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´╗┐Title: Female Suffrage: a Letter to the Christian Women of America
Author: Cooper, Susan Fenimore, 1813-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Female Suffrage: a Letter to the Christian Women of America" ***

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Susan Fenimore Cooper

(This e-text has been prepared from the original two-part magazine
article, "Female Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America,"
by Susan Fenimore Cooper, which appeared in Harper's New Weekly
Magazine, Vol. XLI (June-November, 1870), pp. 438-446, 594-600. The
author is identified only in the Table of Contents, p. v, where she is
listed as "Susan F. Cooper."

Transcribed by Hugh C. MacDougall jfcooper@wpe.com

{Because "vanilla text" does not permit of accents or italics, accents
have been ignored, and both all-capital and italicized words
transcribed as ALL CAPITALS. Paragraphs are separated by a blank line,
but not indented. Footnotes by Susan Fenimore Cooper are inserted as
paragraphs (duly identified) as indicated by her asterisks. All
insertions by the transcriber are enclosed in {brackets}. For readers
wishing to know the exact location of specific passages, the page
breaks from Harper's are identified by a blank line at the end of each
page, followed by the original page number at the beginning of the next.

{A Brief Introduction to Susan Fenimore Cooper's article:

{The question of "female suffrage" has long been resolved in the United
States, and--though sometimes more recently--in other democratic
societies as well. For most people, certainly in the so-called Western
world, the right of women to vote on a basis of equality with men seems
obvious. A century ago this was not the case, even in America, and it
required a long, arduous, and sometimes painful struggle before the
Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on
August 18, 1920.

an article arguing AGAINST the right of women to vote--an article
written by a woman?

{There are two reasons for doing so. The first is that Susan Fenimore
Cooper (1813-1894) was no ordinary woman. She was educated in Europe
and extremely well read; she was the daughter and literary assistant of
James Fenimore Cooper, America's first internationally recognized
novelist; and she was a naturalist and essayist of great talent whose
"nature diary" of her home village at Cooperstown, published as "Rural
Hours" in 1850, has become a classic of early American environmental

{Yet Susan Fenimore Cooper argued eloquently, bringing to her task not
only her deep religious feelings but also her very considerable
knowledge of world history and of American society, that women should
not be given the vote! Hers was not a simple defense of male dominion;
her case is combined with equally eloquent arguments in favor of higher
education for women, and for equal wages for equal work. "Female
Suffrage," is thus of considerable biographic importance, throwing
important light on her views of God, of society, and of American

{At the same time, "Female Suffrage" demonstrates that no social
argument--however popular or politically correct today--can be
considered as self-evident. Those who favor full legal and social
equality of the sexes at the ballot box and elsewhere (as I believe I
do), should be prepared to examine and answer Susan Fenimore Cooper's
arguments to the contrary. Many of those arguments are still heard
daily in the press and on TV talk shows--not indeed to end women's
right to vote, but as arguments against further steps towards gender
equality. Unlike many modern commentators, Susan Fenimore Cooper
examines these arguments in detail, both as to their roots and their
possible effects, rather than expressing them as simplistic
sound-bites. She asks her readers to examine whether gender equality is
compatible with Christian teachings; whether universal suffrage can
ever resolve social problems; whether the "political" sphere is as
significant to human life as politicians believe. One need not agree
with her answers, but one can only be grateful that she forces us to
ask questions.

{Hugh C. MacDougall, Secretary, James Fenimore Cooper Society--August



Part I.

{Publisher's Note} [NOTE.--We have printed this Letter, which will be
continued in our next Number, not as an expression of our own views,
but simply as the plea of an earnest and thoughtful Christian woman
addressed to her fellow-countrywomen.--EDITOR OF HARPER.]

The natural position of woman is clearly, to a limited degree, a
subordinate one. Such it has always been throughout the world, in all
ages, and in many widely different conditions of society. There are
three conclusive reasons why we should expect it to continue so for the

FIRST. Woman in natural physical strength is so greatly inferior to man
that she is entirely in his power, quite incapable of self-defense,
trusting to his generosity for protection. In savage life this great
superiority of physical strength makes man the absolute master, woman
the abject slave. And, although every successive step in civilisation
lessens the distance between the sexes, and renders the situation of
woman safer and easier, still, in no state of society, however highly
cultivated, has perfect equality yet existed. This difference in
physical strength must, in itself, always prevent such perfect
equality, since woman is compelled every day of her life to appeal to
man for protection, and for support.

SECONDLY. Woman is also, though in a very much less degree, inferior to
man in intellect. The difference in this particular may very probably
be only a consequence of greater physical strength, giving greater
power of endurance and increase of force to the intellectual faculty
connected with it. In many cases, as between the best individual minds
of both sexes, the difference is no doubt very slight. There have been
women of a very high order of genius; there have been very many women
of great talent; and, as regards what is commonly called cleverness, a
general quickness and clearness of mind within limited bounds, the
number of clever women may possibly have been even larger than that of
clever men. But, taking the one infallible rule for our guide, judging
of the tree by its fruits, we are met by the fact that the greatest
achievements of the race in every field of intellectual culture have
been the work of man. It is true that the advantages of intellectual
education have been, until recently, very generally on the side of man;
had those advantages been always equal, women would no doubt have had
much more of success to record. But this same fact of inferiority of
education becomes in itself one proof of the existence of a certain
degree of mental inequality. What has been the cause of this
inferiority of education? Why has not woman educated herself in past
ages, as man has done? Is it the opposition of man, and the power which
physical strength gives him, which have been the impediments? Had these
been the only obstacles, and had that general and entire equality of
intellect existed between the sexes, which we find proclaimed to-day by
some writers, and by many talkers, the genius of women would have
opened a road through these and all other difficulties much more
frequently than it has yet done. At this very hour, instead of
defending the intellect of women, just half our writing and talking
would be required to defend the intellect of men. But, so long as
woman, as a sex, has not provided for herself the same advanced
intellectual education to the same extent as men, and so long as
inferiority of intellect in man has never yet in thousands of years
been gravely discussed, while the inferiority of intellect in woman has
been during the same period generally admitted, we are compelled to
believe there is some foundation for this last opinion. The extent of
this difference, the interval that exists between the sexes, the
precise degree of inferiority on the part of women, will probably never
be satisfactorily proved.

Believing then in the greater physical powers of man, and in his
superiority, to a limited extent, in intellect also, as two sufficient
reasons for the natural subordination of woman as a sex, we have yet a
third reason for this subordination. Christianity can be proved to be
the safest and highest ally of man's nature, physical, moral, and
intellectual, that the world has yet known. It protects his physical
nature at every point by plain, stringent rules of general temperance
and moderation. To his moral nature it gives the pervading strength of
healthful purity. To his intellectual nature, while on one hand it
enjoins full development and vigorous action, holding out to the spirit
the highest conceivable aspirations, on the other it teaches the
invaluable lessons of a wise humility. This grand and holy religion,
whose whole action is healthful, whose restraints are all
blessings--this gracious religion, whose chief precepts are the love of
God and the love of man--this same Christianity confirms the
subordinate position of woman, by allotting to man the headship in
plain language and by positive precept. No system of philosophy has
ever yet worked out in behalf of woman the practical results for good
which Christianity has conferred on her. Christianity has raised woman
from slavery and made her the thoughtful companion of man; finds her
the mere toy, or the victim of his passions, and it places her by his
side, his truest friend, his most faithful counselor, his helpmeet in
every worthy and honorable task. It protects her far more effectually
than any other system. It cultivates, strengthens, elevates, purifies
all her highest endowments, and holds out to her aspirations the most
sublime for that future state of existence, where precious rewards are
promised to every faithful discharge of duty, even the most humble.
But, while conferring on her these priceless blessings, it also enjoins
the submission of the wife to the husband, and allots a subordinate
position to the whole sex while here on earth. No woman calling herself
a Christian, acknowledging her duties as such, can, therefore,
consistently deny the obligation of a limited subordination laid upon
her by her Lord and His Church.

From these three chief considerations--the great inferiority of
physical strength, a very much less and undefined degree of inferiority
in intellect, and the salutary teachings of the Christian faith--it
follows that, to a limited degree, varying with circumstances, and
always to be marked out by sound reason and good feeling, the
subordination of woman, as a sex, is inevitable.

