Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/75

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71
THE POSITION OF WOMEN IN CHINA

THE POSITION OF WOMEN IN CHINA
By Dr. L. PEARL BOGGS
URBANA, ILLINOIS

SOME sage has said "A nation stands as high as its women." In making up an estimate of China at a time when she is earnestly desiring recognition as a republic, it may not be out of place to consider the position of women with a view to judging the chances which the new government has for stability.

Every one is familiar with the story and the personality of the late Empress Dowager, who, for nearly half a century, swayed the destiny of China's 400,000,000 people at perhaps the most critical times in their country's history. It was during the first years of her regency that the formidable Taiping rebellion was finally put down, thus insuring the integrity of the empire from within. It was also during her term of power that China suffered many humiliating experiences at the hands of foreign countries, including Japan, but nevertheless China as an empire was left practically intact. During her last term of regency, the government committed itself to modern western education and to constitutional government. It was a powerful personality that could hold the empire to the old way when a vigorous young party was striving to uproot old customs and law, and in turn could bring the old conservative party to heel when the change to new ways was finally determined upon. This could not have happened where women have no rights, honor or privileges.

What the empress did in her exalted station, any strong woman can do in whatever station she may be born. We hear, therefore, of women occasionally becoming the head of a family or clan, for something of the old-style patriarchal family is the prevalent form in China and is composed of grandparents, married sons and their families, and perhaps also younger brothers or cousins. The three submissions of which one hears so much in the orient, means that a woman must submit to the authority of the head of the family, be he her father, husband or son. A woman does not usually become the head of a family unless she is the widow of the former head and she rises to this position only if she is the strongest personality by far in the group. The writer does happen to know a forceful young Chinese woman who is known all over the country side as "the Christian girl who runs a farm alone and is the head of a family." Before her, the grandmother had been the ruler of the clan and had been honored by the erection of a "pailow," or three stone arches, by order of the emperor.

But in the main it is due to her position as the mother and grandmother of sons that she is honored, and every Chinese woman prays