A Tilt at The Woman's Question.
BECAUSE there is war, shall we no more argue the old questions? Because there is virtue, shall there be no cakes and ale? Heaven forbid! I am determined to stir up one of the old grievances, if only to show our Southern brethren that there are still Yankees in the land.
Shall women vote? shall women sell dry-goods? shall women till the fields? practice medicine? save murderers from the halter, or their victims from the grave? I am not prepared to say yes or no at once to these questions; but as a free-trader, I hold that women ought to have a fair chance; and I confess that it is difficult to tell, if old women are to command in the field and prevail in the Cabinet in these times, why they should be chosen all from the male sex. Somebody called this, the other day, the "era of grandmothers;" why not try a few grannies in petticoats?
A fool can ask more questions in an hour than a wise man — or woman — can answer in a lifetime. I am not to be aggravated into answers by any multitude or torrent of fools questions. So, if you want to know definitely whether women ought to help elect the next President — by their votes at the polls, I mean — you must apply at some other shop than this. Like the famous Irishman, I stick my head out of the window and resolutely cry out, "Not at home!"
It always struck me that those termagant philosophers who, in our grass days, used once or twice a year to debate the Woman's Question — all on one side, unfortunately — neglected one thing. They were ready enough to deliver judgment, but they took no pains to hear testimony. It was as though the jury should go out before the witnesses were examined, and make up their verdict from the statements of the prosecuting attorney. I don't mean to say the verdict was wrong; only it is but fair to hear what the witnesses have to say on both sides, and it adds a kind of respectability to the decision, in the eyes of a stupid world, when it knows that it is — or, at least, seems to be — founded on facts. Let no one accuse me of a vulgar reverence for facts. Facts are not only stubborn things; they are stupid, cross — I think them useless. No; no facts for me. But then, the world will have them; and so, as we are sure that it will not alter the verdict, why not, in trying this old and often referred and re-referred case of Adam vs. Eve, call the witnesses?
That is what I mean to do. Gentlemen of the jury open your ears; and try to keep open your eyes also.
Somebody — Mr. Froude, I think — has been for some time white-washing Henry the Eighth of England. This kind of historical revision is the fashion abroad; it has been attempted to prove Bacon an honest man — as though it made any difference, after two centuries, whether the author of the "Novum Organum" took bribes or not. If the pear is sweet and mellow and sound, need you go pothering about the orchard to see if the tree that bore it is troubled by the Scolytus pyri, or the Conotrachelus nenuphar, or any other thing with six legs and a hideous name? If I did not despise these new readings, I could give you a few little-known facts about Adam which would effectually black-wash that worthy, and make you rather ashamed of claiming descent from him. The fact is, gentlemen of the jury, that the eminently respectable old fellow, who has been plaintiff in this celebrated case for the last five or six thousand years, ought to be in the dock himself; and if Eve had not been the most angelic and long-suffering of women, she would never have tolerated that hag Lilith about her house. There are stories about Adam in the Talmud which would make even Sir Creswell Creswell blush. It is not only that he spent one hundred and thirty years of his married life in company with Lilith and a number of other she-devils, to the great grief of his faithful wife; there are stories about him even worse than that. And does not Rabbi Salomon Jarchi assure us, on his word of honor as a gentleman and a scholar, that Joseph was not so guileless, nor Mrs. Potiphar so guilty, as we have been accustomed to believe — citing in evidence thereof a very circumstantial, and, I am sorry to say, extremely damaging passage in the Gemarra?
If you are weaker than your enemy, attack him. That is what Lee has done; and that has been the course of Adam and all his trowser-wearing descendants toward the daughters of Eve. For instance, she tempted Adam. But what was the gender of the serpent who tempted Eve? Answer me that. However, it is not necessary at this stage of the trial to introduce testimony as to character, and, indeed, I hope to clear the defendant without in any such way begging the question.
And now what is the charge? That women are inferior to men, or, perhaps, only that they are subject to "the nobler sex." "Nature," says a Chinese proverb, " has made women subject to men — but Nature abhors slavery." And what do we, defendants, rejoin? That women are not lower, but different; and not subject, but equal.
