« PreviousContinue »
to grope so far back, or go to such ing in most feminist literature, is inlengths in order to give a woman "a clined to build up his conclusions on guid conceit o' hersel'.”
biological premises which are, to say There is another line of attack the least, controversial. Also, at the cruwhich seems equally inconclusive. A cial point in the development of his favorite argument for those who feel argument, he introduces an altogether it necessary to explain woman's com- empirical value-his conception of the paratively few achievements in the meaning of "bloom" as applied to world of art and science is to assert women. It is true he does not define that her mentality has been sup- "bloom” too closely, but he certainly pressed by man—that she has had leaves the impression that it connotes neither education opportunity. a surface quality of innocence, purity As some of the greatest work done or modesty, and as our standards of by men has been accomplished in the these are matters of geography and teeth of exactly these difficulties, the social custom, varying with class, argument does not carry us far, but latitude or period, it is difficult folthere is really no agreement among low him. The fruit analogy, so dear feminists
this point. Olive to sentimentalists of last century, is, Schreiner, for instance, asks nothing in fact, hardly worthy of a place in a better than that women should regain serious book on the woman problem. the status enjoyed by their Teutonic What we are concerned with is the fore-mothers of twenty centuries ago. soundness and ripeness of the fruitIn “The Subjection of Woman" J. S. its perfection of maturity-without Mill asserts confidently that from the which "bloom" is deceptive and usedays of Hypatia to the Reformation, less. Nevertheless there are many with the possible exception of Heloisa, wise things in Dr. Tayler's book; his women "did not concern themselves chapter on female education is speciwith speculation at all”—an amaz- ally valuable and suggestive, and he ing generalization which colors his has done a real service to the student whole conclusions. Prof. Barnes also of feminine psychology in reprinting suffers from the delusion that female part of a powerful essay by W. C. "education” began about 1850; but Roscoe, first published in the "NaEllen Key is quite prepared to allow tional Review" for October 1858. that
The first concentration of feminist "numbers of women had appeared efforts on a practical basis is found in who, in classic culture, in the practice the struggle which opened for women of learned professions, in political, re- the door to higher education and levligious, intellectual or æsthetic pursuits
elled up the teaching of girls and boys. stood beside the men of Humanism,
Sixty years ago, when the fight was the Renaissance or the Reformation."
beginning, there was an exaggerated In short, the biological and histor
belief in the value of book-learning, ical sketches with which many fem
not only among women but among inists preface their philosophy cannot
those who looked forward to an "edube taken very seriously. They have
cated democracy.” Hitherto bookbeen made to illustrate theories rather
learning had been confined to a small than to assist in forming them. Even
minority of the nation; and among Dr. J. L. Tayler, whose sane and sober
these the line between the sexes had little book has an air of reality lack
gradually become markedly favorable "In "Six Mediæval Women" Mrs.
to men. Kemp Welch shows that culture in the
Colleges, schools and endowMiddle Ages was more easy of acquisi
ments, originally intended for both tion by women than by men.
sexes, were restricted to one; and women specialized more and more in those arts and crafts which had their centre in the home. Nevertheless the women of the upper classes certainly acquired somehow a culture which made them quite as interesting and interested as any college-bred girl of to-day. Read the letters, not even of the brilliant French women of the 18th century salons, but of the country-bred English women of the late 18th and early 19th centuries—Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Frances Lady Shelley, Lady Elizabeth Coke, Lady Sarah Spencer Lyttleton, Lady Dorothy Nevill—not "blue-stockings,” but ordinary society women, and you will find in them not only a keen appreciation of the events of their own time, but a humorous judgment and a critical faculty applied to books, music, and the conversation of their friends. How many a young society lady of to-day, writing lively and entertaining letters to a midshipman brother, would recommend for his reading Sully's "Memories,” or quote Madame de Staël? When we are estimating the gains and losses from the point of view of feminine advancement of the last half-century, we may well ask ourselves whether, among the hosts of clever women-writers of today, there are any names worthy to be placed beside those of Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronté, George Eliot, Mrs. Oliphant, Mrs. Browning, and Mrs. Gaskell; and yet these are all middleclass women of a period which is supposed to have seen a complete eclipse in female education.'
At the same time it is only fair to suppose that, while talent, character
and genius may have triumphed over an environment not specially favorable, the latter was certainly a hard and stony ground for less sturdy seeds. Especially in the middle class, which was growing to wealth and power during the first half of the 19th century, the social conditions placed women at a disadvantage. Boys had to make their way in the world without the help of those family influences which could be safely relied on in the upper classes; hence money spent on their equipment was regarded as a good investment. The same argument did not apply to girls, who, educated or not,
would generally marry, or, if they remained single, would still be a charge on the menfolk. The increased dependence, uselessness, and luxury of this class of women was an important factor in the early days of the woman movement, and still constitutes a serious social problem-not to be met by turning out girls to do men's and boys' work in inferior manner. Feminism therefore concentrated on that education which was believed to be the open-sesame to all kinds of new worlds for women as for men.