This subordination once established, a difference of position, and a
consequent difference of duties, follow as a matter of course. There
must, of necessity, in such a state of things, be certain duties
inalienably connected with the position of man, others inalienably
connected with the position of woman. For the one to assume the duties
of the other becomes, first, an act of desertion, next, an act of
usurpation. For the man to discharge worthily the duties of his own
position becomes his highest merit. For the woman to discharge worthily
the duties of her own position becomes her highest merit. To be noble
the man must be manly. To be noble the woman must be womanly.
Independently of the virtues required equally of both sexes, such as
truth, uprightness, candor, fidelity, honor, we look in man for
somewhat more of wisdom, of vigor, of courage, from natural endowment,
combined with enlarged action and experience. In woman we look more
especially for greater purity, modesty, patience, grace, sweetness,
tenderness, refinement, as the consequences of a finer organization, in
a protected and sheltered position. That state of society will always
be the most rational, the soundest, the happiest, where each sex
conscientiously discharges its own duties, without intruding on those
of the other.

It is true that the world has often seen individual women called by the
manifest will of Providence to positions of the highest authority, to
the thrones of rulers and sovereigns. And many of these women have
discharged those duties with great intellectual ability and great
success. It is rather the fashion now among literary men to depreciate
Queen Elizabeth and her government. But it is clear that, whatever may
have been her errors--and no doubt they were grave--she still appears
in the roll of history as one of the best sovereigns not only of her
own house, but of all the dynasties of England. Certainly she was in
every way a better and a more successful ruler than her own father or
her own brother-in-law, and better also than the Stuarts who filled her
throne at a later day. Catherine of Russia, though most unworthy as a
woman, had a force of intellectual ability quite beyond dispute, and
which made itself felt in every department of her government. Isabella
I. of Spain gave proof of legislative and executive ability of the very
highest order; she was not only one of the purest and noblest, but
also, considering the age to which she belonged, and the obstacles in
her way, one of the most skillful sovereigns the world has ever seen.
Her nature was full of clear intelligence, with the highest moral and
physical courage. She was in every way a better ruler than her own
husband, to whom she proved nevertheless an admirable wife, acting
independently only where clear principle was at stake. The two greet
errors of her reign, the introduction of the Inquisition and the
banishment of the Jews, must be charged to the confessor rather than to
the Queen, and these were errors in which her husband was as closely
involved as herself. On the other hand, some of the best reforms of her
reign originated in her own mind, and were practically carried out
under her own close personal supervision. Many other skillful female
rulers might be named. And it is not only in civilized life and in
Christendom that woman has shown herself wise in governing; even among
the wildest savage tribes they have appeared, occasionally, as leaders
and rulers. This is a singular fact. It may be proved from the history
of this continent, and not only from the early records of Mexico and
Cuba and Hayti, but also from the reports of the earliest navigators on
our own coast, who here and there make mention incidentally of this or
that female chief or sachem. But a fact far more impressive and truly
elevating to the sex also appears on authority entirely indisputable.
While women are enjoined by the Word of God to refrain from public
teaching in the Church, there have been individual women included among
the Prophets, speaking under the direct influence of the Most Holy
Spirit of God, the highest dignity to which human nature can attain.
But all these individual cases, whether political or religious, have
been exceptional. The lesson to be learned from them is plain. We
gather naturally from these facts, what may be learned also from other
sources, that, while the positions of the two sexes are as such
distinct, the one a degree superior, the other a degree inferior, the
difference between them is limited--it is not impassable in individual
cases. The two make up but one species, one body politic and religious.
There are many senses besides marriage in which the two are one. It is
the right hand and the left, both belonging to one body, moved by
common feeling, guided by common reason. The left hand may at times be
required to do the work of the right, the right to act as the left.
Even in this world there are occasions when the last are first, the
first last, without disturbing the general order of things. These
exceptional cases temper the general rule, but they can not abrogate
that rule as regards the entire sex. Man learns from them not to
exaggerate his superiority--a lesson very often needed. And woman
learns from them to connect self-respect and dignity with true
humility, and never, under any circumstances, to sink into the mere
tool and toy of man--a lesson equally important.

Such until the present day has been the general teaching and practice
of Christendom, where, under a mild form, and to a limited point, the
subordination of woman has been a fact clearly established. But this
teaching we are now called upon to forget, this practice we are
required to abandon. We have arrived at the days foretold by the
Prophet, when "knowledge shall be increased, and many shall run to and
fro." The intellectual progress of the race during the last half
century has indeed been great.  But admiration is not the only feeling
of the thoughtful mind when observing this striking advance in
intellectual acquirement. We see that man has not yet fully mastered
the knowledge he has acquired. He runs to and fro. He rushes from one
extreme to the other. How many chapters of modern history, both
political and religious, are full of the records of this mental
vacillation of our race, of this illogical and absurd tendency to pass
from one extreme to the point farthest from it!

An adventurous party among us, weary of the old paths, is now eagerly
proclaiming theories and doctrines entirely novel on this important
subject. The EMANCIPATION OF WOMAN is the name chosen by its advocates
for this movement. They reject the idea of all subordination, even in
the mildest form, with utter scorn. They claim for woman absolute
social and political equality with man. And they seek to secure these
points by conferring on the whole sex the right of the elective
franchise, female suffrage being the first step in the unwieldy
revolutions they aim at bringing about. These views are no longer
confined to a small sect. They challenge our attention at every turn.
We meet them in society; we read them in the public prints; we hear of
them in grave legislative assemblies, in the Congress of the Republic,
in the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain. The time has come when it
is necessary that all sensible and conscientious men and women should
make up their minds clearly on a subject bearing upon the future
condition of the entire race.

There is generally more than one influence at work in all public
movements of importance. The motive power in such cases is very seldom
simple. So it has been with the question of female suffrage. The abuses
inflicted on woman by legislation, the want of sufficient protection
for her interests when confided to man, are generally asserted by the
advocates of female suffrage as the chief motives for a change in the
laws which withhold from her the power of voting. But it is also
considered by the friend of the new movement that to withhold the
suffrage from half the race is an inconsistency in American politics;
that suffrage is an inalienable right, universal in its application;
that women are consequently deprived of a great natural right when
denied the power of voting. A third reason is also given for this
proposed change in our political constitution. It is asserted that the
entire sex would be greatly elevated in intellectual and moral dignity
by such a course; and that the effect on the whole race would therefore
be most advantageous, as the increased influence of woman in public
affairs would purify politics, and elevate the whole tone of political
life. Here we have the reason for this movement as advanced by its
advocates. These are the points on which they lay the most stress:

FIRST. The abuse of legislative power in man, by oppressing the sex.

SECONDLY. The inalienable natural right of woman to vote; and
imperatively so in a country where universal suffrage is a great
political principle.

THIRDLY. The elevation of the sex, and the purification of politics
through their influence.

Let us consider each of these points separately.


In some countries of Europe much of wrong is still done to woman, at
the present day, by old laws owing their existence to a past state of
things, and which have not yet been repealed or modified to suit
existing circumstances. But we are writing now to American women, and,
instead of the evils existing in the other hemisphere, we are looking
at a very different state of society. Let us confine ourselves,
therefore, to the subject as it affects ourselves.

To go into all the details which might be drawn together from the
statute books of the different States of the Union bearing on this
point, and to do them full justice, would require volumes. Such a
course is not necessary. The question can be decided with truth and
justice on general principles--on generally admitted facts. We admit,
then, that in some States--perhaps in all--there may be laws in which
the natural and acquired rights of woman have not been fairly
considered; that in some cases she has needed more legal protection and
more privileges than she has yet received. But while this admission is
made, attention is at the same time demanded for a fact inseparably
connected with it; namely, the marked and generous liberality which
American men have thus far shown in the considerate care and protection
they have, as a general rule, given to the interests of women. In no
country, whether of ancient or modern times, have women had less to
complain of in their treatment by man than in America. This is no
rhetorical declamation; it is the simple statement of an undeniable
fact. It is a matter of social history. Since the days of early
colonial life to the present hour--or, in other words, during the last
two hundred and fifty years--such has been the general course of things
in this country. The hardest tasks have been taken by man, and a
generous tenderness has been shown to women in many of the details of
social life, pervading all classes of society, to a degree beyond what
is customary even in the most civilized countries of Europe. Taking
these two facts together--that certain abuses still exist, that certain
laws and regulations need changing and that, as a general rule,
American women have thus far been treated by their countrymen with
especial consideration, in a legal and in a social sense--the inference
becomes perfectly plain. A formidable and very dangerous social
revolution is not needed to correct remaining abuses. Any revolution
aiming at upsetting the existing relations of the sexes--relations
going back to the earliest records and traditions of the race--can not
be called less than formidable and dangerous. Let women make full use
of the influences already at their command, and all really needed
changes may be effected by means both sure and safe--means already
thoroughly tried. Let them use all the good sense, all the information,
all the eloquence, and, if they please, all the wit, at their command
when talking over these abuses in society. Let them state their views,
their needs, their demands, in conscientiously written papers. Let them
appeal for aid to the best, the wisest, the most respected men of the
country, and the result is certain. Choose any one real, existing abuse
as a test of the honesty and the liberality of American men toward the
women of the country, and we all know before-hand what shall be the

