Popular Science Monthly/Volume 11/August 1877/The Status of Women and Children


PERHAPS in no way is the moral progress of mankind more clearly shown than by contrasting the position of women among savages with their position among the most advanced of the civilized: at the one extreme a treatment of them cruel to the utmost degree bearable; and at the other extreme a treatment which, in certain directions, gives them precedence over men.

The only limit to the brutality women are subjected to by men of the lowest races is the inability to live and propagate under greater. Clearly, ill-usage, under-feeding, and overworking, may be pushed to an extent which, if not immediately fatal to the women, incapacitates them for rearing children enough to maintain the population; and disappearance of the society follows. Both directly and indirectly such excess of harshness disables a tribe from holding its own against other tribes; since, besides greatly augmenting the mortality of children, it causes inadequate nutrition, and therefore imperfect development, of those which survive. But, short of this, there is at first no check to the tyranny which the stronger sex exercises over the weaker. Stolen from another tribe, and perhaps made insensible by a blow that she may not resist; not simply beaten, but speared about the limbs, when she displeases her savage owner; forced to do all the drudgery and bear all the burdens, while she has to care for and carry about her children; and feeding on what is left after the man has done: the woman's sufferings are carried as far as consists with survival of herself and her offspring.

It seems not improbable that, by its actions and reactions, this treatment makes these relations of the sexes difficult to change; since chronic ill-usage produces physical inferiority, and physical inferiority tends to exclude those feelings which might check ill-usage. Very generally among the lower races the females are even more unattractive in aspect than the males. It is remarked of the Puttooahs, whose men are diminutive and whose women are still more so, that "the men are far from being handsome, but the palm of ugliness must he awarded to the women. The latter are hard-worked and apparently ill-fed." Again, of the inhabitants of the Corea, Gutzlaff says: "The females are very ugly, while the male sex is one of the best formed of Asia. . . . women are treated like beasts of burden; wives may be divorced under the slightest pretense." And for the kindred contrast habitually found, a kindred cause may habitually be assigned; the antithetical cases furnished by such uncivilized peoples as the Calmucks and Kirghiz, whose women, less hardly used, are better looking, yielding additional evidence.

We must not, however, conclude, as at first sight seems proper, that this low status of women among the rudest peoples is caused by a callous selfishness existing in the males and not equally present in the females. When we learn that where torture of enemies is the custom, the women outdo the men—when we read of the cruelties perpetrated by the two female Dyak chiefs described by Rajah Brooke, or of the horrible deeds which Winwood Reade narrates of a bloodthirsty African queen—we are shown that it is not lack of will but lack of power which prevents primitive women from displaying natures equally brutal with those of primitive men. A savageness common to the two necessarily works out the results we see under the conditions. Let us look at these results more closely.

Certain anomalies may first be noticed. Even among the rudest men, whose ordinary behavior to their women is of the worst, predominance of women is not unknown. Snow says of the Fuegians that he has "seen one of the oldest women exercising authority over the rest of her people;" and Mitchell says of the Australians that old men and even old women exercise great authority. Then we have the fact that among various peoples who hold their women in degraded positions, there nevertheless occur female rulers; as among the Batta people in Sumatra, as in Madagascar, and as in the above-named African kingdom. Possibly this anomaly results from the system of descent in the female line. For though, under that system, property and power usually devolve upon a sister's male children, yet as, occasionally, there is only one sister, and she has no male children, the elevation of a daughter may sometimes result. Even as I write, I find, on looking into the evidence, a significant example. Describing the Haidahs of the Pacific States, Bancroft says: "Among nearly all of them rank is nominally hereditary, for the most part by the female line. . . . Females often possess the right of chieftainship."

But leaving these exceptional facts, and looking at the average facts, we find these to be just such as the greater strength of men must produce, during stages in which the race has not yet acquired the higher sentiments. Numerous examples, already cited, show that at first women are regarded by men simply as property, and continue to be so regarded through several later stages: they are valued as domestic cattle. A Chippewayan chief said to Hearne:

"Women were made for labor; one of them can carry, or haul, as much as two men can do. They also pitch our tents, make and mend our clothing, keep us warm at night; and, in fact, there is no such thing as traveling any considerable distance, in this country, without their assistance."

And this is the conception usual not only among peoples so low as these, but among peoples considerably advanced. To repeat an illustration quoted from Barrow, the woman "is her husband's ox, as a Caffre once said to me—she has been bought, he argued, and must therefore labor;" and to the like effect is Shooter's statement that a Caffre who kills his wife "can defend himself by saying, 'I have bought her once for all.'"

As implied in such a defense, the obtainment of wives by abduction or by purchase maintains this relation of the sexes. A woman of a conquered tribe, not killed but brought back alive, is naturally regarded as an absolute possession; as is also one for whom a price has been paid. Commenting on the position of women among the Chibchas, Simon writes, "I think the fact that the Indians treat their wives so badly and like slaves is to be explained by their having bought them." Fully to express the truth, however, we must rather say that the state of things, moral and social, implied by the traffic in women, is the original cause; since the will and welfare of a daughter are as much disregarded by the father who sells her as by the husband who buys her. The accounts of these transactions, in whatever society occurring, show this. Describing the sale of his daughter by a Mandan, Catlin says it is "conducted on his part as a mercenary contract entirely, where he stands out for the highest price he can possibly command for her." Of the ancient Yucatanese we read that "if a wife had no children, the husband might sell her, unless her father agreed to return the price he had paid." In East Africa, a girl's "father demands for her as many cows, cloths, and brass-wire bracelets, as the suitor can afford.... The husband may sell his wife, or, if she be taken from him by another man, he claims her value, which is ruled by what she would fetch in the slave-market." Of course, where women are exchangeable for oxen or other beasts, they are regarded as equally without personal rights.

The degradation they are subject to during phases of human evolution in which egoism is unchecked by altruism, is, however, most vividly shown by the transfer of a deceased man's wives to his relatives along with other property. Sundry examples of this have been given; and many others might be added. Smith says of the Mapuchès that "a widow by the death of her husband becomes her own mistress, unless he may have left grown-up sons by another wife, in which case she becomes their common concubine, being regarded as a chattel naturally belonging to the heirs of the estate."

