1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Women
WOMEN. The very word “woman” (O. Eng. wifmann), etymologically meaning a wife (or the wife division of the human race, the female of the species Homo), sums up a long history of dependence and subordination, from which the women of to-day have only gradually emancipated themselves in such parts of the world as come under “Western civilization.” Though married life and its duties necessarily form a predominant element in the woman's sphere, they are not necessarily the whole of it; and the “woman's movement” is essentially a struggle for the recognition of equality of opportunity with men, and for equal rights irrespective of sex, even if special relations and conditions are willingly incurred under the form of partnership involved in marriage. The difficulties of obtaining this recognition are obviously due to historical causes combined with the habits and customs which history has produced.
The dependent position of women in early law is proved by the evidence of most ancient systems which have in whole or Early law. in part descended to us. In the Mosaic law divorce was a privilege of the husband only, the vow of a woman might be disallowed by her father or husband, and daughters could inherit only in the absence of sons, and then they must marry in their tribe. The guilt or innocence of a wife accused of adultery might be tried by the ordeal of the bitter water. Besides these instances, which illustrate the subordination of women, there was much legislation dealing with, inter alia, offences against chastity, and marriage of a man with a captive heathen woman or with a purchased slave. So far from second marriages being restrained, as they were by Christian legislation, it was the duty of a childless widow to marry her deceased husband's brother. In India subjection was a cardinal principle. “Day and night must women be held by their protectors in a state of dependence,” says Manu. The rule of inheritance was agnatic, that is, descent traced through males to the exclusion of females. The gradual growth of stridhana, or property of a woman given by the husband before or after marriage, or by the wife's family, may have led to the suttee, for both the family of the widow and the Brahmans had an interest in getting the life estate of a woman out of the way. Women in Hindu law had only limited rights of inheritance, and were disqualified as witnesses.
In Roman law a woman was even in historic times completely dependent. If married she and her property passed into the power of her husband; if unmarried she was (unless a vestal virgin) under the perpetual tutelage of her father during his life, and after his death of her agnates, that is, those of her kinsmen by blood or adoption who would have been under the power of the common ancestor had he lived. Failing agnates, the tutelage probably passed to the gens. The wife was the purchased property of her husband, and, like a slave, acquired only for his benefit. A woman could not exercise any civil or public office. In the words of Ulpian, “feminae ab omnibus officus civilibus vel publicis remotae sunt.” A woman could not continue a family, for she was “caput et finis familiae suae;” could not be a witness, surety, tutor, or curator; she could not adopt or be adopted, or make a will or contract. She could not succeed ab intestato as an agnate, if further removed than a sister. A daughter might be disinherited by a general clause, a son only by name. On the other hand, a woman was privileged in some matters, but rather from a feeling of pity for her bodily weakness and presumed mental incapacity than for any more worthy reason. Thus she could plead ignorance of law as a ground for dissolving an obligation, which a man could not as a rule do; she could accuse only in cases of treason and witchcraft; and she was in certain cases exempt from torture. In succession ab intestato to immovable property Roman law did not, as does English, recognize any privilege of males over females.
Legal disabilities were gradually mitigated by the influence of fictions, the praetorian equity and legislation. An example of the first was the mode by which a woman freed herself from the authority of her tutor by fictitious cession into the authority of a tutor nominated by herself, or by sale of herself into the power of a nominal husband on the understanding that he was at once to emancipate her to another person, who then manumitted her. The action of equity is illustrated by the recognition by the praetor of cognatic or natural as distinguished from agnatic or artificial relationship, and of a widow's claim to succeed on the death of her husband intestate and without relations. Legislation, beginning as early as the Twelve Tables, which forbade excessive mourning for the dead by female mourners, did not progress uniformly towards enfranchisement of women. For instance, the Lex Voconia (about 169 B.C.), called by St Augustine the most unjust of all laws, provided that a woman could not be instituted heir to a man who was registered as owner of a fortune of 100,000 asses. A constitution of Valentinian I. forbade bequests by women to ecclesiastics. But the tendency of legislation was undoubtedly in the direction indicated. Adoption of women was allowed by Diocletian and Maximian in 291. The tutelage of women of full age was removed by Claudius, and, though afterwards in part revived, has disappeared by the time of Justinian. This implied full testamentary and contractual liberty. In regard to the separate property of the married woman, the period of dos had by the time of Justinian long superseded the period of manus. The result was that, in spite of a few remaining disabilities, such as the general incapacity to be surety or witness to a will or contract, of a wife to make a gift to her husband, of a widow to marry within a year of her husband's death, the position of women had become, in the words of Sir H. Maine, “one of great personal and proprietary independence.” For this improvement in their position they were largely indebted to the legislation of the Christian emperors, especially of Justinian, who prided himself on being a protector of women.
The following are a few of the matters in which Christianity appears to have made alterations, generally but perhaps not always improvements, in the law. As a rule the influence of the church was exercised in favour of the abolition of the disabilities imposed by the older law upon celibacy and childlessness, of increased facilities for entering a professed religious life, and of due provision for the wife. The church also supported the political power of those who were her best friends. The government of Pulcheria or Irene would hardly have been endured in the days of the pagan empire. Other cases in which Christianity probably exercised influence may be briefly stated, (1) All differences in the law of succession ab intestato of males and females were abolished by Justinian. (2) The appointment of mothers and grandmothers as tutors was sanctioned by the same emperor. (3) He extended to all cases the principle established by the Senatus Consultum Tertullianum (158), enabling the mother of three (if a freed woman four) children to succeed to the property of her children who died intestate, and gave increased rights of succession to a widow. (4) The restrictions on the marriage of senators and other men of high rank with women of low rank were extended by Constantine, but almost entirely removed by Justinian. (5) Second marriages were discouraged (especially by making it legal to impose a condition that a widow's right to property should cease on re-marriage), and the Leonine Constitutions at the end of the 9th century made third marriages punishable. (6) The same constitutions made the benediction of a priest a necessary part of the ceremony of marriage. The criminal law in its relation to women presents some points of interest. Adultery was punished with death by Constantine, but the penalty was reduced by Justinian to relegation to a convent. A woman condemned for adultery could not re-marry. A marriage between a Christian and a Jew rendered the parties guilty of adultery. Severe laws were enacted against offences of unchastity, especially procurement and incest. It was a capital crime to carry off or offer violence to a nun. A wife could not commit furtum of her husband's goods, but he had a special action rerum amotarum against her. By several sumptuary constitutions, contained in the Code, bk. xi., women as well as men were subject to penalties for wearing dress or ornaments (except rings) imitating those reserved for the emperor and his family. Actresses and women of bad fame were not to wear the dress of virgins dedicated to Heaven. If a consul had a wife or mother living with him, he was allowed to incur greater expense than if he lived alone. The interests of working women were protected by enactments for the regulation of the gynoecia, or workshops for spinning, dyeing, &c.
