The following is an article written by the 19th century Catholic writer Orestes Brownson. This article was written in 1869 in the early stages of the woman suffrage debate in the U.S. and provides excellent argumentation against woman suffrage, and can also be read as a general statement against feminism.
What Brownson writes regarding the effects women in politics would have on the family can also generally be said about women entering the workforce as the competitors of men.
Please note, the emphases are mine.
The Woman Question (Catholic World, May 1869) by Orestes Brownson
The Woman Question, though not yet an all-engrossing question in our own or in any other country, is exciting so much attention, and is so vigorously agitated, that no periodical can very well refuse to consider it. As yet, though entering into politics, it has not become a party question, and we think we may discuss it without overstepping the line we have marked out for ourselves- that of studiously avoiding all party politics; not because we have not the courage to discuss them, but because we have aims and purposes which appeal to all parties alike, and which can best be effected by letting party politics alone.
In what follows we shall take up the question seriously, and treat it candidly, without indulging in any sneers, jeers, or ridicule. A certain number of women have become, in some way or other, very thoroughly convinced that women are deeply wronged, deprived, of their just rights by men, and especially in not being allowed political suffrage and eligibility. They claim to be in all things man’s equal, and in many things his superior, and contend that society should make no distinction of sex in any of its civil and political arrangements. It will not, indeed, be easy for us to forget this distinction so long as we honor our mothers, and love our wives and daughters, but we will endeavor in this discussion to forget it- so far, at least as to treat the question on its merits, and make no allowance for any real or supposed difference of intellect between men and women. We shall neither roughen nor soften our tones because our opponents are women, or men who encourage them. The women in question claim for women all the prerogatives of men; we shall therefore take the liberty to disregard their privileges as women. They may expect from us civility, not gallantry.
We say frankly in the outset that we are decidedly opposed to female suffrage and eligibility. The woman’s rights women demand them both as a right, and complain that men, in refusing to concede them, without a natural right, and violate the equal rights on which the American republic professes to be based. We deny that women have a natural right to suffrage and eligibility; for neither is a natural at all for either men or women. Either is a trust from civil society, not a natural and indefeasible right; and civil society confers either on whom it judges trustworthy, and on such conditions as it deems it expedient to annex. As the trust has never been conferred by civil society with us on women, they are deprived of no right by not being enfranchised.
We know that the theory has been broached latterly, and defended by several political journals, and even by representatives and senators in congress, as well as by The Revolution, the organ of the woman’s rights movement, that suffrage and eligibility are not trusts conferred by civil society on whom it will, but natural and indefeasible rights, held directly from God or nature, and which civil society is bound by its very constitution to recognize, protect, and defend for all men and women, and which they can be deprived of only by crimes which forfeit one’s natural life or liberty. It is on this ground that many have defended the extension of the elective franchise and eligibility to negroes and the colored races in the United States, and hold that congress, under the clause of the constitution authorizing it to guaranty to the several states a republican form of government, is bound to enfranchise them. It may or may not be wise and expedient to extend suffrage and eligibility to negroes and the colored races hitherto, in most of the states, excluded from the sovereign people of the country; on that question we express no opinion, one way or the other; but we deny that the negroes and colored men can claim admission on the ground either of natural right or of American republicanism; for white men themselves cannot claim it on that ground.
Indeed, the assumption that either suffrage or eligibility is a natural right is anti-republican. The fundamental principle, the very essence of republicanism is, that power is a real trust to be exercised for the public good or common weal, and is forfeited when not so exercised, or when exercised for private and personal ends. Suffrage and eligibility confer power to govern, which, if a natural right, would imply that power is the natural and indefeasible right of the governors- the essential principle of all absolutism, whether, autocratic, aristocratic, monarchical, or democratic. It would imply that the American government is a pure, centralized, absolute, unmitigated democracy, which may be regarded as tantamount to no government, or as the absolute despotism of the majority for the time, or its rights to govern as it pleases in all things whatsoever, spiritual as well as secular, regardless of vested rights or constitutional limitations. This certainly is not American republicanism, which has always aimed to restrain the absolute power of majorities, and to protect minorities by constitutional provisions. It has never recognized suffrage as a personal right which a man carries with him whithersoever he goes, but has always made it a territorial right, which a man can exercise only in his own state, his own country, his own town or city, and his own ward or precinct. If American republicanism recognized suffrage as a right, not as simply a trust, why does it place restrictions on its exercise, or treat bribery as a crime? If suffrage is my natural right, my vote is my property, and I may do what I please with it; dispose of it in the market for the highest price I can get for it, as I may of any other species of property.
