who has been given in
marriage to a prince, complaints of the breaking of the marriage
contract, and all conceivable complications which might grow out of
these marital relations, are discussed.

In the days of the Ptolemies and in the Roman period, it became very
common for men to marry their own sisters, especially in the royal
families. This was true of Cleopatra, the daughter of Ptolemy Epiphanes
and Cleopatra. She married first her brother Ptolemy Philometer, and
later, a second brother Ptolemy Physcon. This was the Cleopatra who
lived a century before the famous "witch of the Nile." She distinguished
herself by her signal favoritism toward the Jews, who had then become
very numerous in Egypt, giving great encouragement to Onias in his
undertaking of the erection of a Jewish temple at Leontopolis in Egypt.

In modern Egypt, however, marriage with sisters has given way to
marriage between cousins, which in current opinion is by far the best
sort of wedding match. It is not strange that this custom of legalized
incest, the marrying of sisters should have sprung up in a land where
Osiris and Set were worshipped. For both of these gods were wedded to
their sisters, Isis and Nephthys.

As among the Hebrews, it was a matter of congratulation and of great
domestic happiness to possess children, and much rejoicing took place at
the birth of a babe. The inscriptions of monuments and tombs would
indicate, too, a very beautiful family life in Egypt. There was nothing
that so tended to give domestic life this charm as the fact that the
mother took complete charge of the child's upbringing. She was its
nurse, feeding it from her own breast often till it reached the age of
three years. In Eastern countries it is not uncommon to see children of
considerable size thus taking nourishment. When the child was unable to
walk, or when the journey was too great for the yet undeveloped limbs,
the mothers carried their children upon their necks, as do the Egyptian
mothers to-day.

Motherhood was much respected both by sons and daughters,--more than is
true of the children of modern Egypt,--and the wise men and poets of the
land wrote and spoke most tenderly and sympathetically of the maternal
love. As one of them said: "Thou shalt never forget what thy mother hath
done for thee. She has borne and nourished thee. If thou forgettest her,
she might blame thee, she might lift up her arms to God, and he would
surely hear her complaint." An utterance of an Egyptian sage, which
bears the spirit of the words of the Hebrew wise man, who said: "Forsake
not the law of thy mother. Bind it continually upon thy heart, and tie
it about thy neck. When thou goest it shall lead thee, and when thou
sleepest it shall keep thee. When thou awakest it shall talk with thee;"
and again: "Despise not thy mother when she is old." Affection between
mothers and their sons was very strong. Many of the inscriptions upon
tombs, with the accompanying pictures, reveal the dead son and his
mother, and not the son and his father. This is in accordance with the
very common fact in Eastern lands, especially in this part, that
brothers and sisters by the same mother were much closer to one another
than brothers and sisters by the same father. It is quite evident that
in early days in Egypt descent was always traced through the mother, and
not through the father. When, in a remote period, marriage ties were
loose or polyandry was practised, it was manifestly easier to trace the
family lineage through the mother. In ancient Egypt, it is interesting
to note that inheritance of property passed not from a father to his
son, but to the son of his sister, or sometimes to the son of his eldest

When children were named they did not receive a family or surname. All
names were individual, the gods coming in for their share of honor
in the selection, as was very common among ancient people, among
whom religion pervaded everything. The girls were frequently
named, for poetic or imaginative reasons, after trees, animals,
qualities of moral excellence, and the like. Such appellations as
"Daughter-of-the-crocodile, Kitten," etc., were not infrequent; and even
here we find a religious motive, for both the crocodile and the cat were
worshipped in Egypt. Mummied sacred cats have been exhumed in great
numbers in recent years, only to be ruthlessly turned into fertilizers
by the unappreciative and practical Westerner. "Beautiful Sycamore" is
also an example of a woman's name. "Darling" and "Beloved" were also
favorite names, and "My Queen" is also found. From the number of
instances discovered, it would seem--and not unnaturally--that women
liked to be called after Hathor, the goddess of love.

How did the little girls amuse themselves in those far-off Egyptian
days? The girl nature is the same the world over, and has not undergone
any radical change since the very dawn of history. The girls, of course,
played with dolls. These were made from cloth and were usually stuffed.
Some of them had long hair. Figures resembling jumping-jacks, loosely
jointed and manipulated with a string, were a means of merriment for the
little ones. The nursery was also frequently brightened by the presence
of flowers; and birds, some free and some caged, were common pets; cats,
too, were everywhere, and the small donkey furnished much sport.

It may seem somewhat strange that in a land to which has often been
attributed the invention of the art of writing, there should have come
down to us no literature from the hand and brain of a woman. The secret
of this is probably found in the fact that while women were respected
and even esteemed as the equals of men, yet it was not considered worth
while to educate them in a literary way. In some of the arts, however,
such as music, women were skilled.

In modern Egypt the education of the women is sadly neglected. It does
not compare with that given them in ancient times. Indeed, in Mohammedan
countries, generally, woman is sternly thrust into a position of
inferiority, even of degradation. The school provided for the
instruction of the children in Egypt, as in all Mohammedan countries, is
the _kattub_, which is to be found in most towns and even in some of the
small villages. These schools are attached, when possible, to a mosque,
and the instruction is religious rather than literary, for the teaching
is limited to the Koran, and all instruction is in the Arabic language.
The schoolmaster, who usually has an assistant, is himself very ignorant
of all that the modern Western world would term "learning." Even the
elements of a modern education are strangers to him. There are said to
be about nine thousand five hundred of these kattubs in Egypt, and in
them are enrolled one hundred and eighty thousand pupils. But the kattub
is dark and unattractive. There are no seats or furniture of any kind.
To an Occidental eye, the schoolroom is inconvenient in every respect,
and withal quite unsanitary and forbidding. The teacher sits on a mat,
cross-legged. In front of him are ranged two rows of children, both boys
and girls, sitting sideways to the teacher. One would suppose, seated as
the children are, that the dreary humdrum of the daily instruction was
surely meant to go in at one ear and out at the other. But the pupils
learn to repeat passage after passage from the sacred book of Mohammed.
For the time is largely taken up reciting _sura_ after _sura_ from the
Koran, and the most lengthy passages are well memorized, the master
correcting the boy or girl whose tongue has slipped, or prompting one
whose memory has failed him. As the singsong of recitation is rolled out
in languid sweetness, the pupils sway their bodies back and forth,
keeping time to the rhythm. There is no casting of eyes at the girls, no
giggling, no crooked pins in use, in the kattubs. The pupils know the
stern master is on serious business bent. Besides, he makes use of the
principle of "the expulsive power" of preoccupation; for, while the
memorizing and reciting of texts goes on, there are no idle hands for
Satan to make busy. The teacher himself sets the example of industry,
for his hands are engaged in weaving a mat, while his ear watches to
detect the slightest lapse from correctness in the pupil's tongue. So,
too, the boys and girls must be busied at some useful handiwork, such as
plaiting straw. Thus, "technical training" goes hand in hand with the
mental in modern Egypt. The number of girls in these schools, however,
is comparatively small. There are hopeful signs in the matter of female
education in the Egypt of to-day, for the government, seeing the need,
has granted a double sum for every girl in attendance upon the kattubs.

Women of all lands have had an important place in the time of sickness
and death. Egypt is no exception to the rule. There were doctors in this
cultured land. Specialism was in vogue even in ancient Egypt. As the
celebrated Greek historian again says: "Medicine is practised among them
on the plan of separation; each physician treats a single disorder and
no more." There were eye specialists, headache specialists, tooth
specialists, intestine specialists, and so on to the end of the category
of diseases. Some of their treatises, comments upon cases, diseases,
formulæ, methods of physicians, both of Egypt and of other lands, have
come down to us. And yet, it must be confessed that exorcism held an
important place in the Egyptian practice of medicine; and the women were
among the foremost believers in this magical method of effecting cures.
The Egyptian lady is suffering from a most violent attack of headache.
She sends for the physician. He presently arrives, with one or more
servants or assistants, bringing with them his book of incantations, and
a case containing his _materia medica_, which consists of a goodly
supply of clay, plants or dried roots of all sorts, cloths, models in
wax or clay, black or red ink, _et cætera_. A diagnosis of the case is
hurriedly made. Kneading some clay, with which various ingredients are
mixed, this disciple of Æsculapius, or rather of Imhotep, repeats the
appropriate incantation several times, places the ball of clay under the
head of the sick, and leaves, feeling sure that the inimical spirit
which torments her will not be able to gain possession against the
powerful charm.

In case of death in any household, the mourning was pronounced and
pitiable. The part which women played in Egyptian funerals was not
unlike that among the Hebrews and other Oriental peoples. "They were,"
says Maspero, in his _Struggle of the Nations_, "not like those to which
we are accustomed--mute ceremonies in which sorrow is barely expressed
by a fugitive tear. Noise, sobbings, and wild gestures were their
necessary concomitants. Not only was it customary to hire weeping women,
who tore their hair, filled the air with their lamentations, and
simulated by skilful actions the depths of despair, but the relations
and friends did not shrink from making an outward show of their grief
nor from disturbing the equanimity of the passers-by by the immoderate
expressions of their sorrow." "O my father!" "O my brother!" "O my
master!" "O my beloved!" would be heard from the female voices standing
around the dead. There was no superstition which prevented a fond
embracing of the body of the loved one who had just passed away. Tears
flow in great profusion, hair and garments are rent, and the women beat
their breasts, and then depart from the house of death. "With nude
bosoms, head sullied with dust, the hair dishevelled and feet bare, they
rush from the house into the still, deserted streets." Friends and
sympathizers join in their grief as they pass along, and follow the
procession of mourning. Since the Egyptian believes that the spirit can
survive only so long as the body lasts,--a sort of conditional
immortality,--the corpse must be embalmed. The method is determined by
the rank of the deceased. If it be a princess who has passed away, the
most elaborate and costly methods and materials must be used. Each toe
and finger must be carefully and separately wrapped and cared for. Next
comes the solemn funeral procession, with the noisy, heartrending hired
mourners, the libations and offerings, the catafalque drawn by oxen, and
at length the dead is laid away in the tombs. An important part of the
Egyptian funeral is the banquet, in which the dead, through his
representative, partakes; during the feasting, the _almehs_ execute
their death dances and sing their songs appealing to the living
concerning death and the dead.

It is Nut, the goddess of heaven, who, during the journey of the soul,
after it leaves the tomb appears from the midst of a sycamore tree,
offering the spirit a dish containing loaves and a cruse of water, and
if the soul accepts the proffered gift, he becomes the guest of the
goddess. Beyond are dangers of every sort which only amulets and the
most powerful incantations can dispel. If the soul can pass
these--though many fall by the way--he is transported by the divine
ferryman to the presence of Osiris, the great god. Maat, the goddess of
Truth, stands by and whispers the proper confession into the ear of him
whom Osiris questions, and the soul is passed on to the "Field of
Beans," the place of the blessed, where feasts, dances, songs, and
conversation are thereafter enjoyed.

Probably no Egyptian woman was ever more influential, for a period at
least, than Queen Tyi, the mother of King Chuen-Aten, who is better
known as Amenophis IV. His father, Amenophis III., was born, as the
story goes, under conditions most auspicious. Ra, the great Sun god, who
was considered to have been the father of all the Pharaohs, and the
first sovereign of Egypt, as well as the creator of the universe,
favored King Thothmes by giving to him the son for whom he prayed. Queen
Moutemouait, wife of Thothmes, as she lay sleeping in her palace was
suddenly aroused by seeing her husband by her side, and then immediately
afterward the form of the Theban Amen. In her alarm she heard a voice
telling her of the birth of a son, who should come to the throne in
Thebes, and then the apparition "vanished in a cloud of perfume sweeter
and more penetrating than all the perfumes of Arabia." The child whose
advent was predicted became King Amenophis III., one of the most
brilliant and successful kings of the eighteenth dynasty.

King Amenophis III. was wedded to a foreign wife, more than one in fact.
Among the wives of his harem was Gilukhipa, or Kirgipa, a daughter of
the house of Mitanni, between which and the Pharaohs of this epoch the
Tel-El-Amarna tablets reveal so voluminous a correspondence. There was
also in his harem a Babylonian princess, and, most famous of all, a
lady, probably of Semitic extraction, whose name was Tyi. This Queen Tyi
became the mother of the successor to Amenophis III. Under the influence
of the queen-mother, the young King Amenophis IV. resolved on extensive
religious reforms. He determined to dethrone or degrade the former
deities of Egypt and exalt the "Sun Disc." Asiatic influence was
paramount. He changed his capital from Thebes to the site of
Tel-El-Amarna, and erected there both palace and temple. He changed his
name to Chuen-Aten (Glory of the Solar Disc). But during his activity as
a religious reformer, his empire was falling away by the sad neglect of
the foreign affairs to which his father gave so large and successful
attention. At his death his work fell to pieces, and his reformation
swung back. Even his sons who succeeded him undid his work, and his name
comes down to us as "The Heretic King," being caricatured by artists of
the period which followed his ephemeral undertakings.

A modern Egyptian woman, or perhaps more accurately an Arab woman,
digging into a mound in Middle Egypt, not far from the Nile, for the
purpose of getting some material with which to patch her hut, pulled out
a piece of baked clay with some queer inscriptions upon it, which turned
out to be the cuneiform characters of the Assyro-Babylonian writing.
Further excavations revealed the record hall of Amenophis IV., long
buried under the ruins of his short-lived city. This collection of
documents and correspondence in the Assyrian language, which was the
Lingua Franca of those early days, are the source of our most accurate
knowledge of the marriages, domestic relations and diplomatic history of
this period in Egyptian history; indeed, of the history of the
surrounding peoples as far east as the Mesopotamian valley.

At least two Egyptian women emerge in the Hebrew records, one of whom
would indicate a low degree of morals, if we may judge of Egyptian women
of high standing of the period by this one. It is Potiphar's wife who
fell so deeply in love with Joseph, the handsome young Hebrew slave whom
Potiphar had bought and made a servant in his own household, that she
sought to use her wiles to entice the youth from rectitude. At length
failing in her purpose, she charged him with attempting to use violence
upon her, and had him imprisoned, only to find that the young man was to
come forth stronger at last and find an honored place in the annals of
Hebrew life in the land of Egypt.

The other Egyptian woman of whom Hebrew history speaks is Pharaoh's
daughter, who, bathing in the Nile, with her maidens, discovered the
infant who was destined to lead Israel out of Egypt and become the chief
power in moulding the Hebrew commonwealth. The young Egyptian woman who
became a mother to the child Moses, gave him all the advantages of
Egyptian culture, which for those days were by no means meagre, and so
played no insignificant part in the making of a lawgiver, and through
him, in the making of a nation, whose moral and religious influence was
to be second to none in the history of the past.

Late Judaism came in contact with a number of Egyptian princesses,
especially in the age of the Ptolemies. Among these are the Cleopatras,
three of whom lived a whole century before the days when Mark Antony was
led astray by the most celebrated of all the women of this name. One of
these was daughter of Antiochus the Great and wife of Ptolemy Epiphanes.
She being attracted by the value of the balsam and other products of
Palestine, asked that the taxes of the land of the Jews be given her as
her dowry. A second Cleopatra, daughter of the last, greatly favored, as
we have already noted, the Jews in Egypt, according to Josephus, and was
in turn greatly beloved by the larger number of the Jews of the
Diraspora, or Dispersion, who had sought refuge and a livelihood in the
rich region of Egypt.

The third Cleopatra, daughter of the last-mentioned and of Ptolemy
Philometer, was married in B.C. 150 to Alexander Bala. His checkered
career is given us by Josephus and in the First Book of Maccabees. Two
other women of this name also appear in the history of the Jews, one a
mother of Ptolemy Lathyrus, a woman of great force and determination,
who expelled her son from Egypt and caused him to take refuge in the
island of Cyprus. The last was wife of Herod the Great, and mother of
"Philip the Tetrarch." The story of Cleopatra, the beguiler of Mark
Antony, is too well known to need repeating here. The women of Egypt of
the Macedonian and Roman periods, let it suffice to say, were a power in
the affairs of those marvellous days.

The moral code of the Egyptians, theoretically speaking, was relatively
high, though it cannot be said that the women well known in Egyptian
history or presented in romance bore an exceptionally elevated
character. But the best women of ancient days were not usually those
whose names were furthest known or most widely heralded. According to
the Greek legends, some of the queens were not slow to accomplish their
purposes, regardless of the method or the cost. Queen Nitocris, of the
fifth dynasty, the celebrated queen with the "rosy Cheeks," avenged the
murder of her brother by inviting the conspirators against his life to a
banquet hall lower than the Nile, and while they feasted turned in the
waters of the river upon them.

The Egyptian religious life was shared in by priestesses. Their pantheon
contained goddesses, who were highly honored. Women were considered to
have souls as well as men, and as great honor was paid them in the rites
accorded to the dead.

Sacred prostitution, which was so well known among the ancient Semites,
was also practised in Egypt. Anthropomorphism was common there as
elsewhere among early religionists. The gods were supposed to have their
generation in the same manner as men. The male and female divinities
therefore had their necessary part in the mysterious creations of
nature. The female function in generation, however, was a purely passive
one. Just as, according to the current ideas, the father was the sole
parent of the child, the mother only furnishing carriage and nourishment
for the infant, so the female principle in nature was receptive
matter--"the lifeless mass in which generation took place."

"Women," says Frederick Shelden, "are compounds of plain sewing and
deception, daughters of Sham and Hem." This morsel of wit is not true of
the women of Egypt in ancient days. The women of the Nile were, as a
rule, remarkably faithful to their obligations to their gods, as they
conceived them, and often to their households and to society. They were
limited, to be sure, in their outlook upon life and service, yet
religious to a fault, and sometimes moral. It has not been long since
there was exhumed in Egypt,--which has proved indeed the most fruitful
of all fields for the archæologist,--a remarkable prayer engraved upon
the funeral shell of an Egyptian lady who lived in the age of the
Ptolemies. It is a prayer, the sentiments of which show how some of the
essential elements of a commonwealth life have been recognized by good
men and women of all lands and of all ages. The prayer is as follows:
"All my life since childhood I have walked in the path of God. I have
praised and adored Him, and ministered to the priests, His servants. My
heart was true. I have not thrust myself forward. I gave bread to the
hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked. My hand was open to
all men. I honored my father, and loved my mother; and my heart was at
one with my townsmen. I kept the hungry alive when the Nile was low."
Here godliness, support of religious ideals and services, truthfulness,
humility, charity for the distressed, honor to parents, and good
citizenship, are recognized as the true conduct and held worthy of the
consideration and reward of the gods.

Among the Christian women of western Egypt of to-day are the Coptic
women. Christianity very early made wide conquests in Egypt, and while
the Christian religion has revolutionized ideals and modified customs,
it has never destroyed many of the social habits that have had racial
sanction for centuries. The Christian church of Egypt is the Coptic
Church, which has existed almost since the beginning of the Christian
era. The women of this fellowship are of course very different in many
respects from the other women of modern Egypt, notably the Mohammedans.
Close to Heliopolis is pointed out a sycamore fig tree called the _Tree
of the Virgin_. It is here, according to the Coptic legend, that Mary
and Joseph rested with their infant son when fleeing from Herod. Not far
away is a miraculous fountain, in which, as the story goes, Mary bathed
the feet of the child Jesus. Having once been salt, the spring now
became wholesome and sweet.

The Copts have preserved their early traditions, and their customs are
in many respects in contrast with those of other people around them. It
is the mother of the young man, not the father who usually makes the
arrangements for their son's marriage. "She goes among her friends to
find a wife for her son, and when after inquiry she discovers a girl
whom she thinks in every way suitable, she informs her son, who is
influenced by her opinion and commits the arrangements to her judgment.
Sometimes the choice of the bride is left to women whose profession it
is to select a fitting bride for the man who employs them, and to open
the preliminary negotiations. There is naturally a good deal of risk in
this; but as women are so entirely secluded in the East, as they are
shut out from their legitimate place in society, such an arrangement
becomes necessary, and so husband and wife are married without having
looked into one another's face." But when once a Copt has chosen a wife,
she is his forever. No divorce is permissible. They are one till death.

When the influences that had early gone out from Egypt and made for art
and learning in all the lands about the Mediterranean began to return
with compound interest from the shores of Greece to the land of the
Lotus, the women as well as the men were destined to feel their power.
Many a woman had her life lifted from the drudgery of the purely
physical life into the higher atmosphere of intellectual pursuits and
attainments. Especially marked was this in Alexandria where the great
library and university were exerting a powerful influence, and
Christianity was making its teachings felt in favor of equality of
opportunity. In that great university town, the first Christian
theological seminary was established, where both men and women might
study the teachings of the Nazarene. Theological discussions at length
became so general in Alexandria that some one has said that "Every
washer-woman in the city was arguing the merits of _homoousian_ and
_homoiousian_ in the streets."

It was in this later period of Egypt's history that there arose one of
the most unique of all female figures. For, of all women who ever lived
in Egypt probably none can be given so high a place for various
attainments and virile powers as must be accorded to Hypatia. She was
born of intellectual ancestry, her father being the mathematician and
philosopher Theon, who lived in the fourth century of our era. She was a
disciple of her father, and had probably been a student in the cultured
city of Athens. Returning to her native city she became a lecturer on
philosophical subjects, and was recognized as a leader in the
neo-Platonic school of her day. She is said to have attracted students
far and wide to her classroom, not by her rare intellectual gifts alone,
but by her charm of manner, her beauty of person, her modesty combined
with real eloquence. Not only in the classroom did she exhibit her power
of persuasion and forceful speech, but in courts of law she proved a
powerful advocate. Her very eloquence, however, was her undoing, for
because of the strife that arose in Alexandria between Christian sects
and aroused them to the white heat of controversy and hate, the gifted
Hypatia lost her life in a manner most horrible. Torn from the chariot
in which she was riding she was dragged to the Cæsareum--which had been
converted into a Christian church--stripped naked in the presence of a
howling, fanatical mob, and then cut to pieces with oyster shells. A
horrible blot is this upon Alexandrian life and a fearful comment upon
the wild extravagances that were sometimes enacted while Christianity
was disentangling itself from paganism.

Truly wonderful has been the life history of this land of the lotus
flower. Once the seat of the highest learning, by its fertilizing Nile
the feeder of the bodies as well as the minds of men; later, the home of
Greek philosophy and of Christian theology--it is to-day little reckoned
with, except as a prize for stronger powers. Some day its natural wealth
may redeem it, and its women put off their rags, or their veil, and
exert new power in the march of progress.



The mother of the primitive Aryan or Indo-European stock would surely
be an interesting character if we could with certainty reconstruct her
from her descendants of the several branches of that family which sent
out the Hindoo, the Persian, the Greek, the Roman, the Slav, the
Scandinavian, the Teuton, and the Celt. The part these races have played
in the world's drama would indicate that the womanhood of ancient Iran
could not have been lacking in qualities that made both for endurance
and for progress. The ancient Hebrew tradition that Japheth should be
enlarged even to dwelling in the tents of Shem seems realized in this
far-spreading Aryan family. It is interesting to note that the word for
"daughter" in all the branches of this family of languages is the same;
the two roots of which it is composed signify to draw milk, attesting
not only to the primitive pastoral condition of the peoples, but also to
the common occupation of the girl as milkmaid in the days before the
several migrations took place. India is a populous country, there being
two hundred and fifty million people living in Hindoostan. These consist
of Hindoos, Mohammedans, Eurasians, Europeans, and Jews. There is
considerable variety, therefore, of custom and condition among these
millions. Among those who prefer this or that particular form of
religion there is a sameness of social condition, though local
peculiarities may be discovered. There is probably no country where the
details of life are performed with such scrupulous regard for the
prescriptions of custom and religion. The great religions to-day differ
among themselves upon many points; but so far as their teachings
concerning women are concerned, they are in wonderful agreement. The
sacred books of India, the Vedas, and other writings, the code of Manu,
for example, were vested with an authority that had untold influences in
the shaping of woman's destiny in the land of the Hindoos. Originally,
that is, in the earliest Aryan civilization,--for non-Aryan people
preceded the coming of the people of western Asia,--women were held in
esteem and exerted unusual influence. Some of the most beautiful hymns
of this ancient period are products of women's genius. The great epics
of _Mahabharata_ and _Ramayana_, with their wealth of female character,
belong to this early Aryan period. Considering her place in later Hindoo
history, the great attention given to woman in the Hindoo literature is
noteworthy. No country of the Orient can furnish a literature in which
woman is given a larger place, or to which women have contributed more
frequently. The names of Ahulya, Tara, Mandadari, Lita, Kunti, and
Draupadi are familiar to students of this Indian literature. The
_Mahabharata_ and the _Ramayana_ are the two most important of the
ancient epics of India. Both give a considerable place to women. The
chivalry of man and the virtue of women furnish here as elsewhere the
base of legendary literature.

"The ideas of the human family are few," says Mr. E. Wilson, in
_Literature of the Orient_, "when the world's great epics are compared,
the same old story of human struggles and achievements are sung, though
with variations. The same heroes and heroines occur again and again
through the world's history; and although in literary merit, in the
points of artistic proportions and movement, the great Epics of Greece
and Rome, the _Iliad_, the _Odyssey_, the _Æneid_, are found to surpass
the _Ramayana_ and the _Mahabharata_, yet the ideals of love, marriage,
conjugal fidelity, are no stronger in the Western classics, and indeed
the moral tone of the Eastern masterpieces is more elevated than that of
the classic writings of Greece and Rome." Like characters appear in the
great works. Not the least interesting of those in the Eastern epos is
Krishna, the faithful wife of Arjuna, the Hindoo Hector, a heroine who
may readily be compared with the devoted Andromache. The story of Arjuna
bringing home Draupadi as a prize, and of his mother bidding him share
her charms with his brothers, seems to point to a time when polyandry
was practised in India. The method by which Draupadi chose her husband
from among her five suitors reveals also an early Hindoo custom known as
the _Svayamvara_. Those who seek the young girl's hand are invited to be
present in some public place where the ceremonies may readily be carried
out. The company forms itself into a ring; and the maiden, making the
round of the circle, tosses a garland of flowers upon the head of the
one whom she prefers. The marriage rite is then performed. Much
bloodshed was wont to occur on such occasions, because of the
disappointment of the unsuccessful suitors.

It is not to be supposed, however, that the choice was prompted by the
impulse of the moment or by some sudden fascination. The girl usually
knew the records of her suitors, and her selection was based upon
previous acquaintance and deliberate preference.

Indeed, in marked contrast with the present customs of India, it seems
clear that in early times brides, especially of the higher classes, not
uncommonly made choice of their own spouses. This may be seen in the
Hindoo story of the faithful wife. An early ruler of Madra, Ashvapati, a
pious and virtuous king, was much beloved by his people. He was
childless. Many years did he spend in prayer for offspring. The gods
gave him a daughter, who grew up to be a woman of surpassing beauty;
but, strangely enough, no prince sought her hand in marriage. Her
father, therefore, according to the ancient Hindoo law, sent her forth
to choose her own husband. At length she returned with the man of her
love, Savitri:

      "Carried in a fair, soft litter mid the peoples' welcoming,
       Came the queen and good Savitri to the city of the King."

Among the choicest women of early Hindoo epics is Sita, heroine of the
_Ramayana_. The famous poet Valmiki is supposed to have been the author;
but the poem in its present form is supposed to contain additions made
even as late as the Christian era, though its earliest portions probably
go back to a period as early as the third century before Christ. The
_Ramayana_ is accounted among the sacred books of India, and special
spiritual considerations, such as forgiveness of sin and prosperity, are
thought to be the reward of those who diligently study it. Sita, the
heroine, is the wife of Rama, the son of Dasharatha, who had long
mourned his childlessness. This Dasharatha, a descendant of the sun,
lives in the city of Ayodhya, the modern Oudh, a place of beauty and

      "In bygone ages built and planned
       By sainted Manu's princely hand."

But the line of the prince is threatened with extinction. He decides to
lay his plea before the gods by the sacrifice known as the _Asva-Medha_,
in which the victim is a horse. After the offering has been made with
extraordinary magnificence, the high priest in charge makes known to the
king that he shall have four sons to uphold his royal prerogatives and
maintain Dasharatha's line. One of these is Rama, whose wife Sita was a
woman of extraordinary beauty:

      "Rama's darling wife,
       Loved was as he loved his life;
       Whom happy marks combined to bless,
       A miracle of loveliness."

And Sita was deeply devoted to her lord. But the demon Ravana desires
ardently to possess the fair queen. He hits upon a plan to gain access
to her quarters. Assuming the form of a humble priest, an ascetic, he
gains possession of her by craft; and, taking her in his chariot, he
carries her away to Lanka, a "fair city built upon an island of the
sea." Thus Rama, like Menelaus of the classic myth, has lost the woman
of his love. Rama decides to make use of a large army of monkeys, with
which he will march against the city of Lanka. But the wide waters
stretch between him and the island where his fair Sita is in possession
of the vile Ravana. Rama invokes the goddess of the sea, and she comes
in radiant beauty, telling how a bridge may be built to cross the waters
that lie between the royal lovers. The monkeys--as busy as the little
imps that reared the temple of Solomon, according to the Mohammedan
legend--build a bridge of stones and timbers. Lanka is reached, and Rama
begins the fight for her possession. Indra looks down from heaven upon
the holy contest and decides to send his own chariot down, that Rama may
mount in it and ride to victory. In single combat, riding in Indra's
chariot, Rama vanquishes Ravana, and Sita, his wife, is restored to his

As evidence of the exalted nature of the early ideals of womanhood and
of man's faithfulness to the dictates of true love, we may turn to the
words of Prince Nala, who even when about to ingloriously forsake his
unprotected wife, sleeping in a dangerous wood, spoke thus:

      "Ah, sweetheart, whom not sun nor wind before,
       Hath even rudely touched, thou to be couched
       In this poor hut, its floor thy bed, and I,
       Thy lord, deserting thee, stealing from thee
       Thy last robe, O my love with bright smile,
       My slender waisted queen. Will she not wake
       To madness? Yea, and when she wanders lone
       In the dark road, haunted with beasts and snakes,
       How will it fare with Bhima's tender child--
       The bright and peerless? O my life, my wife,
       May the great sun, may the Eight Powers of air,
       Guard thee thou true and dear one on thy way."

Woman occupies an interesting place in many of the early fables of
India. Sir Edwin Arnold has translated into English a number of the
stories from the _Hitopadesha_, which has been called "the father of all
fables," and may easily take rank with the illustrious Æsop. Stories
which present womanly traits, the tricks and wiles of love, are there,
and are graphically told. Such are the fables of _The Prince_ and the
_Wife of the Merchant's Son_, which illustrate how the darts of love,
even in ancient India, struck their mark without waiting upon reason or
social standing, as the handsome prince, son of Virasena, cries
concerning the beautiful Lavanyavati: "The god of the five shafts has
hit me; only her presence can cure my wound."

An account of woman in Hindoo literature would be incomplete without
some allusion to the drama. This was developed after the Alexandrian
conquest and shows marks of Greek influence. In the drama we may discern
woman of Brahmanic India from an interesting viewpoint. Of all the
dramatic productions of the Hindoo poets, there is none so famous as
that of Shakuntala, by Kalidasa, the great court poet of Vikramaditya.
As is true of many of the earlier Hindoo masterpieces the exact date of
its composition is not known. Some students place this work as early as
the first, some as late as the fifth century of the Christian era. The
drama of Shakuntala is of interest as illustrating the effect of caste.
It is a drama in seven acts, and, because of its importance, its story
may be recounted.

As King Dushyanta, King of India, is driving in his chariot through a
forest, armed with his bows and arrows, in hot pursuit of a black
antelope, a word forbids him to slay the innocent creature. It is the
word of a hermit and the antelope belongs to the hermitage. The king is
obedient to the request, and is conducted to the dwelling of the great
saint Kanva, who is absent upon a distant pilgrimage, and has left his
foster-daughter Shakuntala in charge of his companions. The king finds
himself in the midst of a secret grove. He stops his chariot and
alights. As he goes reverently through these holy woods "he feels a
sudden throb in his arm. This argues happy love and soon he sees the
maidens of the hermitage approaching to sprinkle the young shrubs with
watering pots suited to their strength." Among these beautiful maidens,
rare in form and grace, the king observes one especially; it is
Shakuntala, foster-daughter of the hermit, half concealed by the trees,
but standing "like a blooming bud enclosed within a sheath of yellow
leaves." A beautiful girl is she, but the king stands puzzled. For if she
be of purely Brahmanic birth, she is prohibited from marrying one of the
warrior class, even though he be the king. As Shakuntala moves about
watering the flowers of the wood, she starts a bee from one of the
jasmine flowers. The bee pursues her, as if to do her harm with its
sting, but Dushyanta comes to the rescue; and the fair girl of the
hermitage feels some strange thrill as she sees the king, an unusual
visitant in that hallowed neighborhood. Off she hurries with her two
companions, but a series of happy accidents enables her to cast side
glances at the king: a prickly Kusa-grass has stung her foot, she must
wait a moment, a bush has caught her robe, she must stop to disentangle
it. And love is born. In the second act, while Dushyanta is thinking of
his love, two hermits arrive who tell him that demons have taken
advantage of Kanva's absence from the sacred grove and are disturbing
the sacrifices, and requests that he come and defend the grove from
their intrusion. He consents with keen delight and he will not leave the
grove, even though his mother requests his presence at a sacrifice
offered in his own behalf. He sends his representative, but cautions him
to say nothing concerning his love for the fair Shakuntala. In the third
act, the king is discovered walking in the hermitage calling upon the
god of love "whose shafts are flowers, though the flowers' darts are
hard as steel." He tracks the object of his love by the broken stems of
the flowers she had plucked in her rambles, and at length finds her in
an arbor with her attendants. She reclines upon a stone bench strewn
with flowers, she looks pale and wasted. Her maidens seek to know the
cause of her sickness, and she tells her love in a poem, written on a
lotus leaf. Just here the king rushes in and avows his passion. He tries
to overcome her scruples against a marriage, so out of accord with the
regulations of caste. He hears a voice of ill omen telling of the demons
"swarming round the altar fires." He hastens to the rescue. In the
fourth act, Shakuntala is seen wearing the signet ring of the king,
which ring has the charm to restore the king's love, should it ever grow
cold. Kanva returns from his pilgrimage in time to see the preparations
being made for Shakuntala's departure. The old hermit submits resignedly
to her going and gives his blessing to the departing one. The fifth act
presents Dushyanta, like King Saul, overcome with a deep and stubborn
melancholy. He is under a curse of Durvasas, and this induces complete
forgetfulness of his wife Shakuntala. "Why has this strain," says the
king, "thrown over me so deep a melancholy, as though I am separated
from some loved one?" Here the hermit and Shakuntala, who is about to
become a mother, are ushered into the presence of the king. He does not
know her; denies he ever knew her. The Shakuntala is about to produce
from her finger the ring which should be proof of the marriage. But,
alas! she discovers it to be lost. "It must have slipped off, in the
holy lake when thou wast offering sacrifices," said Gantami, who had
accompanied her. The king laughs derisively. Despite her endeavors, the
king fails to recollect the marriage. The sad Shakuntala buries her
hands in her robes and sobs piteously. At length the ring is found by a
fisherman, in the belly of a carp. It is brought to the king, who places
it upon his finger, when he is overcome with a flood of recollections.
But his wife and little son have been carried away to a secret grove far
away from earth in the upper air. The king, conducted in the celestial
car Indra, at length joins them. There the royal pair are reconciled and
reunited, and the drama comes to a close with a prayer to Siva.

Many of the Hindoo lyrics breathe of love and woman's graces, showing
now a high respect for womanly charms, now indulging in humor at her
frailties. "The God of Love," says the poet Bhartrihari, "sits fishing
on the ocean of the world, and on the end of his hook he has hung a
woman. When the little human fishes come they are not on their guard,
quickly he catches them and broils them in love's fire." Again, the poet
sings: "She whom I love, loves another, while another is pleased with
me." A song from the famous Kalidasa will illustrate the poet's attitude
toward a woman of beauty.

      "Thine eyes are blue like flowers; thy teeth
       White jessamine; thy face is very like a lotus flower,
       So thy body must be made of the leaves of
       Most delicate flowers; how comes it then
       That God hath given thee a heart of stone?"

It would be impracticable to trace the history of the chief women of
the long line of kings in the several dynasties which successively ruled
in India. In fact, it would not be possible to do so, even though there
might be material important for our present purpose. It was probably in
the days of the Mogul dynasty that emerged the most influential female
characters in historic times. The brilliancy of the court of the Mogul
kings and the prominence of some of the queens and princesses give to
this period, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of our era, an
especial fascination. Akbar, known as the Great, was a religious
reformer, as well as a great sovereign. His favorite wife was a princess
of a Rajput family, and to her was due no little of Akbar's success. It
was through his influence that the earliest attempt was made to prohibit
the _suttee_, or self-immolation of widows, a religious custom which had
already begun to dot the hallowed places of the land with little white
pillars that commemorated such sacrifices. One of Akbar's wives is said
to have been a Christian woman. Akbar's son, Emperor Jahangir, was also
wedded to a woman of great force, one who is said indeed to have been
the power behind his throne. He called her Nur Mahal, or "Light of the
Harem," for she was his favorite wife. It was during Jahangir's reign
that the English first established themselves at Surat. Nur Mahal was a
woman who knew how, like Jezebel and Lady Macbeth, to take into her own
hands the reins of administration when a strong grasp became necessary.
Many of the intrigues that characterized the emperor's reign are
attributed to her. Coins of the realm were stamped in her name, and at
last she was buried by the side of her husband at Lahore. During the
period of the Mogul dynasty the queen lived in the midst of the greatest
splendor, which, indeed, is generally more or less true of the wives of
Indian kings. Jewels were theirs in extravagant abundance. Fountains
played for their enjoyment. Marble baths were provided for their
comfort, and numberless slaves waited on their bidding. The magnificence
of the royal houses greatly impressed the Persians when they conquered
the land, or they would not have said, as is illustrated by their
inscription upon one of the palaces they had taken: "If there be a
paradise on earth, it is this, it is this!" Among the best specimens of
architectural magnificence was that erected by Shah Jehan, son of
Jahangir. It was he who built the famous Taj Mahal at Agra, his favorite
residence. He also erected the costly peacock throne at Delhi. The Taj
Mahal was built as a mausoleum for the Empress Mumtazi Mahal, who died
while giving birth to the Princess Jehanava. Isa Mohammed designed the
building, and its erection was begun in the year 1630. After seventeen
years, the employment of twenty thousand workmen, and the expenditure of
millions of dollars, the Taj Mahal was finished. It is one of the most
magnificent public buildings in India, and one of the most famous in the
world. With its dome of two hundred and ten feet in height, its tropical
garden, its mosaics and inscriptions, its marble of white, black, and
yellow, its crystals, jaspers, garnets, amethysts, sapphires, and even
diamonds, it is the richest and most notable tribute of marital love
that has ever been erected.

Another monument built in honor of a woman is the famous tower Kootab
Minar, the highest pillar in the world, being of red sandstone and two
hundred and thirty-eight feet high. It is said to have been built that
the king's daughter, from the vantage ground of its high turret, might
look out upon the mosque which could be discerned in the distance.

