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Title: Woman and Labour
Author: Schreiner, Olive
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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by Olive Schreiner

Author of “Dreams,” “The Story of an African Farm,” “Trooper Peter
Halket,” “Dream Life and Real Life,” etc. etc.

          Dedicated to Constance Lytton

          “Glory of warrior, glory of orator, glory of song,
          Paid with a voice flying by to be lost on an endless sea--
          Glory of virtue, to fight, to struggle, to right the wrong--
          Nay, but she aim’d not at glory, no lover of glory she:
          Give her the glory of going on and still to be.”


          Olive Schreiner.
          De Aar,  Cape of Good Hope,  South Africa.  1911.



     Chapter I.  Parasitism

     Chapter II.  Parasitism (continued)

     Chapter III.  Parasitism (continued)

     Chapter IV.  Woman and War

     Chapter V.  Sex Differences

     Chapter VI.  Certain Objections


It is necessary to say a few words to explain this book. The original
title of the book was “Musings on Woman and Labour.”

It is, what its name implies, a collection of musings on some of the
points connected with woman’s work.

In my early youth I began a book on Woman. I continued the work till
ten years ago. It necessarily touched on most matters in which sex has a
part, however incompletely.

It began by tracing the differences of sex function to their earliest
appearances in life on the globe; not only as when in the animal world,
two amoeboid globules coalesce, and the process of sexual generation
almost unconsciously begins; but to its yet more primitive
manifestations in plant life. In the first three chapters I traced,
as far as I was able, the evolution of sex in different branches of
non-human life. Many large facts surprised me in following this line of
thought by their bearing on the whole modern sex problem. Such facts
as this; that, in the great majority of species on the earth the female
form exceeds the male in size and strength and often in predatory
instinct; and that sex relationships may assume almost any form on earth
as the conditions of life vary; and that, even in their sexual relations
towards offspring, those differences which we, conventionally, are apt
to suppose are inherent in the paternal or the maternal sex form, are
not inherent--as when one studies the lives of certain toads, where the
female deposits her eggs in cavities on the back of the male, where the
eggs are preserved and hatched; or, of certain sea animals, in which the
male carries the young about with him and rears them in a pouch formed
of his own substance; and countless other such. And above all, this
important fact, which had first impressed me when as a child I wandered
alone in the African bush and watched cock-o-veets singing their
inter-knit love-songs, and small singing birds building their nests
together, and caring for and watching over, not only their young, but
each other, and which has powerfully influenced all I have thought and
felt on sex matters since;--the fact that, along the line of bird
life and among certain of its species sex has attained its highest and
aesthetic, and one might almost say intellectual, development on
earth: a point of development to which no human race as a whole has
yet reached, and which represents the realisation of the highest sexual
ideal which haunts humanity.

When these three chapters we ended I went on to deal, as far as
possible, with woman’s condition in the most primitive, in the savage
and in the semi-savage states. I had always been strangely interested
from childhood in watching the condition of the native African women
in their primitive society about me. When I was eighteen I had a
conversation with a Kafir woman still in her untouched primitive
condition, a conversation which made a more profound impression on my
mind than any but one other incident connected with the position of
woman has ever done. She was a woman whom I cannot think of otherwise
than as a person of genius. In language more eloquent and intense than
I have ever heard from the lips of any other woman, she painted the
condition of the women of her race; the labour of women, the anguish of
woman as she grew older, and the limitations of her life closed in about
her, her sufferings under the condition of polygamy and subjection; all
this she painted with a passion and intensity I have not known equalled;
and yet, and this was the interesting point, when I went on to question
her, combined with a deep and almost fierce bitterness against life
and the unseen powers which had shaped woman and her conditions as they
were, there was not one word of bitterness against the individual man,
nor any will or intention to revolt; rather, there was a stern and
almost majestic attitude of acceptance of the inevitable; life and the
conditions of her race being what they were. It was this conversation
which first forced upon me a truth, which I have since come to regard as
almost axiomatic, that, the women of no race or class will ever rise in
revolt or attempt to bring about a revolutionary readjustment of their
relation to their society, however intense their suffering and however
clear their perception of it, while the welfare and persistence of their
society requires their submission: that, wherever there is a general
attempt on the part of the women of any society to readjust their
position in it, a close analysis will always show that the changed or
changing conditions of that society have made woman’s acquiescence no
longer necessary or desirable.

Another point which it was attempted to deal with in this division of
the book was the probability, amounting almost to a certainty, that
woman’s physical suffering and weakness in childbirth and certain other
directions was the price which woman has been compelled to pay for the
passing of the race from the quadrupedal and four-handed state to the
erect; and which was essential if humanity as we know it was to exist
(this of course was dealt with by a physiological study of woman’s
structure); and also, to deal with the highly probable, though unproved
and perhaps unprovable, suggestion, that it was largely the necessity
which woman was under of bearing her helpless young in her arms while
procuring food for them and herself, and of carrying them when escaping
from enemies, that led to the entirely erect position being forced on
developing humanity.

These and many other points throwing an interesting light on the later
development of women (such as the relation between agriculture and the
subjection of women) were gone into in this division of the book dealing
with primitive and semi-barbarous womanhood.

When this division was ended, I had them type-written, and with the
first three chapters bound in one volume about the year 1888; and then
went on to work at the last division, which I had already begun.

This dealt with what is more popularly known as the women’s question:
with the causes which in modern European societies are leading women to
attempt readjustment in their relation to their social organism; with
the direction in which such readjustments are taking place; and with the
results which in the future it appears likely such readjustments will

After eleven years, 1899, these chapters were finished and bound in a
large volume with the first two divisions. There then only remained to
revise the book and write a preface. In addition to the prose argument
I had in each chapter one or more allegories; because while it is easy
clearly to express abstract thoughts in argumentative prose, whatever
emotion those thoughts awaken I have not felt myself able adequately
to express except in the other form. (The allegory “Three Dreams in a
Desert” which I published about nineteen years ago was taken from this
book; and I have felt that perhaps being taken from its context it was
not quite clear to every one.) I had also tried throughout to illustrate
the subject with exactly those particular facts in the animal and human
world, with which I had come into personal contact and which had helped
to form the conclusions which were given; as it has always seemed to
me that in dealing with sociological questions a knowledge of the exact
manner in which any writer has arrived at his view is necessary in
measuring its worth. The work had occupied a large part of my life, and
I had hoped, whatever its deficiencies, that it might at least stimulate
other minds, perhaps more happily situated, to an enlarged study of the

In 1899 I was living in Johannesburg, when, owing to ill-health, I was
ordered suddenly to spend some time at a lower level. At the end of
two months the Boer War broke out. Two days after war was proclaimed I
arrived at De Aar on my way back to the Transvaal; but Martial Law had
already been proclaimed there, and the military authorities refused to
allow my return to my home in Johannesburg and sent me to the Colony;
nor was I allowed to send any communication through, to any person, who
might have extended some care over my possessions. Some eight months
after, when the British troops had taken and entered Johannesburg; a
friend, who, being on the British side, had been allowed to go up, wrote
me that he had visited my house and found it looted, that all that was
of value had been taken or destroyed; that my desk had been forced open
and broken up, and its contents set on fire in the centre of the room,
so that the roof was blackened over the pile of burnt papers. He added
that there was little in the remnants of paper of which I could make any
use, but that he had gathered and stored the fragments till such time
as I might be allowed to come and see them. I thus knew my book had been

Some months later in the war when confined in a little up-country
hamlet, many hundreds of miles from the coast and from Johannesburg;
with the brunt of the war at that time breaking around us, de Wet having
crossed the Orange River and being said to have been within a few miles
of us, and the British columns moving hither and thither, I was living
in a little house on the outskirts of the village, in a single room,
with a stretcher and two packing-cases as furniture, and with my little
dog for company. Thirty-six armed African natives were set to guard
night and day at the doors and windows of the house; and I was only
allowed to go out during certain hours in the middle of the day to fetch
water from the fountain, or to buy what I needed, and I was allowed to
receive no books, newspapers or magazines. A high barbed wire fence,
guarded by armed natives, surrounded the village, through which it would
have been death to try to escape. All day the pompoms from the armoured
trains, that paraded on the railway line nine miles distant, could be
heard at intervals; and at night the talk of the armed natives as they
pressed against the windows, and the tramp of the watch with the endless
“Who goes there?” as they walked round the wire fence through the long,
dark hours, when one was allowed neither to light a candle nor strike
a match. When a conflict was fought near by, the dying and wounded were
brought in; three men belonging to our little village were led out to
execution; death sentences were read in our little market-place; our
prison was filled with our fellow-countrymen; and we did not know
from hour to hour what the next would bring to any of us. Under these
conditions I felt it necessary I should resolutely force my thought at
times from the horror of the world around me, to dwell on some abstract
question, and it was under these circumstances that this little book was
written; being a remembrance mainly drawn from one chapter of the larger
book. The armed native guards standing against the uncurtained windows,
it was impossible to open the shutters, and the room was therefore
always so dark that even the physical act of writing was difficult.

A year and a half after, when the war was over and peace had been
proclaimed for above four months, I with difficulty obtained a permit to
visit the Transvaal. I found among the burnt fragments the leathern back
of my book intact, the front half of the leaves burnt away; the back
half of the leaves next to the cover still all there, but so browned and
scorched with the flames that they broke as you touched them; and there
was nothing left but to destroy it. I even then felt a hope that at some
future time I might yet rewrite the entire book. But life is short; and
I have found that not only shall I never rewrite the book, but I
shall not have the health even to fill out and harmonise this little
remembrance from it.

It is therefore with considerable pain that I give out this fragment. I
am only comforted by the thought that perhaps, all sincere and earnest
search after truth, even where it fails to reach it, yet, often comes
so near to it, that other minds more happily situated may be led, by
pointing out its very limitations and errors, to obtain a larger view.

I have dared to give this long and very uninteresting explanation, not
at all because I have wished by giving the conditions under which this
little book was written, to make excuse for any repetitions or lack of
literary perfection, for these things matter very little; but, because
(and this matters very much) it might lead to misconception on the
subject-matter itself if its genesis were not exactly understood.

Not only is this book not a general view of the whole vast body
of phenomena connected with woman’s position; but it is not even a
bird’s-eye view of the whole question of woman’s relation to labour.

In the original book the matter of the parasitism of woman filled only
one chapter out of twelve, and it was mainly from this chapter that this
book was drawn. The question of the parasitism of woman is, I think,
very vital, very important; it explains many phenomena which nothing
else explains; and it will be of increasing importance. But for the
moment there are other aspects of woman’s relation to labour practically
quite as pressing. In the larger book I had devoted one chapter entirely
to an examination of the work woman has done and still does in the
modern world, and the gigantic evils which arise from the fact that
her labour, especially domestic labour, often the most wearisome and
unending known to any section of the human race, is not adequately
recognised or recompensed. Especially on this point I have feared this
book might lead to a misconception, if by its great insistence on the
problem of sex parasitism, and the lighter dealing with other aspects,
it should lead to the impression that woman’s domestic labour at the
present day (something quite distinct from, though indirectly connected
with, the sexual relation between man and woman) should not be highly
and most highly recognised and recompensed. I believe it will be in the
future, and then when woman gives up her independent field of labour for
domestic or marital duty of any kind, she will not receive her share
of the earnings of the man as a more or less eleemosynary benefaction,
placing her in a position of subjection, but an equal share, as the fair
division, in an equal partnership. (It may be objected that where a man
and woman have valued each other sufficiently to select one another from
all other humans for a lifelong physical union, it is an impertinence
to suppose there could be any necessity to adjust economic relations. In
love there is no first nor last! And that the desire of each must be to
excel the other in service. That this should be so is true; that it is
so now, in the case of union between two perfectly morally developed
humans, is also true, and that this condition may in a distant future be
almost universal is certainly true. But dealing with this matter as a
practical question today, we have to consider not what should be, or
what may be, but what, given traditions and institutions of our
societies, is, today.) Especially I have feared that the points dealt
with in this little book, when taken apart from other aspects of the
question, might lead to the conception that it was intended to express
the thought, that it was possible or desirable that woman in addition to
her child-bearing should take from man his share in the support and care
of his offspring or of the woman who fulfilled with regard to himself
domestic duties of any kind. In that chapter in the original book
devoted to the consideration of man’s labour in connection with woman
and with his offspring more than one hundred pages were devoted to
illustrating how essential to the humanising and civilising of man, and
therefore of the whole race, was an increased sense of sexual and
paternal responsibility, and an increased justice towards woman as a
domestic labourer. In the last half of the same chapter I dealt at great
length with what seems to me an even more pressing practical sex
question at this moment--man’s attitude towards those women who are not
engaged in domestic labour; toward that vast and always increasing body
of women, who as modern conditions develop are thrown out into the
stream of modern economic life to sustain themselves and often others by
their own labour; and who yet are there bound hand and foot, not by the
intellectual or physical limitations of their nature, but by artificial
constrictions and conventions, the remnants of a past condition of
society. It is largely this maladjustment, which, deeply studied in all
its ramifications, will be found to lie as the taproot and central
source of the most terrible of the social diseases that afflict us.

The fact that for equal work equally well performed by a man and by
a woman, it is ordained that the woman on the ground of her sex alone
shall receive a less recompense, is the nearest approach to a wilful
and unqualified “wrong” in the whole relation of woman to society today.
That males of enlightenment and equity can for an hour tolerate the
existence of this inequality has seemed to me always incomprehensible;
and it is only explainable when one regards it as a result of the
blinding effects of custom and habit. Personally, I have felt so
profoundly on this subject, that this, with one other point connected
with woman’s sexual relation to man, are the only matters connected with
woman’s position, in thinking of which I have always felt it necessary
almost fiercely to crush down indignation and to restrain it, if I would
maintain an impartiality of outlook. I should therefore much regret if
the light and passing manner in which this question has been touched on
in this little book made it seem of less vital importance than I hold

In the last chapter of the original book, the longest, and I believe the
most important, I dealt with the problems connected with marriage and
the personal relations of men and women in the modern world. In it I
tried to give expression to that which I hold to be a great truth, and
one on which I should not fear to challenge the verdict of long future
generations--that, the direction in which the endeavour of woman to
readjust herself to the new conditions of life is leading today, is
not towards a greater sexual laxity, or promiscuity, or to an increased
self-indulgence, but toward a higher appreciation of the sacredness of
all sex relations, and a clearer perception of the sex relation between
man and woman as the basis of human society, on whose integrity, beauty
and healthfulness depend the health and beauty of human life, as a
whole. Above all, that it will lead to a closer, more permanent, more
emotionally and intellectually complete and intimate relation between
the individual man and woman. And if in the present disco-ordinate
transitional stage of our social growth it is found necessary to
allow of readjustment by means of divorce, it will not be because
such readjustments will be regarded lightly, but rather, as when, in a
complex and delicate mechanism moved by a central spring, we allow
in the structure for the readjustment and regulation of that spring,
because on its absolute perfection of action depends the movement of the
whole mechanism. In the last pages of the book, I tried to express what
seems to me a most profound truth often overlooked--that as humanity
and human societies pass on slowly from their present barbarous and
semi-savage condition in matters of sex into a higher, it will be found
increasingly, that over and above its function in producing and sending
onward the physical stream of life (a function which humanity shares
with the most lowly animal and vegetable forms of life, and which even
by some noted thinkers of the present day seems to be regarded as its
only possible function,) that sex and the sexual relation between man
and woman have distinct aesthetic, intellectual, and spiritual functions
and ends, apart entirely from physical reproduction. That noble as is
the function of the physical reproduction of humanity by the union of
man and woman, rightly viewed, that union has in it latent, other, and
even higher forms, of creative energy and life-dispensing power, and
that its history on earth has only begun. As the first wild rose when it
hung from its stem with its centre of stamens and pistils and its single
whorl of pale petals, had only begun its course, and was destined, as
the ages passed, to develop stamen upon stamen and petal upon petal,
till it assumed a hundred forms of joy and beauty.

And, it would indeed almost seem, that, on the path toward the higher
development of sexual life on earth, as man has so often had to lead
in other paths, that here it is perhaps woman, by reason of those very
sexual conditions which in the past have crushed and trammelled her, who
is bound to lead the way, and man to follow. So that it may be at last,
that sexual love--that tired angel who through the ages has presided
over the march of humanity, with distraught eyes, and feather-shafts
broken, and wings drabbled in the mires of lust and greed, and golden
locks caked over with the dust of injustice and oppression--till those
looking at him have sometimes cried in terror, “He is the Evil and
not the Good of life!” and have sought, if it were not possible, to
exterminate him--shall yet, at last, bathed from the mire and dust of
ages in the streams of friendship and freedom, leap upwards, with white
wings spread, resplendent in the sunshine of a distant future--the
essentially Good and Beautiful of human existence.

I have given this long and very wearisome explanation of the scope and
origin of this little book, because I feel that it might lead to grave
misunderstanding were it not understood how it came to be written.

I have inscribed it to my friend, Lady Constance Lytton; not because
I think it worthy of her, nor yet because of the splendid part she
has played in the struggle of the women fighting today in England for
certain forms of freedom for all women. It is, if I may be allowed
without violating the sanctity of a close personal friendship so to
say, because she, with one or two other men and women I have known, have
embodied for me the highest ideal of human nature, in which intellectual
power and strength of will are combined with an infinite tenderness and
a wide human sympathy; a combination which, whether in the person of the
man or the woman, is essential to the existence of the fully rounded and
harmonised human creature; and which an English woman of genius summed
in one line when she cried in her invocation of her great French

“Thou large-brained woman and large-hearted man!”

One word more I should like to add, as I may not again speak or write
on this subject. I should like to say to the men and women of the
generations which will come after us--“You will look back at us with
astonishment! You will wonder at passionate struggles that accomplished
so little; at the, to you, obvious paths to attain our ends which we did
not take; at the intolerable evils before which it will seem to you we
sat down passive; at the great truths staring us in the face, which we
failed to see; at the truths we grasped at, but could never quite
get our fingers round. You will marvel at the labour that ended in so
little--but, what you will never know is how it was thinking of you and
for you, that we struggled as we did and accomplished the little which
we have done; that it was in the thought of your larger realisation and
fuller life, that we found consolation for the futilities of our own.”

“What I aspired to be, and was not, comforts me.”


Chapter I. Parasitism.

In that clamour which has arisen in the modern world, where now this,
and then that, is demanded for and by large bodies of modern women, he
who listens carefully may detect as a keynote, beneath all the clamour,
a demand which may be embodied in such a cry as this: Give us labour and
the training which fits for labour! We demand this, not for ourselves
alone, but for the race.

If this demand be logically expanded, it will take such form as this:
Give us labour! For countless ages, for thousands, millions it may be,
we have laboured. When first man wandered, the naked, newly-erected
savage, and hunted and fought, we wandered with him: each step of
his was ours. Within our bodies we bore the race, on our shoulders we
carried it; we sought the roots and plants for its food; and, when man’s
barbed arrow or hook brought the game, our hands dressed it. Side by
side, the savage man and the savage woman, we wandered free together and
laboured free together. And we were contented!

Then a change came.

We ceased from our wanderings, and, camping upon one spot of earth,
again the labours of life were divided between us. While man went forth
to hunt, or to battle with the foe who would have dispossessed us of
all, we laboured on the land. We hoed the earth, we reaped the grain,
we shaped the dwellings, we wove the clothing, we modelled the earthen
vessels and drew the lines upon them, which were humanity’s first
attempt at domestic art; we studied the properties and uses of plants,
and our old women were the first physicians of the race, as, often, its
first priests and prophets.

We fed the race at our breast, we bore it on our shoulders; through us
it was shaped, fed, and clothed. Labour more toilsome and unending than
that of man was ours; yet did we never cry out that it was too heavy for
us. While savage man lay in the sunshine on his skins, resting, that he
might be fitted for war or the chase, or while he shaped his weapons of
death, he ate and drank that which our hands had provided for him; and
while we knelt over our grindstone, or hoed in the fields, with one
child in our womb, perhaps, and one on our back, toiling till the
young body was old before its time--did we ever cry out that the labour
allotted to us was too hard for us? Did we not know that the woman who
threw down her burden was as a man who cast away his shield in battle--a
coward and a traitor to his race? Man fought--that was his work; we fed
and nurtured the race--that was ours. We knew that upon our labours,
even as upon man’s, depended the life and well-being of the people whom
we bore. We endured our toil, as man bore his wounds, silently; and we
were content.

Then again a change came.

Ages passed, and time was when it was no longer necessary that all men
should go to the hunt or the field of war; and when only one in five,
or one in ten, or but one in twenty, was needed continually for these
labours. Then our fellow-man, having no longer full occupation in his
old fields of labour, began to take his share in ours. He too began to
cultivate the field, to build the house, to grind the corn (or make
his male slaves do it); and the hoe, and the potter’s tools, and the
thatching-needle, and at last even the grindstones which we first had
picked up and smoothed to grind the food for our children, began to pass
from our hands into his. The old, sweet life of the open fields was ours
no more; we moved within the gates, where the time passes more slowly
and the world is sadder than in the air outside; but we had our own work
still, and were content.

If, indeed, we might no longer grow the food for our people, we were
still its dressers; if we did not always plant and prepare the flax and
hemp, we still wove the garments for our race; if we did no longer raise
the house walls, the tapestries that covered them were the work of our
hands; we brewed the ale, and the simples which were used as medicines
we distilled and prescribed; and, close about our feet, from birth
to manhood, grew up the children whom we had borne; their voices
were always in our ears. At the doors of our houses we sat with our
spinning-wheels, and we looked out across the fields that were once ours
to labour in--and were contented. Lord’s wife, peasant’s, or burgher’s,
we all still had our work to do!

A thousand years ago, had one gone to some great dame, questioning her
why she did not go out a-hunting or a-fighting, or enter the great hall
to dispense justice and confer upon the making of laws, she would have
answered: “Am I a fool that you put to me such questions? Have I not a
hundred maidens to keep at work at spinning-wheels and needles? With my
own hands daily do I not dispense bread to over a hundred folk? In the
great hall go and see the tapestries I with my maidens have created by
the labour of years, and which we shall labour over for twenty more,
that my children’s children may see recorded the great deeds of their
forefathers. In my store-room are there not salves and simples, that my
own hands have prepared for the healing of my household and the sick in
the country round? Ill would it go indeed, if when the folk came home
from war and the chase of wild beasts, weary or wounded, they found all
the womenfolk gone out a-hunting and a-fighting, and none there to dress
their wounds, or prepare their meat, or guide and rule the household!
Better far might my lord and his followers come and help us with our
work, than that we should go to help them! You are surely bereft of all
wit. What becomes of the country if the women forsake their toil?”

And the burgher’s wife, asked why she did not go to labour in her
husband’s workshop, or away into the market-place, or go a-trading to
foreign countries, would certainly have answered: “I am too busy to
speak with such as you! The bread is in the oven (already I smell it
a-burning), the winter is coming on, and my children lack good woollen
hose and my husband needs a warm coat. I have six vats of ale all
a-brewing, and I have daughters whom I must teach to spin and sew, and
the babies are clinging round my knees. And you ask me why I do not go
abroad to seek for new labours! Godsooth! Would you have me to leave my
household to starve in summer and die of cold in winter, and my children
to go untrained, while I gad about to seek for other work? A man must
have his belly full and his back covered before all things in life. Who,
think you, would spin and bake and brew, and rear and train my babes,
if I went abroad? New labour, indeed, when the days are not long enough,
and I have to toil far into the night! I have no time to talk with
fools! Who will rear and shape the nation if I do not?”

And the young maiden at the cottage door, beside her wheel, asked why
she was content and did not seek new fields of labour, would surely have
answered: “Go away, I have no time to listen to you. Do you not see that
I am spinning here that I too may have a home of my own? I am weaving
the linen garments that shall clothe my household in the long years to
come! I cannot marry till the chest upstairs be full. You cannot hear
it, but as I sit here alone, spinning, far off across the hum of my
spinning-wheel I hear the voices of my little unborn children calling to
me--‘O mother, mother, make haste, that we may be!’--and sometimes, when
I seem to be looking out across my wheel into the sunshine, it is the
blaze of my own fireside that I see, and the light shines on the faces
round it; and I spin on the faster and the steadier when I think of what
shall come. Do you ask me why I do not go out and labour in the fields
with the lad whom I have chosen? Is his work, then, indeed more needed
than mine for the raising of that home that shall be ours? Oh, very hard
I will labour, for him and for my children, in the long years to come.
But I cannot stop to talk to you now. Far off, over the hum of my
spinning-wheel, I hear the voices of my children calling, and I must
hurry on. Do you ask me why I do not seek for labour whose hands are
full to bursting? Who will give folk to the nation if I do not?”

Such would have been our answer in Europe in the ages of the past, if
asked the question why we were contented with our field of labour and
sought no other. Man had his work; we had ours. We knew that we upbore
our world on our shoulders; and that through the labour of our hands it
was sustained and strengthened--and we were contented.

But now, again a change has come.

Something that is entirely new has entered into the field of human
labour, and left nothing as it was.

In man’s fields of toil, change has accomplished, and is yet more
quickly accomplishing, itself.

On lands where once fifty men and youths toiled with their cattle, today
one steam-plough, guided by but two pair of hands, passes swiftly; and
an automatic reaper in one day reaps and binds and prepares for the
garner the produce of fields it would have taken a hundred strong male
arms to harvest in the past. The iron tools and weapons, only one
of which it took an ancient father of our race long months of stern
exertion to extract from ore and bring to shape and temper, are now
poured forth by steam-driven machinery as a millpond pours forth its
water; and even in war, the male’s ancient and especial field of labour,
a complete reversal of the ancient order has taken place. Time was when
the size and strength of the muscles in a man’s legs and arms, and the
strength and size of his body, largely determined his fighting powers,
and an Achilles or a Richard Coeur de Lion, armed only with his spear
or battle-axe, made a host fly before him; today the puniest mannikin
behind a modern Maxim gun may mow down in perfect safety a phalanx of
heroes whose legs and arms and physical powers a Greek god might have
envied, but who, having not the modern machinery of war, fall powerless.
The day of the primary import to humanity of the strength in man’s
extensor and flexor muscles, whether in labours of war or of peace, is
gone by for ever; and the day of the all-importance of the culture and
activity of man’s brain and nerve has already come.

The brain of one consumptive German chemist, who in his laboratory
compounds a new explosive, has more effect upon the wars of the modern
peoples than ten thousand soldierly legs and arms; and the man who
invents one new labour-saving machine may, through the cerebration of
a few days, have performed the labour it would otherwise have taken
hundreds of thousands of his lusty fellows decades to accomplish.

Year by year, month by month, and almost hour by hour, this change is
increasingly showing itself in the field of the modern labour; and crude
muscular force, whether in man or beast, sinks continually in its value
in the world of human toil; while intellectual power, virility, and
activity, and that culture which leads to the mastery of the inanimate
forces of nature, to the invention of machinery, and to that delicate
manipulative skill often required in guiding it, becomes ever of greater
and greater importance to the race. Already today we tremble on the
verge of a discovery, which may come tomorrow or the next day, when,
through the attainment of a simple and cheap method of controlling
some widely diffused, everywhere accessible, natural force (such, for
instance, as the force of the great tidal wave) there will at once and
for ever pass away even that comparatively small value which still, in
our present stage of material civilisation, clings to the expenditure
of mere crude, mechanical, human energy; and the creature, however
physically powerful, who can merely pull, push, and lift, much after the
manner of a machine, will have no further value in the field of human

Therefore, even today, we find that wherever that condition which we
call modern civilisation prevails, and in proportion as it tends to
prevail--wherever steam-power, electricity, or the forces of wind
and water, are compelled by man’s intellectual activity to act as the
motor-powers in the accomplishment of human toil, wherever the delicate
adaptions of scientifically constructed machinery are taking the place
of the simple manipulation of the human hand--there has arisen, all the
world over, a large body of males who find that their ancient fields of
labour have slipped or are slipping from them, and who discover that
the modern world has no place or need for them. At the gates of
our dockyards, in our streets, and in our fields, are to be found
everywhere, in proportion as modern civilisation is really dominant,
men whose bulk and mere animal strength would have made them as warriors
invaluable members of any primitive community, and who would have been
valuable even in any simpler civilisation than our own, as machines
of toil; but who, owing to lack of intellectual or delicate manual
training, have now no form of labour to offer society which it stands
really in need of, and who therefore tend to form our Great Male
Unemployed--a body which finds the only powers it possesses so little
needed by its fellows that, in return for its intensest physical labour,
it hardly earns the poorest sustenance. The material conditions of life
have been rapidly modified, and the man has not been modified with them;
machinery has largely filled his place in his old field of labour, and
he has found no new one.

It is from these men, men who, viewed from the broad humanitarian
standpoint, are often of the most lovable and interesting type, and
who might in a simpler state of society, where physical force was the
dominating factor, have been the heroes, leaders, and chiefs of their
people, that there arises in the modern world the bitter cry of the male
unemployed: “Give us labour or we die!” (The problem of the unemployed
male is, of course, not nearly so modern as that of the unemployed
female. It may be said in England to have taken its rise in almost its
present form as early as the fifteenth century, when economic changes
began to sever the agricultural labourer from the land, and rob him of
his ancient forms of social toil. Still, in its most acute form, it may
be called a modern problem.)