{FOOTNOTE by SFC} [1] There is an injustice in the present law of
guardianship in the State of New York, which may be named as one of
those abuses which need reformation. A woman can not now, in the State
of New York, appoint a guardian for her child, even though its father
be dead. The authority for appointing a guardian otherwise than by the
courts is derived from the Revised statutes, p. 1, title 3, chapter 8,
part 2, and that passage gives the power to the father only. The mother
is not named. It has been decided in the courts that a mother can not
make this appointment--12 Howard's Practical Reports, 532. This is
certainly very unjust and very unwise. But let any dozen women of
respectability take the matter in hand, and, by the means already at
their command, from their own chimney-corners, they can readily procure
the insertion of the needful clause. And so with any other real abuse.
Men are now ready to listen, and ready to act, when additional
legislation is prudently and sensibly asked for by their wives and
mothers. How they may act when women stand before them, armed
CAP-A-PIE, and prepared to demand legislation at the point of the
bayonet, can not yet be known. {END FOOTNOTE}

If husbands, fathers, brothers, are ready any day to shed their heart's
blood for our personal defense in the hour of peril, we may feel
perfectly assured that they will also protect us, when appealed to, by
legislation. When they lay down their arms and refuse to fight for us,
it will then be time to ask them to give up legislation also. But until
that evil hour arrives let men make the laws, and let women be content
to fill worthily, to the very best of their abilities, the noble
position which the Heavenly Father has already marked out for them.
There is work to be done in that position reaching much higher, going
much farther, and penetrating far deeper, than any mere temporary
legislation can do. Of that work we shall speak more fully a moment


This second proposition of the advocates of female suffrage is of a
general character. It does not point to particular abuses, it claims
the right of woman to vote as one which she should demand, whether
practically needed or not. It is asserted that to disqualify half the
race from voting is an abuse entirely inconsistent with the first
principles of American politics. The answer to this is plain. The
elective franchise is not an end; it is only a means. A good government
is indeed an inalienable right. Just so far as the elective franchise
will conduce to this great end, to that point it becomes also a right,
but no farther. A male suffrage wisely free, including all capable of
justly appreciating its importance, and honestly discharging its
responsibilities, becomes a great advantage to a nation. But universal
suffrage, pushed to its extreme limits, including all men, all women,
all minors beyond the years of childhood, would inevitably be fraught
with evil. There have been limits to the suffrage of the freest
nations. Such limits have been found necessary by all past political
experience. In this country, at the present hour, there are
restrictions upon the suffrage in every State. Those restrictions vary
in character. They are either national, relating to color, political,
mental, educational, connected with a property qualification, connected
with sex, connected with minority of years, or they are moral in their

(FOOTNOTE by SFC} [2] In connection with this point of moral
qualification we venture to ask a question. Why not enlarge the
criminal classes from whom the suffrage is now withheld? Why not
exclude every man convicted of any degrading legal crime, even petty
larceny? And why not exclude from the suffrage all habitual drunkards
judicially so declared? These are changes which would do vastly more of
good than admitting women to vote. {END FOOTNOTE}

This restriction connected with sex is, in fact, but one of many other
restrictions, considered more or less necessary even in a democracy.
Manhood suffrage is a very favorite term of the day. But, taken in the
plain meaning of those words, such fullness of suffrage has at the
present hour no actual existence in any independent nation, or in any
extensive province. It does not exist, as we have just seen, even among
the men of America. And, owing to the conditions of human life, we may
well believe that unrestricted fullness of manhood suffrage never can
exist in any great nation for any length of time. In those States of
the American Union which approach nearest to a practical manhood
suffrage, unnaturalized foreigners, minors, and certain classes of
criminals, are excluded from voting. And why so? What is the cause of
this exclusion? Here are men by tens of thousands--men of widely
different classes and conditions--peremptorily deprived of a privilege
asserted to be a positive inalienable right universal in its
application. There is manifestly some reason for this apparently
contradictory state of things. We know that reason to be the good of
society. It is for the good of society that the suffrage is withheld
from those classes of men. A certain fitness for the right use of the
suffrage is therefore deemed necessary before granting it. A criminal,
an unnaturalized foreigner, a minor, have not that fitness;
consequently the suffrage is withheld from them. The worthy use of the
vote is, then, a qualification not yet entirely overlooked by our
legislators. The State has had, thus far, no scruples in withholding
the suffrage even from men, whenever it has believed that the grant
would prove injurious to the nation.

Here we have the whole question clearly defined. The good of society is
the true object of all human government. To this principle suffrage
itself is subordinate. It can never be more than a means looking to the
attainment of good government, and not necessarily its corner-stone.
Just so far is it wise and right. Move one step beyond that point, and
instead of a benefit the suffrage may become a cruel injury. The
governing power of our own country--the most free of all great
nations--practically proclaims that it has no right to bestow the
suffrage wherever its effects are likely to become injurious to the
whole nation, by allotting different restrictions to the suffrage in
every State of the Union. The right of suffrage is, therefore, most
clearly not an absolutely inalienable right universal in its
application. It has its limits. These limits are marked out by plain
justice and common-sense. Women have thus far been excluded from the
suffrage precisely on the same principles--from the conviction that to
grant them this particular privilege would, in different ways, and
especially by withdrawing them from higher and more urgent duties, and
allotting to them other duties for which they are not so well fitted,
become injurious to the nation, and, we add, ultimately injurious to
themselves, also, as part of the nation. If it can be proved that this
conviction is sound and just, founded on truth, the assumed inalienable
right of suffrage, of which we have been hearing so much lately,
vanishes into the "baseless fabric of a vision." If the right were
indeed inalienable, it should be granted, without regard to
consequences, as an act of abstract justice. But, happily for us, none
but the very wildest theorists are prepared to take this view of the
question of suffrage. The advocates of female suffrage must, therefore,
abandon the claim of inalienable right. Such a claim can not logically
be maintained for one moment in the face of existing facts. We proceed
to the third point.

THE WHOLE RACE. Such, we are told, must be the inevitable results of
what is called the emancipation of woman, the entire independence of
woman through the suffrage.

Here we find ourselves in a peculiar position. While considering the
previous points of this question we have been guided by positive facts,
clearly indisputable in their character. Actual, practical experience,
with the manifold teachings at her command, has come to our aid. But we
are now called upon, by the advocates of this novel doctrine, to change
our course entirely. We are under orders to sail out into unknown seas,
beneath skies unfamiliar, with small light from the stars, without
chart, without pilot, the port to which we are bound being one as yet
unvisited by mortal man--or woman! Heavy mist, and dark cloud, and
threatening storm appear to us brooding over that doubtful sea. But
something of prophetic vision is required of us. We are told that all
perils which seem to threaten the first stages of our course are
entirely illusive--that they will vanish as we approach--that we shall
soon arrive in halcyon waters, and regions where wisdom, peace, and
purity reign supreme. If we cautiously inquire after some assurance of
such results, we are told that to those sailing under the flag of
progress triumph is inevitable, failure is impossible; and that many of
the direst evils hitherto known on earth must vanish at the touch of
the talisman in the hand of woman--and that talisman is the vote.

Now, to speak frankly--and being as yet untrammeled by political
aspirations, we fearlessly do so--as regards this flag of progress, we
know it to be a very popular bit of bunting; but to the eye of
common-sense it is grievously lacking in consistency. The flag of our
country means something positive. We all love it; we all honor it. It
represents to us the grand ideas by which the nation lives. It is the
symbol of constitutional government, of law and order, of union, of a
liberty which is not license. It is to us the symbol of all that may be
great and good and noble in the Christian republic. But this vaunted
flag of progress, so alluring to many restless minds, is vague in its
colors, unstable, too often illusive, in web and woof. Many of its most
prominent standard-bearers are clad in the motley garb of theorists.
Their flag may be seen wandering to and fro, hither and thither, up and
down, swayed by every breath of popular caprice; so it move to the mere
cry of "Progress!" its followers are content. To-day, in the hands of
the skeptical philosopher, it assaults the heavens. Tomorrow it may:
float over the mire of Mormonism, or depths still more vile. It was
under the flag of progress that, in the legislative halls of France,
the name of the Holy Lord God of Hosts, "who inhabiteth eternity," was
legally blasphemed. It was under the flag of progress that, on the 10th
of November, 1793, Therese Momoro, Goddess of Reason, and wife of the
printer Momoro, was borne in triumph, by throngs of worshipers, through
the streets of Paris, and enthroned in the house of God.