The negro is different from the white man, and therefore he ought to be sold to the highest bidder: so argues the Reverend Dr. Palmer, lately of New Orleans; and if his Revercence should chance to be cast away on the coast of Madagascar the same argument would be used by the logical subjects of King Radama to justify his exposure in the market-place. I don't mean to say it is fallacious; it may be sound, but it has its inconveniences. So has the other. Women are different from men, and therefore they are subject. But why? Men are different from women: are men therefore subject? I say men are, or ought to be, subject to women; but not for that pitiful reason:
Women are, as Tennyson says:
"Not less, but different." How do they differ?
Let us see. And here I mean to cite not those points of difference produced by condition — by barbarism or by high civilization, by wealth or poverty, education or ignorance, but, so far as I can collect and present them, those radical and natural differences which circumstances may exaggerate but can not entirely efface. How are women different from men?
Physically, the woman is less in stature than the man; her form is more rounded; her bones are smaller; her muscles are not so hard. Her voice is soft, the man's coarse; her glance modest and diffident, his forward and daring; her motions graceful, his powerful; her step light, his firm. She arrives at maturity sooner than map, and her life is by some years shorter, according to the best tables of mortality. But it is tedious and unprofitable to consider separately the physical and psychological differences, because they can not properly be separated. Fur instance, man commands and woman persuades; man has, accordingly, the Roman nose, but a woman with that form of nose is avoided by prudent men as carefully as a Roman-nosed horse. A man with a pug nose is a creature despised by gods and his fellow-men; he may be a counter-jumper — he may be a dandy — he will never command in the field or in the council. But a woman with a pug nose — consider: Did you ever know such a one that did not in every thing have her own way? that did not rule her husband, her children, her servants, her house, her shop-keepers, her whole world?
And herein lies one of the evident proofs of the superiority of women to men — they are superior to accidents. A man born into the world with a pug nose is at once and forever an abject and contemptible creature: he is a dunce at school; he is a vainglorious peacock in society; his beard is sure to be a failure; and, unless he is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he is the sport of circumstances all his life. Is it so with women? Look at Lady Blessington's nose; it is the most marked of pugs. No; woman is the superior creature. She lives above the influence of those accidents which bind and fetter the lives of men. She rules not by virtue of a Roman nose, but in spite of it; not by permission of an accident, but independently of all accidents.
And this is the being who is pronounced "subject," "inferior," and all that!
Compare closely the natures of man and woman, and you will see "weakness" written in every line of man's character, and "strength" in every mark of woman's. Men claim that they are the more courageous, but women every day look cheerfully in the face the most terrible of sufferings, the most cruel of deaths. Men are venturesome — all fools are; but see how this poor creature, Man, when in the face of the danger he has invited, at once takes to stimulants. "Who smokes tobacco? Men. Who drinks all the whisky and other pernicious liquors, which afford half the revenues and fill seven-eighths of the jails of Christian nations? Men. Their weak natures need such artificial aids. But women — equal to all conditions, to every trial — scorn such helps.
Scarcely one man in twenty millions is fit to command an army: not a hundred men in a million can conduct prosperously a great business. Yet they are trained to it; they are educated for it. But women command in every house. Ignorant, falsely educated, flattered as inferior beings, young, with their bones scarcely hardened and no more notion of life than can be got out of some man-milliner's foolish novel, they are married, and at once burdened with cares, with responsibilities, the very thought of which makes conscientious men shudder — the slightest glimpse of which makes every man lose his temper. Talk of a campaign against the enemy! The General in the field has his staff; but here is a young creature of twenty, who is not only commander-in-chief, but commissary, and quarter-master, and adjutant-general into the bargain; whose campaigns are not relieved by winter-quarters; whose eyes must be in every part of the field all the time; whose pitched battles, called house-cleanings, are not followed by long periods of inactivity and rest, but are merely notable incidents in the daily and uninterrupted routine of vigilant and fatiguing skirmishes and minor engagements. And yet how few of these young Napoleons fail! How few but manage to beat the enemy! How bravely they lead in the very front of battle! How gallantly they cheer on their forces! How quickly they redeem their blunders! How circumspect; what vigilance, what skill, what genius they display! I protest I would rather plan a dozen campaigns than devise the breakfasts of a single month in any decent house.
