The Woman Movement from the Point of View of Social Consciousness

I.  The Problem

Jessie Taft

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The problems which justify the woman movement appear and may be handled under two aspects: first, as they break out in the life of the individual woman as personal difficulties demanding some kind of personal adjustment; second, as they take on the guise of public questions assuming such proportions as openly, to threaten the welfare of society. The following section is an attempt to treat them very briefly from both points of view. None of this material is new, but it is well worth presenting as a whole in condensed form that its very bulk may convince us of the reality of what is so often regarded as an illusion due to the restless and unstable character of women always longing for that which they have not and failing to make use of that which they have.

From the standpoint of the individual woman the most hopeless problem, and one which carries with it a long train of lesser difficulties, lies in the economic field. Here she faces what appears to be under our present system an almost insoluble dualism. Shall the young girl of today prepare for marriage or for wage-earning, for neither, or for both? The women of the laboring classes can indulge in little preparation either for marriage or for earning a living, yet for them economic independence is usually necessary before marriage and frequently after. The women of the wealthier classes, on the other hand, have the advantage of being able to make their own situation to a large extent and may prepare for both, either, or neither, as they choose. On the middle class woman, however, this uncertainty of training presses heavily.

An examination of all the factors involved shows a heavy balance on the side of the advisibility of preparing to earn a living. Marriage, housekeeping, childbearing, as commonly understood and practised, do not, if one has average intelligence, necessarily require any special braining beyond that which is picked up at home or can be acquired when the time comes by actual doing. It is possible and customary to get along as most people do without scientific preparation for marriage. Moreover, marriage is not a certainty upon which one may depend as a sure or even probable means of support. Nor is marriage for the sake of livelihood any longer considered morally justifiable and, with that avenue cut off, the probability of marriage is greatly lessened. To find a husband one loves is not so easy as finding merely a husband. Widowhood, too, is a possibility that must be reckoned with. But, even granted the certainty of marriage, there are still a considerable

( 2) number of years during which the young woman may find economic independence essential. Modern economic conditions tend both to defer marriage and so to deplete the amount of work done in the home that in many cases the daughter's share is not of sufficient economic value to enable her father to support her. Even when the father is quite able to support his daughter indefinitely or until her marriage, the work which falls to her in the home is seldom of such a nature as to keep her interest or bring out and develop all her unused resources and powers. As long as the mother is at the helm, very little authority or responsibility is likely to rest upon the daughter, and the modern girl usually feels that, however wealthy her parents, she is not justified in living unless she is engaged in responsible work and is giving value received to society. On the whole, therefore, even when there is no economic necessity, self-support or preparation for it appears to be the part of prudence and good judgment.

As a result of this training for work in the world rather than for home-making, the desire of the normal woman for a husband, children, and a home inevitably clashes with other desires developed in connection with her work in the world or in her preparation for such work. She naturally wishes to continue to do that for which she has been trained and for which she may have a natural aptitude. She clings to her economic freedom. The heterogeneous, unsystematized work of housekeeping has little attraction for one accustomed to regular hours and specialized, standardized work whose dignity as a trade or profession is universally recognized. She may realize that she has not merely a disinclination but a deep-rooted distaste for household tasks and a positive lack of ability to perform them well. Knowing this, she must face the possibility that, if she forces herself to assume duties to which she brings neither liking nor training, there may arise a discontent with life so great as to endanger the success of her marriage.

If she is a woman with a socially trained conscience she may even feel that, if she accepts the home under its present conditions and allows her husband to support her, she owes it to society to take the time before marriage to make herself as fit as possible for her duties as consumer, food preparer, housekeeper, child-bearer, and trainer. Yet she knows that this, if taken seriously, means a second profession or group of professions.

Furthermore, to the gifted and ambitious woman, the woman who has found growth and freedom and happiness in her work, comes the fear which is almost certainty, that she too, like so many others, if she marries,

( 3) will find her talents and her ambitions hopelessly swamped by the infinite detail, the wear and tear of domestic duties, and that middle age will see her contented, settled down, all her possibilities for growth gone forever, even the desire to do, dead. Should her zest for life and work persist to that period when her family duties no longer absorb her, will it be possible for her after the long years of absence to resume the work for which she was trained? For the alert modem woman, conscious to her finger tips, knowing in her heart that she could give a lifetime of happy associations to the man she loved, and to society, healthy, normal children, the deadlock into which the present social order forces her is a cruel, blighting thing—a choice between a crippled life in the home or an unfulfilled one out of it.