Beyond all doubt, there is now, as there ever has been, an onward
progress toward truth on earth. But that true progress is seldom rapid,
excepting perhaps in the final stages of some particular movement. It
is, indeed, often so slow, so gradual, as to be imperceptible at the
moment to common observation. It is often silent, wonderful,
mysterious, sublime. It is the grand movement toward the Divine Will,
working out all things for eventual good. In looking back, there are
for every generation way-marks by which the course of that progress may
be traced. In looking forward no mortal eye can foresee its immediate
course. The ultimate end we know, but the next step we can not
foretell. The mere temporary cry of progress from human lips has often
been raised in direct opposition to the true course of that grand,
mysterious movement. It is like the roar of the rapids in the midst of
the majestic stream, which, in the end, shall yield their own foaming
waters to the calm current moving onward to the sea. We ask, then, for
something higher, safer, more sure, to guide us than the mere popular
cry of "Progress!" We dare not blindly follow that cry, nor yield
thoughtless allegiance to every flag it upholds.

Then, again, as regards that talisman, the vote, we have but one answer
to make. We do not believe in magic. We have a very firm and
unchangeable faith in free institutions, founded on just principles. We
entirely believe that a republican form of government in a Christian
country may be the highest, the noblest, and the happiest that the
world has yet seen. Still, we do not believe in magic. And we do not
believe in idolatry. We Americans are just as much given to idolatry as
any other people. Our idols may differ from those of other nations; but
they are, none the less, still idols. And it strikes the writer that
the ballot-box is rapidly becoming an object of idolatry with us. Is it
not so? From the vote alone we expect all things good. From the vote
alone we expect protection against all things evil. Of the vote
Americans can never have too much--of the vote they can never have
enough. The vote is expected by its very touch, suddenly and
instantaneously, to produce miraculous changes; it is expected to make
the foolish wise, the ignorant knowing, the weak strong, the fraudulent
honest. It is expected to turn dross into gold. It is held to be the
great educator, not only as regards races, and under the influence of
time, which is in a measure true, but as regards individuals and
classes of men, and that in the twinkling of an eye, with magical
rapidity. Were this theory practically sound, the vote would really
prove a talisman. In that case we should give ourselves no rest until
the vote were instantly placed in the hands of every Chinaman landing
in California, and of every Indian roving over the plains. But, in
opposition to this theory, what is the testimony of positive facts
known to us all? Are all voters wise? Are all voters honest? Are all
voters enlightened? Are all voters true to their high responsibilities?
Are all voters faithful servants of their country? Is it entirely true
that the vote has necessarily and really these inherent magical powers
of rapid education for individuals and for classes of men, fitting
them, in default of other qualifications, for the high responsibilities
of suffrage? Alas! we know only too well that when a man is not already
honest and just and wise and enlightened, the vote he holds can not
make him so. We know that if he is dishonest, he will sell his vote; if
he is dull and ignorant, he is misled, for selfish purposes of their
own, by designing men. As regards man, at least, the vote can be too
easily proved to be no talisman. It is very clear that for man the
ballot-box needs to be closely guarded on one side by common-sense, on
the other by honesty. A man must be endowed with a certain amount of
education and of principle, before he receives the vote, to fit him for
a worthy use of it. And if the vote be really no infallible talisman
for man, why should we expect it to work magical wonders in the hands
of woman?

But let us drop the play of metaphor, appropriate though it be when
facing the visions of political theorists. Let us look earnestly and
clearly at the positive facts before us. We are gravely told that to
grant the suffrage to woman would be a step inevitably beneficial and
elevating to the whole sex, and, through their influence, to the entire
race, and that, on this ground alone, the proposed change in the
constitution should be made. Here, so far at least as the concluding
proposition goes, we must all agree. If it can be clearly proved that
this particular change in our institutions is one so fraught with
blessings, we are bound to make it at every cost. The true elevation of
the whole race: that is what we are all longing for, praying for. And
is it indeed true that this grand work can effectually be brought about
by the one step we are now urged to take? What says actual experience
on this point? The whole history of mankind shows clearly that, as yet,
no one legislative act has ever accomplished half of what is claimed by
the advocates of woman's suffrage as the inevitable result of the
change they propose. No one legislative act has ever been so widely
comprehensive in its results for good as they declare that this act
shall be. No one legislative act has ever raised the entire race even
within sight of the point of elevation predicted by the champions of
what is called the emancipation of woman. Hear them speak for
themselves: "It is hardly possible, with our present experience, to
raise our imaginations to the conception of so great a change for the
better as would be made by its removal"--the removal of the principle
of the subordination of the wife to the husband, and the establishment
of the entire independence of women, to be obtained by female suffrage.
These are not the words of some excited woman making a speech at a
public meeting. The quotation is from the writings of Mr. Stuart Mill.
The subordination of the wife to the husband is declared by Mr. Mill to
be "the citadel of the enemy." Storm the citadel, proclaim the entire
independence of the wife, and our feeble imaginations, we are told, are
utterly incapable of conceiving the glorious future of the race
consequent upon this one step. This is a very daring assertion. It is
so bold, indeed, as to require something of positive proof ere we can
yield to it our implicit belief. The citadel we are urged to storm was
built by the hand of God. The flag waving over that citadel is the flag
of the Cross. When the Creator made one entire sex so much more feeble
in physical powers than the other, a degree of subordination on the
part of the weaker sex became inevitable, unless it were counteracted
by increase of mental ability, strengthened by special precept. But the
mental ability, so far as there is a difference, and the precept, are
both on the side of the stronger sex. The whole past history of the
race coincides so clearly with these facts that we should suppose that
even those who are little under the influence of Christian faith might
pause era they attacked that citadel. Common-sense might teach them
something of caution, something of humility, when running counter to
the whole past experience of the race. As for those who have a living
belief in the doctrines of Christianity, when they find that revealed
religion, from the first of the Prophets to the last of the Apostles,
allots a subordinate position to the wife, they are compelled to
believe Moses and St. Paul in the right, and the philosophers of the
present day, whether male or female, in the wrong. To speak frankly,
the excessive boldness of these new theories, the incalculable and
inconceivable benefits promised us from this revolution from the
natural condition of things in Christendom--and throughout the world
indeed--would lead us to suspicion. Guides who appeal to the
imagination when discussing practical questions are not generally
considered the safest. And the champions of female suffrage are
necessarily compelled to take this course. They have no positive
foundation to rest on. Mr. Stuart Mill has said in Parliament, in
connection with this subject, that "the tyranny of established custom
has entirely passed away." Nothing can be more true than this
assertion. As a rule, the past is now looked upon with doubt, with
suspicion, often with a certain sort of contempt, very far from being
always consistent with sound reason. The tyranny of the present
day--and it may be just as much a tyranny as the other--is radically
opposite in character. It is the tyranny of novelty to which we are
most exposed at present. The dangers lie chiefly in that direction.
There will be little to fear from the old until the hour of reaction
arrives, as it inevitably must, if the human mind be strained too far
in a new direction. At present the more startling an assertion, the
farther it wanders from all past experience, the greater are its
chances of attracting attention, of gaining adherents, of achieving at
least a partial and temporary success. In the age and in the country
which has seen the development of Mormonism as a successful religious,
social, and political system, nothing should surprise us. Such is the
restlessness of human nature that it will often, from mere weak
hankering after change, hug to its bosom the wildest theories, and
yield them a temporary allegiance.