Let us revert for a moment to the ancient Hindoo writings and their
influence upon the history of Hindoo women. To the religious books of
India woman has to-day no personal access. Her religious sacrifices and
ceremonies before marriage are with reference to the procuring of a
husband. After marriage she may approach the deity, but only in the name
of her husband. Him she must revere almost as if he himself were a god.
She hopes that in time she herself may be born a man. Anciently there
were in India virgins dedicated to the service of the temple and pledged
to a life of purity, like the vestal virgins of ancient Rome. In the
course of the centuries the custom was degraded; and young women in
large numbers became the dancing girls at the temples, and others openly
dedicated themselves to a life of shame at the shrines. They are
euphemistically termed "God's slaves," but might more properly be spoken
of as slaves to the bestial passions of the profligate Brahmans of the
temple to which they belong. Dedication of virginity to a popular deity,
through his priest, became common. The young woman was said to have been
married to the god, and was given over to a life of shame.

Brahmanism, which has been defined as "the religion which exalts the
cow and degrades the woman," has been one of the most potent factors in
shaping the life of woman in India. Among the Hindoos, woman has no
independent spiritual life. Her hope is in being married to a man.
Through him must her fortune be secured, and only in obedience to him
can she hope for any ultimate happiness. Woman has been regarded by the
sages of India as a snare to man's rectitude and an obstacle to his best
interests. Buddha is said to have been seated one day in a grove near
the banks of the Ganges, with many about him who had come to do him
reverence. As he saw a woman, the lady Amra, circumspect and pious,
approaching in the distance, Buddha said to those about him: "This woman
is indeed exceedingly beautiful, able to fascinate the minds of the
religious: now, then, keep your recollection straight. Let wisdom keep
your mind in subjection. Better fall into the fierce tiger's mouth, or
under the sharp knife of the executioner, than to dwell with a woman and
excite in yourselves lustful thoughts. A woman is anxious to exhibit her
form and shape, whether walking, standing, sitting, or sleeping. Even
when represented as a picture, she desires most of all to set off the
blandishments of her beauty, and thus to rob men of their steadfast
heart. How, then, ought you to guard yourselves? By regarding her tears
and her smiles as enemies, her stooping form, her hanging arms, and all
her disentangled hair, as toils designed to trap man's heart."

Caste, in India, dominates everything from the cradle to the grave, and
has greatly affected the life of woman. The lines of demarcation are
deep-drawn and inexorable. The social gulfs are impassable. As one has
remarked, the only tie between the castes is the cow, which is revered
by all. There are four castes. To quote Manu, "The Brahmana, the
Kshatriya, and the Vaishya castes are the twice born ones, but the
fourth, the Shudra, has one birth only; there is no fifth caste." But
there are the outcasts who, because of some violation of caste rule,
have lost their social status and are despised by all, even the lowest.
The highest caste, according to popular belief, descended from Brahma's
mouth, this is the priestly class. The second came from Brahma's arms,
this is the warrior class. The third from his thighs, this is the
merchant class; least of all are the Shudras people, born of Brahma's
feet. The highest caste influences, in a measure, the customs of the
lower castes. The women of the low caste are burdened with many outside
duties, caring for their children in the intervals. They therefore enjoy
no little freedom. The women of the high caste, however, are shut up in
the zenanas, and so know little of the outside world.

[Illustration 3: _INTERIOR COURT OF A ZENANA From an Indo-Persian
painting The zenanas are the apartments of the women, and are quite
secluded, the windows invariably looking upon the inner quadrangle of
the house. The wives are closely confined to the house. In order to
enjoy a social visit, permission must be given by the husband, who is
rarely willing to grant the coveted freedom. There is not much gayety
about the zenanas, though sometimes there may be music, dancing, and
mirth. Petty duties, trivial acts, and idleness make up "the life behind
the curtain." The girls and boys are permitted to play together until
the girl is about ten years old, then she must begin to keep purdah;
that is, she must go behind the curtain._]

The zenanas are the apartments of the women, and are quite secluded,
the windows invariably looking upon the inner quadrangle of the house.
The wives are closely confined to the house. In order to enjoy a social
visit, permission must be given by the husband, who is rarely willing to
grant the coveted freedom. There is not much gayety about the zenanas,
though sometimes there may be music, dancing, and mirth. Petty duties,
trivial acts, and idleness make up "the life behind the curtain." The
girls and boys are permitted to play together until the girl is about
ten years old, then she must begin to keep purdah; that is, she must go
behind the curtain. She must dwell in the seclusion of the women, not
allowing a man, not even her own brothers, to look upon her. The Hindoos
cannot believe that a woman may be good and free at the same time; she
may be good, she may be free, but both, never. The Mohammedan Hindoo
women are of course influenced by the teachings of the Koran, which
regards the best women as those who never see any man but their husbands
and sons, the next best those that have laid eyes only upon their
relatives. Very meagre is a girl's educational training. Besides the
domestic duties, in which she is instructed that she may be fitted for
her married life, the girl is taught a few prayers which may be of
service to her in winning the favor of the deities concerned with
marital relations, and some popular songs by means of which she may
while away the hours. The deference which members of the female sex are
always expected to show to those of the male manifests itself somewhat
differently in different sections of India. In the northern parts, where
the women uniformly wear veils, they can more readily cover their faces
at the unexpected appearance of a man, or they may run into another
apartment. In southern India, where veils are not common, the women are
not compelled to hide from the presence of men, but must always rise and
remain standing out of deference to them. The Hindoo woman will not call
her husband by name; she uses such terms as "Master, Chosen," and
"Husband," and the husband, on the other hand, never alludes to his
wife, nor does anyone inquire of him concerning her. The absorption of
the wife's identity into that of the husband is complete. After marriage
they become one and he is the one. There is little wonder at this when
Manu says: "By a girl, by a woman, or even by an aged one nothing must
be done." "In childhood, a female must be subject to the father, in
youth to her husband, and when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman
must never be independent." And the Vedas declare that he only is a
perfect man who consists of three persons united, his wife, himself, and
his offspring.

The expense of a marriage ceremony is very heavy in India. It is the
most expensive of all the festivities of the Hindoos. Among the higher
caste the outlay is usually above two hundred dollars. This, for a
country where the people are so poor, is a large outlay. Since religion
makes it necessary for the girls to marry, two daughters may bankrupt a
family. When it is remembered that the father must not only support his
wives and children, but also his aged parents, his indigent or idle
brothers and their families, the nearest widowed relations, and numerous
other dependants, it may be seen that a breadwinner's life in this land
of recurring famines is not always a happy one. It is not an uncommon
thing in India for four generations of family life to be crowded into
one house. The occasion of a marriage is, of course, one of prime
interest. It is the only incident in which a woman may become the centre
of an event of great religious significance. Then Vedic prayers are
offered up and festivities run high. Men dancers or Nautch girls may be
seen singing the amours, the quarrels and reconciliations of Krishna and
his wives or his mistresses. These are not a whit elevating. The truth
is India is not lacking in obscenity, not even in the frescoes of its
temples. Though little be given to the Hindoo girl, much is expected of
her when she becomes a wife. For, says the laws of Manu, "She must
always be cheerful, clever in the management of household affairs,
careful in cleaning her utensils and economical in expenditure."

The necessity of bringing forth sons and being a good loyal wife
generally may be discerned in the law of Manu, which says: "A barren
wife may be superseded in the eighth year; she whose children all die,
in the tenth; she who brings only daughters into the world, in the
eleventh; but she who is quarrelsome, without delay."

Faithfulness of a wife to her husband and her husband's interests must
be unquestioned. Thus alone may a woman find her higher blessedness. "A
faithful wife," says Manu, "who desires to dwell after death with her
husband must never do anything that might displease him who took her
hand whether he be alive or dead. By violating her duty to her husband a
wife is disgraced in this world, after death she enters the womb of a
jackal and is tormented by diseases, the punishment of her sin."

One of the most remarkable customs of a remarkable people is that of
child marriage. Since a woman attains her blessedness, if not her
spiritual entity by union with a man, marriage should be early. It is
regarded as a disgrace for a father to have an unmarried daughter upon
his hands. In Oriental lands generally the marriageable age of girls is
about twelve years, the period at which, in those countries, a young
girl usually attains to physical womanhood. But in India even infant
girls are married by their parents to other infants, or to older boys,
or to men. A woman is not esteemed at all till she is married and
becomes the mother of a son. Then she becomes at least worthy of a
certain respect.

The history of the life of a Hindoo girl of high caste may be thus
drawn. Word comes from the zenana that it is a girl. Instead of
congratulations and joy at the little one's advent, the mother is
reviled by an angry husband because she brings him a daughter instead of
a son. In his reproaches all the household join. For has she not
disgraced her husband? And is she not accursed rather than blessed of
the gods? The little one is hid from the eyes of the father when he
enters the zenana, lest his anger burst forth anew. Two years roll
around, and the little girl hears sounds of rejoicing and of feasting in
the house. A boy is born, and the father's attitude is changed toward
the mother, and somewhat toward the daughter; but even yet she is a
negligible quantity. The mother loves and sometimes caresses the girl.
Occasionally the father, too, will notice her; and when the brother has
become old enough, the two little ones may play together. In a short
time, it may be between the ages of five and six, the little daughter is
arrayed in silk and costly gems. The day of her wedding has come, though
she herself knows little of what it all means, and timidly assents to
what her father in his unquestioned authority has done. She is brought
to the man whom the parent has chosen from his own caste. They look upon
each other for the first time, and the little girl scarcely sees him now
for her timidity. The ceremony is over, and the husband returns to his
own home. For the child wife must be taught the duties of housewifery.
Her mother is diligent in imparting the required knowledge. It consists
of proficiency in the arts of cooking, spinning, weaving, and waiting
upon her husband, more particularly when he is eating. The fundamental
duty of marital obedience is instilled with supreme care. At about
eleven years the girl wife is deemed ready to assume the serious duties
of wedded life. The husband comes and takes her to his own home. If his
circumstances permit he is royally seated, it may be, upon a gaudily
bedecked elephant, and she is conveyed in a closely covered palanquin.
The girl wife is now among strangers, she must make her way as best she
can. Life is not always easy for her. The Hindoo mother-in-law at once
becomes master of the new situation, and the daughter must be a willing
slave. Her apartments are not over cheerful, and the other women of the
zenana receive her with chilling indifference or with positive cruelty.
At twelve years of age the young wife is in all probability a mother. If
the child be a son, she is emancipated from her thraldom to the
husband's mother. She is now worthy in the sight of her husband, and if
all goes well, her life is lifted to a higher plane.

Since a woman is bound to her husband as long as she lives,--even
though the husband himself be dead,--remarriage for her is out of the
question. Social ostracism would surely follow the woman who would dare
marry again. The man, however, may marry as often as he pleases and as
many wives as may be to his liking and convenience. The English
government attempted the impossible by the passage of a law--enacted in
1856--legalizing the remarriage of widows. Few, however, were able to
face the social hardships and loss of property which remarriage
involved. The widow who refuses to marry may often hold her property,
even though she live a life of shame.

Financial conditions have much to do with the number of wives which each
husband acquires. The Brahmanic caste may marry almost without limit.
Indeed, it is permitted to them to make a business of marriage.
Sometimes an illustrious Brahman may go up and down the land, marrying
girls, always of course within his own caste, receiving presents from
the parents of the bride,--who esteem it an honor for their daughter to
be wed, especially to one so distinguished,--but passing on and never
returning to claim his wife. But the father is satisfied with the
bargain, for his daughter is at last free from the disgrace and ridicule
of being unmarried; and being the wife of a Brahman of a high caste, the
girl will be happy in the world to come.

Since the members of the _kshatriyas_, or warrior class, are not
permitted to accept gifts as are the Brahmans, or priestly class, the
former cannot enjoy the privilege of enrichment by the process of
multi-marriage. They therefore have fewer wives, the number being
regulated by their power to support them. The same is also true of the
number of the daughters whom they are willing should survive,
infanticide being commonest among the people of this caste.

It must not be thought that every utterance of the sacred books is on
the side of the woman's inferiority. A single passage from Manu
proclaims that "A daughter is the equal of a son," but the law proceeds
to let it be known that it is only through the husband or the son that
this equality is realized. This doctrine is true not of women only, for
even a man is made perfect only through his possession of a son or sons.
"Through a son he conquers the world, through a son's son he obtains
immortality, but through his son's grandson he gains the world of the
sun." Indeed, "there is no place in Heaven for a man," says Vasishtha,
"who is destitute of offspring."

With the exception of child marriage, there is probably no fact
concerning the Hindoo woman's life that has received so much attention
as the customs which bear so hard upon widowhood. Beginning with the
assumption that the death of the husband was sent as a punishment for
the wickedness of the wife, in some previous state of existence it may
be, it is easy to conclude that the widow's life should be made as
miserable as possible. She is therefore maltreated, neglected, and at
times almost starved. When death takes away him in whom alone she had
any reason for being respected, her head must be shaved, all jewels and
wearing apparel are taken away, and instead the coarse weeds of the
widow are put on. One meal a day is permitted, and no more. Even the
women themselves are most harsh in the treatment of their bereft
sisters. For as soon as it is known that the husband is dead, the women
rush immediately upon the bewildered, grief-stricken wife, tear her
ornaments from her body, shave her hair from her head, and pronounce the
severest curses upon her whose sins in a bygone state had killed her
husband. They advise her to appease the wrath of the deity by throwing
herself with the husband upon the funeral pyre and thus as far as
possible wipe out the awful disgrace. Formerly, many yielded to
self-immolation, and immediately put an end to a life that otherwise
would be a prolonged misery, or at length, driven to frenzy by their
thousand deaths of torture, in some way cut short their terrible agony.

There are about one hundred and forty million women in India. At the age
of fifteen, more often several years earlier, they are either wives or
widows. Since child marriage is so common in India, there are many
widows of very tender years. There are said to be twenty-three million
widows in India; at least two million of these became widows in early
childhood. Of these, eighty thousand are still under nine years of age,
and six hundred thousand have not yet reached the age of twenty. The
sorrows produced by religious belief concerning widowhood and by social
customs cause many very young girls to end their lives by
self-destruction. Pundita Ramabai, in her _High-Caste Hindu Woman_, says
of the widow: "She must never take part in the family feasts; is known
by the name of harlot; if she escapes from her home, no respectable
person will take her in; suicide, or a life of infamy is inevitable."

Happily, the self-immolation of widows in India has now well-nigh passed
away. The English government has done much to break this awful custom,
which was thought to be the only means of destroying the force of a
widow's eternal misery and of bringing to her any future blessedness.
This horrible death, known as _suttee_, was made unlawful in 1830. But
"cold _suttee_," as some have called the living death which widows
suffer from social customs, is still maintained.

From all that has been said, it is not strange that fathers may
sometimes be found who will be willing, for so many rupees, to sell
their daughters to a course of infamy, or that men may sometimes lend
their wives for a money consideration, or that the suicides of females
have been so numerous in India.

There are above five million fewer women in India than men. This marked
discrepancy may be accounted for by the infanticide which prevails in
some parts and among some classes of the Hindoos, notwithstanding all
that the government can do to prevent it. Female infants are sometimes
strangled, sometimes exposed to wild beasts, or generally neglected. The
dark, unsanitary conditions of the women's quarters, and the
extraordinarily harsh and unintelligent treatment of women at the time
of childbirth, also play their part in the death rate of females.

All this is in marked contrast to the position of women in Siam. Here
the seclusion of the Turkish harem and the Hindoo zenana does not exist,
and the women are probably the freest, most independent of the women of
the East. They openly attend to their duties, bringing their food to
market, buying, selling, aiding in the management of the house and
field. A man does not spend his money without consultation with the
wife, should he prize the family peace: the woman usually carries the
purse. Inheritance of house and lands is through the mother rather than
through the father--a survival of the ancient mother-right. Women even
in this comparatively favored land, however, are seldom educated, except
it be in schools established by Christian foreigners. If a woman wishes
to learn at all, it must be through her husband or brother at home.

Woman in Burmah also is comparatively free, neither the zenana nor the
veil prevailing there. She too holds the purse strings; but in all other
respects she is distinctly inferior to her husband and must constantly
acknowledge it. A good wife will never say "I" in talking to her husband
concerning herself, but must speak of herself as "Your servant." In the
eyes of the man, the woman here is not only inferior, but vile, even to
the touch. Her garments are polluting to the passer-by; hence, she
always draws them more closely about herself as she passes a man upon
the streets.

In Assam also woman holds a far higher place than in other parts of
India or in Burmah, even among the rude and warlike people. To the Nagas
of the hill country of Assam a girl is most welcome at birth and by many
preferred to a boy, for she is more docile, helpful, and obedient; she
is less expensive to rear and more filial in her attitude to her aged
parents. This last consideration is one that counts for very much in all
Oriental lands. Instead of the early child marriages of India, here we
find marriage at about thirteen, the bride not leaving the parental roof
till three or four years after. The wife is respected and consulted, the
husband often deferring to his wife. "I will come from the house and
tell you," means "I will ask my wife."

At marriage an iron bracelet is placed on the wrist. This is sometimes
worn with gold circlets to lessen the sense of subjection. But the iron
bracelet does not thus lose its significance, for the woman has
everything to remind her of her secondary place in society. Sir Monier
Monier-Williams gives the following summary of woman's life in India:
"In regard to women, the general feeling is that they are the necessary
machines for producing children (Manu, lx: 96), and without children
there could be no due performance of the funeral rites essential to the
peace of a man's soul after death. This is secured by early marriage. If
the law required the consent of boys and girls before the marriage
ceremony they might decline to give it. Hence, girls are betrothed at
three or four years of age and go through the marriage ceremony at seven
to boys of whom they know nothing; and if these boy husbands die the
girls remain widows all their lives."

Since the boys soon find out their superiority to their mothers, the
latter have little part in shaping the characters of the children, and
therefore comparatively small influence in moulding the destiny of the
people. Wherever the cow is exalted and the woman degraded a nation can
hope for little from its women. "We all believe," says a prominent
Hindoo, "in the sanctity of the cow and in the depravity of woman."
Unwelcomed at her arrival and often harassed and kept in subjection till
her death, she can contribute little to the welfare of her people. It
may be said, however, that the Hindoo woman is in the main satisfied
with her lot, and is the mainstay of Hindooism.



It is a familiar remark that the essential difference between the
civilization of the East and that of the West is disclosed in the status
of woman in each of these regions of the earth. Erman, in writing of the
women of Egypt, broadly remarks that in the West woman is "the companion
of man, while in the East she is his servant and toy. In the West at one
time, the esteem in which woman was held rose to a cult, while in the
East, the question has frequently been earnestly discussed whether woman
really belonged to the human race." But he justly adds, this is not
absolutely fair, either to the East or to the West. While in India woman
has been denied a soul, and among the Teutonic tribes she was honored
with a superstitious reverence, yet not all the veneration can be
accounted upon the one side, nor all the degradation upon the other.
Among the primitive Aryan peoples woman's place appears to have been no
mean one. The early traditions of the women of Bactria, ancient Iran,
and the region of the Oxus converge with those preserved in the Rigveda
of the Hindoos to indicate a high degree of respect for woman, for
marriage, and for the other domestic virtues.

The science of comparative philology has helped us to discover some of
the primitive ideas attached to the names of the female members of the
household. The root _ma_, _matar_, "mother," signifies the _creatrix_,
"she who brings children into the world." The coming of a girl into the
countries bordering on the Persian Gulf does not seem to have been the
matter of regret that it was so frequently in the Orient; for the name
"sister" appears to be connected with _svasti_, "good," or "good
fortune"; while the daughter manifestly held the important place, in the
pastoral life of the times, of milkmaid, from _duhitar_, "she who brings
the milk from the cows."

Lenormant, writing of this ancient period, says: "Marriage was a
consecrated and free act, preceded by betrothal and symbolized by the
joining of hands. The husband, in the presence of the priest, both while
the priestly office was invested in the head of the family, and also
after the priesthood became separate, took the right hand of the bride,
pronouncing certain sacred formulæ; the bride was then conducted on a
wagon drawn by two white oxen. The father of the bride presented a cow
to his son-in-law, this was intended originally for the wedding feast,
but in later times it was taken to the house of the bridegroom; this was
the dowry, an emblem of agricultural richness. The bride's hair was
parted with a dart; she was conducted around the domestic hearth and was
then received at the door of her new abode with a present of fire and

Many of these ancient customs which prevailed in the regions of Irania
in the earliest times existed in the various branches of the
Indo-European family in their scattered locations. There may be
mentioned the fire ordeal, such a trial as that through which the
virtuous Sita, heroine of the _Ramayana_, was compelled by her
suspicious husband King Rama to pass in order to destroy his suspicions.
There were two methods of testing a woman's virtue. By the first, she
must pass unharmed through a trench filled with live coals. In the
second, a succession of concentric circles, about ten inches apart, was
marked out. A red-hot lance head, or another piece of similarly heated
metal, must be carried by the accused woman without being burnt across
the first eight circles and thrown into the ninth, and it must even then
be sufficiently hot to scorch the grass within the last circle. If the
hand that bore the red-hot metal was not burnt, the innocence of the
accused was established.

In the legendary period of Persia's history woman performs an honorable
and--it is needless to add--a romantic part. Indeed, there has been an
interest of romance attached to Persia from the early days when
Herodotus travelled and Xenophon gave the world his _Cyropædia_.
Persia's great epic poets, notably Firdausi in _Shahnamah_, have
preserved many of the early traditions of this land. More particularly
do the deeds which gather about the name of Shah Jamshid, one of the
earliest of Persian rulers, stand out in bold character. According to
the ancient legend, it was he who not only introduced the handicrafts of
weaving, of embroidering upon woollen, cotton, and silken stuffs, but
also it was he who divided the people into the four social
strata,--priests, warriors, traders, and husbandmen. Both these
contributions to Persia's early history may be said to be of prime
importance in the development of the womanhood of the country. Of this
king many interesting stories are related, episodes in which heroic
womanhood conspicuously figures. War and love, deeds of daring and of
chivalry hold a large place in the Persian legends.

The thrilling stories of King Jamshid's meeting with the irresistible
daughter of Gureng, King of Zabulistan; of their love and marriage; the
legend of the fair Tahmimah, daughter of the King of Semangan, and how
she fascinated and led captive the love of the youthful warrior Rustam,
whose fame had come to her ears; the unhappy trick by which she deceived
her absent husband, saying that the infant born to them was a girl, so
that the child might be left with her,--a deception which ended in the
tragedy of young Suhrab's death at the hands of his own father; Rustam
and Tahmimah's death from grief; the romantic finding of a queen for
King Kai Kaus, a lady who was to become the mother of King Saiawush; the
story of Byzun and the fair Princess Manijeh--all these, and more,
render the Persian epic literature rich in tales of love and chivalry.

It is out of the long and bloody struggles between the Iranians and the
Turanians, who for over ten centuries battled for supremacy, that the
early epic stories have largely sprung. There was no prejudice in the
ancient days of Persia against a strenuous as well as an amatory life
for womankind.

In the chapter upon the women of the Assyro-Babylonian people, the story
of Semiramis, the illustrious queen, has been told. So widespread was
the legend, however, that it belongs to the Persians as well as to the
inhabitants of the Tigris-Euphrates basin. The story was well known in
the region of Armenia, and may have been introduced into Persian history
because of its political value.

Among the early women of distinction must be named Homai, who has
indeed been identified with "the Persian Semiramis." She was a princess
of renown and daughter of Bahman, and to her has been given the credit
of being the author of a collection of tales known as _Hezar Afsane_,
which comprises about two hundred stories told upon a thousand nights.
It is from this collection by the Princess Homai that many suppose the
_Arabian Nights_ was constructed. How much of the material from the
former went to make up the latter is not capable of present proof, but
that the general idea and plan and some of the names, and the groundwork
of many of the tales, were borrowed from the work of the Persian
princess seems quite certain. Homai is mentioned in the Avesta, the
sacred book of the Persians; and the Persian poet Firdausi makes her the
daughter as well as wife of Artaxerxes Longimanus. Her mother is said to
have been a Jewess, Shahrazaad, among the captives brought from
Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. She is reported as having
delivered her nation from captivity, and has been identified with Esther
of the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as with Shahrazaad the Jewess of the
_Arabian Nights_. Professor Gottheil thinks that the case here is well
made out by Kuenen and others. The period of Cyrus the Great brings us
upon the borderland between legend and history. Very romantic is the
story told by Herodotus concerning the mother of Cyrus. Astyages, the
Medean king, had a daughter named Mandane. This young woman was given in
marriage to Cambyses, son of Theispes. Shortly after this, King Astyages
had a dream in which there appeared a vine springing from his daughter
Mandane and spreading till it had overshadowed all Asia. Wishing to know
the meaning of this unusual dream, Astyages received from the Magi the
interpretation that a son of Mandane should some day reign in his place.
Alarmed at this, the king called a trusted servant, Harpagus, and
commanded that he make plans to put to death the infant to which Mandane
was soon to give birth; and the wife of Cambyses was closely guarded.
Harpagus, however, unwilling himself to be guilty of so bloody a crime,
directed that a herdsman of the king expose the infant son on a desert
mountain, where its death would be certain. The herdsman, however,
instead of leaving the little one to perish, reared him himself instead
of his own stillborn son. The child received the name of Agradates, but
later that of Cyrus, who by his achievements won the cognomen "The
Great." According to Ctesias, Cyrus, after defeating Astyages, married
his daughter Amytis, who had been the wife of a Mede named Spitaces,
whom Cyrus put to death. Herodotus, as we have seen, says that the
mother of Cyrus was a daughter of Astyages. The two statements may be
both correct, however, since an Oriental conqueror would not hesitate to
marry his mother's sister if the procedure gave him greater power over a
conquered territory.

It was a woman, according to Herodotus, who at length brought the great
conqueror Cyrus to his end. Desiring to vanquish the Massagetæ, a
warlike tribe inhabiting the steppes north of the river Jaxartes, he
sent out his army, with the greater confidence of victory since this
people was then governed by a woman. When the Queen of the Massagetæ,
Tomyris, perceived the approach of the large army of Persians and the
work of building bridges across the Jaxartes, she sent a herald to
Cyrus, proposing a fair and open contest between the two forces, on
whichever side of the river Cyrus might select. Cyrus chose the side
of the river next the Massagetæ, but made use of a piece of strategy by
which the Massagetæ were defeated and the queen's son, who led in the
battle, was captured. Queen Tomyris, on hearing of the disaster, wrote a
bitter message to Cyrus, and threatened revenge that would be most
direful if her son were not returned alive. Cyrus gave no heed to the
threat. Thereupon, Tomyris mobilized all the forces of her kingdom
against the Persian army. "Of all the combats in which the barbarians
have ever engaged among themselves," says the ancient historian, "I
reckon this to have been the fiercest." First, the armies stood apart
and shot their deadly arrows. When the quivers were all emptied, the
forces joined in hand-to-hand encounter with lances and daggers, neither
yielding, till at length the army of the queen prevailed by the
destruction of the larger part of the Persian army. Cyrus himself was
slain; and as Tomyris passed his bloody corpse, she heaped insults upon
it, saying: "I live, and have conquered thee in fight; and yet by thee I
am ruined, for thou tookest my son with guile; but thus I make good my
threat, and give thee thy fill of blood."

The story of Araspes and Panthea, related by Xenophon, is one of the
earliest pieces of romantic fiction. It is told in the _Cyropædia_, and
is intended to illustrate the steadfastness and virtue of the great
Cyrus. Among the early gifts to the conqueror was a Susian lady, wife of
Abradates, King of the Susians, and regarded as the most beautiful woman
in Asia. Cyrus, never having yet seen her, committed her to the care of
Araspes till he might call for her. But the guardian fell so in love
with his fair ward that he feared the displeasure of Cyrus. The king,
however, astutely seizing upon his supposed anger toward Araspes,
decides to send him, as if a fugitive, to the enemy, that information
might be received by Araspes and communicated to him. Moreover, Panthea
now sends to Cyrus a message that her own husband Abradates would
himself become a fast friend to her lord, should he be allowed the
privilege of coming to him. Thus Cyrus, unlike many another king and
warrior, by supreme self-control in the matter of his loves gained
friends and subdued enemies.

The kings of Persia, while usually marrying but one legal wife, enjoyed
the universal custom of supporting a vast harem, and of inviting into it
daughters of neighboring kings. Usually the purposes were peaceful, but
sometimes they were of a hostile character. This was the case when
Cambyses, having resolved to carry out his father's plan of making a
conquest of Egypt, demanded of Amasis, Egypt's king, his daughter in
marriage, hoping thereby to pick a quarrel. Amasis replied by sending,
not his own daughter, but another damsel of his realm, who, unable or
unwilling to keep the secret, divulged to Cambyses the deception that
had been practised upon him. The Persian king desired no better pretext
for war, and the marriage trick was avenged by Egypt's fall.

The wives of the kings sometimes exerted much influence in the realm,
either for good or bad. Amestris, the only lawful wife of Xerxes, is
said to have been instrumental in the death of her husband by the hands
of two of his chief men. Amestris was his own cousin. That she
instigated this murder is not at all improbable, since there was ample
ground for jealousy on her part because of the notorious gallantries of
Xerxes. Indeed, the Hebrew Book of Esther draws a picture of the
corruptions of his court which in general outline is certainly true to
the facts.

Royal personages sometimes married their own sisters. This, however,
was contrary to the ancient custom. Cambyses, who succeeded Cyrus upon
the throne, fell in love with Meroe, his youngest sister, and wished to
marry her. Not wishing to fly in the face of the custom of the Persians,
he called together the judges of the empire and inquired of them whether
there might not be a law which allowed the marriage of brother and
sister. The judges informed him that there was no such law among the
Persians, but that there was a law allowing the king to do whatever he
pleased. Disgusted and enraged, the king ordered his sister to be put to
death; so that if marriage with her was prohibited to him, it might not
be possible to a lesser man. This was no surprise, however, to a people
who had known of the cruelties of this tyrant, whose own brother Smerdis
had been brutally executed at his command. Cambyses having died of a
self-inflicted wound, his successor, known as the Pseudo-Smerdis, or
Gomates, married all his predecessor's wives--a common custom among
Oriental monarchs; for the harem might easily be regarded as a part of
the spoils of conquest, or of the inheritance, as the case might be.
Gomates kept his numerous wives confined in separate apartments, for the
intrigues of the seraglio were the bane of the Persian as of the other
Oriental dynasties.

When Darius I. came into possession of the Persian throne he proceeded
to add dignity to his kingly claims by marrying Atossa, daughter of
Cyrus, who had already been successively the wife of her brother
Cambyses and of the false claimant Smerdis. Such political and
incestuous marriages became quite common in Persia. One might marry not
only a sister, but a daughter, and even a mother. At the instigation of
Parysatis, Artaxerxes II., her son, married his own daughter.

Atossa figures in an interesting story, which may, however, lack
historic truthfulness. Democedes, a physician of Crotona, had healed the
injured foot of Darius, and was now called upon to visit Atossa in an
illness. Democedes, anxious to return to his native land, sees his
opportunity. Atossa, healed of her malady, is induced to appear before
Darius and reproach him for idly sitting still and not extending the
Persian dominion. "A man who is young," said she, "and lord of vast
kingdoms should do some great thing, that the Persians may know it is a
man who rules over them." Darius replied that he was even then preparing
an expedition against the Scythians. "Nay," answered his wife, "do not
fight against the Scythians, for I have heard of the beauty of the women
of Hellas and desire to have Athenian and Spartan maidens among my
slaves, and thou hast here one who above all men can show thee how thou
mayest do this--I mean he who hath healed thy foot." Atossa prevailed.
But the expedition was only a reconnoitring party sent out in ships to
Greece and Italy. Democedes reached his home, and sent Darius word that
he could not return, because he had married the daughter of Milon the
wrestler; but the expedition met only with disaster.

That Persian women of royalty often took no inconsiderable part in
political and military activity is illustrated by many examples from the
days of Persia's strength. Xenophon has immortalized the zeal of
Parysatis in her efforts at placing her son Cyrus, the younger, upon the
throne, and her plottings in his behalf against his elder brother
Artaxerxes. Parysatis failed, but won no small power even in her
unsuccessful efforts.

Alexander the Great, on his Eastern campaign, seemed as willing to
marry the daughters of conquered princes of the East as to be worshipped
as a god by his obedient followers. Indeed, he would frequently give
respite to a strenuous life of conquest by marrying an Oriental woman.
While Alexander was engaged in his Phoenician campaign, Darius wrote
Alexander a letter offering him not only all lands west of the Euphrates
River, but also his own daughter, Statira, as the price of peace. It was
on this occasion that the famous dialogue between Alexander and his
general Parmenion occurred. The latter had advised that the offer of
Darius be accepted and no further risk of battle be undertaken. "Were I
Alexander," said Parmenion, "I should take these terms." "So should I,
if I were Parmenion," said Alexander; "but as I am not Parmenion, but
Alexander, I cannot." Accordingly, he wrote to Darius in reply to his
offer: "You offer me a part of your possession, when I am lord of all;
and if I choose to marry your daughter, I shall do so whether you give
consent or not." Events justified Alexander's boast, for both the
territory and the daughter fell into the hands of the Macedonian victor.
It was not, however, till the conqueror reached the palace city of Susa,
on his return from India, that he celebrated his marriage with Statira,
a daughter of Darius and Parysatis, who herself was daughter of Ochus,
predecessor of Darius. Alexander wished to encourage such unions with
Persian women, and went so far as to offer to his soldiers a full
payment of all debts to those who would take to themselves Persian
wives--an argument which appealed powerfully to the extravagant
spendthrifts, but was of little force with the sober and provident of
his followers. Many of the former availed themselves of their general's
offer and followed his illustrious example. Ten thousand soldiers
received presents for marrying Eastern wives, and at least eighty of
Alexander's courtiers celebrated their marriage to Persian wives while
at Susa.

The intermarriage of Greeks with Persian women was desired by Alexander
as one means of welding together the Greeks and the Persians into one
united empire. In the opinion of the Greeks, however, a union between
the sons of Hellas and the daughters of the East could not be regarded
as a regular marriage; and yet, Roxana, the Bactrian, was exalted to be
Alexander's queen. The spirit of the East, however, conquered the
conquerors, and polygamy was introduced among the Greek invaders,
Alexander himself having married three wives of the East, Roxana,
Statira, and Parysatis. The most noteworthy matrimonial coup of
Alexander during his Eastern conquest was, of course, that with Roxana.
Her son, born after Alexander's death, and called by the name of his
father, laid claim to the title of "the great king"; but Alexander's
Eastern plans, so far as they looked toward a universal empire, melted
away in the early morning of their conception.

After the decline of the Græco-Persian power and the rise of Parthian
supremacy, we enter a new epoch in Persian history. The Parthians had
long been a rude, nomadic people. Their women were uncultured, and
played little part, except in a physical way, in the new era that dawned
upon the land of proud Persia. The Parthian women were, however, sturdy,
self-sacrificing, and brave, adapted well to the dashing character of
the Parthian warrior, whose tactics in battle struck terror to the
stoutest hearts, even among the brave Greeks and the well-nigh
invincible Romans.

Following the downfall of the Parthians comes, under Ardeshir, the rise
of the Sassanian dynasty, which many suppose to be a revival of the once
glorious line of Achæmenian kings. It was not long before woman began to
figure prominently in the new history. Sapor I., son of Ardeshir, or the
Sassanian Artaxerxes, as he is called, finding difficulty in bringing
the province of Hatra under his sway, receives an overture from the
daughter of Manizen, the ruler of Hatra, an ambitious young
woman,--without moral scruples,--with intimation that if she were made
Queen of Persia she would promise to betray her father's forces into
Sapor's hands. The compact was faithfully carried out by the damsel; but
Sapor, when he came into possession of Hatra, ordered the traitress to
be put to death, instead of marrying her, for Sapor not unnaturally felt
that he could not be safe on his throne with such a wife. It was during
the reign of Sapor that a new element was injected into Persian social
and religious life which was destined somewhat later to influence almost
every home in Persia. This was the rise of Manicheism, named for its
founder Manes.

This was a new form of Christianity--a syncretic faith into which
entered a little of Zoroastrianism, somewhat of Judaism, a modicum of
Buddhism, and some Christianity. Manes's teachings seemed so plausible
that many were swept away by them; they appeared to be destined to shake
the older faiths from their foundations, and they changed many of the
customs as well as portions of the worship of the people. Manes was a
zealous patron of the decorative arts. The art of weaving carpets of
silk and of wool, which has given employment to so many female fingers
from that day to this, and the fine embroideries which have made Persia
famous are to be attributed in no small degree to the influence of

The lives of the women of the Sassanidæ were not always to be envied.
The story, though it may have changed form and color somewhat by
transmission, is not an improbable one which tells of King Varahran's
anger at his queen. One day, seated with her in an open pavilion
overlooking the plain, he saw two wild asses approaching. With his bow
the strong man, skilled in the chase, transfixed both of the animals
with one well-aimed shot. Turning to his spouse to receive the applause
he thought due him, the wife replied: "Practice makes perfect." Angered
at the lightness with which his skilful feat was received, he ordered
her to be executed, but quickly repented, and simply divorced her from
the palace. In quiet moments, he repented of his haste. For years, he
had no trace of the former queen, but when hunting one day he beheld a
scene which quickly excited his curiosity and admiration. It was a woman
carrying upon her shoulders a cow, with which, indeed, she easily walked
up and down the stairs of the country house. On asking her concerning
the remarkable feat, she replied, as she dropped her veil: "Practice
makes perfect." The king recognized his wife, now no longer young, but
still possessing physical charms, and invited her to take her place
again in the palace. The woman had commenced to carry the cow when it
was but a tiny calf, and had shrewdly planned the feat in the hope that
some day she might win back her husband's respect. It has been suggested
that cows are small in Persia, as is indeed the case, but more probably
some small animal, such as a goat or a gazelle, first figured in the

Persian kings of the house of Sassan intermarried frequently with
Turkish women, and one of the best known of this dynasty, Hormisda, had
a Turkish mother. It was he who won the mortal enmity of one of Persia's
greatest generals by sending to the veteran a distaff, together with a
woman's costume, suggesting that he give up the art of war for that of
spinning. The suggestion cost the king his sceptre. The soldiery,
however, raised to the throne his son, the many-sided Chosroes Parveez,
whose name stands out prominently not only as a foster-father of the
arts among the people, but as preëminent in a long line of Persian kings
because of his unswerving love for his wife Shirin all through his long
and, in some respects, most honorable reign. His harem, however, was one
of the most extensive in all Persian annals.

Modern Persia has, of course, lost much of the grandeur of the days of
Mandane or of the mother of Xerxes. Persia, being an inland as well as a
mountainous country, with scarcely any railway facilities in the entire
country, and no navigable waterways, has been very little influenced by
modern ideas or customs. As there are many tribes and nationalities in
the land, and many different religions as well, many differences are
found in manners, customs, and even in language. Each nationality and
each sect continues distinct from the other. Broad differences have
engendered social distinctions and sometimes enmity and strife.

