Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/451

This page has been validated.
435
THE STATUS OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

But leaving these exceptional facts, and looking at the average facts, we find these to be just such as the greater strength of men must produce, during stages in which the race has not yet acquired the higher sentiments. Numerous examples, already cited, show that at first women are regarded by men simply as property, and continue to be so regarded through several later stages: they are valued as domestic cattle. A Chippewayan chief said to Hearne:

"Women were made for labor; one of them can carry, or haul, as much as two men can do. They also pitch our tents, make and mend our clothing, keep us warm at night; and, in fact, there is no such thing as traveling any considerable distance, in this country, without their assistance."

And this is the conception usual not only among peoples so low as these, but among peoples considerably advanced. To repeat an illustration quoted from Barrow, the woman "is her husband's ox, as a Caffre once said to me—she has been bought, he argued, and must therefore labor;" and to the like effect is Shooter's statement that a Caffre who kills his wife "can defend himself by saying, 'I have bought her once for all.'"

As implied in such a defense, the obtainment of wives by abduction or by purchase maintains this relation of the sexes. A woman of a conquered tribe, not killed but brought back alive, is naturally regarded as an absolute possession; as is also one for whom a price has been paid. Commenting on the position of women among the Chibchas, Simon writes, "I think the fact that the Indians treat their wives so badly and like slaves is to be explained by their having bought them." Fully to express the truth, however, we must rather say that the state of things, moral and social, implied by the traffic in women, is the original cause; since the will and welfare of a daughter are as much disregarded by the father who sells her as by the husband who buys her. The accounts of these transactions, in whatever society occurring, show this. Describing the sale of his daughter by a Mandan, Catlin says it is "conducted on his part as a mercenary contract entirely, where he stands out for the highest price he can possibly command for her." Of the ancient Yucatanese we read that "if a wife had no children, the husband might sell her, unless her father agreed to return the price he had paid." In East Africa, a girl's "father demands for her as many cows, cloths, and brass-wire bracelets, as the suitor can afford.... The husband may sell his wife, or, if she be taken from him by another man, he claims her value, which is ruled by what she would fetch in the slave-market." Of course, where women are exchangeable for oxen or other beasts, they are regarded as equally without personal rights.

The degradation they are subject to during phases of human evolution in which egoism is unchecked by altruism, is, however, most vividly shown by the transfer of a deceased man's wives to his rela-