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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/132

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
Editor's Table.

 

"THE NEW WOMAN" AND THE PROBLEMS OF THE DAY.

AS there is a new everything in these days, we suppose it was inevitable that there should be a "new woman"; though why a new woman more than a new man it might not be easy to explain. For our part we believe but faintly in "new" woman; we believe in woman. We believe in progress; we believe that new times call for new measures; we believe that these are new times, and that it behooves both men and women to prepare themselves to meet the demands which the age is making on them.

What is really new in the world is knowledge. We see the practical outcome of the new knowledge in the transformation that has taken place in the arrangements under which the life of society to-day is carried on. With the new knowledge there has come a vast enlargement of human power in all directions and a vast development of human individuality. Custom, though still powerful, is no longer such a ruler of men's lives as it used to be. Men and women everywhere have been roused, we might almost say stung, into a sense of individual existence; and, looking round on their changing environment, they are asking a thousand questions to which as yet no very certain answers can be vouchsafed. Woman is awake because man is awake; the keenness of the times has roused them both; and from both we seem to hear the inquiry made by the jailer at Philippi, when startled from slumber by the trembling of the earth and the flashing of a strange light: "What must I do to be saved?" The difference between the so-called "new woman" and woman without that qualification is that the latter would wish to be saved with man and the former apparently without him. The new variety emphasizes the fact that she is a woman, and in that capacity is going to do wonderful things; whereas woman without the "new" is content to know herself a woman and to feel that with her it rests to accomplish her equal part in all the best work of the future.

The great change, as we have said, is that there is more knowledge in the world and that the rule of custom is to a large extent broken. Things that once had all the authority that convention and routine could give them are now open to every one's criticism. Morality no longer rests in absolute security upon dogma. The time has come which Voltaire predicted would be the end of all things, when the people have taken to reasoning. Fortunately, there is no need to agree with Voltaire; but it is necessary to recognize that something is needed to give wise direction to the emancipated thought and action of our time. The dogmatic morality of the past was in the main sound; and the problem of to-day is to secure a sufficient sanction for whatever rules of conduct are necessary to the well-being of individuals and of society. That much in the way of wise counsel and true inspiration may be expected from the increased reflectiveness of women we most gladly recognize; but we do not feel disposed to call a woman who thus responds to the needs of the time a "new" woman, seeing that for generations past, and particularly in times of emergency, women