Thus recognizing the truth that as long as women continue to be stolen or bought, their human individualities are ignored, let us observe the division of labor that results between the sexes; determined partly by this unqualified despotism of men and partly by the limitations which certain incapacities of women entail.

The slave-class in a primitive society consists of the women; and the earliest division of labor is that which arises between them and their masters. For a long time no other division of labor exists. Of course nothing more is to be expected among such low, wandering groups as Tasmanians, Australians, Fuegians, Andamanese, Bushmen. Nor do we find any advance in this respect made by the higher hunting races, such as the Comanches, Chippewas, Dakotas, etc.

Of the occupations thus divided, the males put upon the females whatever these are not disabled from doing by inadequate strength, or agility, or skill. While the men among the now-extinct Tasmanians added to the food only that furnished by the kangaroos they chased, the women climbed trees for opossums, dug up roots with sticks, groped for shell-fish, dived for oysters, and fished, in addition to looking after their children; and there now exists a kindred apportionment among the Fuegians, Andamanese, Australians. Where the food consists wholly or mainly of the greater mammals, the men catch and the women carry. We read of the Chippewas that "when the men kill any large beast, the women are always sent to bring it to the tent;" of the Comanches, that the women "often accompany their husbands in hunting—he kills the game, they butcher and transport the meat, dress the skins, etc.;" of the Esquimaux, that when the man has "brought his booty to land, he troubles himself no further about it; for it would be a stigma on his character, if he so much as drew a seal out of the water." Though, in these cases, an excuse made is that the exhaustion caused by the chase is great, yet, when we read that the Esquimaux women, excepting the woodwork, "build the houses and tents, and though they have to carry stones almost heavy enough to break their backs, the men look on with the greatest insensibility, not stirring a finger to assist them," we cannot accept the excuse as adequate. Further, it is the custom with these low races, nomadic or semi-nomadic in their habits, to give the females the task of transporting the baggage. A Tasmanian woman often had piled on all the other burdens she carried when tramping, "sundry spears and waddies not required for present service;" and the like happens with races considerably higher, both semi-agricultural and pastoral. A Damara's wife "carries his things when he moves from place to place." When the Tupis migrate, all the household stock is taken to the new abode by the females: "The husband only took his weapons, and the wife," says Maregraff, "is loaded like a mule." Similarly, enumerating the labors of wives among the aborigines of South Brazil, Spix and Martins say, "They are also the beasts of burden;" and in like manner Dobrizhoffer writes, "The luggage being all committed to the women, the Abipones travel armed with a spear alone, that they may be disengaged to fight or hunt, if occasion requires." Doubtless the reason indicated in the last extract is a partial defense for this practice, so general with savages when traveling; since, liable as they are to be at any moment surprised by ambushed enemies, fatal results would happen were the men not ready to fight on the instant. And possibly knowledge of this may join the force of custom in making the women themselves uphold the practice, as they do.

On ascending to societies partially or wholly settled, and a little more complex, we begin to find considerable diversities in the division of labor between the sexes. Usually the men are the builders, but not always: the women erect the huts among the Bechuanas, Caffres, Damaras, as also do the women of the Outanatas, New Guinea; and sometimes it is the task of women to cut down trees, though nearly always this business falls to the men. Anomalous as it seems, we are told of the Coroados that "the cooking of the dinner, as well as keeping in the fire, is the business of the men;" and the like happens in Samoa: "The duties of cooking devolve on the men"—not excepting the chiefs. Mostly among the uncivilized and semi-civilized, trading is done by the men, but not always. In Java, according to Raffles, "the women alone attend the markets and conduct all the business of buying and selling." So, too, according to Astley, in Angola the women "buy, sell, and do all other things which the men do in other countries, while their husbands stay at home, and employ themselves in spinning, weaving cotton, and such like effeminate business." In ancient Peru there was a like division: men did the spinning and weaving, and women the field-work. Again, according to Bruce, in Abyssinia "it is infamy for a man to go to market to buy anything. He cannot carry water or bake bread; but he must wash the clothes belonging to both sexes, and, in this function, the women cannot help him." And Petherick says that among the Arabs "the females repudiate needlework entirely, the little they require being performed by their husbands and brothers."

From a general survey of the facts, multitudinous and heterogeneous, thus briefly indicated, the only definite conclusion appears to be that men monopolize the occupations requiring both strength and agility always available—war and the chase. Leaving undiscussed the relative fitness of women at other times for fighting enemies and pursuing wild animals, it is clear that during the child-bearing period their ability to do either of these things is so far interfered with, both by pregnancy and by the suckling of infants, that they are practically excluded from them. Though the Dahomans, with their army of amazons, show us that women may be warriors, yet the instance proves that women can become warriors only by being practically unsexed; for, nominally wives of the king, they are celibate, and any unchastity is fatal. But omitting those activities for which women are, during large parts of their lives, physically incapacitated, or into which they cannot enter in considerable numbers without fatally diminishing population, we cannot define the division of labor between the sexes, further than by saying that, before civilization begins, the stronger sex forces the weaker to do all the drudgery; and that along with social advance the apportionment, somewhat mitigated in character, becomes variously specialized under varying conditions.

As bearing on the causes of the mitigation, presently to be dealt with, we may here note that women are better treated where circumstances lead to likeness of occupations between the sexes. Schoolcraft remarks of the Chippewayans that "they are not remarkable for their activity as hunters, which is owing to the ease with which they snare deer and spear fish, and these occupations are not beyond the strength of their old men, women, and boys;" and then he also says that "though the women are as much in the power of the men as other articles of their property, they are always consulted, and possess a very considerable influence in the traffic with Europeans, and other important concerns." We read, too, in Lewis and Clarke, that "among the Clatsops and Chinnooks, who live upon fish and roots, which the women are equally expert with the men in procuring, the former have a rank and influence very rarely found among Indians. The females are permitted to speak freely before the men, to whom, indeed, they sometimes address themselves in a tone of authority." Then, again, Bancroft tells us that "in the province of Cueba women accompany the men, fighting by their side and sometimes even leading the van;" and of this same people he also quotes Wafer as saying that "their husbands are very kind and loving to them. I never knew an Indian to beat his wife, or give her any hard words." A kindred meaning appears traceable in a fact supplied by the Dahomans, among whom, sanguinary and utterly unfeeling as they are, the participation of women with men in war goes along with a social status much higher than usual; for Burton tells us that in Dahomey "the woman is officially superior, but under other conditions she still suffers from male arrogance."

