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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/99

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POLITICAL RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF WOMEN.

to the acquirement, possession, and disposal of their property—old laws that had their origin in the barbaric spirit that made woman the slave of man, and, it must be confessed, which found no little sanction in that dogma of our accredited Christianity, which taught, too plainly to be misunderstood, that woman was as much below man in the scale of being as man was below the angels, her paramount duty being to be subject to him. But all this barbarism. Christian and un-Christian, has been swept away, and that too not by woman's suffrage, actual or prospective, nor by woman's petition or any political agitation prompted by her, but by man's own sense of equity and right.

No, women are not an oppressed class, least so in the United States, in England, in any country whose people have inherited the Teutonic sentiment which in the ancient Germany described by Tacitus made women counselors and advisers in the affairs of war, government, and business, as well as in matters purely domestic. Women are a privileged class.

When I say, and say after much careful thought, that women in this country are a privileged class, I have not in my mind those courtesies and civilities that have become established customs in all good society. I do not mean the respect which prompts all well-bred men to lift their hats to every woman of their acquaintance whom they pass in the street, that starts to his feet even the aged citizen when a robust girl gets into a horse-car or a thronged public meeting, even when the occasion of it may be to affect an election in which only men are concerned. All these are graceful offices for men to render, pleasant attentions for women to receive; but they are trivial, and to magnify them into substantial equivalents for political disfranchisement is to add insult to injury.

Let me make a brief inventory of some of the more substantial immunities and exemptions which women as women possess and enjoy, which mitigate for them the stress and strain of life, which affect their character, happiness, and destiny, as the usages and etiquette of social intercourse do not and can not, which, if not a compensation for political privileges, and for that excess of burden that maternity bears in caring for the perpetuation of the race, is a generous attempt on the part of men to make for their mates and yoke-fellows an easier pathway through a rugged world. To most of these exemptions and immunities the sex have become so accustomed that they are rather regarded as a part of the order of Nature than as a conventionality dictated by a generous sentiment.

III. Women are exempted from the perils, wounds, and deaths incident to war.

When we study man through his long history, we are compelled to confess that he is a fighting animal. Whatever other