It would not be difficult to show that all the qualities for which men most value men — which are exceptional in the male creature — are natural to and every where found in woman. For instance, the best part of courage is endurance; it is this quality which makes the noblest and most admired soldiers. But the first frail, tender woman you meet in the street has more of that than any dozen men. She will go to the dentist and have half her teeth pulled out and the remainder of them hammered, scraped, and filled, without a murmur. Ask any dentist who makes him the most trouble, and he will tell you the men. When a great steamer was burned on Lake Erie, some years ago, it was a woman who gave up to a man, her husband, the spar which could not float both, and sank, with only a " Good-by!" to her death. The woman who is ready to faint at sight of a spider has courage and presence of mind enough to scare off a tiger with her parasol.
That women are instinctively different from men every mother knows who has watched her boy and girl at play. It is not only that the boy is rough and the girl is gentle. The boy's
352toys are different from the girl's. The boy scorns dolls; the girl finds the drum a tiresome nuisance. The girl develops earlier than the boy, not only physically but mentally; she is "brighter," as we call it; she is arch where the boy is mischievous; more easily moved to tears of sympathy; readier witted — as she ought to be, being the weaker: less violent in temper. She develops at an astonishingly early period the maternal instinct, and fondles and dresses her dolls long before the boy exhibits a desire for a horse or a gun. Girls, I have observed, like flowers at an age when boys care only to pick them to pieces; they have a natural love for ribbons and other finery, which boys have not; and, so far as I have noticed, they care nothing for boots. In this last particular there would seem to be a radical difference between the sexes. Little girls, too, are more cleanly and neater than boys. They may have the same fondness for mud-pies, but in constructing them they soil their clothes less. A little girl's long locks are generally in better order than her brother's close-cut crop.
I think, too, that it would be difficult to make boys take to the needle and to quiet work, as girls do, without great violence to their natures. They pine for outdoor life, as though their blood required more oxygen. Girls, too, earlier learn the use of language; and I have noticed that they better understand the meaning and place of words than boys of the same age.
Nor can it be said that the love of dolls and like playthings is a result of modern civilization. The little girls of Rome amused themselves with dolls, as do those of New York; in Pompeii the doll is of frequent occurrence; and thousands of years ago, as to-day, the boy acted the soldier, while his sister played with toy-dishes and a baby-house.
Modesty is the distinguishing attribute of woman, as courage is said to be that of man. No traveler among savages has reported seeing women in a state of nudity. The barbarous Australian walks the earth as naked as when he came upon it; but his "gin," whether young or old, is covered.
The love of ornament is another distinctive trait of woman. It is shown in the child, and goes with her to old age. It is an instinct, and not a habit, and an instinct which the man has not, or but in a very small degree. There is here among mankind a curious reversal of the order of nature among the animals. There the male is always the most beautiful. The hen is plain, and almost slovenly; the cock gaudy, proud, and beautiful. This is so among all birds, and, so far as I know, among quadrupeds as well. See, for instance, the lioness, how unobtrusive, how plain, compared with the magnificence of the lion!
The love of ornament is found in women, even in the most savage races. It is the instinct which gives civilization its first hold upon barbarians — and very properly it is given to women, the guardians of civilization. Every where women wear the hair long: it is their first ornament. In the Pacific Islands the women come down to the beach, wearing flowers in their hair — the men look on and admire. It may be objected that tattooing among these Islanders is confined to men — but tattooing is not byway of ornamentation; it is a mark of rank, the equivalent of the stars and orders of a European noble.
