« AnteriorContinuar »
ENGLISH WOMAN'S REVIEW.
No. CVIX.-MAY 15TH, 1882.
ART. I.-"THUS FAR SHALT THOU GO!" WHEN the courtiers of Canute the Great wished to pay the most servile adulation to their sovereign, they placed-80 the Anglo-Saxon chronicles tell us--his chair on the sea-shore when the tide was coming in, and prayed him to tell the sea to come no further. The monarch, more sagacious than his followers, knew the limit of his power, and was not astonished when the waves came creeping gradually up to, and round the foot of his throne, threatening to overwhelm him, and rebuked his courtiers for insolently laying claim to control the inevitable onward course of events.. The movement for raising woman in the social scale, strengthening her education, and improving her condition before the law, resembles in its steady advance during the present generation the progress of the incoming tide, when each wavelet seems to add but little to the general progress, but the advance of the whole is irresistible. A little more of Canute's common sense would not come amiss to the average statesmen and writers of the present day, as far as women are con-cerned. “Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther,” has been the cry for the last fifty years at each succeeding innovation that women have attempted. At each step they have declared that this alarming novelty must go no farther. Little by little they have pushed their
15th, 1882. hrones back like Canute the Great, but still as they recede they think they can give laws to the on-coming tide, and that the insurgent, or, we might almost say, expanding half of creation must surely, if the fiat be only thundered loudly enough, return to subordination.
The recent Election of Poor Law Guardians has furnished amusing instances of the difficulty with which the belief in woman's natural subordination to man is relinquished. One Chairman of a Board threatened to resign if a woman were elected; elsewhere they condescended to abusive handbills and unworthy election subterfuges. The most striking instance, however, of the lordly determination to put women back into their “proper place,” was shown at Clifton, in the leaflet which was issued to show why women should not be Poor Law Guardians. The train of argument is very suggestive: WHY LADIES SHOULD NOT BE ELECTED AS
Cases in which poverty and vice are interwoven are too often, unfortunately, brought quite unexpectedly under the notice of the Board. Such cases should not, and could not with decency, be discussed and adjudicated upon in the presence of Lady Guardians.
A lady as a public character is quite out of place; she shines, or ought to shine, at home, in the hearts of her household, and there reign triumphant.
It is a sad waste of time for women to take up public matters. For the most part they are not at all qualified for such a position, and consequently retard rather than advance public business.
Public questions are also calculated to make ladies mannish, and a mannish women is of all women the most disagreeable, and is generally avoided, if not by her own, at all events by the opposite sex. There is nothing more repulsive to a man than a mannish, strongminded woman.
No; home is the province of a woman, and home duties her most precious privilege.
George Macdonald truly says that “the most hurtful of all things under the sun is an unwomanly woman.”
66'T'is woman's right to counsel man in sorrow's crushing hour, Her right to raise his sinking heart by love's transcendent power, Her right upon life's troubled sea the darkest storm to brave, But not her right to guide our ships upon the ocean wave. 6'Tis women's right to call on map to cherish and protect, Her right to claim at every time his homage and respect,
Her right to lecture and be heard within domestic walls,
The first argument has been one frequently brought forward in opposition to the study of medicine by women in mixed classes. The modesty of the other medical students was outraged by the admission of female students to the same demonstrations and pathological demonstrations, but their modesty does not suffer in the least by attending these identical demonstrations and explanations round the bedside of a female patient. The very men who have inveighed loudest against the indelicacy and moral deterioration of any woman who practised medicine, have the chief of their practice among women patients. Similarly, the cases “where poverty and vice are interwoven,” which come before the notice of the Guardians, mostly concern women. The indecency, where it exists, is in bringing them to be “adjudicated upon in the presence of” men guardians, not in the presence of members of their own
Again, the assertion that the interference of women retards business is ludicrous with the constant spectacle before our eyes of the dead-lock of business in that House where no woman is qualified to set her foot. An eminent Home Rule member, on being told by some lady of a “woman's measure” which was to be pressed forward, exclaimed, “Why, this is obstruction!” We have heard of scenes of mutual recrimination and petty squabbling among the less important servants of the State, such as the Poor Law Guardians or Vestry-men, long before women members were thought of.