Suffrage and eligibility are not natural, indefeasible rights, but franchises or trusts conferred by civil society; and it is for civil society to determine in its wisdom whom it will or will not enfranchise; on whom it will or will not confer the trust. Both are social or political rights, derived from political society, and subject to its will, which may extend or abridge them as it judges best for the common good. Ask you who constitute society? They, be they more or fewer, who, by the actual constitution of the state, are the sovereign people. These, and these alone, have the right to determine who may or may not vote or be voted for. In the United States, the sovereign people has hitherto been, save in a few localities, adult males of the white race, and these have the right to say whether they will or will not extend suffrage to the black and colored races, and to women and children.
Women, then, have not, for men have not, any natural right of admission into the ranks of the sovereign people. This disposes of the question of right, and shows that no injustice or wrong is done to women by their exclusion, and that no violence is done to the equal rights on which the America republic is founded. It may or may not be wise and expedient to admit women into political, as they are now admitted into civil, society; but they cannot claim admission as a right. They can claim it only on the ground of expediency or that it is necessary for the common good. For our part, we have all our life listened to the arguments and declamations of the woman’s rights party on the subject, have read Mary Wollstonecraft, heard Fanny Wright, and looked into The Revolution, conducted by some of our old friends and acquaintances, and of whom we think better than many of their countrymen do; but we remain decidedly of the opinion that harm instead of good, to both men and women, would result from the admission. We say not this because we think lightly of the intellectual or moral capacity of women. We ask not if women are equal, inferior, or superior to men; for the two sexes are different, and between things different in kind there is no relation of equality or of inequality. Of course, we hold that the woman was made for the man, not the man for the woman, and that the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, not the wife of the husband; but it suffices here to say that we do not object to the political enfranchisement of women on the ground of their feebleness, either of intellect or of body, or of any real incompetency to vote or to hold office. We are Catholics, and the church has always held in high honor chaste, modest, and worthy women as matrons, widows, or virgins. Her calendar has a full proportion of female saints, whose names she proposes to the honor and veneration of all the faithful. She bids the wife obey her husband in the Lord; but asserts her moral independence of him, leaves her conscience free, and holds her accountable for her own deeds.
Women have shown great executive or administrative ability. Few men have shown more ability on a throne than Isabella, the Catholic, of Spain; or, in the affairs of government, though otherwise faulty enough, than Elizabeth of England, and Catherine II of Russia. The present queen of the British Isles has had a most successful reign; but she owes it less to her own abilities than to the wise counsels of her husband, Prince Albert, and her domestic virtues as a wife and a mother, by which she has won the affections of the English people. Others have shown rare administrative capacity in governing religious houses, often no less difficult than to govern a kingdom or an empire. Women have a keener insight into the characters of men than have men themselves, and the success of female sovereigns has, in great measure, been due to their ability to discover and call around them the best men in the state, and to put them in the places they are best fitted for.
What women would be as legislators remains to be seen; they have had little experience in that line; but it would go hard, but they would prove themselves not much inferior to the average of the men we send to our state legislatures or to our national congress.