The canon law, looking with disfavour on the female independence prevailing in the later Roman law, tended rather in the opposite direction. The Decretum specially inculcated subjection of the wife to the husband, and obedience to his will in all things. The chief differences between canon and Roman law were in the law of marriage, especially in the introduction of publicity and of the formalities of the ring and the kiss. The benediction of a priest was made a necessary part of the ceremony, as indeed it had been made by the civil power, as has been already stated, in the post-Justinian period of Roman law. But in practice this rule appears to have fallen into disuse until it was again revived by the council of Trent. It was, however, the rule of the English common law after the Reformation. The ceremony was not to be performed during Lent. The woman was to be veiled during the ceremony. A promise of marriage was so sacred that it made a subsequent marriage with another person void. Spiritual cognation was a bar to marriage. The sentence of the church was made necessary for divorce. As to women in general the law does not say very much. Women, even relatives, were not to live with priests unless in case of necessity. They were not to approach the altar or fill any public office of the church; nor might they lend money on usury. Baptism might be valid although administered by a woman. Women who had professed religion could not be forced to give evidence as witnesses. In some cases the evidence of women was not receivable.
The early law of the northern parts of Europe is interesting from the different ways in which it treated women. In the words of Sir H. Maine—“The position of women in these barbarous systems of inheritance varies very greatly. Sometimes they inherit, either as individuals or as classes, only when males of the same generation have failed. Sometimes they do not inherit, but transmit a right of inheritance to their male issue. Sometimes they succeed to one kind of property, for the most part movable property, which they probably look a great share in producing by their household labour; for example, in the real Salic law (not in the imaginary code) there is a set of rules of succession which, in my opinion, clearly admit women and their descendants to a share in the inheritance of movable property, but confine land exclusively to males and the descendants of males. . . . The idea is that the proper mode of providing for a woman is by giving her a marriage portion; but, when she is once married into a separate community consisting of strangers in blood, neither she nor her children are deemed to have any further claim on the parent group.” Among the Scandinavian races women were under perpetual tutelage, whether married or unmarried. The first to obtain freedom were the widows. As late as the code of Christian V., at the end of the 17th century, it was enacted that if a woman married without the consent of her tutor he might have, if he wished, administration and usufruct of her goods during her life. The provision made by the Scandinavian laws under the name of morning-gift was perhaps the parent of the modern settled property. The Brehon law of Ireland excepted women from the ordinary course of the law. They could distrain or contract only in certain named cases, and distress upon their property was regulated by special rules. In the pre-Conquest codes in England severe laws were denounced against unchastity, and by a law of Canute a woman was to lose nose and ears for adultery. The laws of Athelstan contained the peculiarly brutal provision for the punishment of a female slave convicted of theft by her being burned alive by eighty other female slaves. Other laws were directed against the practice of witchcraft (q.v.) by women. Monogamy was enforced both by the civil and ecclesiastical law; and second and third marriages involved penance. A glimpse of cruelty in the household is afforded by the provision, occurring no less than three times in the ecclesiastical legislation, that if a woman scourged her female slave to death she must do penance. Traces of wife-purchase are seen in the law of Ethelbert, enacting that if a man carry off a freeman's wife he must at his own expense procure the husband another wife. The codes contain few provisions as to the property of married women, but those few appear to prove that she was in a better position than at a later period. The laws of Ine gave her a third of her husband's property; the laws of Edmund as to betrothal allowed this to be increased to half by ante nuptial contract, to the whole if she had children and did not re-marry after her husband's death. No doubt the dower ad ostium ecclesiae favoured by the church generally superseded the legal rights where the property was large (in fact this is specially provided by Magna Carta, c. 7). “Provisio hominis tollit provisionem legis.” The legal rights of a married woman apart from contract were gradually limited, until by the time of Glanvill her person and property had become during her husband's lifetime entirely at his disposal, and after his death limited to her dower and her pars rationabilis.
A few of the more interesting matters in which the old common and statute law of England placed women in a special position may be noticed. A woman was exempt from legal duties more particularly attaching to men and not performable by deputy. She could apparently originally not hold a proper feud, i.e. one of which the tenure was by military service. The same principle appears in the rule that she could not be endowed of a castle maintained for the defence of the realm and not for the private use of the owner. She could receive homage, but not render it in the form used by men, and she was privileged from suit and service at the sheriff's tourn. She was not sworn to the law by the oath of allegiance in the leet or tourn, and so could not be outlawed, but was said to be waived. She could be constable, either of a castle or a vill, but not sheriff, unless in the one case of Westmorland, an hereditary office, exercised in person in the 17th century by the famous Anne, countess of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery. In certain cases a woman could transmit rights which she could not enjoy. On such a power of transmission, as Sir H. Maine shows, rested the claim of Edward III. to the crown of France. The claim through a woman was not a breach of the French constitutional law, which rejected the claim of a woman. The jealousy of a woman's political influence is strikingly shown by the case of Alice Perrers, the mistress of Edward III. She was accused of breaking an ordinance by which women had been forbidden to do business for hire and by way of maintenance in the king's court.
