The Elizabeth Oakes Smith Page: Woman and Her Needs


By Mrs. E. Oakes Smith...For the Tribune.

The recent movements of Women in our Country in the shape of Conventions, the one in Ohio, and the other in Massachusetts, have called forth from the Press one grand jubilee of ridicule "from Dan even unto Bathsheba," as if it were the funniest thing in the world for human beings to feel the evils oppressing themselves or others, and to look round for redress.

There is a large class of our sex so well cared for, "whom the winds of heaven are not allowed to visit too roughly," that they can form no estimate of the suffering of their less fortunate sisters. Perhaps I do wrong to say less fortunate, for suffering to a Woman occupies the place of labor to a man, giving a breadth, depth and fullness not otherwise attained. Therefore let her who is called to suffer beware how she despises the cross, which it implies; rather let her glory that she is accounted worthy to receive the testimony to the capabilities of her soul.

But there is, as I have said, a class unconscious of this bearing; delicate, amiable, lovely even, but limited and superficial. These follow the bent of their masculine friends and admirers, and lisp pretty ridicule about the folly of "Woman Rights" and "Woman Movements." These see no need of reform or change of any kind; indeed they are denied that comprehensiveness of thought by which they could hold the several parts of a subject in mind and see its bearings. Society is a sort of grown up mystery which they pretend not to comprehend, supposing it to have gradually grown to its present rise [size] and shape from Adam and Eve, by natural gradation like Church Bishops.

Then there is another class doomed to debasement, vice, labor of body and soul in all their terrible manifestations. Daughters of suffering without its ennobling influence; too weak in thought it may be, to discern the best good; or it may be too strong in passion to resist the allurements of the immediate; or it may be ignorant only, they wake to the sad realities of life too late to find redress for its evils. These are the kind over whom infinite Pity would weep as it were drops of blood. These may scoff at reform, but it is the scoffing of a lost spirit, or that of despair. Then come the class of our sex capable of thought, of impulse, of responsibility--the [those?] worthy to be called Woman. Not free from faults any more than the strong of the other sex, but of that full humanity which may sometimes err, but yet which loves and seeks for the true and the good. These include all who are identified with suffering in whatever shape, and from whatever cause, for these, when suffering proceeds from their own acts even, have that fund of greatness or goodness left that they perceive and acknowledge the opposite of what they are. These are the ones who are victims to the falseness of society, wand who see and feel that something may and will be done to redeem it. They are not content to be the creatures of luxury, the toys of the drawing room, however well they grace it--they are to true, too earnest in life to trifle with its realities. They are capable of thinking, it may be far more capable of it, than those of their own household who help to sway the destinies of the country through the ballot box. They are capable of feeling, and analyzing too, the evils that surround themselves and others--they have individuality, resources, and that antagonism which weak men ridicule, because it shames their own imbecility; which makes them obnoxious to those of less earnestness of character, and helps them to an eclectic power, at once their crown of glory.

To say that such beings have no right to a hearing in a world whose destinies they effect, is to reproach the First Cause for having imparted to his creatures a superfluous intelligence--to say they have no interest in the nature of legislation, when its terrible penalties hang like the hair suspended sword of Damocles over their heads, is a contradiction as weak as it is selfish and cruel.

Till now women have acted singly--they have been content with individual influence, however exercised, and it has often been of the very worst kind; but now they seem disposed to associate as do our compeers of the other sex, for the purpose of evolving better views, and of confirming some degree of power. There is no reason why they should not do this. They are the mothers and wives and sisters of the Republic, and their interests cannot be separated from the fathers and husbands and brothers of the Republic. It is folly to meet them with contempt and ridicule, for the period for such weapons is passing away.

Their movements as yet may not be altogether the best or the wisest--all is as yet new; but their movements truly and solemnly point to a step higher in the scale of influence. There is a holy significance in them--a prophetic power that speaks well for themselves, well for the world. It cannot be from the nature of things, that so much of human intelligence can be brought into vivid action without some great and good result. It has always been so in all subjects that have enlisted thought--men have come from the turmoil of mental action, with new and broader perceptions, a higher and freer humanity, a better identification of the individual with his species, and why should not Woman [ ] the same?

True, it is women who sneer most at these movements of each other--true women oftenest turn their backs upon the sufferings of each other. I do not mean the griefs or physical pains of those in their own rank and circle; far from it, their hearts are rarely at fault there; but to the cry of those ready to perish, to the needs of the erring, the despised and neglected of their sex they are deaf and blind. To the long, torturing discords of ill assorted marriages, to the oppressions of family circle, the evasions of property, and the lengthening catalogue of domestic discomforts growing out of the evils of society, they are --cruel, selfishly indifferent or remorselessly severe upon each other.

It is true they have not condemned such to the stake literally; have not roasted them alive; hung, quartered, tortured them with thumb-screws, impaled on hooks, confined in dungeons, and beheaded on blocks, as men have done, the good the great, the heroic, "of whom the world is not worthy," of their own sex; for they have been denied the power--men choosing to hold the prerogative of externally inflicted cruelty in their own hands; but they have condemned their suffering sisters to the intangible and manifold tortures which can fall only upon the spirit, and which are ten fold more cruel than any external wrong.

Now it would seem a broader and better spirit is awakening within us, a nearer and more wholesome humanity--ill-directed it may be as yet, groping after hidden, unrevealed good, yet the search has opened, and the good will be grasped.

The world needs the action of Woman throughout its destinies. The indefinite influence springing from the private circle is not enough; this is shaded away into the graceful lights of feminine subserviency, and household endearment, blessing the individual husband, or ennobling the one group at the family altar, but the world goes on with its manifold wrongs, and women have nothing but tears to bestow--the outrages that may wring either her own heart or that of others, wring helpless hands, or plead with idle remonstrance, while her lord and master tells her these things are quite beyond her comprehension; she cannot see how unavoidable it is, but it is not the less unavoidable, and she must shut her eyes and ears, and "mind her spinning." Or, if blessed with a large share of manly arrogance, he will tell her as did the Captain of a militia company of a country town, who, in practicing in the court of his house those martial evolutions that were to electrify the village upon parade, accidentally stepped down the trap door of the cellar. His wife rushed out to succor her liege lord, when she was met with, "Go in, woman; what do you know about war?"

Sure enough, what does she? But if this directed sympathy--this promptitude to relieve-- makes her fruitful in resource in small matters, and why should it not in large? If an evil comes under her own inspection she at once casts about for redress, and good comes of it. There is no reason why she should not enlarge her sphere in this way, and no fear of her being the less feminine or endearing by the process.

The majority of women in society are suffering in the absence of wholesome, earnest, invigorating subjects of thought; expending themselves upon trifles, and fretting themselves and others for lack of employment. The routine of housekeeping, the study of the arts, or the management of children, is no more enough to fill their whole lives, than these things to the merchant, the artist, the professional man, who, over and above his business, whatever it may be, finds time to give the most earnest part of his nature "an airing." As occasion comes, he is a man for the ballot-box, the navy, or the public parade; I have not, and do not say yet, that women should go to these;' I have not reached that part of the subject; I only pray that she may be recognized as an intelligence, and not be compelled to dwarf herself lest she should be thought unfeminine.

I wish to show that while she has been created as one part of human intelligence, she has not only a right to be heard and felt in human affairs, not by tolerance merely, but as a welcome and needed element of human thought; and that when she is thus recognized, the world will be the better for it, and go onward with new power in the progress of disenthrallment.

There is a woman view, which women must learn to take--as yet they have made no demonstration that looks like a defined, appropriate perception. The key-note has been struck by the other sex, and women have responded; this response has been strong and significant, but it will evolve nothing because it indicates no urgent need. It has done good in one respect--it has raised the cry of contempt, the scoffings of ridicule, and this antagonism is needed to make us look deeper into the soul of things. We shall learn to search and see whether we are capable of bringing anything to the stock of human thought worthy of acceptance. If we can, bring it--if not, hold our peace.

Brooklyn, L.I. [November 21, 1850]


By E. Oakes Smith

In my former article I said the world needed an admixture of Woman Thought in its affairs; a deep, free Woman souled utterance is needed. It is the disseverance of the sexes, the condemning of the one to indoor thought only, to the degradation of indoor toil, far more limiting in its nature than that of the outdoor kind, beneath the invigorations of air and sky: the expanse of these working enlargement upon the mind has done so much for the other sex; and in our own has developed from the poor serving girl of the Inn of Domremy, inured to the toils of the stable, the chivalric and enthusiastic Joan of Arc. It is the making woman a creature of luxury--an object of sensuality--a vehicle for reproduction--or a thing of toil, each one, or all of these--that has caused half the miseries of the world. She, as a soul, has never been recognized. As a human being to sin and to suffer she has had more than an acknowledgment. As a human being to obey her God, to think, to enjoy, men have been blind to her utmost needs.

She has been treated always as subservient; and yet all, and the most entire responsibility has been exacted of her. She has had no voice in the law and yet has been subjected to the heaviest penalties of the law. She has been denied the ability to make or enforce public opinion, and yet has been outraged, abandoned, given over to degradation, misery, and the thousand ills worse than a thousand deaths by its terrible action. Even her affections, those arbitrary endowments imparted by the Most High for her own safeguard, and for the best being of society, have been warped and crushed by the action of masculine thought upon their manifestations, till their unadulterated play is well-nigh lost.

Men have written for us, thought for us, legislated for us; and they have constructed from their own consciousness an effigy of a woman to which we are expected to conform. It is not a Woman that they see, God forbid that it should be; it is one of those monsters of neither sex, that sometimes outrage the pangs of maternity, but which expire at the birth, whereas the distorted image to which men wish us to conform, lives to bewilder, to mislead and be misled, and to cause discord and belittlement where the Creator designed the highest dignity, the most complete harmony. Men have said we should be thus and thus, and we have tried to be in accordance because we are told it is womanly. They have said we must think in a certain way; and we have tried so to think; they have said that under given circumstances we must act after a particular mode, and we have thus acted--ay! even when the voice of God in our own hearts has called out "where art thou?" and we have hid ourselves, not daring to reply, for with that cowardice which men tell us is feminine, we dared not face that public opinion which men have established; dared not encounter that ridicule which men first start, and weak women follow up--dare not face that isolation which great and true thought brings upon itself in the present pettiness and prejudice of the world.

Till Woman learns to cast out the "bond woman," her and her offspring--send them forth into the wilderness of thought, no angel can succor her. She must cast herself down amid the aridness of thought--hungry and thirsty for the truth--she may veil her eyes that she "see not the death of the child," even the Ishmaels of error, whence shall be born a nation, armed against its kind, even the hoariness of established falsehood, for often will she find Truth revealed in a way she little supposed, and which she trembles to perceive; but let her not fear--let her trust to those intuitions, better than all the demonstrations of reason--let her think and feel, and see, and grasp with a courage which is of God, and all will be well.

Let Woman learn to take a woman's view of things. Let her feel the need of a woman's thought. Let her search into her own needs--say, not what has the world hitherto thought in regard to this or that, but what is the true view of it from the nature of things. Let her not say, what does my husband, my brother, my father think, wise and good and trustworthy though they be--but let her evolve her own thought, recognize her own needs, and judge of her own acts by the best lights of her own mind.

Let her feel and understand that there is a difference in the soul as in the bodies of the sexes--a difference designed to produce the most beautiful harmony. But let her not, in admitting this, admit of inferiority. While the form of a Man is as it were more arbitrary, more of a fact in creation, more distinct and uniform, a sort of completeness of the material, and his mind also more of a fixture, better adapted to the exactitudes of science, and those protracted labors needful to the hardier developments of the understanding, let her bear in mind that this fixedness, this patience of labor, this steadiness of the understanding, are in conformity with his position as Lord of the material Universe to which God has appointed him, whereas she was an after creation, with something nearer allied to the heavenly. In her shape, there is a flexibility, a variety, more graceful, ethereal and beautiful, appealing more intimately to that something within the soul of Man, that goes onward to the future and eternal--a softening down of the material to the illusions of the unseen--her mind also, when unstinted and unadulterated, has in it more of aspiration, more of the subtle and intuitive character that links it to spiritual; she is impatient of labor because her wings are nearly freed from the shell of the chrysalis, and prompt to a better element; she cares less for the deductions of reason because she has an element in herself nearer to the truth than reason can ever reach, by which she feels the approaches of the true and the beautiful, without the manly wrestlings all night of the patriarch to which the other sex are subjected. She does not need the ladder of Bethel, the step by step of the slow logician, because her feet are already upon the first rung of that mystic pass-way; this is why she is bid by the arrogance of apostolic injunction to veil her head in public, "because of the Angels." She is a step nearer them than her material lord and master. The Angels recognize her as of nearer affinity.

Let it not be thought I say this lightly. Would that Women would receive it as a solemn truth--that they would, out of their own souls reject the hardness of materialism which the masculine mind engenders from its own elements, and receive cordially and meekly the truth as it is witnessed in their own souls. It was this pure, ready recipiency, this "let it be to thy handmaid as seemeth to thee good," that distinguished the maid of Judah above the others of her sex, and enabled her to receive without questioning the Divine Birth. Overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, the mystery of Truth was born of her, and new light though her came to the world. Had we spirits like hers, perpetual youth of soul might be ours, and new and miraculous revelations of better thought, and more beauty of life redeem the world again and again.

