Saturday, 20 December 2014


We are familiar with the fact of the extraordinary deference paid to women in the United States; but we were not aware that that deference had led to most exorbitant demands being advanced on the part of the fair sex. A very sober matter of fact English paper, the Economist, takes up the subject, in the following article:—
 It is our duty, as journalists, not to withhold from our readers any movements at all significant of the spirit of the age—however, unwise or unimportant such movement may appear to us to be. It will be news to most Englishmen that there has for some years existed in America a convention or association for the assertion, extension, and enforcement of the rights of womanhood, as those rights are understood by the members of the association. Recent arrivals from America have brought us detailed reports of the annual meeting of this singular convention, which was held in the town of Worcester, Massachusetts. We confess to having read them with some amusement and considerable amazement; and will extract a few of the resolutions which were passed and the remarks which were made at the said meeting, for the edification of English readers—premising that the lady speakers were persons of unstained character, high consideration, and respectable, if not high, position in society, and the law gentlemen who took a part are men whose names are not unknown to the world, and who are distinguished as men of zeal and benevolence, if not remarkable for moderation and sobriety of judgment.
 Mrs Davis, who presided on the occasion, delivered an address of extraordinary copiousness of words, and not devoid of a certain kind of loose eloquence, in which she set forth the equality of women in the eye of nature—inveighed against the tyrant sex—reminded her female hearers that "who would be free, themselves must strike the blow"—conceded to man the right to a certain pre-eminence, " under the dynasty of muscles," as long as the material world was now subdued—but contended that the time was now come when women must not only be admitted to an equality of rights with men, but to a rivalry with them in all occupations and professions. "They know not what they do, is the apology that crucified womanhood mast concede in justice and in pity to the wrong doer."
 Mrs Ernestin Rose delivered an address of much earnestness and beauty, on the vast services rendered by women to society, and was sure that when these were fully appreciated, woman's rights would but at once conceded. She complained bitterly that, though so much had been said in praise and reverence of the Pilgrim Fathers, the Pilgrim Mothers had never been heard of, though the services which they had rendered to the infant community must have been at least as great.
 Mrs Lucretia Mott, a quiet little Quaker, (to whose gentleness and excellence we can ourselves bear willing testimony) objected to any "language implying kindness in giving women their rights." She was not disposed to receive them in such a way; she was in favour of demanding them. She wanted a resolution framed that should express that demand." She then informed the meeting that steps had already been taken for furthering their great cause. " A medical school had been instituted at Philadelphia for the education of female physicians, and a large number had already entered their names as students."
 A fourth speaker, who, we are ashamed to say, was a man, argued that women who had families would still have ample time to devote to their professional avocations, if their husbands took an equal share (as they ought to do) in the care of the children.
 Lucy Stone "could not allow the meeting to separate without unburdening her heart. She desired that women should be something more than the mere appendages of society: she wanted that when woman dies, it may not be written on her gravestone that she was the 'relict' of somebody." We presume that Miss Stone is resolved not to be a "relict."
 Miss Hunt and Mrs. Mercy both addressed the meeting, and explained that they had for some time practised as physicians.
 Miss Brown, of Oberlin, "was introduced to the convention as a young lady who had studied theology in the Oberlin Institute, and fitted herself to preach the Gospel, with a view of devoting her life to that work. She was of the orthodox faith, but had been refused ordination."
 The following resolutions were then passed:—
 "That the very contracted sphere of action prescribed for women, arising from an unjust view of her nature, capacities, and powers, and from the infringement of her just rights as an equal with man, is highly injurious to her physical; mental, and moral development.
 "That women are clearly entitled to the right of suffrage, and to be considered eligible to office, the omission to demand which on their part is a palpable recreancy to duty, and the denial of which is a gross usurpation on the part of man.
 "That it is impossible woman should make full use of the instruction already accorded to her, or that her career should do justice to her faculties, until the avenues to the various civil and professional employments are thrown open to her, to arouse her ambition and call forth her nature.