Amid a great deal of futile talk about the relative intellectual capacity of men and women, the battle of higher education was fought and won; but the argument which prevailed with the British paterfamilias was not the favorite contention that the educated woman would be better mother and more the companion and equal of her husband. The pioneers of female education in this country, and English women in general, are apt to have an exaggerated idea of man's desire and capacity for intellectual companionship while they consistently underestimate his needs in other respects. The British husband and father accepted the task of educating his daughters very nearly, if not quite,
*De Quincey, writing in 1840 (“Essay on Style"), and Macaulay, in his History published in 1848, declare that the educated women of their day speak and write "purer and more graceful English" than is elsewhere to be found. (See "John and Irene," p. 165.) Can this be said of the high school and college-bred women of to-day?
as expensively as his sons, because economic pressure and the growing standard of feminine expenditure convinced him that his girls might have to work for their living. Domestic labor being still cheap and academic honors believed to be the passport to wellpaid work, he felt he was doing the best thing for his girls, and they accepted the situation most conscientiously. School and college days—for the average girl-became not so much periods of mental and moral growth, as short and strenuous years in which the largest possible number of unrelated facts must be earnestly assimilated. A few women have taken high academic honors, to the great jubilation of those who desire to prove that "there is no sex in brain-you might as well talk about a female liver," but serious doubts prevail, even in academic circles, as to the real value of the education for which so much is sacrificed.
At the present time, with the spread of high-schools and colleges taught by college-bred women all over the land, middle-class female education has been levelled up, very nearly, to male standards, with the important exception that the real educational value to boys of school and college life (w.bich is not essentially connected with the amount of book-learning they absorb) is very largely absent from girls' schools. Prof. Barnes, after sixteen years' close association with coeducation in the United States, makes some useful observations on the tendencies and effects of some three generations of education for women. He notes that no attempt has been made to evolve a distinctive type of educa. tion. With us, and in some American colleges, the women's part is merely an annexe to an old foundation; while in others, as in our newer universities,
°C. P. Gilman, "Woman and Economics."
although men and women are admitted on the same footing, the courses have been framed to meet the needs of the male sex. It is true that "domestic science" is now recognized by one or two of our newer universities as a regular subject, but it is still an excrescence, an alternative, to be adopted for commercial reasons, rather than an essential feature in feminine education. Everywhere, in the United States as in England, the pioneers of female education seem to have aimed at approximating closely as possible to male ideals, and this is the more to be regretted, says Prof. Barnes, since some women's colleges in America had unique opportunities for setting up their own standard.
The result in the United States, where co-education and the swamping of the teaching profession by women have made feminine influence paramount in the educational world, is not, so far, a stringing-up of the female to the male pitch, but a tendency to bring all education, and even journalism and literature, to a feminine level. “Feminization means emphasis on languages, literature, and history, as opposed to mathematics, chemistry and civics”; a concentration on the practical and material as compared with the theoretic and speculative. Moreover, the egoistic, personal, and emotional note in journalism and fiction, though not to be attributed solely to woman's influence, certainly owes a great deal to it. Finally Prof. Barnes declares, “Our present elementary schools, and still more our highschools, lead girls neither to intelllgent work nor to intelligent living as women."
This indictment must be read in the light of the fact that Prof. Barnes is an avowed feminist, in favor of woman suffrage and the “equality of the sexes." Obviously he ought to be on the side of Herbert Spencer, who held "the minds of women to be unlike (those of men) both quantitatively and qualitatively. I believe" (he said) “the difference to result from a physiological necessity, and that no amount of culture can obliterate it." The American writer, however, adopts only the first half of the hypothesis. Having demonstrated the persistent nature of feminine characteristics, and shown that so far from being masculinized by education, education is feminized by them, he is still prepared to allow that the difference in male and female mentality "might have been produced by environment and ideals, and may hence give way to education.” Without attempting to dogmatize on the vexed question of sex, it may be stated that both maleness and femaleness are inherited by each individual, the dominance of the one over the other determining the sex. Masculine qualities are not uncommon in women, nor feminine ones in men, but on what biological grounds is it assumed that the best type of female must approximate most closely to the male? And why should it be taken for granted that the world has no use for the characteristically feminine mentality? It is not a question of inferiority and superiority, but of difference in kind and function. There is no more startling evidence that modern women have got out of touch with reality than the low opinion some of them profess to entertain of their own natural functions, qualities, and place in society. The writer has heard a very clever and thoughtful woman regret that, although she had found great happiness in marriage and maternity, her engagement had cut short a promising academic career which might have opened out to original work. "After all," she said, "anyone can have children!" At a famous high-school, some years ago,
the news of the early marriage of a favorite old pupil was met with the comment, “What a waste!" To Rosa Mayreder maternity is merely woman's handicap in the march of progress. Curiously enough, the subtlety of the feminine mind is able to find something meritorious in the performance of these lowly duties, so that she who submits to them is sometimes considered to be heroically sacrificing her higher possibilities on the altar of the family. We shall see presently to what conclusion this habit of mind leads in the studies of an advanced feminist.