Would that Women would learn to recognize their own individuality--their own singleness of thought. Let them not feel disparaged at the difference which I have recognized; it is a difference that crowns them with a new glory. We give the material Universe to Men, and to those of our sex who, from whatever cause, approximate to their standard; to such let us yield ungrudgingly the way, but it is no less certain that there is a Woman thought, a Woman perception, a Woman intuition altogether different from the same things in the other sex, and to learn what these are, and to act from these is what Women must learn, and when they have so learned, and impressed themselves thus through these upon the world, it will be regenerated and disenthralled.

Look at the long catalogue of monstrous evils and errors that have disgraced the annals of our race, and then judge if Women had been allowed their proper share in the formation of opinion, in the making up of human judgements, would these things have been? Take for instance the least reprehensible of these errors, where the masculine mind has belittled, besotted, and bewildered itself under the aspect of sanctity. Where, under the priestly garb, the monkish cowl, it has busied itself with the absurd subtleties of the schoolmen, and wasted itself with vicious tendencies of the casuist, seeking not for the best good, but searching for intricate apologies for the worst evils. Let us consider a race of men shut up in cloisters, passing their lives in vigils and prayers, idling themselves in the contemplation of beatific dreams, or scourging their bodies for real or imaginary crimes, and that, too, while the world was groaning under the vices and cruelties of their kind. Could Women have done this? It is true Women followed in their career --immured themselves in convents, outraging their humanity by monkish denials, hypocritical pretenses, or secret and monstrous indulgences; but the system did not originate with them; the whole vile theory of that species of life was the growth of the masculine intellect.

No, there is a directness, a utilitarianism in the affections and thoughts of the Woman mind, that of itself would never have thus misled her; there is a tangibility in her religious impulses that leads her at once to prayer--a reality in her affections that involves the best devotedness of human love, and a solidness in her benevolence, inciting at once to good works. She has a natural going out of herself, a readiness of sympathy that prompts to relieve; while a certain buoyancy of her physique makes action more pleasurable to her than to the other sex. If she has lent herself to the evils that have outraged the world, it is because she has been cast into the back ground by Men and then has followed him like a slave; if she has been his aid in the cruelties that have shamed the world, it is because she has closed her own eyes and looked through his; if she has been his companion in luxuries and vices, at which the pure Woman blushes, it is because he has driven her to the resources of the weak in the lower orders of creation, and she has become crafty that she might obtain power--longing for companionship, she stepped from the rung of the ladder where she stood nearest heaven, and plunged into sensuality with him, the Lord of the material; then she, who had been his superior in the elements that most harmonize life; looking up from her debasement to the face of her companion, begged for tolerances where she before had a right to homage--pleaded her weakness as a motive for protection, because she had laid aside her own distinctive powers.

Women must recognize their unlikeness, and then understanding what needs grow out of this unlikeness, some great truth must be evolved.--Now they busy themselves with methods of thought, springing, it is true, from their own sense of something needed, but suggested altogether by the masculine intellect. Let us first shake ourselves from this pupilage of mind by which our faculties are dwarfed, and courageously judge for ourselves. In doing this I see no need of Amazonian strides or disfigurements, or stentorian lungs. The more deeply and earnestly a Woman feels the laws of her own existence, the more solemn, reverent and harmonious is her bearing,. She sees what nature designed in her creation, and her whole being falls gracefully into its allotted sphere. If she is a simple, genial, household divinity, she will bind garland around the altar of Penates and worship in content. If endowed with a more enlarged manner, I see no reason why she should diminish her proportions to please an imbecile taste in society. I see no reason why she should not be received cordially into the school of Arts, or Science, or Politics, or Theology, in the same manner as the individual capacities of the other sex are recognized. They do not all square themselves to one standard, and why should we? They have a very large number engaged in sewing, cooking, spinning, and writing very small articles for very small works, designed for very small minds. The majority are very far from being Platos, or Bayards, or Napoleons. When so very large a portion of the other sex are engaged in what is regarded as unmanly, I see no reason why those of ours who have a fancy to tinker a constitution, canvass a county, or preach the gospel, should not be permitted to do so, provided they feel this to be the best use of their faculties. I do not say this is the best thing for them to do, but I see no reason, if their best intelligence finds its best expression in that channel, why they should not be indulged.

Our right to individuality is what I would most assert. Men seem resolved to have but one type in our sex. They recognize the right of the matter-of-fact Biddy to raise a great clamor, quite to the annoyance of a neighborhood, but where's the use of the Nightingale? The laws of stubborn utilitarianism must govern us, while they may be as fantastic as they please. They tell much about a "Woman's sphere"--can they define this? As the phrase is used, I confess it has a most shallow and indefinite sense. The most I can gather from it is the consciousness of the speaker, which means something like the philosophy of Mr. Murdstone's firmness; it is a sphere by which every woman creature, of whatever age, appending to himself, shall circle very much within his own--see and hear through his senses, and believe according to his dogmas, with a sort of general proviso, that if need be for his growth, glorification, or well-being in any way, they will instantly and uncompromisingly become extinct.

There is a Woman's sphere, harmonious, holy, and soul-imparting; it has its grades, its laws from the nature of things and we must seek for it. The pursuits of Men vary with their capacities, are higher or lower according to age; why should not those of Women? The highest offices of legislation are filled by men of mature age, whose judgements are supposed to be consolidated by years. Among the Mohawks, a woman who had so trained a boy that he became elected to the office of Chief, for this honor was not hereditary, was received into the Councils of the Nation. The Spartan women emulated the men in the terseness of their language and the hardihood of their patriotism. Often and often do we see the attributes of the sexes reversed, the women becoming the protectors, and in fact the bond of the house, without a shadow of infringement upon the appropriateness or beauty of their womanhood. It is late in the day to be thrown upon the defensive. I see no way in which harmony can result in the world without entire recognition of differences, for surely nothing is gained upon either side by antagonism merely. Women cannot be so very ridiculous and absurd in their honest, hearty truth searchings, for we are the Mothers of the Republic, and he who casts contempt upon them indorses his own shame. If the members of his own household are exempt from solemn truth-askings, he should beware how he exults over such evidence of common-place dullness, or frivolity.

Brooklyn, L.I. [November 30, 1850]


By E. Oakes Smith

In my former articles I spoke of a Woman's right to be heard and of her individual differences, creating distinctive needs. I now speak of the safety there is in allowing her to think and speak.

It was a beautiful saying of old that, "The best form of government was that where an injury done to the meanest subject was a wrong to the whole community." Now the injury here presupposed was one inflicted upon a man, not a woman, who could not, at that time nor hardly since be supposed to have any rights that could be wronged. Her claims have been admitted by sufferance only. If one of the sex, more fortunate than her sisters, fell into the hands of a Lord and Master capable of understanding the sacredness of a human soul, able to see the divine hand in the creation of a being little lower than the Angels, with the instinctive purity, the manifold graces and the true majesty of womanhood diffusing themselves into the very air she breathed, if such an one lived an almost ideal life, the ninety-nine less favored might turn their bewildered and blinded eyes in vain for the light--and at length sink down into utter darkness with no other relief than the false assurance that God made them to be thus blind, thus dwarfed, thus held in bondage, for the light was unsafe--fullness of life to them being coarse and masculine and dependence feminine.

Woman must receive happiness not as the gift of her Maker, careful of the well-being of the creature he had made, but as a boon from Man--who had the right to make her miserable but forebore the exercise of his prerogative. To me it is one of the saddest things that I hear said, and not by any means an infrequent one, the remark of women in regard to husbands--he is very good to her or me as the case may be, he treats her well, &c. as though this were a merit--as though a man deserved praise for treating well a creature utterly in his power, whom the law consigns to his jurisdiction, body and soul, and whom society will look askance at, if she shows the least discomfort under what may be in secret the most odious and galling bondage.

I do not mean to say that men are habitually cruel or selfish, though Heaven knows it would be near the truth if I did, but they are ignorantly so, and having the power all in their own hands, having always had it there, it would be miraculous indeed if they did not abuse it. Human Governments have been subverted because men could not be intrusted with unrestricted power over each other, and can the case be any better when the power is unlimited over our own sex? It is not enough to say that thousands are content under this state of things; there are tens of thousands who are not--who are degraded, oppressed, and miserable under it, and these should be heard.

I admit that under the highest state of society the two sexes would so harmonize that an injury done to one would be an injury to both; that so complete will be the unity that the name of sex will be unheard, and a long catalogue of words implying disseverance will disappear from the human vocabulary; they will be one in heart and soul--"they will no more hurt nor destroy in all the holy mountain;" veiled in the holiness of true dignity, they will walk hand in hand in a new Eden, hearing the voice of God and not afraid, for injustice and cruelty and wrong are forgotten things; but we are far, very far, from this beautiful state, and till this time arrives women need the protection of law and men need its checks.

Let us pray for the good time coming, most fervently, but in the meanwhile provide for the bad times existent. The world was held under the thunders of Sinai, the threatenings of interdict, the penalties of violation of "do not," tell the advent of the divine principle of Love--the "do thou" of the new testimony. now, till this new law be thoroughly recognized, let our sex have the benefit of prohibitory law and the aid of public opinion, and in this way the new covenant will soonest be brought into exercise. Emancipate from external bondage, and the internal law written upon every human heart makes itself audible. Thus the most free are the most bound.

Take one of the other sex, surround him with restrictions, fetter him with petty chains, hold his intellect in abeyance because knowledge is power, compress his movements, condemn him to ungenial companionship, force him to paternity, and make the labor of his body and the action of his mind all subservient to a routine, and he is false, crafty, petty, sullen, degraded and irresponsible. The case is analogous. Make a woman nobly free, and she is the companion of Sages and Philosophers, a help-mete for men; confine and dwarf her, and she is subtle and dangerous, both to herself and others. The worst crime is the betrayal of truth, and now as the world is, this instinctive loyalty must either die out of a woman's soul as a useless manifestation of the divine element, or it is violate, overwhelming her with remorse, and throwing her whole being into discord. She must use mean weapons because the nobler are denied her; she cannot assert her distinctive individuality, and she resorts to cunning, and this cunning takes the form of cajolery, deception, or antagonism in its many shapes, each and all as humiliating to herself as it is unjust to men.

Men ridicule every indication of disaffection on a woman's part, as if it must spring from an ill-organized mind or a diseased temper. We are a sort of puppet, to be placed, like Tom Thumb, upon a giant's palm and act our fantastic part, either of smiles or tears, and they are to regard us with the same kind of tolerating, half-amused indulgence. Reformers are afraid to recognize our needs; they are afraid to allow human beings the free exercise of the faculties imparted by the Deity; they are afraid they might be abused; therefore they dole out bits of freedom to us as they would atoms of food to half-starved wretches. Can they not, will they never learn that the Good Father is wise in the bestowal of his gifts; that he does not impart a superfluous intelligence; that he does not create a need without its appropriate, safe and harmonizing medium of gratification? They recognize this as their own first and inalienable right; in their Constitutions they plant the foot upon the self-evident truth, that every human being has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--a God-guaranteed charter, which no created being may infringe; yet, when a woman dare lift her eyes reverently to this sacred and ennobling truth, she is spurned with ridicule and contempt.

They have struggled slowly through torture and bloodshed to this sublime position; they feel it is a safe, a secure position, for they have that within the elements of their own minds by which they feel its need and its power; why not, then, go a step further and ask if we have not like elements in our minds? has not God also written there great truths, which, when we shall read with a clear vision, we shall not tremble, with the impious Belshazzar, the pillars of empire crumbling about our heads, but shall fill the world with new harmonies and put a new song into human lips.

No human being was ever made better by restriction merely. We may coerce, withhold, and suppress; we may cover error with the hoariness of time and the verdure of the fast clinging ivy, but it is error still and has its limits. We may plant the mountain side with vine, the olive and the almond, but if the volcanic element be compressed beneath, it will upheave and bury the false covering in ruin. Give the Woman's soul its legitimate healthy action, and all is safe and well, for God has provided its own checks; oppress, stultify and render servile and the evil is either moral death, stagnation of body and spirit or the upspringing of an outraged humanity. If Liberty is the great God-need to Man, it is so to Woman--if Liberty is safe to Man, it is so to her. Grant that it might be abused--is it never so by men? Is not the great contest of the world the struggle for the Truth which is to make it free? Why should not we cast in our element--pour the calm of our voice over the troubled waters; share in the labor and the glory of disenthrallment; The few lead the world less than formerly--the "wise minority" has become subjected to the aggregate many; the large instinctive throbbing of the great human heart is now felt and heard, and the world stands in awe. Is our element in this mighty movement nothing? God forbid--we are and must be heard, we say it reverently, hopefully, and with a strong sense of what is due to the best truth and best dignity of our own souls.

I propose to go more into a detail of our needs, defining somewhat of that which may be so regarded, in my future numbers.

[December 11, 1850]

For the Tribune.


By E. Oakes Smith

Heretofore in the discussion of our subject we have assumed the antagonistic ground, because we wished to assert the individuality of Woman; we wished to regard her as a being, entire, with her own laws, her own rights, stamped and guaranteed by the hand of the Eternal Father. We wished to show that she could not be harmonious in her sphere till these were acknowledged, and till men learned to regard them with the same reverence which they profess in the abstract for the rights of each other. We do not derive them from sufferance of men, but from the hand of God--they are not to be secured by the blandishments and cajoleries of the weak, and being weak, vicious of our sex, but by the free-will of beings capable of reverencing the sanctity of human rights and human needs. We wished our average standard to be judged not by the puppets of fashion; the sickly sentimentalists of our magazines, or the large class of the weak, degraded and blind who swell the dregs of society. Men do not average themselves by the coxcombs, of either fashion or literature--nor by the profligate, the vicious or the refuse of pauperism. They point proudly to the God-like of whatever creed or condition--the Heroes, Martyrs, Patriots, and Poets of the earth. And why should not we do the same? we who are not a whit behind them in our soul-stirring chronicles? It would be trite to enumerate these:--Women who have suffered and died for great truth or a great love, and in suffering and dying have asserted the individual woman soul, for their experience was true to their womanhood, and glorious in its womanhood.

