Popular Science Monthly/Volume 23/July 1883/Editor's Table

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 23 July 1883  (1883) 
Editor's Table



OUR friend Dr. Dix Has deserted us. We have received divers sarcastic congratulations upon our new ecclesiastical alliance, implying that we had made no great acquisition, but we could not anticipate that we should be left in the lurch so soon. We were taken with the impressive declamation about the supremacy of the home sphere in the life of woman, and when Dr. Dix said, "These considerations give the turn to every thought of ours about woman's work"—and of course the preparation for it, we supposed that this was a living and stable conviction to be consistently carried into practice whenever opportunity arose. But, if we rightly interpret subsequent developments, our confidence was sadly misplaced.

For no sooner had Dr. Dix made proclamation of his views on the woman question, than a rare opportunity was afforded him to reduce them to application in a large and influential way. The Association for the Promotion of the Higher Education of Woman, in New York, had petitioned the authorities of Columbia College to admit women to their institution that they might obtain this "higher education." The petition was referred to a committee, of which Dr. Dix was chairman, and he is declared to be the author of the report that was made upon the subject. It was decided not to admit women to co-education, and it was further declared that Columbia was not able to establish an adjunct institution for the use of female students; but it was offered that, if the women or their friends would provide their own separate accommodations, Columbia College would take charge of the teaching; and, in anticipation of this possible event, the committee prepared such a scheme of studies as it deemed suitable for the purpose in view, viz., to afford woman the facilities for a "higher education" than is now assumed to be available.

Dr. Dix, as we have intimated, drew up this report and framed the curriculum approved by the committee. The situation was thus in every respect most favorable for putting female education upon a higher and more rational basis, and conforming it to the requirements of the feminine character as a preparation for woman's practical life. There were no trammels, the institution was to be newly constituted, and there was no reason for not appealing to first principles in shaping the scheme of studies and embodying all that has been gained in the progress of education. Moreover, there were abundant precedents for shaping the course of studies to the highest ends of practical usefulness. Columbia College has already appended to it a group of colleges devoted to applied knowledge—a mining school, a medical school, a law school, a school of arts, and a school of political science. There was therefore full freedom to construct a new curriculum for female students designed to do whatever a "higher education" can accomplish for the improvement and elevation of woman.

It might have been thought most fortunate that the subject was mainly in the hands of a man who had given special and earnest attention to the question, and avowed fundamental convictions which had a potent and salutary bearing upon the result to be attained. Dr. Dix had said: "The place and work of woman in this world are a place and work in social life; and her place and work are not those of the man." He had said: "Whatever it be in thought, deed, or will that works among us now to break up the home, to make the home idea mean and contemptible in the eyes of woman, or to unfit her for domestic duties, and disgust her with her proper work, whatever now acts on her high wrought nature, her ambition, her self love, to turn her steps away from the home-life, and inflate her with visions of a career in the public places outside—this, whatever it be, is working against the best interests, the hope, the happiness of the human race." Could it be imagined that one who had so vivid a conception of womanly nature and destiny, such an appreciation of the higher sphere of her legitimate activities, and so earnest a conviction of the perverting influences to which she is exposed, would frame a working scheme explicitly designed to mold the feminine character in which these guiding ideas are wholly ignored? Yet this is the anomalous fact. Drawing up a plan of culture specifically for a sex, nay, for "the sex," the all-controlling element of sex and its vital implications are passed by as if they had no existence. Dr. Dix has prepared a programme of feminine collegiate study in which there is no more recognition of the claims of the home as an object of cultivated thought than there is in the curriculums of colleges exclusively for men. He proposes a course of training which will preoccupy woman for at least a dozen of her most impressible years with a range of acquisitions that have no definite or distinct relation to home interests, and in which the "certificated" young lady can come out as proficiently ignorant of all these matters as the "graduated" young gentleman. His programme, which embraces nine groups of subjects[1] to occupy four college years, and involves an elaborate preparation for entrance, has not even a corner for physiology, not to speak of other subjects which should be fundamental in any rational system of higher female education.

The satirical writer on education must have had Dr. Dix's plan in view in penning the following well-known passage: "If by some strange chance not a vestige of us descended to the remote future save a pile of our school-books or some college examination-papers, we may imagine how puzzled an antiquary of the period would be in finding in them no indication that the learners were ever likely to be parents. 'This must have been the curriculum for their celibates,' we may fancy him concluding.' I perceive here an elaborate preparation for many things, especially for reading the books of extinct nations and of co-existing nations (from which, indeed, it seems clear that these people had very little worth reading in their own tongue); but I find no reference whatever to the bringing up of children. They could not have been so absurd as to omit all training for this gravest of responsibilities. Evidently, then, this was the school course of one of their monastic orders.'"



