A sermon: of the public function of woman, preached at the Music hall, March 27, 1853. By Theodore Parker ... Phonographically reported by Y.M.W. Yerrinton and Rufus LeightonBoston: Robert I. Wallcut,1853.
The following Sermon is part of a long course of Sermons on the Spiritual Development of the Human Race. One Chapter in that series treated of Woman, and consisted of four Sermons:
These four make a whole by themselves, which I would gladly print, had I not already other matters in hand which demand more immediate attention. But I have been repeatedly asked to print the fourth of the series; and in such a manner that I cannot reasonably refuse. The two accomplished reporters, named on the title page, have furnished me with their manuscript; and, with a few additions, of things omitted for want of time at the delivery, I send it forth to the larger public.
Boston, April 4, 1853.
The domestic function of woman, as a housekeeper, wife and mother, does not exhaust her powers. Woman's function, like charity, begins at home; then, like charity, goes every where. To make one half of the human race consume all their energies in the functions of housekeeper, wife and mother, is a monstrous waste of the most precious material that God ever made.
I. In the present constitution of society, there are some unmarried women, to whom the domestic function is little, or is nothing; women who are not mothers, not wives, not housekeepers. I mean, those who are permanently unmarried. It is a great defect in the Christian civilization, that so many women and men are never married. There may be three women in a thousand to whom marriage would be disagreeable, under any possible circumstances; perhaps thirty more to whom it would be disagreeable, under the actual circumstances-in the present condition of the family and the community. But there is a large number of women who continue unmarried for no reason in their nature, from no conscious dislike of the present domestic and social condition of mankind, and from no disinclination to marriage under existing circumstances. This is deplorable evil-alike a misfortune to man and to woman. The Catholic Church has elevated celibacy to the rank of a theological virtue, consecrating an unnatural evil: on a small scale, the results thereof are writ in the obscene faces of many a priest, false to his human nature, while faithful to his priestly vow; and on a large scale, in the vice, the infamy and degradation of woman in almost all Catholic lands.
The classic civilization of Greece and Rome had the same vice with the Christian civilization. Other forms of religion have sought to get rid of this evil by polygamy; and thereby they degraded women still further. The Mormons are repeating the same experiment, based, not on philanthropy, but on tyranny, and are still further debasing woman under their feet. In Classic and in Christian civilization alone has there been a large class of women permanently unmarried-not united or even subordinated to man in the normal marriage of one to one, or in the abnormal conjunction of one to many. This class of unmarried women is increasing in all Christian countries, especially in those that are old and rich.
Practically speaking, to this class of women the domestic function is very little; to some of them, it is nothing at all. I do not think that this condition is to last,-marriage is writ in the soul of man, as in his body,- but it indicates a transition, it is a step forward. Womankind is advancing from that period when every woman was a slave, and marriage of some sort was guarantied to every woman, because she was dependent on man,-I say, woman is advancing from that, to a state of independence, where woman shall not be subordinated to man, but the two coordinated together. The evil that I deplore is transient in its nature, and God grant it may soon pass away!
II. That is not all. For the housekeeper, the wife and the mother, the domestic is not the only function-it is not function enough for the woman, for the human-being, [any] more than it would be function enough for the father, for the man. After women have done all which pertains to housekeeping as a trade, to housekeeping as one of the fine arts, in their relation as wife and mother,-after they have done all for the order of the house, for the order of the husband, and the order of the children, they have still energies to spare-a reserved power for yet other work.
There are three classes of women:
First, domestic Drudges, who are wholly taken up in the material details of their housekeeping, husband-keeping, child-keeping. Their housekeeping is a trade, and no more; and after they have done that, there is no more which they can do. In New England, it is a small class, getting less every year.
Next, there are domestic Dolls, wholly taken up with the vain show which delights the eye and the ear. They are ornaments of the estate. Similar toys, I suppose, will one day be more cheaply manufactured at Paris and Nrnberg [Nurenburg?], at Frankfort-on-the-Maine, and other toys shops of Europe, out of wax and papier mach, and sold in Boston at the haberdasher's, by the dozen. These ask nothing beyond their function as dolls, and hate all attempts to elevate womankind.
But there are domestic Women, who order a house and are not mere drudges, adorn it, and are not mere dolls, but Women. Some of these-a great many of them-conjoin the useful of the drudge and the beautiful of the doll into one Womanhood, and have a great deal left besides. They are not wholly taken up with their function as housekeeper, wife and mother.
In the progress of mankind, and the application of masculine science to what was once only feminine work,-whereby so much time is saved from the wheel and the loom, the oven and the spit,-with the consequent increase of riches, the saving of time, and the intellectual education which comes in consequence thereof, this class of women is continually enlarging. With us in New England, in all the North, it is a very large class.