We wished the standard to start from the earnest, true-hearted and noble of our sex--the "sewing women," if you please--yes, the laborers if you will, for there is nothing in itself 'vulgar' but the spirit that makes it so; the woman who exercises the talents which God has given her to secure an honest livelihood, incited it may be by a God-like aspiration[,] is as noble in herself as any one of the other sex who toils with a singleness for position or creed--and I know of nothing more holy--more God-serving, ay, and more beautiful, than the steady, self-denying labor of the large class of women in the middle ranks of life, who with woman-like dignity, and solid sense pursue a calling humble and pains-taking to earn an honest subsistence for their families. The lives of these women are often truly heroic, are silent, beautiful epics, breathing the best aspirations of poetry and romance, and in the scale of being they are infinitely superior to the very women who employ them, who waste their lives in petty rivalries, unworthy competitions, and meager, puerile avocations.

We have taken the antagonistic ground, not that it is the true one, but because society has made it the necessary one. We were obliged to look at the subject from the nature of things, and now we must meet the sexes in relation, the only true and harmonious ground. It is folly to talk of men and women as isolated beings, designed to always stand in isolation; like the twin-stars of the heavens, held in perfect and harmonious balance, they were designed to move side by side, helping and ennobling each the other. They are each endowed with perceptions, affections, sentiments and intellects, finding their highest action in companionship. The man has a severe, sturdy passiveness, a courageous boldness of mind and limb, adapting him for the hardier and more external duties of life; while to the woman belongs that intuitive buoyance of spirit and half-retiring-ness of nerve that makes her, in her truest life, seek seclusion and dependence. While we say this, we admit the infinitude of shades in either sex by which they blend into each other; and those great occasions in life which may transform a woman into a Medea, and the American savage even into a nursing mother to his bereaved child. We only claim that the right to these individual differences be recognized in our sex as well as the other; that the woman who has an intellect to study a profession be entitled to the same respect as the man who directs a spinning jenny. The woman who, like Portia, is disposed to plead a law case, may meet with the same tolerance as the man who breeds silk-worms and Canaries; the woman who teaches Navigation, or holds forth in an Anatomical or Theological lecture, be no more anomalous than the man who sells bonnets and ribbons. And this brings us to the right of property.

A[t] the very starting point of life, the difference of education indicates the difference of aim in regard to the sexes. While the boy is steadily and severely taxed to qualify him to earn an honorable position, a suitable maintenance for himself in life, the girl is at once trained in reference to marriage. The boy is placed in all and the best positions to develop his whole being, morally, intellectually, and physically--a thousand aberrations are pardoned him as being a part of the masculine nature; he is joyous, free, with vague expectations of manhood, renown, and Arcadias of happiness as his legitimate prerogative. The girl on the contrary is met at the threshold of life with infinite checks and restrictions--she is to conform to a pattern, by which (the lions having written the books,) a true woman is a being, helpless, dependent, luxurious, petty, inefficient in body and soul, and yet to be the presiding genius of a household, and the guide and teacher of her children. She is to be early and untiringly molded into the feminine shape by interminable teachings, ceaseless checks, and the denial of all trains of thinking which might aid her to regard herself as a being of innate dignity, of earnest aspiration, choiceful affection or elective passion. She is made to consider herself as a necessary appendage, not as a distinctive and rightful creation. She is not allowed to grow and blossom under the sweet dews of divine guardianship; to develop into holy and truthful womanhood, under the careful promptings of laws inherent in her own marvelous, complicated and most beautiful organism, but the one great object, supposed to be the end and aim of womanhood, marriage, is forced upon her at every step of her life. She is not joyous, nor aspiring, nor truly noble, because all and everything in her history is made subservient to this end. She is taught to use the sweet, holy graces of her angel-verging nature, designed to exalt and beautify the best affections, to the purposes of craft and fascination, in order to marriage. She is defrauded of her girlhood by premature marriage, and taught to feel a triumph in what in a true state of society would be a degradation; for surely there is something painfully sad, to say nothing of humiliating, in the sight of these baby wives to men old enough to be guides and fathers to them, and girl mothers, hardly escaped from pantalets.

Thus, while boys are properly taught the dignity of labor in its manifold shapes of thought, invention or manual effort, girls are expected always to be dependent, and gain a position by marriage or have none. If the inheritors of property, the world is full of the beauty of trust, and a man who does not scruple to marry her because she has property, all the wealth of her woman-soul thrown in as so much chaff in the balance, would feel himself at once aggrieved if she had the forethought to talk of security--"the romance would be gone--the beautiful trust of a woman is what most charms him, her utter abandon!" and thus all the instinctive conservation of her nature is to be sacrificed to the pettiness and selfishness of a man, who yields her a doubtful protection, and gives her his name, which may or may not confer an honor upon her. I know legislation has done much to protect a woman in her rights of property, but public opinion is still against her, and while education continues as it is, there will be little but these accumulating evils.

Give a girl her fair chance of development as a being and she would be very other than she now is. Thousands and thousands, both of men and women, are constitutionally indifferent to the relations of sex--the man is consigned to bachelorism with whimsical approving and a long life of entertainments and tolerations, and half-pettings, while the woman who remains an "unplucked bud on the ancestral tree," is consigned to snubbings, shrugs, dependence and solitude. I admit both seem to depart from the instructions of nature, but I really see not why the one should be treated with honor and the other with contempt, except this universal expectation, written up, talked up, and educated up, that every woman must marry if she can; must give up the name so dear and sweet to her girlhood; must merge her being, be absorbed, and annihilated in marriage, be an extinct world, a gone-out soul, in the chaos of a household; or, if she does not do this, it is proof positive that she could not, that there never was a coxcomb or a flat who could succumb to her charms; that in default of leading one ape here, she must be doomed to lead ten "down below." Heu lacrymans! Unhappy womanhood.

Property confers dignity and a certain position on the other sex, and there is nothing in the nature of things why it should not upon ours. Men become absorbed in science or literature, and make wretched husbands and fathers. Women have the same ambition--a kindred power of abstraction, and they make anything but comfortable wives. I know it is the fashion for magazine writers to talk sweetly about the tenderness and notability of women of genius. It may be so where their companionship is true and genial, but it is not the less true that the woman or the man who marries a genius does so at a peril, and must be content to be merged in the other, or if both are alike great, the intensity and sensitiveness of two such natures would be far from healthful.

Now, were girls from childhood up educated not in reference to marriage, but in reference to the entire unfolding of a creation which, I admit, in its healthiest and most harmonious manifestation would result in the relations of sex, these relations would take place under circumstances of true dignity, and not as now under a necessity, a mistaken opinion that they must take place, that a woman is nothing without them. Marriage would have then a holy and beautiful significancy, a solemn and sweet import, a sanctity of relation that could no more be violated than the great and immutable laws that hold the eternal spheres in their joyous and never-failing harmony. But I am anticipating.

I would not say, as has been said, women have a right to our Halls of Legislation, our Courts of Justice, our Military posts, and each and all spheres where men "most do congregate," for in that pure state of society of which human aspiration is so prophetic, which poets and philosophers have seen in Divine vision, and for which blood has been shed even to the agonies of Gethsemane and Calvary, I believe many of these needs will pass away; men will waste their godlike energies less upon these grounds, and women will learn her holy and true nature, that of a link to the spiritual world. But, till "the good time coming," arrives, let her be free to her own intuitions--let her cast her mite into the treasury of reform that shall redeem the world. Let the avenues of wealth and distinction be open to her as freely as to the other sex. Let her not be trained to a life which in fact may be made demoralizing and humiliating in the absence of a soul-stirring need, a life giving sentiment; and taught the exercise of the faculties, God-imparted faculties, which should raise her to the dignity of the Miriams and Deborahs of old, to say nothing of the great army of women who since their day, have nobly achieved a distinctive existence, whether married or otherwise, and are numbered among the great spirits of the world.

Every true woman should assert her right to pecuniary independence--to a position secured independent of the affections; and these holiest aspirations of her nature should be a free will offering, no more to be fostered [bartered] in marriage than in any other way. She should shudder at the bare thought of such desecration. Before the great era of her life, when these shall become the well spring of happiness to her, she should have been trained to look upon herself as filling a distinctive position in society, secured by her talents or industry; or if a competence has been awarded by inheritance, it should be used with that forethought and discretion which belongs to her construction of mind in a higher degree than in the other sex.

If she has been accustomed to this before marriage, she will find no difficulty in the proper ordering of her household afterward. Another reason why a woman should be trained in this way, is, that she will escape the pettiness too common in the other sex in the marriage relation. One fruitful source of discord between husband and wife arises from the penuriousness of the former. Wives, without doubt, are extravagant. Held in blindness and pupilage as they are, this is natural. But I have heard hundreds of women say they would rather go without money than ask for it; they feel mean and childish to have it doled out to them in little sums, and then be obliged to render an account of expenditure. Others, again, have not breadth of feeling enough for this, and they resort to all the artillery of coaxings and endearments, true or false--in the one case an outrage, in the other a humiliation--and thus obtain the coveted sum. Others, again, having neither dignity nor tenderness, are petulant and crafty, vixenish and turbulent, according to the strength of the lower passions, but each and all inconsistent and unworthy of the high and holy relation which God designed man and woman should occupy in relation to each other.

It may be thought that, in claiming the right and the dignity of labor for my sex, I am departing from the order of Nature--that the curse and the blessing of womanhood were to come through her affections, and the curse and the blessing of man were to come through the sweat of his brow. But the curse was at the exile from Eden, and the new blessing is to spring from the new law, the divine testimony of the new Christ Jesus--even the law of love, whose emblem is not the thunderings of Sinai, but the descent of the dove; and this new order cannot be received into the world till the whole abominations of degraded womanhood and fostered [bartered] affections of are obliterated in the race. Women must be accepted as a creation, and if society is so organized that the recognition of her as such must come through the medium of labor, the holding of property, then let her be no less a woman--disdaining to be received by the being most dear to her as an exchange, an appendage, but as a divine revelation of a great and beautiful need, accepted reverently, and fostered with manly protectiveness and heart inspiring tenderness.

There is an inherent dignity in the woman who steadily pursues an avocation of emolument or reputation; weak men may call it masculine and unfeminine, but the great voice of God within the soul extorts from them an instinctive homage, and when the sex shall have asserted their full rights to any and all positions for which their faculties are best adapted, refusing to barter their women for wealth or position; choosing labor as a good, by which they earn the right to independence, individuality and respect, one great step will have been taken in the great movement of reform. Men will then retire from behind counters, and leave a vast field of light occupation for the gentler sex--they will betake themselves to the plough and the machine shop, and leave the world of taste to women.

[January 23, 1851]

For the Tribune


By E. Oakes Smith.

It may be thought, in claiming the right of productive labor for women, the right to hold and accumulate property, and the right in its privileges, dignities, immunities from coercion and pettiness, I wish to remove her from that sphere of grace and beauty in which it is evident, from her organization, both of mind and body, it was the design of God she should walk.

Far from it, we find her in a false position; we find her treated in law as a child and an idiot; we find public opinion leading and led by the law regarding her very much in this light; we find her looking for a position in life, not through her own intrinsic worthiness, her own beauty, God's great patent for consideration, but through marriage, by which she becomes a reflex of the glory of another, or a recipient of all his meanness, debasement and disgrace. Were she trained to the exercise of that forecast and judgement required for the proper ordering of business arrangements, she would look to marriage as the most sacred and beautiful climax of her existence, and not as a settlement in life by which she was to secure position. Her affections would be a sacred deposit, offerings without blemish upon a pure altar. Love is its own great lawgiver, holding his character from the source of its own being--it learns nothing from interest, nothing from conventionalism: it is or it is not; and were women allowed to separate this part of their nature from all motives of calculation, there would be infinitely less disorder in the world.

And her let me remark, that in my last I twice used the word "barter"--a coarse one, indeed, but the only one which the nature of the case would justify--and in both cases the printer changed it to "foster," making utter nonsense of the sentence. "Bartered affections," which a marriage of interest implies is one and a bad thing, "fostered affections," beautiful!

Now in a true state of society, we believe a woman would never be associated either with labor or its result--property; it would be enough for her to be beautiful--to stand as a living grace--a link between man and heaven. She would be to the world that last note of music, so exquisite, touching and holy that it dies away in the narrow isthmus between a smile and a sigh--lost to the sensuous, and yet touching a cord in the soul that vibrates in heaven only, having no nerve for its expression here. She would have the passiveness of the Mary of Annunciation, but then so filed with the divine sentiments of chastity, love, and all grace, that the softened rays of the Infinite should tremble through her existence. But as yet she has not entered into this pleasant rest promised to the people of God; as yet she is hardly recognized in the new testimony of Jesus. She is the Martha careful for many things, not the Mary at the Master's feet, not the Mary who "sat still in the house" till the Divine voice called her forth.
"They also serve who only stand and wait,"
but provident Tabitha, fruitful in household garments, and ministering as best they may to manifold human needs.