Women have also distinguished themselves in the arts as painters and sculptors, though none of them have ever risen to the front rank. St. Catherine of Egypt cultivated philosophy with success. Several holy women have shown great proficiency in mystic theology, and have written works of great value. In lighter literature, especially in the present age, women have taken a leading part. They almost monopolize the modern novel or romance, and give to contemporary popular literature its tone and character; yet it must be conceded that no woman has written a first-class romance. The influence of her writings, speaking generally, has not tended to purify or exalt the age, but rather to enfeeble and abase it. The tendency is to substitute sentiment for thought, morbid passion for strength, and to produce a weak and unhealthy moral tone. For ourselves, we own, though there are some women whose works we read, and even re-read with pleasure, we do not, in general, admire the popular female literature of the day; and we do not think that literature is that in which woman is best fitted to excel, or through which she exerts her most purifying and elevating influence. Her writings do not do much to awaken in man’s heart the long dormant chivalric love so rife in the romantic ages, or to render the age healthy, natural, and manly. We say awaken; for chivalry, in its true and disinterested sense, is not dead in the coldest man’s heart; it only sleepeth. It is woman’s own fault, more than man’s, that it sleeps and wakes not to life and energy.
Nor do we object to the political enfranchisement of women in the special interest of the male sex. Men and women have no special interests. What elevates the one elevates the other; what degrades the one degrades the other. Men can not depress women, place them in a false position, make them toys or drudges, without doing an equal injury to themselves; and one ground of our dislike to the so-called woman’s rights movement is, that it proceeds on the supposition that there is no interdependence between men and women, and seeks to render them mutually independent of each other, with entirely distinct and separate interests. There is a truth in the old Greek fable, related by Plato in the Banquet, that Jupiter united originally both sexes in one and the same person, and afterward separated them, and that now they are but two halves of the one whole. “God made man after his own image and likeness; male and female made he them.” Each, in this world, is the complement of the other, and the more closely identified are their interests, the better is it for both. We, in opposing the political enfranchisement of women, seek the interest of men no more than we do the interest of women themselves.
Women, no doubt, undergo many wrongs, and are obliged to suffer many hardships, but seldom they alone. It is a world of trial, a world in which there are wrongs of all sorts, and sufferings of all kinds. We have lost paradise, and cannot regain it in this world. We must go through the valley of the shadow of death before reentering it. You cannot make earth heaven, and there is no use in trying; and least of all can you do it by political means. It is hard for the poor wife to have to maintain a lazy, idle, drunken vagabond of a husband, and three or four children into the bargain; it is hard for the wife delicately reared, accomplished, fitted to adorn the most intellectual, graceful, and polished society accustomed to every luxury that wealth can procure, to find herself a widow reduced to poverty, and a family of young children to support, and unable to obtain any employment for which she is fitted as the means of supporting them. But men suffer too. It is no less hard for the poor, industrious, hard-working man to find what he earns wasted by an idle, extravagant, incompetent, and heedless wife, who prefers gadding and gossiping to taking care of her household. And how much easier is it for the man who is reduced from affluence to poverty, a widower with three or four motherless children to provide for? The reduction from affluence to poverty is sometimes the fault of the wife as well as of the husband. It is usually their joint fault. Women have wrongs, so have men; but a woman has as much power to make a man miserable as a man has to make a woman miserable; and she tyrannizes over him as often as he does over her. If he has more power of attack, nature has given her more power of defence. Her tongue is a formidable a weapon as his fists, and she knows well how, by her seeming meekness, gentleness, and apparent martyrdom, to work on his feelings, to enlist the sympathy of the neighborhood on her side and against him. Women are neither so wronged nor so helpless as The Revolution pretends. Men can be brutal, and women can tease and provoke.