No single statement as to the relation of the sexes in Persia will apply
to all the peoples of the country. The large majority of the people
being Mohammedans, the customs are very similar to those of all other
countries where Islam rules. Among the Nestorian Christians and the
Catholic Christians women are unveiled and free to come and go. Among
the so-called "Fire Worshippers" of the Monsul mountains, men and women
associate in their great feasts, and the sexes dance and sing together.
The laws of the people fix the number of wives at not more than six,
and, of course, the girl may not choose her husband; but is sold by her
parents, though she may remain single by paying through hard labor a sum
to the father for the privilege of remaining under the parental roof.
Among the Parsees, the modern followers of Zoroaster, who number about
twenty-five thousand, woman is given a better opportunity for education
than among the Mohammedans. Obedience to her husband is, of course, her
first duty; and married life is looked upon as specially blessed, and
rich Parsees are known to aid in a pecuniary way those who are
marriageable, but lack the material means to make them happy. Polygamy
is prohibited among the Parsees, except that after nine years of
sterility, a wife may expect another woman to share the home of her
husband. Divorces are forbidden, and wives have comparative freedom. The
wealthier Persians, generally found in the towns, reside in large
dwellings having several apartments. The masses of the people, however,
live poorly in mud houses or huts from thirty to forty feet square, with
one room and a single door.

Woman's work in Persia, as generally in the East, is multiform as well
as menial. The women, of course, do the baking. They use yeast in the
making of their bread. Having kneaded the dough, they set it aside to
rise, after which they divide the mass into small parts, and with a
rolling-pin they roll these pieces of dough very thin, and sometimes to
the size of two feet in length by a foot in width, and then stick them
to the side of the oven. The latter is a cylindrical hole in the ground,
lined with clay and located near the centre of the house. It is about
four feet deep, and approximately two and a half feet in diameter. The
women make fire in this oven but once a day. The wife bakes once or
twice a week, if the family be small, but if large, every day or every
other day. This oven, whose top is even with the floor, is also the
place around which in cool weather the family gather upon mats to keep
themselves warm. The fuel is not wood, which is very scarce, but manure.
At first both the smoke and the odor are very perceptible, but when once
the fire is burning freely, the impurities of the fuel are drawn up
through an opening in the roof, a window, just above the oven. Out of
this window, which remains open day and night, the smoke is supposed to
go, as indeed it will, if ample time be given. The Persian housewife is
thus enabled to keep her house ventilated, but its walls and ceilings
soon become very black with soot. In rainy weather the good housewife
must place a pan or other receptacle immediately under the window--for
this opening in the ceiling is both the avenue for light and for
ventilation, hence must not be closed. If a woman wishes to know her
neighbor's business, she will creep upon the top of her neighbor's
roof--for houses are very often close together, and eavesdrop through
the open window.

Weaving is done both by women and by men. The weaving and spinning
apparatus, as well as the crude cotton-gins, are in the same room where
the family eats, sleeps, cooks, and converses. As a rule, the men weave
the light goods, such as cotton fabrics, while the women make the
carpets, rugs, and the like. The women are the spinsters, and, with
untiring energy, they rise early and spin all day. It is said that a
woman of ordinary skill can spin a pound of cotton a day, provided she
works very hard. For this she receives, if done for another, about
twenty cents.

The women do the milking. In fact, it is regarded as beneath the dignity
of a man to milk, if not as a positive disgrace. The women milk cows,
buffaloes, sheep, and goats. Butter is made from buffalo milk, which is
given by the animals in large quantities and is exceedingly white. Since
clabber is more highly prized than fresh milk, the housewife, as soon as
she has finished her morning's milking,--they milk twice a day,--heats
the fresh milk almost to boiling, allows it to cool a little, and then
adds a table-spoonful of sour milk. Speedily the whole begins to
coagulate, and the next morning, with the addition of syrup, it forms
the customary breakfast. The good housewife finds it indispensable to
keep a little sour milk at hand in order to hasten the coagulation.
Women residing in towns do their churning in earthen vessels or
pitchers, called _meta_, always using sour milk. Among the nomadic
people of the country sheepskins are used for this purpose. These
sheepskin churns are filled, and suspended by means of cords from a
wooden frame. The churn is thus shaken back and forth by the women till
the butter comes. If butter in excess of the immediate need is
produced,--and the poorer classes use it sparingly,--it is converted
into oil, which keeps its quality for a year or two and is much used for

The women are also the millers, braying the corn in mortars in
primitive fashion, or beating it to meal upon a flat stone with a stone
hammer, or, in some advanced households, grinding it in hand mills. It
requires two or three women to use a hand mill, which consists of two
huge round stones, one revolving upon the other. Two or more women will
take hold of a handle attached to the upper stone and turn, while
another pours the grain, from an earthen jar, through a hole in the
upper millstone. As only a little wheat can be ground at a time, it
requires much patience, and the men generally give over the labor to the

Harvesting is also done by the women. The season between June and August
of each year is therefore peculiarly severe upon them. Their domestic
duties must be finished soon after sunrise; then, with their sickles,
they start out from the villages to the harvest fields, a mile or two
distant. One may often see the baby in its tiny cradle flung across the
shoulder of the mother on her way to the day's labor. She puts the
cradle down in the shade in view of the reapers, and performs her daily
task in the broiling sun. While the women reap, the men gather the
bundles and bind them for the threshing floor. At the close of the day,
homeward they trudge, tired and soiled by the day's work; the mothers
carrying their little ones back to their homes, where the domestic
duties of evening are to be performed before comes the opportunity for
rest. When grain harvest is over, the vineyards are to be gleaned, and
the women are to do most of the work of picking the ripe, luscious
branches of grapes, filling the huge baskets and carrying them to the
place where the fruit is to be spread out to be dried. In fifteen or
twenty days the grapes have become raisins, and they are again taken up
and piled away, ready for the market. Wine and molasses are also made
from grapes, the work being largely the task of the women.

Just as Persia has its Ruths gleaning in the fields, so also Rebekah
with her water pot may be seen daily. In lieu of modern buckets, the
Persians are content to have their women take large earthen jars,
morning and night, to the public wells, springs, or streams outside the
village. There the women fill their pots, lift them first to the hips,
then to the back or shoulder, and trudge home with their burden,
chatting happily as they go, and becoming straight and strong by the
muscular exercise involved. Eight or ten trips may be necessary before
each woman has filled all her jars, and so procured the necessary amount
of water for the daily use.

There is a saying in Persia: "When cousins marry they are never happy."
And yet, as a rule, marriages are within the religious sects. If a
Christian--Christians in Persia are of the ancient Nestorian
faith--should marry a Mohammedan woman, he would be compelled to
renounce his religion for the Mohammedan, as the ruling class would not
allow it to be otherwise. Christian parents, on the other hand, would
not give their consent to the union of their daughter with a worshipper
of Islam. Occasionally, however, attractive Nestorian girls are captured
and carried off, and compelled to accept the Mohammedan religion, and
married to a Persian or a Turk. Generally, girls marry within their own
villages, since each neighborhood is, as a rule, a community
uninfluenced and unvisited by people from other communities. Persia is
no exception to the ordinary Oriental rule, that marriage contracts are
made by the parents--the children accepting with unquestioning obedience
the conditions that have been prepared for them.

A young man, being where isolation of the sexes does not prevail, may,
however, and often does, show unmistakably his preference for the girl
of his liking; and since the communities are often small, isolated
marriages of those who have known and loved one another from infancy are
not infrequent. The wise parent finds out if the two young people are
really in love, though both will often vehemently deny what is plainly
true, and tries to arrange matters in accordance with the eternal
fitness of things. The girl in question, however, is never consulted in
the matter. All girls are supposed to marry, and a youth who remains
long single is considered of all creatures the most miserable. As is
general throughout the East, Persian girls are ready for conjugal life
at twelve years of age, certainly at the age of fifteen. Betrothal often
takes place as early as infancy. Parents will sometimes undertake to
cement, or at least to express, their strong friendship by engaging
their infants, one to another. These two, growing up with the
understanding that they are finally to be husband and wife, often become
ardent lovers, and the match is a happy one.

When a young man has become of age, which in many cases is very early in
life, especially among the rich classes, the parents will send two or
three male friends to act as mediators, who will go to the house of the
girl in question and ask her parents for her hand. After some
deliberation, with apparently great reluctance, the request is granted.
To seal the contract, one of the mediators rises and kisses the hand of
the father. The contracting parties return to their homes and report
their success to the parents of the young man. In accordance with the
affirmative report, his parents, within a few days, meet the parents of
the girl and conclude the arrangements for the wedding.

The first in the order of preparation is the buying of the wedding
clothes for the bride; for these the father of the prospective
bridegroom pays. The father must make presents to the members of the
girl's family and to her friends. The chief officers of the town must
also be remembered. After this the parties make ready for the marriage.
While the bride is engaged in preparing for the wedding, there are
feasts and revels at the houses of both the bride and the groom.
Provision for these sumptuous feasts is made by the groom's father. This
feasting lasts from three to six days. The predominating features in it
are music and dancing, in a style peculiar to Persian life and custom.
Mirthful song is provided by professional singers, to the great delight
of those present. After two or three days of incessant preparation on
the part of the girl, and of festivity on the part of the ever mirthful
guests, the men and the boys, following a leader, go to bring the bride
home. As soon as the gay company has arrived, a feast is in readiness
for them. A dance in the house or in the yard follows. Meantime, the
bride is being prepared to take her journey to her future home. At last
it is announced that she is ready, and the musicians play a doleful
tune, while the girl kisses her parents good-bye; and bidding adieu to
all the friends of her childhood, she is soon mounted on the horse which
is to carry her. At that moment the musicians change their mournful tune
to one more lively, and off the whole company marches with the bride to
her destination. At the arrival of the bride, which is reported by a
young man, all the people of the community emerge from their huts and
come out to witness the festive scene. After some ceremony, the bride
dismounts before the house of the most prominent man in the town, into
which she is escorted, and there she is received and entertained with

That night again the town in general enjoys hilarious feasting and
mirth, especially in the house of the groom. The next day the musicians
go to the different parts of the town where the guests are being
entertained, and summon them to the enjoyment of another feast. As soon
as this is over, they accompany the groom, led by the music and dancers,
to the place where the bride is being entertained; and thence, if they
be Catholic Christians, they at once proceed to the church, where the
priest performs the marriage rite. The husband and wife are now ready to
be escorted to their future home, which is the birthplace of the groom.
The rest of that day is spent in conversation and feasting. The female
friends of the groom look, for the first time, upon the unveiled bride;
and they examine the embroidered work, which the girl has made with her
own hands, and which constitutes a part of the bridal equipment. The day
being over, the friends depart and the bride and groom are launched on
their new life.

The women of the Persian seraglio are more closely confined, if
possible, than the women of the Hindoo or of the Turkish harems. In
ancient days it was customary to put the women who entered the royal
harem under a strict regimen or course of preparation. A glimpse of this
purifying process is given in the Hebrew Book of Esther, the author of
which shows minute acquaintance with Persian life and customs. "Now when
every maid's turn was come, ... after that she had been twelve months,
according to the manner of the women (for so were the days of their
purification accomplished, to wit: six months with oil of myrrh, and six
months with sweet odors, and with other things for the purifying of the
women), then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she
desired was given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto
the king's house."

The custom of strict seclusion and oversight of the women, introduced
by the ancient kings to guard better a pure lineage and to exhibit
greater state, has had large influence in Persia, except among the
nomadic peoples. The arrangements of the house for obtaining privacy for
women are usually the same throughout the land. The first apartment of
the house is for the use of men; the second or interior apartment,
called the "anteroom," is for the women, and no men are allowed to
intrude into the "harem" or "forbidden place"; else the voice of the
eunuchs, or guardians, will be quickly heard crying out: "Women--away,"
and every face in the harem will be at once veiled from the sight of the

"I am a woman" is frequently given and regarded as an ample reason why a
modern Persian girl need not learn to read. Every city or town has its
school for boys, but there are no schools for girls (unless they be
mission schools), since it is commonly believed that it is a prudent
policy to keep the female sex satisfied with their present position in
the economy of life. The wealthier parents may, however, sometimes
employ private tutors for their girls. The deep-seated line that marks a
woman as different from a man appears even in the method of capital
punishment meted out to women. While a man who is to be executed will
have his jugular vein cut, be nailed to a wall, or be blown from a
cannon's mouth, a woman will be sentenced to have her head shaved, her
face blackened, to take a bareback ride upon a donkey along the public
highway, and finally to be beaten to death in a bag. Or she may be
stripped of all clothing and placed in a bag full of cats, which will
soon scratch or bite the unfortunate victim to death.

Domestic peace does not always hover like a white dove over Persian
homes. Even among the Nestorians, the ancient Christian sect, it is very
common for the husband to assert his lordship over his spouse by giving
her an occasional flogging. The women expect this as one of the
conditions of their position. The failure of this method of emphasizing
the husband's authority, however, would appear from the testimony that
"the number of women who revere their husbands is as small as the list
of husbands who do not beat their wives."

In this land of the ancient Magi it is not strange that there should be
many superstitions connected with marriages and engagements. Sometimes
it is manifest that the husband does not love his wife. If this be the
case, the wife or her mother may consult a magician. He will write for
her a charm. This is to be sewed into some designated part of her daily
apparel; a like charm is prepared for direct effect upon the husband,
and this must be secretly sewed into his clothing. The hoped-for result
of these charms is the renewal of conjugal affection. Another charm,
which is highly regarded, directs the wife to cut off a few hairs from
both her own and her husband's head, to burn them together and from
their ashes make a potion which the husband is to be caused,
clandestinely, to drink. Some magicians will direct that the love
prescription be placed under the hinge of the door of the house, so that
as the door is constantly opened and shut, the husband's love will as
constantly grow toward his spouse. Sterility is uniformly regarded as a
misfortune, if not a curse. Incantations and charms are frequently
employed to induce fecundity. The Persian women and Orientals generally
have innumerable superstitions. For example, when a hen is heard to
crow, it is regarded either as a good or a bad omen. To ascertain
exactly which it may be, the crowing hen is blindfolded and carried to
the top of the flat roof. She is then dropped through the open window
into the centre of the room below. If the hen turns toward the corner of
the house, it is considered a good omen, and all is well. If on the
other hand, she starts toward the door, it is regarded as portending
evil, and the hen is killed at once. This odd custom suggests another,
somewhat similar, once in vogue in Persia. Suppose a woman has lost a
piece of money, and she suspects that some disloyal neighbor, she does
not know whom, has taken it. To prevent a public trial and to spare the
innocent the disgrace that may come upon those wrongly suspected, all
the neighbors agree that at a certain time every man and woman of the
vicinage shall go, one after the other, to the dwelling from which the
money was stolen, and in passing, each person shall throw a handful of
dirt into the window of the person whose money has been lost. One goes
and returns to his own house, and then another, till all have thrown in
a handful. When the last one has deposited the dirt he has brought, the
owner goes in and finds in the midst of the total deposit the lost
treasure; for the guilty party, fearing that he will at length be
detected and suffer punishment, and knowing that he cannot be detected
if he throws the money down into the house along with his handful of
dirt, avails himself of this means of escape from the charge which he

There are no women who have a harder, and apparently a happier, life
than do the women of the Kurds. The men of the tribe deny that women are
possessed of souls. A woman must not, therefore, be present where a man
is at prayer. If she should touch him while performing this hallowed
duty, it is thought that she might get the benefit of the prayer.
Indeed, it is believed that if she touch him, she obtains his soul.
Should a woman be seen approaching, the man at prayer may rise, go out
from the prayer circle, take his gun and shoot the woman, and then
piously return to his devotions.

The Kurdish women are very dark in complexion and picturesque in their
apparel. They use paints and other cosmetics in abundance, to please the
eye of their husbands. Their day of toil is a long one, for, after
finishing their household duties, they are expected to hasten to the
fields to tend the flocks, or to gather fuel for the winter. At night
they return with large packs upon their shoulders, enough for two
donkeys to carry. They may be seen spinning and singing on their way to
and fro, as though their lot were the happiest in the world. Little
thinking of the ordinary ailments of women, they trudge along over the
fields or the mountain heights; and frequently a Kurdish woman may be
seen returning home in the evening, happy, with her huge bundle of
sticks for the fire, and with the infant to which she has given birth
during the day! A Kurd usually thinks more of his steed than of his
wife, who may sometimes be compelled to vacate her place in the dwelling
to make room for the horse.

Any account of Persian women is incomplete without some reference to
woman in the native poetry of the Persians. No poetry of the East has
been so generally admired, translated, and read as the Persian. In it
woman finds a large place. And yet, it cannot be said that she is
presented always in the light of the brightest ideals of virtuous

The Persian poet Hafiz is said once to have been asked by the
philosopher Zenda what he was good for, and he replied: "Of what use is
a flower?" "A flower is good to smell," said the philosopher. "And I am
good to smell it," said the poet. Too often woman is shown as the
plaything of man's passion and fancy. Yet the virtue of heroic womanhood
in the early days is presented with great force and beauty.

The Persian poets, in the treatment of love, leave little place for
reflection, still less for practical considerations. It is spontaneous
love, "love at first sight," which they deem alone worthy of their song.
"Love at first sight and of the most enthusiastic kind is the passion
described in all Persian poems, as if a whole life of love were
condensed into one moment. It is all wild and rapturous; it has nothing
of the rational cast. A casual glance from an unknown beauty often
affords the subject of a poem." These words well sum up the Persian
poets' most common attitude toward love and the female graces. The
following lines written concerning the beauty of the daughter of Gureng
King of Zabulistan, are typical:

      "So graceful in her movements and so sweet,
       Her very look plucked from the breast of age
       The root of sorrow;--her wine-sipping lips
       And mouth like sugar, cheeks all dimpled over
       With smiles and glowing as the summer rose--
       Won every heart."

These words, too, were said of a damsel who had won fame as a warrior in
her father's army, and her skill, valor, and judgment had made enemies
fall at her feet. Indeed, one of the most romantic portions of the
_Shahnamah_ of Firdausi are the passages describing the meeting of the
gallant King Jamshid with the beautiful daughter of Gureng, whose father
had given her permission to marry, provided only it should be
spontaneous love which should guide her in the choice:

      "It must be love and love alone
       That binds thee to another's throne,
       In this thy father has no voice--
       Thine the election, thine the choice."

One day, as by chance, the handsome young King Jamshid arrived at the
city, a fatigued stranger, and was not permitted by the keepers to pass
through King Gureng's rose garden. Weary, Jamshid sat down at the gate,
under a shade tree. The damsel sees him, and at once falls in love with
his manly form and demeanor. She brings him wine, by which he may be
refreshed, and pours out her tender soul to him. Presently a dove and
his cooing mate alight upon a bough above their heads. The damsel asks
which of the birds her bow and arrow must bring to the ground. Jamshid
replies: "Where a man is, a woman's aid is not required; give me the

      "However brave a woman may appear,
       Whatever strength of arms she may possess,
       She is but half a man."

Blushing, the girl gives over the weapon, and Jamshid says: "Now for the
wager. If I hit the female, shall the lady whom I most admire in this
company be mine?" The damsel, her heart bounding with throbs of love,
assents. Jamshid drew the string and struck the female bird so skilfully
that both wings were transfixed with the body. The male bird flew away,
but presently returned and perched itself again upon the bough as if
unwilling to leave its stricken mate. The damsel grasped the bow and
arrow, and said: "The male bird has returned to his former place; if my
aim be successful shall the man whom I choose in this company be my

Just then the aged nurse of the princess appears, and recognizes in King
Jamshid him whom the oracles had predicted would be the young girl's

      "... happy tidings, blissful to her heart,
       Increased the ardor of her love for him."

They are married. And the story of her father's displeasure and of his
treachery toward Jamshid, the latter's betrayal and death, the young
wife's inconsolable grief and sad self-slaughter move before the reader
in a most thrilling fashion. This Persian poem, setting forth the
romantic side of female character, is one of the greatest pieces of
literature ever written.

The Persian romances delight in making the women do most of the loving
and the courting. The heroines are the first to feel passion and the
most rapturous in expressing it. They, however, like Saiawush in the
_Shahnamah_, are fond of coyness until they have determined to yield to
the force of love. But when the love of a Persian woman has once gone
out, the Persian poets usually depict it as strong and steadfast to the
end. It speaks like that of Manijeh, the unfortunate Byzun:

      "Can I be faithless then to thee,
       The choice of this fond heart of mine,
       Why sought I bonds when I was free,
       But to be thine, forever thine?"

Even the best poets, such as Firdausi, who was called the "poet of
Paradise," Persia's great national poet, often present woman's charms in
lines highly overdrawn. Such these are concerning the Princess Rudabah:

                      "Screened from public view
      Her countenance is brilliant as the sun;
      From head to foot her lovely form is fair
      As polished ivory. Like the spring, her cheek
      Presents a radiant bloom--in stature tall,
      And o'er her silvery brightness, richly flow
      Dark musky ringlets clustering to her feet."

Khakani, considered the most learned of Persia's lyric poets, wrote some
beautiful verses in which womanly charms find place. Such is his poem
_The Unknown Beauty_, in which occur the lines:

      "I saw thy form of waving grace!
         I heard thy soft and gentle sighs;
      I gazed on that enchanting face,
         And looked in thy narcissus eyes;
      Oh! by the hopes thy smiles allowed,
      Bright soul-inspirer, who art thou?"

The great price placed upon womanly beauty is clearly discerned in such
writers as Sadi, who died about A. D. 1292. In his _Gulistan_, or "Rose
Garden," he tells the story of a doctor of laws who had a daughter. She
was so extremely ugly that she reached the age of womanhood long before
anyone wished her in marriage, although her fortune and dowry were
large--for "Damask or brocade but add to deformity, when put upon a
bride void of symmetry," says Sadi. Finally, to avoid perpetual
maidenhood, the girl was given in wedlock to a blind man. Very soon a
physician who could restore sight to the blind happened to come that
way. "Why do you not get him to prescribe for your son-in-law?" the
father was asked. "Because," said he, "I am afraid he may recover his
sight and repudiate my daughter--for the husband of an ugly woman ought
to be blind."

Few poets have written more of love and womanly grace than did Hafiz,
who died in A. D. 1388. In the _Diwan_, which has been compared to a
story of pearls, Hafiz says:

      "To me love's echo is the sweetest sound
       Of all that 'neath the circling round
                               Hath staved."

A story is told of Hafiz and Tamerlane, which is doubtless apocryphal.
Coming upon the poet one day, Tamerlane said: "Art thou not the insolent
versemonger who didst offer my two great cities Samarkand and Bokhara
for the black mole upon thy lady's cheek?" "It is true," replied Hafiz,
with much calmness; "and indeed, my munificence has been so great
throughout my life that it has left me destitute; so, hereafter I shall
be dependent on thy generosity for a livelihood." This apt reply of
Hafiz is said to have so pleased the conqueror that he sent the poet
away with a present.

It may be said, as a rule, that the Persian poets emphasize almost
exclusively woman's physical charms. "Women, wine, and song" are, in
truth, the chief burden of the poems. The sensuous side of love is most
frequently disclosed. There are, however, some exceptions to this
general rule, as may be discovered in passages from the writings of
Jami. While it is the beauty of the unmarried woman which most
frequently and most naturally holds place in Persian song, yet the
married life is not forgotten. Firdausi, in his account of the beautiful
Rudabah, says of wedlock:

      "For marriage is a contract sealed by Heaven--
      How happy is the warrior's lot amidst
      His smiling children."

And Firdausi makes Kitabun say:

      "A mother's counsel is a golden treasure."

Examples of the recognition of love that is deep and full of meaning are
not wanting among the Persian poets.

Nizami, Persia's first great romantic poet, who lived in the twelfth
century of our era, wrote nothing better than his romance of Bedouin
love, the story of Laili and Majnun, which has been happily termed the
_Romeo and Juliet_ of the East. "France," says a recent writer, "has its
Abelard and Eloise, Italy its Petrarch and Laura, Persia and Arabia have
their pure pathetic romance." Many see in the story of Laili and Majnun
an allegorical or spiritual interpretation. At least, it illustrates the
stress which the Persian poets put upon a true, undying devotion, and
the Orientals consider it the very personification of faithful love.

The higher ideals are often found in the dramatic literature. Many
consider Jami's celebrated _Yusuf and Zulaikha_, a dramatic poem
modelled after Firdausi, to be the finest poem in the Persian language.
Sir William Jones pronounces it "the finest poem he ever read." It gives
account of Yusuf--the Israelite Joseph--and Zulaikha, Potiphar's wife.
In this is disclosed how the human soul attains the love for the highest
beauty and goodness only when it has suffered and has been thoroughly
regenerated, purified, as was the life of Zulaikha. The poet, seeing the
emptiness of mere beauty, reaches the inevitable conclusion that

      "He who gives his heart to a lovely form
      May look for no rest--but a life of storm
      If the gold of union be still his quest,
      With fond vain dream, love deludes his breast."

The _Dabistan_ was first brought to public notice by that enthusiastic
Orientalist of more than a century ago--Sir William Jones. In it there
is a dissertation on the "Hundred Gates of Paradise," in which occur
directions for entering the place of blessedness. Sons and daughters are
to be given in early marriage. Milk must be given to a child as soon as
the mother gives it birth. Directions are given to women in sickness and
in childbearing. Implicit obedience to husbands is strictly enjoined,
and warning is carefully given against the woman of unchaste life.

The Zend-Avesta, as well as the great body of Persian poetry, has
preserved much of the ancient life and flavor of Iran. There is scarcely
any feature in the literature of the religion of Zoroaster, which holds
a more emphatic place than that which enjoins purity of life. Domestic
virtues are accorded high place in these teachings. Says the
Zend-Avesta: "Purity is the best of all things; purity is the fairest of
all things, even as thou hast said, O righteous Zarathushtra,--Purity
is, next to life, the greatest good." Zoroaster inquires of Ormuzd which
is the second best place, when earth feels most happy? To which Ormuzd
makes reply: "It is the place whereon one of the faithful erects a house
with a priest within, with cattle, with a wife and with children and
good herds within, and wherein afterward the cattle continue to thrive,
virtue to thrive, fodder to thrive, the dog to thrive, the wife to
thrive, the child to thrive, the fire to thrive, and every blessing of
life to thrive."



Woman's conservatism has already been referred to in these pages. There
is probably no people in the world, certainly no branch of the widely
scattered Semitic family, among whom ancient ideals and customs have
been more persistent than among the Arabians. Indeed, Arabia occupies a
unique position in the world's history. From her territory there
probably went out the different branches of the Semitic people, a part
of the human family which is second to none in its influence upon the
course of history. For one of its branches, the Assyro-Babylonian,
probably developed the earliest civilization which has come down to us;
another was the most powerful of all ancient faiths, the Hebrew, while
two other historic religions, the Christian and the Mohammedan, had
their origin in Semitic soil.

Arabia is truly a land of mystery; but for this very reason the
interest in her people is yet the keener. She has but few ancient
monuments written upon tablets of stone and hardened clay--in palaces
and ancient temples--as have Egypt and Assyria. Her records are in
legend, story, tradition, and the persistent customs of her people. With
the exception of the influence of the birth and the death of a culture
which awakened the world and helped to scatter the Dark Ages, and of the
rise of Mohammed, there have been few changes in this remarkable land.

Two forces stand out as most potential in the shaping of the Arab
woman's character. These may be summed up in the words, the desert and
the cult; the latter being in some sense the product of the former. To
these may possibly be added a third. That is the war spirit, without
which the lord as well as the lady of the Arabian peninsula would have
written out for themselves a far different, and perhaps a far less
romantic history. For there were those who, even like Khaled, spurn the
love of a noble maiden from his "pride of the passion of war." Even love
making, which holds an important place in Arabic literature, gives way
to what was regarded as the noblest of all occupations, the making of

Womanhood, in the so-called "time of ignorance,"--the days before Islam
wrought so marked a change in the life of Arabia,--enjoyed a freedom and
strength which spoke of the open air and the far-stretching plains. As
she followed the fortunes of her nomad chief, the woman was indelibly
writing her history. It is in religious ideals too that woman must
always find the key to her standing and influence among any people.

Among the early Arabs the female idea held no small place in their
religious beliefs and practices, and this is true of the early Semites
generally. This is specially noteworthy, however, as Robertson Smith has
pointed out, in the olden Arabic cult. Gods and goddesses went in pairs,
and the goddess was usually the more important divinity. The jinn, which
held so conspicuous a place, were regarded as feminine. In the Minæan
pantheon, Wadd and Nikrah, "Love" and "Hate," female divinities, played
an important rôle in the religious life of this branch of the Arabic
people. Wherever the female divinity is prominent, woman enjoys
considerable privilege and influence in religion, and this was true in
ancient Arabia.

The people believed in an inferior order of divine beings--emanations,
secondary spirits--compared to angels by some Mussulman writers. These
beings were of the female sex and known as _Benat Allah_ (daughters of
Allah). Mohammed in the Koran, however, strongly condemned this earlier
belief as not consonant with the unity of God, which is a doctrine so
emphatically preached in the religion of Islam. Each tribe not only had
its _Kahin_, or "diviner" (Hebrew, _Kohen_, "priest"), but its _Arrafa_,
or "sorceress."

Woman's sphere in the olden days of Arabia was no mean one. Arabic women
have from time immemorial shown themselves, on occasion, to possess a
courage and hardihood unsurpassed in history. Arabia has had her
Amazons. In prehistoric times, armed heroines of invincible bravery have
left their record in the myths of this ancient people. And in the days
of authentic history, women have fought valiantly to advance the cause
for which their husbands and brothers waged war so fiercely.

The high place held by women in the ancient wars of Araby still survives
in the thrilling custom of having some courageous woman accompany an
Arab force into the battle. The maiden is mounted upon the back of a
blackened camel, and placed in the front of the line as it makes its
onslaught upon the enemy. As the fighting men press forward to the
battle she sings verses of encouragement to her compatriots, and insults
are flung from her lips against the opposing force. It is around this
young woman and her camel that the fiercest battle rages. Should she be
so unfortunate as to be killed or captured, the calamity is unspeakable
and the rout utter. But should her friends be victorious, it is she who
heads the triumphal march.

As we might expect, the spirit of chivalry is not lacking in Arabic
song and story. In the romance of _Antar_, the story of the hero's love
for Ibla, "fair as the full moon," and the account of her rescue,
breathe the spirit of genuine romance. Antar does not hesitate to strike
down the man who has "failed in respect to Arab women." The _Arabian
Nights_, though in less degree, has also preserved to us evidences of
ancient chivalry and romance.

Hagar, of whose sad life the Hebrew narratives give us record, though
herself called an Egyptian woman, became ancestress of an Arab clan and
plays some part in Arabian tradition. She was the ancestress of the
restless, roving Ishmaelites--a typical Arabian tribe. Mohammed, in
explaining the preservation of an ancient idolatrous custom of visiting
in religious pilgrimages the hills of Safa and Marwa, where once were
worshipped two idols, one representing a man and the other a woman,
says, in the Koran, that it was between these two eminences that Hagar
wandered, distracted, running from one to the other, till the angel
showed her the miraculous spring which saved her boy's life.

Indeed, the Arab legend says that when Hagar and Ishmael were driven
from Abraham's tent at Sarah's behest, she was conducted far into the
desert, at the place where Mecca now stands. When her provisions are
exhausted, laying the boy down, she runs to and fro in despair. In his
thirst and suffering, Ishmael strikes his head against the earth, and a
spring of sparkling water gushes out. Some members of an Arab tribe,
thirsty, and seeking their lost camels, come, guided by birds, to the
spot, seeking to quench their thirst. Never having known water to spring
in that locality before, they received Hagar and Ishmael with especial
reverence, and bade them take up their permanent abode with them, lest
because of their departure the spring might dry up. To Ishmael was given
in marriage one of their maidens, Amara, daughter of Saïd. This is but
one of the many instances of the overlapping of Hebraic and Arabic

Many are the stories told by the Arabs concerning the famous Queen of
Sheba, who herself was an Arabian woman. She belonged to that southern
branch of the family known as the Sabeans. Her fame has gone into many
legends, both Arabic and Hebrew. Her visit to King Solomon of Israel
furnishes the basis of most of these. As a lover of wisdom, or the
philosophy of practical life, she was drawn to the ruler of the Hebrews,
whose reputation had extended far and wide. Solomon proved especially
successful in answering her favorite riddles and in untying for her the
most knotty questions. Among the many Talmudic legends is this
interesting one. The queen took groups of small boys and girls, dressed
them precisely alike, and demanded of Solomon that he distinguish the
boys from the girls. The king commanded that they all wash their hands.
The boys washed only to the wrists; the girls rolled up their sleeves
and bathed to their elbows. Thus the secret was disclosed. The
Mohammedan legends concerning this remarkable queen are full and minute.
Having with her own hand slain the reigning king, she herself, being of
royal lineage, was proclaimed queen, and "protectress of her sex." She
reigned with great wisdom and prudence, and administered justice
throughout her kingdom. According to these Arabian legends, the Queen of
Sheba, who was called Balkis, became one of Solomon's wives, though he
allowed her to continue her beneficent reign over her own people.

The women of old Arabia, the dames of the desert, were comparatively
free, as their open-air life would naturally suggest. The Arabian poets,
in drawing the ancient life, so portray it. In the romance of _Antar_,
already mentioned, are found many delightful episodes, in which the
woman appears as the loving friend, partner, and counsellor of her
husband. These carry us back to the heroic age of Arabia. The custom
which permitted infanticide in case of female children seems in marked
contrast with the high place of woman in early Arabic literature. This
cruel custom is the motive of one of the most attractive of the early
romances, that of _Khaled and Djaida_. The latter, when a babe, that she
might not be known as a girl, was called by her mother by the name
Djonder, and given a prolonged feast such as is accorded only to boys at
their birth. About the same time, the chief of the tribe--and uncle to
Djonder--had born to him a son, who was called Khaled. The cousins grew
up, both learned in the arts of war, and both made for themselves names
for their high courage. Djonder was taught to ride and to fight, as
though she were a man, and the very name of Djonder became a terror to
his foes. Khaled heard of his cousin's exploits and rushed to see him,
that he might witness his skill at arms. But his father, being at enmity
with Zahir, his own brother and father of Djonder, would not permit
Khaled to know Djonder. At length the desire of Khaled was realized. He
was strangely enamored of his cousin, whom, however, he thought to be a
young man like himself. Djonder, too, fell desperately in love with the
valiant Khaled. The latter chooses the field and war instead of love,
however, and leaves Djonder in tears. Later, by the fortunes of war,
they meet on the field of battle in single combat. Djonder has so
concealed her identity that Khaled does not know with whom he fights.
After a long contest of marvellous prowess, neither is victor. Djonder
reveals herself. The old love returns. It is Djonder now who resists the
importunity of Khaled's love. After testing him by several difficult and
dangerous exploits, she becomes his wife.

Of music and poetry the Arabs from the most ancient days have been
passionately fond. The nomad life tends to develop both poetry and song.
The most ancient bards in all lands were wanderers. David, "the sweet
singer of Israel," was a shepherd lad. Hesiod heard the call of the
Muses while leading his flock at Mount Helicon. Caedmon, England's
earliest poet, was watching his herd when the call came to sing. The
Arab bard sings freely of his camel, the antelope, the wild ass, the
gazelle, of his sword, his bow and arrows, of wine, and, above all, of
his ladylove.

In the famous literary collection known as the _Muallakat_, made by
Hammad about A. D. 777, seven of the best poems of the early Arabs are
brought together. Those that most fitly set forth the love of woman are
the poems of Imr-al-kais and Antar. Sa'id ibn Judi, the true
representative of Arabian knighthood, must not be forgotten as the poet
most loved by the fair sex. The flavor of these lyrics may be discovered
in the brief poem of Antar upon _A Fair Lady_, "whose glittering pearls
and ruby lips enslaved the poet's heart:

        "Such an odor from her breath
      Comes toward me, harbinger of her approach;
      Or like an untouched meadow, where the rain
      Hath fallen freshly on the fragrant herbs
      That carpet all its pure untrodden soil."

For variety of gifts and force of character there is no Arabian woman
who is comparable in fame to Zenobia. By birth she was a Palmyrene, and
without doubt, of Arab blood. The descriptions of her personal beauty
tell of her black, flashing eyes, her pearly teeth, and the grace of her
form and carriage. Her bodily strength and commanding manners gave her
influence over all with whom she came in contact. As wife of Odenathus,
King of Palmyra, she contributed much to her husband's success and
power. She was a woman of rare native qualities as well as of
extraordinary accomplishments. She was a linguist, being familiar with
the Coptic, the Syriac, and the Latin languages. She was skilled in the
arts of war, and gifted with remarkable political insight and sagacity.
After her husband's death she ruled as Queen of Palmyra, and personally
conducted successful conquests, causing the nations around to tremble
before her; and even Rome itself found her no mean antagonist in arms.
The high spirit of the queen would not permit her to account herself a
vassal even to the imperial city on the Tiber. She had won Egypt, Syria,
Mesopotamia, and parts of Asia Minor to her sovereignty, but in the
contest with Rome she was defeated, though many Romans had joined her
army. The battles of Antioch and Emesa were lost. Zenobia fled to the
Persians, but was captured. Those near her were put to death, but
Zenobia graced the triumph of Aurelian, the victorious general who led
her into the Roman capital in A. D. 271. For years she resided there with
gracious dignity and unconquered pride. She was essentially a woman of
affairs and as queen was mistress of every situation, giving all to
know, "I am queen, and while I live I will reign." As wife she is said
to have declined to cohabit with her husband, except so far as was
necessary to the raising up of an heir to the throne of Palmyra. The
brilliancy of her court was scarcely ever surpassed by any queen, while
her personal charms and almost marvellous achievements rendered her one
of the most remarkable, if not the greatest woman of ancient times.

In the days of Mohammed a new influence is brought to bear upon Arab
life, and therefore upon female character. Mohammed's relation to woman
might be of itself lengthened into an interesting chapter. Abdullah,
Mohammed's father, was married to a woman of noble parentage, named
Aminah. She was a woman of sensitive, nervous temperament, and her son
doubtless inherited from his mother qualities which made his subsequent
religious ecstasies both physically and mentally possible. Aminah is
reported to have been miraculously free from the pangs of childbirth
when her son first saw the light. For several months she nursed the
infant, but sorrow is said to have soon dried up the fountain of her
breast, and Halimah, a woman of marked fidelity to her charge, became
Mohammed's foster-mother. A _kahin_, or sorcerer, is said once to have
met Halimah with the boy. "Kill this child," said he; "kill this child."
But Halimah, snatching up the child, made away in haste. The sorcerer
saw in the boy an enemy of the ancient idolatrous faith.

It was not till the rich widow of Mecca, Khadijah, came into Mohammed's
life that he began to make himself felt in the world. Wishing someone to
attend to some business affairs for her, Khadijah secured Mohammed's
services. So well did he execute his task that the rich widow became
enamored of the young man. She asked him for his hand. At twenty-five
years of age, Mohammed married the woman who was destined to influence
his life so powerfully, she being at least fifteen years his senior. It
was not long before Mohammed turned his thoughts toward religion and set
himself to the task of reforming the religious ideas and practices of
his people. With what result the world knows.

