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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/95

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POLITICAL RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF WOMEN.

them as miners or engineers—a disability affecting the greater number would be likely to disenable the whole.

This is the situation. The great body of men—the men in the prime of their physical and mental powers—have no employments or duties imposed upon them by Nature incompatible with the strict performance of the obligations of public office. A man may be a punctual and industrious executive officer, a studious judge, a commanding general successfully conducting a campaign, and be no whit less a faithful and helpful husband, a wise and provident father. This very excellence in these purely private and domestic virtues, while it would add to his popularity, would never be thought of as impairing his efficiency as a public servant.

Now it happens that women during the same period of their physical and mental prime are by their ruling instincts and their dominant sentiments assigned to duties which leave neither time nor faculty for any absorbing and responsible public station. It might be invidious to say that the best women are in this category of disability; it must be said, however, that the women whom men think the best—at least the best to be wives and the mothers of their children—are not eligible to public office.

In this actual condition of things what will be the probable result of sharing with all women, by a sweeping enfranchisement, the privileges of all political offices? Only those will be likely to be proposed as candidates, or at least will consent to be candidates, who have no incompatible domestic duties—unmarried women, who have no pleasant homes, or fathers, brothers, or sons with whom they can live harmoniously, and all the forlorn class, who have failed to come into agreeable relations with other persons, or who have made shipwreck of their domestic ventures. I question whether the great body of virtuous and intelligent women, the mothers, wives, and sisters of the citizens, would be so well satisfied to be represented by such persons as by those citizens themselves. Our domestic experiences appoint and maintain relations between women and men far more tender and intimate than are possible between women and women, or betwen men and other men.

Nor is the contingent disability one to be lightly overlooked. There hangs over the fortunes of every woman, at least during the early periods of her career, the liability to the grande passion that so greatly affects human destiny and character. Every housekeeper knows how precarious is the engagement of her domestic servant. If you have secured an exceptionally excellent person in your kitchen, and have begun to look forward to months and years of wholesome cooking and economic administration, along comes the inopportune lover and carries off your prize. You think her an admirable assistant; so does he, and