But let the evils be as great as they may, and women as greatly wronged as is pretended, what can female suffrage and eligibility do by way of relieving them? All modern methods of reform are very much like dram-drinking. The dram needs to be constantly increased in frequency and quantity, while the prostration grows greater and greater, till the drinker gets the delirium tremens, becomes comatose, and dies. The extension of suffrage in modern times has cured or lessened no social or moral evil; and under it, as under any other political system, the rich grow richer and the poor poorer. Double the dram, enfranchise the women, given them the political right to vote and be voted for; what single moral or social evil will it prevent or cure? Will it make the drunken husband temperate, the lazy and idle industrious and diligent? Will it prevent the ups and downs of life, the fall from affluence to poverty, keep death out of the house, and prevent widowhood and orphanage? These things are beyond the reach of politics. You cannot legislate men or women into virtue, into sobriety, industry, providence. The doubled dram would only introduce a double poison into the system, a new element of discord into the family, and through the family into society, and hasten the moment of dissolution. When a false principle of reform is adopted, the evil sought to be cured is only aggravated. The reformers started wrong. They would reform the church by placing her under human control. Their successors have in each generation found they did not go far enough, and have, each in its turn, struggled to push it further and further, till they find themselves without any church life, without faith, without religion, and beginning to doubt if there be even a God. So, in politics, we have pushed the false principle that all individual, domestic, and social evils are due to bad government, and are to be cured by political reforms and changes, till we have nearly reformed away all government, at least, in theory; have well-nigh abolished the family, which is the social unit; and find that the evils we sought to cure, and the wrongs we sought to redress, continue undiminished. We cry out in our delirium for another and a larger dram. When you proceed on a true principle, the more logically and completely you carry it out the better; but when you start with a false principle, the more logical you are, and the further you push it, the worse. Your consistency increases instead of diminishing the evils you would cure.
The conclusive objection to the political enfranchisement of women is, that it would awaken and finally break up and destroy the Christian family. The social unit is the family, not the individual; and the greatest danger to American society is, that we are rapidly becoming a nation of isolated individuals, without family ties or affections. The family has already been much weakened, and is fast disappearing. We have broken away from the old homestead, have lost the restraining and purifying associations that gathered round it, and live away from home in hotels and boarding-houses. We are daily losing the faith, the virtues, the habits, and the manners without which the family cannot be sustained; and when the family goes, the nation goes too, or ceases to be worth preserving. God made the family the type and basis of society; “male and female made he them.” A large and influential class of women not only neglect but disdain the retired and simple domestic virtues, and scorn to be tied down to the modest but essential duties—the drudgery, they call it—of wives and mothers. This, coupled with the separate pecuniary intestes of husband and wife secured, and the facility of divorce a vinculo matrimonii allowed by the laws of most of the states of the Union, make the family, to a fearful extent, the mere shadow of what it was and of what it should be.
Extend now to women suffrage and eligibility; give them the political right to vote and to be voted for; render it feasible for them to enter the arena of political strife, to become canvassers in elections and candidates for office, and what remains of family union will soon be dissolved. The wife may espouse one political party, and the husband another, and it may well happen that the husband and wife may be rival candidates for the same office, and one or the other doomed to the mortification of defeat. Will the husband like to see his wife enter the lists against him, and triumph over him? Will the wife, fired with political ambition for place or power, be pleased to see her own husband enter the lists against her, and succeed at her expense? Will political rivalry and the passions it never fails to engender increase the mutual affection of husband and wife for each other, and promote domestic union and peace, or will it not carry into the bosom of the family all the strife, discord, anger, and division of the political canvass?
Then, when the wife and mother is engrossed in the political canvass, or in discharging her duties as a representative or senator in congress, a member of the cabinet, or a major-general in the field, what is to become of children? The mother will have little leisure, perhaps less inclination, to attend to them. A stranger, or even the father, cannot supply her place. Children need a mother’s care; her tender nursing, her sleepless vigilance, and her mild and loving but unfailing discipline. This she cannot devolve on the father, or turn over to strangers. Nobody can supply the place of a mother. Children, then, must be neglected; nay, they will be in the way, and be looked upon as an encumbrance. Mothers will repress their maternal instincts; and the horrible crime of infanticide before birth, now becoming so fearfully prevalent, and actually causing a decrease in the native population of several of the states of the Union as well as in more than one European country, will become more prevalent still, and the human race be threatened with extinction. Women in easy circumstances, and placing pleasure before duty, grow weary of the cares of maternity, and they would only become more weary still if the political arena were open to their ambition.