 "That, since the great fundamental law of truth, that moral and intelligent beings are bound to obey God rather than man, is as binding on woman as on man ;—therefore, it is the imperious duty of every woman to obey the dictates of her own enlightened conscience, in all matters of religion and benevolence, without asking the consent of her father or husband."
 Now, we readily concede to these fair and peremptory resolutionists, that women have rights which need to be asserted, and wrongs which need to be redressed. There are points in the law of property, in the law of divorce, in the law, relating to the custody of children, which press unjustly upon the weaker sex, and which call loudly for amendment. We are not at all disposed either to deny the abstract equality of women, or their claim to equality before the law. But beyond this we cannot follow the American citoyennes. Equality does not imply similarity.   Women may be entitled to the same rights as men, and yet not fitted for the same tasks, not qualified for the discharge of the same duties. When we say that women are essentially distinct from men in character, in temperament, in capacities, we make no assertion of superiority for our sex. Each sex has its peculiar vocations; each its special qualifications and disqualifications. Nature has enacted and recorded these in language which cannot be mistaken, and which neither sex can disregard with impunity. It has made woman soft, impulsive, tender, strong where the domestic affections or family duties are concerned, and specially adapted to the managing of children. It has made man hard, energetic, ambitious, comparatively phlegmatic, and more capable than women of repressing and commanding emotion. He would be as much out of place in the management of a nursery, as woman would be in the command of an army.' We do not hold that one vocation is nobler than the other ; but assuredly they demand different qualifications; and Nature has provided accordingly.
 The American ladies claim for their sex equal eligibility to all professions and occupations, to medicine,the law, the church, and even to official business. Have they ever considered the incongruities which would result were they to share with men all these various departments. One very able and somewhat celebrated lady, we know applying to the President for the post of Ambassador to Rome, by a feeling that "the age was scarcely yet ripe for such an an appointment." Fancy the contre-tems, the embarrassments that would have resulted from accrediting a lady to a conclave of Cardinals, all vowed to celibacy. Fancy her pleading in the courts of law, or presiding on the bench,— and cause after cause interrupted and postponed to enable her to suckle one infant, or to bring another into the world. Fancy her as Secretary of State, transacting business with the "attaches" of foreign powers. Or, fancy the orthodox theologian above mentioned, when she had obtained formal ordination from some Bishop more liberal than the rest, entering the pulpit in her gown and surplice, and preaching from the 1st Corinthians xiv., 34, "Let women keep silence in the churches !"
 Have these ladies ever asked themselves whether female nerves and female strength would be adequate to endure the severe application which the law, medicine, and the public service require from their votaries ? Do they not know the immense labour demanded from the students of any of the learned professions—labour which often breaks down the constitution of the strongest men ? How would they endure the horrors of the dissecting-room, the intricacies of the statute book, the wearing toil of the official bureau? And what would become of their brothers, their parents, their children, while they were studying or practising these absorbing and exhausting professions ? Where would be the gentle amenities of home—the cheerfulness of the fireside circle—tho well-regulated household—the orderly and happy family ? Would the men have to perform their duties ? or would these duties have to be left undone ? In either case domestic comfort and family happiness must be the sacrifice.
 No ! women have their sphere—a sacred—an indispensable—a noble one,—a sphere in which they are unrivalled and cannot be replaced. It is not by leaving their own lines of eminence and elbowing men out of theirs, that they can hope either to amend their position or elevate their nature. They are first-rate mothers, wives, daughters, formers of their childrens' minds, soothers and counteractors of their husbands' asperities, comforters for the wretched, Samaritans for the wounded and the sick. And would they forfeit and exchange all this, to become in competent surgeons—third-rate physicians shallow lawyers—wordy, inconsiderate, and excitable senators—hasty, impulsive, and discredited ministers of state? Those who would thus "leave their sphere and rush into the skies," can have no adequate consciousness where their true strength and excellence reside.

 Geelong Advertiser 5 May 1851,

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