Yet it is only upon one, and a comparatively small, section of the
males of the modern civilised world that these changes in the material
conditions of life have told in such fashion as to take all useful
occupation from them and render them wholly or partly worthless to
society. If the modern man’s field of labour has contracted at one end
(the physical), at the other (the intellectual) it has immeasurably
expanded! If machinery and the command of inanimate motor-forces
have rendered of comparatively little value the male’s mere physical
motor-power, the demand upon his intellectual faculties, the call
for the expenditure of nervous energy, and the exercise of delicate
manipulative skill in the labour of human life, have immeasurably

In a million new directions forms of honoured and remunerative social
labour are opening up before the feet of the modern man, which his
ancestors never dreamed of; and day by day they yet increase in
numbers and importance. The steamship, the hydraulic lift, the patent
road-maker, the railway-train, the electric tram-car, the steam-driven
mill, the Maxim gun and the torpedo boat, once made, may perform their
labours with the guidance and assistance of comparatively few hands; but
a whole army of men of science, engineers, clerks, and highly-trained
workmen is necessary for their invention, construction, and maintenance.
In the domains of art, of science, of literature, and above all in the
field of politics and government, an almost infinite extension has taken
place in the fields of male labour. Where in primitive times woman was
often the only builder, and patterns she daubed on her hut walls or
traced on her earthen vessels the only attempts at domestic art; and
where later but an individual here and there was required to design
a king’s palace or a god’s temple or to ornament it with statues or
paintings, today a mighty army of men, a million strong, is employed in
producing plastic art alone, both high and low, from the traceries on
wall-paper and the illustrations in penny journals, to the production
of the pictures and statues which adorn the national collections, and
a mighty new field of toil has opened before the anciently hunting and
fighting male. Where once one ancient witch-doctress may have been the
only creature in a whole district who studied the nature of herbs and
earths, or a solitary wizard experimenting on poisons was the only
individual in a whole territory interrogating nature; and where later,
a few score of alchemists and astrologers only were engaged in examining
the structure of substances, or the movement of planets, today thousands
of men in every civilised community are labouring to unravel the
mysteries of nature, and the practical chemist, the physician, the
anatomist, the engineer, the astronomer, the mathematician, the
electrician, form a mighty and always increasingly important army of
male labourers. Where once an isolated bard supplied a nation with its
literatures, or where later a few thousand priests and men of letters
wrote and transcribed for the few to read, today literature gives labour
to a multitude almost as countless as a swarm of locusts. From the
penny-a-liner to the artist and thinker, the demand for their labour
continually increases. Where one town-crier with stout legs and lusty
lungs was once all-sufficient to spread the town and country news, a
score of men now sit daily pen in hand, preparing the columns of the
morning’s paper, and far into the night a hundred compositors are
engaged in a labour which requires a higher culture of brain and finger
than most ancient kings and rulers possessed. Even in the labours of
war, the most brutal and primitive of the occupations lingering on into
civilised life from the savage state, the new demand for labour of an
intellectual kind is enormous. The invention, construction, and working
of one Krupp gun, though its mere discharge hardly demands more crude
muscular exertion than a savage expends in throwing his boomerang, yet
represents an infinitude of intellectual care and thought, far greater
than that which went to the shaping of all the weapons of a primitive
army. Above all, in the domain of politics and government, where once a
king or queen, aided by a handful of councillors, was alone practically
concerned in the labours of national guidance or legislation; today,
owing to the rapid means of intercommunication, printing, and the
consequent diffusion of political and social information throughout a
territory, it has become possible, for the first time, for all adults
in a large community to keep themselves closely informed on all national
affairs; and in every highly-civilised state the ordinary male has been
almost compelled to take his share, however small, in the duties and
labours of legislation and government. Thus there has opened before the
mass of men a vast new sphere of labour undreamed of by their ancestors.
In every direction the change which material civilisation has wrought,
while it has militated against that comparatively small section of males
who have nothing to offer society but the expenditure of their untrained
muscular energy (inflicting much and often completely unmerited
suffering upon them), has immeasurably extended the field of male labour
as a whole. Never before in the history of the earth has the man’s field
of remunerative toil been so wide, so interesting, so complex, and in
its results so all-important to society; never before has the male sex,
taken as a whole, been so fully and strenuously employed.

So much is this the case, that, exactly as in the earlier conditions of
society an excessive and almost crushing amount of the most important
physical labour generally devolved upon the female, so under modern
civilised conditions among the wealthier and fully civilised classes,
an unduly excessive share of labour tends to devolve upon the male. That
almost entirely modern, morbid condition, affecting brain and nervous
system, and shortening the lives of thousands in modern civilised
societies, which is vulgarly known as “overwork” or “nervous breakdown,”
 is but one evidence of the even excessive share of mental toil devolving
upon the modern male of the cultured classes, who, in addition to
maintaining himself, has frequently dependent upon him a larger or
smaller number of entirely parasitic females. But, whatever the result
of the changes of modern civilisation may be with regard to the male,
he certainly cannot complain that they have as a whole robbed him of
his fields of labour, diminished his share in the conduct of life, or
reduced him to a condition of morbid inactivity.

In our woman’s field of labour, matters have tended to shape themselves
wholly otherwise! The changes which have taken place during the last
centuries, and which we sum up under the compendious term “modern
civilisation,” have tended to rob woman, not merely in part but almost
wholly, of the more valuable of her ancient domain of productive and
social labour; and, where there has not been a determined and conscious
resistance on her part, have nowhere spontaneously tended to open out to
her new and compensatory fields.

It is this fact which constitutes our modern “Woman’s Labour Problem.”

Our spinning-wheels are all broken; in a thousand huge buildings
steam-driven looms, guided by a few hundred thousands of hands (often
those of men), produce the clothings of half the world; and we dare no
longer say, proudly, as of old, that we and we alone clothe our peoples.

Our hoes and our grindstones passed from us long ago, when the ploughman
and the miller took our place; but for a time we kept fast possession of
the kneading-trough and the brewing-vat. Today, steam often shapes our
bread, and the loaves are set down at our very door--it may be by a
man-driven motor-car! The history of our household drinks we know no
longer; we merely see them set before us at our tables. Day by day
machine-prepared and factory-produced viands take a larger and larger
place in the dietary of rich and poor, till the working man’s wife
places before her household little that is of her own preparation; while
among the wealthier classes, so far has domestic change gone that men
are not unfrequently found labouring in our houses and kitchens, and
even standing behind our chairs ready to do all but actually place the
morsels of food between our feminine lips. The army of rosy milkmaids
has passed away for ever, to give place to the cream-separator and the,
largely, male-and-machinery manipulated butter pat. In every direction
the ancient saw, that it was exclusively the woman’s sphere to prepare
the viands for her household, has become, in proportion as civilisation
has perfected itself, an antiquated lie.

Even the minor domestic operations are tending to pass out of the circle
of woman’s labour. In modern cities our carpets are beaten, our windows
cleaned, our floors polished, by machinery, or extra domestic, and often
male labour. Change has gone much farther than to the mere taking
from us of the preparation of the materials from which the clothing is
formed. Already the domestic sewing-machine, which has supplanted almost
entirely the ancient needle, begins to become antiquated, and a thousand
machines driven in factories by central engines are supplying not only
the husband and son, but the woman herself, with almost every article of
clothing from vest to jacket; while among the wealthy classes, the
male dress-designer with his hundred male-milliners and dressmakers
is helping finally to explode the ancient myth, that it is woman’s
exclusive sphere, and a part of her domestic toil, to cut and shape the
garments she or her household wear.

Year by year, day by day, there is a silently working but determined
tendency for the sphere of woman’s domestic labours to contract itself;
and the contraction is marked exactly in proportion as that complex
condition which we term “modern civilisation” is advanced.

It manifests itself more in England and America than in Italy and Spain,
more in great cities than in country places, more among the wealthier
classes than the poorer, and is an unfailing indication of advancing
modern civilisation. (There is, indeed, often something pathetic in the
attitude of many a good old mother of the race, who having survived,
here and there, into the heart of our modern civilisation, is sorely
puzzled by the change in woman’s duties and obligations. She may be
found looking into the eyes of some ancient crone, who, like herself,
has survived from a previous state of civilisation, seeking there a
confirmation of a view of life of which a troublous doubt has crept
even into her own soul. “I,” she cries, “always cured my own hams, and
knitted my own socks, and made up all the linen by hand. We always did
it when we were girls--but now my daughters object!” And her old
crone answers her? “Yes, we did it; it’s the right thing; but it’s so
expensive. It’s so much cheaper to buy things ready made!” And they
shake their heads and go their ways, feeling that the world is strangely
out of joint when duty seems no more duty. Such women are, in truth,
like a good old mother duck, who, having for years led her ducklings to
the same pond, when that pond has been drained and nothing is left but
baked mud, will still persist in bringing her younglings down to it, and
walks about with flapping wings and anxious quack, trying to induce them
to enter it. But the ducklings, with fresh young instincts, hear far off
the delicious drippings from the new dam which has been built higher up
to catch the water, and they smell the chickweed and the long grass that
is growing up beside it; and absolutely refuse to disport themselves on
the baked mud or to pretend to seek for worms where no worms are. And
they leave the ancient mother quacking beside her pond and set out to
seek for new pastures--perhaps to lose themselves upon the way?--perhaps
to find them? To the old mother one is inclined to say, “Ah, good old
mother duck, can you not see the world has changed? You cannot bring the
water back into the dried-up pond! Mayhap it was better and pleasanter
when it was there, but it has gone for ever; and, would you and yours
swim again, it must be in other waters.” New machinery, new duties.)

But it is not only, nor even mainly, in the sphere of women’s material
domestic labours that change has touched her and shrunk her ancient
field of labour.

Time was, when the woman kept her children about her knees till adult
years were reached. Hers was the training and influence which shaped
them. From the moment when the infant first lay on her breast, till her
daughters left her for marriage and her sons went to take share in man’s
labour, they were continually under the mother’s influence. Today,
so complex have become even the technical and simpler branches of
education, so mighty and inexorable are the demands which modern
civilisation makes for specialised instruction and training for all
individuals who are to survive and retain their usefulness under modern
conditions, that, from the earliest years of its life, the child is of
necessity largely removed from the hands of the mother, and placed
in those of the specialised instructor. Among the wealthier classes,
scarcely is the infant born when it passes into the hands of the trained
nurse, and from hers on into the hands of the qualified teacher; till,
at nine or ten, the son in certain countries often leaves his home for
ever for the public school, to pass on to the college and university;
while the daughter, in the hands of trained instructors and dependents,
owes in the majority of cases hardly more of her education or formation
to maternal toil. While even among our poorer classes, the infant
school, and the public school; and later on the necessity for manual
training, takes the son and often the daughter as completely, and always
increasingly as civilisation advances, from the mother’s control. So
marked has this change in woman’s ancient field of labour become, that a
woman of almost any class may have borne many children and yet in early
middle age be found sitting alone in an empty house, all her offspring
gone from her to receive training and instruction at the hands of
others. The ancient statement that the training and education of her
offspring is exclusively the duty of the mother, however true it
may have been with regard to a remote past, has become an absolute
misstatement; and the woman who should at the present day insist on
entirely educating her own offspring would, in nine cases out of ten,
inflict an irreparable injury on them, because she is incompetent.

But, if possible, yet more deeply and radically have the changes of
modern civilisation touched our ancient field of labour in another
direction--in that very portion of the field of human labour which is
peculiarly and organically ours, and which can never be wholly taken
from us. Here the shrinkage has been larger than in any other direction,
and touches us as women more vitally.

Time was, and still is, among almost all primitive and savage folk, when
the first and all-important duty of the female to her society was
to bear, to bear much, and to bear unceasingly! On her adequate and
persistent performance of this passive form of labour, and of her
successful feeding of her young from her own breast, and rearing it,
depended, not merely the welfare, but often the very existence, of
her tribe or nation. Where, as is the case among almost all barbarous
peoples, the rate of infant mortality is high; where the unceasing
casualties resulting from war, the chase, and acts of personal violence
tend continually to reduce the number of adult males; where, surgical
knowledge being still in its infancy, most wounds are fatal; where,
above all, recurrent pestilence and famine, unfailing if of irregular
recurrence, decimated the people, it has been all important that woman
should employ her creative power to its very uttermost limits if the
race were not at once to dwindle and die out. “May thy wife’s womb never
cease from bearing,” is still today the highest expression of goodwill
on the part of a native African chief to his departing guest. For, not
only does the prolific woman in the primitive state contribute to the
wealth and strength of her nation as a whole, but to that of her own
male companion and of her family. Where the social conditions of life
are so simple that, in addition to bearing and suckling the child, it
is reared and nourished through childhood almost entirely through the
labour and care of the mother, requiring no expenditure of tribal
or family wealth on its training or education, its value as an adult
enormously outweighs, both to the state and the male, the trouble and
expense of rearing it, which falls almost entirely on the individual
woman who bears it. The man who has twenty children to become warriors
and labourers is by so much the richer and the more powerful than he who
has but one; while the state whose women are prolific and labour for and
rear their children stands so far insured against destruction. Incessant
and persistent child-bearing is thus truly the highest duty and the most
socially esteemed occupation of the primitive woman, equalling fully in
social importance the labour of the man as hunter and warrior.

Even under those conditions of civilisation which have existed in the
centuries which divide primitive savagery from high civilisation, the
demand for continuous, unbroken child-bearing on the part of the woman
as her loftiest social duty has generally been hardly less imperious.
Throughout the Middle Ages of Europe, and down almost to our own day,
the rate of infant mortality was almost as large as in a savage state;
medical ignorance destroyed innumerable lives; antiseptic surgery being
unknown, serious wounds were still almost always fatal; in the low
state of sanitary science, plagues such as those which in the reign
of Justinian swept across the civilised world from India to Northern
Europe, well nigh depopulating the globe, or the Black Death of 1349,
which in England alone swept away more than half the population of the
island, were but extreme forms of the destruction of population going on
continually as the result of zymotic disease; while wars were not
merely far more common but, owing to the famines which almost invariably
followed them, were far more destructive to human life than in our own
days, and deaths by violence, whether at the hands of the state or as
the result of personal enmity, were of daily occurrence in all lands.
Under these conditions abstinence on the part of woman from incessant
child-bearing might have led to almost the same serious diminution or
even extinction of her people, as in the savage state; while the very
existence of her civilisation depended on the production of an immense
number of individuals as beasts of burden, without the expenditure
of whose crude muscular force in physical labour of agriculture and
manufacture those intermediate civilisations would, in the absence of
machinery, have been impossible. Twenty men had to be born, fed at the
breast, and reared by women to perform the crude brute labour which is
performed today by one small, well-adjusted steam crane; and the demand
for large masses of human creatures as mere reservoirs of motor force
for accomplishing the simplest processes was imperative. So strong,
indeed, was the consciousness of the importance to society of continuous
child-bearing on the part of woman, that as late as the middle of the
sixteenth century Martin Luther wrote: “If a woman becomes weary or at
last dead from bearing, that matters not; let her only die from bearing,
she is there to do it;” and he doubtless gave expression, in a crude
and somewhat brutal form, to a conviction common to the bulk of his
contemporaries, both male and female.

Today, this condition has almost completely reversed itself.

The advance of science and the amelioration of the physical conditions
of life tend rapidly toward a diminution of human mortality. The infant
death-rate among the upper classes in modern civilisations has fallen
by more than one-half; while among poorer classes it is already, though
slowly, falling: the increased knowledge of the laws of sanitation has
made among all highly civilised peoples the depopulation by plague a
thing of the past, and the discoveries of the next twenty or thirty
years will probably do away for ever with the danger to man of zymotic
disease. Famines of the old desolating type have become an impossibility
where rapid means of transportation convey the superfluity of one land
to supply the lack of another; and war and deeds of violence, though
still lingering among us, have already become episodal in the lives of
nations as of individuals; while the vast advances in antiseptic surgery
have caused even the effects of wounds and dismemberments to become only
very partially fatal to human life. All these changes have tended to
diminish human mortality and protract human life; and they have today
already made it possible for a race not only to maintain its numbers,
but even to increase them, with a comparatively small expenditure of
woman’s vitality in the passive labour of child-bearing.

But yet more seriously has the demand for woman’s labour as child-bearer
been diminished by change in another direction.

Every mechanical invention which lessens the necessity for rough,
untrained, muscular, human labour, diminishes also the social demand
upon woman as the producer in large masses of such labourers. Already
throughout the modern civilised world we have reached a point at which
the social demand is not merely for human creatures in the bulk for use
as beasts of burden, but, rather, and only, for such human creatures as
shall be so trained and cultured as to be fitted for the performance of
the more complex duties of modern life. Not, now, merely for many men,
but, rather, for few men, and those few, well born and well instructed,
is the modern demand. And the woman who today merely produces twelve
children and suckles them, and then turns them loose on her society and
family, is regarded, and rightly so, as a curse and down draught, and
not the productive labourer, of her community. Indeed, so difficult and
expensive has become in the modern world the rearing and training of
even one individual, in a manner suited to fit it for coping with the
complexities and difficulties of civilised life, that, to the family as
well as to the state, unlimited fecundity on the part of the female has
already, in most cases, become irremediable evil; whether it be in the
case of the artisan, who at the cost of immense self-sacrifice must
support and train his children till their twelfth or fourteenth year,
if they are ever to become even skilled manual labourers, and who if his
family be large often sinks beneath the burden, allowing his offspring,
untaught and untrained, to become waste products of human life; or, in
that of the professional man, who by his mental toil is compelled to
support and educate, at immense expense, his sons till they are twenty
or older, and to sustain his daughters, often throughout their whole
lives should they not marry, and to whom a large family proves often no
less disastrous; while the state whose women produce recklessly large
masses of individuals in excess of those for whom they can provide
instruction and nourishment is a state, in so far, tending toward
deterioration. The commandment to the modern woman is now not simply
“Thou shalt bear,” but rather, “Thou shalt not bear in excess of thy
power to rear and train satisfactorily;” and the woman who should
today appear at the door of a workhouse or the tribunal of the
poor-law guardians followed by her twelve infants, demanding honourable
sustenance for them and herself in return for the labour she had
undergone in producing them, would meet with but short shrift. And the
modern man who on his wedding-day should be greeted with the ancient
good wish, that he might become the father of twenty sons and twenty
daughters, would regard it as a malediction rather than a blessing. It
is certain that the time is now rapidly approaching when child-bearing
will be regarded rather as a lofty privilege, permissible only to
those who have shown their power rightly to train and provide for their
offspring, than a labour which in itself, and under whatever conditions
performed, is beneficial to society. (The difference between the
primitive and modern view on this matter is aptly and quaintly
illustrated by two incidents. Seeing a certain Bantu woman who appeared
better cared for, less hard worked, and happier than the mass of
her companions, we made inquiry, and found that she had two impotent
brothers; because of this she herself had not married, but had borne by
different men fourteen children, all of whom when grown she had given
to her brothers. “They are fond of me because I have given them so many
children, therefore I have not to work like the other women; and my
brothers give me plenty of mealies and milk,” she replied, complacently,
when questioned, “and our family will not die out.” And this person,
whose conduct was so emphatically anti-social on all sides when viewed
from the modern standpoint, was evidently regarded as pre-eminently of
value to her family and to society because of her mere fecundity. On the
other hand, a few weeks back appeared an account in the London papers
of an individual who, taken up at the East End for some brutal offence,
blubbered out in court that she was the mother of twenty children.
“You should be ashamed of yourself!” responded the magistrate; “a woman
capable of such conduct would be capable of doing anything!” and the
fine was remorselessly inflicted. Undoubtedly, if somewhat brutally,
the magistrate yet gave true voice to the modern view on the subject of
excessive and reckless child-bearing.)

Further, owing partly to the diminished demand for child-bearing, rising
from the extreme difficulty and expense of rearing and education, and
to many other complex social causes, to which we shall return later,
millions of women in our modern societies are so placed as to be
absolutely compelled to go through life not merely childless, but
without sex relationship in any form whatever; while another mighty army
of women is reduced by the dislocations of our civilisation to accepting
sexual relationships which practically negate child-bearing, and whose
only product is physical and moral disease.

Thus, it has come to pass that vast numbers of us are, by modern social
conditions, prohibited from child-bearing at all; and that even those
among us who are child-bearers are required, in proportion as the class
of race to which we belong stands high in the scale of civilisation, to
produce in most cases a limited number of offspring; so that even for
these of us, child-bearing and suckling, instead of filling the entire
circle of female life from the first appearance of puberty to the end of
middle age, becomes an episodal occupation, employing from three or four
to ten or twenty of the threescore-and-ten-years which are allotted to
human life. In such societies the statement (so profoundly true when
made with regard to most savage societies, and even largely true with
regard to those in the intermediate stages of civilisation) that the
main and continuous occupation of all women from puberty to age is the
bearing and suckling of children, and that this occupation must fully
satisfy all her needs for social labour and activity, becomes an
antiquated and unmitigated misstatement.

Not only are millions of our women precluded from ever bearing a child,
but for those of us who do bear the demand is ever increasingly in
civilised societies coupled with the condition that if we would act
socially we must restrict our powers. (As regards modern civilised
nations, we find that those whose birthrate is the highest per woman are
by no means the happiest, most enlightened, or powerful; nor do we even
find that the population always increases in proportion to the births.
France, which in many respects leads in the van of civilisation, has
one of the lowest birthrates per woman in Europe; and among the free and
enlightened population of Switzerland and Scandinavia the birthrate is
often exceedingly low; while Ireland, one of the most unhappy and weak
of European nations, had long one of the highest birthrates, without
any proportional increase in population or power. With regard to the
different classes in one community, the same effect is observable. The
birthrate per woman is higher among the lowest and most ignorant classes
in the back slums of our great cities, than among the women of the upper
and cultured classes, mainly because the age at which marriages are
contracted always tends to become higher as the culture and intelligence
of individuals rises, but also because of the regulation of the number
of births after marriage. Yet the number of children reared to adult
years among the more intelligent classes probably equals or exceeds
those of the lowest, owing to the high rate of infant mortality where
births are excessive.)

Looking round, then, with the uttermost impartiality we can command,
on the entire field of woman’s ancient and traditional labours, we find
that fully three-fourths of it have shrunk away for ever, and that the
remaining fourth still tends to shrink.

It is this great fact, so often and so completely overlooked, which lies
as the propelling force behind that vast and restless “Woman’s Movement”
 which marks our day. It is this fact, whether clearly and intellectually
grasped, or, as is more often the case, vaguely and painfully felt,
which awakes in the hearts of the ablest modern European women their
passionate, and at times it would seem almost incoherent, cry for new
forms of labour and new fields for the exercise of their powers.

Thrown into strict logical form, our demand is this: We do not ask that
the wheels of time should reverse themselves, or the stream of life
flow backward. We do not ask that our ancient spinning-wheels be again
resuscitated and placed in our hands; we do not demand that our old
grindstones and hoes be returned to us, or that man should again betake
himself entirely to his ancient province of war and the chase, leaving
to us all domestic and civil labour. We do not even demand that society
shall immediately so reconstruct itself that every woman may be again a
child-bearer (deep and over-mastering as lies the hunger for motherhood
in every virile woman’s heart!); neither do we demand that the children
whom we bear shall again be put exclusively into our hands to train.
This, we know, cannot be. The past material conditions of life have gone
for ever; no will of man can recall them; but this is our demand: We
demand that, in that strange new world that is arising alike upon
the man and the woman, where nothing is as it was, and all things are
assuming new shapes and relations, that in this new world we also shall
have our share of honoured and socially useful human toil, our full
half of the labour of the Children of Woman. We demand nothing more than
this, and we will take nothing less. This is our “WOMAN’S RIGHT!”

Chapter II. Parasitism (continued).

Is it to be, that, in the future, machinery and the captive motor-forces
of nature are largely to take the place of human hand and foot in
the labour of clothing and feeding the nations; are these branches
of industry to be no longer domestic labours?--then, we demand in the
factory, the warehouse, and the field, wherever machinery has usurped
our ancient labour-ground, that we also should have our place, as
guiders, controllers, and possessors. Is child-bearing to become the
labour of but a portion of our sex?--then we demand for those among
us who are allowed to take no share in it, compensatory and equally
honourable and important fields of social toil. Is the training of
human creatures to become a yet more and more onerous and laborious
occupation, their education and culture to become increasingly a high
art, complex and scientific?--if so, then, we demand that high and
complex culture and training which shall fit us for instructing the race
which we bring into the world. Is the demand for child-bearing to
become so diminished that, even in the lives of those among us who are
child-bearers, it shall fill no more than half a dozen years out of the
three-score-and-ten of human life?--then we demand that an additional
outlet be ours which shall fill up with dignity and value the tale
of the years not so employed. Is intellectual labour to take ever and
increasingly the place of crude muscular exertion in the labour of
life?--then we demand for ourselves that culture and the freedom
of action which alone can yield us the knowledge of life and the
intellectual vigour and strength which will enable us to undertake the
same share of mental which we have borne in the past in physical labours
of life. Are the rulers of the race to be no more its kings and queens,
but the mass of the peoples?--then we, one-half of the nations, demand
our full queens’ share in the duties and labours of government and
legislation. Slowly but determinately, as the old fields of labour close
up and are submerged behind us, we demand entrance into the new.

We make this demand, not for our own sakes alone, but for the succour of
the race.

A horseman, riding along on a dark night in an unknown land, may chance
to feel his horse start beneath him; rearing, it may almost hurl him to
the earth: in the darkness he may curse his beast, and believe its aim
is simply to cast him off, and free itself for ever of its burden.
But when the morning dawns and lights the hills and valleys he has
travelled, looking backward, he may perceive that the spot where his
beast reared, planting its feet into the earth, and where it refused to
move farther on the old road, was indeed the edge of a mighty precipice,
down which one step more would have precipitated both horse and rider.
And he may then see that it was an instinct wiser than his own which
lead his creature, though in the dark, to leap backward, seeking a
new path along which both might travel. (Is it not recorded that even
Balaam’s ass on which he rode saw the angel with flaming sword, but
Balaam saw it not?)

In the confusion and darkness of the present, it may well seem to
some, that woman, in her desire to seek for new paths of labour and
employment, is guided only by an irresponsible impulse; or that she
seeks selfishly only her own good, at the cost of that of the race,
which she has so long and faithfully borne onward. But, when a clearer
future shall have arisen and the obscuring mists of the present have
been dissipated, may it not then be clearly manifest that not for
herself alone, but for her entire race, has woman sought her new paths?

For let it be noted exactly what our position is, who today, as
women, are demanding new fields of labour and a reconstruction of our
relationship with life.

It is often said that the labour problem before the modern woman and
that before the unemployed or partially or almost uselessly employed
male, are absolutely identical; and that therefore, when the male labour
problem of our age solves itself, that of the woman will of necessity
have met its solution also.

This statement, with a certain specious semblance of truth, is yet, we
believe, radically and fundamentally false. It is true that both the
male and the female problems of our age have taken their rise largely
in the same rapid material changes which during the last centuries,
and more especially the last ninety years, have altered the face of the
human world. Both men and women have been robbed by those changes of
their ancient remunerative fields of social work: here the resemblance
stops. The male, from whom the changes of modern civilisation have taken
his ancient field of labour, has but one choice before him: he must find
new fields of labour, or he must perish. Society will not ultimately
support him in an absolutely quiescent and almost useless condition.
If he does not vigorously exert himself in some direction or other (the
direction may even be predatory) he must ultimately be annihilated.
Individual drones, both among the wealthiest and the poorest classes
(millionaires’ sons, dukes, or tramps), may in isolated cases be
preserved, and allowed to reproduce themselves without any exertion
or activity of mind or body, but a vast body of males who, having lost
their old forms of social employment, should refuse in any way to exert
themselves or seek for new, would at no great length of time become
extinct. There never has been, and as far as can be seen, there never
will be, a time when the majority of the males in any society will be
supported by the rest of the males in a condition of perfect mental and
physical inactivity. “Find labour or die,” is the choice ultimately put
before the human male today, as in the past; and this constitutes his
labour problem. (The nearest approach to complete parasitism on the part
of a vast body of males occurred, perhaps, in ancient Rome at the
time of the decay and downfall of the Empire, when the bulk of the
population, male as well as female, was fed on imported corn, wine,
and oil, and supplied even with entertainment, almost entirely without
exertion or labour of any kind; but this condition was of short
duration, and speedily contributed to the downfall of the diseased
Empire itself. Among the wealthy and so-called upper classes, the males
of various aristocracies have frequently tended to become completely
parasitic after a lapse of time, but such a condition has always been
met by a short and sharp remedy; and the class has fallen, or become
extinct. The condition of the males of the upper classes in France
before the Revolution affords an interesting illustration of this

The labour of the man may not always be useful in the highest sense to
his society, or it may even be distinctly harmful and antisocial, as in
the case of the robber-barons of the Middle Ages, who lived by capturing
and despoiling all who passed by their castles; or as in the case of
the share speculators, stock-jobbers, ring-and-corner capitalists, and
monopolists of the present day, who feed upon the productive labours of
society without contributing anything to its welfare. But even males so
occupied are compelled to expend a vast amount of energy and even a
low intelligence in their callings; and, however injurious to their
societies, they run no personal risk of handing down effete and
enervated constitutions to their race. Whether beneficially or
unbeneficially, the human male must, generally speaking, employ his
intellect, or his muscle, or die.

The position of the unemployed modern female is one wholly different.
The choice before her, as her ancient fields of domestic labour slip
from her, is not generally or often at the present day the choice
between finding new fields of labour, or death; but one far more serious
in its ultimate reaction on humanity as a whole--it is the choice
between finding new forms of labour or sinking slowly into a condition
of more or less complete and passive sex-parasitism! (It is not without
profound interest to note the varying phenomena of sex-parasitism as
they present themselves in the animal world, both in the male and in the
female form. Though among the greater number of species in the animal
world the female form is larger and more powerful rather than the male
(e.g., among birds of prey, such as eagles, falcons, vultures, &c., and
among fishes, insects, &c.), yet sex-parasitism appears among both sex
forms. In certain sea-creatures, for example, the female carries about
in the folds of her covering three or four minute and quite inactive
males, who are entirely passive and dependent upon her. Among termites,
on the other hand, the female has so far degenerated that she has
entirely lost the power of locomotion; she can no longer provide herself
or her offspring with nourishment, or defend or even clean herself; she
has become a mere passive, distended bag of eggs, without intelligence
or activity, she and her offspring existing through the exertions of
the workers of the community. Among other insects, such, for example, as
certain ticks, another form of female parasitism prevails, and while the
male remains a complex, highly active, and winded creature, the female,
fastening herself by the head into the flesh of some living animal
and sucking its blood, has lost wings and all activity, and power of
locomotion; having become a mere distended bladder, which when filled
with eggs bursts and ends a parasitic existence which has hardly been
life. It is not impossible, and it appears, indeed, highly probable,
that it has been this degeneration and parasitism on the part of the
female which has set its limitation to the evolution of ants, creatures
which, having reached a point of mental development in some respects
almost as high as that of man, have yet become curiously and immovably
arrested. The whole question of sex-parasitism among the lower animals
is one throwing suggestive and instructive side-lights on human social
problems, but is too extensive to be here entered on.)

Again and again in the history of the past, when among human creatures
a certain stage of material civilisation has been reached, a curious
tendency has manifested itself for the human female to become more
or less parasitic; social conditions tend to rob her of all forms
of active, conscious, social labour, and to reduce her, like the
field-tick, to the passive exercise of her sex functions alone. And the
result of this parasitism has invariably been the decay in vitality and
intelligence of the female, followed after a longer or shorter period by
that of her male descendants and her entire society.

Nevertheless, in the history of the past the dangers of the
sex-parasitism have never threatened more than a small section of the
females of the human race, those exclusively of some comparatively
small dominant race or class; the mass of women beneath them being
still compelled to assume many forms of strenuous activity. It is at
the present day, and under the peculiar conditions of our modern
civilisation, that for the first time sex-parasitism has become a
danger, more or less remote, to the mass of civilised women, perhaps
ultimately to all.

