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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/106

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

to be studied in their irregular and unusual development, but in their normal evolution.

If a capable and ambitious girl declares that she will teach school, or solicit a clerkship, or literary work in a newspaper office, or open a store, it will be the father and brothers who will protest, and not the mother and sisters. The men of the family are apt to feel that it will compromise their respectability if they have a daughter of the house earning anything. Fathers of sons and daughters have been reported, who have said: "I shall leave what little property I have to my girls, who will need it; the boys can take care of themselves." Many persons are cognizant of the fact that among their circle of acquaintance are a few men, high-spirited, conscientious, alive to the demands of nobly living, who have denied themselves the solace of marriage because they belonged to families where there were unmarried sisters, and the home could not be respectably maintained if their personal income was used in supporting another household.

VI. Now, putting any just valuation upon these great exemptions which the majority of women enjoy, and which all women enjoy so far as the appointment of men as a whole can predetermine their lot, can it be for a moment claimed that the position of women is one of oppression, and not of privilege?

I do not wish to say that men and women ever made a formal compact that the latter should surrender to the former all their natural political rights, as a condition for enjoying these privileges which have been awarded to them. None of the established customs of society, not even the forms of political government, were made in this artificial way. They were not made at all, but grew spontaneously. Rousseau's doctrine of a social contract is less in vogue than it was in the political philosophy of our fathers. But what I do wish emphatically to say is that, bargain or no bargain, the weaker sex has not been taken advantage of, and that its immunities and privileges are a full equivalent for all the political rights of which it may have been deprived.

For all the last century, perhaps for all the next, the stress and activity of the world have been and will be directed toward the development of a more pronounced individualism. Everybody is in intense pursuit of his rights. Everybody passionately asks: What of the common goods of existence can I appropriate to my own personal advantage and enjoyment? While this passion rules, nothing is to be expected but revolution and revulsion, the tearing down of the existing social and political institutions. When shall begin that more noble, more religious inquisition, not for rights, but for duties, when it shall be asked: What can I do to render some equivalent for the boon of life? What of my rights and my possessions can I surrender and sacrifice for the general