« 이전계속 »
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 pa secret mystic chord of sympathy in them, have communicated 10 electric shoek to heart or brain. Nor can any one call ours.a fancypicture-it is the English matron's natural position, if het station in life admit of all these relations. Any less favourable state of things is an exception to a rule. We describe the nation: 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 countrywomen, 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 inore 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 are, 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 wisest 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 boson's bilt only the disgust which tone and matter were alike éaloulated tö excite.
Yet that very repulsive work contains some home truths. A gradual return to common sense (through no irstrumentality 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 tíme 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
woman, who gives us her views in a very succinct form. "The writer of Remarks on the Education of Girls,' as might be expected, has to form a school of complainants. Englishwomen now, as in the days of Mary Wollstonecraft, hug their chains, and do not want more liberty than they have. Education, then, is her lever to stir the inert mass. Girls must be differently trained, and then they will not be content in their present bondage. And, first, their physical training must be reformed:: Strength and growth are to be the sole aim. No attitude: is to be:dcenied unhecoming; no distinction of sex in these matters is 'to bė åcknowledged. The words • ladylike' and
decorous' are no more to be named, as 'miserable restrictions on the individuality of the individual. In short, muscular development is the one desideratung. Then follows mental training, which is to be even on å: freer scale; fully to investigate, and
fearlessly to adopt the whole truth, is the leading principle of • Protestantism as opposed to that of the Catholic Church, and on this axiom is built the claim to universal knowledge. Not only is the whole field of science to be laid open to girls, but they must, by all means, be instructed in the knowledge of evil. • There must be no concealment, and they must know what is «going on around them;' and to this end a course of George Sands is rigorously prescribed. From the calm, dispassionate * investigation of human relations,' the term applied to the reading of French novels, they are to proceed to the study of political economy, with a view, amongst other things, of making them more agreeable and intelligent companions to their future husbands; while, in connexion with the subject of marriage, they are to be allowed a freer and more unrestrained intercourse with the other sex than is sanctioned by our customs. Then they must learn responsibility by being placed in responsible situations, which naturally leads to advocating a wider sphere of employment than public opinion now allows to women; arguing for a wife's right to the exclusive possession of the earnings she is thus in a situation to acquire. The pamphlet concludes with an animated address to young women in society, on whose brave upholding the social success of all reform greatly depends ;' bidding these young ladies never to forget, day by day, and hour by hour,' that they are the trustees for this generation of the great Protestant principle of individual research. You are Dissenters,
• ' she adds, not because you have the truth, but because you have, and shall ever have, freedom to find it.' Another pamphlet in connexion with this, and especially with its latter topics, gives a summary of the English laws concerning women, including the legal condition of spinsters; the laws concerning married women, and the disposition of their property; those on separations
and divorce, and on the maintenance of illegitimate children; with remarks on their supposed injustice, especially in the matter of property. And this concludes the English plea for change.
In spite of the appeal we have quoted to young women as the pioneers of progress, there is no indication, as we have said, of any general active sympathy with the views here laid down. In cases of individual hardship in this country, women suffering under the existing laws or usages may, and in some instances do, desire a change, but, as a rule, silence speaks consent to things as they are with us. It is not so in America. There the free daughters of a free country make known their discontent by unmistakeable signs. The malcontents probably form a very small minority even there, but it is a very noisy, active, and clever one, composing a compact and influential party, which it is worth the while of male factions to encourage, flatter, and fraternise with. Nor are they content with complaints and appeals; they take the privileges they plead for, and wait neither for man's consent nor woman's acquiescence.
They hold conventions—they make speeches—they preachthey lecture—they physic, and, in the fearless exercise of these assumed rights, they affix to their names titles and distinctions which men
have hitherto believed their exclusive privilege. Nor can they be dispossessed of the masculine decorations, which, indeed, it would seem are fairly earned.
