Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/398

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ning, becomes gradually superior to him, by the leisure which he creates for her and the use she makes of it, in intellectual cultivation, in the variety and extent of her knowledge, and by the lead which she is able to take and keep. She is the resultant of a concurrence of circumstances which have not yet been found united in a like degree anywhere else, and which have all contributed to make her a superior type of the race. In her are combined and fused the characteristic traits which, more specialized in the man, appear accentuated, magnified, exaggerated, as well by the free play of natural instincts as by the necessity of furnishing himself with arms in the struggle for existence and of demanding from them the maximum of force and of practical utility. In the woman these characteristics persist, but they are tempered and held in; she smooths their angles and polishes their facets, and of a dull pebble makes a precious stone. The constituent parts remain the same, but a judicious cutting sets the luster and beauty of the stone in clear relief.

Those who find more to blame than to approve in the American young woman, who are shocked at the freedom of her ways, at her independence, at her scorn of social conventions, at her luxurious tastes and her fondness for admiration, have often made those traits the text of their accusations against the democratic institutions of the United States. According to their reasoning, the result could not be otherwise, given the same premises as a point of departure, namely, the customary association of young women and young men, equality of the sexes raised to an axiom, abdication of parental dictatorship, independence of children, and freedom of matrimonial choice. The eccentricities noticed by them are, in their view, the inevitable consequences of a democracy hostile by instinct to the principle of authority, endeavoring to reduce it everywhere to its minimum of action and control, extolling equality with an apostolic zeal and practicing it with the fervor of a neophyte. And now these pretended apostles of equality, these self-styled levelors of privilege, have ended with re-establishing inequality with the advantage on the woman's side, with making her the eminently privileged person, and, reversing the Asiatic conception, of elevating her into a despot and converting the man into a subject. It seems to us, however, that the influence of political institutions on social habits has been very much exaggerated. Unstable and mobile, the former change at the caprice or the passions or the necessities of the moment. Not so with that aggregation of usages and customs which rests upon uninterrupted traditions, upon a long transmission. They undergo modification, but slowly; they are the results of the experience of centuries, and never proceed by jumps in their evolution. More of the fundamentally primitive than is usually believed re