Woman was created to be a wife and a mother; that is her destiny. To that destiny all her instincts point, and for it nature has specially qualified her. Her proper sphere is home, and her proper function is the care of the household, to manage a family, to take care of children, and attend to their early training. For this she is endowed with patience, endurance, passive courage, quick sensibilities, a sympathetic nature, and great executive and administrative ability. She was born to be a queen in her own household, and to make home cheerful, bright, and happy. Surely those women who are wives and mothers should stay at home and discharge its duties; and the woman’s rights party, by seeking to draw her away from the domestic sphere, where she is really great, noble, almost divine, and to throw her into the turmoil of political life, would rob her of her true dignity and worth, and place her in a position where all her special qualifications and peculiar excellences would count for nothing. She cannot be spared from home for that.
It is pretended that woman’s generous sympathies, her nice sense of justice, and her indomitable perseverance in what she conceives to be right are needed to elevate our politics above the low, grovelling and sordid tastes of men; but while we admit that women will make almost any sacrifice to obtain their own will, and make less than men do of obstacles or consequences, we are not aware that they have a nicer or a truer sense of justice, or are more disinterested in their aims than men. All history proves that the corruptest epochs in a nation’s life are precisely those in which women have mingled most in political affairs, and have had the most influence in their management. If they go into the political world, they will, if the distinction of sex is lost sight of, have no special advantage over men, nor be more influential for good or for evil. If they go as women, using all the blandishments, seductions, arts, and intrigues of their sex, their influence will tend more to corrupt and debase than to purify and elevate. Women usually will stick at nothing to carry their points; and when unable to carry them by appeals to the strength of the other sex, they will appeal to its weakness. When once they have thrown off their native modesty, and entered a public arena with men, they will go to lengths that men will not. Lady Macbeth looks with steady nerves and unbalanced cheek on a crime from which her husband shrinks with horror, and upbraids him with his cowardice for letting “I dare not wait upon I would.” It was not she who saw Banquo’s ghost.
We have heard it argued that, if women were to take part in our elections, they would be quietly and decorously conducted; that her presence would do more than a whole army of police officials to maintain order, to banish all fighting, drinking, profane swearing, venality, and corruption. This would undoubtedly be, to some extent, the case, if, under the new regime, men should retain the same chivalric respect for women that they now have. Men now regard woman as placed in some sort under their protection, or the safeguard of their honor. But when she insists that the distinction of sex shall be disregarded, and tells us that she asks no favors, regards all offers of protection to her as a woman as an insult, and that she holds herself competent to take care of herself, and to compete with men on their own ground, and in what has hitherto been held to be their own work, she may be sure that she will be taken at her word, that she will miss that deference now shown her, and which she has been accustomed to claim as her right, and be treated with all the indifference men show to one another. She cannot have the advantages of both sexes at once. When she forgets that she is a woman, and insists on being treated as a man, men will forget that she is a woman, and allow her no advantage on account of her sex. When she seeks to make herself a man, she will lose her influence as a woman, and be treated as a man.
Women are not needed as men; they are needed as women, to do, not what men can do as well as they, but what men cannot do. There is nothing which more grieves the wise and good, or makes them tremble for the future of the country, than the growing neglect or laxity of family discipline; than the insubordination, the lawlessness, and precocious depravity of Young America. There is, with the children of this generation, almost a total lack of filial reverence and obedience. And whose fault is it? It is chiefly the fault of the mothers, who fail to govern their households, and to bring up their children in a Christian manner. Exceptions there happily are; but the number of children that grow up without any proper training or discipline at home is fearfully large, and their evil example corrupts not a few of those who are well brought up. The country is no better than the town. Wives forget what they owe to their husbands, are capricious and vain, often light and frivolous, extravagant and foolish, bent on having their own way, though ruinous to the family, and generally contriving, by coaxings, blandishments, or poutings, to get it. They set an ill example to their children, who soon lose all respect for the authority of the mother, who, as a wife, forgets to honor and obey her husband, and who, seeing her have her own way with him, insist on having their own way with her, and usually succeed. As a rule, children are no longer subjected to a steady and firm, but mild and judicious discipline, or trained to habits of filial obedience. Hence, our daughters, when they become wives and mothers, have none of the habits or character necessary to govern their household and to train their children. Those habits and that character are acquired only in a school of obedience, made pleasant and cheerful by a mother’s playful smile and a mother’s love. We know we have not in this the sympathy of the women, whose organ is The Revolution. They hold obedience in horror and seek only to govern, not their own husbands only, not children, but men, but the state, but the nation, and to be relieved of household cares, especially of child-bearing, and of the duty of bringing up children. We should be sorry to say or do any thing which these, in their present mood, could sympathize with. It is that which is a woman’s special duty in the order of providence, and which constitutes her peculiar glory, that they regard as their great wrong.