Well, what shall these domestic women do with their spare energies and superfluous power? Once, a malicious proverb said "The shoemaker must not go beyond his last." Every shoemaker looks on that proverb with appropriate contempt. He is a shoemaker; but he was a man first, a shoemaker next. Shoemaking is an accident of his manhood, not manhood an accident of his shoemaking. You know what haughty scorn the writer of the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus pours out on every farmer, "who glorieth in the goad"1 -every carpenter and blacksmith, every jeweller and potter. They shall not be sought for, says this aristocrat, in the public councils; they shall not sit high in the congregation; they shall not sit in the judges seat, nor understand the sentence of judgment; they cannot declare justice. Aristotle and Cicero thought no better of the merchants; they were only busy in trading. Miserable people! quoth these great men, what have they to do with affairs of state-merchants, mechanics, farmers? It is only for kings, nobles, and famous rich men, who do no business, but keep slaves! Still, a great many men at this day have just the same esteem for women that those haughty persons of whom I have spoken had for mechanics and for merchants. A great many sour proverbs there are, which look the same way. But, just now, such is the intellectual education of women of the richer class in all our large towns, that these sour proverbs will not go down so well as of old. Even in Boston, [in] spite of the attempts of the city government to prevent the higher public education of women-diligently persisted in for many years-the young women of wealthy families get a better education than the young men of wealthy families do; and that fact is going to report itself presently. The best educated young men are commonly poor men's sons; but the best educated young women are quite uniformly rich men's daughters.
A well-educated young woman, fond of Goethe, and Dante, and Shakespeare, and Cervantes, marrying an ill-educated young man, who cares for nothing but his horse, his cigar and his bottle-who only knows how to sleep after dinner, a "great heap of husband," curled up on the sofa, and in the evening can only laugh at a play, and not understand the Italian words of an opera, which his wife knows by heart;-she, I say, marrying him, will not accept the idea that he is her natural lord and master; she cannot look up to him, but rather down. The domestic function does not consume all her time or talent. She knows how to perform much of her household work as a manufacturer weaves cotton, or spins hemp, or forges iron, with other machinery, by other hands. She is the housekeeping head; and after she has kept house as wife and as mother, and has done all, she has still energies to spare.
That is a large class of women; it is a great deal larger than men commonly think it is. It is continually enlarging, and you see why. When all manufactures were domestic,-when every garment was made at home, every web wove at home, every thread spun at home, every fleece dyed at home-when the husband provided the wool or the sheepskin, and the wife made it a coat-when the husband brought home a sack of corn on a mule's back, and the wife pounded it in a mortar, or ground it between two stones, as in the Old Testament-then the domestic function might well consume all the time of a very able-headed woman. But now-a-days, when so much work is done abroad-when the flour mills of Rochester and Boston take the place of the pestle and mortar, and the hand-mill of the Old Testament-when Lowell and Lawrence are two enormous Old Testament women, spinning and weaving year out and year in, day and night both-when so much of woman's work is done by the butcher and the baker, by the tailor and the cook and the gas-maker, and she is no longer obliged to dip or mould with her own hands every candle that "goeth not out by night," as in the Old Testament woman's housekeeping-you see how very much of woman's time is left for other functions. This will become yet more the case. Ere long, a great deal of lofty science will be applied to housekeeping, and work be done by other than human hands, in the house, as out of it. And accordingly, you see that the class of women not wholly taken up by the domestic function will get larger and larger.
III. Then, there is a third class of women, who have no taste and no talent for the domestic function. Perhaps these are exceptional women; some of them exceptional by redundance-they have talents not needed in this function; others are exceptional by defect-with only a common talent, they have more for housekeeping. It is as cruel a lot to set these persons to such work, as it would be to take a born sailor and make him a farmer, or to take a man who is born to drive oxen, delights to give the kine [I.e., cattle] fodder, and has a genius for it, and shut him up in the forecastle of a ship. Who would think of making Jenny Lind nothing but a housekeeper? or of devoting Madame de Stael or Miss [Dorothea] Dix wholly to that function? or a dozen other women that any man can name.
IV. Then there is another class of women-those who are not married yet, but are to be married. They, likewise, have spare time on their hands, which they know not what to do with. Women of this latter class have sometimes asked me what there was for them to do? I could not tell.
All these four put together, make up a large class of women, who need some other function beside the domestic. What shall it be? In the middle ages, when the Catholic Church held its iron hand over the world, these women went into the Church. The permanently unmarried, getting dissatisfied, became nuns;-often calling that a virtue which was only a necessity,- making a religious principle out of an involuntary measure. Others voluntarily went thither. The attempt is making anew in England, by some of the most pious people, to revive the scheme. It failed a thousand years ago, and the experiment brought a curse on man. It will always fail; and it ought to fail. Human nature cries out against it.
Let us look, and see what women may do here.