By Magna Carta a woman could not accuse a man of murder except of that of her husband. This disability no doubt arose from the fact that in trial by battle she naturally did not appear in person but by a champion. She was not admitted as a witness to prove the status of a man on the question arising whether he were free or a villein. She could not appoint a testamentary guardian, and could only be a guardian even of her own children to a limited extent. Her will was revoked by marriage, that of a man only by marriage and the subsequent birth of a child. By 31 Hen. VI. c. 9 the king's writ out of chancery was granted to a woman alleging that she had become bound by an obligation through force or fraud. By 39 Hen. VI. c. 2 a woman might have livery of land as heiress at fourteen. Benefit of clergy was first allowed to women partially by 21 Jac. I. c. 6, fully by 3 Will. & M. c. 9 and 4 and 5 Will. & M. c. 24. Public whipping was not abolished until 57 Geo. III. c. 75, whipping in all cases until 1 Geo. IV c. 57. Burning was the punishment specially appropriated to women convicted of treason or witchcraft. A case of sentence to execution by burning for petit treason occurred as lately as 1784. In some old statutes very curious sumptuary regulations as to women's dress occur. By the sumptuary laws of Edward III. in 1363 (37 Edw. III. cc. 8-14) women were in general to be dressed according to the position of their fathers or husbands. Wives and daughters of servants were not to wear veils above twelve pence in value. Handicraftsmen's and yeomen's wives were not to wear silk veils. The use of fur was confined to the ladies of knights with a rental above 200 marks a year. Careful observance of difference of rank in the dress was also inculcated by 3 Edw. IV. c. 5. The wife or daughter of a knight was not to wear cloth of gold or sable fur, of a knight-bachelor not velvet, of an esquire or gentleman not velvet, satin or ermine, of a labourer not clothes beyond a certain price or a girdle garnished with silver. By 22 Edw. IV. c. 1, cloth of gold and purple silk were confined to women of the royal family. It is worthy of notice that at the times of passing these sumptuary laws the trade interests of women were protected by the legislature. By 37 Edw. III. c. 6, handicraftsmen were to use only one mystery, but women might work as they had been accustomed. 3 Edw. IV. c. 3 forbade importation of silk and lace by Lombards and other alien strangers, imagining to destroy the craft of the silk spinsters and all such virtuous occupations for women. In some cases the wives and daughters of tradesmen were allowed to assist in the trades of their husbands and fathers; see, for instance, the act concerning tanners, 1 Jac. I. c. 22. Some trading corporations, such as the East India Company, recognized no distinction of sex in their members. The disabilities imposed on women by substantive law are sometimes traceable in the early law of procedure. For instance, by the Statute of Essoins (12 Edw. II. st. 2), essoin de servitio regis did not lie where the party was a woman; that is, a woman (with a few exceptions) could not excuse her absence from court by alleging that she was on public duty. The influence of the church is very clearly traceable in some of the earlier criminal legislation. Thus by 13 Edw. I. st. 1, c. 34, it was punishable with three years' imprisonment to carry away a nun, even with her consent. The Six Articles, 31 Hen. VIII. c. 14, forbade marriage and concubinage of priests and sanctioned vows of chastity by women.
In Scotland, as early as Regiam Majestatem (12th century) women were the object of special legal regulation. In that work the mercheta mulieris (probably a tax paid to the lord on the marriage of his tenant's daughter) was fixed at a sum differing according to the rank of the woman. Numerous ancient laws dealt with trade and sumptuary matters. By the Leges Quatuor Burgorum female brewsters making bad ale were to forfeit eightpence and be put on the cucking-stool, and were to set an ale-wand outside their houses under a penalty of fourpence. The same laws also provided that a married woman committing a trespass without her husband's knowledge might be chastised like a child underage. The Statuta Gilde of the 13th century enacted that a married woman might not buy wool in the streets or buy more than a limited amount of oats. The same code also ensured a provision for the daughter of one of the gild-brethren unable to provide for herself through poverty, either by marrying her or putting her in a convent. By the act 1429, c. 9, wives were to be arrayed after the estate of their husbands. By 1457, c. 13, no woman was to go to church with her face covered so that she could not be known. 1581, c. 18, was conceived in a more liberal spirit, and allowed women to wear any head-dress to which they had been accustomed. 1621, c. 25, permitted servants to wear their mistress's cast-off clothes. 1681, c. 80, contained the remarkable provision that not more than two changes of raiment were to be made by a bride at her wedding. In its more modern aspect the law is in most respects similar to that of England.
In separate legal articles attention is drawn, on various subjects, Modern English law specially affecting women. to any special provisions or disabilities affecting women; see, for instance, Evidence, Divorce, Marriage, Children (Law relating to), Infant, Husband and Wife. The movement for removing the older disabilities has progressed at such different rates in various countries that it is impossible to do more than note here the chief distinctions remaining under English law in 1910.
Civil Rights.—The age at which a girl can contract a valid marriage, in English law, is, following the Roman law, twelve; she is thus two years in advance of a boy, who must be fourteen. Under the Infants Settlement Act 1855, a valid settlement could be made by a woman at seventeen with the approval of the court, the age for a man being twenty; by the Married Women's Property Act 1907 any settlement by a husband of his wife's property is not valid unless executed by her if she is of full age, or confirmed by her after she attains full age. An unmarried woman is liable for the support of illegitimate children till they attain the age of sixteen. She is generally assisted, in the absence of agreement, by an affiliation order granted by magistrates. A married woman having separate property is, under the Married Women's Property Acts 1882 and 1908, liable for the support of her parents, husband, children and grandchildren becoming chargeable to any union or parish. At common law the father was entitled as against the mother to the custody of a legitimate child up to the age of sixteen, and could only forfeit such right by misconduct. But the Court of Chancery, wherever there was trust property and the infant could be made a ward of court, took a less rigid view of the paternal rights and looked more to the interest of the child, and consequently in some cases to the extension of the mother's rights at common law. Legislation has tended in the same direction. By the Infants' Custody Act 1873, the Court of Chancery was empowered to enforce a provision in a separation deed, giving up the custody or control of a child to the mother. The Judicature Act 1873, § 25 (10), enacted that in questions relating to the custody and education of infants the rules of equity should prevail. The Guardianship of Infants Act 1886 largely extended the mother's powers of appointing and acting as a guardian, and gave the court a discretion to regard the mother's wishes as to the custody of the children. The Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women) Act 1895 enabled a court of summary jurisdiction, to whom a married woman has made application, to commit to the applicant the custody of any children of the marriage between the applicant and her husband, while under the age of sixteen years.
The most remarkable disabilities under which women were still placed in 1910 were (1) the exclusion of female heirs from intestate succession to real estate, unless in the absence of a male heir (see Inheritance; Succession); and (2) the fact that a husband could obtain a divorce for the adultery of his wife, while a wife could only obtain it for her husband's adultery if coupled with some other cause, such as cruelty or desertion.