In the very early stages of human growth, the sexual parasitism and
degeneration of the female formed no possible source of social danger.
Where the conditions of life rendered it inevitable that all the labour
of a community should be performed by the members of that community for
themselves, without the assistance of slaves or machinery, the tendency
has always been rather to throw an excessive amount of social labour on
the female. Under no conditions, at no time, in no place, in the history
of the world have the males of any period, of any nation, or of any
class, shown the slightest inclination to allow their own females to
become inactive or parasitic, so long as the actual muscular labour
of feeding and clothing them would in that case have devolved upon

The parasitism of the human female becomes a possibility only when a
point in civilisation is reached (such as that which was attained in the
ancient civilisations of Greece, Rome, Persia, Assyria, India, and such
as today exists in many of the civilisations of the East, such as those
of China and Turkey), when, owing to the extensive employment of the
labour of slaves, or of subject races or classes, the dominant race or
class has become so liberally supplied with the material goods of life,
that mere physical toil on the part of its own female members has become
unnecessary. It is when this point has been reached, and never
before, that the symptoms of female parasitism have in the past almost
invariably tended to manifest themselves, and have become a social
danger. The males of the dominant class have almost always contrived to
absorb to themselves the new intellectual occupations, with the absence
of necessity for the old forms of physical toil made possible in their
societies; and the females of the dominant class or race, for whose
muscular labours there was now also no longer any need, not succeeding
in grasping or attaining to these new forms of labour, have sunk into a
state in which, performing no species of active social duty, they have
existed through the passive performance of sexual functions alone, with
how much or how little of discontent will now never be known, since no
literary record has been made by the woman of the past, of her desires
or sorrows. Then, in place of the active labouring woman, upholding
society by her toil, has come the effete wife, concubine, or prostitute,
clad in fine raiment, the work of others’ fingers; fed on luxurious
viands, the result of others’ toil, waited on and tended by the labour
of others. The need for her physical labour having gone, and mental
industry not having taken its place, she bedecked and scented her
person, or had it bedecked and scented for her, she lay upon her sofa,
or drove or was carried out in her vehicle, and, loaded with jewels, she
sought by dissipations and amusements to fill up the inordinate blank
left by the lack of productive activity. And as the hand whitened and
frame softened, till, at last, the very duties of motherhood, which were
all the constitution of her life left her, became distasteful, and, from
the instant when her infant came damp from her womb, it passed into the
hands of others, to be tended and reared by them; and from youth to age
her offspring often owed nothing to her personal toil. In many cases so
complete was her enervation, that at last the very joy of giving life,
the glory and beatitude of a virile womanhood, became distasteful;
and she sought to evade it, not because of its interference with more
imperious duties to those already born of her, or to her society,
but because her existence of inactivity had robbed her of all joy in
strenuous exertion and endurance in any form. Finely clad, tenderly
housed, life became for her merely the gratification of her own physical
and sexual appetites, and the appetites of the male, through the
stimulation of which she could maintain herself. And, whether as kept
wife, kept mistress, or prostitute, she contributed nothing to the
active and sustaining labours of her society. She had attained to the
full development of that type which, whether in modern Paris or New York
or London, or in ancient Greece, Assyria, or Rome, is essentially one in
its features, its nature, and its results. She was the “fine lady,”
 the human female parasite--the most deadly microbe which can make its
appearance on the surface of any social organism. (The relation of
female parasitism generally, to the peculiar phenomenon of prostitution,
is fundamental. Prostitution can never be adequately dealt with, either
from the moral or the scientific standpoint, unless its relation to the
general phenomenon of female parasitism be fully recognised. It is the
failure to do this which leaves so painful a sense of abortion on the
mind, after listening to most modern utterances on the question,
whether made from the emotional platform of the moral reformer, or the
intellectual platform of the would-be scientist. We are left with a
feeling that the matter has been handled but not dealt with: that the
knife has not reached the core.)

Wherever in the history of the past this type has reached its full
development and has comprised the bulk of the females belonging to any
dominant class or race, it has heralded its decay. In Assyria, Greece,
Rome, Persia, as in Turkey today, the same material conditions have
produced the same social disease among wealthy and dominant races; and
again and again when the nation so affected has come into contact
with nations more healthily constituted, this diseased condition has
contributed to its destruction.

In ancient Greece, in its superb and virile youth, its womanhood was
richly and even heavily endowed with duties and occupations. Not the
mass of the woman alone, but the king’s wife and the prince’s daughter
do we find going to the well to bear water, cleansing the household
linen in the streams, feeding and doctoring their households,
manufacturing the clothing of their race, and performing even a share
of the highest social functions as priestesses and prophetesses. It was
from the bodies of such women as these that sprang that race of heroes,
thinkers, and artists who laid the foundations of Grecian greatness.
These females underlay their society as the solid and deeply buried
foundations underlay the more visible and ornate portions of a great
temple, making its structure and persistence possible. In Greece, after
a certain lapse of time, these virile labouring women in the upper
classes were to be found no more. The accumulated wealth of the dominant
race, gathered through the labour of slaves and subject people, had so
immensely increased that there was no longer a call for physical labour
on the part of the dominant womanhood; immured within the walls of their
houses as wives or mistresses, waited on by slaves and dependents, they
no longer sustained by their exertion either their own life or the life
of their people. The males absorbed the intellectual labours of life;
slaves and dependents the physical. For a moment, at the end of the
fifth and beginning of the fourth century, when the womanhood of
Greece had already internally decayed, there was indeed a brilliant
intellectual efflorescence among her males, like to the gorgeous colours
in the sunset sky when the sun is already sinking; but the heart
of Greece was already rotting and her vigour failing. Increasingly,
division and dissimilarity arose between male and female, as the male
advanced in culture and entered upon new fields of intellectual toil
while the female sank passively backward and lower in the scale of life,
and thus was made ultimately a chasm which even sexual love could not
bridge. The abnormal institution of avowed inter-male sexual relations
upon the highest plane was one, and the most serious result, of this
severance. The inevitable and invincible desire of all highly developed
human natures, to blend with their sexual relationships their highest
intellectual interests and sympathies, could find no satisfaction or
response in the relationship between the immured, comparatively ignorant
and helpless females of the upper classes, in Greece, and the brilliant,
cultured, and many-sided males who formed its dominant class in the
fifth and fourth centuries. Man turned towards man; and parenthood, the
divine gift of imparting human life, was severed from the loftiest and
profoundest phases of human emotion: Xanthippe fretted out her ignorant
and miserable little life between the walls of her house, and Socrates
lay in the Agora, discussing philosophy and morals with Alcibiades;
and the race decayed at its core. (See Jowett’s translation of Plato’s
“Banquet”; but for full light on this important question the entire
literature of Greece in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. should be
studied.) Here and there an Aspasia, or earlier still a Sappho, burst
through the confining bonds of woman’s environment, and with the force
of irresistible genius broke triumphantly into new fields of action and
powerful mental activity, standing side by side with the male; but their
cases were exceptional. Had they, or such as they, been able to tread
down a pathway, along which the mass of Grecian women might have
followed them; had it been possible for the bulk of the women of the
dominant race in Greece at the end of the fifth century to rise from
their condition of supine inaction and ignorance and to have taken their
share in the intellectual labours and stern activities of their race,
Greece would never have fallen, as she fell at the end of the fourth
century, instantaneously and completely, as a rotten puff-ball falls in
at the touch of a healthy finger; first, before the briberies of Philip,
and then yet more completely before the arms of his yet more warlike
son, who was also the son of the fierce, virile, and indomitable
Olympia. (Like almost all men remarkable for either good or evil,
Alexander inherited from his mother his most notable qualities--his
courage, his intellectual activity, and an ambition indifferent to any
means that made for his own end. Fearless in her life, she fearlessly
met death “with a courage worthy of her rank and domineering character,
when her hour of retribution came”; and Alexander is incomprehensible
till we recognise him as rising from the womb of Olympia.) Nor could
she have been swept clean, a few hundred years later, from Thessaly to
Sparta, from Corinth to Ephesus, her temples destroyed, her effete women
captured by the hordes of the Goths--a people less skilfully armed
and less civilised than the descendants of the race of Pericles and
Leonidas, but who were a branch of that great Teutonic folk whose
monogamous domestic life was sound at the core, and whose fearless,
labouring, and resolute women yet bore for the men they followed to the
ends of the earth, what Spartan women once said they alone bore--men.

In Rome, in the days of her virtue and vigour, the Roman matron laboured
mightily, and bore on her shoulders her full half of the social burden,
though her sphere of labour and influence was even somewhat smaller
than that of the Teutonic sisterhood whose descendants were finally to
supplant her own. From the vestal virgin to the matron, the Roman woman
in the days of the nation’s health and growth fulfilled lofty functions
and bore the whole weight of domestic toil. From the days of Lucretia,
the great Roman dame whom we find spinning with her handmaidens deep
into the night, and whose personal dignity was so dear to her that,
violated, she sought only death, to those of the mother of the Gracchi,
one of the last of the great line, we find everywhere, erect, labouring,
and resolute, the Roman woman who gave birth to the men who built up
Roman greatness. A few centuries later, and Rome also had reached that
dangerous spot in the order of social change which Greece had reached
centuries before her. Slave labour and the enjoyment of the unlimited
spoils of subject races had done away for ever with the demand for
physical labour on the part of the members of the dominant race. Then
came the period when the male still occupied himself with the duties
of war and government, of legislation and self-culture; but the Roman
matron had already ceased for ever from her toils. Decked in jewels and
fine clothing, brought at the cost of infinite human labour from the
ends of the earth, nourished on delicate victuals, prepared by others’
hands, she sought now only with amusement to pass away a life that no
longer offered her the excitement and joy of active productive exertion.
She frequented theatres or baths, or reclined on her sofa, or drove in
her chariot; and like more modern counterparts, painted herself, wore
patches, affected an artistic walk, and a handshake with the elbow
raised and the fingers hanging down. Her children were reared by
dependents; and in the intellectual labour and government of her age
she took small part, and was fit to take none. There were not wanting
writers and thinkers who saw clearly the end to which the enervation of
the female was tending, and who were not sparing in their denunciations.
“Time was,” cries one Roman writer of that age, “when the matron turned
the spindle with the hand and kept at the same time the pot in her eye
that the pottage might not be singed, but now,” he adds bitterly,
“when the wife, loaded with jewels, reposes among pillows, or seeks the
dissipation of baths and theatres, all things go downward and the state
decays.” Yet neither he nor that large body of writers and thinkers who
saw the condition towards which the parasitism of woman was tending
to reduce society, preached any adequate remedy. (Indeed, must not
the protest and the remedy in all such cases, if they are to be of any
avail, take their rise within the diseased class itself?)

Thoughtful men sighed over the present and yearned for the past, nor
seem to have perceived that it was irrevocably gone; that the Roman
lady who, with a hundred servants standing idle about her, should, in
imitation of her ancestress, have gone out with her pitcher on her head
to draw water from the well, while in all her own courtyards pipe-led
streams gushed forth, would have acted the part of the pretender; that
had she insisted on resuscitating her loom and had sat up all night
to spin, she could never have produced those fabrics which alone her
household demanded, and would have been but a puerile actor; that it was
not by attempting to return to the ancient and for ever closed fields of
toil, but by entering upon new, that she could alone serve her race
and retain her own dignity and virility. That not by bearing water and
weaving linen, but by so training and disciplining herself that she
should be fitted to bear her share in the labour necessary to the just
and wise guidance of a great empire, and be capable of training a race
of men adequate to exercise an enlightened, merciful, and beneficent
rule over the vast masses of subject people--that so, and so only,
could she fulfil her duty toward the new society about her, and bear its
burden together with man, as her ancestresses of bygone generations had
borne the burden of theirs.

That in this direction, and this alone, lay the only possible remedy for
the evils of woman’s condition, was a conception apparently grasped
by none; and the female sank lower and lower, till the image of the
parasitic woman of Rome (with a rag of the old Roman intensity left
even in her degradation!)--seeking madly by pursuit of pleasure and
sensuality to fill the void left by the lack of honourable activity;
accepting lust in the place of love, ease in the place of exertion, and
an unlimited consumption in the place of production; too enervated at
last to care even to produce offspring, and shrinking from every form
of endurance--remains, even to the present day, the most perfect, and
therefore the most appalling, picture of the parasite female that earth
has produced--a picture only less terrible than it is pathetic.

We recognise that it was inevitable that this womanhood--born it would
seem from its elevation to guide and enlighten a world, and in place
thereof feeding on it--should at last have given birth to a manhood as
effete as itself, and that both should in the end have been swept away
before the march of those Teutonic folk, whose women were virile and
could give birth to men; a folk among whom the woman received on the
morning of her marriage, from the man who was to be her companion
through life, no contemptible trinket to hang about her throat or limbs,
but a shield, a spear, a sword, and a yoke of oxen, while she bestowed
on him in return a suit of armour, in token that they two were
henceforth to be one in toil and in the facing of danger; that she too
should dare with him in war and suffer with him in peace; and of whom
another writer tells us, that their women not only bore the race and
fed it at their breasts without the help of others’ hands, but that they
undertook the whole management of house and lands, leaving the males
free for war and chase; of whom Suetonius tells us, that when Augustus
Caesar demanded hostages from a tribe, he took women, not men, because
he found by experience that the women were more regarded than men, and
of whom Strabo says, that so highly did the Germanic races value the
intellect of their women that they regarded them as inspired, and
entered into no war or great undertaking without their advice and
counsel; while among the Cimbrian women who accompanied their husbands
in the invasion of Italy were certain who marched barefooted in the
midst of the lines, distinguished by their white hair and milk-white
robes, and who were regarded as inspired, and of whom Florus, describing
an early Roman victory, says, “The conflict was not less fierce and
obstinate with the wives of the vanquished; in their carts and wagons
they formed a line of battle, and from their elevated situation, as from
so many turrets, annoyed the Romans with their poles and lances. (The
South African Boer woman after two thousand years appears not wholly to
have forgotten the ancestral tactics.) Their death was as glorious as
their martial spirit. Finding that all was lost, they strangled their
children, and either destroyed themselves in one scene of mutual
slaughter, or with the sashes that bound up their hair suspended
themselves by the neck to the boughs of trees or the tops of their
wagons.” It is of these women that Valerius Maximus says, that, “If the
gods on the day of battle had inspired the men with equal fortitude,
Marius would never have boasted of his Teutonic victory;” and of whom
Tacitus, speaking of those women who accompanied their husbands to war,
remarks, “These are the darling witnesses of his conduct, the applauders
of his valour, at once beloved and valued. The wounded seek their
mothers and their wives; undismayed at the sight, the women count each
honourable scar and suck the gushing blood. They are even hardy enough
to mix with the combatants, administering refreshment and exhorting them
to deeds of valour,” and adds moreover, that “To be contented with one
wife was peculiar to the Germans; while the woman was contented with one
husband, as with one life, one mind, one body.”

It was inevitable that before the sons of women such as these, the sons
of the parasitic Roman should be swept from existence, as the offspring
of the caged canary would fall in conflict with the offspring of the

Again and again with wearisome reiteration, the same story repeats
itself. Among the Jews in the days of their health and growth, we find
their women bearing the major weight of agricultural and domestic toil,
full always of labour and care--from Rachel, whom Jacob met and loved
as she watered her father’s flocks, to Ruth, the ancestress of a line of
kings and heroes, whom her Boas noted labouring in the harvest-fields;
from Sarah, kneading and baking cakes for Abraham’s prophetic visitors,
to Miriam, prophetess and singer, and Deborah, who judging Israel
from beneath her palm-tree, “and the land had rest for forty years.”
 Everywhere the ancient Jewish woman appears, an active sustaining power
among her people; and perhaps the noblest picture of the labouring
woman to be found in any literature is contained in the Jewish writings,
indited possibly at the very time when the labouring woman was for the
first time tending among a section of the Jews to become a thing of the
past; when already Solomon, with his seven hundred parasitic wives and
three hundred parasitic concubines, loomed large on the horizon of the
national life, to take the place of flock-tending Rachel and gleaning
Ruth, and to produce amid their palaces of cedar and gold, among them
all, no Joseph or David, but in the way of descendant only a Rehoboam,
under whose hand the kingdom was to totter to its fall. (The picture
of the labouring as opposed to the parasitic ideal of womanhood appears
under the heading, “The words of King Lemuel; the oracle which his
mother taught him.”) At risk of presenting the reader with that with
which he is already painfully familiar, we here transcribe the
passage; which, allowing for differences in material and intellectual
surroundings, paints also the ideal of the labouring womanhood of the
present and of the future:--

  “Her price is far above rubies,
   The heart of her husband trusteth in her,
   And he shall have no lack of gain,
   She doeth him good and not evil
   All the days of her life,
   She seeketh wool and flax,
   And worketh willingly with her hands,
   She is like the merchant ships;
   She bringeth her food, from afar,
   She riseth up while it is yet night
   And giveth meat to her household,
   And their task to her maidens,
   She considereth a field, and buyeth it;
   With the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
   She girdeth her loins with strength,
   And maketh strong her arms.
   She perceiveth that her merchandise is profitable;
   Her lamp goeth not out by night,
   She layeth her hands to the distaff,
   And her hands hold the spindle.
   She spreadeth out her hand to the poor:
   Yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy,
   She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
   For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
   She maketh herself carpets of tapestry;
   Her clothing is fine and purple.
   Her husband is known in the gates,
   When he sitteth among the elders of the land,
   She maketh linen garments and selleth them,
   And delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
   Strength and dignity are her clothing;
   And she laugheth at the time to come.
   She openeth her mouth with wisdom,
   And the law of kindness is on her tongue,
   She looketh well to the ways of her household,
   And eateth not the bread of idleness.
   Her children rise up and call her blessed,
   Her husband also, and he praiseth her, saying,
   Many daughters have done virtuously,
   But thou excellest them all,
   Give her the fruit of her hand,
   And let her works praise her in the gate.”

In the East today the same story has wearisomely written itself: in
China, where the present vitality and power of the most ancient of
existing civilisations may be measured accurately by the length of its
woman’s shoes; in Turkish harems, where one of the noblest dominant
Aryan races the world has yet produced, is being slowly suffocated in
the arms of a parasite womanhood, and might, indeed, along ago have been
obliterated, had not a certain virility and strength been continually
reinfused into it through the persons of purchased wives, who in early
childhood and youth had been themselves active labouring peasants.
Everywhere, in the past as in the present, the parasitism of the female
heralds the decay of a nation or class, and as invariably indicates
disease as the pustules of smallpox upon the skin indicate the existence
of a purulent virus in the system.

We are, indeed, far from asserting that the civilisations of the past
which have decayed, have decayed alone through the parasitism of their
females. Vast, far-reaching social phenomena have invariably causes and
reactions immeasurably too complex to be summed up under one so simple a
term. Behind the phenomenon of female parasitism has always lain another
and yet larger social phenomenon; it has invariably been preceded, as we
have seen, by the subjugation of large bodies of other human creatures,
either as slaves, subject races, or classes; and as the result of the
excessive labours of those classes there has always been an accumulation
of unearned wealth in the hands of the dominant class or race. It has
invariably been by feeding on this wealth, the result of forced or
ill-paid labour, that the female of the dominant race or class has in
the past lost her activity and has come to exist purely through the
passive performance of her sexual functions. Without slaves or subject
classes to perform the crude physical labours of life and produce
superfluous wealth, the parasitism of the female would, in the past,
have been an impossibility.

There is, therefore, a profound truth in that universal saw which states
that the decay of the great nations and civilisations of the past has
resulted from the enervation caused by excessive wealth and luxury; and
there is a further, and if possible more profound, truth underlying the
statement that their destruction has ultimately been the result of the
enervation of the entire race, male and female.

But when we come further to inquire how, exactly, this process of decay
took place, we shall find that the part which the parasitism of the
female has played has been fundamental. The mere use of any of the
material products of labour, which we term wealth, can never in itself
produce that decay, physical or mental, which precedes the downfall of
great civilised nations. The eating of salmon at ten shillings a pound
can in itself no more debilitate and corrupt the moral, intellectual,
and physical constitution of the man consuming it, than it could
enervate his naked forefathers who speared it in their rivers for food;
the fact that an individual wears a robe made from the filaments of a
worm, can no more deteriorate his spiritual or physical fibre, than
were it made of sheep’s wool; an entire race, housed in marble palaces,
faring delicately, and clad in silks, and surrounded by the noblest
products of literature and plastic art, so those palaces, viands,
garments, and products of art were the result of their own labours,
could never be enervated by them. The debilitating effect of wealth
sets in at that point exactly (and never before) at which the supply of
material necessaries and comforts, and of aesthetic enjoyments, clogs
the individuality, causing it to rest satisfied in the mere passive
possession of the results of the labour of others, without feeling any
necessity or desire for further productive activity of its own. (Of the
other deleterious effects of unearned wealth on the individual or class
possessing it, such as its power of lessening human sympathy, &c., &c.,
we do not now speak, as while ultimately and indirectly, undoubtedly,
tending to disintegrate a society, they do not necessarily and
immediately enervate it, which enervation is the point we are here

The exact material condition at which this point will be reached will
vary, not only with the race and the age, but with the individual. A
Marcus Aurelius in a palace of gold and marble was able to retain
his simplicity and virility as completely as though he had lived in a
cow-herd’s hut; while on the other hand, it is quite possible for the
wife of a savage chief who has but four slaves to bring her her corn
and milk and spread her skins in the sun, to become almost as purely
parasitic as the most delicately pampered female of fashion in ancient
Rome, or modern Paris, London, or New York; while the exact amount of
unearned material wealth which will emasculate individuals in the same
society, will vary exactly as their intellectual and moral fibre and
natural activity are strong or weak. (It is not uncommon in modern
societies to find women of a class relatively very moderately wealthy,
the wives and daughters of shopkeepers or professional men, who if their
male relations will supply them with a very limited amount of money
without exertion on their part, will become as completely parasitic and
useless as women with untold wealth at their command.)

The debilitating effect of unlaboured-for wealth lies, then, not in the
nature of any material adjunct to life in itself, but in the power it
may possess of robbing the individual of all incentive to exertion, thus
destroying the intellectual, the physical, and finally, the moral fibre.

In all the civilisations of the past examination will show that almost
invariably it has been the female who has tended first to reach this
point, and we think examination will show that it has almost invariably
been from the woman to the man that enervation and decay have spread.

Why this should be so is obvious. Firstly, it is in the sphere of
domestic labour that slave or hired labour most easily and insidiously
penetrates. The force of blows or hireling gold can far more easily
supply labourers as the preparers of food and clothing, and even as the
rearers of children, than it can supply labourers fitted to be entrusted
with the toils of war and government, which have in the past been the
especial sphere of male toil. The Roman woman had for generations been
supplanted in the sphere of her domestic labours and in the toil of
rearing and educating her offspring, and had long become abjectly
parasitic, before the Roman male had been able to substitute the labour
of the hireling and barbarian for his own, in the army, and in the
drudgeries of governmental toil.

Secondly, the female having one all-important though passive function
which cannot be taken from her, and which is peculiarly connected
with her own person, in the act of child-bearing, and her mere sexual
attributes being an object of desire and cupidity to the male, she is
liable in a peculiarly insidious and gradual manner to become dependent
on this one sexual function alone for her support. So much is this the
case, that even when she does not in any way perform this function there
is still a curious tendency for the kudos of the function still to hang
about her, and for her mere potentiality in the direction of a duty
which she may never fulfil, to be confused in her own estimation and
that of society with the actual fulfilment of that function. Under the
mighty aegis of the woman who bears and rears offspring and in other
directions labours greatly and actively for her race, creeps in
gradually and unnoticed the woman who does none of these things. From
the mighty labouring woman who bears human creatures to the full extent
of her power, rears her offspring unaided, and performs at the same
time severe social labour in other directions (and who is, undoubtedly,
wherever found, the most productive toiler known to the race); it is but
one step, though a long one, from this woman to the woman who produces
offspring freely but does not herself rear them, and performs no
compensatory social labour. While from this woman, again, to the one who
bears few or no children, but who, whether as a wife or mistress, lives
by the exercise of her sex function alone, the step is short. There
is but one step farther to the prostitute, who affects no form of
productive labour, and who, in place of life, is recognised as producing
disease and death, but who exists parasitically through her sexual
attribute. Enormous as is the distance between the women at the two
extremes of this series, and sharply opposed as their relation to the
world is, there is yet, in actual life, no sharp, clear, sudden-drawn
line dividing the women of the one type from those of the other. They
shade off into each other by delicate and in sensible degrees. And it
is down this inclined plane that the women of civilised races are
peculiarly tempted, unconsciously, to slip; from the noble height of
a condition of the most strenuous social activity, into a condition of
complete, helpless, and inactive parasitism, without being clearly aware
of the fact themselves, and without society’s becoming so--the woman
who has ceased to rear her own offspring, or who has ceased to bear
offspring at all, and who performs no other productive social function,
yet shields the fact from her own eyes by dwelling on the fact that she
is a woman, in whom the capacity is at least latent. (There is, indeed,
an interesting analogous tendency on the part of the parasitic male,
wherever found, to shield his true condition from his own eyes and those
of the world by playing at the ancient ancestral forms of male labour.
He is almost always found talking loudly of the protection he affords to
helpless females and to society, though he is in truth himself protected
through the exertion of soldiers, policemen, magistrates, and society
generally; and he is almost invariably fond of dangling a sword or
other weapon, and wearing some kind of uniform, for the assumption of
militarism without severe toil delights him. But it is in a degenerate
travesty of the ancient labour of hunting where, at terrible risk to
himself, and with endless fatigue, his ancestors supplied the race with
its meat and defended it from destruction by wild beasts) that he finds
his greatest satisfaction; it serves to render the degradation and
uselessness of his existence less obvious to himself and to others than
if he passed his life reclining in an armchair.

On Yorkshire moors today may be seen walls of sod, behind which hide
certain human males, while hard-labouring men are employed from early
dawn in driving birds towards them. As the birds are driven up to him,
the hunter behind his wall raises his deadly weapon, and the bird, which
it had taken so much human labour to rear and provide, falls dead at his
feet; thereby greatly to the increase of the hunter’s glory, when, the
toils of the chase over, he returns to his city haunts to record his
bag. One might almost fancy one saw arise from the heathery turf the
shade of some ancient Teutonic ancestor, whose dust has long reposed
there, pointing a finger of scorn at his degenerate descendant, as he
leers out from behind the sod wall. During the the later Roman Empire,
Commodus, in the degenerate days of Rome, at great expense had wild
beasts brought from distant lands that he might have the glory of
slaying them in the Roman circus; and medals representing himself as
Hercules slaying the Nemean lion were struck at his orders. We are not
aware that any representation has yet been made in the region of plastic
art of the hero of the sod wall; but history repeats itself--and that
also may come. It is to be noted that these hunters are not youths,
but often ripely adult men, before whom all the lofty enjoyments and
employments possible to the male in modern life, lie open.)

These peculiarities in her condition have in all civilised societies
laid the female more early and seriously open to the attacks of
parasitism than the male. And while the accumulation of wealth has
always been the antecedent condition, and the degeneracy and effeteness
of the male the final and obvious cause, of the decay of the great
dominant races of the past; yet, between these two has always lain, as a
great middle term, the parasitism of the female, without which the first
would have been inoperative and the last impossible.

Not slavery, nor the most vast accumulations of wealth, could destroy
a nation by enervation, whose women remained active, virile, and

The conception which again and again appears to have haunted successive
societies, that it was a possibility for the human male to advance
in physical power and intellectual vigour, while his companion female
became stationary and inactive, taking no share in the labours of
society beyond the passive fulfilment of sexual functions, has always
been negated. It has ended as would end the experiment of a man
seeking to raise a breed of winning race-horses out of unexercised,
short-winded, knock-kneed mares. No, more disastrously! For while the
female animal transmits herself to her descendant only or mainly by
means of germinal inheritance, and through the influence she may
exert over it during gestation, the human female, by producing the
intellectual and moral atmosphere in which the early infant years
of life are passed, impresses herself far more indelibly on her
descendants. Only an able and labouring womanhood can permanently
produce an able and labouring manhood; only an effete and inactive male
can ultimately be produced by an effete and inactive womanhood. The
curled darling, scented and languid, with his drawl, his delicate
apparel, his devotion to the rarity and variety of his viands, whose
severest labour is the search after pleasure, and for whom even the
chase, which was for his remote ancestor an invigorating and manly toil
essential for the meat and life of his people, becomes a luxurious and
farcical amusement;--this male, whether found in the later Roman
Empire, the Turkish harem of today, or in our Northern civilisations, is
possible only because generations of parasitic women have preceded him.
More repulsive than the parasite female herself, because a yet further
product of decay, it is yet only the scent of his mother’s boudoir that
we smell in his hair. He is like to the bald patches and rotten wool on
the back of a scabby sheep; which indeed indicate that, deep beneath the
surface, a parasite insect is eating its way into the flesh, but which
are not so much the cause of disease, as its final manifestation.

As we have said it is the power of the human female to impress
herself on her descendants, male and female, not only through germinal
inheritance, through influence during the period of gestation, but
above all by producing the mental atmosphere in which the impressionable
infant years of life are passed, which makes the condition of the
child-bearing female one of paramount interest of the race. It is this
fact which causes even prostitution (in many other respects the most
repulsive of all the forms of female parasitism which afflicts humanity)
to be, probably, not more adverse to the advance and even to the
conservation of a healthy and powerful society, than the parasitism
of its child-bearing women. For the prostitute, heavily as she weights
society for her support, returning disease and mental and emotional
disintegration for what she consumes, does not yet so immediately affect
the next generation as the kept wife, or kept mistress, who impresses
her effete image indelibly on the generations succeeding. (It cannot be
too often repeated that the woman who merely bears and brings a child
into the world, and then leaves it to be fed and reared by the hands
of another, has performed very much less than half of the labour of
producing adult humans; in such cases it is the nurse and not the mother
who is the most important labourer.)

No man ever yet entered life farther than the length of one navel-cord
from the body of the woman who bore him. It is the woman who is the
final standard of the race, from which there can be no departure for any
distance for any length of time, in any direction: as her brain weakens,
weakens the man’s she bears; as her muscle softens, softens his; as she
decays, decays the people.

Other causes may, and do, lead to the enervation and degeneration of a
class or race; the parasitism of its child-bearing women must.

We, the European women of this age, stand today where again and again,
in the history of the past, women of other races have stood; but our
condition is yet more grave, and of wider import to humanity as a whole
than theirs ever was. Let us again consider more closely why this is so.

Chapter III. Parasitism (continued).