It is Mohammed's attitude toward woman and his teachings concerning her
that most concern us here. His love for Khadijah, his first wife, was
pure and constant; and his mother he always honored with a most devoted
spirit. It is with reference to Mohammed's personal bearing toward the
female sex that he has received the most scathing criticisms. How many
times he was married subsequently to his wedding with Khadijah is a
matter of dispute; but there were probably no less than fourteen other
wives, besides the widow of Mecca. Since Mohammed allowed his faithful
followers but four wives, it was necessary to explain why he himself
should have exceeded that meagre number. The prophet was ready with his
reply, that while men generally were to have no more than four, a
special revelation to himself had given him the right to go beyond that

Among those whom Mohammed espoused was his child wife Ayesha, who lived
long after the death of the prophet and took an active part in shaping
the political history of Islam immediately after Mohammed's demise. She
fostered a burning dislike toward Ali, Mohammed's son-in-law, to whom
the prophet had given his daughter Fatima. Because of Ayesha's intrigues
Ali was unable to succeed Mohammed as kalif. Abubekr, Omar, and Othman
in turn held sway. But at length Ali was victorious, taking Ayesha a
prisoner and becoming the fourth of the line of the kalifate. Ayesha in
personal daring belonged to the heroic type of Arabian womanhood. In the
battle of the Camel, A. D. 656, she actually led the charge. Ali, like
his distinguished father-in-law, considered himself an exception to the
ordinary rule which accorded but four wives to the faithful, having
married eight others besides his loved Fatima.

Among the kalifs there was none whose court was more magnificent than
that of Haroun al Raschid. So greatly did he dazzle the eyes of his
generation by his brilliancy, that his name became associated with many
romances. The account of the wives and favorites of Haroun borrow a halo
from their association with his illustrious name. The _Thousand and One
Nights_ are replete with the romantic adventures of the days of this
brilliant kalif. But the actual life of the women of the Arabian
peninsula cannot be accurately gauged by the appearance they made in the
stories of romantic adventure.

Mohammed's attitude to woman has, of course, been the decisive religious
influence in shaping the history of woman's life among the followers of
Islam since his day. The Mohammedans have a legend that when Adam and
Eve sinned, God commanded that their lives should be purified by both
the culprits standing naked in the river Jordan for forty days. Adam
obeyed, and so became comparatively pure again; but Eve refused to be
thus washed, and, of course, her standing before God has been relatively
lower ever since.

The Mohammedan woman does not worship upon an equality with the man. Not
that the prophet positively forbade the female sex from public
attendance upon worship at the mosque, but he counselled that they
should make their prayers in private. In some parts of the wide
territory under the prophet's power, neither women nor young boys are
allowed to enter the mosque at the time of prayer. At other places women
may come, but must place themselves apart from men, and always behind
them. "The Moslems are of the opinion," says Sale, "that the presence of
females inspired a different kind of devotion from that which is
requisite in a place dedicated to the worship of God," and adds that
very few women among the Arabs in Egypt even pray at home.

The Koran has much to say of woman. One lengthy _sura_ is taken up
almost entirely by this theme. The ancient doctrine of woman's creation
from the man is accepted, and probably was derived from contact with the
Jews, the influence of which contact is marked throughout Mohammed's
teachings. Honor "for the woman who has borne you" is frequently taught;
justice and kindness toward female orphans is repeatedly enjoined. Women
should be given freely their just dowries, and should not be omitted
from the rights of inheritance; but a son may receive as much as two
daughters. The prohibited degrees for marriage are most carefully laid
down. Accusing a chaste woman of adultery is regarded as one of the
seven grievous sins. The prophet counsels that husband and wife adjust
their disputes amicably between themselves, "for a reconciliation is
better than a separation." Thus one after another, in a manner
altogether lacking in order or in systematic treatment, Mohammed gives
forth his commands concerning women. Matters of marriage, divorce,
dower, chastity, and the like are frequently before the prophet's mind;
but his precepts, while making concessions to human weakness, are far
higher than his example. The teachings of Mohammed, even at their best,
placed woman on a distinctly lower plane than man, rendered her a
subservient tool on the earth and painted a heaven where man's
sensuality was to be gratified to the limits of his capacity for

The Arabs, while sensual in their nature, have some strict laws
concerning chastity. If a woman be guilty of lewdness, she is summarily
put to death by her nearest relative. Unless this be done the family
will lose all social recognition and civil rights. If it appears that
she has been forced to the crime, the ravisher must flee or pay the
penalty with his life, or if not, the life of those next of kin is in
danger. If the malefactor be caught at once he is slain by the relatives
of the woman. If not he may escape death through negotiations by which
"the price of blood" is paid for the woman as if she had been killed.
Sometimes arrangements of marriage are effected, but even then "the
price of virginity" must be paid to the girl's parents.

The method by which a family purifies itself of the unchastity of a
daughter is horrible enough. The family of the young woman assembles in
some public place; the sheiks and leading men are present in
considerable number. Some close relative stands with sword in hand, and
says: "My honor and that of my family shall be purified this day by
means of this sword which I hold in my hands." The guilty woman is then
led out, laid upon the ground, and her head severed from her body at the
hands of her father, brother, or some next of kin. The executioner then
walks dignifiedly about the bleeding form three times, passing between
the head and the trunk of the body, saying at each circuit: "Lo! thus
our honor is left unstained." All dip their handkerchiefs in the blood
of the culprit and take their leave, without any show of emotion. The
body is left unburied, or is hacked to pieces by the woman's relatives
and cast into a ditch.

Often, however, it is possible to save the young girl's life. Someone
who is sufficiently kindly disposed toward her steps forward at the
critical moment when she is being led forth to death and intercedes to
save her life. This protector approaches the girl and says to her: "Wilt
thou repent of thy fall? If so, I will defend thee." She replies
affirmatively: "I will give thee the right to cut my throat if I commit
this crime again." The man is then required to strip off his clothing in
the presence of the multitude, declare that he has never seen this woman
commit any crime, that it must therefore be the power of an evil spirit
that took possession of her; "I therefore redeem her," says he. Then the
whole scene changes from one of tragic solemnity to one of intense joy.
The girl returns to the bosom of her family, reinstated; and no one
thereafter has the right to cast any reflections upon her past life.

Pierrotti, in his _Customs and Traditions of Palestine_, tells of a
scene witnessed by him when architect-engineer to Surraya Pasha, of
Jerusalem. During a visit to Hebron in company with some Armenian
gentlemen, he found the whole community stirred. A youth of eighteen had
met in the fields a girl of fifteen, who was betrothed, and had tried to
kiss her without her consent. She told her parents of the young man's
misconduct. The families belonged to different clans or districts, and
so were enemies. Efforts on the part of the boy's parents, through the
sheiks of the two communities, were unavailing, though the father
entreated earnestly for his son, and even promised to give up all he had
as a ransom for his life. The girl's father demanded the boy's blood as
propitiation for the wrong. And so, in the presence of an assembled
crowd, the parent drew his sword and struck off his child's head,
without a tear, saying: "Thus wipe I away every stain from my family."
Overcome, he then instantly swooned away. His friends restored him to
life, but his reason had fled. A clan war at once commenced, and those
who had demanded the youth's destruction were slain in the strife.

Concerning the slaying of a woman, there are certain customs which
sound strange to the Western ear, but are in keeping with the general
law of "the price of blood" which prevailed among the ancient Hebrews,
though in a somewhat modified form. If a man should be so unfortunate as
to kill a woman, the members of the family that is wronged seek revenge,
just as is the case should a man be slain, but "the price of blood" is
never so high in case of the woman, it being about two thousand
piastres, or about eighty dollars. This sum goes largely to the
relatives of the woman. If the woman be married, the husband's damage is
measured at eight hundred piastres and a silk dress. Should the murdered
woman be pregnant, the slayer is amerced as if he had killed two. If the
offspring would have been a boy, it is as though a woman and a man were
slain, and "the price of blood" is so measured. If it would have been a
daughter, the smaller price is charged, the father receiving the full
price for the child and his eight hundred piastres for the murdered
wife. Should it be a maiden, however, who has been slain, arrangement is
often made whereby a sister of the slayer is given by her family to the
brother of the slain as his wife; or if this arrangement is not
feasible, the price of a woman is paid as first described.

A very curious custom exists among the Arabs in connection with the
ancient "law of asylum." They recognize the right of sanctuary for those
upon whom summary vengeance may be taken for some blood crime. But
flight is often exceedingly dangerous because of the possibility of
ambuscade along the way; and even when a village which owes protection
to a fugitive undertakes to give him safe escort, the defenders may be
overcome and the offender slain. Under such circumstances, it is
customary to give him over to the escort of two women, who are his
defenders. For it is a point of honor among Arabs not to attack or harm
anybody or anything that has been placed under the protection of a

That the modern Arab sometimes, however, has great confidence in the
power of his wives, over others at least, may be illustrated by an
amusing incident told by Loftus. During his researches his party was
attacked by a company of Arabs, on account of which some of the
assaulting party had been seized and lodged in prison. One of the chief
sheiks of the country came to make friends with the explorer and to
entreat for the release of the culprits. This was refused. Later a coup
was conceived. Loftus looked out and saw the sheik's harem, in most
radiant costumes, approaching the tent in single file, led by the sheik
and a black eunuch. Thus the Arab hoped to appeal to Occidental chivalry
through the prayers of the masked beauties who surrounded the tent,
declaring they would not raise the siege till the occupant yielded to
their entreaties.

The rich Mohammedan ladies are far less industrious than the poorer
classes. Entering the harem at the tender age of twelve to fourteen
years, the young woman is condemned to a life of sloth and sensuality.
There is little opportunity for self-improvement or for enjoyments of a
high order. They eat, drink, gossip, suckle their young, quarrel, plot,
and eke out a miserable existence--always under the control of their

The country women have greater freedom and far more influence with
their husbands than do the women of the harem. Polygamy among the former
class is rare, and hence the women are more highly regarded than those
of the city. The peasant woman is industrious, engaged in some useful
employment about the house or in the field. She buys and sells and gets
gain for her husband and her home, and often is highly esteemed by him;
but he will not let you know it, if he can avoid doing so. In public he
always assumes the attitude of superiority. If but one can ride, it is
the man and the children who sit upon the beast; the woman walks along
at the side, carrying a bundle on her head or a baby at her
breast--sometimes jogging along with both. If Arab and wife must both
walk with burdens, the man carries the lighter load. And the woman must
prepare the meal at the journey's end, while her lord reposes--and
smokes. Excavators in the East have frequently found Arab girls who
desired work, and with their baskets they would for hours carry out the
earth with endurance apparently equal to that of the men.

The Arab girls, as a rule, grow up in ignorance. It is not thought worth
while to educate the daughter; and, indeed, it is regarded by many as
destructive of the best order of society to give woman any opportunity
which may cause her to desire to usurp the power which heaven has placed
in the hands of men. There is, accordingly, little enlightened
housekeeping, little to stimulate a woman's mind, little opportunity
here for "the hand that rocks the cradle" to move the world. Sons grow
up with little respect for their mothers, for there is nothing to make
it otherwise. The husband, should he wish to divorce himself from his
wife, simply orders her to leave his house, and his will is law. Civil
government takes no cognizance of matrimonial affairs, and religious
authority allows the husband to do much as he may see fit in his own

[Illustration 4: _AN ORIENTAL WOMAN'S PASTIME After the painting by
Frederick A. Bridgman She is not a companion, but only a gilded toy, a
decorative object.... Among the higher class she is still kept in strict
seclusion, and her time is passed in luxurious idleness, save for the
hours she employs at her embroidery or tapestry. The garden, with its
heavily perfumed blossoms, pleases her; the ceaseless plash of the
fountain falls musically on her ear; all her physical needs are
ministered to. But everything conduces to the dreaminess of her nature,
to slothful habits; her activities are fettered by the law of Mohammed.
After all, her garden is but an exquisite prison._]

The women of the Arabs, like the men, are fond of tattooing their
bodies, regarding the figures they stamp into their flesh as highly
ornamental, though perhaps originally there was a religious significance
in them. The figure to be imprinted is first drawn upon a block of wood
and blackened with charcoal. This is then impressed upon some part of
the body, and then the outlines are pricked with fine needles which have
been dipped into an ink made of gunpowder and ox-gall. The whole is
subsequently bathed with wine, and the figure is marked indelibly.

Even the poor are very fond of personal ornaments. Chains, rings,
necklaces, gold thread, may be seen in abundance, if not in costliness.
It is not unusual for an Arab woman, though clothed in tattered raiment,
to wear several rings of silver. But if this metal be beyond her means,
then of iron or copper and sometimes of glass. Ornaments of variously
colored glass are very popular among Arab women; often they can afford
no other. Even bracelets are made of this material, and are much worn.
Some of the nomadic tribes still wear anklets.

The women of the desert are often seen with nose-drops, or rings in one
or the other side of their nostrils, which in consequence tends to droop
like the ear. This custom prevails in other parts of the East, more
particularly among those whose occupation is thought to call for much
ornamentation, such as the dancing girls and odalisques. The ancient
Hebrews sometimes used to put rings in swines' snouts for practical
reasons, as indeed the Arabs do to-day in the noses of horses, mules,
and asses to aid in evaporating the moisture from the nostrils, but the
beauty or the utility of a ring in an Arab woman's nose has never been
satisfactorily determined.

The Arab women of good quality do not, as a rule, wear their hair very
long. It usually reaches about to the neck, and is tied with a colored
ribbon. Many of the poorer and less cleanly among them, however, wear
their tresses long, ill-kempt, and filthy. The men often think more of
their beards than do the women of their locks.

The favorite flower is that of the shrub called _Al henna._ It is the
plant from which is obtained a dye much used by Oriental ladies upon
their skin and nails as a cosmetic. The manner of preparation is thus
described: "The young leaves of the shrub are boiled in water, then
dried in the sun, and reduced to a powder which is of a dark orange
color. After this has been mixed with warm water, it is applied to the
skin." The use of henna is very old; and when the woman has finished the
work of art--she herself being the subject--she looks, as one has said,
like a vampire stained with the blood of its victim. The flower of
_Alhenna_, however, is beautiful and strongly fragrant--reminding one in
appearance of clusters of many-colored grapes. These blossoms are used
as ornaments for the hair and as decorations for the houses, the
fragrance often conquering the malodorous atmosphere of many ill-kept,
uncleanly homes.

As is the custom with Oriental ladies generally, the women in riding
place themselves astride the beast, like a man, and seldom present a
graceful appearance to a Western eye. Loftus has thus described an Arab
lady as she sits astride the patient mule: "Enveloped in the ample folds
of a blue cotton cloak, her face (as required by the strict injunctions
of the Koran) concealed under a black or white mask, her feet encased in
wide yellow boots, and these in turn thrust into slippers of the same
color, her knees nearly on the level with her chin, and her hands
holding on to the scanty mane of the mule--an Eastern lady is the most
uncouth and inelegant form imaginable."

Mohammedans are never seen walking with their wives in the street, and
are seldom seen in company with them or any other woman in any public
place. Should a man and his wife have occasion to go to any place at the
same time, he goes in advance and she follows on behind him. Jessup, in
_The Women of the Arabs_, gives the following explanation advanced by a
Syrian of the aversion which the men feel with reference to walking in
public with women:

"You Franks can walk with your wives in public, because their faces are
unveiled, and it is known that they are your wives, but our women are so
closely veiled that if I should walk with my wife in the street, no one
would know whether I was walking with my own wife or another man's. You
cannot expect a respectable man to put himself in such an embarrassing

If inquiries are made by one man of another concerning his family, the
boys and the beasts are invariably mentioned first; the wife last of
all. Among the ancient Arabs the birth of a female infant was looked
upon as little short of a domestic calamity and sometimes the infant was
not allowed to live. The horrible custom, _wad-el-benat_, of burying
infant daughters alive grew out of an unwillingness of parents to share
the scant support of the home with the newcomer, or, as has been
suggested, from ferocious pride, or false sentiments of honor, fearing
the shame that might come should the girl be carried off and dishonored
by the enemies of their tribe. The birth of a son, however, was
considered the occasion of great rejoicing. The daughters of the modern
Arabs are usually well cared for, though apparently with little
affection. They are useful in agricultural pursuits, and they are for
sale as wives when they become of a marriageable age. Their marketable
value is determined by their rank, their fortune, or their beauty. Among
the Arabs marriage is seldom an affair of the heart, but is purely a
commercial transaction. Three thousand piastres, or about one hundred
and twenty dollars, is regarded as a good price to pay for a wife. The
price is generally less. The father of the young man pays the bill; his
wealth regulating somewhat the amount paid. The parents of the young
couple make all the arrangements, though generally assisted by relatives
and interested friends. Much bargaining and delay are often gone through
with as a matter of course. If the whole sum finally agreed upon cannot
be paid in a lump sum, the parties of the first and the second part fix
upon the size and frequency of the instalments; the bride being claimed
only when the last instalment has been paid.

The time for the wedding is next settled upon, whether it be days,
weeks, months, or years in advance. When that event is at length
celebrated, the Arab love of feasting has full opportunity to give
itself rein. Days are spent in these rounds of pleasure before the young
couple settle down to the stern facts of practical copartnership.

The Arab women have a number of folk songs which are sung by them at
weddings and at the birth of children. Some of these may be here quoted
as revealing the Arab woman's idea of physical grace and of womanly
virtue, and of those qualities which are desirable in the wife and the
mother. Here is a song to the bride:

      "Go thou, where thy destiny leads thee, O fair bride!
       Tread delicately on the carpets.
       Should thy spouse speak to thee, what wilt thou answer?
       Tell him thou art his, thou lovest him and he is thy delight"

Again, they sing:

      "Oh yes, she is welcome!
       Let us hail the arrival of her whose eyes shine with beauty;
       Whose form is graceful; tall as a young palm tree,
       Who can shut the window without a stool!"

The rejoicing in maternity, and especially in the birth of sons, is
notable among the Arabs. The women sing:

      "Behold the wife hath brought forth;
       She has risen from the bed whereon she reposed, whereon she slept!
       She hath brought into the world a child, the fairest of boys;
       He will learn to play with the sword."

      "No sorrow or harm shall come to thee if thou hast sons.
       God will give them to thee. He will make thee glad,
       Esteemed and honored throughout the country;
       Thou who art in the race as a gazelle."

Between the verses of the songs, the women who are not singing will
repeat the refrain:

      "La, la, la, la," etc.,

to emphasize their sympathy with the sentiments just sung.

Because of a deep reverence for the mystery of life, the Arabs give to
the woman a separate tent or hut during the period of childbirth, and
there she must remain for a period. There is a strong superstition
concerning the results that might come from seeing or touching her or
her belongings during the time of this separation.

In the naming of children, family names are not given, but individual
names, to which is often added the name of the father, and sometimes
that of the mother. The latter is probably the older, and many
ethnologists believe it to have once been the universal custom among the
Arabs; pointing to a day when polyandry prevailed, when it was customary
for women to have several husbands, if they were not indeed the common
property of the tribe.

The influence of the nomadic life of the ancient Arabians still has its
power over the modern Arab if he be true or a dweller in tents. These
desert roamers despise those Arabs who are engaged in the arts of
husbandry. Dr. A. H. Keane, quoting from Junker, gives the following
evidence of this prejudice: "In the eyes of his fellow tribesmen, the
humblest nomad would be degraded by marriage with the daughter of the
wealthiest bourgeois." But, as he adds: "Necessity knows no law, hunger
pinches, and so these proud and stubborn were fain ... to renounce the
free and lawless life of the solitude and at least partly turn to
agriculture for several months in the year."

The Arabs are proverbially a hospitable people. Let a stranger once eat
with an Arab family and he is a friend; certainly so long as the food is
thought to remain a part of his body. But since the patriarchal idea
survives, man is absolutely lord of his own house. Hence, in the house,
the inequality of the sexes is most noticeable. The Moslem wife never
sits down to a meal with her husband if any male guest be present; and
should the husband be very strict and formal in his habits, she is not
permitted to eat with her lord, even when there is no guest. It is her
pleasure to serve. When the master of the house has finished his repast,
he allows what remains to go to the rest of the family. By this the
husband does not mean to be selfish at all; but customs which have
prevailed for time out of mind give to woman an inferior place as a
matter of course. But the guest is never turned away empty. Even in the
poorest houses, the Moslems will offer the visitor a cup of black
coffee, and it may be cigarettes.

Polygamy was common in ancient Arabia. In earlier days every man might
marry as many wives as he could take care of, and the length of the
wifehood was solely in the husband's hand. The family possessions were
his property, and should he die, his widow was looked upon as a part of
the estate. Unions between mothers and step-sons were not infrequent.
Mohammed numbered this, however, among the "shameful marriages."

Sir William Muir, in his _Annals of the Early Caliphate_, says:
"Polygamy and secret concubinage are still the privilege, or the curse
of Islam, the worm at its root, the secret of its fall. By these the
unity of the household is fatally broken, and the purity and virtue
weakened of the family tie; the vigor of the dominant classes is sapped;
the body politic becomes weak and languid excepting for intrigue; and
the throne itself liable to fall a prey to doubtful or contested
successors." "Hardly less injurious," says he, "is the power of divorce,
which can be exercised without the assignment of any reason whatever, at
the mere word and will of the husband. It not only hangs over each
individual household like the sword of Damocles, but affects the tone of
society at large; for even if not put in force, it cannot fail as a
potential influence, existing everywhere, to weaken the marriage bond,
and detract from the dignity and self-respect of the sex at large."

Mohammed's complete misunderstanding of the true relation of the sexes
has had much to do with the degraded position of woman in Moslem lands,
and the complete failure of Islamic social life. It is woman that makes
or unmakes society. She is the keystone of the arch, not the mudsill.

Mohammed's state of mind regarding woman is universal among his
followers, whether in Algeria, Tunis, or Morocco, in the land of the
Lotus, in the Ottoman Empire, or in the lesser Mohammedan dominions. The
customs springing from this state are, of course, modified among the
different peoples, as, for instance, among the Moors through the
admixture of Spanish and Moorish blood, which resulted in a somewhat
better appreciation of woman. Yet she is not a companion, but only a
gilded toy, a decorative object, to be fitfully enjoyed or waywardly put
aside. Among the higher class she is still kept in strict seclusion, and
her time is passed in luxurious idleness, save for the hours she employs
at her embroidery or tapestry. The garden, with its heavily perfumed
blossoms, pleases her; the ceaseless plash of the fountain falls
musically on her ear; all her physical needs are ministered to. But
everything conduces to the dreaminess of her nature, to slothful habits;
her activities are fettered by the law of Mohammed. After all, her
garden is but an exquisite prison.

By placing women upon so far lower a plane of social and religious life
than man, Mohammedanism has not only degraded the female sex, but has
disrupted, if not destroyed, those healthy family relations which lie at
the very foundation of all social progress and national greatness.



Out of the ruins of the Seljuk domination arose the Turkish Empire,
founded by Ottoman, or Osman I., a nomad chieftain of great prowess,
after whom the Ottoman Empire derived its name. Among the very first
events narrated concerning the life of this important Turk was one of
romance, for Ottoman was not only a bold warrior, but a brave lover, and
withal, like the young Hebrew Joseph, a dreamer. In the little village
of Itburuni there lived a learned doctor of the law, a man of
aristocratic blood, one Edebali, with whom it is said Ottoman loved to
converse, not only because of the gentleman's fine personal qualities,
but because Edebali had a daughter, whom many named Kamariya, or
"Brightness of the Moon," because of her beauty; but most called her Mal
Khatum, or "Lady Treasure," on account of her pleasing personality. But
the learned sheik did not take kindly to Ottoman's advances, for he had
not yet "won his spurs," and his authority was not recognized by
neighboring princes. Fortunately, a timely dream--that potent argument
which is so effectual among the people of the East--came to Ottoman's
aid in the pursuit of his suit. The dream is thus recorded: "One night
Ottoman, as he slumbered, thought he saw himself and his host stretched
upon the ground, and from Edebali's breast there seemed to rise a moon
which waxing to the full, approached the prostrate form of Ottoman and
finally sank to rest on his bosom. Thereat from out his loins there
sprang forth a tree, which grew taller and taller, raised its head and
spread out its branches till the boughs overshadowed the earth and the
seas. Under the canopy of leaves towered forth mighty mountains,
Caucasus, Atlas, Taurus, and Hæmus, which held up the leafy vault like
four great tent poles, and from their sides flowed royal rivers, Nile,
Danube, Tigris, and Euphrates. Ships sailed upon the waters, harvests
waved upon the fields, the rose, and the cypress, flowers and fruits
delighted the eye, on the boughs birds sang their glad music. Cities
raised domes and minarets toward the green canopy; temples and obelisks,
towers and fortresses lifted their high heads, and on their pinnacles
shone the golden crescent. And behold as he looked, a great wind arose
and dashed the crescent against the crown of Constantine, that imperial
city which stood at the meeting of the two seas and two continents, like
a diamond between sapphires and emeralds, the centre jewel of the ring
of the Empire. Ottoman was about to put the dazzling ring upon his
finger when he awoke." The story of the wondrous dream was told to the
father of the fair Mal Khatum. He was at once convinced that the Fates
had marked Ottoman for future greatness and for wide dominion. The
moon-faced damsel fell a prize to the inevitable conqueror, son of
Ertoghrul. Another early incident in Ottoman's career may be of interest
in this volume upon the women of Turkey. Ottoman understood that a
number of his rivals at arms were to be present at a certain wedding to
be celebrated at Bilejik, in the year 1299; and that the event was to be
made the occasion of his being entrapped and slain. Learning of the
conspiracy against him, he secured for forty women of the Ottoman clan
admission to the festivities. When all present were engrossed in the
ceremonies of the hour, these forty sturdy warriors cast aside their
female attire and not only captured the entire garrison, but also the
fair maiden whose nuptials were being celebrated. She was a young Greek
lady named Nenuphar, or "the Lotus Blossom," who afterward became the
mother of Murad I. Ottoman now descended like an avalanche upon his
rivals and their territory, extending his dominion even to Mount

It is to Arabia and to Persia that Turkey owes most of its civilization,
its religion, its literature, its laws, its manners, and its customs.
Beginning with a Tartar basis, Turkish life has been chiefly shaped
under the influence of a religion and a literature. As for the first,
the debt is chiefly to Arabia; for the second, Persia must have the
larger share of credit. Since these two forces, religion and literature,
are doubtless the most effective in shaping the ideals of womanhood, and
so in developing the female character among any people, we are compelled
to look to the ancient lands of Persia and Arabia for the springs of
Turkish life.

Remembering the kinship of Turkish literature to the Arabic and Persian,
it would not be difficult to surmise that woman would hold no
insignificant place in the literature of Turkey. While there are as many
as twenty-five different written languages used in the Empire, the
literary language is a product of the original Tartaric tongue and
strong Persian and Arabic elements. Very much of the romantic material
that goes to make up the Turkish literature is drawn from such early
stories as the great Persian epic _Shahnamah_.

The romance of _Laili and Majnun_ has made a deep impression in Turkish
literature. Fuzuli of Bagdad, one of the greatest of Turkish poets, has
reproduced the strong love of these characters of old Persian legend,
besides giving to the nation's literature many _ghazels_ in which
fondness for the virtue of woman is presented with characteristic
Eastern passion.

The Persian lady also figures in the work of Kemal Bey, who was regarded
in his lifetime as "a shining star in the Turkish literary world," and
one who did much to arouse the Turks to enthusiasm for their native
country. He was the author of a trivial novel _Tzesmi_, of high repute
in Turkish literary circles, in which a Turkish warrior of poetic talent
and a Persian princess figure.

There are numerous love ballads of Moorish origin that are highly prized
and have greatly influenced Turkish literature, such as _Fatima's Love,
Zaida's Love, Zaida's Inconstancy, Zaida's Lament, Guhala's Love_, and
the like; also much Moorish romance, as _The Zefri's Bride_. So we find
Turkish poems breathing of love and womanly charms. Among such
productions is that of Ghalib, whose _Husn-u-Ashk_, or _Beauty and
Love_, is regarded as one of the finest productions of Turkish genius.

It must be remembered, however, in reading Turkish poetry of love that
there is often, if not indeed generally, beneath what seems to be a
sensuous and even voluptuous song or romance an allegorical or mystical
significance. God is the Fair One whose presence the heart craves, and
whose veil the suitor would see cast aside that his perfect beauty may
be revealed to the worshipper. Man, therefore, is the lover; the tresses
are the mystery of the divine character; the ruby lip is the sought-for
Word of God; wine is the divine love; the zephyr is the breathing of His
spirit; and so on. And yet, that many Turkish, as is true of many Arab
and Persian, poems are upon a low moral level of human passion, and are
revolting to the ethical sense of the more sensitive natures, is not to
be disputed.

Fame in poetry has not been unknown to Turkish women. Notable among
these literary women of Turkey is Fatima Alie, daughter of the former
state historiographer Dzevdet Pacha, whose history of the Ottoman Empire
takes high rank. In Fatima Alie, Turkish womanhood finds one of its
staunchest champions.

Zeyneb Effendi was a royal poetess in the days of Mohammed the
Conqueror. She recounted in glowing lines her hero's achievements. So
also Mirhi Hanum was a poetess of talent. She was born of a wealthy
father, a grand vizir. She was so unfortunate as to have had as a lover
one who did not reciprocate her passion. She, therefore, sung her young
life out in avowed virginity, wearing an amber necklace, symbolizing her
eternal choice of celibacy. Among other poetesses of note may be
mentioned Sidi, who died in the year 1707, the authoress of _Pleasures
of Sight_ and _The Divan_. Mirhi, who has been styled "the Ottoman
Sappho," was a poetess of Amasiya, full of the passion of love. She sang
boldly concerning the object of her devotion, but her virtue was never
questioned, nor her talent deprecated.

But the women of Turkey have been affected less by the literary
influence of Persia than by the religious inheritance from the Arabs.
Before Mohammed polygamy flourished among the various Arabian tribes.
The prophet brought some order out of the chaos, and the harem became a
more or less well-defined system, with its definite laws and
regulations. Therein woman was somewhat advanced from the state in which
she earlier found herself. And yet, Mohammed manifestly wavered in his
treatment of women and in the ideals which underlay it. A certain
equality between man and woman is at one time taught in the Koran, as
when it said: "The women ought to behave to their husbands in like
manner as their husbands should behave towards them, according to what
is just." And again the prophet said: "Ye men have right over your wives
and your wives have right over you." This truly is reciprocity. And yet
he asserted that "woman is a field--a sort of property which her husband
may use or abuse as he thinks fit;" and again, that "a woman's happiness
in Paradise is beneath the sole of her husband's feet." Commercially,
the girl was of more value than the boy, because she could be sold and
made a wife, and perhaps she might be converted to the Mohammedan faith.

It is, in truth, the Turkish slave woman's physical beauty, as she was
captured and came into the possession of Arab sheiks, which first
brought the Turkish woman into notice. But these superbly attractive,
dark-eyed slaves at length captured their captors, and the Turk became
master of the Arab and the most virile exponent of the Arabian faith and

Concerning his ideals as to woman, the Turk imbibed much from the Arab,
who valued woman mainly for her points of physical excellence--these
were tabulated in a standard of eight "fours" as follows: "A woman
should have four things black; namely, hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and
the dark part of the eyes. Four things white; namely, the skin, the
white of the eyes, the teeth, and the legs. Four red; namely, the
tongue, the lips, the middle of the cheek, and the gums. Four round;
namely, the head, the neck, the forearm, and the ankle. Four long: the
back, the fingers, the arms, and the legs. Four wide: the forehead, the
eyes, the bosom, and the hips. Four thick: the lower part of the back,
the thighs, the calves, and the knees. Four small: the ears, the breast,
the hands, and the feet."

Since Mohammed allowed four wives to all Mussulmans, the sultan as a
faithful follower of the prophet may have four official wives; and after
these he may take as many non-official wives as his fancy may desire.
The four favored ones are known as the _kadins_. First stands the Bach
Kadin, who is the "first lady of the land." Next her is the Skindij
Kadin, or "second lady." Then come the "middle lady" or Artanié Kadin,
and last of all the Kutchuk Kadin, or the "little lady." When a kadin
becomes the mother of a male child she is then entitled to be called
Khasseki-Sultan, or "royal princess." When a daughter is born to one of
them she is known as Khasseki-Kadin, or "royal lady."

The mother of the reigning sultan always holds high place at court, yet
not because she is mother of the ruler, but because it is thought that
each of the four legitimate wives of the sultan must in every detail of
court life enjoy perfect equality with the others, from the services of
"the mistress of the robes down to the lowest scullion." Thus, the
mother, called the Valideh-Sultan, holds the rank that usually belongs
to the wife of a monogamous ruler. Should the sultan's mother be
deceased, his foster-mother holds this position of influence. The
present sultan's foster-mother has conducted herself with much
conservatism in her exalted position and, it is said, with strict
attention to the dignity and economy of the harem. The Valideh is
sometimes poetically known as Tatch-ul-Mestourat, that is, "the crown of
the veiled heads." This means that the Valideh is regarded as queen of
all the Mohammedan women, who are uniformly veiled, according to the
teaching of the prophet. The Valideh is in her dignity most august. No
woman, not even the Khasseki-Sultan, may dare come before her unless
sent for. All women when they appear in her presence must be clothed in
full court dress, and, whatever the weather may be, without mantles.
When she goes out she is entitled to a military escort similar to that
of the sultan. An ancient custom still prevails which demands that the
Valideh, once a year, on the night of Kurban Bairam, present a slave
girl of twelve years of age to the sultan. The slave damsel at once
becomes a member of the harem, and it is possible for her to rise to the
highest position a woman may attain at the Turkish court. It is now
customary, however, for the young girl to be sent as a pupil in the
institution at Scutari, which has been established by the sultan for the
higher education of Mohammedan women. She is now more frequently
married, with a dowry, to some officer of the court or member of the
sultan's household.

The sultan is granted privileges not generally accorded others as to
marriage. He may marry a Christian or a Jewess, if he should see fit so
to do. As a rule, the women who thus marry are expected to become Moslem
in faith, though there have been notable exceptions. Theodora, wife of
Orkhan, was a Greek Christian woman, and with marked persistence held on
to her ancestral religion. But Orkhan was unlike Mohammed II. in
character; for the story is told of the latter's strong passion for the
beautiful Irene, who, however, refused to abjure her faith. The priests
of Islam reviled their ruler for loving one who would not accept the
religion of the prophet. This was too much for Mohammed. One day the
priests were assembled in one of the halls of the palace. Here, too, was
Irene, covered with a veil of dazzling whiteness. With great solemnity
the sultan lifted Irene's veil with one hand and revealed the young
woman's great beauty to all who were present. "You see," said the
Sultan, "she is more beautiful than any other woman you have ever
beheld; fairer than the houris of your dreams! I love her as I do my
life; but my life is nothing beside my love for Islam." With this, he
seized the long, golden tresses of the unfortunate woman, entwined them
in his fingers, and with one stroke of his sharp scimiter severed her
head from her body.

A lady of imperial blood has the right to add "Sultan" to her own name.
This is her privilege, even though she should marry a subject, which is
sometimes the case. Her superior descent, however, is always recognized;
for her husband may not sit down before her, unless she should so

Turkish rulers have taken a different view of the value of foreign
marriages from that which has usually prevailed in the East. Political
ties have been made and strengthened by royal marriages. In Turkey,
however, a custom, amounting to law, prevents the sultan from marrying a
free woman, one taken from the high families of his own people, or
princesses of foreign courts, that no tie of politics or affinity of
blood should alter the superior impartiality of the supreme master.
Thus, while he is above all his subjects so far as rank is concerned, he
is inferior, on his mother's side at least, in the matter of birth,
Hence, the meanest subject of the Empire of the Ottomans may here feel
himself on an equality with the sultan, since he is "the son of a slave

It is not customary for a ceremony to be performed when the sultan
marries. Only three Turkish sultans are said to have undergone a
ceremony on the occasion of taking to themselves wives. When the Greek
Princess Theodora was wedded to Orkhan; when Roxelana became the wife of
Sultan Suleyman; and when Besma, an adopted daughter of a princess of
Egypt, was married to Abd-ul-Medjid, the marriage ceremony was

As a mark of certain inferiority, the bride is expected to enter the
nuptial bed from the back, lifting the covering with much ceremony. It
is never good form for a gentleman to inquire concerning the health of
another's wife.

Mothers of the harem are often compelled to live in mortal fear for
their infant sons, lest they be foully dealt with. For if a child have
any prospect of some day being the Turkish ruler, his life is never
regarded as altogether safe. The baby prince is brought up in the harem,
with his mother and nurse; but since brothers and even uncles come
before sons, the question of succession to the sultanate has often
caused great disorder and bloodshed.

On the death of Mohammed, the great Arab leader, there was no mention
of a law of succession. This was partly due, doubtless, to the fact that
he left no son who might assume leadership of the hosts of Islam. At
length, the Seljuk Turks attained to power, after which the empire fell
into minor sovereignties, which were brought together at last into the
Ottoman Empire. And while of late the stability of the reigning dynasty
has been the most noteworthy of the East, yet the fact that there was
not early established the ordinary custom of transmitting the
sovereignty from father to son has been the cause of much intrigue,
crime, and uncertainty in the dominion of the Turk. Cases have not been
unknown in Turkish history where several hundred women of the seraglio
were drowned in the Bosphorus because of plottings to depose the sultan.
They were tied in the traditional sack and dropped into the sea. It was
Ibrahim I., known as the Madman, one of the very worst of Turkish
rulers, who first conceived the idea of thus disposing of the old women
of the seraglio. Surprised and seized in the night, the unfortunate
victims of the sultan's madness were tied in sacks and then sunk to the
bottom of the sea. Only one of the large company of the unfortunates
escaped, by the loosing of the sack, and was picked up by a passing ship
and conveyed to Paris to tell the story of the cruel death of her
companions. Among the many notable instances of the tragic end to which
the plottings of the harem have come may be mentioned that of Tarkhann,
mother of Mohammed IV. So desirous was she that her son should reign,
that she slew all the other possible male heirs to the throne. She met
her nemesis, however, by strangulation. It is upon her life and that of
her rival that Racine has constructed his _Bajazet_.

Connected with the sultan's harem there are estimated to be about
fifteen hundred persons. The harem consists of a number of little
courts, or _dairas_; and the central figure of each of these courts is a
lady of the female hierarchy.

In the royal household there are three classes of women. The kadins, of
whom we have spoken, who may be termed the legitimate wives of the
sultan, though they are never formally married. Next are the _ikbals_,
or "favorite women." From this class the kadins are usually chosen. Then
come the _gediklis_, "those pleasant to look upon." The ikbals may come
from the number of these. The women of the third class are usually of
slave origin, purchased or stolen perhaps from Georgian or Circassian
parents. Those who are stolen are usually taken so early from their
homes, and so clandestinely, that their origin is seldom known to them.
If, however, the lady comes of high station her identity usually becomes
known, and she not unfrequently succeeds in elevating her family to a
position of power and emolument, either by direct influence or by
intrigue. In addition to these three classes of women there are _ustas_,
or "mistresses," who are maids in the service of the sultan's mother;
_shagirds_, or "novices," who are children in training for the higher
positions in the harem; and _jariyas_, or "damsels," who do the more
menial work of the establishments.