A probable farther cause of improvement in the treatment of women may here be noted: I refer to the obtaining of wives by services rendered, instead of by property paid. The practice which Hebrew tradition acquaints us with in the case of Jacob, proves to be a widely-diffused practice. It is general with the Bhils, Gonds, and Hill-tribes of Nepaul; it obtained in Java before Mohammedanism was introduced; it was common in ancient Peru and Central America; and among sundry existing American races it still occurs. Obviously, a wife long labored for is likely to be more valued than one stolen or bought. Obviously, too, the period of service, during which the betrothed girl is looked upon as a future spouse, affords room for the growth of some feeling higher than the merely instinctive—initiates something approaching to the courtship and engagement of civilized peoples. But the facts chiefly to be noted are—1. That this modification, practicable with difficulty among the rudest predatory tribes, becomes gradually more practicable as there arise established industries affording spheres in which services may be rendered; and, 2. That it is the poorer members of the community, occupied in labor and unable to buy their wives, among whom the substitution of service for purchase will most prevail; the implication being that this higher form of marriage into which the industrial class is led, develops along with the industrial type.

And now we are introduced to the general question, "What connection is there between the status of women and the type of social organization?"

A partial answer to this question was reached when we concluded that there are natural associations between militancy and polygyny, and between industrialness and monogamy. For, as polygyny implies a low position of women, while monogamy is a prerequisite to a high position of women, it follows that decrease of militancy and increase of industrialness are general concomitants of a rise in their position. This conclusion appears also to be congruous with the fact just observed. The truth that, among peoples otherwise inferior, the position of women is relatively good where their occupations are nearly the same as those of men, seems allied to the wider truth that their position becomes good in proportion as warlike activities are replaced by industrial activities; since, when the men fight while the women work, the difference of occupation is greater than when both are engaged in productive labors, however unlike such labors may be in kind. From general reasons for alleging this connection, let us now pass to more special reasons.

As it needed no marshaling of evidence to prove that the chronic militancy characterizing low, simple tribes, habitually goes with polygyny, so it needs no marshaling of evidence to prove that along with this chronic militancy there goes a brutal treatment of women. It will suffice if we here glance at the converse cases of simple tribes which are exceptional in their industrialness, and at the same time exceptional in the higher positions held by women among them. Even the rude Todas, low as are the sexual relations implied by their combined polyandry and polygyny, and little developed as is the industry implied by their semi-settled cow-keeping life, furnish evidence: to the men and boys are left all the harder kinds of work, and the wives "do not even step out-of-doors to fetch water or wood, which. . . . is brought to them by one of their husbands;" and this trait goes along with the trait of peacefulness and entire absence of the militant type of social structure. Striking evidence is furnished by another of the Hill-tribes—the Bodo and Dhimáls. We have seen that, among peoples in low stages of culture, these furnish a marked case of non-militancy, absence of the political organization which militancy develops, absence of class-distinctions, and presence of that voluntary exchange of services implied by industrialism; and of them, monogamous as already shown, we read: "The Bodo and Dhimáls use their wives and daughters well; treating them with confidence and kindness. They are free from all out-door work whatever." Take, again, the Dyaks, who, though not without tribal feuds and their consequences, are yet without stable chieftainships and military organization, are predominantly industrial, and have rights of individual property well developed. Though among the varieties of them the customs differ somewhat, yet the general fact is that the heavy out-door work is mainly done by the men, while the women are generally well treated, and have considerable privileges. With their monogamy goes regular courtship, and the girls choose their mates; St. John says of the Sea Dyaks that "husbands and wives appear to pass their lives very agreeably together;" and Rajah Brooke names Mukah as a part of Borneo where the wives close their doors, and will not receive their husbands unless they procure fish. Then, as a marked case of a simple community having relatively high industrial organization, with elective head, representative council, and the other concomitants of the type, and who are described as "industrious, honest, and peace-loving," we have the Pueblos, who, with that monogamy which characterizes their family relations, also show us a remarkably high status of women. For among them not simply is there courtship, and choice exercised by girls; not simply do we read that "no girl is forced to marry against her will, however eligible her parents may consider the match;" but sometimes, according to Bancroft, "the usual order of courtship is reversed; when a girl is disposed to marry she does not wait for a young man to propose to her, but selects one to her own liking and consults her father, who visits the parents of the youth and acquaints them with his daughter's wishes."