So be it in the way to progress. If she must toil, let her do so, nobly, systematically, patiently, for the "bread that perisheth," for a name and an honor amongst men; but in the name of truth, in the name of purity, in God's name, let her not compromise her affections, let her not desecrate that part of her nature which is compounded of God himself, Love, to these unhallowed considerations--in other words, let her not be trained to marry, but trained to live, and to live faithful to the laws of her own inmost being. Let her marry or not marry, according as the voice of her own soul shall dictate, and let it cease to be a part of human history that women are transferred from the sanctity of paternal tenderness to a new hearthstone, upon the same principle as a farm or an estate is transferred. Let the fact so die out of human records, that a romance writer would no more dare to outrage pure sentiment and sound morals by delineating an unnatural father or hard guardian as countenancing, far less compelling, marriages of interest. Let the time come when neither man nor woman would have the hardihood to face public sentiment by alliances so coarsely based. Were it comely [?] from a woman's pen, much, very much might be said, most scorchingly said, upon this ground. Women, could they perceive analogies, did they divest themselves of the apathy of smooth common placism, and see how their position, secured by interest, unsanctified by any higher motive, is in name only separated from that of the most degraded of the sex; and, more than this, may in the eyes of infinite purity and love be tenfold more culpable and degrading, even as the affluence of affection warranted the forgiveness of a Magdalen--did they see all this fully, truly, and in their inmost souls, they would blush at what now may be a source of pride to them. The law may make that respectable, which, seen in an abstract shape, would be quite the reverse. There is a law of God, implanted in the human heart, direct and binding, "upright" before the tortuousness of "inventions"; and there is a law of man, growing up from human needs, created by human wrongs, and God be judge which is the more binding. We call Sophocles a heathen, and yet he makes Antigone to say,
"Nor could I ever think
A mortal law of power or strength sufficient,
To abrogate the unwritten law, divine
Immutable, eternal; not like those
Of yesterday, but made ere time began.

Franklin's Soph.

Now, she who voluntarily violates any law to which she has yielded her consent is culpable; and she who knowingly violates the great law of her own being is doubly so. In saying this I do not attack existing relations; I protest only against the forming of these upon a false base, the mocking of God with false pretenses, the offering of strange fire upon His altar. In other words, I would not have a contract based upon commercial relations placed in the light of a sacrament, as a marriage should be; and I see no way of preventing this except by putting the sexes upon a platform of equality so far as property is concerned, till the time shall come when human interests shall be better equalized. I would have no mixing and confounding subjects by the gloss of false names and appearances. I would have the affections to stand in their beautiful integrity--I would have a traffic, a barter, stand on its own pedestal--and humanity courageously asserting not only its own individuality in the type whether of man or woman, but courageously truthful in its vocabulary; calling things by their right names, and not to be shammed by pretenses. Society is very squeamish in its dictionary but exceedingly lenient in its facts, so long as conventionalism is left intact. This is well--for a house of glass must be treated gingerly. Is that of the world's fair a symbol of society, and a hint that the whole world must be careful not to cast stones? We come now to the

GREAT CONTRACT, or MARRIAGE, which, as it involves so much of human comfort and interest, must be regarded by itself. The very idea of a contract presupposes equality--a capacity between the contracting parties to understand the nature of the contract, and fully agreed in regard to its exactions. If it can be proved that compulsion, fear, falsehood, or any species of interested cajolery, were brought in requisition to influence either party, the contract is null, and the law kindly interposes a protecting shield. For this reason, all contracts with children under age, with wards and idiots, are void in law. They have only to plead infancy, and they "may roar you gently as any sucking dove," perfectly innocuous.

Now this is all well, and shows how delicately, how protectively, society looks after the interests of commercial relations; how vital it is in every part where there is any infringement of these relations, and how the law lifts itself "like quills upon the fretful porcupine," indignant at the offender, indignant at the audacity of the offense. The individual absorption of property is its own work; it is a child of its own creation; a baby, first in the hands of the savage with his bow and spear, but nursed into growth till it has become the tyrant of its creator, lording it over him with a scepter more degrading and more potent than that of any autocrat ever hurled by indignant man from an abused throne. Hence the laws of property are the most stringent of any; for, arising out of finite limitedness, they can be entirely defined and made obvious to the understanding of the most imbecile capacity, the meum and tuum, and whosoever offends against such is punished accordingly.

Not so the laws of God implanted in man.--These are not the growth of each individual of the race, and the thoroughly just man will no more disregard the rights of a distinctive human soul, be it that of man or woman, than he would violate the laws of his country. We come now to the conditions under which the greater part of the Contracts of Marriage are entered into. We will say nothing of the man who marries expressly for money, for we confess women are especially on their guard in a matter involving such an insult to their womanhood; and men, for the most part, do deal justly at least to a woman won upon such terms--it would be a reproach to their manliness otherwise; but the majority of women in our country are without fortune, or at least to so small an extent with fortune, and the avenues to emolument are so varied, and so sure to enterprise and skill, that a man is generally the one to secure the wealth and then to look about him for a help mate.

Now admitting the exceptions to our rule--that Genius is of no age--is always young--that Apollo struck his lute when the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy, and is yet fresh and strong, and breathes into his votaries perpetual youth; admitting that Abelard at forty may be adored by Heloise at eighteen, that Goethe at sixty may be quite enchanting to Bettina at sixteen--such men are rare. For, generally, the man who has passed his life to thirty and upward in accumulating wealth, has become hard, selfish, hackneyed in the world, and utterly blind to the soul needs of a sensitive girl of half his years. He has learned the world to distrust it; and, ten to one, instead of finding in him a friend, a protector, a guide, she finds only a petty and suspicious tyrant.

Take an example: Mr. A., dealer in the dry goods business, is a little rising of thirty, slightly bald--very respectable--has been a gay man in times past, but now is grave and entirely correct; indeed, aspires to carrying round the contribution box of a Sunday, at which time he observes Miss B the daughter of a widow, who lives in a sort of mysterious manner, but very genteel--Mrs. C. thinks Mr. B takes in sewing, and that her daughter helps her, and Mrs. C. lives over the way, and keeps a sharp look out upon Mrs. B; indeed, by aid of a glass, she once found that Mrs. B. sat there three full hours stitching in the back room, and then arose, took a book, and came forward to the window, as if casually, and stood under the curtain quite genteelly. Mrs. B. believed the book a pretence. Mr. A. begins to visit at Mrs. B.'s; is quite assiduous to the mother--sends her new patterns from the shop, and a book now and then. At length Mr. A. and Miss B. are seen sitting together under the curtain. Mrs. C. is quite shocked, and rolls her eyes piously. Then there is a stir of carriages--a flutter of white ribbons, and a marriage.

Now, here is a contract. One party is mature in life--experienced not only in the world but in the nature of his own soul, its needs, its capacities, infirmities and powers. The other party is a child, an infant in law, whose pen to a commercial contract would be worthless, who might indeed be hung for a murder, or imprisoned for theft, but whose name in a contract is nothing; ignorant of the world, ignorant of herself; so immature in judgement that her opinions are treated with about as much deference as a doll's would be, could it be gifted with speech. Yet this girl, this child, is party to a contract involving the well-being of her whole future life; a contract by which she is consigned to sickness, care, suffering, coercion, and her individuality entirely and completely suppressed. Is this, can this be justice in the sight of God, whatever it may be in the sight of man? Can she, who is an infant, an idiot in a worthless account of dollars and cents, be capable of entering into a contract involving such tremendous interest? Can this child, whose nature has been so outraged even before she can herself understand its laws, be held responsible for after results? Can the man, who thus selfishly avails himself of her inexperience, have any guarantee of faithfulness in such a contract? Half the miseries that arise in the marriage relation, arise from this source alone; they are premature; the woman cannot sanction the unconscious acts of the child, and she recoils from the position.

Now we would not plead for the extension of divorces--heaven knows they are becoming a disgrace to the country--but we would insist that the marriage contract be put upon the same base with other contracts. In other words, there should be equality--the parties should be of age--and no girl should be considered competent to enter into such a contract unless she has reached her majority in law.

[March 4, 1851]


By E. Oakes Smith

Marriage is nothing but a civil contract; 'tis true 'tis an ordinance of God, so is every
other contract; God commands me to keep it when I have made it.--John Seldon

Shall we say that God hath joined error, fraud, unfitness,
wrath, contention, perpetual loneliness, perpetual discord,
whatever lust, or wine, or witchery, threat or enticement,
avarice or ambition hath joined together; faithful and
unfaithful, hate with hate, or hate with love; shall we say
this is God's joining?--Milton

I have spoken of marriage as the Great Contract. In a true relation this holy and beautiful mystery of life would be a sacrament, whereas now it stands almost entirely as a civil or commercial copartnership. In New England, even, where it might be supposed that marriage would be least adulterated, it has become very much a household arrangement for thrift or economy, where a woman is selected for her domestic points, in the same manner that a housekeeper is secured. Now a slight salary for one in the latter capacity, would oftentimes be in better taste than the taking of a wife. I even know of one woman, not by any means low in the scale of position, who proposed to do the labor of one of her servants, provided her penurious husband would pay her, a wife, the price of the service, six dollars per month, which he was not ashamed to do. Now, will any one say that such a woman was a wife in the true sense--one with her lord and master, who paid her as he would pay a menial? Every married man, and every married woman, knows either from experience or observation that it is not as infrequent a thing for a man to refuse his wife the supply of money necessary to uphold her position in society, if she fail to become in all things the subservient creature she is expected to be in the marriage relation. "Surely we are bought with a price," a woman under such circumstances might quote, in the depths of her humiliation. It requires but a little penetration to see that a husband who puts the contract upon so coarse and external a basis, offers himself the strongest temptation to its violation. She is to him a slave, a menial, an appendage, but not a wife; that is not the completion of his being--the one divine element linking him to the spiritual; the friend, companion, and comforter, with whom he is to take sweet counsel and walk to the house of God in company, yea, into the divine tabernacle, that mansion into which no corrupt element finds lodgement.

It may be that I claim too much of sanctity for marriage--that the common voice is against me, and therefore content to view it as a commercial relation, or one of social convenience only, and involving no questions of greater moment than those of legitimizing offspring and securing the transmission of property. Even in this point of view it would be well that the terms of contract should be such as to secure its inviolability, and therefore I claim that there should be equality of character in the contracting parties--legal equality at the very least.

There are social and domestic evils, so secret, so petty and annoying, that they can neither be reached by public opinion nor legal enactment, and a right organization of society would aim at the relief of them as being harder to be borne than others obvious to inspection and comment--I would have the marriage relation so protected that as few of these evils should arise as possible. I would avoid the need of legislation by securing the liberty of both parties equally, till each shall be fully competent to judge of the nature of the proposed position. I admit that a gentlemen, in the true sense--a man of taste, of sentiment, genius, in other words, one capable of feeling a great sense of human justice--will not abuse the Confidence of a "Child-wife;" he will treat gently and most sacredly the trust of youth, inexperience and beauty; but I do not write for these, but for those who discern the Truth "as through a glass darkly," who are blind leaders of the blind; wilfully ignorant, selfishly corrupt, or groping for Truth, and uncertain how to recognize her aspect.

It is a trite remark, when difficulties arise in the marriage relation, to say, there is "blame upon both sides," one of those imbecile, inconsequential speeches by which humanity is apt to relieve itself of its dullness. Two individuals are or are not adapted to each other; they are "yoke-fellows," or they are the ox and the ass, interdicted by the Jewish law giver, and unsuited to the same furrow; they are diverse seeds prohibited to be sown in the same field. If there be congeniality of qualities, harmony will be the result; if not, perpetual discontent, inward repinings, or open rebellion, grief, apathy, insanity and death; or there will arise the long catalogue of petty evils, subterfuges and evasions by which a character is lowered in the scale of being, and led on to crime. In the one case, the two walk hand in hand, like Bunyan's Pilgrim to the golden gate, each a help to the other in the divine life; or the one falls from the side of its companion a disabled angel; or they keep the bad juxtaposition to grow in aspect and heart like jarring imps from unhallowed regions. This is so much the case, that matrimonial discord has become a theme for jest rather than of sympathy, and one of the surest methods of evolving a laugh either to the wit or the dramatist. The whole structure of society is lowered by it, and human sympathy carried astray.

We must look to the foundation of social evil very much here--where the fountains of life are so much embittered, where children receive discordant elements with their very blood, and imbibe discontent with their milk and catch
Their mother's trick of grief
And sigh among their playthings.
Now let marriage be so guarded that a legal disqualification would be a barrier to entering into the relation, and one great step would be reached, and one great source of human suffering dried up. Then the woman who should flaunt her discontent after assuming a position which must have been not only voluntary, but one of at least some degree of judgement, would be treated with well deserved contempt. She should speak at the altar the solemn "Yes" from her heart, and "forever after hold her peace." If unhappy, she should suffer in silence, for there is no remedy.