Women are tender-hearted and humane, men savage. The story of Pocahontas is, with variations, repeated a dozen times in the history of our Indian wars in the West; and Mungo Park found women in the heart of Africa as kind and sympathizing as Cook and his companions found them among the cannibals of the Pacific. And here I may remark that no instance of female cannibalism is recorded by travelers. Cook indeed positively records that the women of the man-eating tribes be met were innocent of the practice; and it is known that among the Feejees and New Zealanders human flesh was taboo, or forbidden to the sex. Pork is in like manner taboo in New Zealand. Finally, it may be said that men admire courage, but women adore it; men love gentleness, but women despise it in the other sex, and scarce do it justice in their own. To the man the greatest reproach is cowardice, to the woman impurity; and rightly, for to her farther-seeing vision, no splendor of achievement, no magnificence of genius, can make up for lack of virtue. Women are conservative, men destructive; men create, women preserve; men kill, women save life; the courage of men leads to enterprise, but the greatest enterprises have been saved from ruin by the quick wit or the courage of a woman. Men temper their pity with judgment; women give theirs for sweet pity's sake alone, neither inquiring nor caring as to the merits of the case. Thus, I have noticed, the unsuccessful villain of a novel has generally the sympathies of the Lidy-reader — if only his misfortunes are great enough; and in real life your unsuccessful man is mostly found — by some divine law of compensation — the husband of a jewel of a woman, who fondly sees in him all the virtues which Dame Fortune delights in disappointing of reward. Women are quicker witted than men. They jump at a conclusion by instinct, which the man slowly and painfully reasons out. Mr. Buckle, in an admirable lecture on "The Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge," argued that "Women are more deductive than men, because they think quicker than men;" and he remarks that, "when you are in a foreign country, and speaking a foreign language, women will understand you quicker than men will; and for the same reason, if you lose your way in a foreign town, it is always best to apply to a woman, because a man will show less readiness of apprehension." Dr. Currie mentions in one of his letters that "when a laborer and his wife came together to consult him, it was always from the woman he gained the clearest and most precise information."
Men may have talent, but women have tact; men accomplish much with great exertion, but women move the world by unseen influence, and by work which neither shows nor exhausts. It is admitted that women are better judges of character than men; and this I conceive is partly owing to the fact, that in their instinctive judgment the question of morality has greater influence on the judgment than with men. A woman can not give you reasons for her decision, but it is generally correct; a man will overwhelm yon with reasons in favor of an erroneous conclusion. "Women have, all, many of the prominent traits or qualities which make up what we call genius in men; the great poets, the great artists, even the great conquerors, had all the woman's side of their nature strongly developed; and it has been often observed that almost every really great man owed his best points of character, those which made him powerful, to the mother.
Women live by faith; men by works. Women believe; men wait for proof. Mary went to the grave to seek the risen Saviour; but Thomas must lay his finger in the wounds before his stubborn doubts gave way. Men take the world by storm; women gain their point by slow and careful approaches. Men are impetuous — women persistent. Men are easily discouraged — women are patient and tenacious. Men are ready for change; the nomadic nature is strong within them. Women suffer by change; they do not bear transplanting well. Men are like dogs, they have a regard more for persons; women are like cats, who have a stronger affection for places. It would have been a trifle for a man to say to the widowed Naomi what Ruth said; and he who forgets this misses half the noble sublimity of her faithful sacrifice.
These differences are radical and characteristic. They are not the result of education or training, but inborn. There are others which may be set to the account of woman's physical weakness — and here come in her peculiar vices. Women are cunning, which is the fault of weak men also. They abhor the sight of blood more than men do; though this instinct is strong also in men, and even leads the pirate to force his victims to "walk the plank" in preference to shooting or stabbing them. So the woman bent on murder oftenest uses poison; and the notorious poisoners have been women. The learned jurist Hieronimus de Cavallos, caused to be printed in 1664, at Cologne, a work in which he gives a formal catalogue of the vices of women. The misogynist philosopher accuses them of inconstancy, love of scandal, pride, vanity, maliciousness, envy, curiosity, superstition, flattery, falsehood, suspiciousness, subserviency, hypocrisy. The list condemns itself, for there is scarce a vice mentioned, except the love of scandal, which is not common to men and women; and it may be added that women can not be accused of flattery, drunkenness, lasciviousness, quarrelsomeness, and other of the vices in which the hot blood and grosser nature of the man show themselves.