The duty we insist upon is especially necessary in a country like ours, where there is so little respect for authority, and government is but the echo of public opinion. Wives and mothers, by neglecting their domestic duties and the proper family discipline, fail to offer the necessary resistance to growing lawlessness and crime, aggravated, if not generated, by the false notions of freedom and equality so widely entertained. It is only by home discipline, and the early habits of reverence and obedience to which our children are trained, that the license of government tolerates, and the courts hardly dare attempt to restrain, can be counteracted, and the community made a law-loving and a law-abiding community. The very bases of society have been sapped, and the conditions of good government despised, or denounced under the name of despotism. Social and political life is poisoned in its source, and the blood of the nation corrupted, and chiefly because wives and mothers have failed in their domestic duties, and the discipline of their families. How, then, can the community, the nation itself, subsist, if we call them away from home, and render its duties still more irksome to them, instead of laboring to fit them for a more faithful discharge of their duties?
We have said the evils complained of are chiefly due to the women, and we have said so because it grows chiefly out of the neglect of their families. The care and management of children during their early years belong specially to the mother. It is her special function to plant and develop in their young and impressible minds the seeds of virtue, love, reverence, and obedience, and to train her daughters, by precept and example, not to be looking out for an eligible parti, nor to catch husbands that will give them splendid establishments, but to be, in due time, modest and affectionate wives, tender and judicious mothers, and prudent and careful housekeepers. This the father cannot do; and his interference, except by wise counsel, and to honor and sustain the mother, will generally be worse than nothing. The task devolves specially on the mother; for it demands the sympathy with children which is peculiar to the female heart, the strong maternal instinct implanted by nature, and directed by a judicious education, that blending of love and authority, sentiment and reason, sweetness and power, so characteristic of the noble and true-hearted woman, and which so admirably fit her to be loved and honored, only less than adored, in her own household. When she neglects this duty, and devotes her time to pleasure and amusement, wasting her life in luxurious ease, in reading sentimental or sensational novels, or in following the caprices of fashion, the household goes to ruin, the children grow up wild, without discipline, and the honest earnings of the husband become speedily insufficient for the family expenses, and he is sorely tempted to provide for them by rash speculation or by fraud, which, though it may be carried on for a while without detection, is sure to end in disgrace and ruin at last. Concede now to women suffrage and eligibility, throw them into the whirlpool of politics, set them to scrambling for office, and you aggravate the evil a hundred-fold. Children, if suffered to be born, which is hardly to be expected, will be still more neglected; family discipline still more relaxed, or rendered still more capricious or insufficient; our daughters will grow up more generally still without any adequate training to be wives and mothers, and our sons still more destitute of those habits of filial reverence and obedience, love of order and discipline, without which they can hardly be sober, prudent, and worthy heads of families, or honest citizens.
We have thus far spoken of women only as wives and mothers; but we are told that there are thousands of women who are not and cannot be wives and mothers. In the older and more densely settled states of the Union there is an excess of females over males, and all cannot get husbands if they would. Yet, we repeat, woman was created to be a wife and mother, and the woman that is not fails of her special destiny. We hold in high honor spinsters and widows, and do not believe their case anywhere need be or is utterly hopeless. There is a mystery in Christianity which the true and enlightened Christian recognizes and venerates—that of the Virgin-Mother. Those women who cannot be wives and mothers in the natural order, may be both in the spiritual order, if they will. They can be wedded to the Holy Spirit, and be the mothers of minds and hearts. The holy virgins and devout widows who consecrate themselves to God in or out of religious orders, are both, and fulfill in the spiritual order their proper destiny. They are married to a celestial Spouse, and become mothers to the motherless, to the poor, the destitute, the homeless. They instruct the ignorant, nurse the sick, help the helpless, tend the aged, catch the last breath of the dying, pray for the unbelieving and the cold-hearted, and elevate the moral tone of society, and shed a cheering radiance along the pathway of life. They are dear to God, dear to the church, and dear to Christian society. They are to be envied, not pitied. It is only because you have lost the faith in Christ, faith in the holy Catholic Church, and have become gross in your minds, of “the earthly, earthly,” that you deplore the lot of the women who cannot, in the natural order, find husbands. The church provides better for them than you can do, even should you secure female suffrage and eligibility.