On turning from simple societies to compound societies, we find two adjacent ones in Polynesia exhibiting a strong contrast between their social types as militant and industrial, and an equally strong contrast between the positions they respectively give to women: I refer to Feejeeans and Samoans. The Feejeeans show us the militant structure, actions, and sentiments, in extreme forms. Under an mitigated despotism there are fixed ranks, obedience the most profound, marks of subordination amounting to worship; there is an organized military system with its grades of officers; the lower classes exist only to supply necessaries to the warrior-classes, whose sole business is war, merciless in its character and accompanied by cannibalism. And here, along with prevalent polygyny, carried among the chiefs to the extent of from ten to a hundred wives, we find the position of women such that, not only are they, as among the lowest savages, "little better than beasts of burden," and not only may they be sold at pleasure, but a man may kill and eat his wife if he pleases. Contrariwise, in Samoa the type of the regulating system has become in a considerable degree industrial. There is representative government, and chieftains, exercising authority under considerable restraint, are partly elective; while the industrial organization is so far developed that there are journeymen and apprentices, there is payment for labor, and there are even strikes, with a rudimentary trades-unionism. And here, beyond that improvement of women's status implied by limitation of their labors to the lighter kinds while men take the heavier, there is the improvement implied by the fact that "the husband has to provide a dowry, as well as the wife, and the dowry of each must be pretty nearly of equal value," and by the fact that a couple who have lived together for years make, at separation, a fair division of the property. Of other compound societies fit for comparison, I may name two in America, North and South, the Iroquois and the Araucanians. Though these, alike in degree of composition, were both formed by combination in war against civilized invaders, yet, in their social structures, they differed in the respect that the Araucanians became decidedly militant in their regulative organization, while the Iroquois did not give their regulative organization the militant form; for the governing agencies, general and local, were in the one personal and hereditary and in the other representative. Now, though these two peoples were much upon a par in the division of labor between the sexes—the men limiting themselves to war, the chase, and fishing, leaving to the women the labors of the field and the house—yet along with the freer political type of the Iroquois there went a freer domestic type; as shown by the facts that the women had separate proprietary rights, that they took with them the children in cases of separation, and that marriages were arranged by the mothers. No definite evidence either way is furnished by the doubly-compound societies of ancient America. The political organization of Mexico was in a high degree militant in type; but along with it there went an elaborate industrial organization, with extensive division of labor and considerable commercial intercourse; and, excepting in the polygyny and concubinage of the upper classes, and occasional inheritance of wives as property, the position of women appears to have been not bad. The Peruvian nation, which, though less sanguinary in its observances, had the militant structure carried out far more completely, so that its industrial organization formed part of the political organization, gave a lower status to women, who did the hard work, and who, in the upper ranks at least, had to sacrifice themselves on the deaths of their husbands.

The highest societies, ancient and modern, are many of them rendered in one way or other unfit for comparisons. In some cases the evidence is inadequate; in some cases we know not what the antecedents have been; in some cases the facts have been confused by agglomeration of different societies; and in all cases the coöperating influences have increased in number. Concerning the most ancient ones, of which we know least, we can do no more than say that the traits presented by them are not inconsistent with the view here set forth. The Accadians, who before reaching that height of civilization at which phonetic writing was achieved, must have existed in a settled populous state for a vast period, must have therefore had for a vast period a considerable industrial organization; and it seems not improbable that during such period, being powerful in comparison with wandering tribes around, their social life, little perturbed by enemies, was substantially peaceful. Hence there is no incongruity in the fact that they are shown by their records to have given their women a relatively high status: wives owned property, and the honoring of mothers was especially enjoined by their laws. Of the Egyptians something similar may be said. Their earliest wall-paintings show us a people far advanced in arts, industry, observances, mode of life. The implication is irresistible that, before the stage thus depicted, there must have been a long era of rising civilization; and since this era was passed in an isolated fertile tract, mostly surrounded by such nomadic hordes only as the deserts could support, the Egyptians were relatively strong, and may not improbably have long led a life largely industrial. So that, though the militant type of social structure evolved during the time of their consolidation, and made sacred by their form of religion, continued, yet industrialism must have become an important factor, influencing greatly their social arrangements, and diffusing its appropriate sentiments and ideas. And the position of woman was relatively good. Though polygyny existed, it was unusual; matrimonial regulations were strict, and divorce difficult; "married couples lived in full community;" women shared in social gatherings as they do in our own societies; in sundry respects they had precedence given to them; and, in the words of Ebers, "many other facts might be added to prove the high state of married life."

Ancient Aryan societies illustrate well the relationship between the domestic régime and the political régime. The despotism of an irresponsible head, which characterizes the militant type of structure, characterized alike the original patriarchal family, the cluster of families having a common ancestor, and the united clusters of families forming the early Aryan community. As Mommsen describes him, the early Roman ruler, once in office, stood toward citizens in the same relation that the father of the family did to wife, children, and slaves: "The regal power had not, and could not have, any external checks imposed upon it by law: the master of the community had no judge of his acts within the community, any more than the house-father had a judge within his household. Death alone terminated his power." From this first stage, in which the political head was absolute, and absoluteness of the domestic head went to the extent of life and death power over his wife, the advance toward a higher status of women was doubtless, as Sir Henry Maine contends, largely caused by that disintegration of the family which went along with the progressing union of smaller societies into larger ones effected by conquest. But though successful militancy thus furthered female emancipation, it did so only by thereafter reducing the relative amount of militancy; and the emancipation was really associated with an average increase of industrial structures and activities. As before pointed out, militancy is to be measured not so much by success in war as by the extent to which it occupies the male population. Where all men are warriors, and the work is done entirely by women, militancy is the greatest. The introduction of a class of males who, joining in productive labor, lay the basis for an industrial organization, qualifies the militancy. And as the industrial class, at first consisting though it does wholly of slaves, increases in proportion to the militant class, the total activities of the society must be regarded as more industrial and less militant. In another way the same truth is implied, if we consider that when a number of small hostile societies are consolidated by triumph of the stronger, the amount of fighting throughout the area occupied becomes less, although the conflicts now from time to time arising with neighboring larger aggregates may be on a greater scale. This is clearly seen on comparing the ratio of fighting-men to population among the early Romans with the ratio between the armies of the empire and the number of people included in the empire. And there is the further fact that the holding together of these compound and doubly-compound societies eventually formed by conquest, and the efficient coöperation of their parts for military purposes, itself implies an increased development of the industrial organization. Great armies carrying on operations at the periphery of a great territory, imply a numerous working population, a considerable division of labor, and good appliances for transferring supplies: the sustaining and distributing systems must be well developed before large militant structures can be worked. So that this disintegration of the patriarchal family, and consequent emancipation of women, which went along with growth of the Roman Empire, really had for its concomitant a development of the industrial organization.

In other ways a like relation of cause and effect is shown us during the progress of European societies since Roman times.

Respecting the status of women in mediæval Europe, Sir Henry Maine says:

"There can be no serious question that, in its ultimate result, the disruption of the Roman Empire was very unfavorable to the personal and proprietary liberty of women. I purposely say 'in its ultimate result,' in order to avoid a learned controversy as to their position under purely Teutonic custom."