Let us suppose that to-day the proposed revolution were effected; all
women, without restriction, even the most vile, would be summoned to
vote in accordance with their favorite theory of inalienable right.
That class of women, and other degraded classes of the ignorant and
unprincipled, will always be ready to sell their votes many times
over--to either party, to both parties, to the highest bidder, in
short. They will sell their vote much more readily than the lowest
classes of men now do. They will hold it with greater levity. They will
trifle with it. They will sell their vote any day for a yard of ribbon
or a tinsel brooch--unless they are offered two yards of ribbon or two
brooches. They will vote over again every hour of every election day,
by cunning disguises and trickery. And thus, so far as women are
concerned, the most degraded element in society will, in fact,
represent the whole sex. Nay, they will probably not unfrequently
command the elections, as three colored women are said once to have
done in New Jersey. A hundred honest and intelligent women can have but
one vote each, and at least fifty of these will generally stay at home.
If, which God forbid, it actually comes to female voting, a very small
proportion of the sex will, at common elections, appear at the polls.
Avocations more urgent, more natural to them, and in which they are
more deeply interested, will keep them away. The degraded women will be
there by the scores, as tools of men, enjoying both the importance of
the hour, the fun, and THE PAY. Fifty women, known to be thieves and
prostitutes, will hold, at a moderate calculation, say two hundred
votes. And, as women form the majority of the resident population in
some States, that wretched element of society will, in fact, govern
those States, or those who bribe them will do so. Massachusetts, very
favorable to female suffrage now, will probably come round to the
opinion of New Jersey in former days. Great will be the consumption of
cheap ribbons, and laces, and artificial flowers, and feathers, and
tinsel jewelry, in every town and village about election time, after
emancipation is achieved. We are compelled to believe so, judging from
our knowledge of human nature, and of the use already made of bribery
at many elections. The demagogues will be more powerful than ever.
Their work will be made easy for them. It seems, indeed, probable that
under the new era our great elections shall become a sort of grand
national gift concerns, of which the most active demagogues of all
parties will be the managers. Not that women are more mercenary, or
more unprincipled than men. God forbid! That would be saying too much.
We entirely believe the reverse to be true. But the great mass of women
can never be made to take a deep, a sincere, a discriminating, a
lasting interest in the thousand political questions ever arising to be
settled by the vote. They very soon weary of such questions. On great
occasions they can work themselves up to a state of frenzied excitement
over some one political question. At such times they can parade a
degree of unreasoning prejudice, of passionate hatred, of blind fury,
even beyond what man can boast of. But, in their natural condition, in
everyday life, they do not take instinctively to politics as men do.
Men are born politicians; just as they are born masons, and carpenters,
and soldiers, and sailors. Not so women. Their thoughts and feelings
are given to other matters. The current of their chosen avocations runs
in another channel than that of politics--a channel generally quite out
of sight of politics; it is an effort for them to turn from one to the
other. With men, on the contrary, politics, either directly or
indirectly, are closely, palpably, inevitably blended with their
regular work in life. They give their attention unconsciously,
spontaneously; to politics. Look at a family of children, half boys,
half girls; the boys take instinctively to whips and guns and balls and
bats and horses, to fighting and wrestling and riding; the girls fondle
their dolls, beg for a needle and thread, play at housekeeping, at
giving tea-parties, at nursing the sick baby, at teaching school. That
difference lasts through life. Give your son, as he grows up, a gun and
a vote; he will delight in both. Give your daughter, as she grows up, a
gun and a vote, and, unless she be an exceptional woman, she will make
a really good use of neither. Your son may be dull; but he will make a
good soldier, and a very tolerable voter. Your daughter may be very
clever; but she would certainly run away on the battle-held, and very
probably draw a caricature on the election ticket. There is the making
of an admirable wife and mother, and a valuable member of society, in
that clever young woman. She is highly intelligent, thoroughly well
educated, reads Greek and Latin, and has a wider range of knowledge and
thought than ninety-nine in a hundred of the voters in the same
district; but there is nothing of the politician in her nature. She
would rather any day read a fine poem than the best political speech of
the hour. What she does know of politics reaches her through that dull
but worthy brother of hers. It is only occasionally that we meet women
with an inherent bias for politics; and those are not, as a rule, the
highest type of the sex--it is only occasionally that they are so. The
interest most women feel in politics is secondary, factitious,
engrafted on them by the men nearest to them. Women are not abortive
men; they are a distinct creation. The eye and the ear, though both
belonging to the same body, are each, in a certain sense, a distinct
creation. A body endowed with four ears might hear remarkably well; but
without eyes it would be of little use in the world. A body with four
eyes would have a fourfold power of vision, and would consequently
become nearly as sharp-sighted as a spider; but without hearing its
powers of sight would avail little. In both cases, half the functions
of the human being, whether physical or mental, would be very
imperfectly performed. Thus it is with men and women; each has a
distinct position to fill in the great social body, and is especially
qualified for it. These distinct positions are each highly important.
And it is reasonable to believe that, by filling their own peculiar
position thoroughly well, women can best serve their Creator, their
fellow-creatures, and themselves. No doubt you may, if you choose, by
especial education from childhood upward, make your girls very
respectable politicians, as much so as the majority of your sons. But
in that case you must give up your womanly daughters--you must be
content with manly daughters. This essential difference between the
sexes is a very striking fact; yet the advocates of female suffrage
constantly lose sight of it; they talk and write as if it had no
existence. It is not lack of intellect on the part of women, but
difference of intellect, or rather a difference of organization and
affinities giving a different bias to the intellect, which is the cause
of their distinct mental character as a sex. And, owing to this
essential difference, the great majority of women are naturally
disinclined to politics, and partially unfitted for action in that



Part II.

LET us now look for a moment at the actual condition of women in
America, in connection with the predicted elevation. We are told they
are to be elevated by the suffrage--and that by hanging on to the
election tickets in the hands of their wives, the men are to be
elevated with them. What, therefore, is the ground women now occupy,
and from whence they are to soar upward on the paper wings of the
ballot? The principal facts connected with that position are
self-evident; there is nothing vague or uncertain here; we have but to
look about us and the question is answered. We already know, for
instance, from daily observation and actual experience, that, as a
general rule, the kindness and consideration of American men have been
great, both in public and in private life. We know that in American
society women have been respected, they have been favored, they have
been protected, they have been beloved. There has been a readiness to
listen to their requests, to redress grievances, to make changes
whenever these have become necessary or advisable. Such, until very
recently, has been the general current of public feeling, the general
tendency of public action, in America. If there appear to-day
occasional symptoms of a change in the tone of men on this point, it is
to be attributed to the agitation of the very question we are now
discussing. Whenever women make ill-judged, unnatural, extravagant
demands, they must prepare to lose ground. Yes, even where the
particular points in dispute are conceded to their reiterated
importunity, they must still eventually lower their general standing
and consideration by every false step. There are occasions where
victory is more really perilous than a timely defeat; a temporary
triumph may lead to ground which the victors can not permanently hold
to their own true and lasting advantage. On the other hand, every just
and judicious demand women may now make with the certainty of
successful results. This is, indeed, the great fact which especially
contributes to render the birthright of American women a favorable one.
If the men of the country are already disposed to redress existing
grievances, where women are concerned, as we know them to be, and if
they are also ready, as we know them to be, to forward all needful
future development of true womanly action, what more, pray, can we
reasonably ask of them? Where lies this dim necessity of thrusting upon
women the burdens of the suffrage? And why should the entire nation be
thrown into the perilous convulsions of a revolution more truly
formidable than any yet attempted on earth? Bear in mind that this is a
revolution which, if successful in all its aims, can scarcely fail to
sunder the family roof-tree, and to uproot the family hearth-stone. It
is the avowed determination of many of its champions that it shall do
so; while with another class of its leaders, to weaken and undermine
the authority of the Christian faith in the household is an object if
not frankly avowed yet scarcely concealed. The great majority of the
women enlisted in this movement--many of them, it is needless to say,
very worthy persons as individuals--are little aware of all the perils
into which some of their most zealous male allies would lead them.
Degradation for the sex, and not true and lasting elevation, appear to
most of us likely to be the end to which this movement must necessarily
tend, unless it be checked by the latent good sense, the true wisdom,
and the religious principle of women themselves, aroused, at length, to
protest, to resist. If we are called upon for proof of the assertion,
that American men are already prepared to redress actual grievances, we
find that proof in their course at the present moment. Observe the
patience with which our legislative bodies are now considering the
petitions of a clamorous minority demanding the redress of a fictitious
grievance--a minority demanding a political position which the majority
of their sex still utterly reject--a position repugnant to the habits,
the feelings, the tastes, and the principles of that majority. If men
are willing to give their attention to these querulous demands of a
small minority of our sex, how much more surely may we rely on their
sympathy, and their efficient support, when some measure in which the
interests of the whole sex are clearly involved shall be brought before
them by all their wives and mothers?