First, there are Intellectual Pursuits-devotion to science, art, literature, and the like.
Well, in the first place, that is not popular. Learned women are met with ridicule; they are bid to mend their husband's garments, or their own; they are treated with scorn. Foolish young man number one, in a liquor shop, of a morning, knocks off the ashes from the end of his cigar, and says to foolish young man number two, who is taking soda to wash off the effect of last night's debauch, or preparing for a similar necessity to-morrow morning- in the presence of foolish young man number three, four, five, six, and so on indefinitely-"I do not like learned young women; they puzzle me." So they do; puzzle him very much. I once heard a foolish young man, full of self-conceit and his father's claret, say,-"I had rather have a young woman ask me to waltz, than to explain an allusion in Dante." Very likely; he had studied waltzing, and not Dante. And his mother, full of conceit and her own hyson [a type of tea], said,-"I perfectly agree with you. My father said that women had nothing to do with learning." Accordingly, he gave her none, and that explained the counsel.
Then, too, foolish men, no longer young, say the same thing, and seek to bring down their wives and daughters to their own poor mediocrity of wit and inferiority of culture.
I say, this intellectual calling is not popular. I am sorry it is not; but even if it were, it is not wholly satisfactory-it suits but a few. In the present stage of human development, there are not many men who are satisfied with a merely intellectual calling; they want something practical, as well as speculative. There are a thousand practical shoemakers to every speculative botanist. It will be so for many years to come. There are ten thousand carpenters to a single poet or philosopher, who dignifies his nature with song or with science. See how dissatisfied our most eminent intellectual men become with science and literature. A Professor of Greek is sorry he was not a Surveyor or Engineer; the President of the College longs to be a Member of Congress; the most accomplished scholars, romancers,- they wish to be Collectors at Boston, Consuls at Liverpool, and the like, -longing for some practical calling, where they can make their thought a thing.2 Of the intellectual men who I know, I can count on the fingers of a single hand all that are satisfied with pure science, pure art, pure literature.
Woman, like man, wants to make her thought a thing; at least, wants things to work her pattern of thought upon. Still, as the world grows older, and wiser, and better, more persons will find an abiding satisfaction in these lofty pursuits. I am rejoiced to see women thus attracted thitherward. Some women there are who find an abiding satisfaction in literature; it fills up their leisure. I rejoice that it is so.
Then there are next, the various Philanthropies of the age. In these, the spare energies of woman have always found a congenial sphere. It is amazing to see how woman's charity, which "never faileth," palliates the injustice of man, which never has failed yet. Men fight battles; women heal the wounds of the sick:
"Forgot are hatred, wrongs, and fears,
The plaintive voice alone she hears,
Sees but the dying man."-
and does not ask if foe or friend. Messrs. Pinchem Peelem organize an establishment, wherein the sweat and tears and blood of the poor turn the wheels; every pivet and every shaft rolls on quivering human flesh. The wealthy capitalists,
"Half ignorant, they turn an easy wheel,
Which acts sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel."
The wives and daughters of the wealthy house go out to "undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free;" to heal the sick and teach the ignorant, whom their fathers, their husbands, their lovers have made sick, oppressed and ignorant. Ask Manchester, in Old England and in New, if this is not so; ask London, ask Boston.
The moral, affectional and religious feelings of woman fit her for this work. Her patience, her gentleness, her power to conciliate, her sympathy with man, her trust in God, beautifully prepare her for this; and accordingly, she comes in the face of what man calls justice as an angel of mercy-before his hate as an angel of love-between his victim and his selfishness with the self-denial of Paul and the self-sacrifice of Jesus. Look at any village in New England and in Old England, at the Sacs and Foxes, at the Hottentots and the Esquimaux-it is the same thing; it is so in all ages, in all climes, in all stages of civilization: in all ranks of society,-the highest and the lowest; in all forms of religion, all sects of Christianity. It has been so, from Dorcas,3 in the Acts of the Apostles, who made coats and garments for the poor, down to Miss Dix, in our day, who visits jails and houses of correction, and leads Mr. Fillmore to let Capt. Drayton out of jail, where he was placed for the noblest act of his life.4
But these philanthropies are not enough for the employment of women; and if all the spare energies of womankind were set to this work,-to palliate the consequences of man's injustice,-it would not be exactly the work which woman wants. There are some women who take no special interest in this. For woman is not all philanthropy, though very much; she has other faculties which want to be developed besides the heart to feel. Still more, that is not the only thing which mankind wants. We need the justice which removes causes, as well as the charity that palliates effects; and woman, standing continually between the victim and the sabre which would cleave him through, is not performing her only function, not her highest; high as that is, it is not her highest. If the feminine swallow drives away the flies from a poor fox struggling for life, another set of flies light upon him, and suck every remaining drop of blood out of his veins, as in the old fable. Besides, if the fox finds that a womanly swallow comes to drive off the flies, he depends on her wing and not on his own brush, and becomes less of a fox. If a miser or any base man, sees that a woman constantly picks up the man whom he knocks down with the left hand of Usury, or the right hand of Rum, he will go on with his extortion or his grog, because, he says, "I should have done the man harm, but a woman picked him up, and money comes into my pocket, and no harm to the man!" The evils of society would become worse and worse, just as they are increased by indiscriminate alms-giving. That is not enough.