Captured slave girls have sometimes had a most interesting career. They
are brought in an almost continuous stream, but privately. In the
earliest days of their presence in the harem they are called _alaikés_,
and are placed under the care of elderly women, or _kalfas_, who bring
them up to suit the tastes of an Oriental court. They are instructed in
manners, in music, in drawing, and in embroidery. When later they reach
the proper age, they become attendants upon the kadins and the
princesses of the imperial household. There is no bar to their reaching
at length the highest station that it is possible for a woman to attain,
the favorite wife of the sultan.

The female department of the Turkish household is called the Hareemlick,
the male apartments being named the Islamlick. The women's apartments
are, of course, secluded. A male physician may see only the hand and
tongue of the sick lady. A black curtain is stretched to separate her
from his inspection. A eunuch conducts the physician to a point where
the sick woman may thrust out her hand through a hole in the curtain so
that the doctor may diagnose her disease.

Faithfulness in women is held in high esteem, restraint of the harem
being intended to insure it. In former days it was not a thing unknown
for unfaithful women to be drowned; but the custom has fallen into
disuse. Ladies of the harem, however, have a fair amount of liberty. On
certain occasions they go out driving and visiting; they frequent the
bazaars and the public promenades, always in vehicles, never afoot. They
enjoy entertainments among themselves. Theatricals are frequently
witnessed by them in the garden of the palace. Operas are also often
rendered for their enjoyment. When Turkish ladies visit one another in
the harem,--which they may do without permission or restraint from their
husbands,--it is customary to place their shoes outside the harem door
that their husbands may know guests are being entertained.

The harem of one ruler is generally regarded as the property of his
successor. The women thus inherited, however, are not always sure of
favor. Sultan Mohammed II. killed, by drowning, all the women of his
brother's harem. Indeed, women of the harems generally cannot be said to
have ample protection; for no officer may enter any harem to inspect the
conduct there, or for any purpose whatever, unless the law of the house
admits him. The women, whether they be wives or slaves, are practically
at the mercy of their masters. Some women of the sultan's harem have
risen to positions of much influence and genuine power, though they have
generally been of foreign birth. The mother of the noted reforming
sultan, Mahmud II., who began to reign in 1808 when a mere child, was a
French woman. His stout resistance of the allied powers won for him a
certain admiration for doggedness, even if success did not crown his
efforts to keep Greece in subjection. It was into this struggle that
Lord Byron threw himself on behalf of Greece. Mahmud, it may be to some
extent through the influence of his French mother, introduced French
tactics into his army, but to no avail, and at length Grecian freedom
was assured.

The wife of Mahmud, Besma, taken as a little girl from the life of a
peasant, rose to a position of supreme dignity and great influence. Her
beauty easily won the passion of Mahmud. She never lost sight of her
humble origin and was much beloved by the masses of the people, even
those of the most lowly classes. She was the mother of Abd-ul-Aziz, and
it was she who unsuspectingly gave to the sultan, her son, the scissors
with which he killed himself. At any rate, the unfortunate monarch was
found dead in his apartments. The mother pined away in seclusion, and
was seen only in her deeds of charity. It was Besma who built the mosque
Yeni Kalideh at Ak Serai, and it is here she rests in the midst of a
beautiful garden of flowers, of which, during her lifetime, she was so
fond. On her death, about fifteen years ago, she was accorded a funeral
of great magnificence, and she was generally mourned throughout the
empire. It is said that when Besma was building the mosque, her money
fell short of her purpose, so that she could build but one minaret
instead of two, as custom entitled. Her son, however, came forward,
offering the necessary funds, which she declined with the remark: "No,
one minaret is sufficient to call the people to prayers; another would
only glorify me; the poor need a fountain." So she built a fountain for
the people, and it is one of the most beautiful in Constantinople.

One of the most celebrated--even if she be not one of the best--women
of Turkey history was Khurrem, the "Joyous," whom Europeans generally
knew as Roxelana. She was wife of the greatest figure in Turkish annals,
Suleyman the Magnificent, who reigned about the middle of the sixteenth
century. Roxelana, though her origin has not been clearly traced, was
probably of Russian descent. From the first this strong-minded woman
exerted great influence over Suleyman. In the first place, she forced
him to marry her publicly and with much ceremony, a proceeding which was
then without precedent. Usually to have it announced that a woman had
become mother of a male heir to the throne was regarded as sufficient
announcement of marriage with the sultan. But this woman, who had now
risen from the position of a slave woman to that of the highest dignity
possible for a woman in the empire, determined that her marriage with
the great monarch should be full of publicity and pomp. There was
feasting and, apparently, great rejoicing, though the people were
surprised and hardly understood what it all might mean. Roxelana was,
however, equal to the emergency, and with the sagacity and determination
which were native to her sent many slaves among the people as they
feasted, distributing presents of money and pieces of silk to the
masses. From this time, she not only held absolute sway over the sultan,
but evinced great skill in buying the friendship of the people by gifts
and acts of charity. Diplomacy was characteristic of her, and from
cruelty she would not shrink if it were necessary to carry out her
purposes, for she induced Suleyman, generally so just and prudent, to
destroy the oldest and most promising of his sons, since the young man,
Mustafa by name, stood in the way of her own son Selim as heir to the
throne. She succeeded in her designs, but placed on the throne one of
the weakest and most worthless of Turkish rulers, "Selim, the Sot."
Roxelana's beauty is described as that which "attests that mixture of
the Asiatic and Tartar blood, wherever the dark eyes, the silken lashes,
the creamy paleness of the tint, the languor of the attitude habitual to
the Persian beauties, contrast with the rounded outline of the face,
with the shortness of the nose, the thickness of the lips, and the warm
coloring of the skin, traits peculiar to the daughters of the Caucasus."
At fifteen, she is said to have been the marvel and even the mystery of
the harem. Her memory knew only the rearing of the seraglio; but her
remarkable alertness and force of mind as well as beauty of person made
her from the first one of a thousand. Taught in the arts of music and
dancing, versed in foreign languages, and the study of history and
poetry, Roxelana added to her exuberance of youth a power of mind which
marked her for preëminence.

Rebia, wife of Mohammed IV., is another example of womanly power over
the head and heart of the supreme ruler of Turkey. Rebia was a Greek
girl from the island of Crete. Lamartine says of her: "The delicacy of
her lineaments, the brilliancy of her complexion, the ocean azure of her
eyes, the golden auburn of her hair, the caressing tone of her voice,
and the witchery of her wit made her to be dreaded still as the prison
companion of a fallen monarch, of whom she might amuse the languor and
reëstablish the intrigue from the depth of his captivity." Even in
Mohammed's dethronement, Rebia clung to the fortunes of her lord, over
whom, during his power, she had always exerted decisive influence.

Italian women have also risen to a place of prominence in the royal
harem. This was notably true in the case of the beautiful Safia, a
Venetian captive girl, who had been brought into the seraglio of Sultan
Murad III., who succeeded Selim his father in the year 1574. Murad was
not strong, and was easily deceived by sycophants and ruled by women.
Among the latter was Safia, sometimes known as Baffo, belonging to the
family of Baffo of Venice. Baffo proceeded to rule her royal lord in the
interests of her native land. Venice, after Suleyman's death, had become
restless of Turkish rule, and proceeded successfully to throw it off.
Baffo never forgot her origin, and ruled with a high hand, not only as
Khasseki-Sultan, but also as Valideh. She set her son Mohammed III. on
the throne as successor to her husband, even though the consummation
could be reached only by the slaying of nineteen of the one hundred and
two sons of Murad. Foreign women will probably never again play so large
a rôle in Turkish affairs. The present sultan is said, however, to be
fond of the social attractions of European women. He is probably the
first Turkish sultan who has invited a European lady to dine with him.

The Turkish sultans have long lived in much magnificence. The old
seraglio, or imperial residence (from the word _seray_, a palace), was
beautifully situated "among the groves of plane and cypress that clothe
the apex of the triangle upon which the ancient city of Constantinople
is built." Now, however, the sultans have left these precincts around
which clustered so many memories of the horrible tragedies enacted
there, memories which even the magnificence of the place could not
destroy, and established their present residence, equal in natural
beauty to the old, but removed from the dirt and the memories, which had
at length gathered about the old seraglio.

The women's quarters are situated in the innermost portion of the
seraglio. Here are from three to twelve hundred women; at times there
are even more. These women are all foreigners. Indeed, all the guards
and attendants of the palace are of foreign blood. The sultan and his
children are the only Turks dwelling in the inner departments of the
royal palaces; and both he and they are born of foreign mothers. The
women's departments are carefully guarded. There were specially
appointed officers in the old seraglio as guards of the queens and their
children. These were the Baltajis, or "halberdiers," who were four
hundred in number. They, however, really attended the royal women only
when the sultan took with him some members of his harem to bear him
company on a journey or a campaign.

The Baltajis, on such occasions, walked by the side of the carriages of
the imperial ladies and guarded their camp at night. Ordinarily, the
sultan's harem was under the care of the black eunuchs, or about two
hundred Africans, who were specially entrusted with the imperial ladies.
Their chief was known as the Kislar Aghasi, or "master of the girls,"
and was regarded as one of the chief men of the empire.

The trade in captive boys and girls stolen from Europe, Asia, and
Africa was once very large; the pick of them being brought by purchase
into the sultan's palace, for one purpose or another. It was thought
that his imperial majesty's life was safer in the hands of foreigners
brought up almost from infancy in the palace, and knowing no other
allegiance than that to the will of the sultan.

Times have changed, however, and it is not possible for the ruler of the
Turks to regard the best of the children of white and black parentage as
born to replenish his harem. Much of the old time mediæval splendor has
been swept away, not only through the reforms of Sultan Mahmud II., but
by modern conditions which make the old seraglio an impossibility.

In the olden days the young princes were closely confined in a part of
the seraglio known as the Chimshirlick, or "boxwood shrubbery." It
contained twelve pavilions each surrounded by high walls which enclosed
a little garden. These were the residences of the sons of the sultan.
Each young prince was kept guarded in his pavilion enclosure, from which
he dared not emerge without his royal father's special permission. Thus
a prince's minority was spent in the _kafe_, or "cage." Each youth had
as attendants ten or twelve fair girls, besides a number of pages. These
and black eunuchs, who were his teachers, were his sole companions. As a
rule, the tongues of male attendants and of women unable to bear
children were slit. At the tenth year a young prince leaves his mother
and the harem for the guardianship of a _lalo_, or "male attendant," who
is his companion day and night; next a _mullah_, or "priest," takes the
youth in hand and gives him his schooling, which consists chiefly in
instruction in the teachings of the Koran.

[Illustration 5: _THE MUTES After the painting by P. L. Bouchard The
women's quarters are situated in the innermost portion of the seraglio.
Here are from three to twelve hundred women; at times there are even
more. These women are all foreigners. Indeed, all the guards and
attendants of the palace are of foreign blood..... The women's
departments are carefully guarded.

Women who bear no children and the subaltern eunuchs have their tongues
slit. Whan an order of death is issued, these mutes, with the fatal
cords, enter and noiselessly fulfil their commands._]

Among the female officials of the seraglio is the Hasnada Ousta, or
"grand mistress of the robes." She is usually an elderly woman of
respectability and of dignity. This lady acts as vice-Valideh, caring
for matters in the establishment to which it may not be possible for the
Valideh Sultan to give her own personal attention. She holds a place of
much honor, and women holding this position have been known to become
Valideh. There is also the Kyahya Kadin, or "lady comptroller," who is
generally selected by the sultan from among the oldest and most trusted
of the Gediklis.

The dress of the ladies of the royal harem was formerly altogether
Oriental; so also were the furnishings of the women's apartments. These
last still consist largely of low divans, costly embroidery, couches,
and the like; but European customs have now made themselves felt, not
only in the furnishings of the rooms, but more particularly in the
matter of feminine attire. Costly robes from Paris and Vienna have
invaded the precincts of the harem; and these, added to the wealth of
jewelry of which Oriental ladies are so fond, make it possible for the
women of the rich Turkish households to be quite cosmopolitan in their
modes of dressing.

Many of the lower ranks wear upon their head a sort of hood of black
silk, the Egyptian _chaf-chaf_. To this is attached a piece of black
netting, which can be dropped over the face of the wearer when she so
pleases. The women of Constantinople, however, are not so careful in the
matter of the veil as are the ladies living in cities under less
cosmopolitan influence.

European ideas and habits have greatly modified Turkish customs. The
_yashmac_ is the face veil which the Turkish girl receives when she
attains to the marriageable age. The word is derived from a verb which
means, when fully interpreted, "May long life be granted you." The
material is thin, fine lawn or similar stuff. The older and less
attractive women, or ladies who do not wish to be recognized in a public
concourse, as when shopping, wear a veil of thicker material.

The cloak used is the _feridjè_. It is usually of black material, and
its shape is intended to conceal the outlines of the figure. The
_feridjè_ is now much modified, however, by European tastes, and is not
greatly different from the opera cloak worn by the ladies of Paris.

The once fashionable footgear, the yellow Turkish slipper, has given
place generally to the slipper of patent leather worn by European
ladies. Much of the beauty of color and picturesqueness of costume has
therefore passed away, as may be seen from the following description of
the Turkish woman's appearance at the middle of the sixteenth century:
When they (the women of Turkey) go abroad, the ladies wear the
_yashmac_ made of gold stuff, heavily fringed, and confined to the head
by a crown blazing with jewels. The figure is concealed by a cloak of
richest brocade or velvet. Sometimes you may have the charm of seeing as
many as one hundred _arabas_, or carts, very splendid and richly gilded,
drawn by gaily decorated bullocks, each containing a number of these
great ladies with their children and slaves.

"The procession is a most gorgeous sight. Each cart has as many as four
mounted eunuchs to protect it from the curiosity of the public, who have
their faces almost to the earth, or avert them entirely, as the caravan
passes." So, also, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu has left, in a letter to
the Duchess of Marlborough, written in 1717, a very graphic account of
the costume of the sultana.

Lady Mary describes the _dolma_, or "vest of long sleeves," the
diamond-bedecked girdle, the long and costly chain about the neck,
reaching even to the knees, the earrings of diamonds shaped like pears,
the _talpoche_, the headdress covered with bodkins of emeralds and
diamonds, the diamond bracelets, the five rings upon her fingers, the
largest ring Lady Mary ever saw except that worn by Mr. Pitt. There was
also a pelisse of rich brocade brought to the royal Turkish lady when
she walked out into her garden. Fifty different kinds of meat were
served at her dinner, but one at a time; her golden knives were set with
diamonds in the hafts; gorgeously embroidered napkins were in abundance,
etc. Much of this magnificence and display has now passed away, but, as
Stanley Lane-Poole says in his _The History of Turkey_: "While the house
of the Ottoman monarch of to-day, if more in keeping with the spirit of
the time, is very commonplace beside that of last century ...
nevertheless, the modern seraglio is hardly an anchorite's cell."

Cosmetics were once used in profusion. The painting of the eyebrows and
the dyeing of the finger tips with henna were considered marks of
beauty. The custom is dying out entirely in Constantinople, though in
the remoter regions of the empire the habit is still in vogue. The
attempts at beautifying the face are often referred to by the poets as
marks of beauty, as when Fuzuli dilates upon the

      "Eyes with antimony darkened, hands with henna crimson dyed.
      Among these beauties vain and wanton, like to thee was ne'er a bride.
      Bows of painted green thy eyebrows; thy glances shafts provide."

Mohammedan countries of any culture have long held the bath in great
esteem. Turkish ladies of high rank once frequented the public baths
with regularity, but the modern improvements in the private houses have
made this custom far less general.

The women of the Turkish empire present an almost infinite variety.
Under the dominion of the sultan the nationalities are many and
heterogeneous. So also it would be impossible to make any general
statement of the treatment of women among the Turks. In many parts of
Turkey there is but one wife in the household, and she is well treated
and highly respected; affection prevails in the harems of not a few;
while in others concubinage, neglect, harshness, ignorance, vice are
present with their deadly effect.

Divorce may be readily obtained in Turkey; but parental influence often
protects the woman who otherwise might fare unjustly. Mohammed also gave
some protection to wives, since he considered a wife to have rights in
her own fortune even while married, and held that if divorced,
restitution of this fortune was to be made.

Turkish women, except those of the richer families, generally nurse
their own children. Many children die in infancy through the ignorance
of mothers of the lower classes. Some mothers still swaddle their little
ones. In the event of illness, instead of a trained physician, many
mothers send for a "wise woman" or a wizard. In the harems, it is
suspected that many infants are actually killed. The Mohammedan
population increases more slowly, notwithstanding the practice of
polygamy, than the Christian population of the Turkish Empire.

It is the custom among families of the better class to give the boys
over from infancy to the care of a _dadi_, or slave girl, whose business
it is to care for him during his youth, and it is not infrequent that
evil springs from this intimacy. Both boys and girls are under the care
of a _lalo_, or male slave, when the children are out of the precincts
of the harem. The influence of the slaves and menials, with whom so many
Turkish children are thrown, is, as a rule, far from elevating.

Submission is a lesson that is very early taught to Turkish children.
This insures an obedient, tractable spirit, and is the cause of all that
is best in the Turkish character.

There are almost thirty million Turkish women, the masses of whom move
upon a very low level of culture. This cannot, however, be said of all,
for many of the upper classes and of the court are well educated, though
the branches or subjects they are taught are not varied. Foreign
governesses are often employed to teach the girls French, German, and
English, which they can, in many cases, speak fluently. Language and
literature furnish a large part of their education. A change is
gradually coming over the Turkish people in this matter of the
development of its women, and this, notwithstanding, the fear in many
minds that a better educated woman will be a less manageable woman; a
creature dissatisfied with her lot. A recent writer of acute observation
of Turkish affairs has said of efforts on the part of American
philanthropists to instil the spirit of the American public school into
the minds of the Turks: "The general opinion seemed to be that the
female sex had no intellectual capacity. The first efforts of the
Americans to make the women sharers in intellectual progress and
refinement were met with opposition, and often with derisive laughter.
They created a new public sentiment in favor of the education of women.
This is shown by the interest taken in the schools established by
Americans for the education of girls. Pashas, civil and military
officers of high rank, the ecclesiastics and wealthy men of all the
different nationalities attend the examinations, and express their
hearty approval of the efforts made by the Americans for improving the
conditions of the women of Turkey."

The tendency of these influences is to win for women a greater respect
from fathers, husbands, brothers; greater freedom in choice of their
life partners; to defer the marriageable age from twelve years to
fifteen or twenty; to secure for mothers greater respect from their
children; and to elevate womanhood in every relation of life.

Turkish women who are still living under the patriarchal system--and in
no small part of the empire does this ancient system prevail--develop
under a different environment from that prevailing in the other parts of
the realm. Under a patriarchate the mother yields to the grandmother and
the great-grandmother. The wife holds not only a subservient place in
the family, which often contains as many as forty persons, but she is
often, literally, a slave to the mother-in-law, and her children are
trained by almost everybody else but herself. The patriarchal system is
gradually yielding, however; and more and more, even in the conservative
regions of the world, newly married people are forsaking father and
mother and cleaving to one another, setting up their own homes and
developing the parental character, and training their young in their own
sweet way.

Under strict Moslem influence, motherhood has a place of honor; at
least in theory. For Mohammedanism gives to the woman who bears children
and trains them faithfully a rank in heaven with the martyrs.
Unfortunately, however, the light esteem in which women are held in
Moslem lands makes against woman's power, even in her noblest
opportunity,--that of moulding the children into character that is
noblest and best. Much work has been done by foreign philanthropists in
an effort to raise the standard of home training among the Turks.
Stanley Lane-Poole, in his _Studies in a Mosque_, a book not written
from the viewpoint of the modern missionary, but that of a candid and
diligent student of historic conditions, says: "It is quite certain that
there is no hope for the Turks, so long as Turkish women remain what
they are, and home training is the imitation of vice." This is surely a
dark picture. But the time may yet come when the Turkish woman will
assume a position more like that of her Western sisters and become an
elevating influence in the land whose present territory includes much of
the most renowned soil the sun ever shone upon, not only that which saw
the birth of the religion of the Jew, the Christian, and the Mohammedan,
but also much that is rich in classic and mediæval memories--the country
of which Byron wrote:

                         "The land of the cedar and pine,
      Where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine;
      Where the light wings of Zephyr, oppressed with perfume,
      Wax faint in the gardens of Gul in her bloom.
      Where the virgins are soft as the roses they twine,
      And all save the spirit of man is divine."

Yes, even the land of the Turk may see such ideals of womanhood
realized as those which made the women of the ancient Hebrews and the
early Christians--who lived upon what is now Turkish soil--to be honored
throughout the ages.



We are now to turn our attention to one of the most fascinating of all
the women of the world--the Moorish woman. Her fascination does not lie
altogether in her intrinsic charm, but in the atmosphere that romance
has cast about her. And while there is, of course, a very close kinship
between the Moorish women of Spain and Morocco and the women of the
Orient, especially the Mohammedan women, yet, the lady of Moorish
ancestry has a history and a life of her own which are well worthy of

The Moors brought culture to Spain, and it was not long after their
expulsion that learning began to decline, and with it Spain. It was
during the period of the Western movement of Mohammedanism that Islam
made its contribution to the world's progress. In its very work of
devastation, Arabian civilization was destined to render mankind great
service. Conquering the north of Africa and then coming across the
narrow Straits of Gibraltar, the Moors were destined to write out a
wonderful history in their European home. So deeply did the Moors
impress their life upon the Spaniards, that long after their expulsion
they continued to influence Spain by the power of their thought and the
impress of their customs. Even to-day, after the lapse of more than four
centuries, Moorish footprints are traceable in Spanish soil. While the
Moors brought culture into Spain, it cannot be said that they made any
direct attempt to educate or to elevate their women. But among a people
whose learning was relatively so high for its age, it was impossible to
prevent the women from receiving a certain refinement and at times an
elevation of mind which made them worthy of the respect and admiration
of not only the prouder sex, but of the world. The capacity for true
poetry and the gift of music were not uncommon accomplishments of these
women. There was ample leisure for these arts to be cultivated by them.
Charm of presence seemed to belong by nature and habit to the Moorish
woman, as

      "Some grace propitious on her steps attends,
      Adjusts her charms by stealth and recommends."

The Moorish women were pretty, as indeed their descendants are,
especially when young. Like the ancient Egyptians, they blackened their
eyelashes and eyebrows and used henna stains upon their finger tips.
Beauty was at a high premium, not because there was so little of it in
Moorish Spain, but because it was highly prized. Some of this peculiar
type of beauty persists even to-day in parts of the peninsula. As
Aranzadi (quoted by Ripley) says: "The very prevalent honey-brown eyes
of the southwest quarter of Spain, near Granada, is probably due to
strong Moorish influence."

The respect for women among the Moors of Spain was higher than it would
be natural to expect in a land where Mohammed's influence was paramount.
It is a tradition that the Prophet once declared: "I stood at the gate
of Paradise and lo! most of its inmates were poor; and I stood at the
gate of Hell and lo! most of its inmates were women." The Arabian nature
was intuitive, ardent, impulsive. So the beauty of a beautiful woman
awakened the feeling of love and chivalry. On the other hand, the women
were warm-hearted, though custom required them to be dignified and
self-contained. Among a people where generosity, courage, hospitality,
and veneration for old age were conspicuous virtues, it is not strange
that women should have received more than ordinary respect. And yet
these very qualities, when abused, often degenerated into idleness,
pride, ignorance, bigotry, and even the grossest sensuality.

Chivalry, however, had its better side, for "Here gallants held it
little thing for ladies' sake to die," as the old Spanish ballad tells
us. The Cid stories of valor--like that of Antar in Arabian literature,
Orlando in Italian, and Arthur in early English legend--brought this
powerful influence upon the imaginations and conduct of both men and

      "For here did valor flourish and deeds of warlike might
      Ennobled lordly palaces in which was our delight."

Spain was for centuries known for its gallantry. Indeed, "the Spaniards
bore away the palm of gallantry from the French," and have in some
respects perpetuated the influence stamped upon them by the Moorish
women, even to this day. As Thomas Bourke says, in his _Moors in Spain_:
"Much of the chivalrous manner of the Granadians is no doubt to be
attributed to their women, who were exactly qualified to create and keep
alive this spirit of gallantry among their countrymen and to occasion
those excesses of love, of which so many examples, equally extraordinary
as pleasing, occur both in Spanish and in Arabian history."

What is the secret of the alluring and overpowering charms with which
the Moorish women have fascinated the historian, enkindled the novelist
and poet, set the musician's heart to vibrating and stirred the
imagination of the world? A description of them which goes back to the
old Arabian days is of interest in finding the secret of their power
over the senses and the imaginations of men. "They are uncommonly
beautiful; their charms which very rarely fail to impress, even at first
sight, are further set off by a lightness and grace which gives them an
influence quite irresistible. They are rather below the middle stature;
their hair, which is of a beautiful black, descends almost to their
ankles. No vermilion can vie with their lips, which are continually
sending forth the most bewitching smiles, as if expressly to display
teeth as white as alabaster. They are profuse in the use of perfumes and
washes which, being exquisite in their kinds, give a freshness and
lustre to the skin rarely to be equalled by the women of other
countries. Their steps, their dances, all their movements display a
graceful softness, an easy negligence, that enhances their other charms,
and not only renders them irresistible, but exalts them beyond all power
of praise. Their conversation is lively and poignant; their wit refined
and penetrating, equally adapted to grave and abstruse discussions as to
the pleasantest and most lively sallies."

The dresses of the Granadian women, not unlike those of the modern
Turks and Russians, consisted chiefly of a long tunic, which was held in
by a girdle. There was also an upper garment with straight sleeves. This
was called a _dolyman_. Large drawers upon the legs and Morocco slippers
upon the feet finished the costume, with the exception of their small
bonnets, to which were attached costly veils, richly embroidered and
descending to their knees, altogether presenting a picture which, at its
best, made the Moorish woman one of the most graceful and picturesque of
her day. The stuffs which went into a Moorish woman's dress were usually
of extraordinary fineness, and the trimmings were costly, gold and
silver edging being used without stint.

Hairdressing was not an unimportant part of her toilette. The black
hair, befitting her complexion, was allowed to fall down in braids upon
the shoulders, but in front there was a fringe. Strings of coral beads
were often intertwined with the side locks; and the ornaments of the
hair, often costly pearls, were allowed to hang down, giving a delicate
tinkle as the woman moved her head. There were some little superstitions
about the hair. It was thought that a direful curse fell upon those who
joined another's hair to their own. To send a person a bit of hair, or
even, by metonymy, the silken string which bound it, was a token of
submission. Jewelry was used by the Moorish women in great profusion.
They are still passionately fond of ornaments. Even the poorest are well
supplied, and the shapely brown arms of the little girls are encircled
at the wrist and above the elbow with bands of brass or copper. As the
women walk they "make a tinkling with their feet, because of all the
rings and anklets and bangles which they wear with so much delight."
This jewelry is the woman's personal property, and in case her husband
should see fit to divorce her, it still remains her own.

One of the most important parts of a Moorish lady's daily life was the
bath, a pastime which was both pleasurable and imperative, especially in
the homes of the wealthier classes. Coppée, in his _Conquest of Spain_,
has thus described the bathing equipment of a Moorish home: "Passing
from the centre of a luxurious court through a double archway into
another _patio_, similar in proportions and surroundings, and usually
lying at right angles to the first, in the centre is a great _estangue_,
or oblong basin, seventy-five feet long by thirty in width, and six feet
in depth in its deepest part, supplied with limpid waters, raised to a
pleasant temperature by heated metallic pipes. Here the indolent, the
warm, the weary, may bathe in luxurious languor. Here the women disport
themselves, while the entrances are guarded by eunuchs against
intrusion. The contented bather may then leave the court by a postern in
the gallery, which opens into a beautiful garden, with mazy walks and
blooming parterres, redolent with roses and violets. Water is
everywhere; one garden house is ingeniously walled in with fountain
columns, meant to bid defiance to the fiercest heats and droughts of

From these ample and often luxurious arrangements, it might be surmised
that by the Moor water was regarded not as a luxury, but as an absolute
necessity to a happy life. All classes shared more or less in the habits
of cleanliness; for it is said that many of the poor would have spent
"their last _dirhem_ for soap, preferring rather to be dinnerless than
dirty," while the Moors of the higher order were so scrupulously cleanly
that they are said to have spent a very large part of their lives in the

Strangely enough, the Catholics of Spain, determining to get as far
away as possible from the customs of their Mohammedan captors, eschewed
the bath because the Moors made so much of it; and men and women among
them were known to be strangers to the touch of water. So far from
cleanliness being regarded as next to godliness, dirt became the very
emblem of Christian society, "monks and nuns boasted of their
filthiness," and there is on record a female saint who boasted at the
age of sixty that no drop of water had ever touched her body, except
that the tips of her fingers had been dipped into the holy water at the

Nine hundred well-equipped baths in the rich city of Cordova, and
thousands throughout Spain, were destroyed by Philip II., the husband of
Queen Mary of England, on the ground that they were but relics of
Spain's occupancy by the infidel.

While Mohammed refused to Mohammedan women the right to marry any but a
Mohammedan, yet he granted to his male followers the right to marry
Christians or Jewesses if they saw fit. This privilege led to a
considerable admixture of blood in Moorish Spain. Spanish pride did not
suffice to prevent these intermarriages of Arab and Spaniard. Polygamy
also being in vogue,--for their religion allowed the Moors four
wives,--a blending of races went on rapidly, and the Moorish type of
beauty may be discovered to-day in any part of southern Spain. The
Christian influence in Spain tended to soften the almost necessary
asperities of a life where plural marriages are sanctioned. The
degradation incident to Mohammedan ideals concerning women was much
checked by a counter current of Christian feeling, by which the Moors
could not but be influenced. So, also, did poets and lovers in Moorish
Spain show a respect for womanly worth and grace, if not womanly virtue,
which marks an advance from the Mohammedan or even the earlier Arabian

As might be inferred from their Oriental antecedents, the Spanish Arabs
gave much time to eating and drinking. The chief meal followed the
evening prayer. The men ate alone, the women and children followed when
their lord had finished his repast. The tray containing the food was
placed upon an embroidered rug. Silver and fine earthenware were not
wanting. Bread and limes were expected with every meal. A dish made of
the flesh of a sheep or fowls stewed with vegetables was a common dish,
as, indeed, it is a favorite among the Moorish people to-day. "The diner
sat on a low cushion, with legs crossed. A servant poured water on his
hands before eating, from a basin and ewer, which formed a necessary
part of the table furniture. The meal then began with the
_Bismillah_--'In the name of the most merciful God'--for grace. The
right hand only was used in eating; and with it the host, if he had
guests, transferred choice pieces from his own plate to theirs, and
sometimes, as a mark of greater favor, to their very mouths. Ordinarily
there were soups, boiled meats, stuffed lambs, and all meats not
forbidden. Very little water was taken during the meal; in its place,
and especially after the meal, sherbets were drunk, those flavored with
violet and made very sweet being preferred."

The contact between the Mohammedans and the Christians in Moorish
Spain inevitably brought conflict. Christians often unnecessarily threw
away their lives in courted martyrdom. Many were the staunch women who
thus willingly laid down their lives. The story of Flora, the beautiful
daughter of a Moorish father and a Christian mother, has in it elements
of the deepest pathos. The offspring of mixed marriages among the Moors
was universally regarded by them as of necessity Mohammedan in faith.
Flora's mother, however, had secretly instilled into her the beliefs of
the Christian religion, though outwardly she was a good follower of the
Prophet. At length, however, stirred by the sacrifices she saw the
Christian martyrs making for their cause, her father being now dead, she
fled from her home and took refuge among the Christians. Her Mohammedan
brother searched for her, but in vain. Priests were charged with her
abduction and were punished with imprisonment. Unwilling that they
should be thus punished on her account, Flora returned and gave herself
up, confessing that she was no longer a Moslem, but a Christian. All
efforts to make her recant proved fruitless. There remained nothing
except to bring her before the Mohammedan judge and try her for the
capital offence of apostasy. The judge, however, willing to show mercy,
sentenced Flora not to death as the law prescribed, but to a severe
flogging. Her brother was enjoined to take the girl home and instruct
her in the faith of Mohammed. It was not long, however, before she again
made good her escape and joined some Christian friends, among whom a new
experience awaited her. Here, Saint Eulogius, an enthusiast among the
Christians, met Flora and conceived for her a love that was pure and
tender, so admirable did he adjudge her steadfastness to the faith. It
was a day when martyrs willingly laid down their lives, accounting it a
proud distinction to die at the hands of the infidel. They courted
death. So with Flora. Appearing before the judge one day with a
Christian maiden who also sought a martyr's death, this girl of half
Moorish blood, but with staunch Christian faith, reviled that officer
and cursed his religion and the Prophet. The Mohammedan judge pitied the
young girls, but had them thrown into prison. Here they might have
weakened had not Eulogius urged them to stand fast in their holy faith.
The sentence of death was passed upon them; and the girls were led away
to execution. Eulogius, who loved Flora above all else on earth, and
hence desired her to win what he considered the most glorious of all
crowns, that of martyrdom, looked on in the hour of her death, and
wrote: "She seemed to me an angel. A celestial illumination surrounded
her; her face lightened with happiness; she seemed already to be tasting
the joys of the heavenly home.... When I heard the words of her sweet
mouth, I sought to establish her in her resolve, by showing her the crown
that awaited her. I worshipped her, I fell down before this angel, and
besought her to remember me in her prayers; and strengthened by her
speech, I returned less sad to my sombre cell." Thus did Moorish blood
and Christian faith unite to make a life of wonderful daring and

To-day in Moorish states the strictest seclusion prevails for the
women. The love of idleness, ignorance, and sensuality are their
dominating traits. They are veiled when in public, and in the north of
Africa wear a striped white shawl, called a _haik_, of coarser or finer
material, according to the wealth or position of the wearer. This piece
of apparel is thrown over the head and conceals the person down to the
feet, the face being hidden by a white linen handkerchief, called the
_adjar_, tied tightly across the nose just under the eyes. Says Sequin,
in _Walks about Algiers_, in describing the Moorish women of that
region: "In the street they present the appearance of animated
clothes-bags, and walk with a curious shuffling gait, very far removed
from the unfettered dignity of their lords and masters. They are not
'emancipated'; and though in the houses of the richer Moors the slavery
of their women may be gilded, it is but slavery after all. The
Mohammedan invariably buys his wife--that is to say, he pays a price for
her to her family, large or small, according to her reputed beauty, or
accomplishments as a housewife; and though when a girl is born to him,
an Arab laments, a man with many daughters, if he knows how to dispose
of them well, in time becomes rich. Arab women, unlike the men, are
small in stature, and the wearing of the _adjar_ has flattened their
noses and made their faces colorless. It is a curious fact that this
disguise was unknown among Arab women until the time of Mahommed's
marriage with his young and beautiful wife Ayesha, as to whose conduct,
indeed, it became needful for the angel Gabriel to make a special
communication, before the Prophet's uneasiness could be removed. The
jealousy of one man has been powerful enough to cover the faces of all
Moslem wives and daughters for twelve hundred years."

The Moorish women of the better class are rarely seen upon the streets
or in public places. Indeed, they are not expected to cross their
threshold for at least twelve months after their marriage; and when that
time has elapsed, it is seldom they are seen abroad. They go to the
baths, and sometimes on Fridays they visit the cemeteries. Other
recreations or amusements are not open to them, except that in the
marriage ceremonies women have peculiar privileges, since these
ceremonies are held in the women's apartments. "Marriage festivities
last a week, during which time the chief amusement is the eating of
sweetmeats and the dressing, bejewelling, dyeing, painting, and
generally adorning of the bride, who is, as a rule, a girl of some
thirteen or fourteen years old, and who is compelled to sit idle and
immovable the whole time without showing the slightest interest in
anything. She has probably never seen and has certainly never been seen
by the bridegroom. At the conclusion of the ceremonies the bridegroom is
introduced to the women's apartments, and permitted to raise his bride's
veil, but etiquette obliges the lady to keep her eyes tightly closed on
the occasion, and in some cases the unfortunate young woman's eyelashes
are gummed down to her cheeks, to save the possibility of an indiscreet
glance. If the face of the bride is displeasing to the bridegroom, he is
at liberty after this one glance to reject her. If, on the contrary, he
is satisfied, he drinks a few drops of scented water from the bride's
hand, offers her the same from his, and the marriage is concluded."

In contrast with their once great enemies, the Spaniards, the Moors
have no kind of public spectacle. For the Moors of Africa,
story-telling, in which the Arabs have time out of mind delighted, the
recitation of poems, to which is usually added a dance of _almehs_,
generally negresses, expert in their art of pleasing the native
assemblies. These entertainments are held in the open courtyard of some
quaint old Moorish house; the centre of the court being reserved for the
dancers and the musicians. The men fill the space around, beneath the
arches, while in the galleries are the ghostly forms of veiled women.

It cannot be said that the Moorish women of to-day still retain that
grace of form and charm of manner which the Moorish lady of five
centuries ago possessed. A prominent woman, who has travelled widely in
Moslem countries, has given this rather repellent description of the
women of the Moors of to-day. "They are huge puncheons of greasy flesh,
daubed with white and scarlet, strung with a barbaric wealth of jewels
and scented beads. They eat and sleep, and then for variety's sake they
sleep and eat. They gossip, scold, and intrigue; and are valued
according to their weight. They blacklead their eyes, and paint their
cheeks like Jezebel; beat their slaves, drink tea and chat and quarrel."
Not a very attractive picture is this,--and perhaps a little
gloomy,--but it is given as presenting a marked and altogether truthful
contrast between the Moorish women of the days when chivalry flourished
in southern Spain, and the women of the Morocco of to-day in their
poverty and degradation. Once the women exerted a strong influence over
the men; the truth is that frequently the "power behind the throne" was
to be located within the harem. This was probably true during the reign
of Hakam II., who was so fond of books that war and the practical
concerns of government had little charm for him. He was the son of the
great Kalif of Cordova, Abd-er-Rahman III. The latter had built a city
to please his Ez-Zahra, and called it "City of the Fairest," but he did
not turn over the government to his spouse. His son Hakam, however,
allowed the influence of the women of the court to become dominant, and
on his death the Sultana Aurora, mother of the young Kalif Hisham,
became the most important personage in the state. It was she who was
chiefly instrumental in introducing into power the young Almanzor.
Gifted in the fine art of flattery and being brilliant withal, the
princesses, and more particularly Aurora herself, fell in love with the
talented young man, and turned all the currents of influence and power
toward him. Thus did the women of the court succeed in developing one of
the most successful and unscrupulous of Moorish leaders. He made all
Spain tremble by his victories, and Christians sighed with relief when
death at last conquered the conqueror.

