Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/192

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178
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

self-control—always under restrictions bounded by her sex and its future possible function. Or, if she disregards these restrictions, and goes in for competitive examinations, with their exhausting strain and feverish excitement—if she takes up a profession where she will have to compete with men and suffer all the pain and anxiety of the unequal struggle—let her then dedicate herself from the beginning as the vestal of knowledge, and forego the exercise of that function the perfection of which her own self-improvement has destroyed. We can not combine opposites nor reconcile conflicting conditions. If the mental strain consequent on this higher education does waste the physical energies, and if the gain of the individual is loss to the race, then must that gain be sacrificed or isolated.

Of course, it all depends on that if; and of this experts are the only trustworthy judges. We must be guided by the better knowledge of specialists and those who have studied in all its bearings a subject of which we know only one side, and that side the one turned to our own desire. If one examiner[1] reports that "of the boys twentynine per cent, and of the girls forty-one per cent, were found to be in a sickly state of health"; if another,[2] in confirmation, says that "11,6 per cent of boys and girls in the St. Petersburg schools suffer from headache," we must suppose there is something to be taken note of in the opposition of most medical men to this higher education of women. For we must put out of court, as unworthy of serious consideration, that old, well-worn accusation of man's opposition to woman's advancement from jealousy, tyranny, the desire of domination, and the preference of slaves and mistresses over companions and wives. We must accept it as part of all sane argument that people desire the best—ideas as to what is the best differing according to the point of view; as now in this very question under consideration, where the individual gain clashes with the good of the community, and the personal advantage of the woman hurts her usefulness as a mother. We must acknowledge, too, that experts know better than the unlearned; and that, in matters of health and the wisest rules for physical well-being, medical men are safer guides than girls ambitious for their own distinction, or women ambitious for their sex—holders, too, of the doctrine of absolute equality in mental strength with men, and of free trade in all employments and careers.

A great deal of the difficulty surrounding the question of woman's employment could be got over by women themselves. If, instead of degrading their own more natural work by the social ostracism of the workers, they would raise it by respect and honor, large fields of productive usefulness would be opened and much cause for heart-burning would cease. The greater democracy of the present age makes it pos-

  1. Dr. Hertel, speaking of over-pressure in the high-schools of Denmark.
  2. Professor J. N. Bystroff. Both quoted by Dr. Withers-Moore in his speech at the British Association.