Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/23

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13
THE RELATIONS OF WOMEN TO CRIME.

and that the single and married female criminals exist in nearly equal proportions, we can reach but one conclusion, that marriage exists as a restraining influence against crime more strongly among men than women. I think this result is opposed to the preconceived opinion of the majority, of the effect of marriage upon women. Marriage for women has ever been regarded as a preliminary condition to reform. This is the result of the sentimentalism which has entered into the solution of many social problems. Marriage is not unmixed good. Lecky says of it, that "beautiful affections which had before been latent are evoked in some particular forms of union, while other forms of union are particularly fitted to deaden the affections, and pervert the character."[1] Woman's keenly emotional nature is well disposed to be exalted or depraved by marriage. It seems hardly possible to reach the true causes of the nearly negative results of marriage upon the morality of women by a study of the character of this sex alone. In women, rather than men, are mirrored the lights and shadows of society. Mentally she is the plastic material which takes its form from the protean phases of life around her. She is spiritually the resultant of her moral atmosphere. I believe these influences are more potent in forming her character than man's, from the nature of her dependent circumstances. With man's opportunity for objective life, he can remove himself, partly at least, from the moral surroundings; and by identifying himself both bodily and mentally with labor, which has for its object, usually, something to be attained in the future, he has loop-holes to escape from impressions received from others, which with a more subjective life would result in introspection, by which the mind is familiarized with the criminal idea.

From the same source we may gain additional facts as to the negative effect of marriage upon the morality of women. In the tables referred to, involving in the aggregate an excess of males over females of about two to one, we find the number of widowed females over males in the same social state to be nearly double. It is impossible to state specifically the nature of the crimes involved in this excess; but it probably represents, in a great measure, offenses against property. The social condition of widowhood in the average woman is not conducive of morality; and yet we have already shown that actual marriage is attended with nearly negative results. From this we may gain an idea of the extent to which women are the victims of circumstances at the beginning of their criminal career. The figures we have been analyzing represent crime in a great city. Under this condition, the excess in the number of widows represents probably cases of complete destitution. The fact that this excess of widows had no means of coping with this difficulty, except by a resort to crime against property, renders the conclusion safe that not only marriage had not developed in them a condition favorable to morality, but had actually

  1. Loc. cit. vol. ii., p. 369.