We are not attempting in this discussion of difficulties arising on the economic side to justify any of the conditions or attitudes presented, but merely to state them as real problems actually appearing in the lives of many women. While none of the conflicting impulses above described may result in the giving up of marriage in a concrete case, yet they tend to restrain the woman from making any effort in the direction of matrimony and they make married life more difficult, more easily shipwrecked.

Turning from the economic to the ethical field, we find that there also women encounter a dualism. The values which they have put first—life, love, children—are not the values most emphasized by men outside the home. The fact that women are forced to subordinate these values if they enter the man's world as it is, involves constant emotional strain. Their sense of relative values is continually violated. Equipped with only a family ethics, women as they go into the larger world often seem to lack the loyalty, the ethical consciousness which men consider essential for such social institutions as law, government, or business. Men feel that honor as they understand it is quite impossible for women, because women are so often unable to see wrong in what men condemn when it does not violate the closer relations and loyalties to which their code applies; whereas women fail equally to comprehend the man's disregard of the duties to the immediate family and the weakness of his allegiance to that which is for them supreme.

This mutual incompatibility of ethical standards due to the difference in the worlds to which they were meant to apply and the corresponding difference in the emphasis placed on values is a favorite theme of Ibsen and is brought out with unusual clearness in the drama John Gabriel Borkman. Borkman who has spent years in prison for the dishonest

( 4) use of other people's money in the making of his own fortune is reproached bitterly by his former sweetheart for his crime, which, for her, is found to consist, not in the fact that he has broken the law of the land, but solely in this, that he voluntarily gave up his love for her and their mutual happiness for the sake of business advancement, that he killed the love life in her soul. When a woman with such standards of life burnt deep into her soul attempts conscientiously to reconcile them with what the world demands as honorable, she faces a herculean task which is likely to crush or harden her and which she can never accomplish as an individual.

The man also, it is true, in so far as he too lives in both the home and the world has just as overwhelming a discrepancy in standards and, as an individual, is just as unequal to the task of dealing with them; the strain, however, is usually not so great because he lives much less completely than the woman in both worlds and therefore feels much less keenly the need of harmonization. The woman is never allowed to forget that, whatever her work, the home and all that it stands for must be her deepest interest; she cannot throw off its standards lightly. Yet, if she is to succeed in the world without, she cannot afford to ignore the rules as she finds them there, whereas the man has long treated the home as a pleasant place for week-ends and holidays, essentially a place where he can and does cast off the rules and standards of his workaday world. Nobody expects him to carry the ideals of the home back to his business and he has grown accustomed to keeping them shut off in an air tight compartment of his personality.

A part of this ethical conflict, but so large and prominent a part that it looms up as a separate problem, is the double standard in sex. A standard of absolute physical chastity for the woman is confronted by a world where almost unlimited license is taken for granted. This fact, reinforced by the ordinary training of the home to the effect that sex, especially in all its physical manifestations, is inherently and mysteriously evil and is allowable only when the evil is counteracted by the charm of the marriage ceremony, that the flesh and the devil are one, may lead the woman to revolt in disgust against sex in general, to such an extent that the natural impulse to marry is actually checked by her intense horror of the physical relationship involved and by her belief that all men are brutes in so far as they seek sex satisfaction.[1] The antagonism between her bringing up in the home and the world of sex as she finds it beyond the home, makes for every thinking woman a

( 5) problem that may last over years of her life—the task of building up an idea of sex that is consistent with the facts and yet leaves a universe in which she can live comfortably, of escaping from her own barren chastity while avoiding the man's meaningless license, of creating a new appreciation and expression of the most fundamental human instinct.

In the political field, the suffrage movement is the expression of a conflict of demands on the part of society and of impulses on the part of the individual woman. Society expects women to be good and useful citizens. It holds them responsible for the welfare of homes and children and is ready to criticize them for failures within their own province. At the same time, it makes direct responsibility impossible for women by forbidding the use of the instrument through which for the most part civic control is acquire& The woman, on the other hand, must reconcile her own inertia and the natural inclination to dodge responsibility reinforced as it is by the extreme effort required to exercise indirect influence, by public acquiescence, and even by legal prohibition, with a conscience awakened by a larger worldly experience which insists that she is already morally responsible and ought never to rest until she is legally so.