To me there is something appalling when I see a mere girl promising at the altar to love, &c. "till death." What does she know of human emotion, of the depths of her own soul or that of another? For any one, even at mature age, to say this, is in fact blasphemous, in the eyes of any one capable of realizing the arbitrary nature of human emotions, and how very uncertain they often become, even under the most careful training and the most exact habitude. This being the case--we are mere creatures in the hands of one who knoweth our nature, and has established within us laws, which, we as yet but imperfectly understand. It will be folly to say that there is no excuse for change; that a man or a woman is bad, who does not love as the laws have bound them to love--that he or she whose thoughts or feelings diverge to day very far from what they were at any other given period must be in the wrong, for the whole history of the race is full of facts to prove that such things are, and that too among those very far from being oblique in principle; romance and poetry are kept alive by facts of this kind, and many of our laws have an existence only through them. Now to say these things should not be (I do not mean the outrages that spring out of them) is to say that the human mind must be limited to a certain standard of development and not beyond, that the human character must be enlarged only to a certain degree, and all beyond must necessarily be evil--a doctrine calculated to keep the race in perpetual bondage and pupilage, and which has done its full work in dwarfing the species.

When a man or a woman, however, has the courage to promise this, to love till death, they should be of years to realize the solemn import of the words, and willing to hazard the test. One should not be suffered to go forward and put his hand to the seal, clear in vision, cool in judgement, and responsible in law, while the other is blind, undiscerning, and irresponsible. I would say the contract is too momentous in its character to be lightly assumed; too sacred to be broken, and therefore should be well comprehended.

If my reader has followed me through the preceding numbers, he will perceive that in claiming a woman's right to be individual, and her right to the dignities of property, it was with the view that these might relieve her from the necessity of seeking in marriage that which society ought to award her as her right--that is, position, independent of her relation to one of the other sex that she should be truly, nobly woman--marry or not marry as her heart or her taste may dictate, and yet be honorable; she should live the truth in her own soul, even although that truth might indispose her to the hackneyed lives of her neighbors, and yet be honorable; that she should relieve the sick, whether as medical advisor or nurse; visit the afflicted, whether as messenger of the Prince of Peace or a Sister of Charity--and yet be honorable; in all things she should comport herself that her best and truest womanhood should be developed, and she be honorable, and honored in it; and finally, that if in the maturity of her beauty and the clearness of her intellect she be disposed to carry all this affluence of nature into the divine relation of marriage, she should be still honorable, not as a reflex of another's glory, but as of herself, lending and receiving.

It appears to me we need less of legislation in regard to our sex than of enlightened public opinion. Whether we wear this or that costume, or go to the polls or stay away, seems of less importance than a radical understanding of our true selves. Let us assert first the reverence due us as a portion of the moral and intellectual type, and gradually we shall take that symmetrical position in human affairs which is for the best good of the world--certainly we shall have other and better influence than we have now.

I am aware of that large class of the other sex, enraptured with the sensualities of Moore, and fit only to admire "bread and butter girls," will oppose this theory of Marriage. It is the style to prate of "sweet sixteen," and to talk of the loveliness of girlhood--and most lovely is it, and sacred should it be held; and therefore the woman should not be defrauded of the period; she should not be allowed to step from the baby-house to the marriage altar. It should be considered not only unwise to do so, but absolutely indelicate. It should affix odium to parents and guardians, if done by their instrumentality, or if by the will of the girl, be regarded as evidence of precocious development, as unchaste as it is unwise.

It is a popular error that our sex are earlier developed than the other, and therefore soonest adapted to marriage. This, however, is physiological ground upon which I do not wish to digress; but the assertion that women decay earlier, especially in this country where early marriages so much prevail, is unfortunately true, and a truth that ought not to apply to us, where the intellect is active at least if not profound. And this decay is unquestionably to be imputed to this source. Girls are married and perplexed with the cares of housekeeping, when the pretty ordering of "wee things" of the playhouse would be in better keeping; they suffer the anxieties and sorrows of maternity at an age pitiful to contemplate, when they should be singing like the lark to Heaven's gate, in the very exuberance of youthful life, and the joyousness of innocent emotion. Even admitting that some slight stirrings of the heart should be put into bondage for the rest of her life to one whom the undeveloped girl may affect, but whom the woman may perhaps despise. A boy has, it may be, a dozen of the "undying," "never to be forgotten" experiences of the kind, between the ages of 14 and 25, and yet shakes them off like "dew from the lion's mane," and looks up, after each trial, if there is to be any manhood in him, with a better and stronger humanity; but if a lovely, susceptible girl, always kept in ignorance of her own nature, responds in the slightest degree to the promptings of her heart, she must be married as if her heart were an effervescing wine, good for nothing if a sparkle escape, and not rather a deep and holy fountain of calm waters and healthful springs, making glad the wilderness of life, refreshing the arid desert of hearts worn and hackneyed by the toil and heat of the day in the wayfaring of the world.

That a woman should be past all joy, and beauty, and hopefulness, at a period when the other sex are in the perfection of their powers, is a most lamentable fact, and one utterly at variance with the designs of nature, who did not create her for the one purpose of family relation, but to share in that freedom of being and joyfulness of life which is his gift to all, and doubly so to a being created with such exquisite perfection and affluence of susceptibility as her own organization involves. It is not unusual for girls to be married and become mothers at fifteen, at the expense of health, happiness, and all the appropriateness and dignity of life, and men seem quite proud of these baby-wives, when in truth they should blush at their selfishness, as they too often will repent over their lack of forecast. It is these early marriages that has produced so many crimes and outrages in society. I remember, a few years since, the public was outraged by the cruel murder of a wife and two children; by the husband and father, in the upper part of this State. I do not recollect the name, but the state of mind when the confessions of the unhappy man implied impressed me greatly. He had been induced, when a boy of twenty or twenty-one, to marry a woman very much his senior, from motives of property; and, finding the relation ungenial and repugnant to him, it so wrought upon his mind, year by year, that a species of insanity was undoubtedly the result, and in this state he made the resolve not only to kill her and her children, but also all who were instrumental in bringing about the ill-starred marriage.

The protracted and unwearying griefs resulting from ungenial relations, is a fruitful source of insanity; and these ungenial relations will be found in almost all cases to have been those formed when one of the parties was too young to fully comprehend the magnitude of interest involved. I remember when I was a child having confused the idea that to be murdered was one of the possible contingencies of marriage; and this impression was created solely by reading in the public prints the many atrocious catalogues of the kind. I remember, too, the story of a refined New England woman, married to a man much older than herself, a hard, uncompromising, respectable man, upright in the eyes of the world, and an exact church member, who while her husband was desecrating prayer, by pouring out those hackneyed platitudes, in which so many indulge, arose suddenly from her knees and laid her hand upon his mouth, saying: "You hypocrite, how dare you mock God in this way!"

She was shortly after carried to a hospital, in which she still remains a hopeless lunatic. The friends were suitably shocked, and pitied him for his misfortune, but no one saw into the soul of things, where they might have learned of the years of suffering the wife must have endured from his selfishness and intangible falsehood.

Miss Dix must have a perfect mass of material on this ground, and God bless her for her noble mission, one peculiarly adapted to the instinctive and beautiful perceptions of womanhood. More than one story of suffering of this kind is fresh in my memory. Not far from Portland, Me., the wife of a wealthy man was for years confined in a small room, built up in the garden, and chained--condemned to hopeless solitude, and treated like a caged animal, in the very youth of her existence. I was but a child when I heard the story and had the spot pointed out to me. The relator finished the details by the remark often made, "That the insane always turn against their best friends, and that she could not endure to have her husband approach her: a word from him produced the most frightful paroxysm of her disease."

This was most significant, the fact of the story representing the key to the whole mass of distress and misery. She had endured till her outraged nature could no longer bear, and the entire structure of her mind gave way like "sweet bells jangled out of tune." Illustrations might be accumulated to prove the evils resulting from these early and disproportioned marriages, but these may suffice to prove not only the folly of them, but the fearful amount of crime, suffering and insanity to which they so often lead; evils wrought into the whole structure of society, and affecting interests that stretch into remote years.

[March 21, 1851]

For the Tribune.


By E. Oakes Smith


By marriage the husband and wife are one person in law; that is the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage; or at least incorporated and consolidated into that of her husband.--Blackstone

The above extract, remarkable alike for the force and beauty of its expression, would seem to imply that the philosophy of law is not greatly at variance with the truth, recognizing that unity of life and feeling which our Saviour himself defines to be the true marriage, but which has had less to do in the actualities of life, than in the romance of literature, where it figures so conspicuously, one would be led to imagine that the great sum of life was made up of the anxieties and uncertainties of lovers prior to their entering this temple of beatitudes.

"I have many things to say unto you, but hitherto ye were not able to bear them, neither now are ye able," were the words of the Divine Teacher, and assuredly there are many and deep revelations awaiting the reverent searcher into the great law of Love, which time and human progress will develop when the world is able to bear them. Jesus implied that Love was the foundation of the true Church, when he three times asked the impulsive Peter, "Lovest thou me," and then commissioned him to feed the lambs with his life imparting bread. His teachings are full of quaint aphorisms illustrating the impossibility of any kind of harmony existing where this great law is wanting. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"--"A house divided against itself cannot stand," &c. I am verging now upon delicate ground. When Pilate asked what is Truth, no answer was returned, obviously because Truth is not a fixture in this world--is not one fact--to all minds, but a revelation of the best to all who will search for it.

We talk much, we write more, we cavil, we speculate, and ask on every side what is Truth, and then every man casts a blank look into his neighbor's face, and encounters one as blank in return--for no one dares receive her as she is--he is afraid of her--he will be perpetually lowering buckets into the well, not for the purpose of a fresh, beautiful god-like revelation--for of this he is afraid; it might shame his prejudice or imbecilities, therefore he is content to muddy the waters, and fish up a bedabbled image best pleasing to his distorted vision.

I have heretofore urged the importance of denying the marriage rite to those incompetent by the laws to enter into other contracts. I might say, but the sarcasm is even too severe, that a being held as an infant, a chattel, an idiot in law, never reaches her majority, and is therefore morally irresponsible even in this. Men who are delicate of their honor, careful of their name, and desirous to preserve the sanctity of the marriage relation, would do well to raise the legal liabilities of our sex, and by placing us in the same relative position with themselves, increase not only our sense of loyalty, but of dignity also.

But to my subject. In an earlier and ruder state of society among us, there might be found an apology for early marriages, and in this point of view many of the sayings of Poor Richard even had a pertinency applicable to the times, but we have survived their use; and yet like other exploded doctrines, they cling to the minds of people like a forlorn leaf upon an autumnal tree, shivering and wasted, yet tenacious of its hold. Common sense and common justice cry out against them, and yet they find their advocates, and then, when the natural consequences result, modern society shakes her robe piously, and thanks God she is not like others.

The marriage relation is certainly, at some time in the life of individuals, the natural and harmonious state, but as it now stands it is a bondage more than a life giving sacrament. The parties are unequal; the affinities essential to a joyful and peaceful relation are often wanting; the wife is not the help-meet for the man, but the appendage, the housekeeper, the female, of the establishment; I admit these terms are coarse, but the facts are coarse likewise; her very existence is merged in that of her husband; the children of her blood are not hers; her property is not hers; she is legally dead; and in this point of view, I believe, on my soul, she is morally irresponsible to society--not to God, be it remembered, not to the greatness and purity of her own nature, for, thanks to the framer of our spirits, under all these human disabilities come in the majestic laws of the great God, engraved upon the sacred tablet of the heart in lines of fire, and there we read and grow calm and thoughtful, and aspiring.

I would guard the relation of marriage as the most holy sacrament of earth. I would have the family altar for the entertainment of Angels not unawares. I would have the festivals of Hestia genial with the sweetest offerings of earth--the Penates crowned with undying garlands--the Penetralia holy, and fresh and beautiful, and unprofaned, and for this purpose no one should be admitted to the Temple without solemn preparation of heart and life. It should, as now, confer dignity on the parties, but dignity of a higher and purer kind. They should be those joined of God only. Even now, every generous mind respects the genuine, earnest, devoted human attachment, however at variance with conventionalism--but these sad, hopeless manifestations would have no existence in a truly ordered society. Marriage would take place where the deepest emotions of the heart, the highest affinities of intellect, and the utmost sense of beauty, one or all of these combine to make it desirable. In this case there could be no disloyalty, no bickerings, no division of interest. There would be no divorce, for none would be deserved.

That radical wrong exists in the present system of marriage, is evident from the frequency of divorce. The giddy manner in which the marriage vows are now assumed would be pitiful, were not the subsequent evils humiliating. When we see two discordantly joined, wearing out a joyless existence without companionship, without sympathy, looking to the past as all wretchedness, and the future as all hopeless, we are apt to say "A Divorce should take place"--we are apt to feel and perhaps justly, that no part of existence should be defrauded of its right, to its best means of happiness. We say this world is a state important in the link, and how do we know that the future will not be shorn of its glory by discordant elements like these? how do we know that we shall not look back upon this little ball half in sorrow and half in spite, as the place little entitled to our good will?--and, therefore, these should be freed.

I think not. By divorce we let in a flood gate of evil incalculable in its amount. The majority of the world admit of easy compromises, are so much the creatures of habit, of circumstance, and opinion, that they can settle into the yoke with little comparative discomfort, and legislation is for the many, not for a few, who are a law to themselves. It would seem that the few, who really suffer, who have that ingrained sense of truth, that integrity of life, that unity of being by which they are made sensibly alive to the touch of falsehood, should be the ones above all others for the law to relieve--but these are the ones who advance the world, who become eyes to the blind, who awaken human truth, and who should be content like their Great Master to suffer for the many, who should be willing to suspend the great needs of their own soul rather than become a rock of offense. They can endure, because their own discontent arises from depths of life unknown to the many, and should they demand the whole law, all that is lawful, but which a human recognition renders inexpedient, thousands, who are without this internal singleness would mistake a thousand petty ills, and shallow pretenses for the deep promptings of truth, and the whole structure of society by broken up.