Then there are various Practical Works left by common consent to woman.
First, there is Domestic Service,-woman working as an appendage to some household; a hired hand, or a hired head, to help the housekeeper.
Then there is Mechanical Labor in a factory, or a shop,-spinning, weaving, setting type, binding books, making shoes, coloring maps, and a hundred other things.
Next, there is Trade in a small way, from the basket-woman, with her apples at every street corner, up to the confectioner and haberdasher, with their well-filled shops. In a few retail shops which venture to brave popular opinion, woman is employed at the counter.
As a fourth thing, there is the business of Public and Private Teaching, in various departments. All these are well; they are unavoidable, they are absolutely necessary; they furnish employment to many women, and are a blessed resource.
I rejoice that the Field-work of the farmer is not done by woman's hand in the free portions of America. It imbrutes women in Ireland, in France, and in Spain. I am glad that the complicated machinery of life furnishes so much more work for the light and delicate hand of woman. But I confess I mourn that where her work is as profitable as man's, her pay is not half so much. A woman who should teach a public school well, would be paid four or six dollars a week; while a man who should teach no better, would be paid two, three, four or six times that sum. It is so in all departments of woman's work that I am acquainted with.
These employments are very well, but still they are not enough.
Rich women do not engage in these callings. For rich women, there is no profession left except marriage. After school time, woman has nothing to do till she is married; I mean, almost nothing; nothing that is adequate. Accordingly, she must choose betwixt a husband and nothing,-and sometimes, that is choosing between two nothings. There are spare energies which seek employment before marriage, and after marriage.
These callings are not all that the race of woman needs; not all that her human nature requires. She has the same human nature which man has, and of course, the same natural human rights. Woman's natural right for its rightfulness does not depend on the bodily or mental power to assert and to maintain it-on the great arm or on the great head; it depends only on human nature itself, which God made the same in the frailest woman as in the biggest giant.
If woman is a human being, first, she has the Nature of a human being; next, she has the Right of a human being; third, she has the Duty of a human being. The Nature is the capacity to possess, to use, to develop, and to enjoy every human faculty; the Right is the right to enjoy, develop, and use every human faculty; and the Duty is to make use of the Right, and make her human nature human history. She is here to develop her human nature, enjoy her human rights, perform her human duty. Womankind is to do this for herself, as much as mankind for himself. A woman has the same human nature that a man has, the same human rights,-to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,-the same human duties; and they are as unalienable in a woman as in a man.
Each man has the natural right to the normal development of his nature, so far as it is general-human, neither man nor woman, but human. Each woman has the natural right to the normal development of her nature, so far as it is general-human, neither woman nor man. But each man has also a natural and unalienable right to the normal development of his peculiar nature as man, where he differs from woman. Each woman has just the same natural and unalienable right to the normal development of her peculiar nature as woman, and not man. All that is undeniable.
Now see what follows. Woman has the same individual right to determine her aim in life, and to follow it; has the same individual rights of body and of spirit,-of mind and conscience, and heart and soul; the same physical rights, the same intellectual, moral, affectional and religious rights, that man has. That is true of womankind as a whole; it is true of Jane, Ellen and Sally, and each special woman that can be named.
Every person, man or woman, is an integer, an individual, a whole person, and also a portion of the race, and so a fraction of humankind. Well, the rights of individualism are not to be possessed, developed, used and enjoyed by a life in solitude, but by joint action. Accordingly, to complete and perfect the individual man or woman, and give each an opportunity to possess, use, develop and enjoy these rights, there must be concerted and joint action: else individuality is only a possibility, not a reality. So the individual rights of woman carry with them the same domestic, social, ecclesiastical and political rights as those of man.
The Family, Community, Church and State, are four modes of action which have grown out of human nature in its historical development; they are all necessary for the development of mankind-machines which the human race has devised, in order to possess, use, develop and enjoy their rights as human beings, their rights also as men.
These are just as necessary for the development of woman as of man, and as she has the same Nature, Right and Duty as man, it follows that she has the same right to use, shape and control these four institutions, for her general human purpose and for her special feminine purpose, that man has to control them for his general human purpose, and his special masculine purpose. All that is as undeniable as any thing in metaphysics or mathematics.
So, then, woman has the same natural rights as man. In Domestic Affairs, she is to determine her own sphere as much as man, and say where her function is to begin, when it shall begin, with whom it shall begin; where it shall end, when it shall end, and what it shall comprise.