The action for breach of promise may indeed be brought by a man, but this is very rare, and its only real interest is as a protection for women. It may be brought by but not against an infant, and not against an adult if he or she has merely ratified a promise made during infancy; it may be brought against but not by a married man or woman (in spite of the inherent incapacity of such a person to have married the plaintiff), and neither by nor against the personal representatives of a deceased party to the promise (unless where special damage has accrued to the personal estate of the deceased). The promise need not be in writing. The parties to an action are by 32 and 33 Vict. c. 68 competent witnesses; the plaintiff cannot, however, recover a verdict without his or her testimony being corroborated by other material evidence. The measure of damages is to a greater extent than in most actions at the discretion of the jury; they may take into consideration the injury to the plaintiff's feelings, especially if the breach of promise be aggravated by seduction. Either party has a right to trial by jury under the rules of the Supreme Court, 1883. The action cannot be tried in a county court, unless by consent, or unless remitted for trial there by the High Court. Unchastity of the plaintiff unknown to the defendant when the promise was made and dissolution of the contract by mutual consent are the principal defences which are usually raised to the action. Bodily infirmity of the defendant is no defence to the action, though it may justify the other party in refusing to marry the person thus affected. Where the betrothed are within prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity, there can be no valid promise at all, and so no action for its breach.
Criminal Law.—There are some offences which can be committed only by women, others which can be committed only against them. Among the former are concealment of birth (in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred), the now obsolete offence of being a common scold, and prostitution (q.v.) and kindred offences. Where a married woman commits a crime in company with her husband, she is generally presumed to have acted by his coercion, and so to be entitled to acquittal. This presumption, however, was never made in witchcraft cases, and is not now made in cases of treason, murder and other grave crimes, or in crimes in which the principal part is most usually taken by the wife, such as keeping a brothel. In fact, the exceptions to the old presumption are now perhaps more numerous than those falling within it. The doctrine of coercion and the practice of separate acknowledgment of deeds by married women (necessary before the Married Women's Property Act) seem to be vestiges of the period when women, besides being chattels, were treated as chattels. Formerly a wife could not steal her husband's property, but since the Married Women's Property Act this has become possible. Adultery is no crime, England being almost the only country where such is the case. It was punished by fine in the ecclesiastical courts up to the 17th century, and was made criminal for a short time by an ordinance of the Long Parliament. The offences which can be committed only against women are chiefly those against decency, such as rape, procurement and similar crimes, in which a considerable change in the law in the direction of increased protection to women was made by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. In regard to the protection given to a wife against her husband modern legislation has considerably strengthened the wife's position by means of judicial separation and maintenance in case of desertion (see Divorce). The whipping of female offenders was abolished in 1820. Chastisement of a wife by a husband, possibly at one time lawful to a reasonable extent, would now certainly constitute an assault. The husband's rights are limited to restraining the wife's liberty in case of her misconduct.
In Scotland the criminal law differs slightly from that of England. At one time drowning was a punishment specially reserved for women. Incest (q.v.), or an attempt to commit incest, has always been punishable as a crime. Adultery and fornication are still nominally crimes, but criminal proceedings in these cases have fallen into desuetude. The age of testamentary capacity is still twelve, not twenty-one, as in England.
The whole idea of women's position in social life, and their ability to take their place, independently of any question of Higher education and its results. sex, in the work of the world, was radically changed in the English-speaking countries, and also in the more progressive nations beyond their bounds, during the 19th century. This is due primarily to the movement for women's higher education and its results. To deal in detail with this movement in various countries would here be too intricate a matter; but in the English-speaking countries at all events the change is so complete that the only curious thing now is, not what spheres women may not enter, more or less equally with men, but the few from which they are still excluded.
Before the accession of Queen Victoria, there was no systematic education for English women, but as the first half of the 19th century drew to a close, broader views began to be held on the subject, while the humanitarian movement, as well as the rapidly increasing number of women, helped to put their education on a sounder basis. It became more thorough; its methods were better calculated to stimulate intellectual power; and the conviction that it was neither good, nor politic, for women to remain intellectually in their former state of ignorance, was gradually accepted by every one. The movement owed much to Frederick Denison Maurice. He was its pioneer; and Queen's College (1848), which he founded, was the first to give a wider scope to the training of its scholars. Out of its teaching, and that of its professors (including Charles Kingsley), grew nearly all the educational advantages which women enjoy to-day; and to the women who were trained at Queen's College we owe some of the best teaching in England. Bedford College, Cheltenham College, the North London Collegiate School for Girls, the Girls' Public Day School Company's schools, are some of those which sprang into life in different parts of England, and were filled, as rapidly as they were opened, by the girls of the middle and professional classes. From their teaching came the final stage which gave women the same academic advantages as men. Somerville College and Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford, Girton and Newnham Colleges at Cambridge, Westfield College in London, St Hilda's College, St Hugh's Hall, Holloway College, Owens College, the Manchester and Birmingham and Victoria Universities, and other colleges for women in all parts of the United Kingdom, are some of the later but equally successful results of the movement. The necessity for testing the quality of the education of women, however, soon began to be felt. The University of Cambridge was the first to institute a special examination for women over eighteen, and its example was followed by Oxford; but while London, Dublin (Trinity College), Belfast (Queen's), Victoria, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St Andrews universities now grant degrees, Oxford and Cambridge still denied them in 1910. In the act of 1908 establishing the new Roman Catholic university in Ireland, it was provided that two members of the senate should be women; and Queen's University, Belfast, had three women in 1910 in its senate. Women may point with justifiable pride to the fact that within a very few years of their admission to university examinations, they provided at Cambridge both a senior classic and a senior wrangler. In America (see Co-education) the movement has gone much farther than in Great Britain.