Let our Legislators, or let public opinion forbid premature marriages, but admit of no divorce. In a right relation crime could not take place; in a false one entered into, in the maturity of judgement, let it be one of the contingencies from which there is no appeal. Let it not be entered into from pecuniary motives by our sex--allow women the rights of property, open to her the avenues to wealth, permit her not only to hold property, but to enter into commerce, or into professions, if she is fit for them. In that case she should assuredly take the stand that her fathers took, that taxation without representation is oppressive, and then from the nature of things society would grow more harmonious, marriage would be sacred, and divorce pass from the Statute book. With Milton I believe it should be sooner award to ungenial relations than to the commission of crime. In the former, there is a sturdy truthfulness of Nature, admitting of nothing short of the highest laws of being, while in the latter case, the readiness of compromise in one party or both, argues an instability and shallowness of character, that the best modifications of society would little effect.

The whole subject of Divorce is one to be approached with caution--regarding marriage as holy, divorce is like the hand laid upon the Ark of God beneath which it shakes mightily. The law may separate two who have stood in relation, but there is the action of the laws inherent in our being, by which the parties each feel the other can never be a creature wholly indifferent. There is the pleading of a great law of kindness, of considerateness, by which each feels that the well being of the other may be in his hands--there is a sense of self-respect, which is violated, by feeling that one who has once stood in that relation, is ejected from the altar, bearing with him or her, memories which no Lethe wave can efface. Dim, undefined human pleadings bid him be reverent in his dealings, and careful for the sacredness of being. Oh! God's great laws within us are very beautiful, in calming and cheering the life--listed to with feet unshod and head bowed in reverence; the still small voice calls us from the dark cave of prejudice, where the tempest, the fire and the earthquake filled us with dread, into the clear tranquilizing light of better truth, which, like the droppings of dew and the stirring of leaves bring our disjointed being into harmony. We may trust these laws; did we do so more, there would be less of misery. Did the word Justice apply, not as now, to commercial relations only, but to the recognition of the whole nature of men, there would be little for our Legislative bodies to do; and till entire justice be established in regard to our sex, little can be hoped for.

A true man or woman, must naturally have a sense of shame when subject to divorce--more than all this, where children exist, a course of evasions, discomforts, and mortifications must ensue, painful to be borne and assuredly shaping the future characters of such unfortunate beings. They must at length find that the taint of crime stirs in their veins, or if not this, that their being was compounded amid warring elements, which may result in crime, or disease, or insanity to themselves. They become the reflex of innumerable ills, and all the discomforts that might perhaps have fallen upon one, through the action of a Divorce, are heaped upon the many. Their sense of their own responsibility will be lowered, or else a haughty antagonism excited equally repugnant to the best phase of life. I have in my memory now one illustration of the kind, where the mother from an uncongenial and early marriage, was able to obtain a divorce, upon what legal points I am unable to define, certainly not crime. There was one child, a boy, who was retained by the Father, who at length died, leaving the doubly orphaned boy to the uncertain tenderness of friends. He inherited all his mother's sensitiveness without her electric impulses. He grew up nearly alone, without companions, without guidance, ; a taciturn, shy youth, remembering painfully the short period when his mother was all in all to him, she now a wife with other and fairer children, claiming her tenderness. He inherited a small competence, but a weight hung upon his energies, and he died leaving no vestige but these sad memories. Will any one believe that mother failed to feel her omissions to his child; who thus was more exiled than Ishmael, for Abraham left mother and child to share the exile together?

I have not known a case of discomfort in the marriage relation, in which the contract did not take place during the girlhood of the woman, when she was so young and immature that she could form no estimate of the importance of the step she took. Where suffering has arisen from marriages contracted later in life, the origin has been from causes so petty, external or coarse, that no legislation should be awarded--no legislation could help them. The nature of the parties were such that they might as well be uncomfortable in that relation as any other.

We need a higher estimate of the sanctities of marriage, not increased facilities for dissolving it. We cannot multiply the latter without increasing existing evils; without lowering not only public taste but the sense of justice. Were women allowed the exercise of their best faculties, and remunerated equally with the other sex, they might often escape the desire for divorce by a knowledge that avenues to wealth or distinction were open to them, and thus they might fill up the desert of their life. We might cite many who are doing this, honorably sustained by the better part of the community, though subject, of course, to the unmeaning sneers of the sticklers for womanly subserviency. We do need a better public opinion in regard to woman-labor. We do need to have this sphere enlarged almost infinitely. We need to impress upon the other sex the unmanliness of usurping avocations better adapted to our more delicate organization. We need the resources of labor broad and remunerative for those who are too young of years to be admitted into the marriage contract or disinclined to its responsibilities; and for those who, having made in this relation a great and irretrievable mistake, may find in it a relief for outraged affections, and from the apathy, or discontent, or pettiness, or oppression which it involves. Their penalty should not be a life-long penalty; their bondage unmitigated bondage. While a true marriage, and the happiness or sorrows of maternity, should unmistakably absolve a woman from labor--a false or external one, becoming painful and oppressive, should open to her its privileges.

[April 24, 1851]


By E. Oakes Smith

What is competency to one man is not enough for another, no more than that which will keep one man warm will keep another man warm.--John Seldon

I suppose no one will be so foolish as to say this remark does not apply to women as well as men, the race only being specified, and what is here put in an external scene is not the less true in its more internal view.

It is often said "a woman's view of the world is in her affections, her empire is home." This is only in part true, and true only to a part of her sex. There are thousands of men, and women too, unfitted for the family relation. Men so dull and imbecile where the social affections are concerned, that they can neither minister, nor be ministered to, in this way, but who are clear, good abstract reasoners, apt at invention and capable of advancing science--though cold, selfish and unsympathizing:--women too, dogmatic, ambitious, antagonistic, who would value some intellectual triumph worth a thousand hearts, and dearer than any recognition of the affections. These have nothing in themselves to bring them into harmony with the family relation. Their attempts at tenderness look foolish, and any lapses into coquetry strike you as a downright attempt at a fraud. You recoil from it as untruthful if not sinister; while this womanly weapon in the hands of another may appear not only becoming, but attractive.

Far be it from me to undervalue the slightest grace of my sex; it is because I recognize individuality, and reverence it, that I will not apply the same laws to all. There may be occasionally a Madam Guyon, whose affections are so nearly spiritualized that she may live irrespective of the world, and whose intellect becomes clear in its prescience from this soul-fountain only. There may be an Elizabeth Fry, calm, gracious, and most beautiful in all the harmonies of life, of whom we might say she was born for the eloquence of the sanctuary, did we not see the fullness and nobleness of the wife, the mother and friend. And again, we would say surely this is the whole being, did we not hear the silvery voice uttering its sublime ministrations in the prison and the convict ship, and to the outcast of the wayside.--Surely this is all. No, she is the finely toned woman in the halls of legislation and in the palaces of Kings. "I have seen a sublime sight," said John Randolph, "Elizabeth Fry at prayer in Newgate."

There may be a Madam De Stael whose breath was inspiration--whose tongue might have won Plato from the eloquent lips of Aphasia, but whose life was a long sigh for that love which could never find an entire response; yet does any one believe she did not find idolatry such as would amaze the lisping sentimentalist who, content with the shallow response of some enamored youth, pleases herself with the thought that intellectual women cannot be loved--are deficient in the graces of womanhood, and sigh in vain for what the most uncouth Audry is likely to realize; surely not.--Other types there are--women of ample gifts to hold the most affluently endowed of the other sex in thrall--such as a Cleopatra, a Heloise, and so on from the most celebrated to the most obscure. Now will any one pretend that the same laws apply to all of these? Where is their world? Can it be narrowed down to the four walls of the saloon or nursery?

Let us put these aside. Even in a lower scale of being there is a large to whom the affections hold a very subordinate part--women who find it irksome to sustain the relations of wife and mother, and who would never have assumed them, but because public opinion has made it desirable, and the unequal action of labor, necessary. I even heard of a poor woman who witness the inordinate grief of a neighbor over the death of a child, with utter astonishment, and remarked that "she was sure she did not feel so bad when her child died, for she hand't had to work near so hard since." now ,k this is pitiful enough, and the naturalness of the expression shows she was entirely deficient in the emotion so predominant in the other.

The lions have written the books, and having persisted in making that part of our character which brings us in relation to themselves the prominent subject of comment, they have ignored our other attributes, till there is a vague feeling engendered that a woman is the worse for large endowments of any kind whatever. Iago's narrow and coarse exposition of her vocation
"To suckle fools, and chronicle small beer"
is not far from the popular estimate. Genius and beauty, God's crowning gifts, are looked upon with distrust, if not with dread. The fear that a woman may deviate the slightest from conventionalism in any way has become a nervous disease with the public. Indeed so little is she trusted as a creation, that one would think she were made marvelously beautiful, and endowed with gifts of thought and emotion only for the purpose of endangering her safety--a sort of spiritual locomotion with no check wheel, a rare piece of porcelain to be handled gingerly--in fact a creature with no conservative elements within herself, but left expressly thus, that men might supply them, and lead and guide, and coerce, and cajole her as it pleased him best. She is a blind Angle neither adapted to heave nor earth in herself, but if submitting graciously to man's guidance, capable of filling a narrow, somewhat smoky and very uncertain nook on this small planet, and possibly win Heaven through the perfection of suffering here.

Let her assert the laws of her being, let her say she is capable of more than this narrow sphere, that she grieves and frets in the cage, and the fault is grievous. She is ill-tempered, ambitious, unwomanly--as though woman hood had but one signification. It is even a reproach for her to have a will of her own. The voice of her own soul within her crying for space and recognition must be suppressed, lest she should be less subservient as a wife, and less humdrum as a mother; and yet the heroes of their age were not born of your tame women. The fathers of Wesley and Washington and Napoleon were far from being superior men; indeed we should rather call them very orderly, sensible, dull people, while their mothers were each brilliant, individualized, strongly marked characters, with fine health and great personal beauty.

It seems strange that we should have to enter a plea for the faculties that God has given us; but so it is. The persistent use of the obnoxious word female in our vocabulary is proof of the light in which we are regarded.

Read but a tithe of the twaddle written by the other sex in regard to our nature, and it will be seen how little we are understood. Take up a common newspaper which may be regarded as an exponent of the popular voice, and see how we are talked of, as creatures one would suppose belonging to a different race. Here is a paragraph from the first paper at hand in illustration:

WOMAN'S CHARACTER--No trait of character is more valuable in a female than the possession of a sweet temper. Home can never be made happy without it. It is like the flowers that spring up in the pathway, reviving and cheering us. Let a man go home at night wearied and worn by the toils of the day, and how soothing is a word dictated by a good disposition! It is sunshine falling upon his heart. He is happy, and the cares of life are forgotten.

Far be it from us to gainsay the expiring lackadaisical truth of the sentiments herein expressed. But would one be quite sure the being spoken of was a woman?--would it not rather seem it might be some dangerous creature shut up in a very dull and somewhat unfurnished chamber---said creature being apt sometimes to exhibit quite the contrary manifestations?

Here is another in a higher and better spirit, and yet the fact that such an appeal should be need in behalf of a being almost coeval with man, a being created from his own substance, his help mate, the crowning work of creation, contains a bitter sarcasm:

TO HUSBANDS--The influence of a sensible woman is of no ordinary kind, and happy is the man who is thus favored; not, indeed, that sensible women are more rare than sensible men; but because men are too apt to monopolize the entire sense of the family, (in their own opinion,) to desire the woman 'to leave the kitchen to them,' to treat the women as automatons, objects rather of amusement than rational beings, as children or dolls, to be coaxed and made fools of, rather than as equals or friends bound to one eternity; fellow-sufferers who weep in their misfortunes; as partakers and heighteners of their joys, and as being equally accountable to one God. Others, again, look on women as the mere slaves of their will, a sort of safety valve for their spleen, by means of which their ill tempers find vent. Both these characters, I trust, will be far from my reader; but if he should have entertained such erroneous ideas of what woman, in her higher moral capacity, is and ought to be, let men entreat him to try, for a short time, (and he will then continue to do so,) by kindness and affection, to draw forth the hidden treasure from the mind and the heart of his wife; if he have treated her as a mere cypher in his family, let him gradually introduce her to trust and responsibility; if he have treated her as a child, incapable of maturity of mind, let him not make her as his confidant, and in the many opportunities for [con?]ference which will then occur, he will soon be aware how much he has lost by past neglect; and, if he have treated her as a tyrant, if he have crushed the but half-uttered sentiment, if he have satirized her tastes and opinions, if, by coldness, he have thrown the oft springing affections back upon her heart, there to wither and to die, or with the would to rankle and become gall, let him try, before it is too late, to restore sufficient confidence to elicit opinions; let him then, by special gentleness, awaken the dormant affection, and , by the warmth of his love, perpetuate the flow. The unadulterated love of woman is the greatest boon Heaven itself can, in this world, bestow on man.

If men do not understand us, and do not describe us as we are, women have not done much better, they having looked abroad to see what others have done, rather than having descended into their own bosoms for light and truth. If Mrs. Ellis is really serious in much of the advice she gives married women, their husbands ought by no means to feel flattered, for they are surely little better than great babies, to be humored and got along with, or unruly animals, who, having the power, must be so managed as to be left as little dangerous and troublesome as possible. Away with this flimsy, sickly kind of recognition. It is no wonder the world is so evil, and stupid and imbecile, while we thus nurse up old follies, and make pets of what ought to be exploded errors. Men and women both need a thousand fold more courage than they now have, in order to search earnestly for Truth, and recognize her when found.

