Popular Science Monthly/Volume 49/September 1896/Correspondence
OCCUPATIONS, PRIVILEGES, AND DUTIES OF WOMAN.
Editor Popular Science Monthly:
SIR: In consideration of the great interest est I felt in an able article in your magazine for May, entitled Political Rights and Duties of Woman, I venture to express some of the thoughts which stirred me upon its perusal.
As I understood them, the writer's objections to the principle of woman suffrage can be classed under three general heads: objections as to the advisability or possibility of certain occupations for women; objections on the plea of the privileges which they already enjoy; and objections based on the idea of any change in the character of woman, as wife or mother.
It is to me a matter of surprise, as it must be to many, that the question of occupation should be considered as having any bearing whatsoever upon the subject. Although irrelevant, in a consideration of it, we must own the magnitude of the subject, as viewed not only in regard to woman but to all human kind. What class can take upon itself the responsibility of dictating to any other class what occupation it is or is not fitted to enter upon? It is easily seen that such a course would inevitably clip the wings of progress, as it is a tenet of its movement that the fittest survive, and the unusually gifted of one generation become in some degree the type of the next. Of one thing we may be sure, that no one performs tasks for which he is incapable, and those succeed who possess the faculties necessary to success. A majority of the walks of life have already been thrown open to women, so that the question of a new occupation opened for them by the right of ballot, narrows itself down to the one of officeseeking and officeholding. We on both sides of the question own, of course, that not all women will desire to enter upon this work, or to take advantage of their political rights, with any more alacrity than do a large share of men. There is one thing of which I may be permitted to feel sure, that if any woman succeeds in wresting office from a masculine candidate, or even in time reaches the White House, it will be by means of abilities which no one can gainsay, for, rather than that votes will be given her because she is a woman, the likelihood will be that she will wrest them from prejudice and conservatism in spite of that fact.
Every year is further proving that sex does not extend to intellect, and those who still hold to that belief will in the course of time have to blind their eyes to a great many facts in order to cherish it. The grande passion stirs men as well as women, and has power to inspire or weaken in the same degree.
Women are a privileged class, the paper says. It is true that few of us have any remembrance but of kindness and love from father, husband, and brother, and that very many of us have no great wrongs to bring to light, no troubles for which to claim redress. But it is hardly a privilege we enjoy to be loved, but rather mere justice, for do we not love also, and are we not in the same degree kind? These privileges, if we may call them so, which we mutually enjoy, I hardly think can be weakened by the ballot or by anything less than a sudden change and upheaval in the heart of the universe itself. It is a privilege, we read, that women enjoy in being "exempted from the perils, wounds, and deaths incident to war"; that the ballot now takes the place of the more savage conflict of war, and in this conflict, as in the other, women are exempt. You can't exempt women from fighting; five out of six fight. They fight, as does man, the forces of Nature, time, flesh, and the devil. Woman is in the thick of the world's conflict, whatever and wherever her arena, as are all human creatures, struggling with that friction which is progress, with those forces with which processes of evolution polish the stone for the workman, the soul for its soaring. The potter binds her soul to his wheel, as yours is bound, and what she desires is the same freedom, the same room for her wings.
Certainly, now that the conflict has been removed from the open field of war to the more peaceful one of the ballot, the old and earliest valid reason for dictating to her — her minimum of physical strength — has been removed. In no way of life, except in those old, savage, hand-to-hand struggles, is the race invariably to the physically strongest. Do the athletes, the prize fighters, bestow a privilege upon weaker men when they refrain from knocking them down? The necessary requisite, after all, is not brute strength, but health.
The question of character is a very large one, and moved by far too mysterious and wonderful forces to be decided by the ballot. It may be that many men are mistaken in their idea that the qualities of gentleness, amiability, obedience, or a small range of thought, make women better wives and mothers than human beings who are capable of justice, breadth of view, strength of judgment, and wide sympathies and interests. Though we please men and men please us, if we keep pace, it will be rather through our higher qualities of mind, character, and heart, than by our lower nature, weaknesses, and faults; but. Heaven knows, both men and women will ever have a sufficient amount of the latter.
One word more. An often-quoted picture is this: The husband, the wage-earner, from morning until night busied with cares and labors, which leave him little time for culture or the more refining pleasures of life, while the wife and daughters are kept in idleness at home, entertaining themselves with gay or frivolous pastimes, expending the income which was earned at such cost. Would it not be better for custom to break its bonds a little and look about it, and allow those idle women occupation that would assist the father and develop their own dormant faculties? Would the sympathy in that home not be of a deeper and more enduring sort?
For women to be idle is no better than for men, and this waste of life and time, which so many are guilty of, at the cost of some overworked man, is a condition of things which cries to Heaven.
Grace A. Luce.
PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF DISEASE.
Editor Popular Science Monthly:
Sir: In the short article on Individual Communion Cups (Popular Science Monthly, July, 1896, page 425) it seemed to me that a good word has been spoken in season on a subject where, in the opinion of many Christian people who have been blessed with a scientific education, a pressing reform seems necessary.
The subject is one which attracted my attention some time ago in a serious way, and a knowledge of the danger incurred by communicants on several occasions made me realize the urgent necessity of a change in the custom prevailing in Protestant churches. In one of the instances referred to the officiating clergyman was known to be suffering from cancer of the mouth in an advanced stage; yet this circumstance did not deter him from partaking of the sacramental wine before passing the cup to the other communicants present.
In the Presbyterian and allied churches where the elements are received by the congregation while seated in the pews, the plan adopted by the Rev. Dr. Charles Herr appears to me admirable; but in the Episcopal Church, where the communicants advance to the altar, the best arrangement would be that each member should bring with him a flattened cup of silver or aluminum, with an appropriate design or inscription upon it, which could be fitted into a leather cover and carried in the pocket or attached to the case containing the prayer book, etc.
As the Founder of Christianity declared that his mission in this world was "not to destroy men's lives, but to save them," and as that is the noble aim toward which science also is working, I can but hope that the medical men who are interested in the welfare of the congregations to which they personally belong will feel it their duty to draw the attention of pastors and people very earnestly to this much-needed reform, and that the pastors themselves will lose no time in following the excellent example of the Rev. Dr. Charles Herr, of the First Presbyterian Church, Jersey City.
I am, with regard, faithfully yours,
Julia F. Carvill Lewis.
Hotel Lang, Heidelberg, July 10, 1898.