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JULY, 1965 ORY
Art. 1.-1. The Public Function of Woman... 4.Sermon. By
THEODORE PARKER. John Chapman.:::::: 2. Woman and her Wishes. An Essay. By Thos. WENTWORTH
HIGGINSON. John Chapman. 3. Remarks on the Education of Girls. J. Chapman. 4. A Brief Summary of the Laws concerning Women. John
Chapman. 5. Bertha and Lily; or, the Parsonage of Beech Glen. By Ell
ZABETH OAKES SMITH. Aird & Tunstall. AMONGST the most interested and intelligent of our readers we confidently reckon many of the class whose social position is to form the subject of the present article ;— Women of mature minds, cultivated tastes, and high aims, possessed of education, thought, and refinement, who are habituated to the consideration of great subjects, and with whom all the leading questions of the day are matters of interest, and present materials for the exercise of thought and judgment. Yet we think it probable that to many even of these, alive as they are to the existence of numerous social evils, it may yet be a matter of surprise, that their own public position is becoming one of these great public questions; that their own grievances, their own disabilities, the oppressions and injustice to which they themselves are subject, are collectively, in the judgment of many of their sex, the most crying evil of the day—the great bar to progress; and that male politicians, and social regenerators of name and weight in their own circles, support them in this opinion.
So little, perhaps, have they entered into this dark view of the circumstances of their being, that a totally contrary impression may hitherto have been the habit of their minds. Respected, cherished, beloved, feeling themselves the centre
and attraction of home, their affections exercised, their faculties called out; their time employed in the performance of congenial duties, whose importance cannot be overstated - the mainstay of husband, children, dependents ; ubi Cuius, ibi Caia
- the active agents in every more private scheme of kindness or charity-the organizers and directors of cultivated social intercourse, cognisant of no restrictions, and feeling no restraints;we need not wonder that the yearnings of the aspiring sisterhood have struck no secret mystic chord of sympathy in them, have communicated no electric shock to heart or brain. Nor can any one call ours. À fancy-picture—it is the English matron's natural position, if her:stä сion in life admit of all these relations. Any less favourable state of things is an exception to a rule. We describe the wiatron: because in her centre all the conditions of womanhood, and her lot is equally, perhaps more, a matter of complaint with this regenerating school than that of women with fewer ties; but in her degree, and with the limitations which altered circumstances imply, every English woman, by her birthright, shares this condition of honour and usefulness; and amongst those whom we may hope to include in the number of our readers, we do not suppose that any difference of condition will affect the views they may take on this question. We feel confident, then, that the majority of our country women, and those best fulfilling the duties of their several stations, have no sympathy whatever with these agitators, and are disposed to regard with repugnance the movement which we have intimated is beginning to stir society. They want no more liberty than they possess, they assert no claims;' the rights they have are enough for them; they find in their present position room for the free exercise of their highest gifts. This being so, the first conclusion certainly is to leave things as they äre, and to oppose all change as such :-in fact, to let well alone; and if we reverence and love female excellence as it shows itself at present, to object to every suggestion of change. But, on second thoughts, it may be. questioned whether, because good women, those who most realise to us what women should be, do well, and are well as things now are, the supposed consequence follows. The best people are independent of laws- indeed we may question whether people of highest practical wisdom ever trouble themselves much with anything but to make the best of existing institutions, which they can always adapt to their needs. Therefore it is that reforms never originate in the wisést men. It needs some element of contrariety and perverseness to fall foul of time-honoured customs or observances of any sort. Erratic genius stumbles against impediments which sensible men patiently go round, or unconsciously evade.
Pearing this in mind, we conclude that though the wisest and best women are absolutely content with their present position, and probably dread change, as wise people generally do, we need not take for granted that no improvement is needed. It is not improbable that some such conclusion may be come to at the end of our investigation, but the argument does not of itself prove that there should be no investigation at all.
When more than sixty years ago Mary Wollstonecraft published her · Vindication of the Rights of Women,' it is evident that she neither expected nor received the sympathy: of any class of her countrywomen. She awoke, as far as we can judge, no echo in any female bosom; but only the disgust which tone and matter were alike ealoulated to excite. Yet that very repulsive work contains some biome truths. A gradual return to common sense (through no 'instrumentality of hers) has justified many of her strictures on the prevailing notions of her day on female education and the legitimate province of women ;-their sphere of thought and action is enlarged since those narrow-minded and conventional days; yet women are not less feminine now than then; they have lost nothing in delicacy or refinement of character, though mind and body are trained in a stronger mould than was at that particular time thought fitting for their sex. Therefore, though the remonstrances and advice which now lie before us come from most uninviting quarters, we will not allow our prejudices to reject at once every suggestion; we will listen to the complaints of the oppressed.' Possibly some unjust limitation and restraint in our social system may press hard on impulsive minds, and goad them on to these violent and rebellious measures for their emancipation.
Though Mary Wollstonecraft is, as we believe, the first promulgator of these views; yet, as we have said, she has had no disciples amongst her countrywomen. American ladies are the legitimate heirs to her arguments, and it is from America that the present movement in our own country takes its rise. The leading pamphlets at the head of our article are reprints from America ; our copy of Mary Wollstonecraft's work is printed at New York (we believe it would be difficult to meet with an English copy), and with its original dedication to Talleyrand looks as un-English as possible, while it is the infidel, or semiinfidel school amongst ourselves, avowedly in alliance with American unbelievers, that are agitating it here.
Yet the tone of demand in the two countries is not identical. Our sympathies, we confess, run most with the transatlantic sisterhood; they seem to us to have a good deal to say for themselves, if not on the ground of demands, yet of grievances. But it is right to grant precedence to the appeal of our country
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