Then she has the same right to Freedom of Industry that man has. I do not believe that the hard callings of life will ever suit woman. It is not little boys who go out as lumberers, but great men, with sinewy, brawny arms. I doubt that laborious callings, like navigation, engineering, lumbering and the like, will ever be agreeable to woman. Her feminine body and feminine spirit naturally turn away from such occupations. I have seen women gathering the filth of the streets in Liverpool, sawing stone in a mason's yard in Paris, carrying earth in baskets on their heads for a railway embankment at Naples; but they were obviously out of place, and only consented to this drudgery when driven by Poverty's iron whip. But there are many employments in the departments of mechanical work, of trade, little and extended, where woman could go, and properly go. Some women have a good deal of talent for trade-this in a small way, that on the largest scale. Why should not they exercise their commercial talents in competition with man? Is it right for woman to be a domestic manufacturer in the family of Solomon or Priam, and of every thrifty husband, and wrong for her to be a public manufacturer on her own account? She might spin when the motive power was a wheel-pin of wood in her hand-may she not use the Merrimack and the Connecticut5 for her wheel-pin; or must she be only the manufacturing servant of man, never her own master?
Much of the business of education already falls to the hands of woman. In the last twenty years, there has been a great progress in the education of women, in Massachusetts, in all New England. The High Schools for girls,-and still better, those for Girls and Boys-have been of great service. Almost all the large towns of this Commonwealth have honored themselves with these blessed institutions; in Boston, only the daughters of the rich can possess such an education as hundreds of noble girls long to acquire. With this enhancement of culture, women have been continually rising higher and higher as teachers. The State Normal Schools have helped in this movement. It used to be thought that only an able-bodied man could manage the large boys of a country or a city School. Even he was sometimes thrust out at the door or the window of "his noisy mansion," by his rough pupils. An able-headed woman has commonly succeeded better than men merely able-bodied. She has tried conciliation rather than violence, and appealed to something a little deeper than aught which force could ever touch. The women-teachers are now doing an important work for the elevation of their race and all human kind. But it is commonly thought woman must not engage in the higher departments thereof. I once knew a woman, wife, and mother, and housekeeper, who taught the severest disciplines of our highest college, and instructed young men while she rocked the cradle with her foot, and mended garments with her hands,-one of the most accomplished scholars of New England. Not long ago, the daughter of a poor widowed seamstress was seen reading the Koran in Arabic. There was but one man in the town who could do the same, and he was a "Learned Blacksmith." Women not able to teach in these things! He must be rather a confident professor who thinks a woman cannot do what he can. I rejoice at the introduction of women into common schools, academies, and high schools; and I thank God that the man who has done so much for public education in Massachusetts, is presently to be the head of a college in Ohio, where woman and men are to study together, and where a woman is to be professor of Latin and Natural History.6 These are good signs.
The business of public lecturing, also, is quite important in New England, and I am glad to see that woman presses into that,-not without success.
The work of conducting a journal, daily, weekly, or quarterly, woman proves that she can attend to quite as decently, and as strongly, too, as most men.
Then there are what are called the Professions,-Medicine, Law, and Theology.
The profession of Medicine seems to belong peculiarly to woman by nature; part of it, exclusively. She is a nurse, and half a doctor, by nature. It is quite encouraging that medical schools are beginning to instruct women, and special schools get founded for the use of women; that sagacious men are beginning to employ women as their physicians. Great good is to be expected from that.
As yet, I believe no woman acts as a Lawyer. But I see no reason why the profession of Law might not be followed by women as well as by men. He must be rather an uncommon lawyer who thinks no feminine head could compete with him. Most lawyers that I have known are rather mechanics at law, than attorneys or scholars at law; and in the mechanical part, woman could do as well as man-could be as good a conveyancer, could follow precedents as carefully, and copy forms as nicely. And in the higher departments of legal work, they who have read the plea which Lady Alice Lille made in England, when she could not speak by attorney, must remember there is some eloquence in woman's tongue which courts find it rather hard to resist. I think her presence would mend the manners of the court-of the bench, not less than of the bar.
In the business of Theology, I could never see why a woman, if she wished, should not preach, as well as men. It would be hard, in the present condition of the pulpit, to say she had not intellect enough for that! I am glad to find, now and then, women preachers, and rejoice at their success. A year ago, I introduced to you the Reverend Miss [Antoinette] Brown, educated at an Orthodox Theological Seminary;-you smiled at the name of Reverend Miss. She has since been invited to settle by several congregations of unblemished orthodoxy, and has passed on, looking further.