The power of the wife of the Spanish Moor was by no means small. A fine
example of her influence at times may be illustrated by the history of
Muley Abul Hassan, the royal Moorish ruler of the Alhambra, who came to
the throne in A.D. 1465. "Though cruel by nature," says Washington
Irving, "he was prone to be ruled by his wives." He had married early in
life a young kinswoman, the daughter of the Sultan Mohammed VII., his
great-uncle. This Ayxa--or Ayesha, as she has been called--was, says the
historian, of almost masculine spirit and energy, and of such immaculate
and inaccessible virtue that she was generally called La Horra--"the
Chaste." To her there was born a son, who received the name of Abu
Abdallah; or as he is commonly known, by the abbreviation Boabdil. The
astrologers were called upon to cast the horoscope of the infant, as was
usual; and, to their great trepidation, it was found that it was
"written in the book of fate that this child will one day sit upon the
throne, but the downfall of the kingdom will be accomplished during his
reign." At once the young prince and heir began to be looked upon with
suspicion and even aversion by his father, who proceeded to persecute
the child over whom such a prediction hung. He was accordingly nicknamed
El Zogoybi--"the Unfortunate." It was a valiant and fond-hearted mother
whose constant care and protection enabled him to grow up to young
manhood; for she was a woman of strong character and of dominating will.
But, alas! growing somewhat old, and losing some of her personal charm
and influence, Ayesha must face a rival in the harem. Among the captives
taken by the Moors at this time, says Irving, was one Isabella, the
daughter of a Christian cavalier, Sancho Ximenes de Solis. Her Moorish
captors gave her the name of Fatima; but as she grew up, her surpassing
beauty gained her the surname of Zoraya, or "the Morning Star," by which
she has become known to history. Her charms at length attracted the
notice of Muley Abul Hassan, and, after being educated in the Moslem
faith, she became his wife.

Zoraya soon acquired complete ascendency over the mind of Muley Abul
Hassan. "She was as ambitious as she was beautiful, and, having become
the mother of two sons, looked forward to the possibility of one of them
sitting on the throne of Granada." Zoraya succeeded in gathering about
her a faction, who were drawn to her by her foreign and Christian
descent. These were anxious to assist her in her ambition and that of
her sons, as they arrayed themselves against Boabdil and his mother. The
latter, however, were not without their ardent supporters. There were
engendered jealousies that were inveterate and hatreds that were deep.
Intriguing was the order of the day. Fearing that a plot would succeed
in deposing Muley Abul Hassan and in putting Boabdil upon the throne of
his father, the prince, together with his mother, was thrown into prison
and confined in the tower of Cimares. Hassan resolved not only to set
the stars at defiance and to prove the lying fallacy of the horoscope,
but to silence at once and for all, by the executioner's sword, the
ambitions of his son Boabdil. But here the versatility of Ayesha again
asserted itself. She at once began to make a way for Boabdil's escape.
"At the dead of night she gained access to his prison, and, tying
together the shawls and scarfs of herself and her female attendants,
lowered him down from a balcony of the Alhambra to the steep, rocky
hillside which sweeps down to the Darro. Here some of her devoted
adherents were waiting to receive him, who, mounting him upon a swift
horse, spirited him away." The young man, acting under the advice of
ambitious friends and relatives, began to make preparations for war; and
his own mother encouraged his heart and equipped him for the field,
giving him her fond benediction as she lovingly girded his scimiter to
his side. But his young bride wept, as she tried to fancy the ills that
might befall him in so uneven a conquest. "Why dost thou weep, daughter
of Ali Altar?" asked the invincible Ayesha; "these tears become not the
daughter of a warrior, nor the wife of a king. Believe me, there lurks
more danger for a monarch within the strong walls of a palace than
within the frail curtains of a tent. It is by perils in the field that
thy husband must purchase security on his throne." But Morayma, daughter
of Ali Altar, found it hard to be comforted; and as her husband, the
prince, departed from the Alhambra, she took her place at her _mirador_,
and then, overlooking the Vega, she watched the departing loved one,
whom she thought never to see again, as his forces vanished from her
sight, and "every burst of warlike melody that came swelling on the
breeze was answered by a gush of sorrow."

This succession of fateful incidents connected with the career of one
who was destined to be the last to sit upon a Moorish throne in Spain is
here recounted because the events give at once an insight into the
strength and the weakness of the Moorish womanly character, with all its
ardent love and spiteful hate, with its loyalty and its trickery, its
hopes and its fears.

It was Ferdinand, with his wife Isabella, who was destined to return to
the Spaniards the possession of their land, so long held by the Moors.
The story of the overthrow of Boabdil is a narrative of chivalry and
real pathos. Boabdil, standing on a spur of the Alpuxarras, with his
mother Ayesha by his side, looked back upon the glory of his lost
dominion. The towers of the Alhambra loomed up before him, and the rich
and fertile Vega stretched out before his eyes for the last time.
"_Allahu Akbar_," said he, sorrowfully, "God is most great," and burst
into tears. "Well may you weep like a woman," said Ayesha, "for that
which you were unable to defend like a man." This final standing place
of the last of the Moorish rulers in Spain is still known as El Ultimo
Sospiro del Moro--"the last sigh of the Moor." The standard of Castile
and Aragon by the side of the Cross has supplanted the crescent of
Islam; and Ferdinand, with Isabella, knelt in the Alhambra and gave
thanks to God, while the Spanish army knelt behind them, and the royal
choir chanted a _Te Deum_. Had Isabella been more gracious and kept
faith with the infidel, the lot of the vanquished had been less

When the Moors were driven out from the home that had been theirs for
more than seven eventful centuries, none suffered more than did the
proud Moorish ladies. It is creditable, however, to their Spanish
victors that they preserved as a part of their own national literature
many of the ballads of the vanquished Moors. Lines from the Moorish
_Lament for the Slain Celin_ are expressive of the wail of maid and
mother at the loss of their former glory and their expulsion from the
place they had so long held:

      "The Mooress at the lattice stands--the Moor stands at the door
      One maid is wringing of her hands and one is weeping sore.
      Down to the dust men bore their heads, and ashes black they strew
      Upon their broidered garments of crimson, green and blue."

The aged women also had their hopes stricken low by the downfall of
their people:

      "An old, old woman cometh forth, when she hears the people cry,
      Her hair is white as silver, like horn her glazed eye."

The fall of Granada brought bitterness to many a heart. The words of the
ballad, _Woe is Me_! translated from the Spanish by Lord Byron, might
well depict the feeling of the hour:

      "Sires have lost their children--wives,
      Their lords,--and valiant men, their lives."

The aged Moor, pacing to and fro before the king, pours out his plaint:

      "I lost a damsel in that hour,
      Of all the land the loveliest flower;
      Doubloons a hundred would I pay,
      And think her ransom cheap that day.
      Woe is me, Alhambra."

As one has written: "Beautiful Granada, how is thy glory faded! The
flower of thy chivalry lies low in the land of the stranger; no longer
does the Bivarambla echo to the tramp of steed and the sound of trumpet;
no longer is it crowded with thy youthful nobles, gloriously arrayed for
the tilt and tourney. Beautiful Granada! The soft note of the lute no
longer floats through thy moonlit streets; the serenade is no more heard
beneath thy balconies; the lively castanet is silent upon thy hills; the
graceful dance of the Zambra is no more seen beneath thy bowers.
Beautiful Granada! why is the Alhambra so forlorn and desolate? The
orange and the myrtle still breathe their perfumes into its silken
chambers; the nightingale still sings within its groves; its marble
halls are still refreshed with the plash of fountains and the gush of
the limpid rills! Alas! the countenance of the king no longer shines
within those halls. The light of the Alhambra is set for ever!"

      "Farewell, farewell, Granada! thou city without peer!
      Woe, woe, thou pride of heathendom! seven hundred years and more
      Have gone since first the faithful thy royal sceptre bore!
      Thou wert the happy mother of a high-renowned race;
      Within thee dwelt a haughty line that now go from their place;
      Here gallants held it little thing for ladies' sake to die,
      Or for the Prophet's honor and the pride of Soldanry;
      For here did valor flourish and deeds of warlike might
      Ennobled lordly palaces in which was our delight.
      The gardens of thy Vega, its fields and blooming bowers,
      Woe, woe! I see their beauty gone, and scattered all their flowers!"



China, once the country of perpetual calm, has in recent years become
the land of magnificent disturbances. Not an unimportant factor in the
changes that have lately taken place in the Flowery Kingdom has been
woman. The influence of the women of the nations is generally
centripetal. Of the peoples of the earth the Chinese would doubtless be
named as altogether the most conservative, and in this conservatism the
Chinese women play a most important part.

Ancestry worship has marked this people from time immemorial, and if
there be one characteristic of Chinese life stronger than all the rest,
it is that of filial piety. This regard is not taught to end with
childhood, but is to be lasting even in mature manhood. From the
lowliest subject to the emperor himself the rule is imperative. The
latter is father of the people of the realm, and as such is to be
reverenced; he in turn is the son of Heaven. Confucius was careful to
instil into his pupils filial regard--a virtue which the sages before
him had urged upon the people. To such teachings is to be attributed
much that is best in Chinese life.

Thus the Chinese system is a gigantic patriarchal system with its base
resting on the earth, its head penetrating heaven. Mencius spoke often
and in no uncertain words upon this theme. "Of all that a filial son can
attain to, there is nothing greater than his honoring his parents. Of
what can be attained to in honoring his parents, there is nothing
greater than nourishing them with the whole Empire. To be the father of
the son of Heaven is the highest nourishment." In this may be verified
the sentence in the _Book of Poetry_:

            "Ever thinking how to be filial,
      His filial mind was the model which he supplied."

Every department of life is reached by this trait. Someone once asked
Mencius how it was that Shun, an exemplary character of more ancient
days, had married without consulting his parents. For "if the rule be
thus (_i.e._, to inform the parents), no one ought to have illustrated
it so well as Shun." To which Mencius replied: "If he had informed them
he would not have been able to marry. That male and female should dwell
together is the greatest of human relations. If Shun had informed his
parents, he would have made void this greatest of human relations, and
incurred thereby their resentment. It was for this reason that he did
not inform them." Thus only did Mencius save the filial character of the
great and good Shun.

Since social and religious ideals are the most potential in shaping
woman's life among any people, filial piety has naturally held a notable
place in the making of Chinese womanhood, from the earliest period of
Chinese history. Respect for age is, therefore, one of the most eminent
of Chinese virtues. This is shown in innumerable habits of everyday
life. Let a company be walking out together, the eldest will lead the
way, while the others follow on, paired according to their respective

The teachings of Confucius have without doubt influenced the thinking
and the conduct of Chinese men in their relations with the female sex;
even though he said little directly about women or their conduct. His
loose ideas as to marriage and the admission of concubinage are among
the blots upon his social teachings. The body of early Chinese
literature gives a most suggestive insight into the ancient ideals
concerning woman; and because of the dreary conservatism of the people
these ideals are still potential.

The _Li Ki_, or "Book of Ceremonies," has many bits of counsel which are
intended to regulate the everyday life of the people. Of course, there
is much there concerning the life of woman, of wives, of concubines, of
mothers; concerning betrothal, marriage, domestic and filial duties.

The Chinese are not usually regarded as a people overflowing with
sentiment; and yet many of their ancient poems are not lacking in
romantic interest. From such effusions as that which exclaims:

      "O sweet maiden, so fair and retiring,
      At the corner, I'm waiting for you,"--

to deeper meditations upon feminine worth and character, the early
poetry sweeps over quite a wide range of sentimental reflection.

The _Shi King_, a collection of Chinese poetry gathered by Confucius,
an anthology of more than three hundred poems, contains some glowing
epithalamia setting forth at length the unmistakable virtues of the
bride. Others of them present the industry of a queen, the charming and
virtuous manners of an admired maiden, or the affection of a spouse.
While still others set forth the feelings of a wife who bewails the
absence of her husband, away in the performance of duty; or, it may be,
of a rejected wife giving forth her bitter plaint. A husband's cruelty
is bemoaned; a woman scorns the praises of an artless lover; or a wife
is consoled by her husband's home-coming.

These songs, born in the early days of feudalism, when the dukes or
governors of the states would come together to consult with the king
concerning public matters, breathe of a period long past. Among the
officers in attendance on these occasions were the music masters. "Let
me write the songs of the people," one has said, "I care not who makes
their laws." To the music masters was assigned the duty of supervising
the songs in use among the subjects of the realm. The songs approved by
the king's music master were preserved as classics. It was from these
that Confucius selected; and he preserved many in which the Chinese
woman is the motive and inspiration. The ode celebrating the virtue of
King Wan's bride is but one of many such poems giving a good insight
into the ancient attitude of mind toward feminine beauty and virtue, as
well as preserving some of the older customs attending the festal
wedding day:

      "The maiden modest, virtuous, coy, is found;
      Strike every lute, and joyous welcome sound.
      Ours now the duckweed from the stream we bear
      And cook to use the other viands rare.
      He has the maiden, honest, virtuous bright,
      Let drums and bells proclaim our great delight."

The Chinese drama, a much more modern art--though nothing seems modern
in China--often depicts woman in her best as well as in her less
favorable light. There is present here the true spirit of romance. In
the _Sorrows of Han_, a historical tragedy setting forth conditions in
the days of effeminacy:

      "When love was all an easy monarch's care,
      Seldom at council--never in a war,"

Lady Chaoukeun, a farmer's daughter, who has been raised to be
Princess of Han, has never yet seen the king's face. She was eighteen
years of age when brought into the royal palace, but by the intrigue of
the prime minister she had been ignored and neglected. Her picture has
been mutilated by the official, not only that he might destroy her
prospects in the royal eye, but also that he might extort money in
selecting other beauties for the palace. Her father, being poor, was
unable to pay the amount exacted. But by chance the king comes upon her
as she plays the lute in the darkness. He, enraptured by the music, asks
to see her. Her beauty at once charms him. He hears the story of her
sadness, and the plot of the minister is made known. The latter is at
once condemned to lose his head. Making his escape, however, he reaches
the camp of the Tartars, who are at this very juncture threatening the
land, and gives himself over to their assistance. Being shown a true
picture of Lady Chaoukeun in all her beauty, the prince of the Tartars
falls desperately in love, and is willing even to offer peace to the
king if he will but give up the beautiful princess. The king, sorrowful,
but unable otherwise to save his land from devastation, delivers over
his wife to the enemy, she herself consenting to be sacrificed that the
kingdom and her husband's dynasty may be preserved. But, faithful in her
love, she is not long in the hand of the Tartar prince. She seizes her
opportunity, and throws herself into the surging river, along which the
Tartar army was camped, and is drowned. When Khan, the Tartar prince,
saw his prize had escaped his grasp, he decides to give back the traitor
minister to King Han for punishment. That very night Han sees his martyr
wife in his dreams. He arises to embrace her, but she is gone again. The
play closes with the order for the beheading of him who has brought upon
the royal house such sorrow.

Most of the romance in a Chinese woman's life, however, is found in the
books, which tell of the earlier days. The first event in the life of
most women in China, though she does not at the time realize it, is a
sad one. There is usually scant welcome for the girl. Certainly, amidst
the masses of the people, she enters upon a rough and weary way. She is
reared in seclusion and ignorance. Her little brothers, even, are not
her companions. If she should have any association with them, she is
little better than their servant. Her name does not appear upon the
family register, since she is expected to belong to another family when
she is old enough to wed.

Does one ask of courtship in China? There is no such thing there,
unless bartering by go-betweens could be called by that name. Girls
spend their last days of maidenhood in loud wailing, and their girl
friends come to weep with them. Well may they do this. After marriage,
which is itself a bitter rather than a happy experience for the bride,
they continue a life of worse slavery--slavery abject and heartless--to
women who have been slaves to other women. The mother-in-law in China
rules her daughter-in-law with an iron hand, and the wife's future
depends much more upon the character of the husband's mother than upon
the husband himself. That the coming of girls into the home is not so
welcome an event as that of boys is quite natural, for it is expected
that at about sixteen years of age the girl will become a member of
another family, returning but occasionally to the house of her birth. So
that while a mother's hope of prestige lies in her sons, the ministering
cares which she might expect in duty from her daughter must be tendered
her by the wife of her son rather than by the sympathetic hands of her
daughter, whose attentions must be unremitting to the mother of her own

Betrothals are sometimes made in infancy. But since such contracts are
regarded as being quite as binding as a marriage, wisdom usually
dictates a postponement. Girls are therefore usually betrothed a year or
two before marriage, which in most cases occurs at about fifteen years
of age. Among the poorer classes, in order to avoid the expense
ordinarily involved in betrothal, a mother will sometimes buy, or
receive as a gift, an infant girl, who is reared as a wife for her son.

Marriage, however, in China as elsewhere, is always regarded as a matter
of deep concern in a woman's career. But in China she has little share
in the events which lead up to the wedding day. Proposals of marriage
and the acceptances are often made without either party to the life
union knowing about the transactions. Nor are the experiences of the
nuptial day always joyous to the timid young bride. Up to the time of
her marriage, the girl has spent her days in comparative seclusion.
Thrust now suddenly among strangers, she naturally shrinks with a
feeling almost akin to terror. This ordeal she must face with apparently
little sympathy. Audible comments are made concerning her when she is at
length in the home of her new-found parents, as they give their vivid
impressions of the newcomer. In parts of China at least, it is customary
for the unmarried girls along the route to throw at the passing bride
handfuls, not of rice, but of hayseed or chaff, which, striking upon her
well-oiled black hair, adheres readily and conspicuously. Not only must
the girl be given in marriage by the parents, but the man must let his
parents know of his desire to marry, and get counsel at their hands. In
the sacred _Book of Poetry_ it is expressly written:

      "How do we proceed in taking a wife?
      Announcement must be first made to our parents."

Married women seldom have names of their own. A wife may have two
surnames, that of her husband and that of her mother's family. If she
have a son, she may be called "Mother of So-and-So." Nor is she expected
to speak to others of her husband directly as her husband. She must use
some circumlocution which does not directly state her relation to him.

Chinese economists might possibly defend polygamy and concubinage on the
ground that these tend to produce a sturdier race than would be
otherwise possible; for the concubines of the wealthier classes are
usually taken from among the stronger working people, whose superior
physical vigor is constantly adding fresh blood to the more delicate
classes. But the moral evils of the system undoubtedly more than
counterbalance any physical advantage that may accrue to society through
its existence.

The birth of an infant works a marked transformation in a Chinese
woman's life. So long as she is childless, she is expected to serve.
When she becomes a mother, she at once takes up the sceptre. Wives,
therefore, pray to their deities for the coming of a son; and when the
object of their hearts' desire is realized, the delighted parents pay
their devotions to the god who has sent the new joy into their lives.
The sway of the woman over all the household, with the exception of her
liege lord and her sons, is complete. The _Shi King_ puts this in poetic
form in describing the bride's entrance upon her new estate:

      "Graceful and young the peach-tree stands,
      Its foliage clustering green and full,
      This bride to her new home repairs,
      Her household will attend her rule."

But remember that first she must become a mother. The brightest feature
in the life of Chinese women, the one thing that brings them most
comfort, is their boys. It is these which most surely lift women into a
position of respect. And this is true, even though, according to the
teaching of China's sages, the mother must be subject to her son as well
as to her husband. "The one bright spot in the lives of Chinese women,"
an educated Chinaman has recently said, "is their resignation, their
willingness to endure, to make the best of their circumstances." Indeed,
of the Chinese as a race, this is true, though it is more emphatically
true of the women. Certainly their lot is far harder than that of the
men. From the cradle to the grave, in the view of one from the Occident,
the Chinese woman's way is a dark and cheerless one. Few of the outer
rays of the world's joy penetrate the seclusion of their lives. And
while Chinese girls and women are amply capable of being made the
intellectual and social equals of the opposite sex, the fact is they are
not in any true sense companions of their brothers and husbands.

It is the lack of training that makes the Chinese woman, as a rule,
uncompanionable. There are exceptions, to be sure. In their present lack
of real preparation for the wider sphere of womanly usefulness, it is
doubtless well that the women have no larger freedom. Wherever the
Western school has gone, however, there has been given to the girls of
China an opportunity for a broader outlook upon life through education
and training.

"Of all others," says Confucius, in the _Analects_, "women servants and
men servants are the most difficult people to have the care of. Approach
them in a familiar manner, and they take liberties; keep them at a
distance, and they grumble." These words throw some light, by way of
illustration at least, upon woman's place in China as respects freedom
to mingle with the outside world. The sex probably enjoys as much
liberty as conditions justify. And yet keeping them from the world
without does not tend to develop the most genial temperament; their
faces do not evince cheerfulness or hope.

What is the attitude of a Chinese husband toward his wife? Of course,
she is regarded as his inferior; and, as a rule, she actually is.
Because of the limitations which from infancy have everywhere been
thrown about her life, it could not be otherwise. When the girls must be
married off to get rid of the craving of another mouth; and when wives
are largely looked upon as but a means of rearing children, that these
may do the pious duties in behalf of the ancestral dead, it could not be
expected that the idea of the equality of the sexes should ever be

In China, as elsewhere in the broad world, wives are often neglected.
From early Chinese literature, as well as from modern life, expressions
of the wife's sad lament are heard. As one of the poets puts it in the
mouth of a neglected spouse, whose husband comes not to her comfort:

      "Cloudy the sky and dark--the thunders roll;
      Such outward signs well mark my troubled soul.
      I wake, and sleep no more comes to my rest,
      His cause I sad deplore, in anguished breast."

Second marriages, though often made are not highly regarded in China.
Naturally love is less likely to spring up as in the earlier
affiliation. The _yengo_, a species of wild goose is, among the Chinese,
the emblem of love between the sexes. This bird especially stands for
strong and undying attachment. For it is said that when once its mate is
dead, it never pairs again. For this reason an image of it is worshipped
by the newly married couples of China. There is a popular saying among
the Chinese that a second husband to a second wife are husband and wife
so long as the poor supply holds out. When this fails the partners fly
apart, and self is the care of each. While it would be entirely unjust
not to recognize the presence of genuine love on the part of many a
husband, yet a wife may be handled severely by her spouse if for any
reason he may think her deserving of such treatment. This is more true
of concubines, whose lot is indeed a hard one. Whenever there is in the
household more than one wife, jealousy, bickering, strife, and plotting
are almost certain. The _Shi King_ sets these forth in a little poem on
the jealousy of a wife:

      "When the upper robe is green,
      With a yellow lining seen,
      There we have a certain token
      Right is wronged and order broken."

The Chinese have a saying that it is impossible to be more jealous than
a woman; and in the word for "jealous" there is an intended suggestion
of another word of the same sound, but of different intonation, meaning
"poisonous;" which play upon the word reminds one of the remark of the
Hebrew sage that "jealousy is cruel as the grave."

The wife is not seen upon the streets with her husband. Nor does she, as
a rule, eat with him. After the men of the family have finished their
meals, the women take their turn at the board. Too little is the
sympathy they get in their ailments; for generally scant is the
attention paid to their suffering, and poverty often prevents a
physician's care. Much, too, that goes for healing is hideously cruel
and permeated with the wildest superstition.

It must seem the grimmest irony in one of Goldsmith's Chinese letters
from his _Citizen of the World_, when he makes Lien Chi Altangi, while
writing of his purpose to open a school for young women, say: "In this I
intended to instruct the ladies in all the conjugal mysteries; wives
should be taught the art of managing their husbands, and maids the skill
of properly choosing them; I would teach a wife how far she might
venture to be sick without giving disgust; she should be acquainted with
the great benefits of cholic in the stomach, and all the thoroughbred
insolence of fashion; maids should learn the secret of nicely
distinguishing every competitor; they should be able to know the
difference between a pedlar and a scholar, a citizen and a prig, a
squire and his horse, a beau and his monkey; but chiefly they should be
taught the art of managing their smiles, from the contemptuous simper to
the long laborous laugh."

One of the cornerstones of Confucius's teaching was "reciprocity." But
this doctrine he does not seem to apply to the practical relations of
married life, about which he had little or nothing to say. Suicides of
young wives would be far less frequent in China were this doctrine of
the great lawgiver applied to marital life. A cruel husband may, almost
with perfect impunity, greatly injure his wife, or even kill her,
especially if he can make good a claim before the authorities that she
had been unfilial to _his_ parents.

The Chinese wife is, of course, not free from the evils of divorce. If
she be guilty of such faults as scolding, disobedience, lasciviousness,
or theft, which is next to murder in its heinousness, or if she be the
victim of such misfortune as leprosy or barrenness, she may be sent back
to her parents, if they be still alive. Among the causes for which
divorce is possible, the failure to bear sons is the first. Widows
sometimes remarry. In some parts of China the _suttee_, or
"self-immolation," of widows is not unknown, the unfortunate woman being
compelled to strangle herself, after which her body is burned.

The maternal instincts are seldom stronger than in the attitude toward
the helplessness of infancy; yet, in China infanticide is of
extraordinary prevalence. The greatest danger that besets a Chinese
woman is at her birth. In an already overpopulated country, it is not
strange that the custom of killing the female infant, for whom it is
difficult to provide sustenance, should have gained ground. Besides,
while the congested condition of the population is somewhat relieved by
emigration of the men to other lands, the women do not leave; hence,
there is a tendency toward a surplus of women. It frequently happens
that if a Chinese mother has not yet been blessed with the birth of a
boy, she will destroy her female offspring, with the thought that in
this way she may hope the sooner to bear a son. If, on the other hand,
she has one or more sons, she may allow two or three daughters to live.
After this, many mothers will not hesitate to smother the girls at their
birth. "By the accident of sex," says a recent writer, "the infant is a
family divinity; by the accident of sex, she is a dreaded burden, liable
to be destroyed, and certain to be despised." The Chinese officials have
tried earnestly to break up this frightful custom of infanticide. Books
have been written and circulated condemning the practice. Foundling
hospitals have also been established, in order that this kind of murder
might be checked and the rejected little ones cared for. Stone tablets
have been erected on river banks, by pools, and in places at which the
killing of girls might probably occur, or where their dead bodies are
likely to be deposited. During a period of rebellion, and of dire
poverty, so many desperate mothers throw their babes by the roadside for
the dogs and birds of prey to devour, that "baby towers" were
constructed at certain points, where the tiny dead bodies might be
thrown, to avoid the dangerous offensiveness to the population.

But if in infancy the girl is not killed, she is allowed to live. Should
pinching poverty come, she may be sold or given away. In some districts
baby merchants are not unknown. When the little girls grow up they
become serviceable in numerous ways in the domestic life; but many of
them are sold to a life of shame.

A wise Chinese writer, Hwei Kwo, in discussing infanticide among his
people, says: "Before you drown the infants you ought to think, 'I thus
harshly violate propriety. But there are gods above; how can I deceive
them? My ancestors are beside me; how can I present myself before them?'
Before long the babe will call _kwa, kwa_, and want some nourishment;
before many months she will call _ya yah_, and begin to talk, first
calling _year-niang_ (father, mother), and walk carefully about your
knees. Before many years she will be helping you in all your hard work,
and when she is married and bears a son, how very pleased you will be.
If you get a good son-in-law, and their children are well to do, how
much admiration and glory. 'If I endure present trouble, I may by and by
eat my daughter's rice.'" But even these low and selfish motives are not
sufficient to destroy the prevalence of infanticide, which is more
particularly practised in southern China. It is almost, if not quite,
unknown in the north.

Woman's standing before the law in China would not be regarded as high
in a country where woman's rights have been agitated. Her property
rights are practically _nil_, except as she enjoys them through male
relatives. And yet, with all her limitations, the woman of China is in
some respects in advance of her sisters of many other Oriental lands.
She is not shut up in a harem, as she is in Turkey; she is not bound
down by the harsh caste system, as in India; she is not looked upon as
devoid of spiritual existence, as in Burmah; she is not degraded by the
curse of polyandry, as in Thibet. In no Eastern land, with the exception
of Japan, has woman a better opportunity to exert power and develop
character than in China.

The dress of Chinese women might be thought by women of some other
lands to be lacking in beauty and grace; and yet, it is in many respects
highly sensible, being at least modest, healthful, and economical. It
hides the contour of the person effectually, and this, among the
Chinese, is its chief design. Being loose, it gives full play to the
vital parts, as well as to the limbs, and the same thickness of
materials prevails over the whole body. There is no waste in the
cutting, and no unnecessary ornaments or appendages, eight yards of
yard-wide goods being sufficient for a complete set of winter garments.
The mental worry that comes to the woman of the West in selecting
patterns, in cutting, and in fitting, is all done away with in China,
since the Chinese lady always selects the same pattern,--or has had it
selected for her by her great-grandmother,--and there is little need for
fitting. Figures that would look unattractive in Western attire can wear
the Chinese dress without disadvantage. Some have attributed the great
age to which Chinese women so frequently attain--notwithstanding the
often unsanitary condition of their homes, often floorless and
windowless--to the hygienic character of their clothing. The winter
clothes in the more northerly sections are padded garments that appear,
to be sure, rather clumsy and uncomfortable. The use of woolen
underclothing does not prevail. These padded garments hang about the
body like bags; and sometimes when children fall down they are utterly
unable to rise without assistance. It is needless to say that woman's
winter attire is by no means graceful or convenient. If even the men do
not use pockets,--which conveniences seem to a Westerner so
indispensable,--it may be surmised that the women have no such
contrivances in their dress. The ordinary costume of a woman consists of
two garments. The upper one appears very much like an American lady's
dressing-sack, only somewhat longer, with flowing sleeves, and is quite
loose fitting, the fastenings being along a curve from the neck to
beneath the right arm, and then in a straight line down that side. The
lower garment is a pair of loose trousers. There is little or no
difference in the style of the outer and inner garments, more or fewer
being worn according to the state of the weather. A skirt is seldom worn
in the Canton section, except by a bride at the time of her marriage.
This custom, however, varies in different sections of China. In
Shanghai, women are seldom seen without skirts. Notwithstanding the
sameness and similarity of cut in Chinese costume, the quality of beauty
is not entirely forgotten. A Chinese gentleman, when asked what things
the Chinese women most delight in, replied: "First, beautiful clothes
and ornaments with which to make themselves attractive. Secondly, to
live in idleness. Thirdly, to have servants to wait upon them." The
remark would suggest moral weakness which is, alas! far too common.
Tsq-hia once asked Confucius what inference might be drawn from the
often quoted lines:

      "Dimples playing in witching smile,
         Beautiful eyes, so dark, so bright.
      O, and her face may be thought the while,
         Colored by art, red rose on white."

To which the teacher replied: "Coloring requires a pure and clear
background." This was the great master's way of emphasizing character as
a necessary accompaniment of true beauty. But this ideal is largely

The custom of binding the feet is not so common as is often supposed.
There are many localities in which the habit is almost universal; while
in many sections, especially in the agricultural districts, the feet of
the women are of normal growth. In the sections and among the classes in
which this fashion prevails, the early suffering, as well as the later
inconvenience, is intense. The Chinese woman, however, does not
emphasize the importance of convenience as would her practical sister of
the West; the suffering they bear with much resignation. Various
explanations are given of the origin of foot binding. Some accounts
state that it arose from a desire thereby to remove the reproach of the
club feet of a popular empress; others hold that it sprang from a great
admiration for delicate feet and an attempt to imitate them; others
claim that it was imposed by husbands to keep their wives from gadding.
Still other accounts say that the Emperor Hau Chu, of the Chan dynasty,
in A.D. 583, ordered his concubines to bind their feet small enough to
cover a golden lily at each step. He had golden lilies made and
scattered about for them to walk upon when they were playing before him.
The admirers of the ruler imitated the practice, and so it spread. This
seems to be the most probable explanation, as the expression _kam-lin_,
literally "golden lilies," meaning "ladies' small feet," and _lin-po_,
literally "a lily step," meaning "a lady's gait," are in common use
to-day. In the beginning, the feet were not bound so early nor so
tightly as to-day, and the custom now varies greatly in different parts
of the empire. The present, the Manchu government, has made efforts to
prevent the practice of foot binding among the people, but with little
or no success. The Manchus do not practise it themselves, and they are
powerless to prevent it. As the Chinese sometimes say: "Fashion is
stronger than the emperor."

The Chinese find it difficult to understand the freedom of intercourse
which characterizes the sexes in the West. They regard such social
freedom as being difficult to harmonize with modesty and morality. As a
rule, Chinese women are modest and chaste. But it is thought that these
are best assured by restricting their social freedom. On the streets the
women, with the exception of the lewd, appear with becoming modesty and
decorum. Notwithstanding the advantage that must come from the limiting
of woman's sphere of influence, examples are not wanting in which
Chinese women have exerted their native powers to a conspicuous degree
in moulding the history of their times.

Through the isolation of the women, they become naturally more
superstitious than the men; and, as might be surmised, the former are
the stronghold of the ancient religious faiths of the Chinese. And yet
none of the ancient religions nor the philosophies of the country have
done much to elevate the feminine half of the nation. The best the
Buddhist priest can hold out to the pious woman is the hope that in the
next transmigration her soul may be born a man's.

Some women of the Celestial Empire have held commanding positions of
political influence. Whether a woman might occupy an influential place
in the management of Chinese public affairs has depended somewhat upon
the character of the ruling dynasty. And while queens are not possible
in China, because sons alone may hold the sceptre, women have been known
to exert such influence in the matter of government as to be practically
supreme. There have been a number of cases of empresses regent. There
were two such instances during the Ming dynasty which were quoted as
justifying a more recent regency that has been one of the most
remarkable on record in any land. When the Emperor Hien-fung died on
August 22, 1861, his son Chiseang, then but six years of age, was
proclaimed emperor in his stead, under a regency composed of eight men.
By a bold _coup d'état_, Prince Kung, brother of Hien-fung, succeeded,
by the aid of the army, in driving this regency from power and in
proclaiming a new one composed of two empresses: Tsi An, the principal
wife of the late Hien-fung, and Tszu-Hszi, the mother of the young
emperor. Neither of these royal women knew the Manchu language, and
Prince Kung was the power behind them, and was rewarded with the post of
prime minister under the two empresses. It was not long, however, before
an edict was issued degrading the prince, whose growing power and
arrogance the empresses feared. And just here emerges the evidence that
the prince was dealing with one of the most astute and aggressive women
of the world, Tszu-Hszi, a woman who has compelled the world to reckon
with her presence for half a century.

It is true that when the young emperor had reached the age of sixteen,
and had been married about four months, the empresses, no longer able to
present excuses for not doing so, issued a decree bestowing upon
Chiseang, now called Tungche, the right to assume the management of the
affairs of state. But his reign was brief, for after about three years,
as it is said, he "ascended upon the Dragon to be a guest on high." Many
suspected foul play, but certain it is that the outcome inured to the
advantage of the two empresses. That which was more ugly still was the
treatment of the young Empress Ahluta, wife of the late ruler. On the
death of her husband she was about to give birth to a child. The
empresses, however, saw their opportunity as well as their danger. For
if Ahluta's child should be a son, not only would he be the legal ruler,
but the mother herself would at once assume a prominent place in the
government. Ahluta must be set aside. Soon she sickened--some said
because of her grief for her husband, while others knew of the
determination of the empresses to retain power at all hazards. Who then
should be chosen heir to the throne? The empresses selected Tsai Tien, a
son of Prince Chun, brother of the powerful Kung. The latter was again
in complete control, by the grace of the two astute and ambitious women
whose minds were firmly set upon retaining rule at whatever cost. The
fortunate, or unfortunate, young man who had been made nominal emperor,
not by inheritance, but by selection, was given the style of Kwang-su,
or "Illustrious Succession." The way in which Tszu-Hszi, empress
dowager, has been able to be the controlling factor in Chinese national
life, crushing rivals, winning the support of politicians, and carrying
out policies, is one of the wonders of modern political history. This
seems the more remarkable in a country where women are generally forced
to the background, and in an age in which tumultuous scenes and grave
upheavals have been many.

The head of the army of the United States was not far from the truth
when he pronounced the Empress-dowager of China, not even excepting the
great and good Victoria, as altogether the ablest woman of the century.

Contiguous in territory and closely related in manners and customs to
the Chinese are the Coreans. The Corean ruler, though in his own country
an absolute monarch, was for several centuries a vassal of the Chinese
Empire, and the educated class continue to employ the Chinese language
in literary and social intercourse. In 1894, Corea having repudiated the
suzerainty of China, war ensued between Japan and China, and as a result
Corea has since been largely under Japanese influence.

The native Coreans fondly call their country "the Land of the Morning
Calm." Its people are of the Mongolian type, and are therefore closely
allied in sympathy to the Chinese and Japanese, with whom they have had
social and political kinship and contact from time out of mind. The
moral status of the women may be surmised when it is remembered that
woman is regarded as without moral existence. It is not to be
understood, however, that she has no name. When a very little girl, she
receives a temporary surname by which she is known to her relatives and
intimate friends. When she reaches the age of puberty, this appellation
is no longer used by her friends. When she marries, her parents cease to
call her by her childhood's name. She is now known to them by the name
of the district into which she has married. Her husband's parents,
however, speak of her as the woman of the place from which she came.

In Corea there is no family life in our true sense of that term, for the
men and the women live in separate apartments. The husband is seldom
seen in conversation with his wife, whom he looks upon as absolutely
beneath him. The male and the female children are separated. When they
reach the age of nine or ten years the girls are sent to the women's
apartments; the boys take refuge with the men. The boys must not set
foot upon the territory assigned to the women, and the girls learn that
it is disgraceful to be looked upon by members of the opposite sex; so
they hide at the approach of a boy or a man.

The Corean women have little or no legal standing. They are absolutely
in the power of their husbands, who may not sell them, however, nor
should their lords be _too_ brutal. Percival Lowell, in his _Land of the
Morning Calm_, puts it strongly when he says: "Mentally, morally, and
socially, she (the Corean woman) is a cipher." But there are exceptions.
In fact, we are not to infer that throughout the entire Orient the
subjection of women is universally so complete as it is sometimes
pictured by writers upon the social life of the East. Campbell, in his
_Journey through Corea_, gives the following incident, showing how women
may be very influential at times: "To make matters worse, the head man
upon whom I had relied for assistance in hiring the men I wanted was
absent, but his wife proved a capable substitute and seemed to fill her
husband's place with unquestioned authority. Between bullying and
coaxing, she rapidly pressed twenty reluctant men into service. The
subjection of women, which is probably the covenant of accepted theories
in the East, receives a fresh blow in my mind. Women in these parts of
the world, if the truth were known, fill a higher place and wield a
greater influence than they are credited with." Nor is it to be supposed
that there is no respect shown to the women of Corea. The men give them
at least an outward show of deference. They will step aside to allow a
woman to pass in the street, regardless of her social position, and the
ladies are often addressed in phrases of a most polite character.
Children are taught respect for their mother, though they are enjoined
to give more to the father. When a mother dies, her children are
expected to mourn at least two years; for the father the period is
longer. Someone has said that "there are three classes of Corean women;
first, there are the invisible,--those who are always in their
apartments, or, when out of them, ride in a closed palanquin. Second,
are the visible invisible, who, possessing less wealth, must walk when
they go out upon the streets, and yet are seen only as a mass of
clothing moving before the eye. Third, there are the invisible visible
class, the poor, who are seen, to be sure, but not noticed,--working
women, whom etiquette prevents one from seeing."

The women's apartments do not greatly differ from the zenanas of India.
In the interior of their apartments, screened as far as possible from
publicity, the unmarried women may receive their parents and friends,
with whom they chat and gossip upon matters of common interest, or while
away the hours with games. After marriage, the confinement becomes still
more secure, and the woman is inaccessible. "So strict is the rule,"
says Griffis, "that fathers have on occasions killed their daughters,
husbands, their wives, and wives have committed suicide, when strangers
have touched them even with their fingers." Woe unto the Corean wife who
is not above suspicion in the eyes of her husband.