It is doubtful if our literary women have really done much to advance public sentiment in regard to us, for many write, not from their own convictions, but evidently to flatter the opinions of men, and thus little has been gained from them. Miss Edgeworth shows the prosy fingering of her father throughout her works. Mrs. Hall says, after a glimpse at the noble ones of our kind, "still the woman would have been happier had she continued enshrined in the privacy of domestic love and domestic duty, so perfectly is she constituted for the cares, the affections, the duties, the blessed duties of unpublic life."

If Mrs. S.C. Hall really thought this---really believed that a human being is happier for holding the greater part of its nature in abeyance, she ought herself never to have written--she should have buried her fine talents, and shut out from her eyes all the freshness and freedom of vision which help to wake our life a well spring of happiness.

Miss Porter says that "Madame de Stael often praised my revered mother for the retired manner in which she maintained her little domestic establishment," yet it would be preposterous to suppose that the gifted sybil of Coppet, had any hankering for this half-vitalized existence. There is nothing in the nature of things to prevent a woman, however magnificently endowed with genius, (indeed I believe genius must involve this,) from possessing in the highest degree all the attributes of tenderness supposed to be inherent in her sex, and to exercise them also in the most harmonious manner, provided always, that she is recognized in her individual capacity, and adjudged by the laws that belong to her composition. That is, if she be a Nightingale shall be recognized as such and treated as such--if a nice Biddy, exaltant over the commonest manifestation, let her be recognized as such--but do not attempt to convert the soulful harmonies of the one into the every day cackle of the other; do not take the lark from heaven's gate and condemn it to silence and the dim earth. Nature is full of harmonies, and life is full of blessedness when we are able to recognize these. "There is one glory of the sun another of the moon, and one star differs from another star in glory." Why should we not with clear vision see the differences that exist in our sex, as well as in the other and frame our judgements in accordance.

If any woman of Genius is so untrue to herself as to say she should have been happier as an indoor, pains-taking fireside woman; careful for the small savings of a household, holding the rod in terrorem over unruly urchins, and up in the morning early, to scold the servants, her nature satisfied with this ordinary manifestation of sex, she is from some cause disqualified for the holding of God's beautiful and abundant gifts in reverent stewardship--she is the Jew, better pleased with the worship of Apis, than the sublime mysteries of Jehovah, looking to the flesh-pots of Egypt, and turning from the heavenly Manna.

Let it be understood, I do not disparage the home affections, the circle of home duties. God forbid! I only wish to assert that we must not be limited to these; that we must and ought to be true to the talents committed to our keeping. If our circle has been ordained in a limited sphere, fill it joyously--if in a large, take up its glorious burdens nobly, and bear them to the throne of the Eternal. Every creature is happy in its own atmosphere. Let us find wherein our great strength lies, and break the withes of custom, if need be, to assert our power; let us arise from the cords of bondage unscathed, lest we find ourselves, from too long slumber, feeble and blind, and covered with scorn, our beautiful fabric of life reeling to its fall.

The woman with but the one talent is praiseworthy for putting it to account--and she with the ten is culpable for their neglect. That word happiness has a most weak and indefined meaning as ordinarily used--exemption from grief and solicitude is one meaning; and to very many, enough to eat and drink, and "civilly merry," friends, is another; success in trade, "to swing upon a gate all day," irresponsibility, as in the slave, &c. &c., now one must be infinitely weak and inconsequential in his reasons to say that any or all of these brings happiness. No, that can have no law, except as it springs from the construction of being itself. There is something beyond these externals that imparts it, and this something lies in the bosom of the Infinite Father, who calls upon us to be like Him, perfect in our being, and to grow in the grace of all its harmonies. We must and will feel the stirring of a great nature if it be great, and we are happy only as we obey its monitions. We are not happy in a half-life, a half-utterance, for the wealth struggles for its power; the smothered fire burns and consumes till it finds room for its healthful glow. A thousand women are ill-natured, and miserable not from positive ills about them but from compression; they have that within, demanding space and indulgence, and they pine for its freedom--the laws of their life are not comprehended and they sink to imbecile complaints, only because there is no voice to call them forth to freedom and light; when I say freedom I do not mean the violation of any one ordering of society. I say reverence these--but awake to the God-light within you, and follow its guidance. It is his law even in the external world to bring all creation into an appropriate sphere--the dews of the mountain even, tire of its isolation and mount upward to the sky, where they rejoice in the rainbow--the seed struggles mightily in the dark earth, for the green leaf and the beautiful blossom He folded within, calling for the light--the worm sickens at the dust of its dim way, for the wings of the butterfly call for a higher life; and every where the Great voice of God from within cries "where art thou," and yet we bide ourselves, and find excuses for our fear and our inaction.

Hereafter, in the progress of events, I see no reason why the influence of women should not be acknowledged at the ballot box; indeed, when we consider the disorder and venality prevailing there, it would seem that her voice may be the great element needful to reform. The fact of her dropping a ticket into a receptacle of the kind, does not look hazardous to her femininity; she might seem to do this with little or no commotion, and return in conscious dignity to her household, and there infuse a braver cheer, and instil into the immature judgements of those committed to her care nobler lessons of life. Shakespeare's Portia is not the less engaging at Bellmont for having plead the cause of her friend with lawyer-like sagacity. In Europe the fashions of Queens has made it not an infrequent thing for women to speak in legislative halls, and Victoria's domestic abilities seem not the least impaired by her occasional appearances there. But in our country, where it might be supposed a certain degree of courage would keep hand and head with reform, men appear to think the worst disasters would befall them by even discussing the question. If a woman does so, she is met, not as a thinker--one capable and willing to consider abstractly the question of human good, which can be of no possible advantage to herself, for she will be long in her grave before her views would be acknowledged, if at all--but she is met by unmanly strictures upon her sex, and foolish flings at "female politicians." Pardon the phrase, it is a quotation--I recognize only the appropriate term of woman. But this is aside from my subject.

Our right to a full life--to the exercise of full life--is the foundation of a plea--not that of the nursery and kitchen merely--not that of the luxurious saloon, the haunts of fashion merely--for disguise it as men and women may, this perpetual adulation, this fostering of our pettiness, our vanity, our love of luxury, is but the mode of holding us in the pupilage of sex--recognizing only our relation in one aspect of life and ignoring all other claims. I do not undervalue the harmonies of love--every woman owes much of the graces of her life to these--the affections are all holy and beautiful, but the laws of these are as diverse as the mental character of their owners; and while to some they may be all, to others, however strong, they are but the frame work, the foundation of a great and harmonious superstructure.

[May 15, 1851]

For the Tribune.


By E. Oakes Smith

Though we shall raise a great storm, and though Antichrist tear away the woman from us, yet the Virgin must continue with us, because we are married to her; let every one take his own, and then I shall have that which is mine.--Jacob Behman

There is always in every human breast this uncontaminated essence, wedded to the soul, I would believe, its pure, fresh, undefiled element, more or less powerful in its assertion; a mere germ in some, in others a full vital existence, casting an etherial veil over the whole being, and presenting that mimosa sensitiveness by which it shrinks from obtrusion. Reverencing its own sanctity, it admits and justifies also all that is hallowed in the relations of another. This entireness of being is a thing that all should assert, whether as man or woman, and hence, much that I have said in urging the needs of womanhood, may apply equally well to the other sex, "let each claim his own and then I shall have that which is mine."

Men have as yet reached only a tithe of their rights--they are but partially acquainted either with their own needs or the true dignities of manhood. How very few of them dare to stand up in the face of God and each other, and assert in the language of the great Apostle, " all things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient"--feeling and knowing the vastness of the thought involved, and having that great and generous nature by which the whole that its laws of being demand, is all that the fullest humanity is capable of receiving; yet acknowledging this, is careful for the narrower laws of others, who might be injured through his freedom!

Yes, it is most true that the other sex need a broader and more courageous self-exertion, and when they shall reach this, their sense of justice will be deepened, and they will aid us in the sacredness of our being. They accuse us, and justly too, of a love of gossip, of petty detraction, and mean curiosity; but do these charges hold good in our case only? Look at our newspapers, each one the reflex of the narrow prejudices and foolish private opinions of its editors--as far removed from the truth, and of as little consequence in a thorough and universal standard as it is possible to conceive bearing about the same proportion to the whole as a mouse-hole in the staircase of St. Peter's bears to its entire vast and harmonious architecture. Examine our newspaper columns--see how readily they absorb the current gossip of the day, how greedily they seize upon a divorce and luxuriate in its painful details; how the many crimes of the poor, oppressed, outraged and blinded humanity find a ready credence and circulation; how the meanest and most loathsome curiosity is ministered to, and then judge between us and them, and say whether our peccadilloes in this way be not harmless compared with those of the other sex. It is not enough to say "It sells; the public likes this, and will have it," for this not only makes the case stronger, but spreads the evil.

Take, for instance, one case in hand--the revolting and unmanly curiosity in regard to the details of a divorce. I take this in preference to any other, because it involves the interests of my sex. Now, any one with a mind delicately constituted I will not say, but in the least broad case, in the least just, shrinks from such knowledge. It is not an external or commercial wrong involved, one that can be met upon open and acknowledged grounds, but every one, no matter how obtuse in nature, feels instinctively that laws and questions, internal as well as of external import, are involved, that flit before the anatomical knife of public opinion. He feels an instinctive shuddering recoil as these things are flouted before the public eye, unless he is degraded by a coarse, vulgar life, requiring this aliment, or cursed with a morbid and unmanly curiosity. Deny it as we will, the relation between the sexes, bringing the souls of two of God's creatures into companionship, is in all cases most sacred to a pure eye. God himself the framer of their spirits, and the parties concerned, are to be judge. (I am talking abstractly now; I am not on the ground of marriage or any of its contingencies.) They enter the symbolic holy of holies, and he or she who would remove the veil, profanes the temple of God; and if evils are involved, that soul must have lost much of its pureness of modesty that can willingly make there a subject for gossip, either in a newspaper or elsewhere, and to say that our sex do this exclusively, when the other has the hardihood to put it in print and aid in vitiating public taste by the details, is a most unjust and cruel aspersion. That a morbid curiosity exist in regard to these subjects, I will not deny, and in yielding the point, I do so with sorrowful regrets at the blindness which it involves. it seems to me that a mind capable of reverence must draw the veil between his own soul and that of another where any circumstances may have revealed to him the sacredness of the candle of the Lord burning before the altar, or, in less figurative words, its internal life, that state nearest God and furthest removed from the eyes of the world.

Yet the contrary, I admit, is the case; men, who talk so much about the deference due to our sex, who would seem to raise us to the seventh heaven of folly and imbecility, by their adulation and blandishments, no sooner find one of the number incapable of bearing this foolish exposure, grown giddy by this false estimation, than they turn round, and in the social circle and public prints blazon the sad story till the cheek burns with shame, and the heart aches for very pity. And women, weak and imitative women, join in the fell pursuit, or aid in the diabolical mirth, till angels might weep over their perverted nature. Talk as we will, sigh and exclaim as we will, and say, "alas! poor human nature!" it is not human--it is fiendish, impish, brutal. God never made his creatures to rejoice over these mistakes in life. Our humanity recoils from these things and a great and beautiful voice cries to us from the bottom of our hearts, to love one another out of a pure love, and to be kind-hearted one toward another. It is not human to grade the soul's history thus out to profane us, and make it the jest, the bye-word and mockery of the base and the unlearned in life's heavy and mysterious experience. Our best nature is shocked, and the wings of our spirit veil our coarser vision. The contrary is akin to that perversion found among the lower creations--that insane propensity by which the wild beast, finding one of its fellows disabled by disease or wounds, falls prey upon it and tears it to pieces--not that it designs cruelty, but suffering is an element foreign to its nature--it is the voice of something beyond its comprehension. Its own nature is freedom and joy, and exultant vitality; but here is a brother gifted with a new experience--his eyes looking forth, lighted with a strange and unknown fire--it bewilders, it maddens him--his instincts are outraged--it has no faculties to comprehend , and, in the wildness of its perverted curiosity, it falls upon the victim and it perishes in the struggle. Thus Jesus died by the blind zeal of those who thought to do God service, who, out of devotion to the letter, crucified the incarnate Truth of our humanity. If this perished, who was without fault, his followers, though following him afar off, can expect nothing better.

There may be great discrepancy of views, in the world, but who shall say this or that man is not obedient to the laws of his being? What is it to me that my neighbor's views are not in accordance with mine in any one aspect of life? I trust in God he is in harmony with himself, and so long as he violates none of my rights and none of society, he is a sacred person to me. If, by any inadvertency, a loop-hole of a curtain might reveal to me his whole interior economy, I would close my eyes from the view. I wish to learn nothing, not that I am indifferent to his well-being, but because I reverence his humanity, and its peculiar laws do not concern me. "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

In return, I ask what every human being has a right to claim of another? The same kind of tolerance, and where this is allowed, infinitely less evil will exist. I should be ashamed to care whether my neighbor ate his beefsteak and onions, or beefsteak alone, unless, indeed, he were to bring the odor into my room to share the freshness of my rose and geraniums. Then I would say, "Eat the onions if so be they are needful to you, but I am not in affinity there-with, and do not bring them to me." And with this exception, I would leave him to his beefsteak and onions, with the same indulgence as I might claim for my orange and dry biscuit, my rose and geranium, my singing bird, or uncouth terrapin. now, while all admit that a curiosity that finds its aliment through this low and petty channel, is to the last degree contemptible, still the man and woman who will sit and gravely discuss the question whether Mr. and Mrs. A are harmonious in their marriage relation, and whether such and such parties have made themselves amenable to scandal, are not only tolerated, but even welcomed in society, just in proportion as they can give piquancy to their contemptible disclosures, whether by conversation or public journals.