Although all the world has been abundantly apprised of the fact, yet there is pleasure in still repeating that the opening of the new and splendid bridge over the East River, connecting the cities of Brooklyn and New York, on the 24th of May, was a most successful affair. The grand structure, a monument alike of the marvelous progress of science and art, of constructive genius, and of business enterprise, was recognized by all as a credit to the generation, and the impulse was spontaneous and universal to join in the tributes of honor to the founders and promoters of the enterprise, living and dead, on the occasion of the completion of the work. Business was therefore widely suspended in the two cities; the day of opening became a holiday, and countless thousands of the people gathered to witness the impressive ceremonies, and to express the enthusiastic gratification that filled all minds at the triumphant event. The ceremonies were appropriate and imposing. Parades and salutes, festivities and fire-works, and all the demonstrative accompaniments of high satisfaction, made the day and night memorable among popular celebrations. The oratorical garnishing was, of course, profuse, varied, and excellent, for the theme was well calculated to bring out eloquence of utterance. But the address of Hon. A. S. Hewitt was perhaps the most felicitous feature of the day. It was simple, pertinent, instructive, and timely, in the considerations suggested by the completed undertaking. It is not often the happy fortune of a man to put the trimmings on a great occasion with such fine propriety as did the oratorical representative of New York in consummating its closer alliance with Brooklyn. We print this speech, and also a brief article on the statistics of the bridge, which, however, can not be authoritative and complete till the issue of the final official report.



Dr. Lucien J. Blake returns to this country at the present vacation from Berlin, where he has been studying physics in the university laboratory of Professor Helmholtz, as a Tyndall Scholar, for the past two years. He has distinguished himself in original work, and will be prepared to take an honorable position as professor in an American college. With the resignation of Dr. Blake there will be two vacant scholarships of the Tyndall Trust Fund, the revenue of which is devoted to the aid of American students of promise who desire to obtain Continental facilities for training in physical investigation. It will be remembered that Professor Tyndall consecrated the total profits of his American lectures ten years ago to this noble object. The proceeds of those lectures, beyond the payment of necessary expenses, he refused to regard as belonging to himself, but left them as a fund in the hands of trustees to be used for the benefit of American young men of capacity and ambition, to prepare themselves for a life of original experimental work in physical science. The provision was wise as it was generous, for while, on one hand, the students of pure science are without the strong incitements of pecuniary reward for their labors, on the other hand, the encouragements to scientific study are too often in the direction of its immediate utilities. Aw r are of the strong temptation in these times to cultivate science from the lower motives, Professor Tyndall has lent the influence of his example, his teachings, and his substantial earnings to stimulate and sustain those youthful devotees of scientific truth who would pursue the work of research from the simple and elevated motive of a desire for the extension of valuable knowledge. Those wishing to obtain the benefits of the Tyndall Fund should apply to its trustees, Professor Joseph Lovering, of Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts; President F. A. P. Barnard, of Columbia College, New York; and the senior editor of this periodical.



Dr. Emily Blackwell discusses the industrial position of woman in a way that appears to us especially significant at the present time. We said not long ago, "If there is one thing that pervades and characterizes what is called the 'woman's movement' it is the spirit of revolt against the home, and the determination to escape from it into the outer spheres of activity that will bring her into direct and open competition with men." This statement has been criticised as unjust; but we certainly did not mean to intimate that there may not be many women thoroughly enlisted in the "woman's movement," and who, nevertheless, retain a strong home interest. Our statement was general, and simply affirmed a widespread tendency, the unmistakable drift of which, we think, the article on "The Industrial Position of Woman" decisively illustrates.

It will be seen that Dr. Blackwell writes as a student of social tendencies. She appeals to the primitive condition of society, falls back upon the law of progress, and forecasts the results of its future working upon domestic life. The industrial progress of mankind, as is well known, has been carried forward by the division of labor, in which, through greater proficiency of specialized work, improved machinery, and efficient organization, the productive capacities of society have been much diversified and augmented. Dr. Blackwell's argument is that this great social tendency has taken effect upon the domestic sphere, and must take much further effect by removing those forms of domestic labor with which women have been so long burdened, to the outside sphere of business organization. She maintains that woman must follow out these industries into the outer field of competition, or be left without the means of subsistence; while, by thus getting rid of all work hitherto called domestic, she will achieve her liberation from that home bondage of which she has so long been the victim. The social movement here referred to has two effects—the enlargement of external competition for woman, and a corresponding diminution of the internal sphere of home occupation. We must very briefly object to Dr. Blackwell's views upon both points.