Now, leaving open the question whether this conclusion applies beyond those parts of Europe in which institutions of Roman origin were least affected by those of Germanic origin, we may, I think, on contrasting the condition of things before the fall of the empire and the condition after, infer a connection between this decline in the status of women and a return to greater militancy. For while Roman power held together the populations of large areas, there existed throughout them a state of comparative internal peace; whereas its failure to maintain subordination was followed by universal warfare: producing from time to time larger aggregates and again dissolutions of them, until the disintegration had reached the stage in which there existed numerous feudal governments mutually hostile. And then, after that decline in the position of women which accompanied this retrograde increase of militancy, the subsequent improvement in their position went along with aggregation of smaller feudal governments into larger ones, which had the result that within the consolidated territories the amount of diffused fighting decreased.

Comparisons between the chief civilized nations as now existing, yield verifications. Note, first, the fact, significant of the relation between political despotism and domestic despotism, that, according to Legouvé, Napoleon I. said to the Council of State, "Un mari doit avoir un empire absolu sur les actions de sa femme;" and that sundry provisions of the Code, as interpreted by Pothier, carry out this dictum. Further, note that, according to De Ségur, the position of women in France declined under the empire; and that "it was not only in the higher ranks that this nullity of women existed. . . . The habit of fighting filled men with a kind of contempt and asperity which made them often forget even the regard which they owed to weakness." Passing over less essential contrasts now presented by the leading European peoples, and considering chiefly the status as displayed in the daily lives of the poorer rather than the richer, it is manifest that the mass of women have harder lots where militant organization and activity predominate, than they have where there is a predominance of industrial organization and activity. The sequence observed by travelers in Africa, that in proportion as the men are occupied in war more labor falls on the women, is a sequence which both France and Germany show us. Social sustentation has to be carried on; and necessarily the more males are drafted off for military service, the more females must be called on to fill their places as workers. Hence the extent to which in Germany women are occupied in rough, out-of-door tasks—digging, wheeling, carrying burdens; hence the extent to which in France heavy field-operations are shared in by women. That the English housewife is less a drudge than her German sister, that among shopkeepers in England she is not required to take so large a share in the business as she is among shopkeepers in France, and that in England the out-of-door work done by women is both smaller in quantity and lighter in kind, is clear; as it is clear that this difference is associated with a lessened demand on the male population for purposes of offense and defense. And then there may be added the fact of kindred meaning, that in the United States, where till the late war the degree of militancy had been so small, and the industrial type of social structure and action so predominant, women have reached a higher status than anywhere else.

Evidence furnished by existing Eastern nations, so far as it can be disentangled, supports this view. China, with its long history of wars causing consolidations, dissolutions, reconsolidations, etc., going back more than 2,000 years b. c., and continuing during Tartar and Mongol conquests to be militant in its activities and arrangements, has, notwithstanding industrial growth, retained the militant type of structure; and absolutism in the state has been accompanied by absolutism in the family, qualified in the one as in the other only by the customs and sentiments which industrialism has fostered: wives are bought; concubinage is common among those adequately well off; widows are sometimes sold as concubines by fahters-in-law; and women join in hard work, sometimes to the extent of being harnessed to the plough; while, nevertheless, this low status is practically raised by a public opinion that checks the harsh treatment legally allowable. Similarly Japan, which, passing through long periods of internal conflict ending in integration, acquired an organization completely militant, under which political freedom was unknown, showed a simultaneous absence of freedom in the household—buying of wives, concubinage, divorce at mere will of husband, crucifixion or decapitation for wife's adultery; while, along with the growth of industrialism characterizing the later days of Japan, there went such improvement in the legal status of women that the husband was no longer allowed to take the law into his own hands in case of adultery; and now, though women are occasionally seen using the flail, yet mostly the men, according to Sir Rutherford Alcock, "leave their women to the lighter work of the house, and perform themselves the harder out-door labor."

It is, of course, difficult to generalize phenomena into the genesis of which there enter factors so numerous and involved—character of race, religious beliefs, surviving customs and traditions, degree of culture, etc.; and doubtless the many coöperating causes give rise to incongruities which qualify somewhat the conclusion drawn. But, on summing up the several arguments, we shall, I think, see that conclusion to be substantially true.

The least entangled evidence is that which most distinctly forces this conclusion upon us. Remembering that nearly all simple uncivilized societies, having chronic feuds with their neighbors, are militant in their activities, and that their women are extremely degraded in position, the fact that in the exceptional simple societies which are peaceful and industrial there is an exceptional elevation of women almost alone suffices as proof: neither race, nor creed, nor culture, being in these cases an assignable cause.

The connections which we have seen exist between militancy and polygyny, and between industrialness and monogamy, present the same truth under another aspect; since polygyny necessarily implies a low status of women, and monogamy, if it does not necessarily imply a high status, is an essential condition to a high status.

Further, that approximate equalization of the sexes in numbers which results from diminishing militancy and increasing industrialness, conduces to the elevation of women; since, in proportion as the supply of males available for carrying on social sustentation increases, the labor of social sustentation falls less heavily on the females. And it may be added that the societies in which the surplus of males thus made available undertakes the harder labors, and so, relieving the females from undue physical tax, enables them to produce more and better offspring, will, other things equal, gain in the struggle for existence with societies in which the women are not thus relieved by the men: whence an average tendency to the spread of societies in which the status of women is improved.

There is the fact, too, that the despotism distinguishing a community organized for war, is essentially connected with despotism in the household; while, conversely, the freedom which characterizes public life in an industrial community, naturally characterizes also the accompanying private life. In the one case compulsory coöperation prevails in both; in the other case voluntary coöperation prevails in both.

By the moral contrast we are shown another face of the same fact. Habitual antagonism with, and destruction of, foes, sears the sympathies; while daily exchange of products and services among citizens, puts no obstacle to increase of fellow-feeling. And the altruism which grows with peaceful coöperation, ameliorates at once the life without the household and the life within the household.[1]


That brutes, however ferocious, treat their offspring tenderly, is a familiar fact; and that tenderness to offspring is shown by the most brutal of mankind, is a fact quite congruous with it. An obvious explanation of this seeming anomaly exists. As we saw that the treatment of women by men cannot pass a certain degree of harshness without causing extinction of the tribe, so, here, we may see that the tribe must disappear unless the love of progeny is strong. Hence we need not be surprised when Mouat tells us that the Andaman-Islanders "show their children the utmost tenderness and affection;" or when we read in Snow's account of the Fuegians that both sexes are much attached to their offspring; or when Sturt describes Australian fathers and mothers as behaving to their little ones with much fondness. Affection intense enough to prompt great self-sacrifice is, indeed, especially requisite under the conditions of savage life, which render the rearing of young difficult; and maintenance of such affection is insured by the dying out of families in which it is deficient.