But the fundamental point of the whole argument is that which maintains that a woman shines, or ought to shine, in the hearts of her household. The terrible scarecrow of a “mannish" woman is held up for
reprobation, who is the most disagreeable of all women, and is “ generally avoided, if not by her own, at all events by the opposite sex. Dreadful penalty! Fortunately, there are a tolerably large number of women who are satisfied if they can purchase the gratitude and blessings of their own sex, even at the risk of becoming repulsive to the other women in whom the fear of God is
stronger than the fear of man. Perhaps, too, it has not always been found that a woman has lost the hearts of her household by devoting herself to the poor and needy. The woman of whom it was said that “her children rise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praiseth her," was the one of whom it was also said that she “stretched out her hands to the needy," and “opened her mouth with wisdom.” There are, we feel sure, very substantial compensations to a woman who faithfully and strong-mindedly does her duty in public life, which may even atone to her for being "repulsive" to some of the opposite sex.
“ Tis woman's right to call on man to cherish and protect,
Her right to claim at every time his homage and respect.' How has this right been answered? Our legislative halls are silent upon the subject, and only the reports of our police courts, and the hesitating and frequently half-hearted decisions of magistrates tell how feeble are the restraints on the British rough if he desires to infringe the rights of those he has promised to cherish and protect.
Women ought to be content without classical or scientific education,” “they ought to be satisfied to remain at home,” “they are not suffered to teach," "they are enjoined to keep silence," "they shall not be doctors or lawyers,” “they shall not vote" -all these objections have been raised like the little fortifications of sand which children dig upon the sea-shore, and all in their turn are being levelled by the in-coming waves. The logic of facts is pitiless. Women are able now to get sound education, they are practising as doctors, they are teaching, they are speaking in lecture halls and congresses, they are even going to most of the polling places to vote-but still the obstructionists, untaught by past lessons, raise their authoritative voices and say, " You shall come no further.”
ART. II.—THE LESSON OF THIRTY YEARS. POLITICAL Reform, when claimed on behalf of a class which has neither the moral weapon of the vote to support it, nor the physical force which even without the vote, renders itself feared and listened to, is slow of progress. True, it is only fifteen years since Mr. Mill brought forward his motion in the House of Commons of which the Law Times said “Having given to the question much thought, with the help of much experience, we are unable to suggest a single sound objection to the claims of female householders to vote.' But twice fifteen years have elapsed since at a Public Meeting of women this claim was made by a Woman's Association. After this lapse of time there is great interest in reading the following extract from the Sheffield Free Press, of Saturday, March 1st, 1851 :
" At a meeting of the Sheffield Female Political Association, on Wednesday evening, February 26th, 1851, held at Mr. G. Cavill's Democratic Temperance Hotel, 33, Queen Street, the following address was unanimously adopted:
TO THE WOMEN OF ENGLAND. BELOVED SISTERS.--We, the women of the democracy of Sheffield, beg the indulgence of addressing you at this important juncture. We have been observers for a number of years of the various plans, systems, and organisations, which have been laid down for the better government and guidance of democracy, which has had for its end the amelioration of the condition of all classes, and we are brought to the conclusion that women might, with the strictest propriety, be included in the proclamation of the people's charter; for we are the majority of the nation, and it is our birthrigat, equally with our brother, to vote for the man who is to sway our political destiny—to impose the taxes which we are compelled to pay—to inflict the laws which we are compelled to endure; and heartily should we rejoice to see the women of England uniting for the purpose of demanding this great right of humanity, feeling assured that were women thus comprehended, they would be