In the "Hermit Nation" one is accounted a boy until he is married, no
matter what his age may be; but public sentiment prevents a young man
from remaining long without a spouse to enrich, or at least to share,
his life. The woman is a child till she is married, and sometimes long

The women of Corea usually marry outside of the village in which they
are brought up. They have nothing whatever to do with the match that is
to be made. Negotiations are carried on by the parents and a middle man.
The bride, indeed, must be silent all through the nuptial ceremony. The
marriage festival and the funeral are the two great events in Corean
social life. When the festivities of the wedding are at an end the bride
is conducted to her husband's home--in a palanquin, if the parties be
well to do; on horseback, if they be poor.

There is but one true, or legal wife, but often many concubines, the
number being determined largely by the wealth of the husband. Children
of the true wife are the legitimate heirs. The other children, though
not disgraced by their position, have no legal standing as regards the
matter of inheritance. Children of concubines, however, may be
legitimized, in case there are no lawful descendants.

The following interesting story, taken from Ballet's _History of the
Church in Corea_, will not only illustrate certain customs in Corea, but
show upon what a low plane the marriage relation moves in the Hermit
Nation: "A noble wished to marry his own daughter and that of his
deceased brother to eligible young men. Both maidens were of the same
age. He wished to wed both well, but especially his own child. With this
idea in view he had already refused some good offers; finally he made a
proposal to a family noted alike for pedigree and riches. After
hesitating for some time which of the maidens he would dispose of first,
he finally decided in favor of his own child. Three days before the
ceremony he learned from the diviner that the young man chosen was
silly, exceedingly ugly and very ignorant. What should he do? He could
not retreat. He had given his word. In such a case the law is
inexorable. On the day of the marriage he appeared in the woman's
apartments and gave orders in the most imperative manner, that his niece
and not his daughter should don the marriage coiffure and the wedding
dress and mount the nuptial platform. His stupefied daughter could not
but acquiesce. The two cousins being about the same height, the
substitution was easy, and the ceremony proceeded according to the usual
forms. The new bridegroom passed the afternoon in the men's apartments,
where he met his supposed father-in-law. What was the amazement of the
old noble to find that far from being stupid and ugly, as depicted by
the diviner, that the young man was good-looking, well formed,
intelligent, highly connected, and amiable in manners. Bitterly
regretting the loss of so accomplished a son-in-law, he determined to
replace the girl. He secretly ordered that instead of his niece, his
daughter should be introduced as the bride. He knew well that the young
man would suspect nothing, for during the salutations the brides are
always so muffled up with dresses and loaded with ornaments that it is
impossible to distinguish their countenance. All happened as the old man
desired. During the two or three days which he passed with the new
family, he congratulated himself upon having so excellent a son-in-law.
The latter, on his part, showed himself more and more charming, and so
gained the heart of his supposed father-in-law, that in a burst of
confidence, the latter revealed to him all that had happened. He told of
the diviner's report concerning him, and the successive substitutions of
niece for daughter and daughter for niece. The young man was at first
speechless, then recovering his composure said: 'All right! and that is
a very smart trick on your part. But it is clear that both of the young
persons belong to me, and I claim them. Your niece is my lawful wife,
since she has made to me the legal salute, and your daughter, introduced
by yourself into my marriage, has become of right and law my concubine.'
The crafty old man caught in his own net had nothing to answer. The two
young women were conducted to the house of the new husband and master,
and the old noble was jeered by both parties for his folly and his bad

As in other parts of the Far East, the life of widows is exceedingly
harsh. They may not marry again. Indeed, second marriages are never
looked upon with favor, except among people of the lower classes who
generally disregard the etiquette and ideas which prevail among the
nobles and the rich who imitate them. A widow of high standing is
expected to show grief for her husband not only by weeping over his
death, but by wearing mourning as long as she lives; and children of
widows born after widowhood are looked upon as illegitimate. Often,
however, being debarred from lawful marriage, widows become victims of
lust and violence. If, however, they are determined upon preserving
chastity, they will frequently resort to suicide if their virtue be
threatened. The method of self-slaughter among women is cutting their
throat, or piercing the heart.

Like most women of the world, dress plays no unimportant part in the
Corean woman's life. There is probably no part of her toilet upon which
she bestows more zealous regard than upon her hair. Generally the
natural growth is insufficient to suit her ideals of beauty, and so
false hair is used in profusion. Corean women do not attend the
banquets. These are for men alone.




No woman of the Orient has in recent years enlisted so much of the
world's attention as the woman of Japan. This interest has bordered upon
real fascination. If the comparative alertness of mind has caused the
Japanese men to be called the "Oriental Yankees," the attractiveness of
the women might give them the right to be compared to the "Southern
Beauties." They have been much written about and the world has read of
them with keen appreciation.

Japanese civilization is comparatively modern. The islands owe much to
Corea and China for the development of their letters and the refinement
of their social life. Their alertness of mind and receptivity of
character mark them among all the peoples of the Mongolian stock. This
flexibility of temperament is no less true of the women than of the men,
and it is partly these mental traits which give to the Japanese their

The women of the several strata of society present marked differences
in Japan, as in other countries. This was more true in the days of
feudalism, when the lines were more rigidly defined than now; though the
influences of the feudal system are still perceptible and will long
endure. But the women of court and castle, the women of the military
class, and the women of the shop and of the soil, with all that was
nationally common, lived a very different order of life. These
differences are inevitable and, of course, abiding.

The chief glory of every Japanese woman is in becoming the mother of
sons. And while daughters are not unwelcome, as is the case among some
Oriental people, yet their birth is never so much the cause of rejoicing
as is the coming of boys into the world. On the occasion of such an
advent, messengers fly, notes are sent by friends, and all friends and
relatives must visit the new arrival in the home. The visitor who brings
his congratulations, must add to them toys, articles of dress, and the
like--besides the dried fish or the eggs for good luck. The poor mother
must well-nigh tax her already weakened strength to the very limit of
physical endurance in receiving visitors and their congratulations. It
is the father, or some chosen friend, who selects the newcomer's name,
and if it be a girl, that of some attractive object in nature is usually
chosen, it not being regarded as specially appropriate or as involving
any compliment to name a child for a friend or loved one. This duty of
naming the child occurs on the seventh day, and on the thirteenth, it is
carried to the temple and placed under the special guardianship of some
deity. After this the little one becomes accustomed to the ordinary
routine of eating, sleeping, and crying. Very soon it may be seen on the
streets and in public places strapped to the back of an older sister, or
it may be a brother; and it is not long before the babies themselves are
interested in the play of the older children, to whose backs they are
securely fastened.

As our little girl emerges from babyhood she finds the life opening
before her a bright and happy one, but one hedged about by proprieties,
and one in which from babyhood to old age, she must expect to be always
under the control of one of the stronger sex. Her position will be an
honored and respected one only as she learns in her youth the lesson of
cheerful obedience, of pleasing manners, and of personal cleanliness and
neatness. Her duties must always be either within the house, or, if she
belongs to the peasant class, on the farm. There is no career or
vocation open to her: she must be always dependent upon either father,
husband, or son, and her greatest happiness is to be gained not by the
cultivation of the intellect, but by the early acquisition of the
self-control which is expected of all Japanese women to even a greater
degree than of the men. This self-control must consist not simply in the
concealment of all outward signs of any disagreeable emotion,--whether
of grief, anger, or pain,--but in the assumption of a cheerful smile and
an agreeable manner under even the most distressing circumstance. The
duty of self-restraint is taught to the little girls of the family from
the tenderest years; it is their great moral lesson and is expatiated
upon at all times by their elders. The little girl must sink herself
entirely, must give up always to others, must never show emotions except
such as will be pleasing to others about her; this is the secret of true
politeness and must be mastered if the woman wishes to be well thought
of and to lead a happy life. The effect of this teaching is seen in the
attractive, but dignified manners of the Japanese women,--even of the
very little girls. They are not forward or pushing, neither are they
awkwardly bashful; there is no self-consciousness, neither is there any
lack of _savoir faire_; a childlike simplicity is united with a womanly
consideration for the comfort of those around them. A Japanese child
seems to come into the world with little savagery and barbarian bad
manners, and the first ten or fifteen years of its life do not seem to
be passed in one long struggle to acquire a coating of good manners that
will help to render it less obnoxious in polite society. How much of the
politeness of the Japanese is inherited from generations of civilized
ancestors, it is difficult to tell; but my impression is that babies are
born into the world with a good start in the matter of manners, and that
the uniformly gentle and courteous treatment they receive from those
about them, together with the continual verbal teaching of the principle
of self-restraint and thoughtfulness of others, produce with very little
difficulty the irresistibly attractive manners of the people.

One curious thing in a Japanese household is to see the formalities that
pass between brothers and sisters, and the respect paid to age by every
member of the family. The grandmother and grandfather come first of all
in everything--no one at table must be helped before them in any case;
after them come father and mother; and lastly, the children according to
their ages. A young sister must always wait for the elder and pay her
due respect, even in the matter of walking into the room before her. The
wishes and convenience of the elder, rather than of the younger, are to
be consulted in everything, and this lesson must be learned early by
children. The difference in years may be slight, but the elder born has
the first right in all cases. Etiquette, procedure, and self-control
among the Japanese girls are the most important of the influences
shaping a Japanese woman's life.

Considerable respect is shown to the girl of the family by her
brothers. The native and conventional politeness of the Japanese shows
itself even in the names by which the children address one another. The
parents may leave off the appellatives of respect, but brothers,
sisters, and servants must treat the young lady with dignity, especially
if she be the eldest daughter.

What preparation does the Japanese girl have for her position in the
social fabric of her people? Fortunately for her, there is some effort
made to fit her for her future duties. Quite early the daughter of a
household begins to feel the responsibilities of home cares. Even those
families which are able to provide ample domestic service will give to
the daughter of the household the duty of making the tea and of serving
it to the guests with her own hands. This is regarded as of greater
honor to the visitor than if a servant had performed the task. The
eldest girl of the family must learn to act in the place of the parents,
should a visitor appear in their absence, or when the younger children
need the care and oversight of an elder. In such matters as sweeping the
rooms, preparing the meals, washing the dishes, purchasing viands, and
sewing, the Japanese girl finds ample scope for a practical education to
make her ready for the exactions of the life of a housekeeper when she
herself shall become a wife and mother.

Besides these practical duties in which the girl is early trained,
there is education in simpler mathematics and, to a degree, in
literature and the art of poetry. She is expected to be familiar with
the classical poetry of her country, more particularly the choice short
poems, which are well known to both young and old Japanese. Education,
in the stricter sense of the term, is on the increase among the girls of
Japan, as well as among the boys and young men. Besides native schools,
schools for the education of Japanese girls have been established by
missionaries from Christian countries. And even higher education is
making rapid strides, as is seen in the Kobe College for Women. But the
advance of the state or public education during the past decade or more
renders the foreign schools less necessary; and the private teacher, to
whom the girls of the better families were formerly invariably sent, is
gradually yielding to the larger school. And it may be said that to-day
the girls are provided for, educationally, equally with the boys. Japan
has made wonderful strides in educational matters, being receptive of
new ideas concerning the common schools; but there are adjustments that
must be made to the social ideals and customs of the people, because of
the rise of the new education. Among these there is probably none more
difficult and perplexing than that which grows out of the need of
adapting the old ideas of early marriage for the daughter of a family to
the growing demands and the enlarged opportunities for female education.

The Japanese girl has better opportunity to experience the pleasurable
side of life than have girls of most Oriental lands. Her recreations are
more numerous and varied. Among them are the annual festivals, such as
the Japanese New Year, the several flower fêtes, and, above all, the
Feast of Dolls, which has been thus interestingly described: "The feast
most loved in all the year is the Feast of Dolls, when on the third day
of the third month the great fireproof storehouse gives forth its
treasures of dolls--in an old family, many of them hundreds of years
old--and for three days, with all their belongings of tiny furnishings
in silver lacquer and porcelain, they reign supreme, arranged on
red-covered shelves in the finest room in the house. Most prominent
among the dolls are the effigies of the Emperor and Empress in antique
court costume, seated in dignified calm, each on a lacquered dais. Near
them are the figures of the five court musicians, in their robes of
office, each with his instrument. Besides these dolls, which are always
present and form the central figures of the feast, numerous others more
plebeian, but more lovable, find places on the lower shelves, and the
array of dolls' furnishings which is brought out on these occasions is
something marvellous. Before Emperor and Empress is set an elegant
lacquered service, tray, bowls, cups, _saké_ pots, rice buckets, etc.,
all complete, and in each utensil is placed the appropriate variety of
food. Fine silver and brass _hibachi_, or fire-boxes, are there with
their accompanying tongs and charcoal baskets--whole kitchens, with
everything required for cooking the finest of Japanese feasts, as finely
made as if for actual use; all the necessary toilet apparatus--combs,
mirrors, utensils for blackening the teeth, for shaving the eyebrows,
for reddening the lips and whitening the face--all these are there to
delight the souls of all the little girls who may have the opportunity
to behold them. For three days the imperial effigies are served
sumptuously at each meal, and the little girls of the family take
pleasure in serving the imperial majesties; but when the feast ends, the
dolls and their belongings are packed away in their boxes, and lodged in
the fireproof warehouse for another year."

Besides the special festivals and holidays, there is opportunity all
the year round for the little girls to play their merry games of ball
and battledoor and shuttlecock, which they do with keen delight and with
much grace of movement. The tales of wonder which are told them are a
perpetual source of pleasure; for they have their _Jack, the Giant
Killer_, in _Momotaro, the Peach Boy_, with his wondrous conquests, and
many other tales to kindle their youthful imaginations. Among these are
the early ancestral exploits, which tend to keep alive love of country.
The Japanese girl may be seen occasionally in the theatre, seated on the
floor with her mother and sisters, taking into her memory impressions of
heroism and self-sacrifice, through the historical dramas which present
the early experiences of patriotism and passion which characterized the
fathers of old. Thus, the Japanese girl grows up to womanhood and is a
finished product five or six years earlier than is an English or
American girl. At sixteen or eighteen she is regarded as quite ready
herself to take up the active duties of life.

The preparation given to the girls of Japan has been justly criticised
in that, while furnishing the future woman with remarkable powers of
observation and of memory, with much tactfulness and æsthetic taste,
with deftness and agility of the fingers, there is little to strengthen
the powers of reason and to cultivate the religious and spiritual side
of the nature. Music is almost the sole possession of women, and many of
them play the _koto_ (a stringed instrument with horizontal sounding
boards, not unlike the piano in principle) and the _samisen_, or
"Japanese guitar," with great grace of touch and manner, but with little
music, as adjudged by the Occidental ear;--however, standards differ.
So, too, the artistic arrangement of flowers is an art much loved by the
women of Japan. Their education and their daily occupation tend to
cultivate the emotional at the expense of the intellectual side of life.
Hence, much refinement but less strength, and the best and cleverest
women of Japan, therefore, are attractive rather than admirable.

The diminutive size of the Japanese women, their pretty hands and feet,
their taste in ornamenting shapely bodies, give them a personal
attractiveness rarely surpassed. To what an extent the lowness of
stature among the Japanese is to be attributed to their habits cannot be
determined. It is the shortness of the lower limbs that is chiefly at
fault; and the habit, early contracted, of sitting upon the legs bent
horizontally at the knee, instead of vertically, inevitably arrests the
development of the lower limbs.

The Japanese women have luxuriant, straight, black hair. The wavy hair
which Western women prize so highly is not beautiful in the eyes of the
ladies of Japan. Curly hair is to them positively ugly. They spend much
care upon the arrangement of their tresses, and their mode of
hairdressing is elaborate. Even the women of the poorer classes will
visit the hairdressers. The locks are first treated with a preparation
of oil, and then done up in the conventional style so familiar to all
from pictures of Japanese women. This is expected with many to remain
intact for six or eight days.

At present the modes of dressing the hair of female children and growing
girls, as well as of married women, vary according to taste and
circumstances. In ancient days, however,--and the custom still prevails
in some of the more conservative regions,--the hair of the female
children was cut short at the neck and allowed to hang down loosely till
the girl reached the age of eight years. At about twelve or thirteen,
the hair was usually bound up, although frequently this was delayed till
the girl became a wife. In the romantic poem of Mushimaro, _The Maiden
of Unahi_, we find this custom referred to, as well as the custom of
secluding the young girl from the eyes of her would-be suitors:

      "For they locked her up as a child of eight,
         When her hair hung loosely still;
      And now her tresses were gathered up,
         To float no more at will."

As a rule, the women wear no head covering whatever, except that which
their luxuriant hair furnishes. In the coldest weather, however, they
wrap the head gracefully in a headgear of cloth. Gloves are rarely seen
upon the dainty hands of the women, and shoes are worn only when out of

The costume of the Japanese women was, and in great measure still is,
marked by simplicity and sameness of cut. There is no variation of
style--fond as the women of the country are of dress. In the material
used and in the color, however, they have ample scope for the display of
their exquisite taste, their individuality, and their wealth. The age of
the woman may aiso be determined with considerable accuracy by her
manner of dress, for a Japanese woman has no sensitiveness on this
score. The girl baby is clothed "in the brightest colors, and largest of
patterns, and looks like a gay butterfly or a tropical bird. As she
grows older, colors become quieter, figures smaller, stripes narrower,
until in old age she becomes a little gray moth, or a plain-colored
sparrow." The hair and head ornaments also vary with the age of the
wearer; so that one who is acquainted with the Japanese mode can read
the age of his lady friend within a few years, at most. The V-neck is
the uniform fashion in Japan, and when a woman of the better classes is
properly clothed in her native costume she presents a most graceful and
attractive appearance. When appropriate, she wears a sort of cloak
fastened with a cord, and the familiar _kimono_ made without any plaits,
lapped over in front and confined with a broad sash which is looped in a
big bunch at the back to conceal the plainness of the _kimono_. This
sash, or _obi_, and the collar, or _eri_, are usually of the finest silk
the women can afford, and are altogether the gayest portion of the
habit. When a Japanese woman is at her best, she may be imagined to have
just stepped from a group painted upon some artistic fan, especially
when in the hands are the umbrella and the lantern. The women of the
poorer classes, however, are often meagrely clad--sometimes too scantily
so for decency. They peddle their wares or work in the fields, barefoot
and almost naked. The shoes of a Japanese lady are so constructed that
they may be easily taken off before entering the house, as is the
custom. There is first put on a short stocking, or _tabi_, which reaches
a little above the ankle and fastens in the back. This is made after the
fashion of a mitten, that the great toe may be separate from the others;
for a cord is to pass between the toes to hold in the _geta_, or
"shoes." There are several styles of these; some are partly of leather,
to cover the toes on rainy days; some are merely straw sandals; while
others are of wood, which are clumsy and lift the feet quite above the
ground, and when worn make much noise along the streets.

In Japan, the disgrace of not being married does not arrive so early in
the young girl's life, as is the case in some countries of the East. And
yet, even here it will not do for a woman to wait until the age of
twenty-five without having made her peace with the god of matrimony.
Usually, however, marriage, which to a Japanese woman is almost as much
a matter of course as death itself, comes at the age of sixteen or
eighteen. Here, too, the girl of the land of the Cherry Blossom is given
more freedom of choice as respects the question who her life partner
shall be than is generally true in the East; but marry she must. The
inevitable Eastern "go-between" is of value here. The first steps in
Japanese courting are undertaken by him in consultation with the parents
of the girl who it is thought will make the inquiring young man happy.
Opportunity is given, at the home of some mutual friend, for the couple
to meet and pass upon each other's qualities. If there is mutual
admiration, or, indeed, if the young people find no reason why they
should not be joined in marriage, the engagement present, a piece of
silk, used for the girdle by the groomsman, is given, and finally
arrangements are made for the wedding.

[Illustration 6:_WOMAN'S TASTE IN JAPAN After the water-color by
Charles E. Fripp There is no variation of style--fond as the women are
of dress. In the material used and in the color, however, they have
ample scope for the display of their exquisite taste, their
individuality, and their wealth. The age of the woman may also be
determined with considerable accuracy by her manner of dress, for a
Japanese woman has no sensitiveness on this score. The girl baby is "in
the brightest colors. As she grows older, colors become quieter, figures
smaller." The hair and head ornaments vary with the age of the wearer.
The V-neck is the uniform fashion in Japan, and when a woman of the
better classes is properly clothed in her native costume she presents a
most graceful and attractive appearance._]

The marriage ceremony is not at the home of the bride, but at the house
of the groom, to which the bride is taken, her belongings, such as her
bureau, writing desk, bedding, trays, dining tables, chopsticks, etc.,
having gone before. The giving of presents is often profuse. But it is
not the bride and groom alone who are remembered; the groom's family,
from the oldest to the youngest, the servants, even the humblest, are
presented with gifts by the members of the bride's family. The gifts to
the newly wedded pair are often very practical, consisting of silk for
clothing or of articles of household use; and it is not uncommon for a
bride to receive dress goods enough to last her her lifetime. The
ceremony itself is simple and impressive. Friends and relatives
generally are not present. The bride and groom are there, of course;
besides these are the go-betweens of the couple, and a young girl, whose
duty it is to take the cup of _saké_, or native wine of Japan, and press
it successively to the lips of the contracting parties, emblematic of
the coming joys and sorrows of their common married life. The wedding
guests, who have been waiting in the next room, now appear with their
congratulations, and merriment and feasting follow. On the third day
after the marriage, the bride's parents must give to the couple another
wedding feast. At this the bride's relatives receive presents in return
for the large number of gifts sent by them on the wedding day to the
household of the groom. Announcement of the marriage is not sent out
until two or three months later; it is then made in the form of an
invitation, sent out by the bride and groom, to an entertainment at
their house. Acknowledgments of the bridal presents sent by friends
must, of course, be made. This is done in sending to those who remember
the young pair gifts of _kawaméshi_, or "red rice."

It will be seen that there is in the conduct of a wedding in Japan
neither legal nor religious sanction. The only prescribed formality is
the erasure of the bride's name from the register of her father's family
and its insertion in that of the husband's. She is no longer a part of
the genealogical tree. She lives with and is a part of the groom's
household. The exception to the custom is found in the _yoshii_, or
"young man," who becomes a part of his wife's family, taking her family
name and repudiating his own. This is done when in a family there are no
boys who may inherit the estate and name. Some youth is then found,
usually a younger member of a household, who can be induced to leave his
heritage and unite himself with a brotherless daughter of another house.
He cuts himself off absolutely from his own people and raises up heirs
for his wife's people. But he has not the standing and authority of the
woman's husband, for he becomes the servant of his mother-in-law, and
may be sent back to his people if he does not conduct himself in a way
acceptable to his wife's family; or if they should weary of his
presence. Ordinarily, children are scarcely regarded as of the mother at
all--the blood is all the father's. The low social standing of the
mother in no way impairs the rank or respectability of the children. The
past few decades have witnessed many notable changes in Japan, and there
is a reaching out after legislation that shall make the marriage
relation more satisfactory and permanent, for divorces have been the
frequent cause of great hardships, especially upon the women, who have
little opportunity to earn an honorable living when once the marriage
tie has been broken. Home life is kept comparatively pure in Japan, but
the price is enormous. The abandoned woman carries on her business or
has it carried on for her with shameless openness. The ideals of purity
are far higher among the women than among the men. And yet, chastity is
not regarded as the highest virtue among Japanese women as among
northwestern people. Obedience to the will of the husband stands first
in the list of virtues. Thus, Japanese women have often been known to
sell their chastity in order that they might save their husbands from
debt or disgrace, and they have received the plaudits of the public for
what is styled their fidelity to their husbands' interest.

In few, if any, countries of the Orient do the women appear in public
as the equals of their husbands. The Japanese women of the lower social
classes, when they go out with their spouses, follow on behind, bearing
whatever burden is to be borne. In trains or crowded rooms it is the
women who stand, and not the men. Japanese gallantry is not shown in
such public courtesies as are commonly offered to women in the United
States. The wife does not begin her wedded life with the thought of
equality with her husband; and, in law, he is greatly her superior
unless, happily, her husband should be motherless. Next to her duties to
her parents-in-law, the wife's great concern is to be a good
housekeeper, rather than a companion for her husband. She must, with due
self-control and even with smiling face, humor the whims and the vices
of her lord and master, even though he bring another woman into the
home. But it may be said that the Japanese husband extends to a legal
wife comparative respect and even honor, if, as the mother of children,
she fulfils well her duties. Third in line of demand upon a wife's care,
stand the children. In them the Japanese mother takes delight; and here
the self-control which she has learned almost from the cradle stands her
in good stead and beautifully exhibits itself, for she seldom loses her
temper or scolds her children. Even the wealthy women come in contact
with their children and personally guide their lives. The training of
the girls is almost entirely in the hands of the mother; and the
domestic cares of routine life are under her skilful direction. In the
rural districts the activities of women are enlarged by the part they
take in the making of the crops, the running of the rice fields, the
production of tea, the harvesting of grain, and the care of the
silkworms, the bringing of products to market, and the like. But the
freedom they thus enjoy makes amends, in a measure, for the more
burdensome work of which their sisters of the city know nothing.

The _geishas_, or singing girls of Japan, are, physically speaking,
among the most attractive examples of female grace. The word _geishas_
means "accomplished persons," and these girls are trained in the art of
making themselves agreeable. They are accomplished in music, singing,
and playing the _samisen_, witty in conversation, and beautiful in
figure. Theirs is a regular occupation, their services being sought on
occasions when entertainment is the chief concern. While these girls do
not come from the higher social circles, some of them marry well and
become the mothers of reputable families, while many others, yielding to
the strong temptations incident to their employment, become the
concubines of some well-to-do citizen or lead lives even lower in the
moral scale.

Among the special occupations of women may be mentioned that of acting;
for there are women's theatres in which all the parts are performed by
women. Men and women never appear on the same stage. In literature, two
Japanese women have gained the distinction of having written the two
greatest native works--works admittedly at the very acme of Japanese
classics. One of these is _Genji Monogatari_, or "Romance of Genji," and
the other _Makura Zoshi_, or "Book of the Pillow." The authoresses of
the two masterpieces, both court ladies living in the eleventh century
of our era, were Murasaki Shikibu and Seisho Nagon. To their names may
be added that of a brilliant female contemporary Isé no Taiyu. The
Emperor Ichijo, who reigned at that period, was a distinguished patron
of letters. He gathered about him men and women of culture, and the more
lasting literary monuments of his day are those written by women. The
work of these gifted women is marked by ease and grace of movement,
fluency of diction, and lightness of artistic touch.

Murasaki Shikibu was a lady of noble birth. She was, in her youth, maid
of honor to the daughter of the prime minister of that day. This
daughter, Jioto Monin, became wife of the Emperor Ichijo, and from this
station of influence became a most valuable patroness of Murasaki, the
talented authoress. She herself married a noble, and their daughter also
became a writer of note, producing a work of fiction called _Sagoromo_,
or "Narrow Sleeves."

The chief work of this noted Japanese authoress, Murasaki, is what may
be called a historic novel, _Genji Monogatari_, or "The Romance of
Genji." In this story the writer gives an accurate view of the
conditions which surrounded court life in the tenth century of our era.
From the romance of _Gengi_ it may be seen, as a native Japanese critic
has said, that "Society lost sight, to a great extent of true morality,
and the effeminacy of the people constituted the chief feature of the
age. Men were ready to carry on sentimental adventures whenever they
found opportunities, and the ladies of the times were not disposed to
discourage them. The court was the focus of society, the utmost ambition
of ladies was to be introduced there."

In those early days of Japanese life, it was not an unknown occurrence
for a woman when plunged into the depths of some disappointment or
overwhelming grief to take the oath of a religious recluse. "Her
conscience," says Sama-no-Kami, "when she takes the fatal vow may be
pure and unsullied and nothing may seem able again to call her back to
the world which she forsook. But as time rolls on, some household
servant or aged nurse brings her tidings that the lover has been unable
to cast her out of his heart, and his tears drop silently when he hears
aught about her. Then, when she hears of his abiding affection and his
constant heart and thinks of the uselessness of the sacrifice she has
made voluntarily, she touches the hair on her forehead, and she becomes
regretful. She may indeed do her best to persevere in her resolve; but
if one single tear bedew her cheek, she is no longer strong in the
sanctity of her vow. Weakness of this kind would be in the life of
Buddha more sinful than those offences which are committed by those who
never leave the lay circle at all, and she would eventually return to
the world."

There are many short Japanese poems which breathe of love, and tell of
womanly charm. These short poems are highly prized, and many of them are
familiar to the majority of the people. Among the women who won
distinction as writers of love poems was the Lady Sakanoe, who lived in
the eighth century. She was a woman of high position, being the daughter
of a prime minister and wife of the viceroy of the island of Skioku. Her
poems are among the most popular in Japanese literature, and some of
them reveal a high order of imaginative power.

Japanese poetry, which has been described as "the one original product
of the Japanese mind," contains many references to woman, her loves, her
laments, her passions, her ills. Sometimes the loyalty of a maiden's
love is set forth--as in a poem by the Lady Sakanoe in the _Manyoshu_:

      "Full oft he swore with accents true and tender,
         'Though years roll by my love shall never wax old,'
       And so to him my heart I did surrender,
         Clear as a mirror of pure burnished gold."

A large number of the love poems are sensual; yet, pure love breathes in
many others, as in _A Maiden's Lament_, a poem by the Lady Sakanoe, and
in the _Elegy_ written by Nibi upon his wife. The poet Sosei, also, has
written words that speak to the heart:

      "I asked my soul where springs the ill-crowned seed
          That bears the herb of dull forgetfulness;
      And answer straightway came; th' accursed weed,
          Grows in that heart which knows no tenderness."

The mutual regard of husband and wife in early Japanese life is
beautifully expressed in an anonymous poem in the _Manyoshu_. A wife
laments that while other women's husbands are seen riding along the road
in proud array, her own husband trudges along the weary way afoot:

      "Come, take the mirror and the veil,
         My mother's parting gifts to me;
      In barter they must sure avail,
         To buy a horse to carry thee."

To which self-denying love, the husband graciously replies:

      "And I should purchase me a horse,
         Must not my wife still sadly walk?
      No, no, though stony is our course,
         We'll trudge along and sweetly talk."

There have been many able women in this land of the Cherry Blossom, and
the Japanese people have not been blind to their claims to recognition
as controlling forces. This is shown by the fact that no less than nine
empresses have ruled the land. Some of them have been women of marked
sagacity and influence. On the dim borderland of the mythical, for
example, history shows us the heroic Empress Jingu Kogo, who, tradition
says, was the conqueror of Corea, and the embodiment of all that is good
and great in Japanese womanhood.

Among the women of Japanese legend is the Maiden of Unahi, the story of
whose noble life and death has been often sung by the poets. Her tomb is
to-day pointed out in the province of Settsu, between Kobe and Osaka.
Such heroines of the earlier days have furnished inspiration for the
women of Japan for many generations; and the ideals of domestic life are
far higher than might be expected in a region of the world where women,
as a rule, live out their round of life upon a general plane that is
sorrowfully low.

The present generation in Japan has been truly blessed by the influence
of an empress who is described as not only "charming, intellectual,
refined, and lovely," but also "noble and beautiful in character." Haru
Ko, born of noble parentage, became empress in the year 1868. Her
husband had just come to the throne at the age of seventeen. This was
the very year of the downfall of the Shogunate and the restoration of
the imperial power. Though reared in seclusion at Kioto, the young
empress began at once to measure up to the responsibilities which her
position had in store for her. She proceeded to exert her influence in
favor of the elevation of the women of her country. Without hesitancy,
she mingled personally among the people, administering charity to them.
Very early in her life as empress, in the year 1871, she gave a special
audience to five little girls of the military class who were about to
set out for America in order to study to prepare themselves for the
larger life of womanhood in the new Japan. From the beginning of the
school established for daughters of the nobility, who are expected to
play an important part in the Japan that is to be, she has taken great
interest in its progress.

The religious side of a Japanese woman's life, as has been intimated,
is remarkably undeveloped. In the portico of a certain temple in the
interior of Japan is found this inscription: "Neither horses, cattle,
nor women admitted here." This may be taken as but one intimation of the
fact that little in the way of religion is expected of the female sex.
The introduction of Buddhism into Japan marked an epoch in the country's
history; but Buddhism has done little for woman, for she does not occupy
so exalted a position under it as under the more ancient religion.
Shintoism has its priestesses and Buddhism its nuns, but neither of
these religions has brought any noteworthy blessing to the women of the
kingdom. The ancient religions still influence their lives. The
multitude of temples still claim the veneration of the people. Kioto
retains its eminence as the chief seat of ecclesiastical learning, but
the Western spirit has found an entrance into the land of the Cherry
Blossom; traditional customs are yielding to its influence, and
inveterate prejudices are bending before it.

The progress of Christian ideals has in recent years been rapid, and
Western religious teaching has advanced with giant strides. Recent
legislation has done something to increase the stability of the home by
making divorce less easy. The putting of concubinage under the ban by
not allowing the children of concubines to inherit a noble title, making
this law apply even to the son of the emperor himself, who must also
hereafter be son of the empress if he would inherit the throne, will
also mean much for the elevation of womanhood in the land of the cherry
and the japonica.



No volume upon the women of the Orient could be deemed complete without
some account of those women whose lives have been developed remote from
the larger movements of civilization,--the women of the backward races,
and those whose sphere has been contracted, not by social ideals simply,
but by virtue of the lack of that larger opportunity of world contact
which has given to some peoples a far more powerful impulse to progress
than has been the privilege of others. As representatives of this class
we may choose the women of the South Seas and of some of the African
tribes. These will furnish us typical examples.

George Eliot has declared that "the happiest women, like the happiest
nations, have no history." In the advance of the world's civilization
from crude savagery to high culture, woman's part, though of
incalculable value, has, generally speaking, been unheralded. Bearing
the brunt of the downward burden, while man's shoulder presses upward,
woman, from the beginning, has had a minor place in written history. But
even among the obscurer races she has managed to bear her part with
marked happiness. This seems to be notably true among the island women
of the world. The peoples of the seas, removed from many of the pressing
conditions and harsh frictions which are present in the larger countries
of the continent, exhibit a freedom, if the term may be justly applied
to undeveloped races, which is not the possession of many of the larger
and older nations of men. One is prepared, of course, for great variety
of blood, custom, and development among the peoples who inhabit the
islands and the lands that lie out of the beaten track of travel and
commerce. There is probably no part of the world where the races of
mankind have become more mixed than in the South Seas.

The women of the Indo-Pacific area belong to certain great classes or
groups of humanity. First, the Australian, inhabiting the great island
continent that seems to be the southeastern extension of Asia; they are
considered the lowest among the races of mankind, have black skins, but
not woolly hair, and are looked upon as a distinct race. Second, come
the Papuan women, who are in every respect negroes, resembling their
kindred in Africa in the variety of their types, including the tall,
very woolly-headed people of New Guinea, who have black skins and comely
bodies. Of the same race, but differing greatly in ethnic
characteristics, are the pigmy people of the Andaman Islands, of the
Malay Peninsula, and of the Philippines. Third, the brown Polynesians,
who are among the finest looking people on the face of the earth; they
inhabit the groups of small islands all about the Pacific Ocean, from
Hawaii to New Zealand, and from Easter Island to Samoa. Fourth and
finally, the Malays proper, who are a small, wiry, energetic people of
southeastern Asia and the great islands lying around Java, Sumatra,
Borneo, and the Philippines. The eight million people (called Filipinos)
in the last-named islands are, as will be seen later, of mixed blood, a
compound of all the sub-species of humanity, brown, black, yellow, and
white, even a small sprinkling of American Indian blood being there.
Women of so great admixture of blood must necessarily exhibit wide
differences of personal appearance and of inherited as well as acquired

It would be highly instructive to take up the women of these several
races and consider them one by one in the various experiences of their
lives, from birth to burial, in childhood and name, in girlhood and
marriage, in family life and social standing, in religion and the last
act; for interest in this study extends far beyond the lives and
activities of those to whom it is directed. The whole human species are
one, and it is not a violation of good reasoning to suppose that the
activities and social life of these lowly women may, in a certain
general way, represent the standing of members of our own race in the
early stages of their progress. It is true, however, that in the
Indo-Pacific area we are more or less in the suburbs of the world.
Caution, therefore, must be exercised in forming conclusions that the
abject conditions of the Australians, for instance, is a correct picture
of a previous condition of the Caucasian race. These races have lagged
in the progress of the world, and in all the centuries of their
isolation have rather retrograded than advanced. They are in possession
of arts and practise social customs that are evidently the survival of a
more advanced state, as will be seen in the separate study of each race.

Further interest is added to the study of these tribes in that, despite
the fact that they are the lowest of the world's peoples, they each lead
a rounded existence. Industries, fine art, speech, social forms and
usages, the explanation of things, creed and cult, all fit together
harmoniously. To the civilized woman, almost every act in the life of
her sex among the people named would be intolerable, but to the woman
there, these actions are the things to be done and any contrary course
would never enter her thoughts. The joys of life come from obedience to
the present order and to the venerable customs and traditions that have
come down from mothers for many generations.

In height, Australian women average about five feet two inches, the
tallest not exceeding five feet five inches. They have small feet and
hands, the widest span being six inches. The color of the skin is dark
chocolate, the lips are thick, the nose is broad and incurved, the head
long, the hair black, but not woolly, and is generally worn short. Some
of the young girls are pretty, and from carrying burdens on the head
they have an erect pose; the Australians, however, are an unhandsome
race, and at thirty, if she lives so long, the woman is an old hag, the
acme of indescribable ugliness intensified by following the habit of
knocking out the front teeth for the sake of fashion.

The girl-child born in Australia has little care beyond what is
necessary to preserve her life. The almost deserted mother is placed
apart in a brush shelter and is attended by some old woman of her clan.
The birthplace of the little girl is amid the greatest squalor. On rare
occasions mothers practise infanticide. The child is killed as soon as
born, in the belief (in the words of Nicodemus) that it can enter a
second time into the mother's womb and be reborn. As infants are suckled
several years, the chief cause of this unnatural act is the inability of
the mother to add another ounce to life's burdens. Being considered
uncanny, twins are immediately killed; and once in a while a healthy
child meets with a like fate, in order that its vigor may go into a
weaker one.

The baby's name is inherited from her mother, or perhaps from her
father. It is merely a class title, for every tribe in Australia is
separated into classes with names. If descent be in the female line,
then everyone in a class has the same name from the mothers; if it be in
the male line, all whose fathers are in the same class are named alike.
In all Australia there is no such title as "mother," in our sense of the
word. Of the girl-child here considered, there are as many mothers as
there are females in that class belonging to the same generation. If the
reader were an Australian girl, she would, then, have several or many
mothers; there would be her own mother, her maternal aunts, and all
collateral female kin of that generation and of the mother's class. For
example, suppose a tribe in which the two moieties were named Brown and
Smith. Every Brown man would have to marry a Smith woman and vice versa.
A Smith would not and dare not marry a Smith, or a Brown marry a Brown.
Now, if the mother-right prevailed, all the children of the Brown
mothers would be Browns, of the Smith mothers would be Smiths; but if
father-right prevailed, then all the children of Brown mothers would be
Smiths, and those of the Smith mothers would be Browns. The marriage tie
is so loose in Australia that the family exists only in the group, and
the little girl is not "Miss Brown," but a Brown--one of the Browns. The
principle is as here stated, but the practice in detail is most
bewildering. The little newborn girl is not merely "Miss S." or "Miss
B." Her tribe, with its two moieties or classes, may have six totems in
each. In that case, her father and her mother will have totem names.
Take the Urabrinna tribe with its two classes, Matthurie and Kirarwa. If
the father be a Dingo Matthurie and the mother be a Water Hen Kirarwa,
our little girl will bear her mother's name, so will all other girls of
Water Hen mothers and, also, their children to remotest posterity.

