By LUCY M. HALL, M.D.,
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PHYSIOLOGY AND HYGIENE AND PHYSICIAN TO VASSAR COLLEGE.
THE address of Dr. Withers Moore, President of the British Medical Association, delivered before a general meeting of that body, August 10, 1886, has attracted very wide attention. The importance of the subject with which the paper deals can not be overestimated. A few quotations will best show what it is and what are the views of the author upon it:
"Education is very expensive, physiologically as well as pecuniarily, and growing girls are not rich enough to bear the expense of being trained for motherhood" (the italics are my own), "and also that of being trained for competition with men in the severer exercises of the intellect. Woman should be protected from the rude battle of life by the work and labor of man. ... It is not good for the human race that women should be freed from the restraints which law and custom have imposed upon them, and should receive an education intended to prepare them for the exercise of brain-power in competition with men. . . . Bacon, for want of a mother, will not be born. She who should have been his mother will, perhaps, be a distinguished collegian," etc.
The report goes on to say that "Dr. N. S. Davis, of Chicago, cordially sympathizes with these sentiments, and said that in America they had abundant evidence of their truth." And a late number of "Science" adds: "There are two channels of expenditure of physiological force in woman—the terrible strain of higher and professional education, . . . and the expense of being properly trained for motherhood."
Surely no one would be more ready than I to accept the conclusions of Dr. Moore and his supporters could I but be convinced that they have been drawn from reliable data, and presented in an unprejudiced manner.
It is true beyond question that in America the small and rapidly diminishing numbers in the family is a matter of grave national import. Dr. Nathan Allen has written much upon this subject, especially in connection with the New England States, but the difference in this regard between those States and other localities where the families are purely American is very slight. Presuming that physical laws operate much in the same manner upon both sides the Atlantic, we shall confine our discussion to American soil, and thus endeavor to find just what basis we have for accepting the theories which have been forced upon our notice, to discover in what the "abundant evidence" of Dr. Davis lies; or, failing in this, to seek for the kernel of truth in some other direction.