But this strong parental love is, like the parental love of animals, very irregularly displayed. As among brutes the philoprogenitive instinct is occasionally suppressed by the desire to kill, and even to devour, their young ones, so, among primitive men, this instinct is now and again overridden by impulses temporarily excited. Thus, though attached to their offspring, Australian mothers, when in danger, will sometimes desert them; and, if we may believe Angas, men have been known to bait their hooks with the flesh of boys they have killed. Thus, notwithstanding their marked parental affection, Fuegians sell their children for slaves; thus, among the Chonos Indians, a father, though doting on his boy, will kill him in a fit of anger for an accidental offense. Everywhere among the lower races we meet with like incongruities. Falkner, while describing the paternal feelings of Patagonians as very strong, says they often pawn and sell their wives and little ones to the Spaniards for brandy. Speaking of the children of the Sound Indians, Bancroft says they "sell or gamble them away." According to Simpson, the Pi-Edes "barter their children to the Utes proper, for a few trinkets or bits of clothing." And of the Macusi, Schomburgk writes, "The price of a child is the same as the Indian asks for his dog."

This seemingly-heartless conduct to children often arises from the

difficulty experienced in rearing them. To it the infanticide so common among the uncivilized and semi-civilized is, of course, mainly due—the burial of living infants with mothers who have died in childbirth; the putting to death one out of twins; the destruction of younger children when there are already several. For these acts there is an excuse like that commonly to be made for killing the sick and old. When, concerning the desertion of aged people by wandering prairie tribes, Catlin says, "It often becomes absolutely necessary in such cases that they should be left, and they uniformly insist upon it, saying, as this old man did, that they are old and of no further use, that they left their fathers in the same manner, that they wish to die, and their children must not mourn for them"—when, of the Nascopies, Heriot tells us that in his old age "the father usually employed as his executioner the son who is most dear to him"—when, in Kane, we read of the Assiniboin chief who "killed his own mother," because, being "old and feeble," she "asked him to take pity on her and end her misery"—there is suggested the conclusion that, as destruction of the ill and infirm may lessen the total amount of suffering to be borne under the conditions of savage life, so may the destruction of infants, when the region is barren or the mode of life so hard that the rearing of many is impracticable. And a like plea may be urged in mitigation of judgment on savages who sell or barter away their children: the needs of the younger ones possibly, in some cases, prompting this sacrifice of the elder.

Generally, then, among uncivilized peoples, as among animals, instincts and impulses are the sole incentives and deterrents. The status of a primitive man's child is like that of a bear's cub. There is neither moral obligation nor moral restraint; but there exists the unchecked power to foster, to desert, to destroy, as love or anger moves.

To the yearnings of natural affection are added in early stages of progress certain motives, partly personal, partly social, which help to secure the lives of children; but which, at the same time, initiate differences of status between children of different sexes. There is the desire to strengthen the tribe in war; there is the wish to have a future avenger on individual enemies; there is the anxiety to leave behind one who shall perform the funeral rites and continue oblations at the grave.

Inevitably, the urgent need to augment the number of warriors leads to preference for male children. On reading of such a militant race as the Chechemecas, that they "like much their male children, who are brought up by their fathers, but they despise and hate the daughters;" or of the Panches, that, when "a wife bore her first girl-child, they killed the child, and thus they did with all the girls born before a male child," we are shown the effect of this desire for sons; and everywhere we find it leading either to destruction of daughters, or to low estimation and ill-treatment of them. Through long ascending stages of social life the desire thus arising persists; as instance the statement of Herodotus, that every Persian prided himself on the number of his sons, and it is even said that an annual prize was given by the monarch to the Persian who could show most sons living. Obviously the social motive, thus coming in aid of the parental motive, served to raise the status of male children above that of female.

A reason for the care of sons implied in the passage of Ecclesiasticus which says, "He left behind him an avenger against his enemies," is a reason which has weighed with all races in barbarous and semi-civilized states. The sacred duty of blood-revenge, earliest of recognized obligations among men, survives so long as societies remain predominantly warlike; and it generates an anxiety to have a male representative who shall retaliate upon those from whom injuries have been received. This bequest of quarrels to be fought out, traceable down to recent times among so-called Christians, as in the will of Brantôme, has, of course, all along raised the value of sons, and has so put upon the harsh treatment of them a check not put upon the harsh treatment of daughters—whence a further differentiation of status.

The development of ancestor-worship, which, enjoining sacrifices to be made by each man at the tombs of his immediate and more remote male progenitors, implies anticipation of like sacrifices to his own ghost by his son, initiates yet another motive for cherishing sons—adds to the parental regard for children a feeling which tells in favor of males rather than of females. The effects of this motive are at the present time shown us by the Chinese, among whom the death of an only son is especially lamented, because there will be no one to make offerings at the grave, and among whom the peremptory need for a son hence arising is held to justify the taking of a concubine, though, "if a person has sons by his wife (for daughters never enter into the account), it is considered derogatory to take a handmaid at all." On recalling Egyptian wall-paintings and papyri, and the like evidence furnished by Assyrian records, showing that sacrifices to ancestors were performed by their male descendant—on remembering, too, that among ancient Aryans, Hindoo, Greek, Roman, the daughter was incapable of this function, and that sons were, therefore, required for maintaining the family-cult—we are shown how this developed form of the primitive religion, while it strengthened filial subordination, added an incentive to parental care—of sons, but not of daughters.