We have seen that, in the past, no such thing as the parasitism of the
entire body or large majority of the females inhabiting any territory
was possible. Beneath that body of women of the dominant class or race,
who did not labour either mentally or physically, there has always been
of necessity a far more vast body of females who not only performed the
crude physical toil essential to the existence of society before the
introduction of mechanical methods of production, but who were compelled
to labour the more intensely because there was a parasite class above
them to be maintained by their physical toil. The more the female
parasite flourished of old, in one class or race, the more certainly
all women of other classes or races were compelled to labour only too
excessively; and ultimately these females and their descendants were
apt to supplant the more enervated class or race. In the absence of
machinery and of a vast employment of the motor-forces of nature,
parasitism could only threaten a comparatively small section of any
community, and a minute section of the human race as a whole. Female
parasitism in the past resembled gout--a disease dangerous only to the
over-fed, pampered, and few, never to the population of any society as a

At the present day, so enormous has been the advance made in the
substitution of mechanical force for crude, physical, human exertion
(mechanical force being employed today even in the shaping of
feeding-bottles and the creation of artificial foods as substitutes
for mother’s milk!), that it is now possible not only for a small and
wealthy section of women in each civilised community to be maintained
without performing any of the ancient, crude, physical labours of their
sex, and without depending on the slavery of, or any vast increase in
the labour of, other classes of females; but this condition has already
been reached, or is tending to be reached, by that large mass of women
in civilised societies, who form the intermediate class between poor
and rich. During the next fifty years, so rapid will undoubtedly be the
spread of the material conditions of civilisation, both in the societies
at present civilised and in the societies at present unpermeated by
our material civilisation, that the ancient forms of female, domestic,
physical labour of even the women of the poorest classes will be little
required, their place being taken, not by other females, but by always
increasingly perfected labour-saving machinery.

Thus, female parasitism, which in the past threatened only a minute
section of earth’s women, under existing conditions threatens vast
masses, and may, under future conditions, threaten the entire body.

If woman is content to leave to the male all labour in the new and
all-important fields which are rapidly opening before the human race;
if, as the old forms of domestic labour slip from her for ever
and evitably, she does not grasp the new, it is inevitable, that,
ultimately, not merely a class, but the whole bodies of females in
civilised societies, must sink into a state of more or less absolute
dependence on their sexual functions alone. (How real is this apparently
very remote danger is interestingly illustrated by a proposition gravely
made a few years ago by a man of note in England. He proposed that a
compulsory provision should be made for at least the women of the upper
and middle classes, by which they might be maintained through life
entirely without regard to any productive labour they might perform,
not even the passive labour of sexual reproduction being of necessity
required of them. That this proposal was received by the women striving
to reconstruct the relation of the modern woman to life without
acclamation and with scorn, may have surprised its maker; but with no
more reason than that man would have for feeling surprise who, seeing
a number of persons anxious to escape the infection of some contagious
disease, should propose as a cure to inoculate them all with it in its
most virulent form!)

As new forms of natural force are mastered and mechanical appliances
perfected, it will be quite possible for the male half of all civilised
races (and therefore ultimately of all) to absorb the entire fields of
intellectual and highly trained manual labour; and it would be entirely
possible for the female half of the race, whether as prostitutes, as
kept mistresses, or as kept wives, to cease from all forms of active
toil, and, as the passive tools of sexual reproduction, or, more
decadently still, as the mere instruments of sexual indulgence, to sink
into a condition of complete and helpless sex-parasitism.

Sex-parasitism, therefore, presents itself at the end of the nineteenth
century and beginning of the twentieth in a guise which it has never
before worn. We, the European women of the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries, stand therefore in a position the gravity and importance of
which was not equalled by that of any of our forerunners in the ancient
civilisation. As we master and rise above, or fall and are conquered by,
the difficulties of our position, so also will be the future, not merely
of our own class, or even of our own race alone, but also of those
vast masses who are following on in the wake of our civilisation. The
decision we are called on to make is a decision for the race; behind us
comes on the tread of incalculable millions of feet.

There is thus no truth in the assertion so often made, even by
thoughtful persons, that the male labour question and the woman’s
question of our day are completely one, and that, would the women of
the European race of today but wait peacefully till the males alone had
solved their problem, they would find that their own had been solved at
the same time.

Were the entire male labour problem of this age satisfactorily settled
tomorrow; were all the unemployed or uselessly employed males at both
ends of societies, whom the changes of modern civilisation have robbed
of their ancient forms of labour, so educated and trained that they were
perfectly fitted for the new conditions of life; and were the material
benefit and intellectual possibilities, which the substitution of
mechanical for human labour now makes possible to humanity, no longer
absorbed by the few but dispersed among the whole mass of males in
return for their trained labour, yet the woman’s problem might be
further from satisfactory solution than it is today; and, if it were
affected at all, might be affected for the worse. It is wholly untrue
that fifty pounds, or two thousand, earned by the male as the result of
his physical or mental toil, if part of it be spent by him in supporting
non-labouring females, whether as prostitutes, wives, or mistresses, is
the same thing to the female or to the race as though that sum had been
earned by her own exertion, either directly as wages or indirectly by
toiling for the man whose wages supported her. For the moment, truly,
the woman so tended lies softer and warmer than had she been compelled
to exert herself; ultimately, intellectually, morally, and even
physically, the difference in the effect upon her as an individual and
on the race is the difference between advance and degradation, between
life and death. The increased wealth of the male no more of necessity
benefits and raises the female upon whom he expends it, than the
increased wealth of his mistress necessarily benefits mentally or
physically a poodle because she can give him a down cushion in place of
one of feathers, and chicken in place of beef. The wealthier the males
of a society become, the greater the temptation, both to themselves and
to the females connected with them, to drift toward female parasitism.

The readjustment of the position of the male worker, if it led to a
more equitable distribution of wealth among males, might indeed diminish
slightly the accompanying tendency to parasitism in the very wealthiest
female class; but it would, on the other hand, open up exactly those
conditions which make parasitism possible to millions of women today
leading healthy and active lives. (The fact cannot be too often dwelt
upon that parasitism is not connected with any definite amount of
wealth. Any sum supplied to an individual which will so far satisfy
him or her as to enable them to live without exertion may absolutely
parasitise them; while vast wealth unhealthy as its effects generally
tend to be) may, upon certain rare and noble natures, exert hardly any
enervating or deleterious influence. An amusing illustration of the
different points at which enervation is reached by different females
came under our own observation. The wife of an American millionaire
was visited by a woman, the daughter and also the widow of small
professional men. She stated that she was in need of both food and
clothing. The millionaire’s wife gave her a leg of mutton and two
valuable dresses. The woman proceeded to whine, though in vigorous
health, that she had no one to carry them home for her, and could
not think of carrying them herself. The American, the descendant of
generations of able, labouring, New England, Puritan women, tucked the
leg of mutton under one arm and the bundle of clothes under the other
and walked off down the city street towards the woman’s dwelling,
followed by the astonished pauper parasite.

The most helpless case of female degeneration we ever came into contact
with was that of a daughter of a poor English officer on half-pay and
who had to exist on a few hundreds a year. This woman could neither
cook her own food nor make her own clothes, nor was she engaged in any
social, political, or intellectual or artistic labour. Though able to
dance for a night or play tennis for an afternoon, she was yet hardly
able to do her own hair or attire herself, and appeared absolutely to
have lost all power of compelling herself to do anything which was at
the moment fatiguing or displeasing, as all labour is apt to be, however
great its ultimate reward. In a life of twenty-eight years this
woman had probably not contributed one hour’s earnest toil, mental or
physical, to the increase of the sum total of productive human labour.
Surrounded with acres of cultivable land, she would possibly have
preferred to lie down and die of hunger rather than have cultivated half
an acre for food. This is an extreme case; but the ultimate effect of
parasitism is always a paralysis of the will and an inability to compel
oneself into any course of action for the moment unpleasurable and

That the two problems are not identical is shown, if indeed evidence
were needed, by the fact that those males most actively employed in
attempting to readjust the relations of the mass of labouring males to
the new conditions of life, are sometimes precisely those males who
are most bitterly opposed to woman in her attempt to readjust her
own position. Not even by the members of those professions, generally
regarded as the strongholds of obstructionism and prejudice, has a more
short-sighted opposition often been made to the attempts of woman to
enter new fields of labour, than have again and again been made by male
hand-workers, whether as isolated individuals or in their corporate
capacity as trade unions. They have, at least in some certain instances,
endeavoured to exclude women, not merely from new fields of intellectual
and social labour, but even from those ancient fields of textile
manufacture and handicraft, which have through all generations of the
past been woman’s. The patent and undeniable fact, that where the male
labour movement flourishes the woman movement also flourishes, rises
not from the fact that they are identical, but that the same healthy and
virile condition in a race or society gives rise to both.

As two streams rising from one fountain-head and running a parallel
course through long reaches may yet remain wholly distinct, one finding
its way satisfactorily to the sea, while the other loses itself in sand
or becomes a stagnant marsh, so our modern male and female movements,
taking their rise from the same material conditions in modern
civilisation, and presenting endless and close analogies with one
another in their cause of development, yet remain fundamentally
distinct. By both movements the future of the race must be profoundly
modified for good or evil; both touch the race in a manner absolutely
vital; but both will have to be fought out on their own ground,
and independently: and it can be only by determined, conscious, and
persistent action on the part of woman that the solution of her own
labour problems will proceed co-extensively with that of the other.

How distinct, though similar, is the underlying motive of the two
movements, is manifested most clearly by this fact, that, while the male
labour movement takes its rise mainly among the poor and hand-labouring
classes, where the material pressure of the modern conditions of life
fall heaviest, and where the danger of physical suffering and even
extinction under that pressure is most felt; the Woman Labour Movement
has taken its rise almost as exclusively among the wealthy, cultured,
and brain-labouring classes, where alone, at the present day, the
danger of enervation through non-employment, and of degeneration through
dependence on the sex function exists. The female labour movement of our
day is, in its ultimate essence, an endeavour on the part of a section
of the race to save itself from inactivity and degeneration, and this,
even at the immediate cost of most heavy loss in material comfort and
ease to the individuals composing it. The male labour movement
is, directly and in the first place, material; and, or at least
superficially, more or less self-seeking, though its ultimate reaction
on society by saving the poorer members from degradation and dependency
and want is undoubtedly wholly social and absolutely essential for
the health and continued development of the human race. In the Woman’s
Labour Movement of our day, which has essentially taken its rise among
women of the more cultured and wealthy classes, and which consists
mainly in a demand to have the doors leading to professional, political,
and highly skilled labour thrown open to them, the ultimate end can only
be attained at the cost of more or less intense, immediate, personal
suffering and renunciation, though eventually, if brought to a
satisfactory conclusion, it will undoubtedly tend to the material and
physical well-being of woman herself, as well as to that of her male
companions and descendants.

The coming half-century will be a time of peculiar strain, as mankind
seeks rapidly to adjust moral ideals and social relationships and the
general ordering of life to the new and continually unfolding material
conditions. If these two great movements of our age, having this as
their object, can be brought into close harmony and co-operation, the
readjustment will be the sooner and more painlessly accomplished; but,
for the moment, the two movements alike in their origin and alike in
many of their methods of procedure, remain distinct.

It is this fact, the consciousness on the part of the women taking their
share in the Woman’s Movement of our age, that their efforts are not,
and cannot be, of immediate advantage to themselves, but that they
almost of necessity and immediately lead to loss and renunciation, which
gives to this movement its very peculiar tone; setting it apart from the
large mass of economic movements, placing it rather in a line with those
vast religious developments which at the interval of ages have swept
across humanity, irresistibly modifying and reorganising it.

It is the perception of this fact, that, not for herself, nor even for
fellow-women alone, but for the benefit of humanity at large, it is
necessary she should seek to readjust herself to life, which lends to
the modern woman’s most superficial and seemingly trivial attempts at
readjustment, a certain dignity and importance.

It is this profound hidden conviction which removes from the sphere of
the ridiculous the attitude of even the feeblest woman who waves her
poor little “Woman’s rights” flag on the edge of a platform, and which
causes us to forgive even the passionate denunciations, not always
wisely thought out, in which she would represent the suffering and evils
of woman’s condition, as wrongs intentionally inflicted upon her, where
they are merely the inevitable results of ages of social movement.

It is this over-shadowing consciousness of a large impersonal
obligation, which removes from the sphere of the contemptible and
insignificant even the action of the individual young girl, who leaves
a home of comfort or luxury for a city garret, where in solitude, and
under that stern pressure which is felt by all individuals in arms
against the trend of their environment, she seeks to acquire the
knowledge necessary for entering on a new form of labour. It is this
profound consciousness which makes not less than heroic the figure of
the little half-starved student, battling against gigantic odds to take
her place beside man in the fields of modern intellectual toil, and
which, whether she succeed or fail, makes her a landmark in the course
of our human evolution. It is this consciousness of large impersonal
ends to be attained, and to the attainment of which each individual is
bound to play her part, however small, which removes from the domain of
the unnecessary, and raises to importance, the action of each woman
who resists the tyranny of fashions in dress or bearing or custom which
impedes her in her strife towards the new adjustment.

It is this consciousness which renders almost of solemn import the
efforts of the individual female after physical or mental self-culture
and expansion; this, which fills with a lofty enthusiasm the heart of
the young girl, who, it may be, in some solitary farm-house, in some
distant wild of Africa or America, deep into the night bends over her
books with the passion and fervour with which an early Christian may
have bent over the pages of his Scriptures; feeling that, it may be, she
fits herself by each increase of knowledge for she knows not what duties
towards the world, in the years to come. It is this consciousness of
great impersonal ends, to be brought, even if slowly and imperceptibly,
a little nearer by her action, which gives to many a woman strength
for renunciation, when she puts from her the lower type of sexual
relationship, even if bound up with all the external honour a legal bond
can confer, if it offers her only enervation and parasitism; and which
enables her often to accept poverty, toil, and sexual isolation (an
isolation even more terrible to the woman than to any male), and the
renunciation of motherhood, that crowning beatitude of the woman’s
existence, which, and which alone, fully compensates her for the organic
sufferings of womanhood--in the conviction that, by so doing, she makes
more possible a fuller and higher attainment of motherhood and wifehood
to the women who will follow her. It is this consciousness which makes
of solemn importance the knock of the humblest woman at the closed
door which shuts off a new field of labour, physical or mental: is she
convinced that, not for herself, but in the service of the whole race,
she knocks.

It is this abiding consciousness of an end to be attained, reaching
beyond her personal life and individual interests, which constitutes the
religious element of the Woman’s Movement of our day, and binds with the
common bond of an impersonal enthusiasm into one solid body the women
of whatsoever race, class, and nation who are struggling after the
readjustment of woman to life.

This it is also, which in spite of defects and failures on the part of
individuals, yet makes the body who these women compose, as a whole, one
of the most impressive and irresistible of modern forces. The private
soldier of the great victorious army is not always an imposing object as
he walks down the village street, cap on side of head and sword dangling
between his legs, nor is he always impressive even when he burnishes up
his accoutrements or cleans his pannikins; but it is of individuals
such as these that the great army is made, which tomorrow, when it is
gathered together, may shake the world with its tread.

Possibly not one woman in ten, or even one woman in twenty thousand
among those taking part in this struggle, could draw up a clear and
succinct account of the causes which have led to the disco-ordination in
woman’s present position, or give a full account of the benefits to flow
from readjustment; as probably not one private soldier in an army of ten
or even of twenty thousand, though he is willing to give his life for
his land, would yet be able to draw up a clear and succinct account of
his land’s history in the past and of the conditions which have made
war inevitable; and almost as little can he often paint an exact and
detailed picture of the benefits to flow from his efts. He knows his
land has need of him; he knows his own small place and work.

It is possible that not one woman in ten thousand has grasped with
scientific exactitude, and still less could express with verbal
sharpness, the great central conditions which yet compel and animate her
into action.

Even the great, central fact, that with each generation the entire race
passes through the body of its womanhood as through a mould, reappearing
with the indelible marks of that mould upon it, that as the os cervix of
woman, through which the head of the human infant passes at birth, forms
a ring, determining for ever the size at birth of the human head, a
size which could only increase if in the course of ages the os cervix of
woman should itself slowly expand; and that so exactly the intellectual
capacity, the physical vigour, the emotional depth of woman, forms
also an untranscendable circle, circumscribing with each successive
generation the limits of the expansion of the human race;--even this
fact she may not so clearly have grasped intellectually as to be able to
throw it into the form of a logical statement. The profound truth, that
the continued development of the human race on earth (a development
which, as the old myths and dreams of a narrow personal heaven fade
from our view, becomes increasingly for many of us the spiritual hope by
light of which we continue to live), a development which we hope shall
make the humanity of a distant future as much higher in intellectual
power and wider in social sympathy than the highest human units of
our day, as that is higher than the first primeval ancestor who
with quivering limb strove to walk upright and shape his lips to the
expression of a word, is possible only if the male and female halves of
humanity progress together, expanding side by side in the future as they
have done in the past--even this truth it is possible few women have
exactly and logically grasped as the basis of their action. The truth
that, as the first primitive human males and females, unable to count
farther than their fingers, or grasp an abstract idea, or feel the
controlling power of social emotion, could only develop into the
Sapphos, Aristotles, and Shelleys of a more expanded civilisation, if
side by side, and line by line, male and female forms have expanded
together; if, as the convolutions of his brain increased in complexity,
so increased the convolutions in hers; if, as her forehead grew higher,
so developed his; and that, if the long upward march of the future is
ever to be accomplished by the race, male and female must march side by
side, acting and reacting on each other through inheritance; or progress
is impossible. The truth that, as the existence of even the male Bushman
would be impossible without the existence of the analogous Bushwoman
with the same gifts; and that as races which can produce among their
males a William Kingdon Clifford, a Tolstoy, or a Robert Browning, would
be inconceivable and impossible, unless among its females it could also
produce a Sophia Kovalevsky, a George Eliot, or a Louise Michel; so,
also, in the future, that higher and more socialised human race we dream
of can only come into existence, because in both the sex forms have
evolved together, now this sex and then that, so to speak, catching
up the ball of life and throwing it back to the other, slightly if
imperceptibly enlarging and beautifying it as it passes through their
hands. The fact that without the reaction of interevolution between the
sexes, there can be no real and permanent human advance; without the
enlarged deep-thinking Eve to bear him, no enlarged Adam; without the
enlarged widely sympathising Adam to beget her, no enlarged widely
comprehending Eve; without an enlarged Adam and an enlarged Eve, no
enlarged and beautified generation of mankind on earth; that an arrest
in one form is an arrest in both; and in the upward march of the entire
human family. The truth that, if at the present day, woman, after her
long upward march side by side with man, developing with him through
the countless ages, by means of the endless exercise of the faculties of
mind and body, has now, at last, reached her ultimate limit of growth,
and can progress no farther; that, then, here also, today, the growth
of the human spirit is to be stayed; that here, on the spot of woman’s
arrest, is the standard of the race to be finally planted, to move
forward no more, for ever:--that, if the parasite woman on her couch,
loaded with gewgaws, the plaything and amusement of man, be the
permanent and final manifestation of female human life on the globe,
then that couch is also the death-bed of human evolution. These profound
underlying truths, perhaps, not one woman in twenty thousand of those
actively engaged in the struggle for readjustment has so closely and
keenly grasped that she can readily throw them into the form of exact
language; and yet, probably, not the feeblest woman taking share in our
endeavour toward readjustment and expansion fails to be animated by a
vague but profound consciousness of their existence. Beyond the small
evils, which she seeks by her immediate, personal action to remedy, lie,
she feels; large ills of which they form but an off-shoot; beyond the
small good which she seeks to effect, lies, she believes, a great and
universal beatitude to be attained; beyond the little struggle of today,
lies the larger struggle of the centuries, in which neither she alone
nor her sex alone are concerned, but all mankind.

That such should be the mental attitude of the average woman taking part
in the readjustive sexual movement of today; that so often on the public
platform and in literature adduces merely secondary arguments, and
is wholly unable logically to give an account of the great propelling
conditions behind it, is sometimes taken as an indication of the
inefficiency, and probably the ultimate failure, of the movement in
which she takes part. But in truth, that is not so. It is rather
an indication which shows how healthy, and deeply implanted in the
substance of human life, are the roots of this movement; and it places
it in a line with all those vast controlling movements which have in the
course of the ages reorganised human life.

For those great movements which have permanently modified the condition
of humanity have never taken their rise amid the chopped logic of
schools; they have never drawn their vitality from a series of purely
intellectual and abstract inductions. They have arisen always through
the action of widely spread material and spiritual conditions, creating
widespread human needs; which, pressing upon the isolated individuals,
awakens at last continuous, if often vague and uncertain, social
movement in a given direction. Mere intellectual comprehension may
guide, retard, or accelerate the great human movements; it has never
created them. It may even be questioned whether those very leaders, who
have superficially appeared to create and organise great and successful
social movements, have themselves, in most cases, perhaps in any, fully
understood in all their complexity the movements they themselves have
appeared to rule. They have been, rather, themselves permeated by the
great common need; and being possessed of more will, passion, intensity,
or intellect, they have been able to give voice to that which in
others was dumb, and conscious direction to that which in others was
unconscious desire: they have been but the foremost crest of a great
wave of human necessity: they have not themselves created the wave which
bears themselves, and humanity, onwards. The artificial social movements
which have had their origin in the arbitrary will of individuals, guided
with however much determination and reason, have of necessity proved
ephemeral and abortive. An Alexander might will to weld a Greece and
an Asia into one; a Napoleon might resolve to create of a diversified
Europe one consolidated state; and by dint of skill and determination
they might for a moment appear to be accomplishing that which they
desired; but the constraining individual will being withdrawn, the
object of their toil has melted away, as the little heap of damp sand
gathered under the palm of a child’s hand on the sea-shore, melts away,
scattered by the wind and washed out by the waves, the moment the hand
that shaped it is withdrawn; while the small, soft, indefinite, watery
fragment of jelly-fish lying beside it, though tossed hither and
thither by water and wind, yet retains its shape and grows, because its
particles are bound by an internal and organic force.

Our woman’s movement resembles strongly, in this matter, the gigantic
religious and intellectual movement which for centuries convulsed the
life of Europe; and had, as its ultimate outcome, the final emancipation
of the human intellect and the freedom of the human spirit. Looked
back upon from the vantage-point of the present, this past presents the
appearance of one vast, steady, persistent movement proceeding always
in one ultimate direction, as though guided by some controlling human
intellect. But, to the mass of human individuals taking part in it, it
presented an appearance far otherwise. It was fought out, now here,
now there, by isolated individuals and small groups, and often for
what appeared small and almost personal ends, having sometimes,
superficially, little in common. Now it was a Giordano Bruno, burnt
in Rome in defence of abstract theory with regard to the nature of the
First Cause; then an Albigense hurled from his rocks because he refused
to part with the leaves of his old Bible; now a Dutch peasant woman,
walking serenely to the stake because she refused to bow her head before
two crossed rods; then a Servetus burnt by Protestant Calvin at Geneva;
or a Spinoza cut off from his tribe and people because he could
see nothing but God anywhere; and then it was an exiled Rousseau or
Voltaire, or a persecuted Bradlaugh; till, in our own day the last
sounds of the long fight are dying about us, as fading echoes, in the
guise of a few puerile attempts to enforce trivial disabilities on the
ground of abstract convictions. The vanguard of humanity has won its
battle for freedom of thought.

But, to the men and women taking part in that mighty movement during
the long centuries of the past, probably nothing was quite clear, in the
majority of cases, but their own immediate move. Not the leaders--most
certainly not good old Martin Luther, even when he gave utterance to
his immortal “I can no otherwise” (the eternal justification of all
reformers and social innovators!), understood the whole breadth of the
battlefield on which they were engaged, or grasped with precision the
issues which were involved. The valiant Englishman, who, as the flames
shot up about him, cried to his companion in death, “Play the man,
Master Ridley; we shall by God’s grace this day light such a candle
in England, as shall never be put out!” undoubtedly believed that
the candle lighted was the mere tallow rushlight of a small sectarian
freedom for England alone; nor perceived that what he lighted was but
one ray of the vast, universal aurora of intellectual and spiritual
liberty, whose light was ultimately to stream, not only across England,
but across the earth. Nevertheless, undoubtedly, behind all these
limited efforts, for what appeared, superficially, limited causes,
lay, in the hearts of the men and women concerned, through the ages, a
profound if vague consciousness of ends larger than they clearly knew,
to be subserved by their action; of a universal social duty and a great

That the Woman’s Movement of our day has not taken its origin from any
mere process of theoretic argument; that it breaks out, now here and
now there, in forms divergent and at times superficially almost
irreconcilable; that the majority of those taking part in it are driven
into action as the result of the immediate pressure of the conditions
of life, and are not always able logically to state the nature of all
causes which propel them, or to paint clearly all results of their
action; so far from removing it from the category of the vast
reorganising movements of humanity, places it in a line with them,
showing how vital, spontaneous, and wholly organic and unartificial is
its nature.

The fact that, at one point, it manifests itself in a passionate, and
at times almost incoherent, cry for an accredited share in public and
social duties; while at another it makes itself felt as a determined
endeavour after self-culture; that in one land it embodies itself mainly
in a resolute endeavour to enlarge the sphere of remunerative labour
for women; while in another it manifests itself chiefly as an effort to
recoordinate the personal relation of the sexes; that in one individual
it manifests itself as a passionate and sometimes noisy struggle for
liberty of personal action; while in another it is being fought out
silently in the depth of the individual consciousness--that primal
battle-ground, in which all questions of reform and human advance must
ultimately be fought and decided;--all this diversity, and the fact
that the average woman is entirely concerned in labour in her own little
field, shows, not the weakness, but the strength of the movement; which,
taken as a whole, is a movement steady and persistent in one direction,
the direction of increased activity and culture, and towards the
negation of all possibility of parasitism in the human female. Slowly,
and unconsciously, as the child is shaped in the womb, this movement
shapes itself in the bosom of our time, taking its place beside those
vast human developments, of which men, noting their spontaneity and the
co-ordination of their parts, have said, in the phraseology of old days,
“This thing is not of man, but of God.”

He who today looks at some great Gothic cathedral in its final form,
seems to be looking at that which might have been the incarnation of the
dream of some single soul of genius. But in truth, its origin was far
otherwise. Ages elapsed from the time the first rough stone was laid as
a foundation till the last spire and pinnacle were shaped, and the hand
which laid the foundation-stone was never the same as that which set
the last stone upon the coping. Generations often succeeded one another,
labouring at gargoyle, rose-window, and shaft, and died, leaving the
work to others; the master-builder who drew up the first rough outline
passed away, and was succeeded by others, and the details of the work as
completed bore sometimes but faint resemblance to the work as he devised
it; no man fully understood all that others had done or were doing,
but each laboured in his place; and the work as completed had unity;
it expressed not the desire and necessity of one mind, but of the human
spirit of that age; and not less essential to the existence of the
building was the labour of the workman who passed a life of devotion
in carving gargoyles or shaping rose-windows, than that of the greatest
master who drew general outlines: perhaps it was yet more heroic; for,
for the master-builder, who, even if it were but vaguely, had an image
of what the work would be when the last stone was laid and the last
spire raised, it was easy to labour with devotion and zeal, though well
he might know that the placing of that last stone and the raising of
that last spire would not be his, and that the building in its full
beauty and strength he should never see; but for the journeyman labourer
who carried on his duties and month by month toiled at carving his own
little gargoyle or shaping the traceries in his own little oriel window,
without any complete vision, it was not so easy; nevertheless, it was
through the conscientious labours of such alone, through their heaps of
chipped and spoiled stones, which may have lain thick about them, that
at the last the pile was reared in its strength and beauty.

For a Moses who could climb Pisgah, and, though it were through a
mist of bitter tears, could see stretching before him the land of the
inheritance, a land which his feet should never tread and whose fruit
his hand should never touch, it was yet, perhaps, not so hard to turn
round and die; for, as in a dream, he had seen the land: but for the
thousands who could climb no Pisgah, who were to leave their bones
whitening in the desert, having even from afar never seen the true
outline of the land; those who, on that long march, had not even borne
the Ark nor struck the timbrel, but carried only their small household
vessels and possessions, for these it was perhaps not so easy to lie
down and perish in the desert, knowing only that far ahead somewhere,
lay a Land of Promise. Nevertheless, it was by the slow and sometimes
wavering march of such as these, that the land was reached by the people
at last.

For her, whose insight enables her to see, through the distance, those
large beatitudes towards which the struggles and suffering of the women
of today may tend; who sees beyond the present, though in a future which
she knows she will never enter, an enlarged and strengthened womanhood
bearing forward with it a strengthened and expanded race, it is not so
hard to renounce and labour with unshaken purpose: but for those
who have not that view, and struggle on, animated at most by a vague
consciousness that somewhere ahead lies a large end, towards which their
efforts tend; who labour year after year at some poor little gargoyle of
a Franchise Bill, or the shaping of some rough little foundation-stone
of reform in education, or dress a stone (which perhaps never quite fits
the spot it was intended for, and has to be thrown aside!); or who
carve away all their lives to produce a corbel of some reform in sexual
relations, in the end to find it break under the chisel; who, out of
many failures attain, perhaps, to no success, or but to one, and that
so small and set so much in the shade that no eye will ever see it;
for such as these, it is perhaps not so easy to labour without growing
weary. Nevertheless, it is through the labours of these myriad toilers,
each working in her own minute sphere, with her own small outlook, and
out of endless failures and miscarriages, that at last the enwidened
and beautified relations of woman to life must rise, if they are ever to

When a starfish lies on the ground at the bottom of a sloping rock it
has to climb, it seems to the onlooker as though there were nothing
which could stir the inert mass and no means for taking it to the top.
Yet watch it. Beneath its lower side, hidden from sight, are a million
fine tentacles; impulses of will from the central nerve radiate
throughout the whole body, and each tiny fibre, fine as a hair, slowly
extends itself, and seizes on the minute particle of rough rock nearest
to it; now a small tentacle slips its hold, and then it holds firmly,
and then slowly and slowly the whole inert mass rises to the top.

It is often said of those who lead in this attempt at the readaption
of woman’s relation to life, that they are “New Women”; and they are
at times spoken of as though they were a something portentous and
unheard-of in the order of human life.

But, the truth is, we are not new. We who lead in this movement today
are of that old, old Teutonic womanhood, which twenty centuries ago
ploughed its march through European forests and morasses beside its male
companion; which marched with the Cimbri to Italy, and with the Franks
across the Rhine, with the Varagians into Russia, and the Alamani into
Switzerland; which peopled Scandinavia, and penetrated to Britain; whose
priestesses had their shrines in German forests, and gave out the oracle
for peace or war. We have in us the blood of a womanhood that was never
bought and never sold; that wore no veil, and had no foot bound; whose
realised ideal of marriage was sexual companionship and an equality in
duty and labour; who stood side by side with the males they loved in
peace or war, and whose children, when they had borne them, sucked
manhood from their breasts, and even through their foetal existence
heard a brave heart beat above them. We are women of a breed whose
racial ideal was no Helen of Troy, passed passively from male hand
to male hand, as men pass gold or lead; but that Brynhild whom Segurd
found, clad in helm and byrne, the warrior maid, who gave him counsel
“the deepest that ever yet was given to living man,” and “wrought on him
to the performing of great deeds;” who, when he died, raised high the
funeral pyre and lay down on it beside him, crying, “Nor shall the door
swing to at the heel of him as I go in beside him!” We are of a race
of women that of old knew no fear, and feared no death, and lived great
lives and hoped great hopes; and if today some of us have fallen on evil
and degenerate times, there moves in us yet the throb of the old blood.