The crimes of women are in general caused either by love, jealousy, or vanity; those of men by covetousness, ferocity, and recklessness of character. The woman displays more cunning and ingenuity in their commission; the man, inferior animal that he is, works here, as in every thing else, by main strength and stupidness. The woman, with doubtless greater temptations, contributes vastly fewer to the number of criminals than the man; and it has been noticed in England, as well as here, that of reformed criminals the greater number are women — and this in spite of the fact that it is much more difficult for a woman once fallen, than for a man, to recover a place in society. Nor should I omit to notice here the fact, that in many countries acts have been counted criminal in women which were not noticed in men. Thus scandal-mongery, quarrelsomeness, and scolding, were punishable once all over Europe in women; and how many hundreds have suffered for the imaginary crime of witchcraft!
If I have taken pains to set forth in some detail the radical differences between man and woman, it is because I believe they have not received sufficient attention from those who discuss what is called the "Woman's Question;" and they are, after all, the facts on which we must base all reasoning. Nor must I omit to mention two more, which are in truth the most important of all. Women, at least in civilized countries, are not aggressive in their passions — while men are; and women have an instinct, that of motherhood, which men have not. The one makes women the conservators of virtue and morality, the other inspires them with the spirit of self-sacrifice, and is the corrector of every fault and vice in their character.
If now we ask what influence women have had on civilization, the simple answer is that they have made it — made it, that is to say, what it is. It is their peculiar qualities which make civilization possible; it is their love of ornament which gives employment to at least one half of the human race, and impels inventions and discoveries all over the world; it is their love of home which preserves and improves what at their demand is created; it is their love of virtue and morality which makes society possible. And it seems to me clear that women are influential not as they are like bnt as they are different from men, Mr. Buckle asserts that the women of Sparta who were educated in common with their brothers, and taught in the same exercises, had more influence than those of Athens, who were confined to the houses. I think it would be more correct to say that they had louder voices. But it is clearly not the women who cry aloud in the market-places who most trenchantly mould the character of society. Else must we give to Lais, Phryne, Aspasia, and Sappho, courtesans one and all, and public women in every sense, a merit above the quiet mothers who moulded the characters of Plato, Socrates, Demosthenes, and
354the other sages, long before these consorted with the women whom their companionship made famous. And who will say that Socrates did not gain more from the ill-conditioned Xantippe than from the most brilliant of the hetaerae? Nor are we to forget that the love of the Greeks was purely physical. Women had no real or elevating part in their civilization. The Greeks mocked at women; "instead of valuing them as companions they looked on them as toys," says Buckle, who goes on to remark that "in modern Europe the influence of women and the spread of civilization have been nearly commensurate, both advancing with almost equal speed." But among the ancient Greeks, "so far from women participating in this movement [the advance of civilization], we find that in the state of society exhibited by Plato and his contemporaries they had evidently lost ground; their influence being less then than it was in the earlier and more barbarous period depicted by Homer."
As to the influence of the loud-mouthed and somewhat dissolute women of Sparta — if I may return to that point for a moment — what was it? In what way did it improve, humanize, civilize those devourers of black broth? Did they ever succeed in improving even the black broth itself?
Women have made modern civilization. Without them society could not endure: without the influence of their pure and correct instincts all would go to wreck. That is the corrective — not the only one, but certainly the most powerful, for all the evils our civilization brings in its train. Woman is the conservative element in modern society. That country which has been called the modern Sodom — if to-day it is to be saved, it will be by the few pious women who remain, and whose influence is already, within two or three years, felt as a power — not in their own direct and manifest work, but in the results of their teachings and their prayers, upon the men, their sons, brothers, and husbands, who are beginning to speak, here and there, in corrupt France, in a language strange to many of their countrymen, but nevertheless full of force and bearing the seeds of great results — the hope of a moral regeneration. If this France, from which all moral purity seemed to have departed, is ever converted and purified, it will be saved by the unseen influence of a few good and noble women. In Sodom of old were not found ten righteous men; perhaps if Lot had been told to seek for a hundred pure women he could easily have found them.