It seems to me that woman, by her peculiar constitution, is better qualified to teach religion than any merely intellectual discipline. The Quakers have always recognized the natural right of woman to perform the same ecclesiastical function as man. At this day, the most distinguished preacher of that denomination is a woman [probably Elizabeth Fry], who adorns her domestic calling as housekeeper, wife and mother, with the same womanly dignity and sweetness which mark her public deportment.
If woman had been consulted, it seems to me Theology would have been in a vastly better state than it is now. I do not think that any woman would ever have preached the damnation of babies new-born; and "hell, paved with the skulls of infants not a span long," would be a region yet to be discovered in Theology. A celibate monk-with God's curse writ on his face, which knew no child, no wife, no sister, and blushed that he had a mother-might well dream of such a thing: he had been through the preliminary studies. Consider the ghastly attributes which are commonly put upon God in the popular Theology, the idea of infinite wrath, of infinite damnation, and total depravity, and all that,-why, you could not get a woman that had intellect enough to open her mouth to preach these things any where. Women think they think that they believe them; but they do not. Celibate priests, who never knew marriage, or what paternity was, who thought woman was "a pollution," they invented those ghastly doctrines; and when I have heard the Athanasian Creed and the Dies Irae chanted by monks, with the necks of bulls and the lips of donkeys,-why, I have understood where the doctrine came from, and have felt the appropriateness of their braying out the damnation hymns: woman could not do it. We shut her out of the choir, out of the priest's house, out of the pulpit, and then the priest, with unnatural vows, came in, and taught these "doctrines of devils." Could you find a woman who would read to a congregation, as words of truth, Jonathan Edwards's Sermon on a Future State-"Sinners in the hands of an Angry God," "the Justice of God in the damnation of Sinners," "Wrath upon the Wicked to the uttermost," "the future punishment of the Wicked," and other things of that sort? Nay, can you find a worthy woman, of any considerable culture, who will read the fourteenth chapter of Numbers,7 and declare that a true picture of the God she worships? Only a she-dragon could do it, in our day.
The popular Theology leaves us nothing feminine in the character of God. How could it be otherwise, when so much of the popular Theology is the work of men who thought woman was a "pollution," and harried her out of all the high places of the church? If women had had their place in ecclesiastic teaching, I doubt that the "Athanasian Creed"8 would ever have been thought a "Symbol" of Christianity. The pictures and hymns which describe the last Judgment are a protest against the exclusion of women from teaching in the church. "I suffer not a woman to teach, but to be in silence," said a writer in the New Testament.9 The sentence has brought manifold evil in its train.
So much for the employments of women.
By nature, woman has the same Political Rights that man has,-to vote, to hold office, to make and administer laws. These she has a matter of right. The strong hand and the great head of man keep her down; nothing more. In American, in Christendom, woman has no political rights, is not a citizen in full; she has no voice making or administering the laws, none in electing the rulers or administrators thereof. She can hold no office-cannot be committee of a primary school, overseer of the poor, or guardian to a public lamp-post. But any man, with conscience enough to keep out of jail, mind enough to escape the poor-house, and body enough to drop his ballot into the box, he is a voter. He may have no character, even no money, that is no matter-he is male. The noblest woman has no voice in the State. Men make laws disposing of her property, her person, her children; still she must bear it, "with a patient shrug."
Looking at it as a matter of pure Right and pure science, I know no reason why woman should not be a voter, or hold office, or make and administer laws. I do not see how I can shut myself into political privileges and shut woman out, and do both in the name of unalienable right. Certainly, every woman has a natural right to have her property represented in the general representation of property, and her person represented in the general representation of persons.
Looking at it as a matter of Expediency, see some facts. Suppose woman had a share in the municipal regulation of Boston, and there were as many Alderwomen as Aldermen, as many Common Council women as Common Council men,-do you believe that, in defiance of the law of Massachusetts, the City Government, last Spring, would have licensed every two hundred and forty-fourth person of the population of the city to sell intoxicating drink? would have made every thirty-fifth voter a rumseller? I do not.
Do you believe the women of Boston would spend ten thousand dollars in one year in a city frolic, or spend two or three thousand every year, on the Fourth of July, for sky-rockets and fire-crackers; would spend four or five thousand dollars to get their Canadian guests drunk in Boston harbor, and then pretend that Boston had not money enough to establish a high school for girls, to teach the daughters of mechanics and grocers to read French and Latin, and to understand the higher things which rich men's sons are driven to at college! I do not.
Do you believe that the women of Boston, in 1851, would have spent three or four thousand dollars to kidnap a poor man, and have taken all the chains which belonged to the city and put them round the Court House, and have drilled three hundred men, armed with bludgeons and cutlasses, to steal a man and carry him back to slavery?10 I do not. Do you think, if the woman had had the control, "fifteen hundred men or property and standing" would have volunteered to take a poor man, kidnapped in Boston, and conduct him out of the State, with fire and sword? I believe no such thing.