If it be today on no physical battlefield that we stand beside our men,
and on no march through no external forest or morass that we have to
lead; it is yet the old spirit which, undimmed by two thousand years,
stirs within us in deeper and subtler ways; it is yet the cry of
the old, free Northern woman which makes the world today. Though the
battlefield be now for us all, in the laboratory or the workshop, in the
forum or the study, in the assembly and in the mart and the political
arena, with the pen and not the sword, of the head and not the arm, we
still stand side by side with the men we love, “to dare with them in
war and to suffer with them in peace,” as the Roman wrote of our old
Northern womanhood.

Those women, of whom the old writers tell us, who, barefooted and
white robed, led their Northern hosts on that long march to Italy, were
animated by the thought that they led their people to a land of warmer
sunshine and richer fruitage; we, today, believe we have caught sight
of a land bathed in a nobler than any material sunlight, with a fruitage
richer than any which the senses only can grasp: and behind us, we
believe there follows a longer train than any composed of our own race
and people; the sound of the tread we hear behind us is that of all
earth’s women, bearing within them the entire race. The footpath, yet
hardly perceptible, which we tread down today, will, we believe, be
life’s broadest and straightest road, along which the children of men
will pass to a higher co-ordination and harmony. The banner which
we unfurl today is not new: it is the standard of the old, free,
monogamous, labouring woman, which, twenty hundred years ago, floated
over the forests of Europe. We shall bear it on, each generation as it
falls passing it into the hand of that which follows, till we plant it
so high that all nations of the world shall see it; till the women of
the humblest human races shall be gathered beneath its folds, and no
child enter life that was not born within its shade.

We are not new! If you would understand us, go back two thousand
years, and study our descent; our breed is our explanation. We are the
daughters of our fathers as well as of our mothers. In our dreams we
still hear the clash of the shields of our forefathers as they struck
them together before battle and raised the shout of “Freedom!” In our
dreams it is with us still, and when we wake it breaks from our own
lips! We are the daughters of those men.

But, it may be said, “Are there not women among you who would use the
shibboleth, of freedom and labour, merely as a means for opening a
door to a greater and more highly flavoured self-indulgence, to a more
lucrative and enjoyable parasitism? Are there not women who, under the
guise of ‘work,’ are seeking only increased means of sensuous pleasure
and self-indulgence; to whom intellectual training and the opening to
new fields of labour side by side with man, mean merely new means of
self-advertisement and parasitic success?” We answer: There may be
such, truly; among us--but not of us! This at least is true, that we,
ourselves, are seldom deceived by them; the sheep generally recognise
the wolf however carefully fitted the sheepskin under which he hides,
though the onlookers may not; and though not always be able to drive him
from the flock! The outer world may be misled; we, who stand shoulder to
shoulder with them, know them; they are not many; neither are they
new. They are one of the oldest survivals, and among the most primitive
relics in the race. They are as old as Loki among the gods, as Lucifer
among the Sons of the Morning, as the serpent in the Garden of Eden, as
pain and dislocation in the web of human life.

Such women are as old as that first primitive woman who, when she went
with her fellows to gather wood for the common household, put grass in
the centre of the bundle that she might appear to carry as much as they,
yet carry nothing; she is as old as the first man who threw away his
shield in battle, and yet, when it was over, gathered with the victors
to share the spoils, as old as cowardice and lust in the human and
animal world; only to cease from being when, perhaps, an enlarged and
expanded humanity shall have cast the last slough of its primitive skin.

Every army has its camp-followers, not among its accredited soldiers,
but who follow in its train, ready to attack and rifle the fallen on
either side. To lookers on, they may appear soldiers; but the soldier
knows who they are. At the Judean supper there was one Master, and to
the onlooker there may have seemed twelve apostles; in truth only twelve
were of the company, and one was not of it. There has always been this
thirteenth figure at every sacramental gathering, since the world began,
wherever the upholders of a great cause have broken spiritual bread; but
it may be questioned whether in any instance this thirteenth figure
has been able to destroy, or even vitally to retard, any great human
movement. Judas could hang his Master by a kiss; but he could not
silence the voice which for a thousand years rang out of that Judean
grave. Again and again, in social, political, and intellectual
movements, the betrayer betrays;--and the cause marches on over the body
of the man.

There are women, as there are men, whose political, social,
intellectual, or philanthropic labours are put on, as the harlot puts
on paint, and for the same purpose: but they can no more retard the
progress of the great bulk of vital and sincere womanhood, than the
driftwood on the surface of a mighty river can ultimately prevent its
waters from reaching the sea.

Chapter IV. Woman and War.

But it may also be said, “Granting fully that you are right, that, as
woman’s old fields of labour slip from her, she must grasp the new, or
must become wholly dependent on her sexual function alone, all the other
elements of human nature in her becoming atrophied and arrested through
lack of exercise: and, granting that her evolution being arrested,
the evolution of the whole race will be also arrested in her person:
granting all this to the full, and allowing that the bulk of human
labour tends to become more and more intellectual and less and less
purely mechanical, as perfected machinery takes the place of crude human
exertion; and that therefore if woman is to be saved from degeneration
and parasitism, and the body of humanity from arrest, she must receive a
training which will cultivate all the intellectual and all the physical
faculties with which she is endowed, and be allowed freely to employ
them; nevertheless, would it not be possible, and perhaps be well, that
a dividing line of some kind should be drawn between the occupations
of men and of women? Would it not, for example, be possible that
woman should retain agriculture, textile manufacture, trade, domestic
management, the education of youth, and medicine, in addition to
child-bearing, as her exclusive fields of toil; while, to the male,
should be left the study of abstract science, law and war, and
statecraft; as of old, man took war and the chase, and woman absorbed
the further labours of life? Why should there not be again a fair and
even division in the field of social labour?”

Superficially, this suggestion appears rational, having at least this
to recommend it, that it appears to harmonise with the course of human
evolution in the past; but closely examined, it will, we think, be found
to have no practical or scientific basis, and to be out of harmony with
the conditions of modern life. In ancient and primitive societies, the
mere larger size and muscular strength of man, and woman’s incessant
physical activity in child-bearing and suckling and rearing the young,
made almost inevitable a certain sexual division of labour in almost
all countries, save perhaps in ancient Egypt. (The division of labour
between the sexes in Ancient Egypt and other exceptional countries, is
a matter of much interest, which cannot here be entered on.) Woman
naturally took the heavy agricultural and domestic labours, which were
yet more consistent with the continual dependence of infant life on
her own, than those of man in war and the chase. There was nothing
artificial in such a division; it threw the heaviest burden of the most
wearying and unexciting forms of social labour on woman, but under it
both sexes laboured in a manner essential to the existence of society,
and each transmitted to the other, through inheritance, the fruit of its
slowly expanding and always exerted powers; and the race progressed.

Individual women might sometimes, and even often, become the warrior
chief of a tribe; the King of Ashantee might train his terrible regiment
of females; and men might now and again plant and weave for their
children: but in the main, and in most societies, the division of
labour was just, natural, beneficial; and it was inevitable that such a
division should take place. Were today a band of civilised men, women,
and infants thrown down absolutely naked and defenceless in some desert,
and cut off hopelessly from all external civilised life, undoubtedly
very much the old division of labour would, at least for a time,
reassert itself; men would look about for stones and sticks with which
to make weapons to repel wild beasts and enemies, and would go a-hunting
meat and fighting savage enemies and tend the beasts when tamed: (The
young captured animals would probably be tamed and reared by the women.)
women would suckle their children, cook the meat men brought, build
shelters, look for roots and if possible cultivate them; there certainly
would be no parasite in the society; the woman who refused to labour for
her offspring, and the man who refused to hunt or defend society, would
not be supported by their fellows, would soon be extinguished by want.
As wild beasts were extinguished and others tamed and the materials for
war improved, fewer men would be needed for hunting and war; then they
would remain at home and aid in building and planting; many women would
retire into the house to perfect domestic toil and handicrafts, and on
a small scale the common ancient evolution of society would probably
practically repeat itself. But for the present, we see no such natural
and spontaneous division of labour based on natural sexual distinctions
in the new fields of intellectual or delicately skilled manual labour,
which are taking the place of the old.

It is possible, though at present there is nothing to give indication of
such a fact, and it seems highly improbable, that, in some subtle
manner now incomprehensible, there might tend to be a subtle correlation
between that condition of the brain and nervous system which accompanies
ability in the direction of certain modern forms of mental, social
labour, and the particular form of reproductive function possessed by
an individual. It may be that, inexplicable as it seems, there may
ultimately be found to be some connection between that condition of the
brain and nervous system which fits the individual for the study of the
higher mathematics, let us say, and the nature of their sex attributes.
The mere fact that, of the handful of women who, up to the present,
have received training and been allowed to devote themselves to abstract
study, several have excelled in the higher mathematics, proves of
necessity no pre-eminent tendency on the part of the female sex in
the direction of mathematics, as compared to labour in the fields of
statesmanship, administration, or law; as into these fields there has
been practically no admittance for women. It is sometimes stated,
that as several women of genius in modern times have sought to find
expression for their creative powers in the art of fiction, there must
be some inherent connection in the human brain between the ovarian sex
function and the art of fiction. The fact is, that modern fiction being
merely a description of human life in any of its phases, and being
the only art that can be exercised without special training or special
appliances, and produced in the moments stolen from the multifarious,
brain-destroying occupations which fill the average woman’s life, they
have been driven to find this outlet for their powers as the only one
presenting itself. How far otherwise might have been the directions in
which their genius would naturally have expressed itself can be known
only partially even to the women themselves; what the world has lost by
that compulsory expression of genius, in a form which may not have been
its most natural form of expression, or only one of its forms, no one
can ever know. Even in the little third-rate novelist whose works cumber
the ground, we see often a pathetic figure, when we recognise that
beneath that failure in a complex and difficult art, may lie buried
a sound legislator, an able architect, an original scientific
investigator, or a good judge. Scientifically speaking, it is as
unproven that there is any organic relation between the brain of the
female and the production of art in the form of fiction, as that there
is an organic relation between the hand of woman and a typewriting
machine. Both the creative writer and the typist, in their respective
spheres, are merely finding outlets for their powers in the direction of
least resistance. The tendency of women at the present day to undertake
certain forms of labour, proves only that in the crabbed, walled-in,
and bound conditions surrounding woman at the present day, these are the
lines along which action is most possible to her.

It may possibly be that in future ages, when the male and female forms
have been placed in like intellectual conditions, with like stimuli,
like training, and like rewards, that some aptitudes may be found
running parallel with the line of sex function when humanity is viewed
as a whole. It may possibly be that, when the historian of the future
looks back over the history of the intellectually freed and active
sexes for countless generations, that a decided preference of the female
intellect for mathematics, engineering, or statecraft may be made clear;
and that a like marked inclination in the male to excel in acting,
music, or astronomy may by careful and large comparison be shown. But,
for the present, we have no adequate scientific data from which to draw
any conclusion, and any attempt to divide the occupations in which male
and female intellects and wills should be employed, must be to attempt
a purely artificial and arbitrary division: a division not more rational
and scientific than an attempt to determine by the colour of his eyes
and the shape and strength of his legs, whether a lad should be an
astronomer or an engraver. Those physical differences among mankind
which divide races and nations--not merely those differences, enormously
greater as they are generally, than any physical differences between
male and female of the same race, which divide the Jew and the Swede,
the Japanese and the Englishman, but even those subtle physical
differences which divide closely allied races such as the English and
German--often appear to be allied with certain subtle differences in
intellectual aptitudes. Yet even with regard to these differences, it
is almost impossible to determine scientifically in how far they are the
result of national traditions, environment, and education, and in how
far the result of real differences in organic conformation. (In thinking
of physical sex differences, the civilised man of modern times has
always to guard himself against being unconsciously misled by the very
exaggerated external sex differences which our unnatural method of sex
clothing and dressing the hair produces. The unclothed and natural human
male and female bodies are not more divided from each other than those
of the lion and lioness. Our remote Saxon ancestors, with their great,
almost naked, white bodies and flowing hair worn long by both sexes,
were but little distinguished from each other; while among their modern
descendants the short hair, darkly clothed, manifestly two-legged male
differs absolutely from the usually long-haired, colour bedizened,
much beskirted female. Were the structural differences between male and
female really one half as marked as the artificial visual differences,
they would be greater than those dividing, not merely any species of man
from another, but as great as those which divide orders in the animal
world. Only a mind exceedingly alert and analytical can fail ultimately
to be misled by habitual visual misrepresentation. There is not,
probably, one man or woman in twenty thousand who is not powerfully
influenced in modern life in their conception of the differences,
physical and intellectual, dividing the human male and female, by the
grotesque exaggerations of modern attire and artificial manners.)

No study of the mere physical differences between individuals of
different races would have enabled us to arrive at any knowledge of
their mental aptitude; nor does the fact that certain individuals of a
given human variety have certain aptitudes form a rational ground for
compelling all individuals of that variety to undertake a certain form
of labour.

No analysis, however subtle, of the physical conformation of the Jew
could have suggested a priori, and still less could have proved, apart
from ages of practical experience, that, running parallel with any
physical characteristics which may distinguish him from his fellows, was
an innate and unique intellectual gift in the direction of religion. The
fact that, during three thousand years, from Moses to Isaiah, through
Jesus and Paul on to Spinoza, the Jewish race has produced men who
have given half the world its religious faith and impetus, proves that,
somewhere and somehow, whether connected organically with that physical
organisation that marks the Jew, or as the result of his traditions and
training, there does go this gift in the matter of religion. Yet, on
the other hand, we find millions of Jews who are totally and markedly
deficient in it, and to base any practical legislation for the
individual even on this proven intellectual aptitude of the race as a
whole would be manifestly as ridiculous as abortive. Yet more markedly,
with the German--no consideration of his physical peculiarities, though
it proceeded to the subtlest analysis of nerve, bone, and muscle, could
in the present stage of our knowledge have proved to us what generations
of experience appear to have proved, that, with that organisation which
constitutes the German, goes an unique aptitude for music. There is
always the possibility of mistaking the result of training and external
circumstance for inherent tendency, but when we consider the passion for
music which the German has shown, and when we consider that the greatest
musicians the world has seen, from Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart to
Wagner, have been of that race, it appears highly probable that such a
correlation between the German organisation and the intellectual gift of
music does exist. Similar intellectual peculiarities seem to be connoted
by the external differences which mark off other races from each other.
Nevertheless, were persons of all of these nationalities gathered in one
colony, any attempt to legislate for their restriction to certain forms
of intellectual labour on the ground of their apparently proved national
aptitudes or disabilities, would be regarded as insane. To insist that
all Jews, and none but Jews, should lead and instruct in religious
matters; that all Englishmen, and none but Englishmen, should engage in
trade; that each German should make his living by music, and none but
a German allowed to practise it, would drive to despair the unfortunate
individual Englishman, whose most marked deficiency might be in the
direction of finance and bartering trade power; the Jew, whose religious
instincts might be entirely rudimentary; or the German, who could not
distinguish one note from another; and the society as a whole would be
an irremediable loser, in one of the heaviest of all forms of social
loss--the loss of the full use of the highest capacities of all its

It may be that with sexes as with races, the subtlest physical
difference between them may have their fine mental correlatives; but no
abstract consideration of the human body in relation to its functions
of sex can, in the present state of our knowledge, show us what
intellectual capacities tend to vary with sexual structure, and nothing
in the present or past condition of male and female give us more
than the very faintest possible indication of the relation of their
intellectual aptitudes and their sexual functions. And even were it
proved by centuries of experiment that with the possession of the
uterine function of sex tends to go exceptional intellectual capacity
in the direction of mathematics rather than natural history, or an
inclination for statecraft rather than for mechanical invention; were it
proved that, generally speaking and as a whole, out of twenty thousand
women devoting themselves to law and twenty thousand to medicine, they
tended to achieve relatively more in the field of law than of
medicine, there would yet be no possible healthy or rational ground
for restricting the activities of the individual female to that line
in which the average female appeared rather more frequently to excel.
(Minds not keenly analytical are always apt to mistake mere correlation
of appearance with causative sequence. We have heard it gravely asserted
that between potatoes, pigs, mud cabins and Irishmen there was an
organic connection: but we who have lived in Colonies, know that within
two generations the pure-bred descendant of the mud cabiner becomes
often the successful politician, wealthy financier, or great judge; and
shows no more predilection for potatoes, pigs, and mud cabins than men
of any other race.)

That even one individual in a society should be debarred from
undertaking that form of social toil for which it is most fitted, makes
an unnecessary deficit in the general social assets. That one male
Froebel should be prohibited or hampered in his labour as an educator of
infancy, on the ground that infantile instruction was the field of
the female; that one female with gifts in the direction of state
administration, should be compelled to instruct an infants’ school,
perhaps without the slightest gift for so doing, is a running to waste
of social life-blood.

Free trade in labour and equality of training, intellectual or physical,
is essential if the organic aptitudes of a sex or class are to be
determined. And our demand today is that natural conditions, inexorably,
but beneficently, may determine the labours of each individual, and not
artificial restrictions.

As there is no need to legislate that Hindus, being generally supposed
to have a natural incapacity for field sports, shall not betake
themselves to them--for, if they have no capacity, they will fail; and,
as in spite of the Hindus’ supposed general incapacity for sport, it is
possible for an individual Hindu to become the noted batsman of his age;
so, also, there is no need to legislate that women should be restricted
in her choice of fields of labour; for the organic incapacity of the
individual, if it exist, will legislate far more powerfully than any
artificial, legal, or social obstruction can do; and it may be that the
one individual in ten thousand who selects a field not generally sought
by his fellows will enrich humanity by the result of an especial genius.
Allowing all to start from the one point in the world of intellectual
culture and labour, with our ancient Mother Nature sitting as umpire,
distributing the prizes and scratching from the lists the incompetent,
is all we demand, but we demand it determinedly. Throw the puppy into
the water: if it swims, well; if it sinks, well; but do not tie a
rope round its throat and weight it with a brick, and then assert its
incapacity to keep afloat.

For the present our cry is, “We take all labour for our province!”

From the judge’s seat to the legislator’s chair; from the statesman’s
closet to the merchant’s office; from the chemist’s laboratory to the
astronomer’s tower, there is no post or form of toil for which it is not
our intention to attempt to fit ourselves; and there is no closed door
we do not intend to force open; and there is no fruit in the garden of
knowledge it is not our determination to eat. Acting in us, and through
us, nature we know will mercilessly expose to us our deficiencies in
the field of human toil, and reveal to us our powers. And, for today, we
take all labour for our province!

But, it may then be said: “What of war, that struggle of the human
creature to attain its ends by physical force and at the price of the
life of others: will you take part in that also?” We reply: Yes; more
particularly in that field we intend to play our part. We have always
borne part of the weight of war, and the major part. It is not merely
that in primitive times we suffered from the destruction of the fields
we tilled and the houses we built; or that in later times as domestic
labourers and producers, though unwaged, we, in taxes and material loss
and additional labour, paid as much as our males towards the cost of
war; nor is it that in a comparatively insignificant manner, as
nurses of the wounded in modern times, or now and again as warrior
chieftainesses and leaders in primitive and other societies, we have
borne our part; nor is it even because the spirit of resolution in its
women, and their willingness to endure, has in all ages again and again
largely determined the fate of a race that goes to war, that we demand
our controlling right where war is concerned. Our relation to war is
far more intimate, personal, and indissoluble than this. Men have made
boomerangs, bows, swords, or guns with which to destroy one another; we
have made the men who destroyed and were destroyed! We have in all ages
produced, at an enormous cost, the primal munition of war, without which
no other would exist. There is no battlefield on earth, nor ever has
been, howsoever covered with slain, which is has not cost the women of
the race more in actual bloodshed and anguish to supply, then it has
cost the men who lie there. We pay the first cost on all human life.

In supplying the men for the carnage of a battlefield, women have not
merely lost actually more blood, and gone through a more acute anguish
and weariness, in the long months of bearing and in the final agony of
childbirth, than has been experienced by the men who cover it; but, in
the long months and years of rearing that follow, the women of the race
go through a long, patiently endured strain which no knapsacked soldier
on his longest march has ever more than equalled; while, even in the
matter of death, in all civilised societies, the probability that the
average woman will die in childbirth is immeasurably greater than the
probability that the average male will die in battle.

There is, perhaps, no woman, whether she have borne children, or
be merely potentially a child-bearer, who could look down upon a
battlefield covered with slain, but the thought would rise in her, “So
many mothers’ sons! So many bodies brought into the world to lie there!
So many months of weariness and pain while bones and muscles were shaped
within; so many hours of anguish and struggle that breath might be; so
many baby mouths drawing life at woman’s breasts;--all this, that men
might lie with glazed eyeballs, and swollen bodies, and fixed, blue,
unclosed mouths, and great limbs tossed--this, that an acre of ground
might be manured with human flesh, that next year’s grass or poppies or
karoo bushes may spring up greener and redder, where they have lain, or
that the sand of a plain may have a glint of white bones!” And we cry,
“Without an inexorable cause, this should not be!” No woman who is a
woman says of a human body, “It is nothing!”

On that day, when the woman takes her place beside the man in the
governance and arrangement of external affairs of her race will also
be that day that heralds the death of war as a means of arranging human
differences. No tinsel of trumpets and flags will ultimately seduce
women into the insanity of recklessly destroying life, or gild the
wilful taking of life with any other name than that of murder, whether
it be the slaughter of the million or of one by one. And this will be,
not because with the sexual function of maternity necessarily goes in
the human creature a deeper moral insight, or a loftier type of social
instinct than that which accompanies the paternal. Men have in all ages
led as nobly as women in many paths of heroic virtue, and toward the
higher social sympathies; in certain ages, being freer and more widely
cultured, they have led further and better. The fact that woman has
no inherent all-round moral superiority over her male companion, or
naturally on all points any higher social instinct, is perhaps most
clearly exemplified by one curious very small fact: the two terms
signifying intimate human relationships which in almost all human
languages bear the most sinister and antisocial significance are both
terms which have as their root the term “mother,” and denote feminine
relationships--the words “mother-in-law” and “step-mother.”

In general humanity, in the sense of social solidarity, and in
magnanimity, the male has continually proved himself at least the equal
of the female.

Nor will women shrink from war because they lack courage. Earth’s women
of every generation have faced suffering and death with an equanimity
that no soldier on a battlefield has ever surpassed and few have
equalled; and where war has been to preserve life, or land, or freedom,
unparasitised and labouring women have in all ages known how to bear an
active part, and die.

Nor will woman’s influence militate against war because in the future
woman will not be able physically to bear her part in it. The smaller
size of her muscle, which would severely have disadvantaged her when
war was conducted with a battle-axe or sword and hand to hand, would now
little or at all affect her. If intent on training for war, she might
acquire the skill for guiding a Maxim or shooting down a foe with a
Lee-Metford at four thousand yards as ably as any male; and undoubtedly,
it has not been only the peasant girl of France, who has carried latent
and hid within her person the gifts that make the supreme general. If
our European nations should continue in their present semi-civilised
condition, which makes war possible, for a few generations longer, it
is highly probable that as financiers, as managers of the commissariat
department, as inspectors of provisions and clothing for the army, women
will play a very leading part; and that the nation which is the first to
employ its women so may be placed at a vast advantage over its fellows
in time of war. It is not because of woman’s cowardice, incapacity, nor,
above all, because of her general superior virtue, that she will end war
when her voice is fully, finally, and clearly heard in the governance
of states--it is because, on this one point, and on this point almost
alone, the knowledge of woman, simply as woman, is superior to that of
man; she knows the history of human flesh; she knows its cost; he
does not. (It is noteworthy that even Catharine of Russia, a ruler and
statesman of a virile and uncompromising type, and not usually troubled
with moral scruples, yet refused with indignation the offer of Frederick
of Prussia to pay her heavily for a small number of Russian recruits in
an age when the hiring out of soldiers was common among the sovereigns
of Europe.)

In a besieged city, it might well happen that men in the streets
might seize upon statues and marble carvings from public buildings and
galleries and hurl them in to stop the breaches made in their ramparts
by the enemy, unconsideringly and merely because they came first to
hand, not valuing them more than had they been paving-stones. But one
man could not do this--the sculptor! He, who, though there might be no
work of his own chisel among them, yet knew what each of these works of
art had cost, knew by experience the long years of struggle and study
and the infinitude of toil which had gone to the shaping of even one
limb, to the carving of even one perfected outline, he could never so
use them without thought or care. Instinctively he would seek to throw
in household goods, even gold and silver, all the city held, before he
sacrificed its works of art!

Men’s bodies are our woman’s works of art. Given to us power of control,
we will never carelessly throw them in to fill up the gaps in human
relationships made by international ambitions and greeds. The thought
would never come to us as woman, “Cast in men’s bodies; settle the thing
so!” Arbitration and compensation would as naturally occur to her
as cheaper and simpler methods of bridging the gaps in national
relationships, as to the sculptor it would occur to throw in anything
rather than statuary, though he might be driven to that at last!

This is one of those phases of human life, not very numerous, but very
important, towards which the man as man, and the woman as woman, on
the mere ground of their different sexual function with regard to
reproduction, stand, and must stand, at a somewhat differing angle.
The physical creation of human life, which, in as far as the male is
concerned, consists in a few moments of physical pleasure; to the female
must always signify months of pressure and physical endurance, crowned
with danger to life. To the male, the giving of life is a laugh; to the
female, blood, anguish, and sometimes death. Here we touch one of the
few yet important differences between man and woman as such.

The twenty thousand men prematurely slain on a field of battle, mean,
to the women of their race, twenty thousand human creatures to be
borne within them for months, given birth to in anguish, fed from
their breasts and reared with toil, if the numbers of the tribe and the
strength of the nation are to be maintained. In nations continually at
war, incessant and unbroken child-bearing is by war imposed on all women
if the state is to survive; and whenever war occurs, if numbers are to
be maintained, there must be an increased child-bearing and rearing.
This throws upon woman as woman a war tax, compared with which all that
the male expends in military preparations is comparatively light.

The relations of the female towards the production of human life
influences undoubtedly even her relation towards animal and all life.
“It is a fine day, let us go out and kill something!” cries the typical
male of certain races, instinctively. “There is a living thing, it will
die if it is not cared for,” says the average woman, almost equally
instinctively. It is true, that the woman will sacrifice as mercilessly,
as cruelly, the life of a hated rival or an enemy, as any male; but she
always knows what she is doing, and the value of the life she takes!
There is no light-hearted, careless enjoyment in the sacrifice of life
to the normal woman; her instinct, instructed by practical experience,
steps in to prevent it. She always knows what life costs; and that it is
more easy to destroy than create it.

It is also true, that, from the loftiest standpoint, the condemnation
of war which has arisen in the advancing human spirit, is in no sense
related to any particular form of sex function. The man and the woman
alike, who with Isaiah on the hills of Palestine, or the Indian Buddha
under his bo-tree, have seen the essential unity of all sentient
life; and who therefore see in war but a symptom of that crude
disco-ordination of life on earth, not yet at one with itself, which
affects humanity in these early stages of its growth: and who are
compelled to regard as the ultimate goal of the race, though yet perhaps
far distant across the ridges of innumerable coming ages, that harmony
between all forms of conscious life, metaphorically prefigured by the
ancient Hebrew, when he cried, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb; and
the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion
and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them!”--to that
individual, whether man or woman, who has reached this standpoint, there
is no need for enlightenment from the instincts of the child-bearers of
society as such; their condemnation of war, rising not so much from the
fact that it is a wasteful destruction of human flesh, as that it is an
indication of the non-existence of that co-ordination, the harmony which
is summed up in the cry, “My little children, love one another.”

But for the vast bulk of humanity, probably for generations to come, the
instinctive antagonism of the human child-bearer to reckless destruction
of that which she has at so much cost produced, will be necessary to
educate the race to any clear conception of the bestiality and insanity
of war.

War will pass when intellectual culture and activity have made possible
to the female an equal share in the control and governance of modern
national life; it will probably not pass away much sooner; its
extinction will not be delayed much longer.

It is especially in the domain of war that we, the bearers of men’s
bodies, who supply its most valuable munition, who, not amid the clamour
and ardour of battle, but singly, and alone, with a three-in-the-morning
courage, shed our blood and face death that the battlefield may have
its food, a food more precious to us than our heart’s blood; it is we
especially, who in the domain of war, have our word to say, a word no
man can say for us. It is our intention to enter into the domain of
war and to labour there till in the course of generations we have
extinguished it.

If today we claim all labour for our province, yet more especially do we
claim those fields in which the difference in the reproductive function
between man and woman may place male and female at a slightly different
angle with regard to certain phases of human life.

Chapter V. Sex Differences.

If we examine the physical phenomenon of sex as it manifests itself in
the human creature, we find, in the first stages of the individual’s
existence, no difference discernible, by any means we have at present at
our command, between those germs which are ultimately to become male or
female. Later, in the foetal life, at birth, and through infancy though
the organs of sex serve to distinguish the male from the female, there
is in the general structure and working of the organism little or
nothing to divide the sexes.

Even when puberty is reached, with its enormous development of sexual
and reproductive activity modifying those parts of the organism
with which it is concerned, and producing certain secondary sexual
characteristics, there yet remains the major extent of the human
body and of physical function little, or not at all, affected by sex
modification. The eye, the ear, the sense of touch, the general organs
of nutrition and respiration and volition are in the main identical,
and often differ far more in persons of the same sex than in those of
opposite sexes; and even on the dissecting-table the tissues of the male
and female are often wholly indistinguishable.

It is when we consider the reproductive organs themselves and their
forms of activity, and such parts of the organism modified directly
in relation to them, that a real and important difference is found
to exist, radical though absolutely complemental. It is exactly as we
approach the reproductive functions that the male and female bodies
differ; exactly as we recede from them that they become more and more
similar, and even absolutely identical. Taking the eye, perhaps the most
highly developed, complex organ in the body, and, if of an organ the
term may be allowed, the most intellectual organ of sense, we find it
remains the same in male and female in structure, in appearance, and
in function throughout life; while the breast, closely connected with
reproduction, though absolutely identical in both forms in infancy,
assumes a widely different organisation when reproductive activity is
actually concerned.