In brief, then, the relations of adults to young among human beings, originally like those among animals, began to assume higher forms under the influence of the several desires—to obtain an aider in fighting enemies, to provide an avenger for injuries received, and to leave behind one who should administer to welfare after death: motives which, strengthening as societies passed through their early stages, gradually gave a certain authority to the claims of male children, though not to those of females. And thus we again see how intimate is the connection between militancy of the men and degradation of the women.

Here we are introduced to the question, "What relation exists between the status of children and the form of social organization?" To this the reply is akin to one given in the last chapter; namely, that mitigation of the treatment of children accompanies transition from the militant type to the industrial type.

Those lowest social states in which offspring are now idolized, now killed, now sold, as the dominant feeling prompts, are everywhere the states in which hostilities with surrounding tribes are chronic. This absolute dependence of progeny on parental will is shown whether the militancy is that of archaic groups, or that of groups higher in structure. In the latter as in the former, there exists that life and death power over children which is the negation of all rights and claims. On comparing children's status in the rudest militant tribes with their status in militant tribes which are patriarchal and compounded of the patriarchal, all we can say is, that in these last the still-surviving theory becomes qualified in practice; and that qualification of it increases as industrialism grows.

The Feejeeans, intensely despotic in government, and ferocious in war, furnish an instance of extreme abjectness in the position of children. Infanticide, especially of females, reaches nearer two-thirds than one-half; they "destroy their infants from mere whim, expediency, anger, or indolence;" and, according to Erskine, "children have been offered by the people of their own tribe to propitiate a powerful chief," not for slaves but for food. A sanguinary warrior race of Mexico—the Chechemecas—yield another example of excessive parental power: sons "cannot marry without the consent of parents; if a young man violates this law. . . . the penalty is death." By this instance we are reminded of the domestic condition among the ancient Mexicans (largely composed of conquering cannibal Chechemecas), whose social organization was highly militant in type, and of whom Clavigero says, "Their children were bred to stand so much in awe of their parents, that even when grown up and married, they hardly durst speak before them." In ancient Central America family rule was similar; and in ancient Peru it was the law that "sons should obey and serve their fathers until they reached the age of twenty-five."

If we now turn to the few cases of uncivilized and semi-civilized societies that are wholly industrial, or predominantly industrial, we find children, as we found women, occupying much higher positions. Among the peaceful Bodo and Dhimáls, "infanticide is utterly unknown;" daughters are treated "with confidence and kindness;" and when marriages are being arranged, "there is a consulting the destined bride;" to which add the reciprocal trait that "it is deemed shameful to leave old parents entirely alone." The Dyaks, again, largely industrial, and having an unmilitant social structure, yield the fact stated by Brooke, that "the practice of infanticide is rare," as well as the facts before named under another head, that children have the freedom implied by regular courtship, and that girls choose their mates. We are told of the Samoans, who are more industrial in social structure and habit than neighboring Malayo-Polynesians, that infanticide after birth is unknown, and that children have the degree of independence implied by elopements when they cannot obtain parental assent to their marriage. Similarly with the Negritos inhabiting the island of Tanna, where militancy is slight and there are no pronounced chieftainships: of them we read in Turner that "the Tannese are fond of their children. No infanticide there. They allow them every indulgence, girls as well as boys." Lastly, there is the case of the industrious Pueblos, whose children were unrestrained in marriage, and by whom, as we have seen, daughters were especially privileged.

Thus with a highly-militant type there goes extreme subjection of children, and the status of girls is still lower than that of boys; while in proportion as the type becomes non-militant, there is not only more recognition of children's claims, but the recognized claims of boys and girls approach toward equality.

Kindred evidence is supplied by those societies which, passing through the patriarchal forms of domestic and political government, have evolved into large nations. Be the race Turanian, Semitic, or Aryan, it shows us the same connection between political absolutism over subjects and domestic absolutism over children.

In China the destruction of female infants is common; "parents sell their children to be slaves;" in marriage "the parents of the girl always demand for their child a price;" and "forced marriages often produce the most tragic results. . . . A union prompted solely by love would be a monstrous infraction of the duty of filial obedience, and a predilection on the part of a female as heinous a crime as infidelity. . . . Their maxim is, that, as the emperor should have the care of a father for his people, a father should have the power of a sovereign over his family." Meanwhile it is observable that this legally-unlimited paternal power descending from militant times, and persisting along with the militant type of social structure, has come to be qualified in practice by sentiments which the industrial type fosters: infanticide, reprobated by proclamation, is excused only on the plea of poverty, joined with the need for rearing a male child; and public opinion puts checks on the actions of those who purchase children. With that militant type of social structure which, during early wars, became highly developed among the Japanese, similarly goes great filial subjection. Mitford, qualifying previous statements, admits that needy people "sell their children to be waitresses, singers, or prostitutes;" and Sir Rutherford Alcock says that "parents, too, have undoubtedly in some cases, if not in all, the power to sell their children." It may be added that the subordination of young to old, irrespective of sex, is greater than the subordination of females to males; for abject as is the slavery of wife to husband, yet, after his death, the widow's power "over the son restores the balance and redresses the wrong, by placing woman, as the mother, far above man, as the son, whatever his age or rank." And the like holds among the Chinese.

How among the primitive Semites the father exercised capital jurisdiction, and how along with this there went a lower status of girls than of boys, needs no proof. But, as further indicating the parental and filial relation, I may name the fact that children were considered so much the property of the father, that they were seized for his debts (2 Kings iv. 1; Job xxiv. 9); also the fact that selling of daughters was authorized (Exodus xxi. 7); also the fact that injunctions respecting the treatment of children referred exclusively to paternal benefit: as instance the reasons given in Ecclesiasticus, chapter xxx., for chastisement of sons; and the further fact that in Deuteronomy, xxi. 18, stoning to death is the appointed punishment of a rebellious son. Though some qualification of paternal absolutism arose during the later settled stages of the Hebrews, yet along with persistence of the militant type of government there continued extreme filial subordination.

