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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/98

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

I am careful to say that woman has no grievance against man, I do not say she has no grievance. In common with all sentient creatures she does complain of the hard conditions of universal existence—conditions which it has been the long, slow effort of what we call civilization to amend and improve. The special hardship of the lot appointed to her by Nature is, that the pains, burdens, and weary cares that parentage imposes upon each generation, in order to provide for the succession of the race, have been unequally and cruelly laden upon one of the sexes. Through the long uncivilized ages, before man had wrung from niggard Nature any material comforts, any security against impending death, any leisure for thought, culture, or enjoyment, the conditions of the male and female were more nearly balanced in what each was called to endure. If on the latter fell the pangs of childbirth, and the long vigils of nurture for the feeblest younglings among living creatures, on the former came the brunt of internecine battles with fierce brutes and fiercer fellow-men. Civilization increasing the leisure, lightening the toil of man, and relieving him in a large degree from the wars in which he was mutilated and slain, has not been able, in any appreciable degree, to redeem woman from the primitive sufferings by which she consecrated her motherhood; and so the unequal fortunes of the two branches of the human race have become under the improved fortunes of the race more pronounced.

Woman does not put this into her bill of grievances, nor with her instinctive delicacy is she likely to do so. Symptoms that indicate disease sometimes mislead as to the character and actual seat of the disease. What woman will not ask for herself the respect and sense of justice of man must award her, and that is the complete sovereignty over all those functions engaged in the perpetuation of the race, insured by physical structure itself to the females of the inferior orders of living creatures. Woman has earned by her sufferings, by the enormous surplus of her contribution of time and strength and feeling to the maintenance of the family life, the right to control it, to initiate by her selection and the promptings of her own sentiments and preferences all its permitted intimacies. But all this, so difficult to formulate, must be left out in a discussion of a distinct though related subject.

Leaving out, then, whatever offense a cruel Nature has committed against woman, let us see if men have fairly acquitted themselves of their natural obligations to her. Take the present legal status of woman. Since men began to make laws they have made them for women, and in what situation has their deliberate sense of justice left women before the law? One after the other they have obliterated from the statute book all laws that discriminated against women in respect to their personal rights, and