Popular Science Monthly/Volume 34/April 1889/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Those who have watched with interest the struggle to introduce the culture of silk into the United States, and noted the many failures of those engaged in the work, must feel that, if anything is to be done in silk-culture in this country, new methods must be tried. The old plan of urging women to undertake the work in addition to whatever they may be doing seems in every way impracticable! The "New York Tribune," in July, 1885, in dealing with the subject, says: "It is by no means clear that silk-culture holds out any trustworthy prospect to American women. . . . It has been tried pretty thoroughly in California. At Sacramento and San Jose cocooneries were established, but, though the experimenters in these places had the advantages of an unequaled climate and Chinese cheap labor, they failed, and failed signally. At intervals similar attempts have been made in other States, but the end has always been the same. . . . The raising of silk-worms involves a minute and incessant labor, such as Orientals appear to be alone thoroughly fitted for, and it is not at all adapted to the capacities of American women."

Despite discouragements and failures the Department of Agriculture at Washington still continues to distribute silk-worm eggs, and in the last annual report for the year 1887 it is suggested by Mr. Philip Walker, the agent in charge, that neighbors might save expense, and realize more for their work, by joining together in the use of one hibernating box, one incubator, and one stifling apparatus. It is thought that the interest has been more active this year in the United States than in the year before, and that progress has been made. The only instance given, however, is that of a woman living in Johnson County, Mo., who, assisted by her mother and four children, tried the experiment for two years, receiving for the cocoons $77.90, which, after deducting her expenses, which amounted to $20, left her $57.90 to show for the labor of six people for two years! Certainly not a very profitable occupation, and, judging by this example alone, not one that would offer special inducements to any one that had the slightest idea of the care and work required to raise even a few ounces of eggs. To be sure, the actual time consumed in the care of the worms could not have been more than six weeks of each year; bat would not almost any other occupation have paid better than this?

I am indebted to Mr. Edward Atkinson for the fact that, in the year 1886 alone, the United States imported 16,092,583 dozen eggs, amounting to $2,173,454, and the same year imported 1,937,416 bushels of potatoes, at the cost of $649,009. Now, when it is considered that millions of dollars are expended every year for articles which might as well be raised in this country, does it not seem that it would be better for the Government to help along the industries already started here, and leave silk-culture in the hands of those who have successfully carried on the business for years, and who feel well paid at receiving for their work what to an American would seem only a mere pittance?

Mr. John D. Cutter writes in the "Boston Post" for November 10, 1886, as follows: "As an amusement, silk-culture is all right; as a business, it is impossible, for a generation or two to come, or until we are so crowded in the struggle for life that we can do no better for ourselves than to compete with the Chinese for bare existence. . . . No occupation of any civilized or half-civilized people pays its laborers so little as silk-culture. It is the very last employment of humanity this side of starvation. The reason is patent to any one who will look for it; viz., in this industry the competition is with the Chinese, and the product is of such enormous value in proportion to its bulk and weight that distance is no protection to the producer, because raw silk can be carried around the world for one per cent of its value. . . . Silk-culture is no experiment, even in this country; it simply don't pay a people who want to earn more than one cent per hour."

Light and profitable as the work of raising silk-worms is said to be, there are from the very outset risks connected with it. If the eggs are hatched too early in the season, there is danger of late frosts killing the mulberry-leaves, thereby depriving the worms of their food; the worms are easily affected by changes in the atmosphere, and all through the season there is danger of disease; and provided everything goes well, and one is able to sell the cocoons, the price given for them is small compensation for the time and trouble expended, and if, as is so often the case, the cocoons are pronounced worthless, there is nothing to show for the weeks of incessant labor. Many other experiences might be cited to show the absurdity of encouraging competition with the pauper labor of other countries.

Margarette W. Brooks,
Salem, Mass., December, 26, 1888.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

No article, perhaps, that has lately appeared in print has called out a more decided difference of opinion than the one entitled "The Relation of the Sexes to Government," which appeared in "The Popular Science Monthly" for October. Especially has this been marked in Wyoming, for it is here, I believe, that we find the nearest approach to a relation of both sexes with the Government. In the outset of his article Prof. Cope stated that, "being free from the disabilities imposed by maternity, the male could acquire a greater mastery over his environment than the female." Now, in all observations of animal life lower than man, the contrary appears to be the case. We find the female taking the most active part in the struggle for the existence of the young, and certainly doing as much for her own existence as the male for his. The lioness, in providing for and protecting her young, which in animal life represents the home, exerts a much greater "mastery over the environment" than the male, which only for a brief period shows a care for the female, and neither affection for nor government over the young. The horns of the female kine in defense of the calf are to be dreaded as much as those of the male. We do not find the male cat feeding or protecting the kittens. The hen not only provides for and defends but also chastises and governs her brood. In the insect world we find that the female spider eats her husband, bees kill theirs, and female ants make slaves of theirs. Coming to man, we find that among the Indians the female does the drudgery, and also the providing, with the exception of the hunting. In the wild Kurdish mountains we find women doing labor that the beasts of burden fail in, bringing great bundles of fire-wood down those terrible mountain-sides. We find them protecting their fields from the ravages of bears, fighting and slaying them with as much fury as the men, hindered neither by lack of physical strength nor by maternity. Macaulay speaks of a scene in the Scottish Highlands where aged mothers, pregnant wives, and tender girls are harvesting oats, while the men bask in the sun or angle in the streams.