And again: they are not only already prepared to redress grievances,
but also to forward all needed development of true womanly action.
Take, in proof of this, assertion, the subject of education. This is,
beyond all doubt the vital question of the age, embracing within its
limits all others. Education is of far more importance than the
suffrage, which is eventually subject to it, controlled by it. This is,
indeed, a question altogether too grave, too comprehensive, and too
complicated in some of its bearings to be more than briefly alluded to
here. But let us consider education for a moment as the mere
acquirement of intellectual knowledge. This is but one of its phases,
and that one not the most important; but such is the popular, though
very inadequate, idea of the subject in America. Observe how much has
already been done in this sense for the instruction of the woman of our
country. In the common district schools, and even in the high schools
of the larger towns, the same facilities are generally offered to both
sexes; in the public schools brother and sister have, as a rule, the
same books and the same teachers. And we may go much further and say
that every woman in the country may already--IF SHE IS DETERMINED TO DO
SO--obtain very much the same intellectual instruction which her own
brother receives. If that education is a highly advanced one she will,
no doubt, have some special difficulties to contend against; but those
difficulties are not insurmountable. The doors of most colleges and
universities are closed, it is true, against women, and we can not
doubt that this course is taken for sound reasons, pointed out by good
sense and true sagacity. It is impossible not to believe that between
the ages of fifteen and five-and-twenty young men and young women will
carry on their intellectual training far more thoroughly and
successfully apart than thrown into the same classes. At that age of
vivid impressions and awakening passions, the two sexes are
sufficiently thrown together in family life and in general society for
all purposes of mutual influence and improvement. Let them chat, walk,
sing, dance together, at that period of their lives; but if you wish to
make them good scholars, let them study apart. Let their loves and
jealousies be carried on elsewhere than in the college halls. But
already female colleges, exclusively adapted to young women, are talked
of--nay, here and there one or two such colleges now exist. There is
nothing in which American men more delight, nothing more congenial to
their usual modes of thought and action, than to advance the
intellectual instruction of the whole nation, daughters as well as
sons. We may rest assured that they will not fail to grant all needful
development in this direction. One female college, of the very highest
intellectual standard, would probably be found sufficient for a
population of some millions. The number of women desiring a full
college education will always, for many different reasons, be much
smaller than the number of male students. But there is no good reason
why such colleges, when found desirable, should not enter into our
future American civilization. Individual American women may yet, by
these means, make high progress in science, and render good service to
the country and the race. Every branch of study which may be carried on
thoroughly and successfully, without impairing womanly modesty of mind
and manner, should be so far opened to the sex as to allow those
individuals to whom Providence has given the ability for deep research
to carry them to the farthest point needed. But as regards those
studies which are intended to open the way to professions essentially
bold and masculine in character, we do not see how it is within the
bounds of possibility for young women to move onward in that direction
without losing some of their most precious womanly
prerogatives--without, in short, unsexing themselves.

The really critical point with regard to the present position of women
in America is the question of work and wages. Here the pocket of man is
touched. And the pocket is the most sensitive point with many men, not
only in America, but all the world over. There can be no doubt whatever
that women are now driven away from certain occupations, to which they
are well adapted, by the selfishness of some men. And in many
departments where they are day-laborers for commercial firms they are
inadequately paid, and compelled to provide food, lodging, fuel, and
light out of scanty wages. Yes, we have here one of the few real
grievances of which American women have a just right to complain. But
even here--even where the pocket is directly touched, we still believe
that women may obtain full justice in the end, by pursuing the right
course. Only let the reality of the grievance be clearly proved, and
redress will follow, ere long. Providence has the power of bringing
good out of evil; and therefore we believe that the movement now going
on will here, at least, show some lasting results for good. The "Song
of the Shirt" shall, we trust, ere long become an obsolete lay in our
country. Our women, twenty years hence, shall be better paid in some of
their old fields of labor; and new openings, appropriate to their
abilities, mental and physical, shall also be made for them. And here
they are much more likely to succeed without the suffrage than with it.
It is not by general law-making that they can better themselves in
these particulars. Individual fitness for this or that branch of work
is what is required for success. And if, by thorough preparation, women
can discharge this or that task, not essentially masculine in its
requirements, as well as men, they may rest assured that in the end
their wages will be the same as those of their fathers and brothers in
the same field of work.

And how is it with our homes--how fares it with American women in the
family circle? To all right-minded women the duties connected with home
are most imperative, most precious, most blessed of all, partaking as
they do of the spirit of religious duty. To women this class of duties
is by choice, and by necessity, much more absorbing than it is to men.
It is the especial field of activity to which Providence has called
them; for which their Maker has qualified them by peculiar adaptation
of body and mind. To the great majority of American women these duties
are especially absorbing, owing to the difficulty of procuring paid
subordinates, well qualified for the tasks they undertake. The task of
positive labor, and the task of close supervision, are both
particularly burdensome to American wives and mothers. Thus far, or at
least until very recently, those duties of wife and mother have been
generally performed conscientiously. The heart of every worthy American
woman is in her home. That home, with its manifold interests, is
especially under her government. The good order, the convenience, the
comfort, the pleasantness, the whole economy of the house, in short,
depend in a very great measure on her. The food of the family is
prepared by her, either directly or by close supervision. The clothing
of the family passes through her hands or under her eye. The health of
the family is included within the same tender, watchful, loving
oversight. The education of the children is chiefly directed by her--in
many families almost exclusively so. Whether for evil or for good, by
careless neglect or by patient, thoughtful, prayerful guidance, she
marks out their future course. This is even too much the case. American
fathers love their children fondly; no fathers more affectionate than
they are; they pet their children; they toil ceaselessly for them; but
their education they leave almost entirely to the mother. It may be
said, with perfect truth, that in the great majority of American
families the educational influences come chiefly from the mother; they
are tacitly made over to her as a matter of course. The father has too
often very little to do with them. His work lies abroad, in the world
of business or politics, where all his time and attention are fully
absorbed. In this way the American mother rules the very heart of her
family. If at all worthy she has great influence with her husband; she
has great influence over her daughters; and as regards her sons, there
are too many cases in which hers is the only influence for good to
which they yield. Is there so little of true elevation and dignity in
this position that American women should be in such hot haste to
abandon it for a position as yet wholly untried, entirely theoretical
and visionary?

It will be said that all women are not married, that all wives are not
mothers, that there are childless widows and many single women in the
country. Quite true, but in a rapid sketch one looks at the chief
features only; and home life, with its varied duties, is, of course,
the principal point in every Christian country. The picture is
essentially correct, without touching on lesser details. We pause here
to observe also that almost every single woman has a home somewhere.
She makes a home for herself, or she is ingrafted on the home of
others, and wherever she may be--even in that wretched kind of
existence, boarding-house life--she may, if she choose, carry something
of the home spirit with her. In fact, every true woman instinctively
does so, whatever be the roof that covers her head. She thinks for
others, she plans for others, she serves others, she loves and
cherishes others, she unconsciously throws something of the web of home
feeling and home action over those near her, and over the dwelling she
inhabits. She carries the spirit of home and its duties into the niche
allotted to her--a niche with which she is generally far more contented
than the world at large believes--a niche which is never so narrow but
that it provides abundant material for varied work--often very pleasant
work too. Let it be understood, once for all, that the champions of
widows and single women are very much given to talking and writing
absurdly on this point. Their premises are often wholly false. They
often fancy discontent and disappointment and inaction where those
elements have no existence. Certainly it is not in the least worth
while to risk a tremendous social revolution in behalf of this minority
of the sex. Every widow and single woman can, if she choose, already
find abundance of the most noble occupation for heart, mind, body, and
soul. Carry the vote into her niche, she certainly will be none the
happier or more truly respectable for that bit of paper. It is also an
error to suppose that among the claimants for suffrage single women are
the most numerous or the most clamorous. The great majority of the
leaders in this movement appear to be married women.

