Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/93

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
81
POLITICAL RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF WOMEN.

liable to have any domestic duties or relations which will disenable her from performance of all the employments which citizenship might impose upon her. To require her to hold herself liable to be drafted as a soldier in case of invasion or rebellion might not seem in these times of peace necessary, but that she could and would perform the duties of any office to which she would be liable by the very franchise she had sought to obtain, without pleading any exemption or disability due to her permanent condition as woman, would seem a not unreasonable requirement. If, in the discretion of the judge, she should successfully pass this preliminary examination, let her be admitted to full citizenship, with the right to be an elector, and to be elected to office on the same terms with men; while women generally, who do not desire even to vote, who are appalled at the thought of competing for office, and for whom the duties of any office are utterly incompatible with their fidelity as wives and mothers, are left in the political status which they prefer.

It is not assuming too much to anticipate that both these alternative propositions, if submitted as a definite settlement of the woman question to those persons of both sexes who, on either side of the Atlantic, have by their zeal and devotion earned the right to be considered as the leaders of what is called the woman movement, would be listened to with disdainful satire and scorn. It is avowed by all these persons, who speak frankly, that women want the ballot in order that they may become candidates and officeholders, and so be able in the interest of their own sex to affect local. State, and national legislation. We may, therefore, lay on the table the specific question of giving the ballot to women—leave it unsettled—conceding that, if it were only that, the matter might be arranged to meet the wishes of the petitioners, and confine ourselves in this discussion to the rights and qualifications of women to be the administrators of political power, and the effect which the exercise by women of those political functions now performed exclusively by men would have upon the welfare and character of women generally.

I. To the complete performance of such political functions there is this serious natural impediment: four fifths of the women all the world over, between the ages of twenty and sixty, are occupied with paramount domestic obligations quite incompatible with that integrity of devotion to public duties which all the great executive, judicial, and legislative offices demand of those who fill them. Under this disability of Nature, or closely related to it, all the objections to the exercise of political functions by women may be classed, so that no other objection need be considered. If the mother of a family of young children should give to the office of President, Governor, judge, or sheriff that entire