When we turn to the psychic phase of human life an exactly analogous
phenomenon presents itself. The intelligence, emotions, and desires of
the human infant at birth differ not at all perceptibly, as its sex may
be male or female; and such psychic differences as appear to exist in
later childhood are undoubtedly very largely the result of artificial
training, forcing on the appearance of psychic sexual divergencies long
before they would tend spontaneously to appear; as where sports and
occupations are interdicted to young children on the ground of their
supposed sexual unfitness; as when an infant female is forcibly
prevented from climbing or shouting, and the infant male from amusing
himself with needle and thread or dolls. Even in the fully adult human,
and in spite of differences of training, the psychic activities over
a large extent of life appear to be absolutely identical. The male and
female brains acquire languages, solve mathematical problems, and master
scientific detail in a manner wholly indistinguishable: as illustrated
by the fact that in modern universities the papers sent in by male and
female candidates are as a rule absolutely identical in type. Placed in
like external conditions, their tastes and emotions, over a vast part of
the surface of life, are identical; and, in an immense number of those
cases where psychic sex differences appear to exist, subject to rigid
analysis they are found to be purely artificial creations, for, when
other races or classes are studied, they are found non-existent as
sexual characteristics; as when the female is supposed by ignorant
persons in modern European societies to have an inherent love for bright
colours and ornaments, not shared by the male; while experience of other
societies and past social conditions prove that it is as often the male
who has been even more desirous of attiring himself in bright raiment
and adorning himself with brilliant jewels; or as when, among certain
tribes of savages, the use of tobacco is supposed to be a peculiarly
female prerogative, while, in some modern societies, it is supposed
to have some relation to masculinity. (The savage male of today
when attired in his paint, feathers, cats’ tails and necklaces is an
immeasurably more ornamented and imposing figure than his female, even
when fully attired for a dance in beads and bangles: the Oriental
male has sometimes scarcely been able to walk under the weight of his
ornaments; and the males of Europe a couple of centuries ago, with their
powdered wigs, lace ruffles and cuffs, paste buckles, feathered cocked
hats, and patches were quite as ridiculous in their excess of adornment
as the complementary females of their own day, or the most parasitic
females of this. Both in the class and the individual, whether male or
female, an intense love of dress and meretricious external adornment is
almost invariably the concomitant and outcome of parasitism. Were the
parasite female class in our own societies today to pass away, French
fashions with their easeless and grotesque variations (shaped not for
use or beauty, but the attracting of attention) would die out. And the
extent to which any woman today, not herself belonging to the parasite
class and still labouring, attempts to follow afar off the fashions of
the parasite, may be taken generally as an almost certain indication
of the ease with which she would accept parasitism were its conditions
offered her. The tendency of the cultured and intellectually labouring
woman of today to adopt a more rational type of attire, less shaped to
attract attention to the individual than to confer comfort and abstain
from impeding activity, is often spoken of as an attempt on the part
of woman slavishly to imitate man. What is really taking place is, that
like causes are producing like effects on human creatures with common

But there remain certain psychic differences in attitude, on the part of
male and female as such, which are inherent and not artificial: and,
in the psychic human world, it is exactly as we approach the sphere
of sexual and reproductive activity, with those emotions and instincts
connected directly with sex and the reproduction of the race, that a
difference does appear.

In the animal world all forms of psychic variations are found allying
themselves now with the male sex form, and then with the female. In the
insect and fish worlds, where the female forms are generally larger
and stronger than the male, the female is generally more pugnacious and
predatory than the male. Among birds-of-prey, where also the female form
is larger and stronger than the male, the psychic differences seem
very small. Among eagles and other allied forms, which are strictly
monogamous, the affection of the female for the male is so great that
she is said never to mate again if the male dies, and both watch over
and care for the young with extreme solicitude. The ostrich male form,
though perhaps larger than the female, shares with her the labour of
hatching the eggs, relieving the hen of her duty at a fixed hour daily:
and his care for the young when hatched is as tender as hers. Among
song-birds, in which the male and female forms are so alike as sometimes
to be indistinguishable, and which are also monogamous, the male and
female forms not only exhibit the same passionate affection for each
other (in the case of the South African cock-o-veet, they have one
answering love-song between them; the male sounding two or three notes
and the female completing it with two or three more), but they build the
nest together and rear the young with an equal devotion. In the case of
the little kapok bird of the Cape, a beautiful, white, fluffy round
nest is made by both out of the white down of a certain plant, and
immediately below the entrance to the cavity in which the little female
sits on the eggs is a small shelf or basket, in which the tiny male sits
to watch over and guard them. It is among certain orders of birds that
sex manifestations appear to assume their most harmonious and poetical
forms on earth. Among gallinaceous birds, on the other hand, where the
cock is much larger and more pugnacious than the female, and which are
polygamous, the cock does not court the female by song, but seizes her
by force, and shows little or no interest in his offspring, neither
sharing in the brooding nor feeding the young; and even at times seizing
any tempting morsel which the young or the hen may have discovered.

Among mammals the male form tends to be slightly larger than the female,
though not always (the female whale, for instance, being larger than the
male); the male also tends to be more pugnacious and less careful of the
young; though to this rule also there are exceptions. In the case of
the South African mierkat, for instance, the female is generally more
combative and more difficult to tame than the male; and it is the
males who from the moment of birth watch over the young with the most
passionate and tender solicitude, keeping them warm under their persons,
carrying them to places of safety in their mouths, and feeding them till
full grown; and this they do not only for their own young, but to any
young who may be brought in contact with them. We have known a male
mierkat so assiduous in feeding young that were quite unrelated to
himself, taking to them every morsel of food given him, that we have
been compelled to shut him up in a room alone when feeding him, to
prevent his starving himself to death: the male mierkat thus exhibiting
exactly those psychic qualities which are generally regarded as
peculiarly feminine; the females, on the other hand, being far more
pugnacious towards each other than are the males.

Among mammals generally, except the tendency to greater pugnacity shown
by the male towards other males, and the greater solicitude for the
young shown generally by the female form, but not always; the psychic
differences between the two sex forms are not great. Between the male
and female pointer as puppies, there is as little difference in mental
activity as in physical; and even when adult, on the hunting ground,
that great non-sexual field in which their highest mental and physical
activities are displayed, there is little or nothing which distinguishes
materially between the male and female; in method, manner, and quickness
they are alike; in devotion to man, they are psychically identical. (It
is often said the female dog is more intelligent than the male; but I
am almost inclined to doubt this, after long and close study of both
forms.) It is at the moment when the reproductive element comes fully
into play that similarity and identity cease. In the intensity of
initial sex instinct they are alike; the female will leap from windows,
climb walls, and almost endanger her life to reach the male who waits
for her, as readily as he will to gain her. It is when the bitch lies
with her six young drawing life from her breast, and gazing with wistful
and anguished solicitude at every hand stretched out to touch them, a
world of emotion concentrated on the sightless creatures, and a whole
body of new mental aptitudes brought into play in caring for them, it is
then that between her and the male who begot them, but cares nothing for
them, there does rise a psychic difference that is real and wide. Alike
in the sports of puppydom and the non-sexual activities of adult age;
alike in the possession of the initial sexual instinct which draws the
sex to the sex, the moment active sexual reproduction is concerned,
there is opened to the female a certain world of sensations and
experiences, from which her male companion is for ever excluded.

So also is our human world: alike in the sports, and joys, and sorrows
of infancy; alike in the non-sexual labours of life; alike even in the
possession of that initial instinct which draws sex to sex, and which,
differing slightly in its forms of manifestation is of corresponding
intensity in both; the moment actual reproduction begins to take place,
the man and the woman enter spheres of sensation, perception, emotion,
desire, and knowledge which are not, and cannot be, absolutely
identical. Between the man who, in an instant of light-hearted
enjoyment, begets the infant (who may even beget it in a state of
half-drunken unconsciousness, and may easily know nothing of its
existence for months or years after it is born, or never at all; and who
under no circumstances can have any direct sensational knowledge of its
relation to himself) and the woman who bears it continuously for months
within her body, and who gives birth to it in pain, and who, if it is to
live, is compelled, or was in primitive times, to nourish it for
months from the blood of her own being--between these, there exists of
necessity, towards a limited but all-important body of human interests
and phenomena, a certain distinct psychic attitude. At this one point,
the two great halves of humanity stand confronting certain great
elements in human existence, from angles that are not identical. From
the moment the universal initial attraction of sex to sex becomes
incarnate in the first concrete sexual act till the developed offspring
attains maturity, no step in the reproductive journey, or in their
relation to their offspring, has been quite identical for the man and
the woman. And this divergence of experiences in human relations must
react on their attitude towards that particular body of human concerns
which directly is connected with the sexual reproduction of the race;
and, it is exactly in these fields of human activity, where sex as sex
is concerned, that woman as woman has a part to play which she cannot
resign into the hands of others.

It may be truly said that in the laboratory, the designing-room, the
factory, the mart, the mathematician’s study, and in all fields of
purely abstract or impersonal labour, while the entrance of woman would
add to the net result of human labour in those fields, and though a
grave injustice is done to the individual woman excluded from perhaps
the only field she is fitted to excel in, that yet woman as woman
has probably little or nothing to contribute in those fields that is
radically distinct from that which man might supply; there would be a
difference in quantity but probably none in kind, in the work done for
the race.

But in those spheres of social activity, dealing especially with
certain relations between human creatures because of their diverse if
complementary relation to the production of human life, the sexes as
sexes have often each a part to play which the other cannot play for
them; have each a knowledge gained from phases of human experience,
which the other cannot supply; here woman as woman has something
radically distinct to contribute to the sum-total of human knowledge,
and her activity is of importance, not merely individually, but
collectively, and as a class.

That demand, which today in all democratic self-governing countries is
being made by women, to be accorded their share in the electoral, and
ultimately in the legislative and executive duties of government, is
based on two grounds: the wider, and more important, that they find
nothing in the nature of their sex-function which exonerates them,
as human beings, from their obligation to take part in the labours of
guidance and government in their state: the narrower, but yet important
ground, that, in as far as in one direction, i.e., in the special form
of their sex function takes, they do differ from the male, they, in so
far, form a class and are bound to represent the interests of, and to
give the state the benefit of, the insight of their class, in certain

Those persons who imagine that the balance of great political parties
in almost any society would be seriously changed by the admission of its
women in public functions are undoubtedly wholly wrong. The fundamental
division of humans into those inclined to hold by the past and defend
whatever is, and those hopeful of the future and inclined to introduce
change, would probably be found to exist in much the same proportion
were the males or the females of any given society compared: and the
males and females of each class will in the main share the faults, the
virtues, and the prejudices of their class. The individuals may lose by
being excluded on the ground of sex from a share of public labour, and
by being robbed of a portion of their lawful individual weight in their
own society; and the society as a whole may lose by having a smaller
number to select its chosen labourers from; yet, undoubtedly, on the
mass of social, political, and international questions, the conclusions
arrived at by one sex would be exactly those arrived at by the other.

Were a body of humans elected to adjudicate upon Greek accents, or to
pass a decision on the relative fineness of woollens and linens, the
form of sex of the persons composing it would probably have no bearing
on the result; there is no rational ground for supposing that, on a
question of Greek accents or the thickness of cloths, equally instructed
males and females would differ. Here sex plays no part. The experience
and instructedness of the individuals would tell: their sexual
attributes would be indifferent.

But there are points, comparatively small, even very small, in number,
yet of vital importance to human life, in which sex does play a part.

It is not a matter of indifference whether the body called to adjudicate
upon the questions, whether the temporary sale of the female body for
sexual purposes shall or shall not be a form of traffic encouraged
and recognised by the state; or whether one law shall exist for the
licentious human female and another for the licentious human male;
whether the claim of the female to the offspring she bears shall or
shall not equal that of the male who begets it; whether an act of
infidelity on the part of the male shall or shall not terminate the
contract which binds his female companion to him, as completely as an
act of infidelity on her part would terminate her claim on him; it is
not a matter of indifference whether a body elected to adjudicate on
such points as these consists of males solely, or females solely, or of
both combined. As it consists of one, or the other, or of both, so not
only will the answers vary, but, in some cases, will they be completely
diverse. Here we come into that very narrow, but important, region,
where sex as sex manifestly plays its part; where the male as male
and the female as female have each their body of perceptions and
experiences, which they do not hold in common; here one sex cannot
adequately represent the other. It is here that each sexual part has
something radically distinct to contribute to the wisdom of the race.

We, today, take all labour for our province! We seek to enter the
non-sexual fields of intellectual or physical toil, because we are
unable to see today, with regard to them, any dividing wall raised by
sex which excludes us from them. We are yet equally determined to enter
those in which sex difference does play its part, because it is here
that woman, the bearer of the race, must stand side by side with man,
the begetter; if a completed human wisdom, an insight that misses no
aspect of human life, and an activity that is in harmony with the entire
knowledge and the entire instinct of the entire human race, is to exist.
It is here that the man cannot act for the woman nor the woman for the
man; but both must interact. It is here that each sexual half of the
race, so closely and indistinguishably blended elsewhere, has its own
distinct contribution to make to the sum total of human knowledge and
human wisdom. Neither is the woman without the man, nor the man without
the woman, the completed human intelligence.

Therefore;--We claim, today, all labour for our province! Those large
fields in which it would appear sex plays no part, and equally those
smaller in which it plays a part.

Chapter VI. Certain Objections.

It has been stated sometimes, though more often implicitly than in any
direct or logical form, (this statement being one it is not easy to make
definitely without its reducing itself to nullity!) that woman should
seek no fields of labour in the new world of social conditions that
is arising about us, as she has still her function as child-bearer: a
labour which, by her own showing, is arduous and dangerous, though she
may love it as a soldier loves his battlefield; and that woman should
perform her sex functions only, allowing man or the state to support
her, even when she is only potentially a child-bearer and bears no
children. (Such a scheme, as has before been stated, was actually put
forward by a literary man in England some years ago: but he had the
sense to state that it should apply only to women of the upper classes,
the mass of labouring women, who form the vast bulk of the English women
of the present day, being left to their ill-paid drudgery and their
child-bearing as well!)

There is some difficulty in replying to a theorist so wholly delusive.
Not only is he to be met by all the arguments against parasitism of
class or race; but, at the present day, when probably much more than
half the world’s most laborious and ill-paid labour is still performed
by women, from tea pickers and cocoa tenders in India and the islands,
to the washerwomen, cooks, and drudging labouring men’s wives, who
in addition to the sternest and most unending toil, throw in their
child-bearing as a little addition; and when, in some civilised
countries women exceed the males in numbers by one million, so
that there would still be one million females for whom there was no
legitimate sexual outlet, though each male in the nation supported a
female, it is somewhat difficult to reply with gravity to the assertion,
“Let Woman be content to be the ‘Divine Child-bearer,’ and ask no more.”

Were it worth replying gravely to so idle a theorist, we might
answer:--Through all the ages of the past, when, with heavy womb and
hard labour-worn hands, we physically toiled beside man, bearing up by
the labour of our bodies the world about us, it was never suggested to
us, “You, the child-bearers of the race, have in that one function a
labour that equals all others combined; therefore, toil no more in other
directions, we pray of you; neither plant, nor build, nor bend over
the grindstone; nor far into the night, while we sleep, sit weaving the
clothing we and our children are to wear! Leave it to us, to plant, to
reap, to weave, to work, to toil for you, O sacred child-bearer! Work no
more; every man of the race will work for you!” This cry in all the grim
ages of our past toil we never heard.

And today, when the lofty theorist, who tonight stands before the
drawing-room fire in spotless shirtfront and perfectly fitting clothes,
and declaims upon the amplitude of woman’s work in life as child-bearer,
and the mighty value of that labour which exceeds all other, making
it unnecessary for her to share man’s grosser and lower toils: is it
certain he always in practical life remembers his theory? When waking
tomorrow morning, he finds that the elderly house drudge, who rises
at dawn while he yet sleeps to make his tea and clean his boots, has
brought his tea late, and polished his boots ill; may he not even
sharply condemn her, and assure her she will have to leave unless
she works harder and rises earlier? Does he exclaim to her, “Divine
child-bearer! Potential mother of the race! Why should you clean my
boots or bring up my tea, while I lie warm in bed? Is it not enough you
should have the holy and mysterious power of bringing the race to life?
Let that content you. Henceforth I shall get up at dawn and make my own
tea and clean my own boots, and pay you just the same!” Or, should his
landlady, now about to give birth to her ninth child, send him up a
poorly-cooked dinner or forget to bring up his scuttle of coals, does he
send for her and thus apostrophise the astonished matron: “Child-bearer
of the race! Producer of men! Cannot you be contented with so noble and
lofty a function in life without toiling and moiling? Why carry up heavy
coal-scuttles from the cellar and bend over hot fires, wearing out nerve
and brain and muscle that should be reserved for higher duties? We, we,
the men of the race, will perform its mean, its sordid, its grinding
toil! For woman is beauty, peace, repose! Your function is to give life,
not to support it by labour. The Mother, the Mother! How wonderful it
sounds! Toil no more! Rest is for you; labour and drudgery for
us!” Would he not rather assure her that, unless she laboured more
assiduously and sternly, she would lose his custom and so be unable to
pay her month’s rent; and perhaps so, with children and an invalid or
drunken husband whom she supports, be turned out into the streets? For,
it is remarkable, that, with theorists of this class, it is not toil, or
the amount of toil, crushing alike to brain and body, which the female
undertakes that is objected to; it is the form and the amount of the
reward. It is not the hand-labouring woman, even in his own society,
worn out and prematurely aged at forty with grinding domestic toil, that
has no beginning and knows no end--

     “Man’s work is from sun to sun,
      But the woman’s work is never done”--

it is not the haggard, work-crushed woman and mother who irons his
shirts, or the potential mother who destroys health and youth in
the sweater’s den where she sews the garments in which he appears so
radiantly in the drawing-room which disturbs him. It is the thought
of the woman-doctor with an income of some hundreds a year, who drives
round in her carriage to see her patients, or receives them in her
consulting-rooms, and who spends the evening smoking and reading before
her study fire or receiving her guests; it is the thought of the woman
who, as legislator, may loll for perhaps six hours of the day on the
padded seat of legislative bench, relieving the tedium now and then by
a turn in the billiard- or refreshment-room, when she is not needed to
vote or speak; it is the thought of the woman as Greek professor, with
three or four hundred a year, who gives half a dozen lectures a week,
and has leisure to enjoy the society of her husband and children, and
to devote to her own study and life of thought; it is she who wrings his
heart. It is not the woman, who, on hands and knees, at tenpence a day,
scrubs the floors of the public buildings, or private dwellings, that
fills him with anguish for womanhood: that somewhat quadrupedal posture
is for him truly feminine, and does not interfere with his ideal of the
mother and child-bearer; and that, in some other man’s house, or perhaps
his own, while he and the wife he keeps for his pleasures are visiting
concert or entertainment, some weary woman paces till far into the night
bearing with aching back and tired head the fretful, teething child
he brought into the world, for a pittance of twenty or thirty pounds
a year, does not distress him. But that the same woman by work in an
office should earn one hundred and fifty pounds, be able to have a
comfortable home of her own, and her evening free for study or pleasure,
distresses him deeply. It is not the labour, or the amount of labour,
so much as the amount of reward that interferes with his ideal of the
eternal womanly; he is as a rule quite contented that the women of the
race should labour for him, whether as tea-pickers or washerwomen, or
toilers for the children he brings into the world, provided the reward
they receive is not large, nor in such fields as he might himself at any
time desire to enter.

When master and ass, drawing a heavy burden between them, have climbed
a steep mountain range together; clambering over sharp rocks and across
sliding gravel where no water is, and herbage is scant; if, when they
were come out on the top of the mountain, and before them stretch broad,
green lands, and through wide half-open gates they catch the glimpse of
trees waving, and there comes the sound of running waters, if then, the
master should say to his ass, “Good beast of mine, lie down! I can push
the whole burden myself now: lie down here; lie down, my creature; you
have toiled enough; I will go on alone!” then it might be even the beast
would whisper (with that glimpse through the swinging gates of the green
fields beyond)--“Good master, we two have climbed this mighty mountain
together, and the stones have cut my hoofs as they cut your feet.
Perhaps, if when we were at the foot you had found out that the burden
was two heavy for me, and had then said to me, ‘Lie down, my beastie;
I will carry on the burden alone; lie down and rest!’ I might then have
listened. But now, just here, where I see the gates swinging open, a
smooth road, and green fields before us, I think I shall go on a little
farther. We two have climbed together; maybe we shall go on yet, side by

For the heart of labouring womanhood cries out today to the man who
would suggest she need not seek new fields of labour, that child-bearing
is enough for her share in life’s labour, “Do you dare say to us
now, that we are fit to do nothing but child-bear, that when that is
performed our powers are exhausted? To us, who yet through all the ages
of the past, when child-bearing was persistent and incessant, regarded
it hardly as a toil, but rather as the reward of labour; has our right
hand lost its cunning and our heart its strength, that today, when human
labour is easier and humanity’s work grows fairer, you say to us, ‘You
can do nothing now but child-bear’? Do you dare to say this, to us, when
the upward path of the race has been watered by the sweat of our brow,
and the sides of the road by which humanity has climbed are whitened on
either hand by the bones of the womanhood that has fallen there, toiling
beside man? Do you dare say this, to us, when even today the food you
eat, the clothes you wear, the comfort you enjoy, is largely given you
by the unending muscular toil of woman?”

As the women of old planted and reaped and ground the grain that the
children they bore might eat; as the maidens of old spun that they might
make linen for their households and obtain the right to bear men; so,
though we bend no more over grindstones, or labour in the fields,
or weave by hand, it is our intention to enter all the new fields of
labour, that we also may have the power and right to bring men into the
world. It is our faith that the day comes in which not only shall no man
dare to say, “It is enough portion for a woman in life that she bear
a child,” but when it will rather be said, “What noble labour has that
woman performed, that she should have the privilege of bringing a man or
woman child into the world?”

But, it has also been objected, “What, and if the female half of
humanity, though able, in addition to the exercise of its reproductive
functions, to bear its share in the new fields of social labour as it
did in the old, be yet in certain directions a less productive labourer
than the male? What if, in the main, the result of the labour of the two
halves of humanity should not be found to be exactly equal?”

To this it may be answered, that it is within the range of possibility
that, mysteriously co-ordinated with the male reproductive function in
the human, there may also be in some directions a tendency to possess
gifts for labour useful and beneficial to the race in the stage of
growth it has now reached, in excess of those possessed by the female.
We see no reason why this should be so, and, in the present state of our
knowledge, this is a point on which no sane person would dogmatise; but
it is possible! It may, on the other hand be, that, taken in the bulk,
when all the branches of productive labour be considered, as the ages
pass, the value of the labour of the two halves of humanity will be
found so identical and so closely to balance, that no superiority can
possibly be asserted of either, as the result of the closest analysis.
This also is possible.

But, it may also be, that, when the bulk and sum-total of human
activities is surveyed in future ages, it will be found that the value
of the labour of the female in the world that is rising about us, has
exceeded in quality or in quantity that of the male. We see no reason
either, why this should be; there is nothing in the nature of the
reproductive function in the female human which of necessity implies
such superiority.

Yet it may be, that, with the smaller general bulk and the muscular
fineness, and the preponderance of brain and nervous system in net bulk
over the fleshy and osseous parts of the organism, which generally,
though by no means always, characterises the female as distinguished
from the male of the human species, there do go mental qualities which
will peculiarly fit her for the labours of the future. It may be, that
her lesser possession of the mere muscular and osseous strength, which
were the elements of primary importance and which gave dominance in one
stage of human growth, and which placed woman at a social disadvantage
as compared with her companion, will, under new conditions of life, in
which the value of crude mechanical strength as distinguished from high
vitality and strong nervous activity is passing away, prove as largely
to her advantage, as his muscular bulk and strength in the past proved
to the male. It is quite possible, in the new world which is arising
about us, that the type of human most useful to society and best fitted
for its future conditions, and who will excel in the most numerous forms
of activity, will be, not merely the muscularly powerful and bulky, but
the highly versatile, active, vital, adaptive, sensitive, physically
fine-drawn type; and, as that type, though, like the muscularly heavy
and powerful, by no means peculiar to and confined to one sex, is yet
rather more commonly found in conjunction with a female organism, it is
quite possible that, taken in the bulk and on the whole, the female half
of humanity may, by virtue of its structural adaptions, be found most
fitted for the bulk of human labours in the future!

As with individuals and races, so also with sexes, changed social
conditions may render exactly those subtile qualities, which in one
social state were a disadvantage, of the highest social advantage in

The skilled diplomatist or politician, so powerful in his own element,
on board ship during a storm becomes at once of less general value or
consideration than the meanest sailor who can reef a sail or guide a
wheel; and, were we to be reduced again suddenly to a state of nature,
a company of highly civilised men and women would at once, as we have
before remarked, find their social value completely inverted; landed on
a desert shore, unarmed and naked, to encounter wild beasts and savages,
and to combat nature for food, the primitive scale of human values would
at once reassert itself. It would not then be the mighty financier, the
learned judge, or great poet and scholar who would be sought after, but
the thickest-headed navvy who could throw a stone so exactly that he
brought down a bird, and who could in a day raise a wall which would
shelter the group; and the man so powerful that he could surely strike
an enemy or wild beast dead with his club, would at once be objects of
social regard and attain individual eminence, and perhaps dominance. It
would not be the skilled dancer, who in one night in a civilised state
earns her hundreds, nor yet the fragile clinging beauty, but the girl
of the broad back and the strong limb, who could collect wood and carry
water, who would be the much considered and much sought after female in
such a community. Even in the animal world, there is the same inversion
in values, according as the external conditions vary. The lion, while
ruling over every other creature in his primitive wilds, by right of his
untamable ferocity, size, and rapacity, is yet bound to become a prey
to destruction and extermination when he comes into contact with the
new condition brought by man; while the wild dog, so immeasurably
his inferior in size and ferocity, is tamed, survives and multiplies,
exactly because he has been driven by his smaller structure and lesser
physical force to develop those social instincts and those forms of
intelligence which make him amenable to the new condition of life and
valuable in them. The same inversion in the value of qualities may be
traced in the history of human species. The Jews, whose history has been
one long story of oppression at the hands of more muscular, physically
powerful and pugilistic peoples; whom we find first making bricks under
the lash of the Egyptian, and later hanging his harp as an exile among
the willow-trees of Babylon; who, for eighteen hundred years, has been
trampled, tortured, and despised beneath the feet of the more physically
powerful and pugilistic, but not more vital, keen, intelligent, or
persistent races of Europe; has, today, by the slow turning of the
wheel of life, come uppermost. The Egyptian task-master and warrior
have passed; what the Babylonian was we know no more, save for a few mud
tablets and rock inscriptions recording the martial victories; but the
once captive Jew we see today in every city and every street; until at
last, the descendants of those men who spat when they spoke his
name, and forcibly drew his teeth to extract his money from him, wait
patiently behind each other for admission to his offices and palaces;
while nobles solicit his daughters in marriage and kings are proud to be
summoned to his table in hope of golden crumbs, and great questions
of peace and war are often held balanced in the hand of one little
asthmatic Jew. After long ages of disgrace and pariahism, the time has
come, whether for good or for evil, when just those qualities which the
Jew possesses and which subtilely distinguish him from others, are in
demand; while those he has not are sinking into disuse; exactly that
domination of the reflective faculties over the combative, which once
made him slave, also saved him from becoming extinct in wars; and the
intellectual quickness, the far-sighted keenness, the persistent mental
activity and self-control, which could not in those ages save him from
degradation or compensate for his lack of bone and muscle and combative
instinct, are the very qualities the modern world demands and crowns.
The day of Goliath with his club and his oaths is fast passing, and the
day of David with his harp and skilfully constructed sling is coming
near and yet nearer.

The qualities which give an animal, a race, or an individual, a higher
utility or social dominance must always be influenced by any change in
the environment. As the wheel of life slowly revolves, that which was
lowest comes continually uppermost, and that which was dominant becomes

It is possible, that women, after countless ages, during which that
smaller relative development in weight and muscularity which is incident
to almost all females which suckle their young, and that lesser desire
for pugilism inherent in almost all females who bear their young alive,
rendered her lacking in the two qualities which made for individual
dominance in her societies, may yet, in the future, discover that those
changes in human conditions, which have done away with the primary
necessity for muscular force and pugilistic arts, have also inverted her
place in the scale of social values.

It is possible, that the human female, like the Jew, the male of that
type farthest removed from the dominant male type of the past, may in
the future find, that, so far from those qualities which, in an earlier
condition, lessened her social value and power of labour, continuing to
do so, they will increase it. That the delicacy of hand, lightness of
structure which were fatal when the dominant labour of life was to
wield a battle-axe or move a weight, may be no restraint but even an
assistance in the intellectual and more delicate mechanical fields of
labour; that the preponderance of nervous and cerebral over muscular
material, and the tendency towards preservative and creative activity
over pugilistic and destructive, so far from shutting her off from the
most important fields of human toil, may increase her fitness for them!
We have no certain proof that it is so at present; but, if woman’s
long years of servitude and physical subjection, and her experience as
child-bearer and protector of infancy, should, in any way, be found
in the future to have endowed her, as a kind of secondary sexual
characteristic, with any additional strength of social instinct,
with any exceptional width of human sympathy and any instinctive
comprehension; then, it is not merely possible, but certain, that, in
the ages that are coming, in which the labour of the human race will be
not mainly destructive but conservative, in which the building up and
developing of humanity, and not continually the inter-destruction of
part by part, will be the dominant activity of the race, that woman as
woman, and by right of that wherein she differs from the male, will have
an all-important part to play in the activity of the race.

The matter is one of curious and subtle interest, but what practically
concerns the human race is, not which of the two sexual halves which
must always coexist is best fitted to excel in certain human labours in
this or that direction, at this or that time, nor even which has most
to contribute to the sum-total of human activities; but it is this, that
every individual unit humanity contains, irrespective of race, sex, or
type, should find exactly that field of labour which may most contribute
to its development, happiness, and health, and in which its peculiar
faculties and gifts shall be most effectively and beneficially exerted
for its fellows.

It matters nothing, and less than nothing, to us as women, whether, of
those children we bring into the world, our sons should excel in virtue,
intelligence, and activity, our daughters, or our daughters our sons;
so that, in each child we bring to life, not one potentiality shall be
lost, nor squandered on a lesser when it might have been expended on a
higher and more beneficent task. So that not one desirable faculty
of the marvellous creatures we suffer to bring into existence be left
uncultivated, to us, as women, it matters nothing and less than nothing,
which sex type excels in action, in knowledge, or in virtue, so both
attain their best. There is one thing only on earth, as precious to
woman as the daughter who springs from her body--it is the son. There
is one thing only dearer to the woman than herself--it is the man. As no
sane human concerns himself as to whether the right or left ventricle
of his heart works most satisfactorily, or is most essential to his
well-being, so both be perfect in health and activity; as no sane woman
distresses herself lest her right breast should not excel the left in
beauty and use; so no sane man or woman questions anxiously over the
relative perfections of male and female. In love there is no first nor
last. What we request of life is that the tools should be given to his
hand or hers who can best handle them; that the least efficient
should not be forced into the place of the more efficient, and that
an artificially drawn line should never repress the activities of the
individual creature, which we as women bring into the world.

