Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/18

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
8
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

erally the case, it is insufficient to supply those matters of personal adornment and comforts of surrounding, small as many of them are, which are so necessary to contentment. This tendency to adornment either in person or surroundings must be looked at seriously as a sexual mental trait in women. They need but to reach the rudimentary stage of education to have developed in them æsthetic tendencies, and which in many seem to exist innately. This feeling is also closely allied to that personal pride which is such a safeguard against the encroachments of vice. This pride of person is to many a struggling woman what a moral atmosphere is to others. To the one it is an instinct which keeps her from the degradation, and that conduct which leads to it; to the other it is the moral force which surrounds her and lifts her above the opportunities for evil. Viewed in this light, personal pride, as expressed in the adornment of person and home, may replace the purely moral sense to a certain extent. But pushed beyond the point at which it contributes to correct conduct, and allowed to exist solely as a sexual trait, it may become a strong incentive to crime. There is no reason to doubt but it is mainly the cause which makes crimes against property so nearly equal in the sexes among French domestics just alluded to. A mere desire for luxury would not be liable to develop in one never at any time of life exposed to its enervating influence, as the mass of working-women spring from parents who are also toilers, so that we may safely conclude that want, or a personal pride to appear better than others in the same station, is the most active cause of crime among underpaid women who have inherited no criminal taint.

The massing of large numbers of women at manufacturing centres is a circumstance from which spring many conditions which render the minor degrees of crime easy of commission. It is a singular fact that a great preponderance of numbers in one sex over the other, unrestrained by ties of family, and without the natural dependence of the different occupations and stations of life upon each other, almost invariably defines a locality in which the various forms of crime exist to excess. This has long been remarked of places in which the number of men greatly exceeds the number of women, but little attention has been called to the same condition as resulting from the preponderance in numbers of the other sex. Any one who has inquired into the causes of the social evil must have been struck by the numbers who admitted they had taken the first steps of their career in the populous manufacturing towns where an excessive number of their own sex was employed. There is this marked difference: an excess in the number of men leads to an increase of crimes against persons, while an excess of women increases crimes against property, in both cases relatively as to sex. I see no way, in our present knowledge of the subject, of explaining this, other than that a healthy tone of society demands an even balance of the different occupations and stations,