Many of our readers may not have read, and others may have forgotten, the history of the Convention of Syracuse, which appeared two or three years ago in our leading journal. The whole is too long for insertion, but it puts us so readily in possession of the aims of the fair assemblage, and shows so forcibly the spirit and determination which animated the meeting, that we are tempted to introduce this phase of our subject by some graphic extracts. That the view taken should be a masculine and ex parte one is not more than must be expected, and probably was a matter of indifference to these enthusiasts, who required publicity rather than sympathy from men who had usurped the world too long, and put them off with fair speeches instead of just rights.
Among other “ dangerous classes " in the United States there is one at this moment in a highly insurrectionary state. More ambitious than the “Lone-star," more deeply indignant than the African, more excitable than the Celtic immigrant, and at least as numerous as all the rest of the population, the “ better half” of the Union is asserting its long denied rights. Half the human race has just held its third or fourth annual convention at Syracuse. Brother Jonathan is well known to have a good many notions of his own, and there is no place where a good strong opinion is so likely to take root as somewhere or other between California and New York; so the female movement-we beg its pardon, the anti-male-and-female movement-thrives on that generous soil, and forms all sorts of alliances
with other classes struggling for emancipation. And who can have attended such a convention? What manner of women can they be? We can form a pretty distinct idea of a Roman Senate, of a conclave of Cardinals, of a British House of Commons, of a Parliament of German philosophers, and even of Louis Napoleon's Senate ; but a petticoat Parliament-what sort of thing can it be? A much prettier sort of thing, gentle reader, than, perhaps, you imagine. True, there were some “strong-minded women. True, there was Anne Partiman, a venerable widow, tall, in widow's weeds, who bad preached “the everlasting gospel,” as Shaker preacher, for sixteen years, and a few others of the same calibre ; but the great majority of them were pretty girls in their teens, rather precocious, perhaps, in their habits and tastes, but very formidable specimens of Young America. A large proportion of them were Bloomers. As to the movers, the constitution, the objects, and operation of these Amazons of the New World, suffice it to say that everything is hitherto undetermined and free. The law of liberty, which impels them to seek emancipation from all female servitude, forbids also any organization and definite plan. Once a-year the struggling spirit of the sex-if we may venture to use the term-vents itself in a great meeting. As Doctor Miss H. K. Hunt very properly observed on the late occasion at Syracuse, "She did not like arbitrary organizations. Spontaneity is the law of life. Individualism is the only basis of responsibility. In going to Worcester, to the two first conventions, she was a mere baby, but she had grown since (as it appears, to rather bulky dimensions). Organizations and societies had performed their functions, and their day was gone by. We are organized and linked together like nature, and electrical sympathy is the only safe organization."
After some further remarks on organization-a word apparently in great disfavour—the business of the meeting commenced with the first morning session:'
“The first morning session before us was opened by Mrs. Dr. Fowler, one of the secretaries, a lady apparently not more than eighteen, and "who was taken for unmarried by most persons present.” She had to read the minutes of a former session, and did so from the free and easy report of a newspaper. On being taxed with this slipshod mode of discharging her office, she replied that she had minutes of her own, and would read them if desired; but on attempting to do so she blushed deeply-in such a company, of course, an unpardonable offence—and was accordingly released from all further discharge of her office. A committee of finance was then appointed, and a rev. gentleman having nominated “Mrs. Stephen Smith,” the president called him to order, “Women's-rights' women do not like to be called by their husbands' names, but their own," on which the objectionable appellation was corrected to Rosa Smith, that lady being still obliged by the state of the law to sign herself by her husband's surname. These preliminaries concluded, Mrs. George delivered a long address, in which she enumerated all the distinguished women in the world, including Queen Victoria, Sappho, Jenny Lind, and Miss Dr. Blackwell of the State of New York.' Whatever the first in this list may say to her company, it is some satisfaction to us that we possess in this island at least one woman whose character and position fulfil the women's-rights' idea of individuality, spontaneity, and other feminine qualities. The next speaker was Mrs. J. Elizabeth Jones, of Ohio, with a strong western accent and an Irish face, who expressed herself rather new to the subject, but being in the habit of addressing large audiences on various subjects, was glad “to mingle with the free spirits of that hall.” She said, “she was not in the habit of talking much about women's rights. She was one of those women who, instead of