The prominence and admiration gained in public spheres nowadays by the child-free woman have created a spurious standard; and many women who would otherwise have been contented with their natural functions are utterly demoralized by the glare and glitter of the careers of their "free and independent" sisters. Three factors keep the truth from coming out. First, the novelty of these careers has still glamor enough to blind those who follow them; secondly, they are too proud to confess, if they feel the emptiness of life; and thirdly, if Miss Cicely Hamilton is to be believed, we are really witnessing the development of a neuter sex, to which these women may belong. The "efficiency" of such women is the subject of panegyrics by their own sex. In any case, the average house-keeping, motherly type of woman is now inclined to under-value her own work and sphere, and to believe that her brilliant unmarried or childless sister, who writes or speaks or does political, professional, or social work, is more useful, is haping a “fuller life," than the mere wife and mother. It is a question of values. Feminists, as Ellen Key points out, are not essentially concerned to prove that women can do, or should do, the same work as men, but it is
certainly along these lines that the great proportion of those who are exmodern feminist movement has de- ceptionally gifted in passing examinaveloped.
tions; and they sacrifice youth and Meanwhile, the main effect of mod- health in order to obtain the necessary ern education on women has been to qualifications. Education is essencomplicate instead of to solve the eco- tially, to them, a means to a definite nomic question. The problem, "What end, which undoubtedly accounts for shall we do with our girls?” is keener much that is peculiar to the women's now than ever; and, although conscien- side of our college life. But when the tious parents strive, with
many strain is over, and the coveted prize sacrifices, to make their daughters of a post as teacher is won, is it worth efficient economic units, as an alter- the price paid? A life full of minor native to matrimony, it cannot be said irritations to all but the born teacher, that their efforts are very successful. restricted within narrow limits ana A vast range of occupations unknown often monotonous, with very few to our grandmothers has opened out to plums and a scale of remuneration the modern girl, but the fact remains leaving little margin for the pleasures that a school and college education, of life-such is the vista opened out which has cost hundreds of pounds, to all save a favored few who adopt may leave her with a lower market teaching as a profession. It is nor value than the “uneducated” woman wonderful if discontent is rife among who can cook or do housework. Con- middle-class women when such condisequently the economic gain of a self- tions prevail. Unhappily it is to this supporting daughter or sister is more class, on whom changing social condithan balanced by the increased ex- tions have laid such a heavy burden, pense of education and housekeeping; that the young girls of to-day look for and this last factor is a deterrent to guidance and for their philosophy of matrimony, thus throwing an increas- life. There are many sane, healthy, ing number of women into the labor and splendid women among them, but market, and thereby completing a vi- the conditions of life do not make for cious circle in the economic evolution either breadth of view or depth of unof women. Moreover, the spurious derstanding among the majority; and standard of which mention has been it is to be regretted that the influence made compels in young women a su- of mothers has been so largely superperstitious reverence for book-learning seded nowadays by that of the female and its academic reward. Those who celibate pedagogue. can write letters after their names are The question of the mutual influence inordinately puffed up by the privilege, of modern education and the feminist although it is shared with thousands movement is too wide to be fully disof obscure male persons. Very fre- cussed here, nor is there any intention, quently they are unfitted by this dis- on the part of the writer, to condemn tinction, both in their own opinion and wholesale either the present system that of their friends, for the humble or the women it has produced. No career of wife and mother. The teach- one wishes to stereotype any kind of ing profession naturally attracts man or woman. Social changes re
quire adaptation on the part of both 10Statistics do not show an increase in industrially employed women, rel
sexes. What is striking to an obatively to the increase of population,
server is the reflection that, while men but few people can doubt that the middle-class
is being forced
seem to be fitting in fairly comfortamore and more by economic pressure to become a wage-earner.
bly to the conditions of modern life,