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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/568

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

CORRESPONDENCE.
 

GRANT ALLEN ON THE WOMAN QUESTION.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

IT is gratifying to know that so able an advocate as Mr. Grant Allen has come forward to champion the cause of the real emancipation of woman, in claiming for her the right to be exempt from the burden of her own support. To meet with success as a bread-winner in these days of severe competition requires the best energies of the best years of life—just the time when a mother should be giving the best energies of life to the care of her children. The difference between a well-mothered child and an ill-mothered one, in morals, conduct, intelligence, and teachableness, is so great as to warrant the assertion that, next to heredity, a child's home training is the most important factor in the evolution of its character. Nature has ordained that for this training it shall look to the mother, and hence it is a self-evident fact that her own education should be such as will best fit her for the task. It is about what constitutes the proper training to this end that opinions differ. The average man thinks that to know how to make pies and sew on buttons is enough, while we "advanced" women believe that a "wise" and "sane" mother should be able to meet the moral and intellectual requirements of her children as well as administer to their physical wants. We believe that she should know enough of science to give reasonable answers to her children when they question her about the phenomena of nature, and not to object to the study of botany as improper for girls (which I heard a model mother of the good old school do, the other day) because it talks about the ovaries! We believe that her literary taste should be sufficiently cultivated for her to take pleasure in reading something above the inane fiction which constitutes the chief intellectual pabulum of the average woman of to-day; and even if she should have a taste for anything so dreadful as the higher mathematics, we see no great harm in her indulging it, if it gives her pleasure to do so; the worst that can possibly result being to give her children inherited aptitudes in the same direction. Indeed, we see no danger to the established order of the universe in her cultivating intellectual tastes simply for her own pleasure, if she chooses. It is only when a woman has to add the drudgery of bread-winning to the natural duties of her sex that she need be condemned to intellectual atrophy.

In dealing with this part of the subject, Mr. Grant Allen seems to have lost his usual clear-headedness when he mistakes the aim of "the woman's movement" for an "endeavor to put upon the shoulders of women, as a glory and a privilege, the burden of their own support." Now, I feel safe in affirming that there is not one among us, even of the most "advanced," who would not gladly welcome Mr. Allen's ideal civilization, in which all the labor should be done by men—and we won't even grudge them the cooking and the washing, which I can assure them is labor just as real as buying cotton futures or watering railroad stocks. The "woman's movement" does not aim to force upon women the burden of their own support, but merely to fit them, when that burden is forced upon them, to bear it successfully. Recognizing, as we do, the fact that, with our advancing civilization, a large and ever-increasing proportion of women must be self-supporting, we believe it is unjust and cruel that they should have to engage in the struggle handicapped by ignorance, hampered by conventional prejudices, and oppressed by political disabilities that deny us a vote even on the whisky question—a subject of such vital importance to us. In disposing of a large proportion of the 700,000 superfluous females of the United Kingdom as "infants, lunatics, sisters of charity, unfortunates, and ladies of eighty," Mr. Allen "explains" his statistics on one side only, and forgets to offset his incapables by at least an equal proportion of infants, lunatics, priests, octogenarians, convicts, drunkards, and other ineligibles of the opposite sex, to say nothing of that vast mass of incompetents who must rank away down below zero as husbands, and have to be supported by their wives or sisters. The existence of these negative quantities on the other side is one of the "deplorable accidents" that men are prone to overlook in considering this question, but it is one which enlarges so enormously the number of necessarily self-supporting women as to make it an open question whether they do not constitute a majority of the sex instead of a minority. Now, I am not arguing that this is right, but it is a deplorable fact all the same; and since we can not force the wicked men to support us, the bravest and strongest of us (instead of sitting down and crying about it) are claiming the modest right to at least support ourselves—and too often the men who ought to be supporting us into the bargain, or the children whose bread they are spending for whisky. And while we are thus relieving society of its "potential" paupers, can the witty philosopher think of no better return than to consign us, with a stroke of his graceful pen, to everlasting