The temperate, calm, earnest demeanour of women, both in the schools and in university life, awakened admiration and respect from all; and the movement brought into existence a vast number of women, as well-educated as men, hard-working, persevering and capable, who invaded many professions, and could hold their ground where a sound education was the foundation of success. The pioneers of female education spent their energies in developing their higher and more intellectual ideals, but later years opened up other positions which better education has enabled women to fill. In the literary field they soon invaded journalism (see Newspapers), and took an important place on the staffs of libraries and museums. They form an important (and in America, the predominating) section of the teaching profession in the state schools, and in all research work play an increasingly valuable part. It is not possible for every woman to be a scholar, a doctor (see below), a lawyer, or possibly to attain the highest position in professions where competition with men is keen, but the development of women's work has opened many other outlets for their energies. As members of school boards, factory inspectors, poor law guardians, sanitary inspectors, they have had ample scope for gratifying their ambition and energy. The progress made in philanthropy and religious activity is largely due to their devotion, under the auspices of countless new societies. And increasing provision has been made, in the arts and crafts, for the furtherance of their careers. There are successful women architects now working in England, and in 1905 a woman won the silver medal of the Royal Society of British Architects; a large number of women travel for business firms; in decorative work, as silversmiths, dentists, law copyists, proof-readers, and in plan tracing women work with success; wood-carving has become almost as recognized a career for them as that of typewriting and shorthand, in which an increasing number are finding employment. Agriculture and gardening have opened up a new field of work, and, with it, kindred occupations.
Women have always found a peculiarly fitting sphere as nurses, though it is only in recent years that nursing (q.v.) has Medicine. been professionalized by means of proper education. But their admission to the medical profession itself was one of the earliest triumphs of the 19th-century movement. It began in America, but was quickly followed up in England. After having been refused admission to instruction by numerous American medical schools, Miss Elizabeth Blackwell was allowed to enter as a student by the Geneva Medical College, N.Y., in 1847, from which she graduated in 1849. Hers was the first woman's name to be placed on the Medical Register of the United Kingdom (1859). In Great Britain the struggle to obtain admission to the teaching schools and to the examinations for medical degrees and diplomas was long and bitter. Though the Society of the Apothecaries admitted Mrs Garrett Anderson (q.v.) to their diploma in 1865, it was only after a series of rebuffs and failures that women were admitted to the degree examinations of the various universities. In August 1876 an “enabling” act was passed, empowering the nineteen British medical examining bodies to confer their degrees or diplomas without distinction of sex. In 1908 the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons decided to admit women to their diplomas and fellowships. In the meantime women doctors had become a common phenomenon.
Women in England may fill some of the highest positions in the state. A woman may be a queen, or a regent, and as queen Political position. regnant has, by 1 Mary, sess. 3, c. 1, as full rights as a king. Among the public offices a woman may hold are those of county, borough, parish and rural or urban district councillor, overseer, guardian of the poor, churchwarden and sexton. In 1908 Mrs Garrett Anderson was elected mayor of Aldeburgh, the first case of a woman holding that position. Women have also been nominated as members of Royal Commissions (e.g. those on the Poor Law and Divorce). A woman cannot serve on a jury, but may, if married, be one of a “jury of matrons” empanelled to determine the condition of a female prisoner on a writ de venire inspiciendo. She can vote (if unmarried or a widow) in county council, municipal, poor law and other local elections. The granting of the parliamentary franchise to women was, however, still withheld in 1910. The history of the movement for women's suffrage is told below. It may be remarked that, with or without the possession of a vote on their own account, politics in England have in modern times been very considerably influenced by the work of women as speakers, canvassers and organizers. The great Conservative auxiliary political organization, the Primrose League, owes its main success to women, and the Women's Liberal Federation, on the opposite side, has done much for the Liberal party. The Women's Liberal Unionist Association, which came into being in 1886 at the time of the Irish Home Rule Bill, also played an active part in defence of the Unionist cause.
The movement for the abolition of the sex distinction in respect of the right conferred upon certain citizens to share in the Women's suffrage. election of parliamentary representatives dates for practical purposes from the middle of the 19th century The governmental systems of the ancient world were based without exception on the view that women could take no part in state politics, except in oriental countries as monarchs. Exceptional women such as Cleopatra, Semiramis, Arsinoe, might in the absence of men of the royal house, and by reason of royal descent or personal prestige, occupy the throne, and an Aspasia might be recognized as the able head of a political salon, but women in general derived thence no political status. Though Christianity and a broadening of men's theories of life tended to raise the moral and social status of women, yet Paul definitely assigns subservience as the proper function of women, and many of the fathers looked upon them mainly as inheriting the temptress function of Eve. This view generally obtained throughout the middle ages, though here and there glimmerings of a new idea are seen; many of the great English abbesses discharged their territorial duties as landowners, and women as custodians of castles voted for knights of the shire. In the 17th and 18th centuries in England and America, under the influence of advancing political theory, and in France in the 18th century, this idea began to take shape. In England the writings of Mary Astell (Serious Proposal to Ladies, 1697) and others led to the gradual revision of the inherited idea of the education and the true sphere of women, while in 1790 Mary Wollstonecraft published her Vindication of the Rights of Women. In America the dawning of a political consciousness is evidenced by the claim made in 1647 by Margaret Brent to sit in the Assembly of Maryland as the executor of Lord Baltimore, and by the requests made by Abigail Adams (wife of John Adams), Mercy Otis Warren and Hannah Lee Corbin, that women taxpayers should enjoy direct representation. In France the movement towards democracy did not in the hands of Rousseau include the enfranchisement of women, and Comte taught that women were politically inferior to men; Condorcet, however, demanded equal rights for both sexes. Although, through an oversight, women could vote under the first constitution of New Jersey from 1776 to 1807, there is no doubt that women's suffrage had made practically no progress in any country till comparatively late in the 19th century. There has been considerable discussion as to whether women had constitutionally a right to vote in England prior to the Reform Act of 1832 (see Mrs C. C. Stopes, British Freewoman). The discussion, however, is one of purely antiquarian interest, and the Reform Act made quite clear what had certainly been the recognized custom before, by introducing specifically the word “male” in the new franchise law (2 and 3 Will. IV., cap. 45, sections 19 and 20).