The girls of this generation are, in fact, sisters and look upon the
whole generation that gave them birth as a class of mothers; it is the
best they can do.

In some tribes the classification takes this quaint form: every man
belongs to one of a number of families or classes, which we may mark,
for convenience, A, B, C, and D. Every woman belongs, also, to one of a
number of named classes, which we may call E, F, G, and H. Now, all the
men in the A class are compelled to marry one of the four classes of
women, and their children are classified by rule under the other letters
in the most confusing but interesting fashion. The system is far more
intricate than that of the American Indians.

Besides these class or totem names, each little Australian girl has a
personal name by which she is freely addressed by all excepting such of
the opposite sex as are tabooed by custom. She may also have nicknames
like the American Indian girls, and finally, every girl of the tribe has
her secret name which may be that of some celebrated woman handed down
by tradition. It is never uttered except upon most solemn occasions, and
is known to those only who are initiated. When mentioned at all, it is
in a whisper. If a stranger should know one's name, he would have a
special chance to work her ill by ways of magic.

At a very early age, the Australian girl has graduated in all the
hardening processes which result in the survival of the fittest, and is
ready to take her place among women. The rites by which she is initiated
into womanhood lessen her vitality, if they do not destroy it. No sooner
does the little girl get upon her feet than her education begins. Her
play is imitation of her mother's labors and enjoyments. A group of
girls will amuse themselves by the hour, playing little dramas with the
hands. Many of these games are to be found among civilized peoples. Your
meaningless piling of fists in the play: "Take it off, or I'll knock it
off," is part of a game which represents the entire operation of finding
a honey tree, cutting it down, gathering the honey, mixing it with
water, and eating it.

The marriage tie of Australian women cannot be likened to that existing
among Christian nations, nor is it similar to the polygamy of Mohammedan
peoples, but is a modified form of group marriage.

The Australian man obtains his wife in one of four different ways. His
father secures her for him by an arrangement with the girl's father; he
charms his intended by magic; he captures her as he would an enemy in
battle; or she elopes with him. It is to be understood, of course, that
the woman belongs to the proper class by descent. The Australians are
very particular in this regard. The first and most usual method of
taking a wife is connected with the law which makes every woman the
possible wife of some man. There is little or no ceremony in connection
with the rite of matrimony. When a man has secured a wife, she becomes
his private property.

Let us imagine, therefore, that a man has set his heart upon a woman of
the proper group. There are several ways of practising magic to procure
a wife. Spencer and Gillan, the greatest authorities in this line of
study, say, that when a man is desirous of securing a woman for his
wife,--it makes no difference whether or not she be already assigned to
some other man,--he takes a small strip of wood, attached at one end to
a string, and marks it with the design of his totem, and with this
instrument (called by the American boy a "buzzer") he goes into the bush
accompanied by his friends. All night long the men keep up a low singing
and chanting of amorous phrases. At daylight, the man stands up alone
and swings his roarer. The sound of the instrument and the singing of
the air is carried to the ear of the woman by magic, and it has the
power of compelling her affections. It is asserted that women have been
known to come fifty miles in order to marry the man who had bewitched
them. There are other ways of charming a woman upon whom the lover has
set his heart,--such as the charm of the gaudy headband worn on a public
occasion, the charm of blowing the horn, and more. Elopement is only
another form of magic. The third method of obtaining a wife, by capture,
has been described as universal among the Australians, but the latest
writers affirm that it is the rarest way in which the central Australian
secures his wife.

Among the Australians, Polynesians, Malays, and many others of the
lower races, descent has been primarily and uniformly through the
mother. It was not until tribes became sedentary and property was held
by individuals that inheritance passed to the male members of the
family. The so-called mother-right is based upon the belief that
individuals forming a certain clan or group, by whatever name they may
be called, are the offspring of a woman who lived long ago. The term
_mutterrecht_, by which this custom is called, is of course a sort of
legal fiction; for men have always governed the world. Two benefits grew
out of this form of descent. One was the certainty of motherhood. The
other was the assurance, to every individual, of family support, as the
children of a number of sisters were not cousins to one another, but all
were brothers and sisters. So long as there were provisions with any one
of this group, the rest were sure of a meal. This plan of descent
through the mother has survived in many curious ways. It is found among
many African tribes. Even to-day the Spaniards, who have a great deal of
Moorish blood in their veins, have the custom of adding the mother's
name to the father's to show that the descent is legitimate. It may be
of interest to know, in passing, that James Smithson, the founder of the
Smithsonian Institution, was required by his father, the Duke of
Northumberland, to be known by his mother's name until he was of age,
when he was allowed to assume the family name of the duke, which was
Smithson. This is but a modern instance of how persistent the ancient
custom has been. As soon as sedentary life and settled ownership of
property took the place of nomadic life and communal ownership,
mother-right or matriarchy passed gradually into patriarchy. It is
curious to know that among the American Indians at the time they were
discovered one could find all degrees of this transition. We must be
careful, too, to discriminate between the tribe and the clan, or gens,
for all savage tribes are exogamous with respect to the clans and
endogamous with respect to the tribes. When the people develop the
tendency to marriage within the tribe, it is evident that they have
passed out of the earlier stages of clan grouping into the stage of
property grouping. Marrying in the tribes was necessary, in order, as we
might put it, to "keep the money in the family." Among many of the
lowest as well of the highest civilization, the practice is against
marrying a girl who is akin; and it is always a subject of humor when a
young woman in our own country marries without changing her name, a
quiet recognition of the old practice of the exogamous marriage between
clan members.

Clothing for warmth or protection is not worn by Australian women; even
the apron is not universal. The sense of beauty, however, has been
awakened in these savage breasts, and expresses itself in pretty
headbands, necklaces, and breast ornaments of seeds, teeth, and strings
colored with ochre. The men, too, are but little better attired; but one
indispensable article of their costumes must not be omitted in this
connection, namely, the knout, or coil of twine, with which they thrash
the women.

The home of the Australian woman, where she and her co-wives and their
children live, is nothing more than a brush shelter, so faced as to
protect the occupants from the prevailing wind. In front of this, or
under it, they work, eat, sleep, and hold social intercourse. In the
morning, they go forth with their digging sticks and wooden troughs to
gather small animals. They take no thought of what they shall eat, the
problem being to have anything to eat. When the men hunt the small
kangaroo, the women surround the game and drive it toward the ambush.
Every edible thing is known and is used for food. The women are the
gleaners also, gathering large quantities of seeds, throwing them from
one trough to another so that the wind may blow away the chaff, grinding
them on one stone with another, and cooking in hot ashes the dough made
from the meal. The cooking of flesh food is done by men, as that
prepared by females may not be eaten by them; the women attend to the
vegetable diet. In many places, females over a certain age take their
meals apart; this rule, however, is not uniform.

Should the Australian woman allow her child to live past the earliest
stages of infancy, she is usually a devoted mother. She often bears her
child about on her shoulders as she attends upon her tasks, even after
the child has become five or six years old. And should the little one
die, she will continue to bear the dear body with her, apparently not
noting the decomposition, which soon sets in. Mothers have been known to
carry the body of a dead child for weeks.

From earliest childhood, girls as well as boys are trained to note the
tracks of every living thing. For amusement, skilful women imitate, in
the sand, the tracks of animals; and they know one another's footsteps.
Spencer and Gillan say that every woman has her _pitchi_, or "wooden
trough," from one to three feet long, in which she carries everything,
even the baby, for she is both pack and passenger beast; when she is
hunting, it will very often be used as a scoop-shovel to clear out
earth. Her only other implement is her digging stick, the primitive
pick-plow excavator. It is a straight staff, pointed at the end. When at
work requiring its use, the owner loosens the earth with the digging
stick, held in the right hand, while her left hand plays the part of
shovel. Acre after acre of the soil wherein lives the honey ant is dug
over for this toothsome mite. Little girls go out with their mothers;
and while the latter are digging up vermin and insects, the toddlers,
with little picks, will be taking their first lesson in what will be
their chief lifework.

Among savages, the textile art--woman's peculiar industry--is little
encouraged. The spindle used in Australia before the discovery of the
island-continent in 1606, and which is still in use among the wild
tribes, is the most primitive conceivable, for it is merely a little
switch with a hooked end. The women make string for tying, as well as
for bags and network, out of human, opossum, and kangaroo hair, from
sinew, like the Eskimo, and from vegetable fibre. They sit upon the
ground, use the left hand for a distaff, and with the right hand roll
the spindle dexterously on the naked thigh. When a foot or so of string
is finished, it is rolled about the hook of the spindle for a bobbin.
When two of these are completed, a stick is driven into the ground, and
a rude rope or twine walk is set up. The women know the dyes in many
plants and use them. With the strings they make basketry, nets, bags,
plaiting, and many ornamental forms of simple lacework and borders.
Indeed, the Australian aborigines are at the bottom of the textile
ladder, where human fingers perform all spinning, netting, and weaving.

In lieu of the gaudy costumes and of the tattooed tooth patterns etched
upon the skin among other Indo-Pacific tribes, Australian women decorate
their breasts and other parts with horrid scars. They cut the skin with
flint or glass, and rub ashes or down into the open wounds in order that
the cicatrices may be large and prominent. They submit to these tortures
with the greatest satisfaction, and add more from time to time as
memorials of personal experiences or in honor of the dead.

The Australian women are fond of games and sports. Dr. Roth, the
Northern Protector of Aborigines in Queensland, says that with a fair
length of twine adult women will amuse themselves for hours at a time.
The twine is used in the form of an endless string, known to Europeans
as "cat's cradle" or "catch cradle." Hundreds of the most intricate and
bewildering designs are made, in the formation of which the mouth, the
knees, and the toes coöperate with the hand. Some of the figures are
extremely complicated. Dr. Roth gives the plates of the finished
patterns, which certainly are as fascinating as any work of savage

Australian women are described as cheerful and light-hearted, but, on
occasion, they fight with their digging sticks most furiously, giving
and taking blows like men. The testimony of the best observers is to the
effect that, in most tribes, women are not treated with excessive
cruelty, which would be quickly fatal to the tribe in longevity,
fecundity, and service. Women receive their share of the resources, be
they abundant or meagre. What seems to be cruelty is only custom or, as
one would say, fashion; and in Australia, even more so than in Paris,
you had as well be out of the world as out of the fashion.

All her life, the Australian woman is in the most abject social state;
her connection with the rites and ceremonies of her tribes is only as an
assistant or attendant. She is charged with all the industrial
occupations of food getting, and is not allowed to venture near the
sacred places on in of death. She is bound hand and foot by custom.

No Australian woman is believed to die a natural death. All are killed
by magic--it may be a personal enemy near at hand or by a great sorcerer
far away. Their life, so remote from ours, is, however, less sensitive,
and it would be untrue to say that they are a melancholy set, living in
perpetual dread.

When an Australian woman dies, she is at once placed in a sitting
posture, with the knees doubled up against the chin. The body thus
prepared is deposited in a round hole at once or is placed on a
platform, made of boughs, until some of the flesh disappears, after
which the bones are put into a grave. Nothing whatever is deposited with
her, and the earth is piled directly upon the body so as to form a low
mound with a depression on the side toward the camp ground. As soon as
the burial is over, her camp is burnt utterly and her group remove to
another place. Those who stood in certain kinship to her may never
mention her name again or go near her grave after the last act of
quieting the spirit has been performed. This ceremony occurs about a
year after the death of a woman, and consists of trampling on her grave.
Her mother and the nearest clan kin paint themselves with kaolin and
visit her grave, accompanied by certain of her tribal brothers. On the
way, the actual mother throws herself on the ground and is only
prevented from frightfully cutting herself by watchful attendants. At
the grave, the blood flows copiously from self-inflicted wounds upon all
the mourners. After this blood letting, charms are planted upon the
grave mound, the blood stained pipe clay, with which the half dead
mother has smeared herself, is rubbed off and the grave is smoothed
over. All this is done cheerfully, as it is the custom of the country.

The widow (or widows) of a deceased man smears her hair, face, and
breast with white pipe clay, and remains silent during a long time,
perhaps a year, communicating by means of gesture language. She remains
in camp, performing assiduously the ceremonies for the dead; indeed,
should she venture forth on her old avocations, a younger brother of her
husband, on meeting her, might run her through with his spear. When the
time comes to have the ban of silence removed, she smears herself afresh
with kaolin, prepares a large tray full of food, and accompanied by
female friends walks to the dividing line of her camp. They are joined
by the proper kindred of the deceased, who, after an elaborate ceremony,
release her from her vows, and certify to her having done her whole
widowly duties. At the ceremony of trampling on the grave of the dead
man, in which certain women take part, and especially the widow, who
scrapes the kaolin from her body, showing that her mourning is ended.

When a child dies, not only does the actual _mia_, or "mother," cut
herself, but all the sisters of the latter perform a like ceremony. On
the death of relatives, women gash themselves. The scars thus made have
naught to do with the decorative cicatrices across the breast, before
mentioned. They are specially proud of these self-inflicted wounds,
since they are the permanent record of their faithfulness to their dead.

Let us turn our attention to the smallest women of the world. History,
ethnology, and classic myth have united to make the Eastern pigmies the
most interesting people in the world. Though they are a little people,
and have been hard pressed by larger and stronger races, they have
survived for centuries. They are to be found in Asia, Africa, and the
islands of the sea. Africa was doubtless their aboriginal home; but this
negrito type has spread eastward, probably in their canoes in the early
days, till the islands of the South Seas have become their home.

The women among these little people are even smaller than the men. The
Mincopies of the Andaman Islands are among the most interesting of the
negritos. Because of their roving nature, they live in huts which are
rather temporary in character. These are put up by the women, though
when a sojourn in a given locality is to be of longer duration the men
build huts that are more permanent. The boys and girls do not sleep in
the same huts with the married people, but in huts specially constructed
for them. The women often become quite expert in the manufacture of
pottery by hand, the vessels having rounded bottoms, and being decorated
with wavy lines, or lines made by a wooden style.

Both boys and girls in the first few years of life are left entirely
nude. At about six years the little girl has placed upon her an apron of
leaves. This is her sole garment. Later in life, the womanly instinct
for ornament shows itself however, so that necklaces and girdles are
added. There is a certain kind of girdle, made from the pandanus leaves,
which is the peculiar possession of the married women. The women, as
well as the men, tattoo their entire bodies. This art of tattooing is
practised almost entirely by the women. They use a piece of quartz or
glass, making horizontal and vertical incisions in alternating series.
There was probably some religious significance originally in this
practice, since the men begin the process by making incisions with an
arrow used in hunting the wild pig, and while the wounds are still fresh
the man must refrain from using the flesh of this animal. The bodies of
the women are usually quite shapely, though their faces are not
beautiful. With the women as well as the men, the body is of nearly
uniform width, there being scarcely any enlargement at the hips. Since
the race is comparatively pure, marrying among themselves, the type is
very uniform; and since, as Quatrefages says, the occupations of men and
women vary little, the difference in the development of female as
contrasted with masculine characteristics is exceedingly small.

The young girl enjoys equal freedom with her brother, but preserves her
modesty with commendable strictness. An official, "the guardian of
youth," scrutinizes the conduct of the young people with much care and
attempts to see that wrongs against modesty and chastity are, as far as
possible, righted. The marriage relation is well guarded; bigamy and
polygamy are rigidly prohibited; and betrothals, which are often made
for the little ones at a very tender age, are held as inviolate, a
betrothal being regarded as quite as binding as actual marriage. The
young couple to be married never take the initiative for themselves,
this duty falls to the "guardian of youth," whose watchful eye is
expected to discern the eternal fitness of things in this important
field of human interest.

The marriage contract is a purely civil one, being celebrated at the
hut of the chieftain of the tribe. The bride remains seated. By her side
is one or more women; the groom stands surrounded by the young men. The
chief approaches him and leads him to the young girl, whose legs are
held by several women. After some pretended resistance on the part of
both, the groom sits down on the knees of his bride. The torches are
lighted so that all present can attest that the ceremony has been
regularly carried out. Finally the chief declares the young people duly
married, and they retire to a hut prepared in advance. Then they are
said to spend several days silently, without so much as looking at each
other, during which period they receive from friends presents of a very
practical nature, such as provisions and equipments for housekeeping.
After this silent but profitable function is over, a wedding dance is
given in which the whole community joins, except the two who are most
concerned in the festivities.

"It is incorrect to say that among the Andamese marriage is nothing more
than taking a female slave, for one of the striking features of their
social relation is the marked equality and affection which subsists
between husband and wife. Careful observations extended over many years
prove that not only is the husband's authority more or less nominal, but
that it is not at all an uncommon occurrence for Andamese Benedicts to
be considerably at the beck and call of their better halves."

A writer upon the Andamese islanders has this significant utterance
concerning woman's moral influence even among these uncivilized peoples:
"Experience has taught us that one of the most effective means of
inspiring confidence when endeavoring to make acquaintance with these
savages is to show that we are accompanied by women, for they at once
infer that, whatever may be our intentions, they are at least not

As a rule, marriage life among these Andamese islanders is said to be
very happy. The women are constant and faithful; the husbands also
exercise marked fidelity. The spirit of equality and reciprocity
prevails to an exceptional degree when compared with many other
uncivilized peoples, and indeed with many civilized people.

Even before the mother gives birth to the child, the little one
receives a name with a qualitative, according to sex. This it bears for
two or three years. It is then replaced by another qualitative which the
boy bears till his initiation into the rites of manhood, and the girl
till the appearance of signs of puberty. This name corresponds to some
tree or flower. When the girl marries she drops her "flower name."

Mothers, too, have great fondness for their children, nursing them as
long as there is milk for them, and it is not uncommon for three
children to feed at the same maternal breast. A peculiar custom
prevails, however, by which most of the children are by the fifth or
sixth year taken from their parents, and become parts of another
household. This custom of adoption is a method by which friends express
and cement their friendships for one another. As Quatrefages says:
"Every married man received into a family regards as an expression of
gratitude and proof of friendship, the privilege of adopting one of the
children of the family." The parents rarely see children that have been
adopted. They may pay them visits, but they never take them back
permanently to their homes, and temporarily only by permission. The
foster-father may, strangely enough, pass his adopted child on to some
friend of his, as freely as he might one of his own.

The modesty of the scantily clothed women is noteworthy. Man, who has
written so minutely upon the Andamese, says that when a woman has
occasion to remove one of her girdles in order to make it a present to a
friend, she does so with a shyness that amounts almost to prudery; and
she never changes her apron before a companion, but retires to some
secret place. Even within the same family circle, the bearing of the
sexes toward each other is modest and delicate. The man will observe the
greatest care in his attitude toward the wife of a cousin or of a
younger brother, only addressing her through a third person. The wife of
an elder brother receives the respect accorded to a mother.

The negritos of Luzon in the Philippines are also found to be very
correct in their ideas upon the relations of the sexes. Adultery is very
rare, and is punished, as are theft and murder, by death. The manners of
the young girls are very correct, for any suspicion of their chastity
might prevent their marriage, for the young men are particular that
their wives should be without stain or even an imputation of it. When a
young man is ready to marry and has found the girl of his choice, he
lets her parents know of his heart's wish. They are said never to
refuse. They do not turn her formally or informally over to her suitor,
however, but they send her out into the forest, where, early in the
morning, before even the sun has risen, she conceals herself. It is the
young man's business to find this pearl of great price, or else he
cannot claim to be worthy of her and must forever relinquish all right
in her. This, it will be readily seen, is but another way of leaving the
whole matter in the hands of the girl, who may not seek the thickest
jungles for a hiding place. The day for the marriage has come. The
lovers climb two young trees which are adjacent one to the other and may
be easily bent together. An aged man comes, and presses the boughs of
the trees toward each other till the heads of the young couple touch.
They are then husband and wife. Feasting and dancing follow, and then
the pair settle down to life's realities in earnest. The husband gives
his father-in-law a present, a custom surviving from a day when wives
were purchased; and the father presents his daughter with a present as
dowry, which becomes her own personal property. The Aëta has but one
wife. If he should die after his children are grown, the family home is
continued; should the children be yet very young, the mother usually
takes them and returns to the home of her own people.

Among some of the negrito tribes there has been found an incipient
literature. The following are words of a love song which Montano found
among the Aëtas. It has thus been translated:

      "I leave, oh, my loved one,
       Be very prudent, thou loved one.
       Ah! I go very far, my loved one,
       While thou remainest in dwelling thine,
       Never the village will be forgotten by me."

In contrast with these pigmies of probably African origin, there may
come to our minds the ancient tradition of African Amazons. For the
poetical allusions among the Greek authors to such a community of female
warriors there was doubtless some basis in fact, and this even when all
due allowance is made for the imaginative element in the tale. According
to the tradition, these African Amazons, an army of powerful women,
under the leadership of their Queen Myrina, marched against the Gorgons
and Atlantes and subdued them, and at last marched through Egypt and
Arabia and founded their capital on Lake Tritonis, where they were
finally annihilated by Hercules. The truth in these Amazon stories lies
doubtless in the fact that it is not an unknown custom for African
women, strong of body and brave of spirit, to enlist as soldiers in
companies or armies, commanded by officers of their own sex, and to
become very powerful in regulating the life of some communities.

Among the Dahomeys, women captives are often enrolled in the king's
army of "amazons." These are said to have a perfect passion for
fighting. They are bound to perpetual celibacy and chastity, under the
penalty of death. They are described as famous in battle, but their
chief utility is to prevent rebellion among the male soldiers. They have
separate organizations and are commanded by officers of their own sex,
and are most loyal to their king.

The world has long known of the Hottentots of South Africa. Their women
are taller and larger than those of the neighboring Bushmen, who are the
South African pigmies. Among these Hottentots woman often occupies a
place of considerable power; this is notably in the home, where she
reigns supreme. The husband may lord it over her outside of the house,
and often does, making almost a slave of his spouse; but when he enters
the house, he abdicates his authority. Without her permission, the
husband cannot take a bit of meat or a drop of milk. If he attempts to
infringe the law, the neighbors take up his case; he is amerced, often
to the extent of several sheep or cows, and these become the absolute
property of the wife. Should the chief of a tribe die, his wife takes
his place and authority and becomes "queen of the tribe," unless her son
is of age. And it is said that some of these women chieftains have left
for themselves names of honor in the traditions of their people.

It is a custom among the Hottentots to call their children by the names
of their parents, but by a sort of exchange, the girls assuming that of
their father, the boys that of the mother--a syllabic suffix indicating
the sex. To the oldest daughter are accorded especial authority and
honor; for it is she who milks the cows and, in a way, has them under
her control. Requests for milk must be made to her, reminding us of the
Aryan _wood-daughter_, who was once the milkmaid.

No extraordinary claims can be made for the beauty of the Hottentot
women. They have the knotty hair that characterizes the negro races, and
the flat noses, thick lips, and prominent cheekbones. While their faces
have no especial beauty, their figures, when maidens, are regular, plump
and attractive; but after the first years of womanhood are past, the
roundness of youth yields to the wrinkles of age, and all attractiveness
disappears, the woman either becoming withered and haggard, or
manifesting that peculiar development said to be so much admired among
the Hottentots, known to science as steatopyga. The famous "Hottentot
Venus" furnishes an example of this type of _beauty_. The back is given
a most remarkable contour by the enormous growth of fat about the hips,
which, though hard and firm, shakes like jelly when our Venus walks.
This extraordinary development has to the Hottentot lady not only an
æsthetic but also a utilitarian value, in case she cares to support her
infant upon it.

The less cultured a people, the greater the place given by it to
ornament. Among many uncivilized peoples the men as well as the women
exhibit a fondness for decoration; but ornamentation is preëminently the
weakness of women. Although the savage lady regards clothing as
altogether an unnecessary burden, she must have her ornaments. One of
the methods of ornamentation is that of tattooing the body. Among some
tribes almost the whole body is covered with more or less artistic
designs, while others mark only parts of the body, as by rings around
the arms, or, as among the aboriginal New Zealand women, by puncture of
the lips. The use of shells, metal rings, bands, beads, feathers, mats,
and so on _ad infinitum_, is one of the marks of savagery.

A traveller has given the following description of a Kaffir's marriage
ceremony witnessed by him. The occasion was the marriage of a Kaffir
chief to his fourteenth wife, "a fat good-natured girl--obesity is at a
premium among African tribes--wrapped round and round with black glazed
calico, and decked from head to foot with flowers, beads, and feathers.
Once within the kraal, the ladies formed two lines, with the bride in
the centre, and struck up a lively air; whereupon the whole body of
armed Kaffirs rushed from all parts of the kraal, beating their shields
and uttering demonic yells, as they charged headlong at the smiling
girls, who joined with the stalwart warriors in cutting capers, and
singing lustily, until the whole kraal was one confused mass of demons,
roaring out hoarse war songs and shrill love ditties. After an hour
dancing ceased and _joila_ (Kaffir beer) was served around, while the
lovely bride stood in the midst of the ring alone, stared at by all and
staring in turn at all, until she brought her eyes to bear upon her
admiring lord. When advancing leisurely, she danced before him amid the
shouts of the bystanders, singing at the top of her voice and
brandishing a huge _carving-knife_, with which she scraped big drops of
perspiration from her heated head, produced by the violent exercise she
was performing."

Among African tribes, generally, the value of a woman is rated in terms
of the cow. While in India the cow is more sacred than the woman, in
Africa, a woman sometimes brings several cows in a trade. When a man
wishes a wife there is usually little trouble in obtaining her, either
by purchase, theft, or in some rather more sentimental manner. Among
some tribes female go-betweens are made use of, while genuine courtship
prevails among other tribes. The courtship, however, is seldom of long

The matter of marriage is more completely guarded among the tribes of
Africa and the Indo-Pacific than we might expect of the people of their
grade of culture. While tribes vary much in marriage customs, purity of
life is, as a rule, rigidly expected of married women, and most women
marry at an early age. Lewdness, however, is not generally regarded as
so great a crime as marital infidelity, which is often punished with
death. Betrothals are looked upon as much more sacred and binding than
they are among more cultivated peoples.

In Tahiti, so careful have been the natives in this matter of betrothal,
that the betrothed young lady was compelled to live upon a platform of
considerable elevation, built in her father's house. The parents or some
members of the family attended to her wants here, night and day, and she
never left her high abode without permission of her parents and
accompanied by them.

In the Yomba country courtship is carried on usually through female
rather than male relatives, and either sex may make the first advances
toward a minor. Among all uncivilized peoples, as indeed among many that
are advanced in civilization, the early marriage is one of the most
important elements in the backward condition of the people, if not
indeed the most serious cause of deterioration. Women are forced into
the arduous duties of motherhood at an age when they are neither
physically nor in any other sense prepared for such an obligation.
Children born of immature mothers can scarcely expect to be robust
either in body or mind.

The Kroomen, one of the native tribes of Liberia, hold marriage to be
the highest ambition of life. They will marry as many wives as they can
pay for, often leaving their homes in search of means whereby they may
accumulate wealth enough to buy another wife. Enjoying for a few months
the new relation, the ambitious husband goes off to seek again his
fortune, returns, buys another companion, the marriage is again
celebrated, and so the number of women who perform the drudgeries of
life increases. At about middle life, usually, the Krooman has
accumulated a sufficient fortune in the form of wives to enable him to
retire from active labor. He now settles down to live upon the labor of
his wives, who willingly support him. He is now known as a "big man,"
and enjoys not only the ease, but also the reputation and honor of one
who has come into possession of a well-earned retirement. Another
characteristic which marks woman's career among the lower races is the
fact of her early and rapid physical deterioration after marriage. This
is true not only of the women of Polynesia, but of the African tribes,
with which they have much in common. At the age when European and
American women are at the prime of their vigor and physical beauty,
these women have not only seen their best days, but are broken,
unsightly, and withered.

This deterioration is chiefly due to two causes; one is the uniform
early marriages among these races, and the other is the hard life which
is early thrust upon the woman. For she not only becomes the
childbearer, but the beast of burden, the farmer, too, it may be, and
the mechanic and the "general utility man."

It is true, especially where polygamy prevails, that there is a division
of labor, but the labor is divided among the women; the men do only the
lighter work. The several wives of the household take their servitude as
a matter of course, and usually, especially in Kaffir land, they are so
brought up that they regard a husband as degraded and effeminate if he
takes any part in the ordinary labors of domestic life. The women are,
generally, quite reconciled also to the polygamous relation, because a
husband is regarded as possessing dignity and respectability in
proportion as he is much or little married.

The less developed a race is, the less specialized is woman's sphere.
Among the barbarous and savage peoples woman is the "maid of all work."
She is weaver, potter, basketmaker, cook, agriculturist, water bearer,
beast of burden, everything. Men hunt and fish, eat and sleep. In
general, it may be said, that among the barbarous races there is a
greater relative disparity between the size and attractiveness of men
and women. This is doubtless to be accounted for by the fact that very
early the female is set to hard tasks of menial service and her body is
accordingly abused and stunted.

While the physical and social status of woman is one of acknowledged
inferiority, there are not wanting among the African tribes instances in
which woman exerts no small influence and exhibits no little power. This
we have noted in mentioning the tribes dominated by warlike women. It is
more particularly true of her influence within the precints of her
domestic life, as was seen in the case of the pigmy women of the
Andamese Islands. Mothers, and more especially mothers-in-law, exert
noteworthy power, but this is always by virtue of station rather than of
any inherent respect due to the sex itself. There are isolated examples
of a more active power exerted by woman.

As a rule, women of the inferior races have no part in the government of
their tribes. There are some exceptions, however. In the Sandwich
Islands, as is well-known, the hereditary right of rule might fall to a
woman as well as to a man, and there have been, in these islands, a
number of queens. Our own country took some part, as will be readily
remembered, in deposing the last of them from her throne.

Every student of what has come to be called "woman's sphere,"
especially among the uncultivated races, must be led to the conclusion
that the condition of the female sex, the sphere of her activity and
influence in any race, is one of the very best indexes of the
civilization of that people. The view of Havelock Ellis, in his _Man and
Woman_, is that it is the latter who is leading in the evolution of the
race, in the sense not only that the traits that more distinctively
belong to her are those that characterize the advance of society, but
that she registers more accurately the advances. "What is civilization?"
asked Emerson; and answers, "The power of good women."

Among the deplorable traits of women of uncivilized races is that of
infanticide. Among some of the Pacific islanders and in some parts of
Africa, the regular and systematic sacrifice of children is among the
most remarkable and cruel features of the social life of the people.
This is more particularly true of female infants.

War plays a very large part in the life of uncivilized races, and the
presence of women is a source of weakness rather than strength, since
usually they are not bearers of arms, and are among the most envied
prizes for which war is waged.

Ellis, in his _Polynesian Researches_, draws this gloomy picture of
unnatural motherhood among peoples of the Pacific islands: "In Tahiti,
human victims were frequently immolated. Yet the amount of all these and
other murders did not equal that of infanticide alone. No sense of
irresolution or horror appeared to exist in the bosoms of those parents,
who deliberately resolved on the deed before the child was born. They
often visited the dwellings of the foreigners, and spoke with perfect
complacency of their cruel purpose. On these occasions the missionaries
employed every inducement to dissuade them from executing their
intention, warning them in the name of the living God, urging them by
every consideration of maternal tenderness, and always offering to
provide the little stranger with a home, and the means of education. The
only answer they generally received was, that it was the custom of the
country; and the only result of their efforts was the distressing
conviction of the inefficacy of their humane endeavors. The murderous
parents often came to their houses almost before their hands were
cleansed from their children's blood, and spoke of the deed with worse
than brutal insensibility, or with vaunting satisfaction at the triumph
of their customs over the persuasions of their teachers." It is thought
that not less than two-thirds of all the children born were murdered by
their own parents.

"The first three infants," says Ellis, "were frequently killed; and in
the event of twins being born, both were rarely permitted to live. In
the largest families, more than two or three children were seldom
spared, while the numbers that were killed were incredible. The very
circumstance of their destroying, instead of nursing, their offspring
rendered their offspring more numerous than it would otherwise have
been. We have been acquainted with a number of parents, who, according
to their own confessions, or the united testimony of their friends and
neighbors, had inhumanly consigned to an untimely grave, four, or six,
or eight, or ten children, and some even a greater number."

But changes have taken place since the writing of these lines; it seems
certain that a generation ago nearly if not quite two-thirds of the
children were slain by their mothers, and few mothers were guiltless of
the blood of their own offspring. The explanation of the prevalence of
this species of massacre is readily discernible in the following
paragraph from Ellis's _Researches_: "During the whole of their lives
the females were subject to the most abasing degradation; and their sex
was often, at their birth, the cause of their destruction. If the
purpose of the unnatural parents had not been fully matured before, the
circumstance of its being a female child was often sufficient to fix
their determination on its death. Whenever we have asked them what could
induce them to make a distinction so invidious, they have generally
answered,--that the fisheries, the service of the temple, and especially
war, were the only purposes for which they thought it desirable to rear
children; that in these pursuits women were comparatively useless; and
therefore female children were frequently not suffered to live. Facts
fully confirm these statements."

Dense superstition, too, has sometimes played a part in this murder of
children. In Central Africa, for example, it is held with religious
scrupulosity that twin children should never be allowed to live. When
children are born with a deformity, they are despatched as a matter of
course. And yet, notwithstanding all these horrors, the instinct, even
of the most debased mothers, is toward the love and preservation of
their offspring. From the earliest days, this care for the infant, the
helpless, and the weak has been the most powerful counterpoise to
abnormal self-seeking. These two characteristics, self-giving and
self-seeking, are among the most potent factors in the development of
all the races of mankind.

The Filipino woman has lately had for us fresh interest. Indeed, the
women of the Philippine Islands are among the most interesting in the
world. In the mountains of Luzon and in the other out-of-the-way places
are the negritos, or little negroes, of whom we have written in an
earlier portion of this chapter. These little people are shoved away
into the mountain regions, where the resources of life are as meagre as
they can be if existence is to endure. In the lower parts of the
archipelago, which are more accessible to the coast, will be found the
descendants of an old Malayo-Polynesian race; these are characterized by
their primitive industrial life. A later immigration of the same stock
brought people to the island who have developed alphabets, metallurgic
arts carried on by the men, and weaving and needlework done by the
women. Closely following these, and because there were opportunities for
commerce, came the more cultivated races of Eastern Asia, Chinese,
Japanese, Siamese, and even Hindoos, to mingle their blood with these
more primitive stocks. In the twelfth century of our era, Mohammedanized
Malays took possession of the southern part of the archipelago. These
people are called Moros, or Moors. Leaving out the negritos, who are
only a little mixed with the other races, the other peoples we have
mentioned have mingled their blood with the modern population, the
Spanish and Portuguese, who have come in since the sixteenth century.
The commingling of blood has been favorable to the modern Filipinos, and
many regard their women as worthy of being admired for their grace and
beauty. Notwithstanding their great variety of racial stocks, the women
of Manila have a certain common physiognomy, the Malay type being the
strongest element in their composite face. Features that mark the yellow
races are also quite prominent in many of the Filipino women.

As in other races of the same grade of culture, the marriage tie is a
part of the social system. Clan relationship, by whatever name it may be
called, governs the selection of a spouse. The bond has been a very
loose one in the islands, and it has not been an uncommon thing for men
and women to break up their relationships unceremoniously and form new
ones. Among a people composed of so many elements, wide differences may
be expected in the matter of marriage. The Igorrotes, or wild
inhabitants of Luzon, though primitive in development, are monogamous.
The clan system is broken down and a young man is allowed to take the
woman of his choice with little ceremony, and they become man and wife.
Many astonishing customs are, of course, found among these people. For
example, Alfred Marche calls attention to a form of voluntary slavery.

It is that of a young man who wants to marry. In many places, he is
bound to work for two or three years as a simple domestic in the house
of the father of his fiancée. During this time he is fed, but never
takes his place at the same table with the young girl. He is allowed to
walk with her and to sleep under the same roof, but he may not eat with

When the young man has passed this stage, he must, before the ceremony
of marriage, build a house and make certain indispensable purchases. He
must also pay all the expenses of the marriage. The affair does not
always terminate as regularly as one could wish. The father sometimes
seeks a quarrel with his future son-in-law at the moment when the
ceremony is about to take place, and admits a new aspirant for his
daughter's hand. The newcomer undertakes to work for him without any
scruples. The house, which is of little value, is all that remains to
the late fiancé as a consolation.

De Morgan, who travelled in the Philippine Islands for the Spanish
government and published his account, in the City of Mexico, in 1609,
gives an account of the native women three hundred years ago.

The women of Luzon are described as wearing sleeves of all colors which
they call _baros_. White cotton stuffs were wrapped or folded from the
waist downward to the feet, and over these sometimes was a thin cloak
folded gracefully. The people of the highest rank substituted silk or
fine native fabrics for the cotton, and added gold chains, bracelets,
and earrings, and rings on their fingers. Their hair, which is
exceedingly black, was tied gracefully in a knot on the back of their
head. Many of these characteristics noted by De Morgan may still be seen
among the women of the islands. The closer contact of the Philippine
Islands with the mainland and more particularly with western commerce
and civilization is destined to work many and possibly rapid changes
even in the customs and ideals of the women whose native conservatism
has held them for many centuries very much in the same groove of life
and daily routine.

The women of Luzon have always been cleanly and elegant in their
persons, and they are attractive and graceful. Much time is spent on
their hair, which is frequently washed and anointed with the oil of
sesame prepared with musk. They spend much time on their teeth, and
formerly began at a tender age to file them into the shape demanded by
the customs of the country. They also dyed their teeth black. Like the
Moorish women, the Filipinos are fond of the bath; they frequent the
rivers and creeks and bathe throughout the entire year, the genial
climate allowing such pastime.

As in other countries below the grade of civilization, the industrial
employments of the Philippines are largely for the women. To them is the
task of spinning and weaving the exceptionally delicate fabric of the
archipelago into the finest cloth. They also are the food purveyors,
assisting in gathering food material, pounding it in their simple mills
and serving it. In their cuisine are such vegetables as sweet potatoes,
beans, plantains, guavas, pineapples, and oranges. The women rear fowls
and domestic animals, and take upon themselves the entire care of the
family and household.

While the women of all countries have always been the natural and most
persistent conservers of ancient ideals and racial customs, yet it may
be predicted that the throwing of the Filipino tribes into contact with
New World politics, trade, and customs will, at length, bring about
marked social changes. These must eventually give to the women of the
Filipinos a wider outlook upon life and a new power to carry its




      SUBJECT                              ARTIST

      Rebekah and Isaac's agent, Eliezer  _A. Cabanel_

      _Ghawazi                            C. L. Muller_

      Interior court of a zenana          _From an Indo-Persian painting_

      An Oriental woman's pastime         _Frederick A. Bridgman_

      The mutes                           _P. L. Bouchard_

      Woman's taste in Japan              _Charles E. Fripp_

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