We do not, therefore, make an exception from our general remarks in favor of those who have and can get no earthly husbands, and who have no children born of their flesh to care for. There are spiritual relations which they can contract, and purely feminine duties, more than they can perform, await them, to the poor and ignorant, the aged and infirm, the helpless and the motherless, or, worse than motherless, the neglected. Under proper direction, they can lavish on these the wealth of their affections, the tenderness of their hearts, and the ardor of their charity, and find true joy and happiness in so doing, and amble score for woman’s noblest ambition. They have no need to be idle or useless. In a world of so much sin and sorrow, sickness and suffering, there is always work enough to acquire merit in the sight of Heaven, and true glory, that will shine brighter and brighter for ever.
We know men often wrong women and cause them great suffering by their selfishness, tyranny, and brutality; whether more than women, by their follies and caprices, cause men, we shall not undertake to determine. Man, except in fiction, is not always a devil, nor woman an angel. Since the woman’s rights people claim that in intellect woman is man’s equal, and in firmness of will far his superior, it ill becomes them to charge to him alone what is wrong or painful in her condition, and they must recognize her as equally responsible with him for whatever is wrong in the common lot of men and women. There is much wrong on both sides; much suffering, and much needless suffering, in life. Both men and women might be, and ought to be, better than they are. But it is sheer folly or madness to suppose that either can be made better or happier by political suffrage and eligibility; for the evil to be cured is one that cannot be reached by any possible political or legislative action.
That the remedy, to a great extent, must be supplied by woman’s action and influence we concede, but not by her action and influence in politics. It can only be by her action and influence as woman, as wife, and mother; in sustaining with her affection the resolutions and just aspirations of her husband and her sons, and forming her children to early habits of filial love and reverence, of obedience to law, and respect for authority. That she may do this she needs not her political enfranchisement, or her entire independence of the other sex, but a better and more thorough system of education for her daughters- an education that specially adapts them to the destiny of their sex, and prepares them to find their happiness in their homes, and the satisfaction of their highest ambition in discharging its manifold duties, so much higher, nobler, and more essential to the virtue and well-being of the community, the nation, society, and to the life and progress of the human race, than any which devolve on king or Kaiser, magistrate or legislator. We would not have their generous instincts repressed, their quick sensibilities blunted, or their warm, sympathetic nature chilled, nor even the lighter graces and accomplishments neglected; but we would have them all directed and harmonized by solid intellectual instruction, and moral and religious culture. We would have them, whether rich or poor, trained to find the center of their affections in their home; their chief ambition in making it a true home, would do well, before denouncing these schools, to establish better schools for the daughters of their own.
Now, we dare tell these women who are wasting so much time, energy, philanthropy, and brilliant eloquence in agitating for female suffrage and eligibility, which, if conceded, would only make matters worse, that, if they have the real interest of their sex or of the community at heart, they should turn their attention to the education of daughters for their special functions, not as men, but as women who are one day to be wives and mothers- woman’s true destiny. These modest, retiring sisters and nuns, who have no new theories or schemes of social reform, and upon whom you look down with haughty contempt, as weak, spiritless and narrow-minded, have chosen the better part, and are doing infinitely more to raise woman to her true dignity, and for the political and social as well as for the moral and religious progress of the country, than you with all your grand conventions, brilliant speeches, stirring lectures, and spirited journals.