Do you think the women of Boston would take the poorest and most unfortunate children in the town, put them all together into one school, making that the most miserable in the city, where they had not and could not have half the advantages of the other children in different schools, and all that because the unfortunates were dark colored? Do you think the women of Boston would shut a bright boy out of the High School or Latin School, because he was black in the face?
Women are said to be cowardly. When Thomas Sims, out of his dungeon, sent to the churches his petition for their prayers, had women been "the Christian clergy," do you believe they would not have dared to pray?
If women had a voice in the Affairs of Massachusetts, do you think they would ever have made laws so that a lazy husband could devour all the substance of his active wife-spite of her wish, so that a drunken husband could command her bodily presence in his loathly house; and when an infamous man was divorced from his wife, that he could keep all the children? I confess I do not.
If the Affairs of the Nation had been under woman's joint control, I doubt that we should have butchered the Indians with such exterminating savagery, that, in fifty years, we should have spent seven hundred of millions of dollars for war, and now, in time of peace, send twenty annual millions more to the same waste. I doubt that we should have spread slavery into nine new States, and made it national. I think the Fugitive Slave Bill would never have been an Act. Woman has some respect for the natural law of God.
I know men say woman cannot manage the great affairs of a nation. Very well. Government is Political Economy-National Housekeeping. Does any respectable woman keep house so badly as the United States? with so much bribery, so much corruption, so much quarreling in the domestic councils?
But government is also Political Morality, it is National Ethics. Is there any worthy woman who rules her household as wickedly as the nations are ruled? who hires bullies to fight for her? Is there any woman who treats one sixth part of her household as if they were cattle and not creatures of God, as if they were things and not persons? I know of none such. In government as housekeeping, or government as morality, I think man makes a very poor appearance, when he says woman could not do as well as he has done and is doing.
I doubt that women will ever, as a general thing, take the same interest as men in political affairs, or find therein an abiding satisfaction. But that is for women themselves to determine, not for men.
In order to attain the end,-the development of man in body and spirit,- human institutions must represent all parts of human nature, both the masculine and the feminine element. For the well-being of the human race, we need the joint action of man and woman, in the family, the community, the Church and the State. A family without the presence of woman-with no mother, no wife, no sister, no womankind-is a sad thing. I think a Community without woman's equal social action, a Church without her equal ecclesiastical action, and a State without her equal political action, is almost as bad -is very much what a house would be without a mother, wife, sister or friend.
You see what prevails in the Christian civilization of the Nineteenth Century: it is Force-force of body, force of brain. There is little justice, little philanthropy, little piety. Selfishness preponderates every where in Christendom-individual, domestic, social, ecclesiastical, national selfishness. It is preached as gospel and enacted as law. It is thought good political economy for a strong people to devour the weak nations-for "Christian" England and America to plunder the "Heathen" and annex their land; for a strong class to oppress and ruin the feeble class-for the capitalists of England to pauperise the poor white laborer, for the capitalists of America to enslave the poorer black laborer; for a strong man to oppress the weak men-for the sharper to buy labor too cheap, and sell its product too dear, and so grow rich by making many poor. Hence, nation is arrayed against nation, class against class, man against man. Nay, it is commonly taught that mankind is arrayed against God, and God against man; that the world is a universal discord; that there is no solidarity of man with man, of man with God. I fear we shall never get far beyond this theory and this practice, until woman has her natural rights as the equal of man, and takes her natural place in regulating the affairs of the family, the community, the Church and the State.
It seems to me God has treasured up a reserved power in the nature of woman to correct many of those evils which are Christendom's disgrace to-day.
Circumstances help or hinder our development, and are one of the two forces which determine the actual character of a nation, or of mankind, at any special period. Hitherto, amongst men, circumstances have favored the development of only intellectual power, in all its forms-chiefly in its lower forms. At present, mankind, as a whole, has the superiority over womankind, as a whole, in all that pertains to intellect, the higher and the lower. Man has knowledge, has ideas, has administrative skill,-enacts the rules of conduct for the individual, the family, the community, the church, the state, and the world. He applies these rules of conduct to life, and so controls the great affairs of the human race. You see what a world he has made of it. There is male vigor in this civilization, miscalled "Christian"; and in its leading nations there are industry and enterprise, which never fail. There is science, literature, legislation, agriculture, manufactures, mining, commerce, such as the world never saw. With the vigor of war, the Anglo-Saxon now works the works of peace. England abounds in wealth, richest of lands; but look at her poor, her vast army of paupers, two million strong, the Irish whom she drives with the hand of famine across the sea. Martin Luther war right when he said, The richer the nation, the poorer the poor. America is "democratic"-"the first freest and most enlightened people in the world." Look at her slaves: every sixth woman in the country sold as a beast; with no more legal respect paid to her marriage than the farmer pays to the conjunctions of his swine. America is well-educated; there are four millions of children in the school-houses of the land: it is a State's prison offence to teach a slave to record the three letters which spell God. The more "democratic" the country, the tighter is bondage ironed on the slave. Look at the cities of England and America. What riches, what refinement, what culture of man and woman too! Aye; but what poverty, what ignorance, what beastliness of man and woman too! The Christian civilization of the nineteenth century is well summed up in London and New York-the two foci of the Anglo-Saxon tribe, which control the shape of the world's commercial ellipse. Look at the riches-and the misery; at the "religious enterprise"-and the heathen darkness; at the virtue, the decorum and the beauty of woman well-born and well-bred-and at the wild sea of prostitution, which swells and breaks and dashes against the bulwarks of society-every ripple was a woman once!