Prof. Cope claims that women would be irresponsible voters, as they can not assist in the execution of the laws that they help make. Does their physical nature prevent them from doing this? In the riots of Ireland, Canada, and the United States does woman stand back hindered by physical weakness from throwing stones, beating the magistrates, or barricading street-car lines? Can it be proved scientifically that man had rather meet infuriated woman in preference to a male antagonist? In the pioneer days did not woman's bullet speed as true to the mark as man's in the protection of her home? Where has woman failed? In the exhausting marches of exiles to Siberia do the facts show that man stands the journey better than the Russian woman?

Again, the professor says, "The mastery by him has accustomed her to yielding, and to the use of methods of accomplishing her desires other than force." This amounts to saying that, while man is superior in force, woman is superior in diplomacy. Now, if it can be proved that in government the latter is as important as the former, then will be shown the absolute necessity for co-operation of the two sexes in political affairs. In the garden of Eden we find, instead of Adam choking the apple down the throat of Eve, Eve persuading Adam to partake, and here diplomacy wins. It can not be denied by our most adverse opponents that during the last half-century woman has taken possession of educational government. The teachers of the United States to-day are women. Our sex governs the schools throughout this broad land, and we maintain this government, not through force, but through tact or diplomacy.

Here in Wyoming some experience with woman suffrage has been acquired, though in a Territory of course there can not be as wide scope for its exercise as under Statehood. Now, if it could be believed all over this land that women would allow themselves to be "loaded" into wagons by their man, and driven to the polls to vote his ticket, as the writer of the article in question rudely states it, this would give a mighty impetus to woman suffrage. But this is false. Suffrage is not denied woman because she will vote as man dictates, but because she will not; and man knows full well that force would very quickly succumb to diplomacy. It is true we go to the polls in carriages placed at our disposal by the candidates, but is this any proof of disloyalty to our convictions? Are the members of a choir who attend the services of the G. A. R. in carriages provided for them to be accused of having no patriotism nor respect for the honored dead? Is it to be supposed that, in spite of birth, education, or culture, we would become as ignorant vassals to the husbands and fathers whose love, respect, and protection we had possessed, or that our male associates are so debased that they would wish us to become such willingly, or compel us to become so unwillingly? There are women, no doubt, who vote as their husbands vote; but, having been a resident and a voter eleven years in Wyoming, I have yet to find one case where a woman has voted as the force of man dictated. There are women in Wyoming who do not vote, but it is not because their male associates compel them to remain at home, and they resent such an imputation. Neither is the woman-suffrage movement condemned by them. The majority of the women in Wyoming vote, and vote according to their own preferences, and the men so desire and expect them to vote. It has been stated, rather coarsely, that woman, for the sake of remaining her own master politically, would be tempted to refrain from legal marriage. But were this to prove true, and were woman without a legal protector to step up to the polls to deposit her ballot in opposition to the males, we might look more confidently for exhibitions of force, and, instead of finding woman submitting privately to the maltreatment of her husband, we should see her obliged to suffer publicly the brutality of many men.

I wish that women everywhere would study the one argument that can be brought against woman suffrage. It is this: Woman may reform man. He has shown us clearly that he will not reform himself. Now, unless woman will interest herself in this reformation, she has no business with the ballot. So far woman has done as well as man in the use of the ballot; she has done no better;

but she can, if she will. Man has no right to expect woman to take up issues that he ignores, nor has he any right to withhold the suffrage for fear she will do so. But woman in asking for the ballot ought to say to man. We will make better use of it than you have. This is the ground on which we must demand the suffrage. Not the use of the ballot simply to make our own importance greater, but the ballot as it could be used to raise politics out of its filthiness, corruption, and ignorance, and to bring in the reign of purity, patriotism, and intelligence.

Therese A. Jenkins.
Cheyenne, W. T., November 15, 1888,