Already in the chapter on the Family, when treating of the Romans as illustrating both the social and domestic organization possessed by the conquering Aryans during their spread into Europe, something has been implied respecting the status of children among them. In the words of Mommsen, relatively to the father, "all in the household were destitute of legal rights—the wife and child no less than the bullock or the slave." He might expose his children: the religious prohibition which forbade it "so far as concerned all the sons—deformed births excepted—and at least the first daughter," was without civil sanction. He "had the right and duty of exercising over them judicial powers, and of punishing them as he deemed fit, in life and limb." He might also sell his child. It remains to say that the same implied development of industrialness which we saw went along with improvement in the position of women during the growth of the Roman Empire, went along with improvement in the position of children. I may add that in Greece there were allied manifestations of paternal absolutism: a man could bequeath his daughter, as he could also his wife.

If, again, we compare the early states of existing European peoples, characterized by chronic militancy, with their later states, characterized by a militancy that had become less constant and diffused, while industrialism had grown, differences of like significance meet us.

We have the statement of Cæsar concerning the Celts of Gaul, that fathers "do not permit their children to approach them openly until they have grown to manhood." In the Merovingian period a father could sell his child, as could also a widowed mother—a power which continued down to the ninth century or later. Under the decayed feudal state which preceded the French Revolution domestic subordination, especially among the aristocracy, was still such that Chateaubriand says, "My mother, my sister, and myself, transformed into statues by my father's presence, only recover ourselves after he leaves the room;" and Taine, quoting Beaumarchais and Bretonne, indicates that this rigidity of paternal authority was general. Then, after the Revolution, De Ségur writes, "Among our good forefathers a man of thirty was more in subjection to the head of the family than a child of eighteen is now."

Our own history furnishes kindred evidence. Describing the manners of the fifteenth century, Wright says: "Young ladies, even of great families, were brought up not only strictly, but even tyrannically. . . . The parental authority was indeed carried to an almost extravagant extent." Down to the seventeenth century, "children stood or knelt in trembling silence in the presence of their fathers and mothers, and might not sit without permission." The literature of even the last century, alike by the deferential use of "sir" and "madam" in addressing parents, by the authority parents assumed in arranging marriages for their children, and by the extent to which sons, and still more daughters, recognized the duty of accepting the spouses chosen, shows us a persistence of filial subordination proportionate to the political subordination. And then, since the beginning of this century, along with the immense development of industrialism and the correlative progress toward a freer type of social organization, there has gone a marked increase of juvenile freedom; as shown by a greatly moderated parental dictation, by a mitigation of punishments, and by that decreased formality of domestic intercourse which has accompanied the changing of fathers from masters into friends.

Differences having like meanings are traceable between the more militant and the less militant European societies as now existing. Along with the relatively-developed industrial type of political organization in England, there goes a less coercive treatment of children than in France and Germany, where industrialism has modified the political organizations less. Joined with great fondness for, and much indulgence of, the young, there is in France a closer supervision of them, and the restraints on their actions are both stronger and more numerous: girls at home are never from under maternal control, and boys at school are subject to military discipline. Add to which that parental oversight of marriageable children still goes so far that little opportunity is afforded for choice by the young people themselves. In Germany, again, there is a stringency of rule in education allied to the political stringency of rule. As writes a German lady long resident in England, and experienced as a teacher: "English children are not tyrannized over—they are guided by their parents. The spirit of independence and personal rights is fostered. I can therefore understand the teacher who said he would rather teach twenty German [children] than one English child—I understand him, but I do not sympathize with him. The German child is nearly a slave compared to the English child; it is, therefore, more easily subdued by the one in authority."

Lastly come the facts that in the United States, long characterized by great development of the industrial organization little qualified by the militant, parental government has become extremely lax, and girls and boys are nearly on a par in their positions: the independence reached being such that young ladies often form their own circles of acquaintance and carry on their intimacies without let or hinderance from their fathers and mothers.

As was to be anticipated, we thus find a series of changes in the status of children parallel to the series of changes in the status of women.

In archaic societies, without law and having customs extending over but some parts of life, there are no limits to the powers of parents; and the passions, daily exercised in conflict with brutes or men, are restrained in the relations to offspring only by the philoprogenitive instinct.

Early the needs for a companion in arms, for an avenger, and presently for a performer of sacrifices, add to the fatherly feeling other motives, personal and social, tending to give something like a status to male children; but leaving female children still in the same position as are the young of brutes.

These relations of father to son and daughter, arising in advanced groups of the archaic type, and becoming more settled where pastoral life originates the patriarchal group, continue to characterize societies that remain predominantly militant, whether evolved from the patriarchal group or otherwise: victory and defeat, which express the outcome of militant activity, having for their correlatives despotism and slavery in military organization, in political organization, and in domestic organization.

The status of children, in common with that of women, rises in proportion as the compulsory coöperation characterizing militant activities becomes qualified by the voluntary coöperation characterizing industrial activities. We see this on comparing the most militant uncivilized peoples with others that are less militant; we see it on comparing the early militant states of existing nations with their later more industrial states; we see it on comparing nations that are now relatively militant with those that are now relatively industrial. And we are especially shown it by the fact that in primitive uncultured societies which are exceptionally peaceful the status of children is exceptionally high.

Most conclusively, however, is this connection shown on grouping the facts antithetically thus: On the one hand, savage tribes in general, chronically militant, have, in common with the predominantly militant great nations of antiquity, the trait that a father has life and death power over his children. On the other hand, the few uncivilized tribes which are peaceful and industrial have, in common with the most advanced civilized nations, the trait that children's lives are sacred, and that large measures of freedom are accorded to both boys and girls.

  1. Too late to be inserted in its proper place, and so late that I have canceled stereotype plates to bring it in, I have met with a striking verification in the just-issued work of Mr. W. Mattieu Williams, F. R. A. S., F. C. S., "Through Norway with Ladies." He says, "There are no people in the world, however refined, among whom the relative position of man and woman is more favorable to the latter than among the Lapps." After giving evidence from personal observation, he asks the reason, saying: "Is it because the men are not warriors? . . . They have no soldiers, fight no battles, either with outside foreigners, or between the various tribes and families among themselves. . . . In spite of their wretched huts, their dirty faces, their primitive clothing, their ignorance of literature, art, and science, they rank above us in the highest element of true civilization, the moral element; and all the military nations of the world may stand uncovered before them" (pp. 162, 163).