Even within the apparently unimportant realm of clothes, there runs the same inevitable dualism of conflicting demands and impulses. The home, especially the home of today, permits a style of dress which is impracticable for the woman who works in the world. Men like and demand so-called fashionable clothes for their women folk and every normal woman desires her apparel to be pleasing in the eyes of at least one man; yet women know that the ultra feminine clothes imposed on them by fashion and masculine taste are disastrous for real work and make them appear ridiculous to the sober workaday world. They must choose, therefore, between lessened sex attraction and increased respect on the part of the men with whom they work. If the woman has succeeded in suppressing her own yearning for fluffy, frivolous clothes which she realizes make her appear more desirable to the men of her acquaintance, she has still to face the practical difficulties of obtaining any other kind. Women's clothes, in accordance with the desires of men and the economic changes in women's work, have evolved along the line of adaptation to a class which does no serious work, whose chief end in life is to attract attention and elicit admiration, and which has no responsibility for paying the bills.

This type of dress is suitable only for the very wealthy leisure class and for the prostitute. When the professional or business women at-

( 6) -tempts to keep herself clothed in simple durable garments that are appropriate to her work and her income, she finds that she is not free to follow the dictates of common sense. In order to get what she wants she must expend time, money, and thought quite out of proportion to the value of clothes in her life. For the working girl in store or factory, the problem is almost insoluble. For the average working girl, a good appearance is essential to keeping a job; yet the only clothes within her means are the most extreme, the most unsuitable for her work, and the least durable. She cannot afford to buy such clothing, yet she can never afford to dress sensibly unless she has unusual advantages in the way of skill in dressmaking or a home where clothes can be made. A woman wants to be beautiful in the eyes of men; she also wants to be sensible—sometimes. Men themselves demand of her both beauty and sense; yet the world in which she is forced to live at present makes the combination a difficult one.

We now turn back to consider these same problems, but this time from the standpoint of society as a whole rather than from the point of view of the individual woman.

On the economic side, the dilemma in which woman as an individual finds herself is expressed socially on a large scale both within the home and without it in conditions unfavorable to the welfare of the community.

Under the present organization of the home, society must suffer the consequences of an institution carried on almost entirely by unskilled labor. Women have fallen into their new rôle of consumers without knowledge and without any sense of responsibility.

Consumption as carried on by the home is still a relatively unconscious performance[2] . Society must carry the burden of badly nourished families resulting in large part from women's ignorance of food values, of poorly clothed families due to women's ignorance of textiles, and of families that are sickly and diseased because the mothers know nothing of sanitation, hygiene or eugenics .[3]

That society recognizes the weakness of its homes is seen in the fact that it is attempting to correct evils connected therewith by various laws and institutions. Rash consumption is met by such organizations as the Consumers' League and by all sorts of newspaper and magazine campaigns calculated to educate women buyers. Pure food laws are designed to protect families from the ignorant mother as well as from

( 7) the corrupt dealer. To check the increasing amount of child delinquency, due in large measure to poor home conditions, society offers the juvenile court. The social settlement, the associated charities with visiting nurse and housekeeper, child welfare and household exhibits on a gigantic scale, baby health contests, schools for mothers, are society's attempts to remedy the ignorance and unfitness of the mother in the poorer home. Preventive methods also are being worked out in schemes for an educational system which shall insure some training in home making to every girl who attends public school. The difficulty is, of course, to contrive some method of giving her two preparations, one in general housekeeping and child training and another in some vocation by which she may earn her living, if necessary.

Outside the home, likewise, society feels the results of untrained or half trained workers. The occupations entered by women are lowered by the lack of a professional attitude on their part. Women do not take their jobs seriously enough because they expect to marry. Usually they are not well trained for their work; but neither are they thoroughly trained for home making and society loses all around.[4] There is great waste involved in training thoroughly women who will drop their work in a few years; there is also waste in not training them; but the greatest waste of all, if society expects the home to continue to be efficient on its present basis, is in allowing them to marry, not only unprepared, but also frequently unfitted for home work by their experience in the shop or office.[5]

The addition of a large number of unskilled and unorganized women to the industrial world has tended to render certain labor problems more acute and more conscious. Conditions which were bad enough for men come out more sharply when applied to women. The effect of long hours, of night work, of standing all day, of bad sanitary conditions„ is more serious in the case of women, and the results for their children, if they are married, or for their future motherhood, are serious enough to force the state to protect them in a measure. If women must or will work outside of the home, society cannot afford to suffer because of conditions not essential to the work itself. Therefore, we see society's consciousness of the woman's problem expressed in the struggle for the shorter day,[6] in laws allowing time off and part pay before and after the birth of a child,[7] and providing means for nursing the child during