The earliest known handbill representing the modern “women's suffrage” movement in England dates from about 1847, and in 1857 the first society was formed in Sheffield, the “Sheffield Female Political Association,” due largely to the work of a Quaker lady, Anne Kent of Chelmsford. In July of the same year Mrs John Stuart Mill published an article in the Westminster Review. The earliest outstanding figure, however, is Lydia Ernestine Becker (1827-1890), descended on the mother's side from an old Lancashire family, her father being the son of a German who settled in England in early youth. She became a well-known botanist, and an intimate friend of Charles Darwin. In 1858 the Englishwoman's Journal was started, and by this time there was a vigorous agitation for the alteration of the law relating to the property and earnings of married women. Among the leaders of that movement were Barbara Leigh Smith (Mrs Bodichon) and Bessie Rayner Parkes (Madame Belloc). At the same time a famous group of women, Emily Davies, Miss Beale and Miss Buss (founders respectively of the Cheltenham Ladies' College and the North London Collegiate School) and Miss Garrett (Dr Garrett Anderson), Miss Helen Taylor (John Stuart Mill's stepdaughter) and Miss Wolstenholme (afterwards Mrs Elmy), discussed women's suffrage at the “Kensington Society.”
A new era began with the election in 1865, as member for Westminster, of John Stuart Mill, who placed women's suffrage in his election address. From that time the subject became more or less prominent in each successive parliament. Mill presented the first petition in May 1867. In 1868 the case of Chorlton v. Lings was decided against women applicants for the vote by the Court of Common Pleas, and a similar decision was given by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Scotland. From this time the efforts of the various local committees (in London, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh and Birmingham) were directed to promoting a bill in parliament, and to forwarding petitions (an average of 200,000 signatures a year was maintained from 1870 to 1880). The Women's Suffrage Journal was founded in 1870, and in the same year Jacob Bright moved the second reading of the Women's Disabilities Bill which was carried by a majority of 33 votes. Mr Gladstone then threw his opposition into the scale, and the bill was rejected in committee by 220 to 94. In 1871 the same bill was again lost by 220 to 151, in spite of a memorial headed by Florence Nightingale, Mary Carpenter, Augusta Webster, Harriet Martineau, Frances Power Cobbe and Anna Louisa Chisholm (Mrs H. W. Chisholm). G. O. Trevelyan's Household Franchise Bill in 1873 raised the hopes of the women's suffragist, and Mr Joseph Chamberlain at a great Liberal meeting in Birmingham carried a resolution in favour of the proposed change. From 1874 to 1876 the bill was in charge of a conservative, Mr Forsyth, and, despite the opposition of John Bright and the efforts of a parliamentary committee for “maintaining the integrity of the franchise,” the number of supporters was well maintained. The work proceeded uneventfully from 1876 to 1884, huge meetings being held in all the chief towns. In 1S80 the franchise was conferred upon women owners in the Isle of Man, subsequently upon women occupiers also. In 1883 a great Liberal conference at Leeds voted in favour of women's suffrage under the leadership of Dr Crosskey and Walter S. B. M‘Laren. The next notable event in the movement was the defeat of W. Woodall's amendment to the Reform Bill (1884), providing that words importing the masculine gender should include women, by 271 votes to 135, Mr Gladstone again making a powerful appeal to his party to withdraw the support which they had given in the past. 104 Liberal members crossed over in answer to this appeal. Numerous bills and resolutions followed year by year in the names of W. Woodall, L. H. Courtney (Lord Courtney, whose bill was read a second time without a division, 1886), W. S. B. M‘Laren, Baron Dimsdale, Caleb Wright, Sir Albert K. Rollit, F. Faithfull Begg (1897; second reading majority 71). Up to 1906 all those attempts had failed, in most cases owing to time being taken for government business.
The period 1906 to 1910 witnessed entirely new developments. The suffragists of the existing societies still carried on their constitutional propaganda, and various bills were introduced. In 1907 Mr W. H. Dickinson's bill was talked out, and in 1908 Mr H. Y. Stanger's bill was carried on its second reading by a majority of 179, but the government refused facilities for its progress. Prior to this, however, a number of suffragists had come to the conclusion that the failure of the various bills was due primarily to government hostility. Furthermore the advent of a Liberal government in 1906 had aroused hopes among them that the question would be officially taken up. Questions were therefore put by women to Liberal cabinet ministers at party meetings, and disturbances occurred, with the result that Miss Christabel Pankhurst and Miss Annie Kenney were fined in Manchester in 1906. A certain section of suffragists thereafter decided upon comprehensive opposition to the government of the day, until such time as one or other party should officially adopt a measure for the enfranchisement of women. This opposition took two forms, one that of conducting campaigns against government nominees (whether friendly or not) at bye elections, and the other that of committing breaches of the law with a view to drawing the widest possible attention to their cause and so forcing the authorities to fine or imprison them. Large numbers of women assembled while parliament was sitting, in contravention of the regulations, and on several occasions many arrests were made. Fines were imposed, but practically all refused to pay them and suffered imprisonment. At a later stage some of the prisoners adopted the further course of refusing food and were forcibly fed in the gaols.
The failure of all the bills previously drafted on the basis of exact equality between the sexes, and the fact that both Unionists and Liberals refused to make the matter a party question, coupled with a general feeling of discomfort at the relations between the so-called “militant” suffragists and the authorities, led in the spring of 1910 to the formation of a committee (called the Conciliation Committee) of members of parliament under the presidency of the earl of Lytton. This committee, consisting of some 55 members belonging to all parties, succeeded in agreeing upon a new bill based upon the occupier franchise established by the Municipal Franchise Act of 1884. It was urged on behalf of this bill that it would establish the principle on a sufficiently representative basis without altering the numerical balance of parties in the country. It was calculated that slightly over 1,000,000 women would be enfranchised. After considerable pressure both inside the house and outside, Mr Asquith consented to give two days of government time for the debate, and the second reading, moved by the Labour member, Mr D. J. Shackleton, was carried by a majority of 110 votes. A further attempt to commit the bill to a Grand Committee failed by 175 votes; the bill was therefore sent to a committee of the whole house, and Mr Asquith announced that he would not give further facilities. It was noteworthy that, though the bill was opposed as undemocratic by Mr Lloyd-George and other Liberals, it was supported by 32 out of 40 of the Labour members, and evidence was given that a large proportion of the new voters would have been working women.
The leading women's suffrage societies may here be mentioned. All these societies have advocated precisely the same view, namely that women should have the same electoral privileges as men, whatever franchise system be adopted.