A word more on the subject of home life, as one in which the interests
of the whole sex are most closely involved. It is clear that those
interests are manifold, highly important to the welfare of the race,
unceasing in their recurrence, urgent and imperative in their nature,
requiring for their successful development such devotion of time,
labor, strength, thought, feeling, that they must necessarily leave but
little leisure to the person who faithfully discharges them. The
comfort, health, peace, temper, recreation, general welfare,
intellectual, moral, and religious training of a family make up,
indeed, a charge of the very highest dignity, and one which must tax to
the utmost every faculty of the individual to whom it is intrusted. The
commander of a regiment at the head of his men, the member of Congress
in his seat, the judge on his bench, scarcely holds a position so
important, so truly honorable, as that of the intelligent, devoted,
faithful American wife and mother, wisely governing her household. And
what are the interests of the merchant, the manufacturer, the banker,
the broker, the speculator, the selfish politician, when compared with
those confided to the Christian wife and mother? They are too often
simply contemptible--a wretched, feverish, maddening struggle to pile
up lucre, which is any thing but clean. Where is the superior merit of
such a life, that we should hanker after it, when placed beside that of
the loving, unselfish, Christian wife and mother--the wife, standing at
her husband's side, to cheer, to aid, to strengthen, to console, to
counsel, amidst the trials of life; the mother, patiently, painfully,
and prayerfully cultivating every higher faculty of her children for
worthy action through time and eternity? Which of these positions has
the most of true elevation connected with it?

And then, again, let as look at the present position of American women
in society. In its best aspects social life may be said to be the
natural outgrowth of the Christian home. It is something far better
than the world, than Vanity Fair, than the Court of Mammon, where all
selfish passions meet and parade in deceptive masquerade. It is the
selfish element in human nature which pervades what we call the world;
self-indulgence, enjoyment, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye,
the pride of life, receive, in that arena, their full development.
Society, on the contrary, in its highest meaning, becomes the practical
development of the second great commandment, loving and serving our
neighbor. In every Christian country there are many individuals,
especially among women, to whom social life practically bears that
meaning. Public worship itself is a social act, the highest of all,
blending in one the spirit of the two great commandments--the love of
God and the love of man. And whatever of social action or social
enjoyment is not inconsistent with those two great commandments becomes
the Christian's heritage, makes a part, more or less important, of his
education, enters into the great stream of the better civilization. And
it is here that we reach what may be called the more public duties of
woman. From all duties entirely public she is now, or she may be if she
choose, relieved by man. These more public duties of hers are still but
the outgrowth of her home life, and more or less closely interwoven
with it. They are very important, never to be neglected with impunity.
The really unsocial woman is in great danger of becoming also
un-christian. Every friend crossing the threshold brings social life
into the home. The genial smile, the kindly greeting, the cheering
word, all these and a thousand other gracious impulses, are, of course,
but the first instinctive movements of the social feeling. And from
these we move onward over a vast field of action, to the very farthest
point reached by the higher charities of Christianity. There can be no
doubt that the charm, the grace, and the happy cheerfulness of society
are chiefly due to women; and it is also true that the whole unwritten
common-law of society is, in a great measure, under their control. The
world is constantly encroaching here, enervating and corrupting social
life. To oppose wisely, skillfully, and effectually these treacherous
encroachments, these alluring temptations, is one of the most difficult
tasks possible. To contribute her full share toward purifying and
brightening the social atmosphere about her, in accordance with the
spirit of true Christian civilization, such is one great and essential
part of woman's work in life. It is a work more especially her own.
Man, without his helpmeet, can do but little here. His faculties are
absorbed by other tasks, not more important, but more engrossing and
essentially different. The finer tact, the more graceful manner, the
quicker wit, the more tender conscience, are all needed here. Every
woman in the country has her own share of this work to do. Each
individual woman is responsible for the right use of all her own social
influences, whether for good or for evil.

To keep up the standard of female purity becomes emphatically one of
the most stringent duties of every Christian woman. For her own sake,
for the sake of all she loves, for the sake of her country, for the
service of Christ and His Church, she is bound to uphold this standard
at a high point--a point entirely above suspicion. This task is of
importance incalculable. But, owing to the frivolity of some women, and
the very loose ideas of many men, it is no easy task. Undoubtedly, the
very great majority of women are born modest at heart. Their nature is
by many degrees less coarse than that of man. And their conscience is
more tender. But there is one temptation to which they too often yield.
With them the great dangers are vanity and the thirst for admiration,
which often become a sort of diseased excitement--what drinking or
gambling is to men. Here is the weak point. Yielding chiefly to this
temptation, scores of women are falling every day. Vanity leads them to
wear the extravagant, the flashy, the immodest, the unhealthy dress, to
dance the immodest dance, to adopt the alluring manner, to carry
flirting to extremes. Vanity leads them, in short, to forget true
self-respect, to enjoy the very doubtful compliment of a miserably
cheap admiration. They become impatient of the least appearance of
neglect or indifference, they become eager in pursuit of attention,
while men always attribute that pursuit to motives of the coarsest
kind. It is generally vanity alone which leads a married woman to
receive the first disgraceful flattery of dissolute men. Probably nine
out of ten of those American women who have trifled with honor and
reputation, whose names are spoken with the sneer of contempt, have
been led on, step by step, in the path of sin by vanity as the chief
motive. Where one woman falls from low and coarse passions, a hundred
fall from sheer levity and the love of admiration.

To counteract this fatal influence young women must be taught to
respect themselves, to be on their guard against vanity and its
enticements, to cherish personal modesty in every way. The married
woman who is quietly working by example or by precept among the young
girls nearest to her, seeking to cherish and foster among them this
vital principle of pure personal modesty in dress, in language, in
reading, in tone of voice, in countenance, in manner--the natural
outward expression of true modesty of heart--is doing far more for her
country than if she were to mount the rostrum to-morrow and make a
political speech eloquent as any of Webster's.

Sensible women may always have a good measure of political influence of
the right sort, if they choose. And it is in one sense a duty on their
part to claim this influence, and to exert it, but always in the true
womanly way. The influence of good sense, of a sound judgment, of good
feeling may always he theirs. Let us see that we preserve this
influence, and that we use it wisely. But let us cherish our happy
immunities as women by keeping aloof from all public personal action in
the political field. There is much higher work for us to do. Our time,
our thoughts, our efforts may be given to labors far more important
than any mere temporary electing, or law-making, passed today, annulled
to-morrow, in obedience to the fickle spirit of party politics.


Toward this work legislation, the mere enacting of laws, can do but
little. We have all heard of the shrewd mind who considered the songs
of a people as more important than their laws. The moral condition of a
nation is subject to many different influences--of these the statute
book is but one, and that not the most important. No mere skeleton of
political constitution can, of itself, produce moral health and
strength. It is the living heart within which does the work. And over
that heart women have very great influence. The home is the cradle of
the nation. A sound home education is the most important of all moral
influences. In the very powerful influences which affection gives them
over the home, by teaching childhood, by guiding youth, over the men of
their family, women have noble means for working good, not only to
their own households, not only to the social circle about them, but to
the nation at large. All these influences they can bring into action
far more effectually by adhering closely to that position which is not
only natural to them, but also plainly allotted to them by the revealed
Word of God. In no position of their own devising can they do that work
half so well.

Political and social corruption are clearly the great evils to be
dreaded for our country. We have already gone far enough in the path of
universal manhood suffrage to feel convinced that no mere enlargement
of the suffrage has power to save us from those evils. During half a
century we have been moving nearer and nearer to a suffrage all but
universal, and we have, during the same period, been growing more
corrupt. The undisguised frauds at elections, the open accusations of
bribery in legislative assemblies, the accusations of corruption
connected with still higher offices--of these we read daily in the
public prints. And these accusations are not disproved. They are
generally believed. It is clear, therefore, that something more
effectual than universal manhood suffrage is needed to stem the
torrent. And it is simply ridiculous to suppose that womanhood suffrage
can effect the same task. Who can believe that where men, in their own
natural field, have partially failed to preserve a healthful political
atmosphere, an honest political practice, that women, so much less
experienced, physically so much more feeble, so excitable, so liable to
be misled by fancy, by feeling, are likely, in a position foreign to
their nature, not only to stand upright themselves, but, like Atlas of
old, to bear the weight of the whole political world on their
shoulders--like Hercules, to cleanse the Augean stables of the
political coursers--to do, in short, all that man has failed to do? No;
it is, alas! only too clear that something more than the ballot-box,
whether in male or female hands, is needed here. And it is the same in
social life. The public prints, under a free press, must always hold up
a tolerably faithful mirror to the society about them. The picture it
displays is no better in social life than in political life. We say the
mirror is tolerably faithful, since there are heights of virtue and
depths of sin alike unreflected by the daily press. The very purest and
the very foulest elements of earthly existence are left out of the
picture. But the general view can scarcely fail to be tolerably
correct. Take, then, the sketch of social life as it appears in some
half dozen of the most popular prints from week to week. You will be
sure to find the better features grievously blended with others
fearfully distorted by evil. There are blots black as pitch in that
picture. There are forms, more fiend-like than human, photographed on
those sheets of paper. Crimes of worse than brutal violence, savage
cruelty, crimes of treachery and cowardly cunning and conspiracy,
breach of trust, tyrannical extortion, groveling intemperance,
sensuality gross and shameless--the heart sickens at the record of a
week's crime! It is a record from which the Christian woman often turns
aside appalled. Human nature can read no lessons of humility more
powerful than those contained in the newspapers of the day. They preach
what may be called home truths with most tremendous force. From this
record of daily crime it is only too clear that universal suffrage has
had no power to purify the society in which we live. If no worse, we
can not claim to be better than other nations, under a different
political rule.