But if women have made our civilization, it is worth while to ask what has their creature done for them? How has it rewarded them? There are who believe that it has given but little, and that grudgingly. But consider, for a moment, the places which woman has held from the beginning. Among the lowest savages she is the drudge. Ascending to the next stage of human development, we find her the breeder of children, valued chiefly for the quality of fecundity — to multiply and replenish the earth was the work assigned her. A stage higher, and she became the toy of man's passions and of his leisure. Yet another stage — a half stage rather — and we reach the Middle Ages, when woman was half toy, half idol, worshiped and defiled in the same breath. Then came the great Protestant Reformation; born, as Tetzel was fond of saying, of the wedding of a monk with a nun (Catherine Von Bora, Luther's wife), and assuredly never carried through had it not been for the courage and the wisdom of brave and wise women. From that day the place of woman has been that assigned her by God in Paradise — the companion of man.
And the equal? We can not make equals and superiors; Nature is the truest Democrat, You can not, by any thing you can do, by laws or enactments, make Smith the equal of Jones. You may indeed force them to be equal — but then they cease to be free. Why should women cry out to be equal when they are already superior?
Is this avoiding the question? Drudge, breeder, toy, idol, companion — is there no gain to woman from her work? The mistake which many make is to think that man has given all this to woman; that she is what he chooses to make her; that she accepts what he consents, for his own advantage and from his own good-nature, to give. So women take with bitterness of heart their place in life — and well they may, if they feel themselves beggars, and their life the bone flung to a dog. But the world gives nothing; the ancients pictured Fortune as a woman, partly because her favors are not given but must be conquered. What women are they have made themselves; their place they have achieved; they owe no thanks to men. What they are to be, is for women and not for men to decide. In the Journal of Master Albrecht Durer (1521) is this passage: "Master Gerhardts, illuminist in Antwerp, has a daughter about eighteen years old; her name is Susannah, and she has illuminated a parehment of a Saviour's head, for which I gave a florin. It is a great marvel that a woman could do so much!" Three centuries later, and Rosa Bonheur hangs her master-pieces in the places of honor in every Exhibition; but no one wonders "that a woman could do so much." Why? because she has done it. I said a while back that the stupid world had a curious reverence for facts; see here a proof. "Shall women be painters?" you ask the world, and it calmly replies, "Yes, if they will paint well." That is all. But if you insist that they shall paint, be it master-pieces or daubs, then the world shrugs its shoulders and says you lack common sense. For a painter, to the world, is a painter, a writer a writer, a worker a worker, and so far as the work goes, the world, which is extremely practical, and looks only to the results, does not want to know any thing about the sex of the producer. Those ingenious political economists, the bees, give us a
355curious example here. The workers in the busy hive are all neuter or sexless.
This is where certain women fall out with the world and exclaim against it. They want to work, not as workers but as women; but when they enter the arena they must lay aside that armor. In the fight of life there must be fair play. The world does not force women to it; if they will enter the lists, it demands that they shall submit to the conditions. They choose to be Marthas — but we remember that profound saying of Jesus, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her, "But Mary" sat at Jesus feet and heard his word. "There will be Marthas; there will be women, moved of their spirit to take upon themselves the work of the world; and the world accepts their services, and is grateful according to the excellence of what is accomplished. But it is grateful to the worker and not to the woman; and with an instinct as true as truth it still declares that "Mary hath chosen the better part."
What is that better part? Is it to sell dry-goods, to lecture, to paint, to plead in court? Is it to plow and hoe, to dig, to write novels? Is it better to be drudge? If I say that the one main advantage which women have gained from that advance in civilization of which they are the moving cause is exemption from the bitter struggle for bread, you will at once reply that in England, in America, in the countries we call most highly civilized, women are not thus exempt. But is this true? Consider for a moment why it is that women do not with us form a regular and constant part of the producing class. Why are they not workers as men are? Ask an engraver why he does not employ women; inquire why there are so few women compositors; why girls are not apprenticed as boys are; why master tradesmen, with the best will, yet refuse, after duo trial, to train girls as they do boys to special occupations? All who have tried — and they are more numerous in this country than is suspected — will tell you that it is because when a girl has, with much care, been taught a trade, she marries and is at once lost to the laboring community. I have received this reply in a dozen cases. Does it not prove the truth of my assertion? If you say, women do work — and at less advantage, that their labor is not for the most part skilled labor — I can only reply that they are the exceptions, and that the rule is still that women are exempt, in modern society, from the great struggle for bread and life.
