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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/687

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THE "NEW WOMAN" AND HER DEBTS.

units, as man was less busy conquering and enslaving enemies, he began to enslave his helpmeet, confining her within narrower social bounds, withdrawing from her all share and voice in public affairs, establishing, in short, a social order now known as Orientalism, to some extent characteristic of the Jews through the Persians, and fastened anew on Christianity by the Oriental St. Paul, who preached the subjection of woman. With the decadence of Greece and Rome, woman fell from her high estate of honored equality, and in the dark ages as a social factor she disappeared.

Nevertheless, she was the worker, though receiving no credit for her work. Under the feudal system, when men were bound to bear arms and make constant war, women carried on the trades and arts around the baronial castles, in the wretched homes of the serfs—but not as free agents, only as chattels of their husbands. Later, in the middle ages, all the great industries were controlled by guilds and syndics, which regulated the manufacture and sale of goods, but in which man only represented the working classes. He alone had power, he alone drew wages. Though the exquisite silks, damasks, and embroideries that were the fruit of his loom embodied a dozen kinds of skilled labor performed by his wife and daughters—hackling, combing, carding, dressing, spinning, dyeing, weaving—only the head of the household counted and handled the pay.

Everywhere in Europe and America, before the era of steam machinery, women plied the industrial crafts at home, in towns, in villages, in the country. The conditions under which these domestic industries were carried on were bad, indeed, almost intolerable—in damp, overcrowded habitations, without air or drainage, amid squalor, want, filth, and devastating epidemics. But woman, the most important agent in such productive labor, was economically and politically ignored. She had no power, no voice, no pay; and without money she had no control of her own time or her own aptitudes. In fact, she was very like a slave; and English and Irish peasant girls even sold themselves into real voluntary slavery in colonial times, coming to America as quasi criminals or indentured apprentices, to be household servants and work out their freedom, in order to escape the miserable tyranny of the then prevailing domestic industries.

About the middle of the last century steam was harnessed. The spinning jenny was invented—the first blow at home industries. Factories for steam machinery were opened, and women and children were drawn from the wretched cottages to tend first the spinning frames, then the looms, and finally the whole array of textile appliances which during the past century have revolutionized production and again emancipated woman. Steam ma-