1. The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies is the oldest organization. It began about 1867 as a number of separate local committees, and after various reorganizations a great amalgamation of all local societies was framed in 1896 under the present title. This union had 200 branches in 1910. All the early suffragists belonged to this body, and in latter years the chief name is that of Mrs Henry Fawcett. The union pursued continuously the “constitutional” policy and stood apart altogether from the “militant” societies. Its official organ, The Common Cause, was founded in 1908.
2. The National Women's Social and Political Union, associated chiefly with the name of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and Miss Christabel Pankhurst, formed in 1906, originated the more “militant” policy. Its income in 1909-1910 reached the figure of £60,000, and up to September 1910 some 500 of its members had undergone imprisonment. It undertook a widespread campaign of meetings, and though at first its speakers were subjected to an opposition of a violent character, there was no doubt that the movement received from its activities a wholly new stimulus. Its official organ, Voles for Women, obtained a large circulation.
Societies of various kinds multiplied. In 1907 were formed (3) the Women's Freedom League (chiefly associated with the name of Mrs C. Despard, a prominent supporter of the Labour party), whose members objected to the internal administration of the Social and Political Union, but agreed in adopting its policy in a modified form; and (4) the Men's League for Women's Suffrage, a society which included men of all parties, and in September 1910 adopted the anti-government election policy. Numerous other party and non-party societies were formed, and resolutions supporting the principle, either in the abstract or as a part of adult suffrage, were passed by various Conservative, Liberal and Labour conferences and associations.
The remarkable prominence of the movement and the fact that successive parliaments contained a majority of pledged suffragists led to the formation of opposition societies. In 1908 was formed the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League, of men and women, which drew into its ranks prominent persons such as Lord Cromer, Lord Curzon, Lady Jersey and Mrs Humphry Ward; and about the same time the Men's League for Opposing Women's Suffrage came into existence. These two leagues amalgamated in December 1910, as the National League for Opposing Women's Suffrage, with Lord Cromer as president. The Anti-Suffrage Review was founded in 1909.
In New Zealand a measure for the enfranchisement of women, introduced by Richard Seddon, was carried in September 1893 (in the upper house by a majority of 2). In Australia the vote has been extended to all adult women both in the states (the first being South Australia, 1894, the last Victoria, 1908) and for the Commonwealth parliament. They have, moreover, the right to sit in the representative assemblies.
The movement assumed an organized form in the United States somewhat earlier than in the United Kingdom. It arose out of the interest taken by women in the temperance and antislavery agitations, and was fostered by the discussion on women's property rights. In 1840 the question was raised in a more acute form by the exclusion of women delegates from the World's Convention, and in 1848 the first women's suffrage convention was held at Seneca Falls, the leading spirits being Mrs Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martha C. Wright and Lucretia Mott. Later conventions at Salem and Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1850, were the predecessors of annual meetings, but the extravagant dress adopted by some of the women brought ridicule upon the movement, which was further thrown into the background by the Civil War. In 1869 were formed: (1) in New York, the National Women's Suffrage Association, and (2) in Cleveland, the American Woman's Suffrage Association. In 1890 these two societies amalgamated as the National American Woman's Suffrage Association, of which in 1900 Mrs Carrie Chapman Catt became president. The question was considered by a select committee in the 48th Congress, and 200 petitions, representing millions of individuals, were presented in 1900. The Labour and Socialist parties in general supported the women's claim, but there was considerable opposition in other parties. In 5 states (Wyoming since 1869; Colorado, 1893; Utah, 1896; Idaho, 1896; and Washington, 1910) women are electors, and in 25 states they have exercised the school suffrage. In Louisiana they obtained the suffrage in connexion with tax levies in 1898. Anti-suffrage societies have also been formed in Brooklyn (1894), Massachusetts (1S95), Illinois (1S97), Oregon (1899).
In Finland all adult men and women over the age of 24, excluding paupers, received the right to vote for members of the Diet in 1906, in which year nineteen women became members of the Diet. In Norway, where there is male suffrage for men over 25 years of age, women were entitled to vote by a law of 1907, provided they or, if married, their husbands (i.e. where property is jointly owned) had paid income tax on an annual income of 400 kroner (£22) in the towns, or 300 kroner (£16, 10s.) in country districts. In Sweden a suffrage bill was carried in the lower but rejected in the upper house in 1909. In all the chief countries there are suffrage societies of greater or less strength. In Russia the question was placed in the forefront of the demands made by the Duma in 1906, and in 1907 propertied women received the right to confer votes on their sons who would otherwise be unenfranchised. In France a feminist congress met at Lyons in 1909.
The International Woman Suffrage Alliance originated in the United States in 1888. Its membership increased steadily, and at the Convention held in London in 1909 delegates were present from twenty-two countries. In the United Kingdom this Alliance is represented by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. A social and propagandist club was founded in London in 1909 with an international membership. An international journal under the title Jus Suffragn (Brussels) was founded in 1907.
Authorities.—It is impossible to do more than mention a few works out of many dealing with various phases of the modern “women's movement.” See Alice Zimmern's Renaissance of Girls' Education in England (1898); A. R. Cleveland, Women under English Law (1896); J. L. de Lanessan, L'Éducation de la femme moderne (1908); M. Ostrogorski, Femme au point de vue du droit public (1892); Mrs C. P. Gilman, Women and Economics (1899); Miss C. E. Collet, Report on Changes in the Employment of Women (1898; Parl. papers, C. 8794); B. and M. Van Vorst, Woman in industry (1908); A. Loria, Le Féminisme au point de vue sociologique (1907); Helen Blackburn, Record of Women's Suffrage, in the United Kingdom (1902); Susan B. Anthony, History of Woman's Suffrage, in the United States (4 vols., 1881-1902); C. C. Stopes, British Free Women (1894); W. Lyon Blease, The Emancipation of Women (1910). The classical exposition of the arguments on behalf of women's suffrage is J. S. Mill's Subjection of Women; the most important statement in opposition is perhaps that of Professor A. V. Dicey in the Quarterly Review (Oct. 1908).
- But in the earliest extant code, however, that of Khammurabi, the position of women was free and dignified. See Babylonian Law.
- Deut. xxiv. 1.
- Numb. xxx. 3.
- Numb. xxvii., xxxvi.
- Numb. v. 11.
- Ch. ix. § 2 (Sir W. Jones's translation).
