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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/260

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the laws relating to women. Without them we do not know when "man's own sense of equity and right" would have impelled him to annul the obnoxious statutes. Even here in New York we come occasionally upon instances which betray the defects of a masculine code;[1] while in the civilized countries of Europe the laws generally discriminate in man's favor.

Outside of unjust enactments, the former subjection of woman is stamped on our customs, our literature, and our language. It is hardly possible for any one to investigate the origin of many of our conventionalities, titles, terms of obloquy, without coming unexpectedly upon proof of man's injustice to woman.

It is not intended to reproach the present generation of men for these or any other sins of their forefathers, as I hold all antagonism of the sexes as unnatural and vicious. Had women possessed the physical force, I think it very likely they would have acted as badly as their male ancestors. Yet it is instructive to note the tendencies and results of abuse of power, and an exclusive manhood suffrage is in this age and country a retention of power unwarranted by reason.

In primeval society, our antisuffragist allows that "the male and female were more nearly balanced in what each was called upon to endure." He adds that, although civilization has improved the lot of man, it. has not "redeemed woman from the primitive sufferings by which she consecrated her motherhood." As to what sufferings primitive woman had I do not feel quite sure, but can agree that civilization has not yet accomplished a physical redemption for woman, although it is now alive to the fact that she has a physique to be developed. On the contrary, it has hitherto distorted her and artificially increased her weakness under the pretense of differentiating her from man. Her own stupidity and vanity are occasionally at fault, but man is not guiltless, and if another distinct grievance is wished for, it is here. Nature is not cruel; according to the words of the old hymn, "only man is vile." Let us say instead, man is a blunderer.

Our opponent reaches at length his principal tenet: women are a privileged class. Their privileges consist not in the minor courtesies of life, but in various immunities and exemptions which are "a generous attempt on the part of men to make for their mates and yoke-fellows an easier pathway through a rugged world. . . . Having in the right of his strength the opportunity to determine the customs of society, he has exempted his mate from


  1. A woman appointed administratrix refused to pay an exorbitant bill. Her arrest for contempt of court resulted in the death of her babe. The surrogate said it was a case of great injustice, but the code made it mandatory upon him to issue the order (New York Times, June 11, 1890).