New York Times
Women and the Intellectual
Author of "Sex and Society" Replies to Criticisms and Misrepresentations of His
Mr. William I Thomas, Associate Professor of Sociology in the University of Chicago, is not particularly surprised that his book, "Sex and Society," has been the subject of criticism, but he resents somewhat what he regards as misrepresentations of his meaning. Prof Thomas says:
"There have been two most interesting misrepresentations. In the chapter on the "Mind of Woman and the Lower Races" I was represented as saying that the mind of woman was on the same plane as that of the savage, and essentially unimprovable. What I did say, and devoted my whole argument to showing, was that the human mind is essentially the same pattern in all races, and in both sexes, and that differences between the lower races and the white were cultural rather than organic, intelligence being dependent on the richness of suggestion and the patters of interest prevailing in the group. If this is true, it is very easy to understand why the lower races, which are geographically separated from us, do not make the same show of intelligence as ourselves. An I point out also that woman, on account of traditions and constraints which have grown up about them, do not possess the freedom most favorable to the development of intelligence. They have first-rate minds, but their interests are usually trivial, and their mental life necessarily remains trivial.
"So far as I am advocating anything, I am advocating the full participation of woman in intellectual and scientific life. Society has, so to speak, a larger plant than it is using. It is composed of two sexes, about numerically equal, and of about equal natural ability, but it is not seriously using half its plant. I have suggested that it should add to the intelligence of its men the intelligence also of its women."
Prof. Thomas was asked what he had to say with reference to the boast of one woman to the effect that Hetty Green could buy up the whole University of Chicago, and that Miss Jane Addams was the best citizen of Chicago.
"Regarding that question," answered Prof. Thomas, "I do not thing that possession of wealth is a sign of intelligence in women. It is usually handed over to them by men. Regarding Miss Addams, I am personally inclined to agree that she is Chicago’s best citizen, but Miss Addams is a professional, and an instance of my point that women are frequently superb when they break through the network of tradition and habit."
Regarding Mrs. Judge, who gave an interview to The New York World on the subject of Prof. Thomas’s paper on "The Mind of Woman and the Lower Races." and declined to change her opinion in a later interview, the author of "Sex and Society" said:
"As the Sunday Times pointed out editorially, Mrs. Judge expressed herself prematurely on the paper in question, on the basis, apparently, of newspaper headlines, and declined to revise her opinion after she had read the book and, probably, The Times editorial. Women frequently decline to revise their opinions on the presentation of new evidence. That is one reason I say that women are usually amateurs in intellectual matters, and in that respect I confess there are a great many men who are women. The scientific mind will revise its findings on the presentation of new evidence.
"There are, in fact, three classes of women, if we speak from the standpoint of intellectual life. Those who are in it, those who are out of it, and those who are in the fringe. I try to believe that women of the Mrs Judge class are in the fringe.
"It is alleged that you excuse loose morals in women," Prof. Thomas was told.
"Oh, that is an old story," he said, "dating back to last Summer. I said that disreputable women are not all, psychologically speaking, in the same class, that adventitious conditions are partly responsible for their course of life, and that a larger percentage is perhaps reformable form this class than from the criminal class. Those who made an outcry against this belong in a class which Christ once rebuked."
The next question asked Prof. Thomas was: "What are the facts in regard to your statement about marriage and romantic love ?"
"I have been represented as an advocate of polygamy," answered Prof. Thomas. "It would have been more ingenious if I had been represented as an advocate of promiscuity. That is a good word from the sensational standpoint, and failure to take advantage of it was surely and oversight."
"No one who has spoken seems yet to have grasped the point that in the paper "The Psychology of Exogamy, I am pointing out why men in early society form the habit of not marrying their own near kin, and why we have an aversion to that practice on psychological grounds. I point out also that early man was not naturally monogamous, but that his induction into this system was a slow, moral, and socially advantageous process.
"The most interesting point in this whole criticism is that the passage quoted from my paper on exogamy as reflecting on "romantic love" is in point of fact nothing more that an explanation of why young men do not fall in love with the members of their own families.
"This is the problem of exogamy, and I do not believe any of the club women who have spoken on the point understand in the least what I am talking about. This is the passage referred to: ‘Although the intimate association and daily familiarity of family life produce affection, they are not favorable to the genesis of romantic love. Cognition is so complete that no place is left for emotional appreciation. Our common expression, "falling in love," and "love at sight," imply, in fact, unfamiliarity; and there can be no question that men and women would prefer at present to get mates away from home, even if there were no traditional prejudice against the marriage of near kin.’
"Like most of our higher life, our taste for art, our finer sensibilities, and our ideals in general, the sentiments connected with family life are largely of historical growth. There are none the less valid and precious on that account, but I decline to be sentimental on this point in a scientific book."