- Whether this was the oldest rule of inheritance has been much debated. That birth of a child gave the mother certain legal rights in a primitive stage of society is the view of many writers. See especially Das Mutterrecht of J. J. Bachofen (Stuttgart, 1861).
- Maine, Early History of Institutions, lect. xi.
- Dig. i. 16. 195.
- Imbecillitas is the term used more than once in the texts of Roman law.
- The way in which this law was evaded was by non-enrolment of the testator in the census (see Montesquieu, Ésprit des lois, bk. xxvii.) Another way was by leaving her the inheritance by fideicommissum (see Trust).
- Ancient Law, ch. v . Hence the necessity of such laws as the Lex Oppia (see Sumptuary Laws).
- A remarkable example of this tendency was the provision that an actress might leave the stage and break her contract of service with impunity in order to become a nun. Even under the pagan emperors a constitution of Diocletian and Maximian in 285 had enacted that no one was to be compelled to marry (Cod. v. 4, 14).
- See R. T. Troplong, De l'influence du christianisme sur le droit civil.
- Pt. ii. caus. xxxiii. qu. v. ch. 16.
- On this branch of the subject see Manssen's Het Christendom en de Vrouw (Leiden, 1877).
- Early Law and Custom, ch. v.
- See Stiernhook, De jure Sveonum (Stockholm, 1672), bk. ii . ch. i.; Messenius, Leges Svecorum (Stockholm, 1714).
- Bk. iii. ch. xvi. §§ 1,2.
- The development of the bride-price no doubt was in the same direction. Its original meaning was, however, different. It was the sum paid by the husband to the wife's family for the purchase of part of the family property, while the morning-gift was paid as pretium virginitatis to the bride herself. In its English form morning-gift occurs in the laws of Canute; in its Latinized form of morgangiva it occurs in the Leges Henrici Primi.
- It is remarkable that the great fiefs of France, except the Isle of France, the special apanage of the crown, all became in time female fiefs. This is shown by the table at the end of Laboulaye's Recherches.
- Early Law and Custom, ch. v.
- Rot. Parl., vol. iii. p. 12.
- The action for breach of promise of marriage is in some of its incidents peculiar to English law. In Roman law, betrothal (sponsalia) imposed a duty on the betrothed to become husband and wife within a reasonable time, subject to the termination of the obligation by death, repudiation by the words conditione tua non utor, or lapse of time, the time fixed being two years. No action lay for breach of promise to marry unless arrhae sponsalitiae had been given, i.e. earnest of the bargain, to be forfeited by the party refusing to carry it out. The arrha might also be given by a parent, and was equally liable to forfeiture. A provincial governor, or one of his relations or household, could not recover any arrha that might have been given, it being supposed that he was in a position of authority and able to exercise influence in forcing consent to a betrothal. In the canon law breach of the promise made by the sponsalia, whether de praesenti or de futuro, a division unknown to Roman law, does not without more appear to have sufficed to found an action for its breach, except so far as it fell under ecclesiastical cognizance as laesio fidei, but it had the more serious legal effect of avoiding as a canonical disability the subsequent marriage, while the original sponsalia continued, of a betrothed person to any other than the one to whom he or she was originally betrothed. The sponsalia became inoperative, either by mutual consent or by certain supervening impediments, such as ordination or a vow of chastity. The canonical disability of pre-contract was removed in England by 32 Hen. VIII. c. 38, re-established in the reign of Edward VI., and finally abolished in 1753. In England the duty of the parties is the same as in Roman law, viz. to carry out the contract within a reasonable time, if no time be specially fixed. Formerly a contract to marry could be specifically enforced by the ecclesiastical court compelling a celebration of the marriage in facie ecclesiae. The last instance of a suit for this purpose was in 1752, and the right to bring it was abolished in 1753 by Lord Hardwicke's Act (26 Geo. II. c. 33). In Scotland a promise in the nature of sponsalia de futuro not followed by consummation may be resiled from, subject to the liability of the party in fault to an action for the breach, which by 6 Geo. IV. c. 120, s. 28, is a proper cause for trial by jury. If, however, the sponsalia be de praesenti, and, according to the more probable opinion, if they be de futuro followed by consummation, a pre-contract is constituted, giving a right to a decree of declarator of marriage and equivalent to marriage, unless declared void during the lifetime of the parties.
- Women have long practised law in the United States, and in 1896 the benchers of the Ontario Law Society decided to admit them to the bar. In France in December 1900 an act was passed enabling women to practise as barristers, and Madame Petit was sworn in Paris, while a woman was briefed for the defence in a murder case in Toulouse in 1903, this being the first case of a woman pleading in a European criminal court. In Finland and Norway women have long practised as barristers, and in Denmark since 1908 they have been admitted as assistants to lawyers. By the law of the Netherlands they are admitted as notaries. In England a special tribunal of the House of Lords presided over by the Lord Chancellor decided in 1903 not to admit women to the English bar, on the grounds that there was no precedent and that they were not desirous of creating one; but numbers of women take degrees in law in British universities, and several have become solicitors.
- In the olden times before the Reformation in England various religious communities absorbed a large number of the surplus female population, and in High Church and Roman Catholic circles many ladies still enter various sisterhoods and devote their lives to teaching the young, visiting the poor and nursing the sick. In the Church of England the only office which remained open to women was the modest one of churchwarden, and this office is not infrequently filled by women. The Convocation of Canterbury in 1908 refused by a majority of two to admit women to parochial church councils, though qualified persons of the female sex may vote for parochial lay representatives on the church council. In the Independent Churches there are fewer restrictions. Among the Congregationalists women have equal votes on all questions and may become deacons or even ministers; Miss Jane Brown has been recognized as pastor of Brotherton Congregational Church, Yorkshire, and Miss L. Smith as pastor of that in Cardiff, and in the Methodist Church women frequently act as local preachers. The same equality and share in religious work is accorded to women by the Baptists, the Society of Friends and the Salvation Army, the success of which is largely due to them. In Unitarian congregations in the United States and Australia many women have been appointed ministers, and in England the Rev. Gertrude von Petzold held in 1910 the post of minister of the Narborough Road Free Christian Church, Leicester.
- This article was written in reference to the Women's Rights Convention held in Worcester, Mass., U.S.A., in October 1850.
- E.g. the Conservative and Unionist Women's Franchise Association, of which the countess of Selborne became president in 1910.