As to the industrial tendencies of social evolution invoked by Dr. Blackwell, she seems to have left out the most important, and, indeed, in this case, an all-determining consideration. While the common differentiations of industry are a result of progress, that between the sexes is not a result of progress. The division of labor between the sexes is primordial—older and deeper than all social development, and a fundamental condition to it. Any one who will consult the comprehensive "Cyclopædia of Descriptive Sociology," by Herbert Spencer, and refer to the operative division of his tabular summaries, will find superabundant proofs that in the very lowest stages of all savage societies there was a fundamental and universal separation in the active spheres of the sexes, so that "no division of labor except that between the sexes" becomes almost a stereotyped formula. Men devoted themselves to hunting, fishing, and war, for the maintenance of the life of the tribe, while women cooked the food, made the clothes, took care of the children, and occupied themselves chiefly with the drudgeries of the rude home. Thus, before industries began to take any separate shape, there was already a division of occupations so broad and clear as to be evidently grounded in the nature of things, and all the subsequent progress of mankind has been achieved in subordination to it. The first great specialization of human activities is, therefore, not a product of social evolution. We have here to do with a fact of exceptional import^ deeply grounded in the constitution of things, and not to be studied as an effect of social progress. And in its essential quality, moreover, this separation of the spheres of action of men and women is totally different from the ordinary differentiations of industry. The historic relation of the sexes, in regard to their distinctive spheres of action, is a non-competitive relation. The family arose not merely by a union of the sexes in marriage, but by a union of interests which made their respective spheres of occupation supplementary to each other. There is here no industrial rivalry, but the common ambition centers in the prosperity of the home. This is the fixed order observed equally in all stages of progress. As men fished, hunted, and fought in the pre-industrial stages of society, while women were occupied with the domestic cares, so the men still labor without, struggling with their fellows in the arena of business, and earning wealth which it is their pleasure and pride to expend upon the home and for the advantage of the family, while wives and mothers co-operate in the household sphere, contributing their indispensable and co-equal share to the common domestic welfare. But the relation of woman throughout has not only been non-competitive, but the fundamental fact in the case is that it has been a relation of protection. Not more in the predatory life of the savage than in the highest civilized life, woman has been the protected sex. Her security, and through it the maintenance of the social order, and the progress that has resulted, have not arisen from the independent competitive struggles of woman, but from the identification of her interests with those of man, through the division of their spheres of action. We await the reasons which are to convince us that these deeply-grounded relations must not continue throughout the future of humanity. The precipitation of woman into the outer world of conflicts, where the strongest have their way, would involve a dissolution of human society, and is not even possible as an experiment. Granting that the protection of woman has always been, and is still, very imperfect, progress must consist in making it more perfect, and not in subverting the order of which it is a natural and necessary part.

And now let us note the correlative effect upon the home of Dr. Blackwell's thorough-going social reform, and point out its radical error. She says: "There is no reason why what is now done by domestic service should always continue to be so done. As weaving and tailoring have gone, so the making of women's and children's clothing is now going. There is no reason inherent in the nature of things why washing, cooking, mending, etc., should not go also, and be done by business organizations from outside, instead of by domestic service. Thus domestic work will be reduced to the minimum, to that part most intimately connected with the personal life of the family. The need of domestic service will diminish in the same proportion, and the problem it presents will be solved by its diminution or gradual disappearance." But this process of the "gradual disappearance" of domestic activities and their relegation to outside organization is to be carried still further, so as to remove from the home the nurture of even "very young children." "There is nothing which would seem more absolutely dependent upon the mother than the care and training of very young children. Yet the careful study of the best modes of training these early years, which has come in with the Kindergarten, shows how far the nursery alone is from meeting their needs; how early and how much skilled teachers, other children, a variety of apparatus—that is, outside help—are desirable for the best interests of the child, as well as for the assistance of the mother."