But it may also be said to us, “What, and if, all your dreams and hopes
for woman and the future of the race be based on air? What, and if,
desirable as it is that woman should not become practically dependent on
her sexual function alone, and should play at least as great a part in
the productive labour of the race in the future as she played in that of
the past--what, if woman cannot take the same vast share in the complex
and largely mental labour fields of the future, as in the largely
physical fields of the past? What, and if, in spite of all her effort
and sacrifice to attain this end, exactly now and when the labour of
civilised societies becomes mental rather than mechanical, woman be
found wanting?”

In Swiss valleys today the traveller comes sometimes on the figure of
a solitary woman climbing the mountain-side, on her broad shoulders a
mighty burden of fodder or manure she is bearing up for the cattle, or
to some patch of cultivated land. Steady, unshrinking eyes look out
at you from beneath the deeply seamed forehead, and a strand of hair,
perhaps almost as white as the mountain snows on the peaks above,
escapes from under the edge of the binding handkerchief. The face is
seamed and seared with the stern marks of toil and endurance, as the
mountain-side is with marks of storm and avalanche. It is the face of
one who has brought men into the world in labour and sorrow, and toiled
mightily to sustain them; and dead must be the mind to the phases of
human existence, who does not see in that toilworn figure one of the
mighty pillars, which have in the long ages of the past sustained the
life of humanity on earth, and made possible its later development; and
much must the tinsel of life have dazzled him, who fails to mark it with
reverence and, metaphorically, to bow his head before it--the type of
the mighty labouring woman who has built up life.

But, it may be said, what if, in the ages to come, it should never again
be possible for any man to stand bowed with the same respect in the
presence of any other of earth’s mighty toilers, who should also be
mother and woman? What, if she, who could combine motherhood with the
most unending muscular toil, will fall flaccid and helpless where the
labour becomes mental? What if, struggle as she will, she can become
nothing in the future but the pet pug-dog of the race, lying on its
sofa, or the Italian greyhound, shivering in its silken coat? What
if woman, in spite of her most earnest aspirations and determined
struggles, be destined to failure in the new world that is rising
because of inherent mental incapacity?

There are many replies which may be made to such a suggestion. It is
often said with truth, that the ordinary occupations of woman in the
past and present, and in all classes of society in which she is not
parasitic, do demand, and have always demanded, a very high versatility
and mental activity, as well as physical: that the mediaeval baron’s
wife who guided her large household probably had to expend far more pure
intellect in doing so than the baron in his hunting and fighting; that
the wife of the city accountant probably expends today more reason,
imagination, forethought, and memory on the management of her small
household, than he in his far simpler, monotonous arithmetical toil;
that, as there is no cause for supposing that the tailor or shoemaker
needs less intellect in his calling than the soldier or prize-fighter,
so there is nothing to suggest that, in the past, woman has not expended
as much pure intellect in the mass of her callings as the man in his;
while in those highly specialised intellectual occupations, in which
long and uninterrupted training tending to one point is necessary,
such as the liberal professions and arts, that, although woman has
practically been excluded from the requisite training, and the freedom
to place herself in the positions in which they can be pursued, that
yet, by force of innate genius and gifts in such directions, she has
continually broken through the seemingly insuperable obstacles, and
again and again taken her place beside man in those fields of labour;
showing thereby not merely aptitude but passionate and determined
inclination in those directions. With equal truth, it is often remarked
that, when as an independent hereditary sovereign, woman has been placed
in the only position in which she has ever been able freely and fully
to express her own individuality, and though selected at random by fate
from the mass of women, by the mere accident of birth or marriage, she
has shown in a large percentage of cases that the female has the power
to command, organise, and succeed in one of the most exacting and
complex of human employments, the government of nations; that from the
days of Amalasontha to Isabella of Spain, Elizabeth of England, and
Catharine of Russia, women have not failed to grasp the large impersonal
aspects of life, and successfully and powerfully to control them, when
placed in the supreme position in which it was demanded. It may also
be stated, and is sometimes, with so much iteration as to become almost
wearisome, that women’s adequacy in the modern fields of intellectual or
skilled manual labour is no more today an open matter for debate, than
the number of modern women who, as senior wranglers, doctors, &c.,
have already successfully entered the new fields, and the high standard
attained by women in all university examinations to which they are
admitted, and their universal success in the administration of parochial
matters, wherever they have been allowed to share it, proves their
intellectual and moral fitness for the new forms of labour.

All these statements are certainly interesting, and may be unanswerable.
And yet--if the truth be told, it is not ultimately on these grounds
that many of us base our hope and our certitude with regard to the
future of woman. Our conviction as to the plenitude of her powers for
the adequate performance of lofty labours in these new fields, springs
not at all from a categorical enumeration of the attainments or
performances of individual women or bodies of women in the past or
present; it has another source.

There was a bird’s egg once, picked up by chance upon the ground, and
those who found it bore it home and placed it under a barn-door fowl.
And in time the chick bred out, and those who had found it chained it by
the leg to a log, lest it should stray and be lost. And by and by they
gathered round it, and speculated as to what the bird might be. One
said, “It is surely a waterfowl, a duck, or it may be a goose; if we
took it to the water it would swim and gabble.” But another said, “It
has no webs to its feet; it is a barn-door fowl; should you let it loose
it will scratch and cackle with the others on the dung-heap.” But a
third speculated, “Look now at its curved beak; no doubt it is a parrot,
and can crack nuts!” But a fourth said, “No, but look at its wings;
perhaps it is a bird of great flight.” But several cried, “Nonsense!
No one has ever seen it fly! Why should it fly? Can you suppose that
a thing can do a thing which no one has ever seen it do?” And the
bird--the bird--with its leg chained close to the log, preened its wing.
So they sat about it, speculating, and discussing it: and one said
this, and another that. And all the while as they talked the bird sat
motionless, with its gaze fixed on the clear, blue sky above it. And one
said, “Suppose we let the creature loose to see what it will do?”--and
the bird shivered. But the others cried, “It is too valuable; it might
get lost. If it were to try to fly it might fall down and break its
neck.” And the bird, with its foot chained to the log, sat looking
upward into the clear blue sky; the sky, in which it had never been--for
the bird--the bird, knew what it would do--because it was an eaglet!

There is one woman known to many of us, as each human creature knows but
one on earth; and it is upon our knowledge of that woman that we base
our certitude.

For those who do not know her, and have not this ground, it is probably
profitable and necessary that they painfully collect isolated facts and
then speculate upon them, and base whatever views they should form upon
these collections. It might even be profitable that they should form no
definite opinions at all, but wait till the ages of practical experience
have put doubt to rest. For those of us who have a ground of knowledge
which we cannot transmit to outsiders, it is perhaps more profitable to
act fearlessly than to argue.

Finally, it may be objected to the entrance of woman to the new fields
of labour, and in effect it is often said--“What, and if, all you have
sought be granted you--if it be fully agreed that woman’s ancient fields
of toil are slipping from her, and that, if she do not find new,
she must fall into a state of sexual parasitism, dependent on her
reproductive functions alone; and granted, that, doing this, she must
degenerate, and that from her degeneration must arise the degeneration
and arrest of development of the males as well as of the females of her
race; and granting also, fully, that in the past woman has borne one
full half, and often more than one half, of the weight of the productive
labours of her societies, in addition to child-bearing; and allowing
more fully that she may be as well able to sustain her share in the
intellectual labours of the future as in the more mechanical labours of
the past; granting all this, may there not be one aspect of the question
left out of consideration which may reverse all conclusions as to the
desirability, and the human good to be attained by woman’s enlarged
freedom and her entering into the new fields of toil? What if, the
increased culture and mental activity of woman necessary for her
entrance into the new fields, however desirable in other ways for
herself and the race, should result in a diminution, or in an absolute
abolition of the sexual attraction and affection, which in all ages of
the past has bound the two halves of humanity together? What if, though
the stern and unlovely manual labours of the past have never affected
her attractiveness for the male of her own society, nor his for her;
yet the performance by woman of intellectual labours, or complex and
interesting manual labour, and her increased intelligence and width,
should render the male objectionable to her, and the woman undesirable
to the male; so that the very race itself might become extinct through
the dearth of sexual affection? What, and if, the woman ceases to value
the son she bears, and to feel desire for and tenderness to the man who
begets him; and the man to value and desire the woman and her offspring?
Would not such a result exceed, or at least equal, in its evil to
humanity, anything which could result from the degeneration and
parasitism of woman? Would it not be well, if there exist any
possibility of this danger, that woman, however conscious that she can
perform social labour as nobly and successfully under the new conditions
of life as the old, should yet consciously, and deliberately, with her
eyes open, sink into a state of pure intellectual torpor, with all its
attendant evils, rather than face the more irreparable loss which her
development and the exercise of her gifts might entail? Would it not be
well she should deliberately determine, as the lesser of two evils,
to dwarf herself and limit her activities and the expansion of her
faculties, rather than that any risk should be run of the bond of desire
and emotion between the two sexual halves of humanity being severed? If
the race is to decay and become extinct on earth, might it not as well
be through the parasitism and decay of woman, as through the decay of
the sexual instinct?”

It is not easy to reply with rationality, or even gravity, to a
supposition, which appears to be based on the conception that a sudden
and entire subversion of the deepest of those elements on which human,
and even animal, life on the globe is based, is possible from so
inadequate a cause: and it might well be passed silently, were it not
that, under some form or other, this argument frequently recurs, now
in a more rational and then in a more irrational form; constituting
sometimes an objection in even moderately intelligent minds, to the
entrance of woman into the new fields of labour.

It must be at once frankly admitted that, were there the smallest
possible danger in this direction, the sooner woman laid aside all
endeavour in the direction of increased knowledge and the attainment of
new fields of activity, the better for herself and for the race.

When one considers the part which sexual attraction plays in the order
of sentient life on the globe, from the almost unconscious attractions
which draw amoeboid globule to amoeboid globule, on through the endless
progressive forms of life; till in monogamous birds it expresses itself
in song and complex courtship and sometimes in the life-long conjugal
affection of mates; and which in the human race itself, passing through
various forms, from the imperative but almost purely physical attraction
of savage male and female for each other, till in the highly developed
male and female it assumes its aesthetic and intellectual but not less
imperative form, couching itself in the songs of poet, and the sometimes
deathless fidelity of richly developed man and woman to each other, we
find it not only everywhere, but forming the very groundwork on which is
based sentient existence; never eradicable, though infinitely varied
in its external forms of expression. When we consider that in the human
world, from the battles and dances of savages to the intrigues and
entertainments of modern Courts and palaces, the attraction of man and
woman for each other has played an unending part; and, that the most
fierce ascetic religious enthusiasm through the ages, the flagellations
and starvations in endless nunneries and monasteries, have never been
able to extirpate nor seriously to weaken for one moment the master
dominance of this emotion; that the lowest and most brutal ignorance,
and the highest intellectual culture leave mankind, equally, though in
different forms, amenable to its mastery; that, whether in the brutal
guffaw of sex laughter which rings across the drinking bars of our
modern cities, and rises from the comfortable armchairs in fashionable
clubs; or in the poet’s dreams, and the noblest conjugal relations of
men and women linked together for life, it plays still today on earth
the vast part it played when hoary monsters ploughed after each other
through Silurian slime, and that still it forms as ever the warp on
which in the loom of human life the web is woven, and runs as a thread
never absent through every design and pattern which constitutes the
individual existence on earth, it appears not merely as ineradicable;
but it is inconceivable to suppose that that attraction of sex towards
sex, which, with hunger and thirst, lie, as the triune instincts, at
the base of animal life on earth, should ever be exterminable by the
comparatively superficial changes resulting from the performance of this
or that form of labour, or the little more or less of knowledge in one
direction or another.

That the female who drives steam-driven looms, producing scores of yards
of linen in a day, should therefore desire less the fellowship of her
corresponding male than had she toiled at a spinning-wheel with hand
and foot to produce one yard; that the male should desire less of the
companionship of the woman who spends the morning in doctoring babies in
her consulting-room, according to the formularies of the pharmacopoeia,
than she who of old spent it on the hillside collecting simples for
remedies; that the woman who paints a modern picture or designs a modern
vase should be less lovable by man, than her ancestor who shaped the
first primitive pot and ornamented it with zigzag patterns was to the
man of her day and age; that the woman who contributes to the support
of her family by giving legal opinions will less desire motherhood and
wifehood than she who in the past contributed to the support of
her household by bending on hands and knees over her grindstone, or
scrubbing floors, and that the former should be less valued by man than
the latter--these are suppositions which it is difficult to regard as
consonant with any knowledge of human nature and the laws by which it is

On the other hand, if it be supposed that the possession of wealth or
the means of earning it makes the human female objectionable to the
male, all history and all daily experience negates it. The eager hunt
for heiresses in all ages and social conditions, make it obvious
that the human male has a strong tendency to value the female who can
contribute to the family expenditure; and the case is yet, we believe,
unrecorded of a male who, attracted to a female, becomes averse to her
on finding she has material good. The female doctor or lawyer earning a
thousand a year will always, and today certainly does, find more suitors
than had she remained a governess or cook, labouring as hard, earning
thirty pounds.

While, if the statement that the female entering on new fields of labour
will cease to be lovable to the male be based on the fact that she will
then be free, all history and all human experience yet more negates its
truth. The study of all races in all ages, proves that the greater the
freedom of woman in any society, the higher the sexual value put upon
her by the males of that society. The three squaws who walk behind the
Indian, and whom he has captured in battle or bought for a few axes or
lengths of tobacco, and over whom he exercises the despotic right of
life and death, are probably all three of infinitesimal value in his
eyes, compared with the value of his single, free wife to one of our
ancient, monogamous German ancestors; while the hundred wives and
concubines purchased by a Turkish pasha have probably not even an
approximate value in his eyes, when compared with the value which
thousands of modern European males set upon the one comparatively free
woman, whom they may have won, often only after a long and tedious

So axiomatic is the statement that the value of the female to the male
varies as her freedom, that, given an account of any human society in
which the individual female is highly valued, it will be perfectly safe
to infer the comparative social freedom of woman; and, given a statement
as to the high degree of freedom of woman in a society, it will be safe
to infer the great sexual value of the individual woman to man.

Finally, if the suggestion, that men and women will cease to be
attractive to one another if women enter modern fields of labour, be
based on the fact that her doing so may increase her intelligence and
enlarge her intellectual horizon, it must be replied that the whole
trend of human history absolutely negates the supposition. There is
absolutely no ground for the assumption that increased intelligence and
intellectual power diminishes sexual emotion in the human creature of
either sex. The ignorant savage, whether in ancient or modern societies,
who violates and then clubs a female into submission, may be dominated,
and is, by sex emotions of a certain class; but not less dominated
have been the most cultured, powerful, and highly differentiated male
intelligences that the race has produced. A Mill, a Shelley, a Goethe,
a Schiller, a Pericles, have not been more noted for vast intellectual
powers, than for the depth and intensity of their sexual emotions. And,
if possible, with the human female, the relation between intensity of
sexual emotion and high intellectual gifts has been yet closer. The life
of a Sophia Kovalevsky, a George Eliot, an Elizabeth Browning have not
been more marked by a rare development of the intellect than by deep
passionate sexual emotions. Nor throughout the history of the race has
high intelligence and intellectual power ever tended to make either male
or female unattractive to those of the opposite sex.

The merely brilliantly attired and unintelligent woman, probably never
awakened the same intensity of profound sex emotion even among the men
of her own type, which followed a George Sand; who attracted to herself
with deathless force some of the most noted men of her generation, even
when, nearing middle age, stout, and attired in rusty and inartistic
black, she was to be found rolling her cigarettes in a dingy office,
scorning all the external adornments with which less attractive females
seek to supply a hidden deficiency. Probably no more hopeless mistake
could be made by an ascetic seeking to extirpate sex emotion and the
attraction of the sexes for one another, than were he to imagine that
in increasing virility, intelligence, and knowledge this end could be
attained. He might thereby differentiate and greatly concentrate the
emotions, but they would be intensified; as a widely spread, shallow,
sluggish stream would not be annihilated but increased in force and
activity by being turned into a sharply defined, clear-cut course.

And if, further, we turn to those secondary manifestations of sexual
emotion, which express themselves in the relations of human progenitors
to their offspring, we shall find, if possible more markedly, that
increase of intelligence and virility does not diminish but increases
the strength of the affections. As the primitive, ignorant male, often
willingly selling his offspring or exposing his female infants to death,
often develops, with the increase of culture and intelligence, into
the extremely devoted and self-sacrificing male progenitor of civilised
societies; so, yet even more markedly, does the female relation with her
offspring, become intensified and permanent, as culture and intelligence
and virility increase. The Bushwoman, like the lowest female barbarians
in our own societies, will often readily dispose of her infant son for
a bottle of spirits or a little coin; and even among somewhat more
mentally developed females, strong as is the affection of the average
female for her new born offspring, the closeness of the relation between
mother and child tends rapidly to shrink as time passes, so that by
the time of adolescence is reached the relation between mother and son
becomes little more than a remembrance of a close inter-union which
once existed. It is, perhaps, seldom, till the very highest point of
intellectual growth and mental virility has been reached by the human
female, that her relation with her male offspring becomes a permanent
and active and dominant factor in the lives of both. The concentrated
and all-absorbing affection and fellowship which existed between the
greatest female intellect France has produced and the son she bore,
dominating both lives to the end, the fellowship of the English
historian with his mother, who remained his chosen companion and the
sharer of all his labours through life, the relation of St. Augustine
to his mother, and those of countless others, are relations almost
inconceivable where the woman is not of commanding and active
intelligence, and where the passion of mere physical instinct is
completed by the passion of the intellect and spirit.

There appears, then, from the study of human nature in the past, no
ground for supposing that if, as a result of woman’s adopting new forms
of labour, she should become more free, more wealthy, or more actively
intelligent, that this could in any way diminish her need of the
physical and mental comradeship of man, nor his need of her; nor that
it would affect their secondary sexual relations as progenitors, save
by deepening, concentrating, and extending throughout life the parental
emotions. The conception that man’s and woman’s need of each other could
be touched, or the emotions binding the sexes obliterated, by any mere
change in the form of labour performed by the woman of the race, is as
grotesque in its impossibility, as the suggestion that the placing of a
shell on the seashore this way or that might destroy the action of the
earth’s great tidal wave.

But, it may be objected, “If there be absolutely no ground for the
formation of such an opinion, how comes it that, in one form or another,
it is so often expressed by persons who object to the entrance of woman
into new or intellectual fields of labour? Where there is smoke must
there not also be fire?” To which it must be replied, “Without fire, no
smoke; but very often the appearance of smoke where neither smoke nor
fire exist!”

The fact that a statement is frequently made or a view held forms no
presumptive ground of its truth; but it is undoubtedly a ground for
supposing that there is an appearance or semblance which makes it appear
truth, and which suggests it. The universally entertained conception
that the sun moved round the world was not merely false, but the reverse
of the truth; all that was required for its inception was a fallacious
appearance suggesting it.

When we examine narrowly the statement, that the entrance of woman into
the new fields of labour, with its probably resulting greater freedom
of action, economic independence and wider culture, may result in a
severance between the sexes, it becomes clear what that fallacious
appearance is, which suggests this.

The entrance of a woman into new fields of labour, though bringing her
increased freedom and economic independence, and necessitating increased
mental training and wider knowledge, could not extinguish the primordial
physical instinct which draws sex to sex throughout all the orders of
sentient life; and still less could it annihilate that subtler mental
need, which, as humanity develops, draws sex to sex for emotional
fellowship and close intercourse; but, it might, and undoubtedly would,
powerfully react and readjust the relations of certain men with certain

While the attraction, physical and intellectual, which binds sex to sex
would remain the same in volume and intensity, the forms in which it
would express itself, and, above all, the relative power of individuals
to command the gratification of their instincts and desires, would be
fundamentally altered, and in many cases inverted.

In the barbarian state of societies, where physical force dominates,
it is the most muscular and pugilistically and brutally and animally
successful male who captures and possesses the largest number of
females; and no doubt he would be justified in regarding any social
change which gave to woman a larger freedom of choice, and which would
so perhaps give to the less brutal but perhaps more intelligent male,
whom the woman might select, an equal opportunity for the gratification
of his sexual wishes and for the producing of offspring, as a serious
loss. And, from the purely personal standpoint, he would undoubtedly
be right in dreading anything which tended to free woman. But he would
manifestly not have been justified in asserting, that woman’s increased
freedom of choice, or the fact that the other men would share his
advantage in the matter of obtaining female companionship, would in any
way lessen the amount of sexual emotion or the tenderness of relation
between the two halves of humanity. He would not by brute force possess
himself of so many females, nor have so large a circle of choice,
under the new conditions; but what he lost, others would gain; and
the intensity of the sex emotions and the nearness and passion of the
relation between the sexes be in no way touched.

In our more civilised societies, as they exist today, woman possesses
(more often perhaps in appearance than reality!) a somewhat greater
freedom of sexual selection; she is no longer captured by muscular
force, but there are still conditions entirely unconnected with
sex attractions and affections, which yet largely dominate the sex

It is not the man of the strong arm, but the man of the long purse,
who unduly and artificially dominates in the sexual world today.
Practically, wherever in the modern world woman is wholly or partially
dependent for her means of support on the exercise of her sexual
functions, she is dependent more or less on the male’s power to support
her in their exercise, and her freedom of choice is practically so far
absolutely limited. Probably three-fourths of the sexual unions in our
modern European societies, whether in the illegal or recognised legal
forms, are dominated by or largely influenced by the sex purchasing
power of the male. With regard to the large and savage institution of
prostitution, which still lies as the cancer embedded in the heart of
all our modern civilised societies, this is obviously and nakedly the
case; the wealth of the male as compared to the female being, with
hideous obtrusiveness, its foundation and source of life. But the
purchasing power of the male as compared with the poverty of the female
is not less painfully, if a little less obtrusively, displayed in those
layers of society lying nearer the surface. From the fair, effete young
girl of the wealthier classes in her city boudoir, who weeps copiously
as she tells you she cannot marry the man she loves, because he says he
has only two hundred a year and cannot afford to keep her; to the father
who demands frankly of his daughter’s suitor how much he can settle on
her before consenting to his acceptance, the fact remains, that, under
existing conditions, not the amount of sex affection, passion, and
attraction, but the extraneous question of the material possessions of
the male, determines to a large extent the relation of the sexes. The
parasitic, helpless youth who has failed in his studies, who possesses
neither virility, nor charm of person, nor strength of mind, but who
possesses wealth, has a far greater chance of securing unlimited sexual
indulgence and the life companionship of the fairest maid, than her
brother’s tutor, who may be possessed of every manly and physical grace
and mental gift; and the ancient libertine, possessed of nothing but
material good, has, especially among the so-called upper classes of our
societies, a far greater chance of securing the sex companionship of
any woman he desires as wife, mistress, or prostitute, than the most
physically attractive and mentally developed male, who may have nothing
to offer to the dependent female but affection and sexual companionship.

To the male, whenever and wherever he exists in our societies, who
depends mainly for his power for procuring the sex relation he desires,
not on his power of winning and retaining personal affection, but, on
the purchasing power of his possessions as compared to the poverty of
the females of his society, the personal loss would be seriously and
at once felt, of any social change which gave to the woman a larger
economic independence and therefore greater freedom of sexual choice. It
is not an imaginary danger which the young dude, of a certain type which
sits often in the front row of the stalls in a theatre, with sloping
forehead and feeble jaw, watching the unhappy women who dance for
gold--sees looming before him, as he lisps out his deep disapproval
of increased knowledge and the freedom of obtaining the means of
subsistence in intellectual fields by woman, and expresses his vast
preference for the uncultured ballet-girl over all types of cultured and
productive labouring womenhood in the universe. A subtle and profound
instinct warns him, that with the increased intelligence and economic
freedom of woman, he, and such as he, might ultimately be left sexually
companionless; the undesirable, the residuary, male old-maids of the
human race.

On the other hand, there is undoubtedly a certain body of females who
would lose, or imagine they would lose, heavily by the advance of woman
as a whole to a condition of free labour and economic independence. That
female, wilfully or organically belonging to the parasite class, having
neither the vigour of intellect nor the vitality of body to undertake
any form of productive labour, and desiring to be dependent only upon
the passive performance of sex function merely, would, whether as
prostitute or wife, undoubtedly lose heavily by any social change which
demanded of woman increased knowledge and activity. (She would lose
in two directions: by the social disapprobation which, as the new
conditions became general, would rest on her; and yet more by the
competition of the more developed forms. She would practically become

It is exactly by these two classes of persons that the objection is
raised that the entrance of woman into the new fields of labour and her
increased freedom and intelligence will dislocate the relations of
the sexes; and, while from the purely personal standpoint, they
are undoubtedly right, viewing human society as a whole they are
fundamentally wrong. The loss of a small and unhealthy section will be
the gain of human society as a whole.

In the male voluptuary of feeble intellect and unattractive
individuality, who depends for the gratification of his sexual
instincts, not on his power of winning and retaining the personal
affection and admiration of woman, but on her purchaseable condition,
either in the blatantly barbarous field of sex traffic that lies beyond
the pale of legal marriage, or the not less barbarous though more veiled
traffic within that pale, the entrance of woman into the new fields of
labour, with an increased intellectual culture and economic freedom,
means little less than social extinction. But, to those males who, even
at the present day, constitute the majority in our societies, and who
desire the affection and fellowship of woman rather than a mere material
possession; for the male who has the attributes and gifts of mind or
body, which, apart from any weight of material advantage, would fit him
to hold the affection of woman, however great her freedom of choice,
the gain will be correspondingly great. Given a society in which the
majority of women should be so far self-supporting, that, having their
free share open to them in the modern fields of labour, and reaping the
full economic rewards of their labour, marriage or some form of sexual
sale was no more a matter of necessity to them; so far from this
condition causing a diminution in the number of permanent sex unions,
one of the heaviest bars to them would be removed. It is universally
allowed that one of the disease spots in our modern social condition is
the increasing difficulty which bars conscientious men from entering
on marriage and rearing families, if limited means would in the case of
their death or disablement throw the woman and their common offspring
comparatively helpless into the fierce stream of our modern economic
life. If the woman could justifiably be looked to, in case of the man’s
disablement or death, to take his place as an earner, thousands of
valuable marriages which cannot now be contracted could be entered on;
and the serious social evil, which arises from the fact that while the
self-indulgent and selfish freely marry and produce large families,
the restrained and conscientious are often unable to do so, would
be removed. For the first time in the history of the modern world,
prostitution, using that term in its broadest sense to cover all forced
sexual relationships based, not on the spontaneous affection of the
woman for the man, but on the necessitous acceptance by woman of
material good in exchange for the exercise of her sexual functions,
would be extinct; and the relation between men and women become a
co-partnership between freemen.

So far from the economic freedom and social independence of the woman
exterminating sexual love between man and woman, it would for the first
time fully enfranchise it. The element of physical force and capture
which dominated the most primitive sex relations, the more degrading
element of seduction and purchase by means of wealth or material good
offered to woman in our modern societies, would then give place to the
untrammelled action of attraction and affection alone between the sexes,
and sexual love, after its long pilgrimage in the deserts, would be
enabled to return at last, a king crowned.

But, apart from the two classes of persons whose objection to the
entrance of woman to new fields of labour is based more or less
instinctively on the fear of personal loss, there is undoubtedly a
small, if a very small, number of sincere persons whose fear as to
severance between the sexes to result from woman’s entrance into the new
field, is based upon a more abstract and impersonal ground.

It is not easy to do full justice in an exact statement to views held
generally rather nebulously and vaguely, but we believe we should not
mistake this view, by saying that there are a certain class of perfectly
sincere and even moderately intelligent folk who hold a view which,
expressed exactly, would come to something like this--that the entrance
of woman into new fields would necessitate so large a mental culture and
such a development of activity, mental and physical, in the woman, that
she might ultimately develop into a being so superior to the male and
so widely different from the man, that the bond of sympathy between the
sexes might ultimately be broken and the man cease to be an object of
affection and attraction to the woman, and the woman to the man through
mere dissimilarity. The future these persons seem to see, more or less
vaguely, is of a social condition, in which, the males of the race
remaining precisely as they are today, the corresponding females shall
have advanced to undreamed of heights of culture and intelligence; a
condition in which the hand-worker, and the ordinary official, and
small farmer, shall be confronted with the female astronomer or Greek
professor of astonishing learning and gifts as his only possible
complementary sex companion; and the vision naturally awakens in these
good folk certain misgivings as to sympathy between and suitability for
each other, of these two widely dissimilar parts of humanity.

It must of course at once be admitted, that, were the two sexual halves
of humanity distinct species, which, having once entered on a course
of evolution and differentiation, might continue to develop along those
distinct lines for countless ages or even for a number of generations,
without reacting through inheritance on each other, the consequences of
such development might ultimately almost completely sever them.

The development of distinct branches of humanity has already brought
about such a severance between races and classes which are in totally
distinct stages of evolution. So wide is the hiatus between them often,
that the lowest form of sex attraction can hardly cross it; and the more
highly developed mental and emotional sex passion cannot possibly bridge
it. In the world of sex, kind seeks kind, and too wide a dissimilarity
completely bars the existence of the highest forms of sex emotion, and
often even the lower and more purely animal.

Were it possible to place a company of the most highly evolved human
females--George Sands, Sophia Kovalevskys, or even the average cultured
females of a highly evolved race--on an island where the only males
were savages of the Fugean type, who should meet them on the shores
with matted hair and prognathous jaws, and with wild shouts, brandishing
their implements of death, to greet and welcome them, it is an undoubted
fact that, so great would be the horror felt by the females towards
them, that not only would the race become extinct, but if it depended
for its continuance on any approach to sex affection on the part of the
women, that death would certainly be accepted by all, as the lesser of
two evils. Hardly less marked would be the sexual division if, in place
of cultured and developed females, we imagine males of the same highly
evolved class thrown into contact with the lowest form of primitive
females. A Darwin, a Schiller, a Keats, though all men capable of the
strongest sex emotion and of the most durable sex affections, would
probably be untouched by any emotion but horror, cast into the company
of a circle of Bushmen females with greased bodies and twinkling eyes,
devouring the raw entrails of slaughtered beasts.

But leaving out even such extreme instances of diversity, the mere
division in culture and mental habits, dividing individuals of the same
race but of different classes, tends largely to exclude the possibility
of at least the nobler and more enduring forms of sex emotion. The
highly cultured denizen of a modern society, though he may enter into
passing and temporary and animal relations with the uncultured peasant
or woman of the street, seldom finds awakened within him in such cases
the depth of emotion and sympathy which is necessary for the enjoyment
of the closer tie of conjugal life; and it may be doubted whether the
highest, most permanent, and intimate forms of sexual affection ever
exist except among humans very largely identical in tastes, habits
of thought, and moral and physical education. (In Greece at a certain
period (as we have before noted) there does appear to have been a
temporary advance of the male, so far in advance of the female as to
make the difference between them almost immeasurable; but he quickly
fell back to the level of the woman.) Were it possible that the entrance
of woman into the new fields of labour should produce any increased
divergence between man and woman in ideals, culture, or tastes, there
would undoubtedly be a dangerous responsibility incurred by any who
fostered such a movement.