On this ground, if no other, women should assert their claim to emancipation from their present circumscribed sphere, that they may nobly sustain each other, and learn that loyalty which now scarcely exist among us, but to the honor of men is a sentiment of vital import with them. It is for the interest of the imbecile of the other sex to foster the imbecilities of ours, they lead the way in heaping contempt upon the more nobly endowed of ours, they are not ashamed to contribute their arts to lower the life of one of our number, to plunge her into shame and misery, but they are the first to insist that their wives and daughters shall be foremost in affixing the stigma upon her; they are not above advocating one set of opinions at home, and going abroad and acting from a far different theory; they will take a newspaper for themselves, and gloat over its infamous disclosures, and provide their wives and daughters with one of a different stamp (as they should do--God forbid that they should help to corrupt the well-springs of life at the family altar); but this other paper is often so utterly weak and twaddling that it affords no just scope to thought, and is patronized because it is safe. Look into our Family papers, as they are called, and see the mere draining of material that is thought sufficient for the sex--how utterly mean and vapid they are, and see if the evil they do by narrowing be not greater than their supposed conservativeness.

It certainly is better and nobler that a human being should be allowed the full power that God has imparted, than to hold it like a Chinese foot in swaddling bands, lest by some possibility it might go astray; for that power will fret and press its bonds till space be afforded it either for good or evil. It is the compression that does the injury. The most free are those most bound--bound by the laws of the Great God, who knoweth what manner of spirits we are of. He who made us, who imparted to us our mysterious life, gave to every passion its conservative check, and over and above all while a joy was infused into every faculty in its healthful play, gave also the pang to wait upon the violation of its laws. Justice, then, to ourselves is what we ask, and in asking this a deeper and holier human justice awaits the world. Neither man nor woman is made so that it is well to be alone; and when mutual justice becomes the great law of being, then, and then only, harmony will be the result. Then the lion will he lie down with the lamb, and the sting shall be taken from whatever is noxious, and the dragon of restrictive and retributive law loosen its folds upon human society.

Women are ridiculed for asserting the rights which belong to them as God's creatures. To me it seems that she who fails to do this is false to her trust, she is
"The base Judean, who threw
A pearl away worth more than all his throne."
She who sits down in passive discontent, who is willing to be servile only because she is garlanded with flowers, who sees a great good before her and fails to take it up, lest its burden should be heavy, deserves our contempt; but she who hears the voice of God in her own soul, and hearing, obeys, is the anointed of the Lord to a beautiful mission reverenced in the heart of humanity, however scorned by the passing voice. In all this assertion of individual rights I cannot, for the life of me, see how one single beautiful shade of womanhood is to disappear, I do not see how the voice is to be less gentle, and Cordelia like; I do not see how the lovely ministrations of mother, sister, wife, daughter, are to be any less tender or engaging; on the contrary, it does seem to me, that each and all would become invested with a breadth, and sacredness, and harmony, now scarcely dreamed of, because each would be the free-will offering of a spirit in harmony with itself, whose whole needs were justly recognized, and who would thence see clearly the needs of another; who reverencing its own nature, relies upon it, trusting in its truth and fullness, would thence be better able to appreciate every other aspect of another's and deal most sacredly and justly by it.

I fear in my great solicitude upon this point I may have overlaid my subject and therefore have weakened its force; for so truly noble, so God-like and beautiful does the creation of God in ourselves seem to me, that I plead anxiously for its integrity, I would help remove the odium cast upon humanity from the pulpit and the press. I long to see my own sex side by side with men in every great work, and free to see the light when his vision is dimmed with the dust of his chariot wheels in the might race in which he is engaged.

[June 9, 1851]


By E. Oakes Smith

Were I the chosen, a dram of well doing should be performed before many times as much the forcible hindrance of evil doing.--Milton

In my former numbers I have insisted, perhaps at too much length, upon the recognition of the entire individuality of Woman, her claims as a creation distinct, and one; not as a half --a supremacy--an appendage--a mere luxury for the delectation of man. According to the Mosaic myth, Man was created and placed in a garden provided for his existence, with all the beatitudes of sense amply cared for. Woman was the birth of Paradise; created amid its harmonies, a last glowing and bountiful demonstration of God's good will to his creature. Adapted the one to the other, they were yet distinct in being, and each types of a great revelation. Woman being the last is undoubtedly the one through which the ultimate good to this world is to be achieved; in this way the worship of the Virgin in the Catholic Church is an instinctive acknowledgement of the symbol. Man was for a period alone in Paradise--till he slept--weighed by the latent energies of a great nature struggling for realization. So in the world. hitherto his career has been that of brute force--he has mastered the world and named all things according to his will--now he tires of the turmoil, the dust and heat of the contest; he is sated with blood and war and oppression, and longs for the divine companionship of purer and gentler elements, and the ministration of woman comes in to gladden the world, needing her gentleness, her singleness of perception, her holiness of love, and her protective tenderness. As she has been the formative element in the material world, so is she to produce the new heavens and the new earth of the moral world; hers is to be the great birth of a purer humanity, that of peace and love and good will; the embodied new testimony of love, when the law shall not lie in the prohibition, but in the enactment; when it shall no more be said, "Do not," but do thou, even the whole law of love. There are natures even now who belong to the new testimony only , who feel that the external prohibition is an insult to the greater laws inscribed in their own souls, whose lives are peaceful, harmonious, and very joyful, for the Lord is his Holy Temple, even that of heart, and nothing can make them afraid.

Shall we say that in the long past ages, Man has wilfully oppressed and degraded his companion? Far from it. Age after age he has done little but cast aside usages that have survived their needs, grasping at one time a good, he enforces it by a law till that in time becomes a bondage, and he at length finds himself a Samson bound by his own locks, or a Gulliver struggling on the earth by the combined pegs of the Lilliputs--in gaining at one point he has lost at another--till the whole structure of society with its multitudinous laws, presents Man as a struggling Laocoon, writing under the fold upon fold of restrictive law, which towers above the true man and leaves him helpless or goaded to desperation; the very prohibition maddens him to the desire of infringement; the Law has become Master, Man the Slave; reversing the assurance of the Great Teacher, that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

In all this Woman, always in the back ground, has been swayed back and forth, often protected by the strong arm of her companion from blows which he met upon his unarmed breast, sometimes his slave, his wanton, his idol, never his free, joyous, godlike companion. There is too much talk of Woman and her Master. I remember a distinguished literary Woman, who in speaking of her own movements would say in bitter jest: "I don't know what I shall do; that depends upon the man that owns me." Our question is not now as to individual injustice and oppression, mighty as these isolated cases become in aggregate, but of the progress of the race itself, where I see that Man after so many centuries of enlightenment, has achieved comparatively little, and of course Woman, recognized as she has hitherto been only in sex, must necessarily more than share in the disabilities of her companion. He has been treading the wine press alone, sweating as it were great drops of blood--he has not yet escaped the agony of disenthrallment; he has had no time to study her rare and delicate organization as a whole--his broad, massive stirring hardihood could not, like Hercules at the distaff, feel the attenuated threads that compassed her being; he has been too busy in war; and toil and legislation, in bloodshed, and persecution and sensuality, to look into the soul of things; and but for the Poets of our kind, who have kept him human tenderness and aspiration alive, we should have been lost in darkness and brutality.

It is weak and foolish to suppose that man thus wilfully desired to enslave us. If done at all, it was done in blindness and in ignorance. The instinctive arrogance of sex may have led him to tyranny, as it undoubtedly has, and where in emergencies either party must yield in life, the physically strongest will of course prevail. If either must be in the back ground, the one least able to withstand brute force must be the one, but this has grown out of the imperfection of the race, not from deliberate intent. Beauty and Genius are easily emancipated, and hence we find in all ages beautiful and gifted women casting a halo over the dark features of an age, and misleading us into a belief that others were equally free--and these, affluent in homage, intoxicated with adulation, have unconsciously helped to deaden the cry of the many--the bitter cry of the ignorant and the oppressed, whose glory was turned to shame, and whose light had become darkness. It is cruel selfishness to fold our hands in idle contempt for the needs of others, because the Good Father has cast our lines in pleasant places.

I confess there is something humiliating in this cry of Woman's Rights. I am ashamed that Man should have ever made it needful, and feel a sad pity over his blindness and meanness. It seems charging home unmanliness, pettiness and ignorance, and acknowledging, on our part to imbecility and all the odious vices that grow out of a feeble and oppressed creation. To confess to the injury mares the beauty and the dignity of life, and I would rather our sex would enact some magnanimous tragedy even, than utter this mawkish cry of oppression. The "proud stomach" of the mannish Bess, had something to command respect at least, and unless we can do, as well as talk, it were better to be silent. God forbid I should encourage a race of vixens; it is because I desire to see Woman nobly beyond these poor, mean tendencies that I urge her to the full demand of her being. It is because she is compressed that she is mawkish, and treacherous, and petulant, and meager. I do solemnly believe the race is physically dwarfed by the disabilities of Woman--that beauty and magnanimity, and God's worship are all hindered by this lack of a true recognition. Sickness and wrinkles, and distortion, are not her inheritance, but grow upon the race from the evils inflicted upon her. Look at the pale faces, the feeble step, the uncertain and disaffected faces of half the married women that you see, and contrast them with the firm, upward, joyous look of the few--whether married or single--whose whole being has been recognized, and then say which realizes best the intents of the Creator.

It seems to me the very spirit of many of our laws is humiliating, and helps to lower public opinion--they are a living witness to the ignorance and one-sided views of men, and while we see him who styles himself the head of creation thus benighted, we cannot expect entire justice from him--but we can, by a noble exertion of our own true dignities, make him ashamed to enforce laws which carry with them a reproach to himself. It seems to me that a man who goes into a court of law to claim a divorce, for instance, upon the ordinary grounds, confesses to his own disgrace and his own lack of true manliness of character, so in regard to property, and many crimes even, where it may be said we suffer the penalties of a state of things which we had no voice in creating, and ought of right to be exempt from, and there is an intrinsic meanness in exposing us to the conditions. There is a certain conventional code, often unjust and oppressive, which women recognize in their intercourse with each other, and the tenacity with which they insist upon its observance argues a strong ability in them to keep all laws which they may be instrumental in making.

There is something in the spirit of the age inviting to action, not thinking merely--and often do we hear women say--"I feel a desire to do something beyond my present sphere--to act--I am tired of endurance merely." To such we would say solemnly, tenderly--Up and do--it is the voice of God, it may be calling you to a divine work. She that feels a latent power within her calling her to action, is culpable for her neglect to obey the voice. Mistakes, failures must and will ensue--what then? it is something to have attempted great things--if the motive be pure, it is godlike, and good will come of it. Vanity, pretension, soon find their level, but the great and holy aim is in God's keeping, and must go onward conquering and to conquer. I care not that a woman sometimes fails in her attempts, as thousands of the other sex do,--it will not lessen her, provided there is any magnitude in her nature; but I reverence the sentiment in her soul that dictate the movement. I feel there must have been deep need within her which she was bound to recognize, and that the mantle that perhaps slipped from her too delicate shoulders may be broadcast upon others more nobly proportioned.

We have passed the era of civilization when a woman was condemned solely to the productive, a laborious part of the domestic arrangement. True, in England she may yet be harnessed to a cart for the conveyance of coal, and she may be in many parts of the world burdened and tasked beyond measure--but these are evils growing out of the general enormities of society, through which the race must work its emancipation; they are evils aside from the general object of these articles.

The woman of the Chivalrous Ages would not content the woman of the Nineteenth Century. Modern mechanism has superseded the necessity of her cares of embroidery, and the breaking up of old forms has made her duty of distributing alms, and ordering her band of retainers unnecessary--nor would she be content to lean from her balcony watching the first gleam of her lover's plume returning from his seven years' warfare, or to sit in solemn state the Queen of Beauty and homage, or to listen to the songs of bearded Troubadour. The day for the worship of beauty, solely, is long since passed, and the woman of Thought usurps her place. These foregone types were but the preludes to this--beautiful in their day--or toleration as the best the world afforded. Something more noble, more full is required now. Now the true full woman must be more enlarged--more reflective, contemplative and more loving even. Her tenderness has a broader field even as her thoughts have; she is capable of more, she feels the stirring of more within herself, and feels a stirring to action too--for all power is vital, and wherever it may be lodged it will out at some time.

Such being the case, it is useless to talk of restricting women in the action of their faculties. In our age, unless the women of Intellect--for the type is maturing itself to that development which is highest and most beautiful--unless she is allowed the free exercise of her talents, is far more lonely and wretched than her poor sister of a byegone age, who toiled because her soul as well as boy was in bondage, or the handsome Dame, who moved the Queen of Beauty, listening with proud grace to the songs of her admirers. These were content, for the day-star of better things had not risen upon them; but the woman of our day is not content, because she sees a newer and better light, and she reads the handwriting upon the wall which says, "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting," and therefore she is ready to cast her whole being, her thought, her aspiration, all into the scale of public good, and in being true to herself, become true to the world's destinies.

[June 19, 1851]

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