This admission becomes the more painful when we reflect that in America
this full freedom of fundamental institutions, this relief from all
needless shackles, is combined with a well-developed system of
intellectual education. We are an absolutely free nation. We are, on
the whole, and to a certain point, intellectually, an educated nation.
Yet vice and crime exist among us to an extent that is utterly
disgraceful. It is evident, therefore, that universal manhood suffrage,
even when combined with general education, is still insufficient for
the task of purifying either social or political life. The theoretical
infidel philosopher may wonder at this fact. Not so the Christian.
Great intellectual activity, and the abuse of that power for evil
purposes, are a spectacle only too common in this world. Look at the
present condition of the most civilized nations. Of all generations
that have lived on earth, our own is assuredly the most enlightened, in
an intellectual sense; mental culture has never been so generally
diffused as it is to-day, nor has it ever achieved so many conquests as
within the last half century; and yet mark how comparatively little has
this wonderful intellectual progress accomplished in the noble work of
improving the moral condition of the most enlightened countries. To the
mind humbled by Christian doctrine, living in the light of a holy
faith, these facts, though unspeakably painful, can not cause surprise.
We are prepared for them. We have already learned that no mere
legislative enactment and no mere intellectual training can suffice to
purify the human heart thoroughly. An element much more powerful than
mental culture is needed for that great work. For this work light from
on high is sent. A thorough MORAL EDUCATION is required, and the
highest form of that education can be reached in one way only--by
walking in the plain path of obedience to the will of the Creator, as
revealed in Holy Scripture. We must turn, not to Plato and Aristotle,
but to inspired Prophet and Apostle. We must open our hearts to the
spirit of the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount. We must go to
Sinai and to Calvary, and humbly, on bended knee, receive the sublime
lessons to be learned there.

We should never have expected moral progress as an inevitable
consequence of free institutions and mere intellectual education, had
it not been that, like other nations, we indulge in idolatries, and
among our "gods many" are the suffrage and mental activity. We are
gravely told by philosophers that, with the vote in the hands of woman,
the moral elevation of the race is secured forever! "Great is Diana of
the Ephesians!" The feeling is common in America that to doubt the
omnipotence of universal suffrage in its extreme development is not
only treason, but a sort of blasphemy. And this feeling is now leading
many minds, unconsciously, perhaps, to shrink from opposing the present
movement in favor of womanhood suffrage. They bow the knee to the
common idol. They dare not believe it possible for the suffrage to be
carried too far. For ourselves we have no sympathies whatever with
idolatry. We fearlessly declare our opinion, therefore, that no
political institutions whatever, neither despotic, nor monarchical, nor
aristocratic, nor yet the most free, are capable, in themselves, of
achieving moral education for a people. Neither do we believe it more
possible for abstract intellectual culture to gain this most important
of all ends. Institutions wisely free are a very great blessing. Let us
be fervently thankful for them. Intellectual education is equally
important and desirable. These are both noble and admirable means to
work with, provided we still look above and beyond them for a further
development of the race--for fullness of MORAL CIVILIZATION. In fact,
if we wish for a vigorous, healthful, lasting development of republican
institutions, we must necessarily unite with these not only
intellectual teaching, but also a sound MORAL EDUCATION. This is a fact
to which men, in the whirl of their political or commercial struggles,
too often willfully shut their eyes. They are quite ready to
acknowledge the truth of the assertion in a general way, but they
choose to forget its vast importance in political or commercial
practice. They recklessly lower the moral standard themselves, whenever
that standard is at a height inconvenient for the attaining of some
particular object toward which they are aiming. They are lacking in
faith. Unlike women, who carry faith with them in private life, men act
as if faith were not needed in everyday public life. At least the great
majority of men, nominal Christians, fail to carry Christian principle
with them into common business or politics. Faith, in the heart of
women, is connected with love; consequently it is less easily stifled.
They more frequently carry this principle with them in daily
practice--not to the extent that they should do, but far more so than
most men do. And here, Christian women, is your great advantage. It is
the Lord's work to which we would urge you. The work of true faith,
however lowly, is sure of a blessing. With faith unfeigned in your
hearts, giving purity to your lives, you have it in your power to
render most effectual service to the nation in your own natural sphere,
far beyond what you could possibly accomplish by the path of common
politics. You have never, as yet, done full justice to the advantages
of your own actual position in this respect. You have overlooked the
great work immediately before you. We have no magic talisman to offer
you in carrying out that work. We shall not flatter you with the
promise of unlimited success; we shall not attempt to gratify any
personal ambition of public honors. We have no novel theories or
brilliant illusions with which to dazzle your imagination.


There is absolutely no principle so sorely needed in the civilized
world to-day as this. We live in an age of false and inflated
ambitions. Simple moral truths fare badly in our time. Imposing
theories, brilliant novelties, subtle sophistries, exaggerated
development, arrogant pretensions--these too often crowd simple moral
truths out of sight, out of mind. And yet, without that class of duties
in healthful action, corruption more or less general is inevitable.

Truth of word, honesty of action, integrity of character, temperance,
chastity, moderation, sincerity, subordination to just authority,
conjugal fidelity, filial love and honor--these duties, and others
closely connected with them, bear old and homely names. But, Christian
women, you can not ask for a task more noble, more truly elevating, for
yourselves and your country, than to uphold these plain moral
principles, first by your own personal example, and then by all pure
influences in your homes and in the society to which you belong. In no
other mode can you so well forward the great work of Christian
civilization as by devoting yourselves to the daily personal practice,
and to the social cultivation, by example and influence, of these plain
moral duties. Your present domestic position is especially favorable to
this task. You have more time for thought on these subjects; you have
more frequent opportunities for influence over the young nearest to
you; you have more leisure for prayer, for invoking a blessing on your
efforts, however humble they may he. It is not enough to set a decent
example yourselves. You must go to the very root of the matter. You
must carry about with you hearts and minds very deeply impressed with
the incalculable importance of a sound morality; you must be clearly
convinced of the misery, the shame, the perils of all immorality.

In this nineteenth century the civilization of a country must
necessarily prove either heathen or Christian in its spirit. There is
no neutral ground lying between these boundaries. Faith or infidelity,
such is the choice we must all make, whether as individuals or as
nations. Thanks be to God we are not only in name, but also partially
in character, a Christian nation. Faith is not entirely wanting. We all
in a measure feel its good effects. Even the avowed infidel living in
our midst is far more under its influences, though indirectly so, than
he is aware of. And where there is life, there we have hope of growth,
of higher development. To cherish that growth, to further that higher
development by all gracious and loving and generous influences, is a
work for which women are especially adapted. They work from within
outwardly. Men work chiefly by mental and physical pressure from
without. Men work by external authority; women work by influences. Men
seek to control the head. Women always aim at touching the heart. And
we have the highest of all authority for believing that this last is
the most efficient mode of working.

"Out of the heart are the issues of life." This, therefore, Christian
women, is your especial  task. Use all the happy womanly influences in
your power to forward the moral education, the Christian civilization,
of the country to which you belong. Be watchful, with the unfeigned
humility of the Christian, over your own personal course, and the
example connected with it. Aim at keeping up, on all occasions, a high
practical standard of sound morality at all points. Cultivate every
germ of true moral principle in your own homes, and in the social
circle about you. Let the holy light of truth, honor, fidelity,
honesty, purity, piety, and love brighten the atmosphere of your homes.

What heathen civilization means we know from many sources, more
especially from the records of Rome under the empire, in the days of
St. Paul, when it had reached its highest development.

What Christian civilization means we learn from the Apostle: "Let him
that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." "Whatsoever
things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are
just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report--think on these things."

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