But the most superficial study of human life and the relation of the
sexes negates such a conception.

The two sexes are not distinct species but the two halves of one whole,
always acting and interacting on each other through inheritance, and
reproducing and blending with each other in each generation. The human
female is bound organically in two ways to the males of her society:
collaterally they are her companions and the co-progenitors with her
of the race; but she is also the mother of the males of each succeeding
generation, bearing, shaping, and impressing her personality upon them.
The males and females of each human society resemble two oxen tethered
to one yoke: for a moment one may move slightly forward and the other
remain stationary; but they can never move farther from each other than
the length of the yoke that binds them; and they must ultimately
remain stationary or move forward together. That which the women of one
generation are mentally or physically, that by inheritance and education
the males of the next tend to be: there can be no movement or change in
one sex which will not instantly have its co-ordinating effect upon the
other; the males of tomorrow are being cast in the mould of the women of
today. If new ideals, new moral conceptions, new methods of action are
found permeating the minds of the women of one generation, they will
reappear in the ideals, moral conceptions, methods of action of the men
of thirty years hence; and the idea that the males of a society can ever
become permanently farther removed from its females than the individual
man is from the mother who bore and reared him, is at variance with
every law of human inheritance.

If, further, we turn from an abstract consideration of this supposition,
and examine practically in the modern world men and women as they exist
today, the irrationality of the supposition is yet more evident.

Not merely is the Woman’s Movement of our age not a sporadic and
abnormal growth, like a cancer bearing no organic relation to the
development of the rest of the social organism, but it is essentially
but one important phase of a general modification which the whole of
modern life is undergoing. Further, careful study of the movement will
show that, not only is it not a movement on the part of woman leading to
severance and separation between the woman and the man, but that it
is essentially a movement of the woman towards the man, of the sexes
towards closer union.

Much is said at the present day on the subject of the “New Woman” (who,
as we have seen, is essentially but the old non-parasitic woman of the
remote past, preparing to draw on her new twentieth-century garb):
and it cannot truly be said that her attitude finds a lack of social
attention. On every hand she is examined, praised, blamed, mistaken for
her counterfeit, ridiculed, or deified--but nowhere can it be said, that
the phenomenon of her existence is overlooked.

But there exists at the present day another body of social phenomena,
quite as important, as radical, and if possible more far-reaching in its
effects on the present and future, which yet attracts little conscious
attention or animadversion, though it makes itself everywhere felt; as
the shade of a growing tree may be sat under year after year by persons
who never remark its silent growth.

Side by side with the “New Woman,” corresponding to her, as the two
sides of a coin cast in one mould, though differing from each other in
superficial detail, are yet of one metal, one size, and one value; old
in the sense in which she is old, being merely the reincarnation under
the pressure of new conditions of the ancient forms of his race; new in
the sense in which she is new, in that he is an adaptation to material
and social conditions which have no exact counterpart in the past; more
diverse from his immediate progenitors than even the woman is from hers,
side by side with her today in every society and in every class in which
she is found, stands--the New Man!

If it be asked, How comes it to pass, if, under the pressure of social
conditions, man shows an analogous change of attitude toward life,
that the change in woman should attract universal attention, while
the corresponding change in the man of her society passes almost
unnoticed?--it would seem that the explanation lies in the fact that,
owing to woman’s less independence of action in the past, any attempt
at change or readaptation on her part has had to overcome greater
resistance, and it is the noise and friction of resistance, more than
the amount of actual change which has taken place, which attracts
attention; as when an Alpine stream, after a long winter frost, breaks
the ice, and with a crash and roar sweeps away the obstructions which
have gathered in its bed, all men’s attention is attracted to it, though
when later a much larger body of water silently forces its way down, no
man observes it. (An interesting practical illustration of this fact
is found in the vast attention and uproar created when the first three
women in England, some thirty odd years ago, sought to enter the medical
profession. At the present day scores of women prepare to enter it
yearly without attracting any general attention; not that the change
which is going on is not far more in volume and social importance, but
that, having overcome the first obstruction, it is now noiseless.)

Between the Emilias and Sophy Westerns of a bygone generation and the
most typical of modern women, there exists no greater gap (probably not
so great a one) as that which exists between the Tom Joneses and Squire
Westerns of that day and the most typical of entirely modern men.

The sexual and social ideals which dominated the fox-hunting,
hard-drinking, high-playing, recklessly loose-living country squire,
clergyman, lawyer, and politician who headed the social organism of the
past, are at least as distinct from the ideals which dominate thousands
of their male descendants holding corresponding positions in the
societies of today, as are the ideals of her great-great-grand mother’s
remote from those dominating the most modern of New Women.

That which most forces itself upon us as the result of a close personal
study of those sections of modern European societies in which change
and adaptation to the new conditions of life are now most rapidly
progressing, is, not merely that equally large bodies of men and women
are being rapidly modified as to their sexual and social ideals and as
to their mode of life, but that this change is strictly complementary.

If the ideal of the modern woman becomes increasingly one inconsistent
with the passive existence of woman on the remuneration which her sexual
attributes may win from man, and marriage becomes for her increasingly
a fellowship of comrades, rather than the relationship of the owner and
the bought, the keeper and the kept; the ideal of the typically modern
man departs quite as strongly from that of his forefathers in the
direction of finding in woman active companionship and co-operation
rather than passive submission. If the New Woman’s conception of
parenthood differs from the old in the greater sense of the gravity and
obligation resting on those who are responsible for the production of
the individual life, making her attitude toward the production of her
race widely unlike the reckless, unreasoning, maternal reproduction of
the woman of the past, the most typical male tends to feel in at least
the same degree the moral and social obligation entailed by awakening
lifehood: if the ideal which the New Woman shapes for herself of a male
companion excludes the crudely animal hard-drinking, hard-swearing,
licentious, even if materially wealthy gallant of the past; the most
typically modern male’s ideal for himself excludes at least equally
this type. The brothel, the race-course, the gaming-table, and habits
of physical excess among men are still with us; but the most superficial
study of our societies will show that these have fallen into a new place
in the scale of social institutions and manners. The politician, the
clergyman, or the lawyer does not improve his social or public standing
by violent addictions in these directions; to drink his companions
under the table, to be known to have the largest number of illicit sex
relations, to be recognised as an habitual visitant of the gambling
saloon, does not, even in the case of a crowned head, much enhance his
reputation, and with the ordinary man may ultimately prove a bar to all
success. If the New Woman’s conception of love between the sexes is one
more largely psychic and intellectual than crudely and purely physical,
and wholly of an affection between companions; the New Man’s conception
as expressed in the most typical literature and art, produced by
typically modern males, gives voice with a force no woman has surpassed
to the same new ideal. If to the typical modern woman the lifelong
companionship of a Tom Jones or Squire Western would be more intolerable
than death or the most complete celibacy, not less would the most
typical of modern men shrink from the prospect of a lifelong fetterment
to the companionship of an always fainting, weeping, and terrified
Emilia or a Sophia of a bygone epoch.

If anywhere on earth exists the perfect ideal of that which the modern
woman desires to be--of a labouring and virile womanhood, free, strong,
fearless and tender--it will probably be found imaged in the heart of
the New Man; engendered there by his own highest needs and aspirations;
and nowhere would the most highly developed modern male find an image of
that which forms his ideal of the most fully developed manhood, than in
the ideal of man which haunts the heart of the New Woman.

Those have strangely overlooked some of the most important phenomena
of our modern world, who see in the Woman’s Movement of our day any
emotional movement of the female against the male, of the woman away
from the man.

We have called the Woman’s Movement of our age an endeavour on the part
of women among modern civilised races to find new fields of labour as
the old slip from them, as an attempt to escape from parasitism and an
inactive dependence upon sex function alone; but, viewed from another
side, the Woman’s Movement might not less justly be called a part of
a great movement of the sexes towards each other, a movement towards
common occupations, common interests, common ideals, and towards an
emotional sympathy between the sexes more deeply founded and more
indestructible than any the world has yet seen.

But it may be suggested, and the perception of a certain profound truth
underlies this suggestion; How is it, if there be this close reciprocity
between the lines along which the advanced and typical modern males and
females are developing, that there does exist in our modern societies,
and often among the very classes forming our typically advanced
sections, so much of pain, unrest, and sexual disco-ordination at the
present day?

The reply to this pertinent suggestion is, that the disco-ordination,
struggle, and consequent suffering which undoubtedly do exist when
we regard the world of sexual relationships and ideals in our modern
societies, do not arise in any way from a disco-ordination between the
sexes as such, but are a part of the general upheaval, of the conflict
between old ideals and new; a struggle which is going on in every branch
the human life in our modern societies, and in which the determining
element is not sex, but the point of evolution which the race or the
individual has reached.

It cannot be too often repeated, even at the risk of the most wearisome
reiteration, that our societies are societies in a state of rapid
evolution and change. The continually changing material conditions of
life, with their reaction on the intellectual, emotional, and moral
aspects of human affairs, render our societies the most complex and
probably the most mobile and unsettled which the world has ever seen.
As the result of this rapidity of change and complexity, there must
continually exist a large amount of disco-ordination, and consequently,
of suffering.

In a stationary society where generation has succeeded generation for
hundreds, or it may be for thousands, of years, with little or no change
in the material conditions of life, the desires, institutions, and moral
principles of men, their religious, political, domestic, and sexual
institutions, have gradually shaped themselves in accordance with these
conditions; and a certain harmony, and homogeneity, and tranquillity,
pervades the society.

In societies in that rapid state of change in which our modern societies
find themselves, where not merely each decade, but each year, and almost
day brings new forces and conditions to bear on life, not only is the
amount of suffering and social rupture, which all rapid, excessive,
and sudden change entails on an organism, inevitable; but, the new
conditions, acting at different angles of intensity on the different
individual members composing the society, according to their positions
and varying intelligence, are producing a society of such marvellous
complexity and dissimilarity in the different individual parts, that
the intensest rupture and disco-ordination between individuals is
inevitable; and sexual ideals and relationships must share in the
universal condition.

In a primitive society (if a somewhat prolix illustration may be
allowed) where for countless generations the conditions of life had
remained absolutely unchanged; where for ages it had been necessary that
all males should employ themselves in subduing wild beasts and meeting
dangerous foes, polygamy might universally have been a necessity, if the
race were to exist and its numbers be kept up; and society, recognising
this, polygamy would be an institution universally approved and
submitted to, however much suffering it entailed. If food were scarce,
the destruction of superfluous infants and of the aged might also always
have been necessary for the good of the individuals themselves as well
as of society, and the whole society would acquiesce in it without any
moral doubt. If an eclipse of the sun had once occurred in connection
with the appearance of a certain new insect, they mighty universally
regard that insect as a god causing it; and ages might pass without
anything arising to disprove their belief. There would be no social or
religious problem; and the view of one man would be the view of all
men; and all would be more or less in harmony with the established
institution and customs.

But, supposing the sudden arrival of strangers armed with superior
weapons and knowledge, who should exterminate all wild beasts and render
war and the consequent loss of male life a thing of the past; not only
would the male be driven to encroach on the female’s domain of domestic
agriculture and labour generally, but the males, not being so largely
destroyed, they would soon equal and surpass in numbers the females; and
not only would it then become a moot matter, “a problem,” which labours
were or were not to be performed by man and which by woman, but very
soon, not the woman alone nor the man alone, but both, would be driven
to speculate as to the desirability or necessity of polygamy, which,
were men as numerous as women, would leave many males without sex
companions. The more intelligent and progressive individuals in the
community would almost at once arrive at the conclusion that polygamy
was objectionable; the most fearless would seek to carry their theory
into action; the most ignorant and unprogressive would determinately
stick to the old institutions as inherited from the past, without reason
or question; differences of ideal would cause conflict and dissension
in all parts of the body social, and suffering would ensue, where all
before was fixed and determinate. So also if the strangers introduced
new and improved methods of agriculture, and food became abundant, it
would then at once strike the most far-seeing and readily adaptable
members of the community, both male and female, that there was no
necessity for the destruction of their offspring; old men and women
would begin seriously to object to being hastened to death when they
realised that starvation did not necessarily stare them in the face
if they survived to an extreme old age; the most stupid and hide-bound
members of the community would still continue to sacrifice parents and
offspring long after the necessity had ceased, under the influence of
traditional bias; many persons would be in a state of much moral doubt
as to which course of action to pursue, the old or the new; and bitter
conflict might rage in the community on all these points. Were the
strangers to bring with them telescopes, looking through which it might
at once clearly be seen that an eclipse of the sun was caused merely by
the moon’s passing over its face, the more intelligent members of the
community would at once come to the conclusion that the insect was not
the cause of eclipses, would cease to regard it as a god, and might even
kill it; the more stupid and immobile section of the community might
refuse to look through the telescope, or looking might refuse to see
that it was the moon which caused the eclipse, and their deep-seated
reverence for the insect, which was the growth of ages, would lead them
to regard as impious those individuals who denied its godhead, and might
even lead to the physical destruction of the first unbelievers. The
society, once so homogeneous and co-ordinated in all its parts, would
become at once a society rent by moral and social problems; and endless
suffering must arise to individuals in the attempt to co-ordinate the
ideals, manners, and institutions of the society to the new conditions!
There might be immense gain in many directions; lives otherwise
sacrificed would be spared, a higher and more satisfactory stage of
existence might be entered on; but the disco-ordination and struggle
would be inevitable until the society had established an equilibrium
between its knowledge, its material conditions, and its social, sexual,
and religious ideals and institutions.

An analogous condition, but of a far more complex kind, exists at the
present day in our own societies. Our material environment differs in
every respect from that of our grandparents, and bears little or no
resemblance to that of a few centuries ago. Here and there, even in our
civilised societies in remote agricultural districts, the old social
conditions may remain partly undisturbed; but throughout the bulk of
our societies the substitution of mechanical for hand-labour, the
wide diffusion of knowledge through the always increasing cheap
printing-press; the rapidly increasing gathering of human creatures into
vast cities, where not merely thousands but millions of individuals are
collected together under physical and mental conditions of life which
invert every social condition of the past; the increasingly rapid means
of locomotion; the increasing intercourse between distant races and
lands, brought about by rapid means of intercommunication, widening
and changing in every direction the human horizon--all these produce a
society, so complex and so rapidly altering, that social co-ordination
between all its parts is impossible; and social unrest, and the strife
of ideals of faiths, of institutions, and consequent human suffering is

If the ancient guns and agricultural implements which our fathers
taught us to use are valueless in the hands of their descendants, if the
samplers our mothers worked and the stockings they knitted are become
superfluous through the action of the modern loom, yet more are their
social institutions, faiths, and manners of life become daily and
increasingly unfitted to our use; and friction and suffering inevitable,
especially for the most advanced and modified individuals in our
societies. This suffering, if we analyse it closely, rises from three

Firstly, it is caused by the fact that mere excessive rapidity of change
tends always easily to become painful, by rupturing violently already
hardened habits and modes of thought, as a very rapidly growing tree
ruptures its bark and exudes its internal juices.

Secondly, it arises from the fact that individuals of the same human
society, not adapting themselves at the same rate to the new conditions,
or being exposed to them in different degrees, a wide and almost
unparalleled dissimilarity has today arisen between the different
individuals composing our societies; where, side by side with men and
women who have rapidly adapted or are so successfully seeking to adapt
themselves to the new conditions of knowledge and new conditions of
life, that, were they to reappear in future ages in more co-ordinated
societies, they might perhaps hardly appear wholly antiquated, are to be
found men and women whose social, religious, and moral ideals would not
constitute them out of harmony if returned to the primitive camps of the
remote forbears of the human race; while, between these extreme classes
lies that large mass of persons in an intermediate state of development.
This diversity is bound to cause friction and suffering in the
interactions of the members of our societies; more especially, as the
individuals composing each type are not sorted out into classes and
families, but are found scattered through all classes and grades in our
societies. (One of the women holding the most advanced and modern view
of the relation of woman to life whom we have met was the wife of a
Northamptonshire shoemaker; herself engaged in making her living by the
sewing of the uppers of men’s boots.) Persons bound by the closest ties
of blood or social contiguity and compelled to a continual intercourse,
are often those most widely dissevered in their amount of adaptation
to the new conditions of life; and the amount of social friction and
consequent human suffering arising from this fact is so subtle and
almost incalculable, that perhaps it is impossible adequately to portray
it in dry didactic language: it is only truly describable in the medium
of art, where actual concrete individuals are shown acting and reacting
on each other--as in the novel or the drama. We are like a company of
chess-men, not sorted out in kinds, pawns together, kings and queens
together, and knights and rooks together, but simply thrown at haphazard
into a box, and jumbled side by side. In the stationary societies, where
all individuals were permeated by the same political, religious, moral,
and social ideas; and where each class had its own hereditary and fixed
traditions of action and manners, this cause of friction and suffering
had of necessity no existence; individual differences and discord might
be occasioned by personal greeds, ambitions, and selfishnesses, but
not by conflicting conceptions of right and wrong, of the desirable and
undesirable, in all branches of human life. (Only those who have been
thrown into contact with a stationary and homogeneous society such
as that of primitive African tribes before coming in contact with
Europeans; or such as the up-country Boers of South Africa were twenty
years ago, can realise adequately how wholly free from moral and social
problems and social friction such a society can be. It is in studying
such societies that the truth is vividly forced on one, that the key to
half, and more than half, of the phenomena in our own social condition,
can be found only in our rapidly changing conditions necessitating
equally rapid change in our conceptions, ideals, and institutions.)

Thirdly, the unrest and suffering peculiar to our age is caused by
conflict going on within the individual himself. So intensely rapid is
the change which is taking place in our environment and knowledge that
in the course of a single life a man may pass through half a dozen
phases of growth. Born and reared in possession of certain ideas and
manners of action, he or she may, before middle life is reached, have
had occasion repeatedly to modify, enlarge, and alter, or completely
throw aside those traditions. Within the individuality itself of such
persons, goes on, in an intensified form, that very struggle, conflict,
and disco-ordination which is going on in society at large between its
different members and sections; and agonising moments must arise, when
the individual, seeing the necessity for adopting new courses of action,
or for accepting new truths, or conforming to new conditions, will yet
be tortured by the hold of traditional convictions; and the man or woman
who attempts to adapt their life to the new material conditions and to
harmony with the new knowledge, is almost bound at some time to rupture
the continuity of their own psychological existence.

It is these conditions which give rise to the fact so often noticed,
that the art of our age tends persistently to deal with subtle social
problems, religious, political, and sexual, to which the art of the past
holds no parallel; and it is so inevitably, because the artist who would
obey the artistic instinct to portray faithfully the world about him,
must portray that which lies at the core of its life. The “problem”
 play, novel, and poem are as inevitable in this age, as it was
inevitable that the artist of the eleventh century should portray
tournaments, physical battles, and chivalry, because they were the
dominant element in the life about him.

It is also inevitable that this suffering and conflict must make itself
felt in its acutest form in the person of the most advanced individual
of our societies. It is the swimmer who first leaps into the frozen
stream who is cut sharpest by the ice; those who follow him find it
broken, and the last find it gone. It is the man or woman who first
treads down the path which the bulk of humanity will ultimately follow,
who must find themselves at last in solitudes where the silence is
deadly. The fact that any course of human action leading to adjustment,
leads also to immediate suffering, by dividing the individual from
the bulk of his fellows; is no argument against it; that solitude and
suffering is the crown of thorns which marks the kingship of earth’s
Messiahs: it is the mark of the leader.

Thus, social disco-ordination, and subjective conflict and suffering,
pervade the life of our age, making themselves felt in every division
of human life, religious, political, and domestic; and, if they are more
noticeable, and make themselves more keenly felt in the region of sex
than in any other, even the religious, it is because when we enter the
region of sex we touch, as it were, the spinal cord of human existence,
its great nerve centre, where sensation is most acute, and pain and
pleasure most keenly felt. It is not sex disco-ordination that is at the
root of our social unrest; it is the universal disco-ordination which
affects even the world of sex phenomena.

Also it is necessary to note that the line which divides the progressive
sections of our communities, seeking to co-ordinate themselves to the
new conditions of life, from the retrogressive, is not a line running
coincidentally with the line of sex. A George Sand and a Henrik Ibsen
belong more essentially to the same class in the order of modern
development, than either belongs to any class composed entirely of their
own sex. If we divide humanity into classes according to type, in each
division will be found the male with his complementary female. Side by
side with the old harlot at the street corner anxious to sell herself,
stands the old aboriginal male, whether covered or not with a veneer of
civilisation, eager and desiring to buy. Side by side with the parasitic
woman, seeking only increased pleasure and luxury from her relations
with man, stands the male seeking only pleasure and self-indulgence from
his relations with her. Side by side with the New Woman, anxious for
labour and seeking from man only such love and fellowship as she gives,
stands the New Man, anxious to possess her only on the terms she offers.
If the social movement, through which the most advanced women of our
day are attempting to bring themselves into co-ordination with the new
conditions of life, removes them immeasurably from certain types of the
primitive male; the same movement equally removes the new male from the
old female. The sexual tragedy of modern life lies, not in the fact that
woman as such is tending to differ fundamentally from man as such; but
that, in the unassorted confusion of our modern life, it is continually
the modified type of man or woman who is thrown into the closest
personal relations with the antiquated type of the opposite sex; that
between father and daughter, mother and son, brother and sister, husband
and wife, may sometimes be found to intervene not merely years, but even
centuries of social evolution.

It is not man as man who opposes the attempt of woman to readjust
herself to the new conditions of life: that opposition arises, perhaps
more often, from the retrogressive members of her own sex. And it is a
fact which will surprise no one who has studied the conditions of modern
life; that among the works of literature in all European languages,
which most powerfully advocate the entrance of woman into the new fields
of labour, and which most uncompromisingly demand for her the widest
training and freedom of action, and which most passionately seek for
the breaking down of all artificial lines which sever the woman from the
man, many of the ablest and most uncompromising are the works of males.

The New Man and Woman do not resemble two people, who, standing on a
level plain, set out on two roads, which diverging at different angles
and continued in straight lines, must continue to take them farther and
farther from each other the longer they proceed in them; rather, they
resemble two persons who start to climb a spur of the same mountain from
opposite sides; where, the higher they climb the nearer they come to
each other, being bound ultimately to meet at the top.

Even that opposition often made by males to the entrance of woman into
the new fields of labour, of which they at present hold the monopoly,
is not fundamentally sexual in its nature. The male who opposes the
entrance of woman into the trade or profession in which he holds more
or less a monopoly, would oppose with equal, and perhaps even greater
bitterness, the opening of its doors to numbers of his own sex who
had before been excluded, and who would limit his gains and share his
privileges. It is the primitive brute instinct to retain as much
as possible for the ego, irrespective of justice or humanity, which
dominates all the lower moral types of humanity, both male and female,
which acts here. The lawyer or physician who objects to the entrance of
women to his highly fenced professional enclosure, would probably object
yet more strenuously if it were proposed to throw down the barriers of
restraint and monetary charges, which would result in the flooding
of his profession by other males: while the mechanic, who resists the
entrance of woman into his especial field, is invariably found even
more persistently to oppose any attempt at entrance on the part of other
males, when he finds it possible to do so.

This opposition of the smaller type of male, to the entrance of woman
into the callings hitherto apportioned to himself, is sometimes taken as
implying the impossibility of fellowship and affection existing between
the men and women employed in common labour, that the professional
jealousy of the man must necessitate his feeling a hatred and antagonism
towards any one who shares his fields of toil. But the most superficial
study of human life negates such a supposition. Among men, in spite
of the occasional existence of the petty professional jealousies and
antagonism, we find, viewing society as a whole, that common interests,
and above all common labours, are the most potent means of bringing them
into close and friendly relations; and, in fact, they seem generally
essential for the formation of the closest and most permanent human
friendships. In every walk of human life, whether trade, or profession,
we find men associating by choice mainly with, and entertaining often
the profoundest and most permanent friendships for, men engaged in
their own callings. The inner circle of a barrister’s friendships almost
always consists of his fellow-barristers; the city man, who is free to
select his society where he will, will be oftenest found in company with
his fellow-man of business; the medical man’s closest friendship is, in
a large number of cases, for some man who was once his fellow-student
and has passed through the different stages of his professional life
with him; the friends and chosen companions of the actor are commonly
actors; of the savant, savants; of the farmer, farmers; of the sailor,
sailors. So generally is this the case that it would almost attract
attention and cause amusement were the boon companion of the sea captain
a leading politician, and the intimate friend of the clergyman an actor,
or the dearest friend of the farmer an astronomer. Kind seeks kind.
The majority of men by choice frequent clubs where those of their own
calling are found, and especially as life advances and men sink deeper
into their professional grooves, they are found to seek fellowship
mainly among their fellow-workers. That this should be so is inevitable;
common amusements may create a certain bond between the young, but
the performance of common labours, necessitating identical knowledge,
identical habits, and modes of thought, forms a far stronger bond,
drawing men far more powerfully towards social intercourse and personal
friendship and affection than the centrifugal force of professional
jealousies can divide them.

That the same condition would prevail where women became fellow-workers
with men might be inferred on abstract grounds: but practical experience
confirms this. The actor oftenest marries the actress, the male musician
the female; the reception-room of the literary woman or female
painter is found continually frequented by men of her own calling; the
woman-doctor associates continually with and often marries one of her
own confreres; and as women in increasing numbers share the fields of
labour with men, which have hitherto been apportioned to them alone, the
nature and strength of the sympathy arising from common labours will be
increasingly clear.

The sharing by men and women of the same labours, necessitating a common
culture and therefore common habits of thought and interests, would
tend to fill that painful hiatus which arises so continually in modern
conjugal life, dividing the man and woman as soon as the first sheen of
physical sexual attraction which glints only over the unknown begins to
fade, and from which springs so large a part of the tragedy of modern
conjugal relations. The primitive male might discuss with her his
success in hunting and her success in finding roots; as the primitive
peasant may discuss today with his wife the crops and cows in which both
are equally interested and which both understand; there is nothing in
their order of life to produce always increasingly divergent habits of
thought and interest.

In modern civilised life, in many sections, the lack of any common
labour and interests and the wide dissimilarity of the life led by the
man and the woman, tend continually to produce increasing divergence; so
that, long before middle life is reached, they are left without any
bond of co-cohesion but that of habit. The comradeship and continual
stimulation, rising from intercourse with those sharing our closest
interests and regarding life from the same standpoint, the man tends to
seek in his club and among his male companions, and the woman accepts
solitude, or seeks dissipations which tend yet farther to disrupt the
common conjugal life. A certain mental camaraderie and community of
impersonal interests is imperative in conjugal life in addition to a
purely sexual relation, if the union is to remain a living and always
growing reality. It is more especially because the sharing by woman of
the labours of man will tend to promote camaraderie and the existence of
common, impersonal interests and like habits of thought and life, that
the entrance of women into the very fields shared by men, and not into
others peculiarly reserved for her, is so desirable. (The reply once
given by the wife of a leading barrister, when reference was made to the
fact that she and her husband were seldom found in each other’s society,
throws a painful but true light on certain aspects of modern life,
against which the entire woman’s movement of our age is a rebellion.
“My husband,” she said, “is always increasingly absorbed in his legal
duties, of which I understand nothing, and which so do not interest me.
My children are all growing up and at school. I have servants enough to
attend to my house. When he comes home in the evening, if I try to amuse
him by telling him of the things I have been doing during the day, of
the bazaars I am working for, the shopping I have done, the visits I
have paid, he is bored. He is anxious to get away to his study, his
books, and his men friends, and I am left utterly alone. If it were not
for the society of women and other men with whom I have more in common,
I could not bear my life. When we first met as boy and girl, and fell
in love, we danced and rode together and seemed to have everything in
common; now we have nothing. I respect him and I believe he respects me,
but that is all!” It is, perhaps, only in close confidences between
man and man and woman and woman that this open sore, rising from the
divergence in training, habits of life, and occupation between men
and women is spoken of; but it lies as a tragic element at the core of
millions of modern conjugal relations, beneath the smooth superficial
surface of our modern life; breaking out to the surface only
occasionally in the revelations of our divorce courts.)

It is a gracious fact, to which every woman who has achieved success or
accomplished good work in any of the fields generally apportioned to men
will bear witness, whether that work be in the field of literature, of
science, or the organised professions, that the hands which have been
most eagerly stretched our to welcome her have been those of men; that
the voices which have most generously acclaimed her success have been
those of male fellow-workers in the fields into which she has entered.

There is no door at which the hand of woman has knocked for admission
into a new field of toil but there have been found on the other side the
hands of strong and generous men eager to turn it for her, almost before
she knocks.

To those of us who, at the beginning of a new century, stand with shaded
eyes, gazing into the future, striving to descry the outlines of the
shadowy figures which loom before us in the distance, nothing seems of
so gracious a promise, as the outline we seem to discern of a condition
of human life in which a closer union than the world has yet seen shall
exist between the man and the woman: where the Walhalla of our old
Northern ancestors shall find its realisation in a concrete reality,
and the Walkurie and her hero feast together at one board, in a brave

Always in our dreams we hear the turn of the key that shall close the
door of the last brothel; the clink of the last coin that pays for the
body and soul of a woman; the falling of the last wall that encloses
artificially the activity of woman and divides her from man; always we
picture the love of the sexes, as, once a dull, slow, creeping worm;
then a torpid, earthy chrysalis; at last the full-winged insect,
glorious in the sunshine of the future.

Today, as we row hard against the stream of life, is it only a blindness
in our eyes, which have been too long strained, which makes us see, far
up the river where it fades into the distance, through all the mists
that rise from the river-banks, a clear, a golden light? Is it only a
delusion of the eyes which makes us grasp our oars more lightly and bend
our backs lower; though we know well that long before the boat reaches
those stretches, other hands than ours will man the oars and guide its
helm? Is it all a dream?

The ancient Chaldean seer had a vision of a Garden of Eden which lay in
a remote past. It was dreamed that man and woman once lived in joy and
fellowship, till woman ate of the tree of knowledge and gave to man to
eat; and that both were driven forth to wander, to toil in bitterness;
because they had eaten of the fruit.

We also have our dream of a Garden: but it lies in a distant future. We
dream that woman shall eat of the tree of knowledge together with man,
and that side by side and hand close to hand, through ages of much toil
and labour, they shall together raise about them an Eden nobler than any
the Chaldean dreamed of; an Eden created by their own labour and made
beautiful by their own fellowship.

In his apocalypse there was one who saw a new heaven and a new earth;
we see a new earth; but therein dwells love--the love of comrades and

It is because so wide and gracious to us are the possibilities of the
future; so impossible is a return to the past, so deadly is a passive
acquiescence in the present, that today we are found everywhere raising
our strange new cry--“Labour and the training that fits us for labour!”

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Woman and Labour" ***

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