Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/354

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342
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

days biologized, it rests back upon the great physical fact that women for all time must be prepared to bear and rear the children of the race. Granting that much of her physical disability is due to various sorts of foolishness and may be removed, it remains undeniable that in even the most normal of women the reproductive system is by nature so constituted that it requires a much larger proportion of her vitality than is the case with man. Hence, leaving out of account all other possible variations between the sexes, this difference alone is a definite handicap to all women who "compete" with men. For married women there is the further fact that childbearing and the care of children add a new and very serious handicap in any "competition" with men.

If, then, woman is physically at so great a disadvantage in many occupations, shall she not consider that these occupations are, for her, but secondary issues? For her specialty shall she not look along the line of least resistance? Instead of denying her physical constitution, shall she not exalt it by a consistent allegiance to its fundamental significance? Notwithstanding the present apotheosis of the physical sciences, woman will not rest satisfied in a purely physical explanation of her destiny. Bitter rebellion is inevitable whenever she is confronted by her physical limitations and possesses not the spiritual key to their meaning. But a spiritual significance in the life of woman has been more or less felt in all times, and in the present it is not only tacitly conceded by society in general, but it has received definite scientific formulation. From their physical constitution women more than men must inevitably sacrifice themselves for the progress of the race. Unconscious and unwilling though they may have been, necessity and habit have so trained countless generations of women in the practice of self-denial that they have grown to be in the world the special witnesses and exemplifiers of the altruistic principle. So true is it that motherhood and the love and self-sacrifice which it involves, is woman's peculiar contribution to evolution and progress, that, as has been keenly pointed out, "the woman question is not solved until it is solved by mothers." In other words, a woman can not solve her life problem on a purely individual basis except at the price of her influence on the race. A man may lead a life largely self-centered and still transmit his qualities to his children, but the self-centered woman can not pass on her qualities, for she will have no children to inherit them. If she would, in any large way, save her life, she must lose it.

The actual facts bear out this conception of a woman's function. It is not that women are wholly altruistic. Though loath to own it, we are but mortal. Nor will any (except the suffrage