Is it not good that they should be? The single effective argument for an aristocracy, inheriting wealth, exalted position, and political power, is that it perpetuates a class in the state which is placed above the temptations which assail those who can attain these only by their own efforts. An aristocracy is therefore, it is said, conservative of honor and honesty; it stands ready to condemn the faults and to check the vices engendered in the struggles of the mass. It is in this sense that women are the conservators of morals and manners in modern society. They do not enter into the fight, but stand aside in the shade; they are not carried away by the heat and turmoil of battle, but sit at home composed, unruffled, ready to wipe the fevered brow, to soothe the fervid blood, to heal the wounds, to send forth their heroes, on the morrow, refreshed, invigorated, calm, and equal to the conflict of the day. They are interested in the result, but not as those who bear arms and meet the enemy face to face; to them temptations come not, as to men who stand in the marketplace. They have time for thought; they have room for aspiration; the solitude of their lives forces them to look upward; and to many a poor tempted, beset, and troubled man the calm and holy face of his wife is a daily saviour from perdition. From her he draws tliat trust, that faith, that courage to do right, and to avoid wrong, which keep and guide him on his daily way, which preserve his soul from destruction.
It is not good for man to be alone. Never was this truer than now, in these latter days, when the battle of life grows more and more ardent; when business takes up so many daily hours of every roan's life; when the passions are excited in the eager race, and the blood boils daily. In this nineteenth century, when woman is more than ever before mistress and creator of the home, it is more than ever before necessary that there should be somewhere, for each one of us who take part in the great struggle for life, a monitor, calm, unmoved by the din and dust of the strife, to guide, to warn, to calm, and to inspire men to holier thoughts and less selfish works.
This is the place which woman has achieved in the nineteenth century. She does not fill it, do you say? So much the worse for her. It is the best she can do — the highest, the most beneficent work she can labor at. And who that has penetrated the life of our people, that knows what has maintained the moral tone, the virtue of the American nation — what true observer of our life, but sees that what is good in us we owe to our women, at whose knees we were taught, whose prayers surrounded our youth and manhood — the fragrance of whose unselfish and quiet virtues has lured us back from the fierce and selfish struggle for wealth — whose patient and pious wisdom has been, from the days of the mother of Washington to the present time, the safeguard and the real conservator of American society?
Foreigners complain that our women are petted and spoiled. But they mistake the deference we pay them for servility; and they do not perceive how important is the share which women have had in our rapid development — how vast the influence the mothers and sisters and wives of America have wielded, more especially in the free States, where they have been the civilizers of the rudest backwoods homes,
356the teachers of manners as well as morals. Had they been other or less than they were, American society, in many ways forced to rude and savage expedients, would have been despicable indeed, and free government would have become impossible in our States long ago.
Who raises the church and the school-house around which every new-born Western village is gathered? It is the women of the new settlement. Who has carried the arts and refinements of civilization from the East to the farthest West of far-off Minnesota? Our women. And in this hour of national trial, who has sent our million of men to the field but the women? And at what sacrifices to themselves! Nowhere in the world was ever a whole nation's womankind so tenderly cared for as with us; nowhere did women give up so much when they gave up husbands, brothers, and fathers, for their country. And yet, though merchants groan, though politicians cry out, though cowardly male creatures of every kind weep and wail over their woes and their sufferings, we have yet to hear the first word of repining from American women. They have suffered, they are suffering; they have lost not only those they loved best, but with these all that made life easy, endurable to them — and yet their brave hearts do not falter.
While our women are thus true, thus brave, thus wise, thus generous, thus self-sacrificing, let no one say they are spoiled by indulgence. And more, seeing what they have done for this nation, as mothers and wives, let no one think that as artists, in professions, or in the daily drudgery of business life they can do a better work. With us, they have chosen the better part. If there are Marthas still, who would be busy, the world is open, and each day public opinion grows more just to them who care to take part in affairs as workers. But let these not complain if men still give the preference to Mary.