O, brother men, who make these things, is this a pleasant sight? Does your literature complain of it-of the waste of human life, the slaughter of human souls, the butchery of woman? British literature begins to wail, in "Nicholas Nickleby," and "Jane Eyre," and "Mary Barton," and "Alton Locke," in many a "Song of Shirt"; but the respectable literature of America is deaf as a cent to the outcry of humanity expiring in agonies. It is busy with California, or the Presidency, or extolling iniquity in high places, or flattering the vulgar vanity which buys its dross for gold. It cannot even imitate the philanthropy of English letters: it is "up" for California and a market. Does not the Church speak?-the English Church, with its millions of money, the American, with its millions of men- both wont to bay [at] the moon of foreign heathenism? The Church is a dumb dog, that cannot bark, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. It is a Church without woman, believing in a male and jealous God, and rejoicing in a boundless, endless hell!
Hitherto, with woman, circumstances have hindered the development of intellectual power, in all its forms. She has not knowledge, has not ideas or practical skill to equal the force of man. But circumstances have favored the development of pure and lofty emotion in advance of man. She has moral feeling, affectional feeling, religious feeling, far in advance of man; her moral, affectional and religious intuitions are deeper and more trustworthy than his. Here she is eminent, as he is in knowledge, in ideas, in administrative skill.
I think man will always lead in affairs of intellect-of reason, imagination, understanding-he has the bigger brain; but that woman will always lead in affairs of emotion-moral, affectional, religious-she has the better heart, the truer intuition of the right, the lovely, the holy. The literature of women in this century is juster, more philanthropic, more religious than that of men. Do you not hear the cry which, in New England, a woman is raising in the world's ears against the foul wrong which America is working in the world? Do you not hear the echo of that woman's voice come over Atlantic-returned from European shores in many a tongue-French, German, Italian, Swedish, Danish, Russian, Dutch? How a woman touches the world's heart!-because she speaks justice, speaks piety, speaks love. What voice is strongest raised in continental Europe, pleading for the oppressed and down-trodden? That also is a woman's voice!11
Well, we want the excellence of man and woman both united; intellectual power, knowledge, great ideas-in literature, philosophy, theology, ethics-and practical skill; but we want something better-the moral, affectional, religious intuition, to put justice into cities, love into theology, piety into science and letters. Every where in the family, the community, the church and the state, we want the masculine and feminine element cooperating and conjoined. Woman is to correct man's taste, mend his morals, excite his affections, inspire his religious faculties. Man is to quicken her intellect, to help her will, translate her sentiments to ideas, and enact them into righteous laws. Man's moral action, at best, is only a sort of general providence, aiming at the welfare of a part, and satisfied with achieving the "greatest good of the greatest number." Woman's moral action is more like a special human providence, acting without general laws, but caring for each particular case. We need both of these, the general and the special, to make a total human providence.
If man and woman are counted equivalent,-equal in rights, though with diverse powers,-shall we not mend the literature of the world, its theology, its science, its laws, and its actions too? I cannot believe that wealth and want are to stand over side by side as desperate foes; that culture must ride only on the back of ignorance and feminine virtue be guarded by the degradation of whole classes of ill-starred men, as in the East, or the degradation of whole classes of ill-starred women, as in the West; but while we neglect the means of help God puts in our power, why, the present must be like the past-"property" must be theft, "law" the strength of selfish will, and "Christianity"-what we see it is, the apology for every powerful wrong.
To every woman let me say,-Respect your nature as a human being, your nature as a woman; then respect your rights, then remember your duty to possess, to use, to develop and to enjoy every faculty which God has given you, each in its normal way.
And to men let me say,-Respect, with the profoundest reverence respect the mother that bore you, the sisters who bless you, the woman that you love, the woman that you marry. As you seek to possess your own manly rights, seek also, by that great arm, by that powerful brain, seek to vindicate her rights as woman, as your own as man. Then we may see better things in the church, better things in the state, in the community, in the home. Then the green shall show what buds it hid, the buds shall blossom, the flowers bear fruit, and the blessing of God be on us all.