It is not surprising that Dr. Blackwell should anticipate the very natural objection "that so radical a change in the conditions of household work must imply the destruction of the home as we at present understand it." She intimates that the dread is illusive, but she by no means replies to the objection. And that the logic of her position leads inevitably to this result is undeniable. For, when the process of removing all that can be removed from the domestic sphere, and handing it over to outside organization, is completed, not a remnant of family life "as we at present understand it" can remain. As spinning and weaving, brewing and drying fruits, tailoring and knitting, butter and cheese making, have gone, so washing, mending, sewing, and cooking can go also in the same way, and the sick can be sent out to the hospitals. And when the Kindergarten becomes a state institution, and "compulsory education" takes away the "very young children" to be cared for by outside arrangements, and all kinds of domestic occupation are thus eliminated, it might appear that the home has been reduced to its minimum as a place for the bare organic processes of gestation and lactation. But will progress, under such heroic interpretation, leave even this shred of a domestic sphere? Is not the stirpiculturist abroad with his lamentations over the evils of the unregulated multiplication of human beings, and is he not predicting the time when human perfection shall be attained through the total disappearance of present domestic relations, and their better discharge under the control of outside organization? Dr. Blackwell declares that the personal relations in the family are "a fixed and constant element"; what is her warrant for the declaration in the light of the slow-working progress she invokes.

Dr. Blackwell's argument rigidly carried out would sweep the family and the home out of existence, and merge it in the outside life of society, where all regulation falls within the province of the state. Her reasoning goes to the most chimerical lengths through a failure to recognize that there is a permanent sphere of legitimate distinctive womanly work. Her affirmations that "there is no one kind of work which absolutely belongs to domestic life," and that "there is no necessary connection between domestic life and domestic work" can not for a moment be accepted as true. They are no more true than would be the proposition that there is no necessary connection between life and work at all. There are plenty of people who live and never work, but it remains true that human life is inexorably conditioned upon work. There are women who never do domestic work, who abandon the home, and live in hotels; but it is still true that domestic work is a condition and necessity of home-life—sotrue that, if domestic work disappears, the home is impossible. If there is a house, there must be housekeeping; if there are children, they must be cared for; if there are invalids, they must be nursed; if there is food, it must be prepared, and all these things involve work as a simple practical necessity. Because there has been a great deal of foreign and unfeminine work carried on in the household is no reason for asserting that there is no such thing as proper feminine domestic work. The home has, of course, been burdened by these industries, and women made drudges to them, and we all bid Godspeed to their exodus. But for what reason? That woman may be released from exhausting, unfeminine occupations, togive more strength to the proper performance of her legitimate duties as wife, mother, and household administrator. Weaving, cheese-making, and domestic manufactures stand in no relation to the essential nature and characteristic duties of woman. Such occupations have robbed her of leisure for self-improvement, and want of suitable culture has hitherto prevented the mass of women from properly performing the duties which lie in the very heart of home. Every step of progress from the primitive state to the present has been in the direction of woman's emancipation from the hardships of physical labor, and coincident with this relief there has been an improvement in her nature, the gentler virtues appear and the finer qualities of the feminine mind are developed. But the ideal of womanhood toward which such considerable progress has been made is not the fine lady, idle of hand and brain, the gadding and gossiping woman of leisure and society, who evades or discharges with wretched incompetence the cares and responsibilities of domestic life. Womanly talent and cultivation are demanded in the line of strictly feminine occupations, that the home shall become more and more instead of less and less in the social life of the future.

We have no space here even to enumerate the varied forms of womanly activity involved in the home, when all its extrinsic burdens are removed. That which progress must bring us is not exemption from them, but their more intelligent and congenial performance. The adequate education of woman for the home sphere we have never had, and it is now resisted with all the power of traditional habit and all the influence of the old educational ideals and the organized systems of study. Men are educated by the newer colleges for their special work in life; women never! The prejudice against studying things domestic, although the problems opened are many and of the deepest intellectual interest, abides with a strange inveteracy. Dr. Blackwell recognizes no amelioration of the home through intelligent preparation for it. Though education is now the standard solvent of all the difficulties in our civilization, she concedes to it no potency in renovating and developing home-life. She asserts, indeed, that women must have technical training for the sphere of outside competition, but nothing is said of its need as a preparation for domestic activities. As long as the home endures, it is to continue the stronghold of servility and degradation. Progress is to do wonders, but the home must remain the asphyxiating Black-Hole of menial ignorance and stupidity as lasting as may be the vestige of the institution. There are perhaps not many who will go to this visionary extreme, but in so far as the "woman's movement" exemplifies the feeling it merits unsparing condemnation.


  1. Dr. Dix's college course for women: 1. The English language and literature. 2. Modern languages and foreign literature. 3. The Latin language and literature. 4. Greek language and literature. 5. History and political science. 6. Moral and intellectual philosophy. 7. Mathematics. 8. Physics, chemistry, and hygiene. 9. Natural history, geology, paleontology, botany' and zoölogy.