Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/17

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
7
THE RELATIONS OF WOMEN TO CRIME.

and each of which must have a marked influence on sporadic cases of crime, and especially upon the creation of the criminal habit. But, much as these modifying circumstances have to do with the question before us, yet returns involving these particulars are so imperfect that we are able to get but a hint of the extent to which each acts.

(1.) Occupation, as it places woman above temptation to the minor degrees of crime, or as it brings her more closely in contact with constantly-recurring temptations, becomes an important factor. It is evident that these conditions must exist in the lives of both sexes, and have their influence on the frequency of crime and the nature of the offense. Thus in an official return[1] quoted by Quetelet, in which the offenders are classified by occupation, the accused of the eighth class who all exercised liberal professions, or enjoyed a fortune, are those who have committed the greatest number of crimes against persons; while eighty-seven hundredths of the accused of the ninth class, composed of people without character, as beggars and prostitutes, have attacked scarcely any thing but property. When the accused are divided into two classes, one of the liberal professions, and the other composed of journeymen, laborers, and servants, this difference is rendered still more conspicuous.[2] This is sufficient to render the broad inference probable that want or necessity induces but the minor degrees of crime against property, while the more serious phases of crime belong to the opposite conditions of society, or have their mainspring in other motives. In the Compte Général de l'Administration de la Justice, the occupation of the accused is given by sex, and under the article Domestiques we find one hundred and forty-nine men and one hundred and seventy-five women employed as personal servants, nearly all of whom were accused of the minor degrees of crimes against property. These proportions for this occupation hold about the same relations from year to year. As persons so engaged are maintained generally by their employers, want could not have existed as a motive for these offenses. Cupidity, or the desire to appear well, with the facility of its gratification, afforded by occupation, is the probable motive, and, making allowance for the slight excess of women so employed, exists in almost equal intensity in both sexes.

From what we know of the inadequate pay attending many of the employments in which women are engaged, it is safe to say that irresistible temptation is often the result. In the larger cities there are thousands of women, reaching from youth to advanced life, who are but just able to provide themselves with the necessities of life by labor extending over more than half of the hours in the day. Many of these have others dependent upon them, which must add very much to the tendency to the minor forms of crime. But the tendency to crime arising from inadequate pay is twofold. It may not be sufficient to meet necessary bodily wants, or barely sufficient, or, as is too gen-

  1. "Rapport au Roi," 1829.
  2. Loc. cit., p. 85.