( 8) working hours,[8] in various regulations obliging employers to furnish seats, better sanitary conditions, and forbidding night work and certain dangerous trades. Only recently there came up before the school authorities of New York City as a live and burning issue the question of what was to be done with women teachers who asked for leave of absence to become mothers. That this situation, which was once merely a personal problem for some women, has now become a bona fide public question is made evident by the general interest on the part of the community and by the amount of time and space given to its serious discussion both in newspapers and in public meetings. The lack of solidarity characteristic of women brought up in the individualistic home, the habit of many of them of living partly on the home and partly on their own earnings, their lack of skill, and the over supply of labor which they cause, have all combined to increase the wage cutting that has forced society to face the problem of a living wage and the necessity of getting working women to organize and to become conscious of themselves as constituting a class. The efforts of the Woman's Trade Union League to increase the trade schools for girls and the agitation for a minimum wage law indicate the lines of attack.[9] Unequal pay for men and women is something that exists all along the line except perhaps on the stage. The most conspicuous effort to relieve the situation has been the legislation in New York City equalizing the pay of men and women teachers.

In the ethical field, too, the woman who is in modern society and yet not of it, is forcing upon society the need for reconstruction along finer and subtler lines than can be reached by legislation. The woman whose social consciousness is formed still on the pattern of the isolated family is out of place and a stumbling block to a society that is struggling for a more inclusive, more highly socialized consciousness, and whose working machinery is already social on a huge scale. Society finds its ends obstructed by the women who do not understand that they are responsible as members of a larger social order as well as of the family. Ibsen, over and over again, presents this conflict. In An Enemy of the People, when Dr. Stockman decides to do his duty to the public at any cost, the reaction of the wife is, "But towards your family, Thomas. Towards us at home. Do you think that is doing your duty towards those that are dependent on you?" The woman tends not to recognize the claim of those beyond the family circle.[10] Society gets concrete evidence of

( 9) this in the difficulty of making women understand that their families cannot be made exceptions in cases of quarantine laws, other health regulations, or rules of the public schools. The attitude of the mother is likely to be, "My child must have this or that advantage," rather than, "All the children in the school should benefit by a given improvement." Her child must have good light and a seat that is comfortable even though the others do not. Brieux brings out a very extreme case of this kind in Damaged Goods when he makes Madame DuPont quite willing to break the laws, to bribe, to lie, to sacrifice the health, perhaps the life of a wet-nurse and her family, that her diseased grandchild may have every chance of recovery. This woman's sense of social responsibility, far from including a lower social class, hardly extends beyond the limits of her own immediate family. The lack of respect for law when it conflicts with her ends, and the preponderance of the personal over the impersonal in the traditional home-bred woman, also come home to society when she shows a tendency to cheat the impersonal corporations such as the street car, railroad, or telephone companies, to defraud the government through the customs house or the tax collector, or to express her sympathy for criminals in foolish gifts.

On the other hand, the invasion of women into the regions beyond the home has very naturally forced into prominence the interests for which women stand and has brought into sharp relief the incompatibility of business for money only and municipal government for politicians, with the ends which women hold essential—the welfare of children and the health and happiness of human beings. The presence of women, therefore, in new and manifold places is a mighty influence in compelling society to consider how the values of the home can be reconciled with money making, power, and ambition as ends in themselves.

The new activity of women is also an agent in the great movement against prostitution, one of the means by which society has become more and more conscious that prostitution must be dealt with scientifically as one deals with the great destructive forces of nature. Prostitution is interrelated with almost every problem that concerns women. (a) The lack of eugenic consciousness and conscience, together with ignorance on the part of women concerning venereal diseases and the facts of sex, has increased the production of the unfit, the subnormal, the neurotic, on whom prostitution depends so largely for its supply. This alone forms a great social problem which can be reached only through slow educational processes and is being so reached. Men are, of course, just as responsible as women, but women must be instructed, or there

( 10) can be no relief. (b) As women come to consciousness, they make it very plain to society that one standard for men and an outlawed class of women, with another for all the rest of the women, is an impossible situation. If men are not able or willing to accept the code of physical purity which they have exacted of women, society as a whole must work out a new standard for both. (c) The conditions under which women work, the barbarous state of domestic service, the fatigue of the long working day and unsanitary surroundings, the less than living wage, all tend to make prostitution a more pressing problem and the question of prostitution reacts again to send home the need of better conditions for working women. (d) There is dawning upon the more enlightened the thought that after all prostitution may possibly be the logical corollary of a marriage system, based not on sexual selection, but on economic motives, and that sexual selection must be given freer play if prostitution is to be wiped out and eugenic mating encouraged. This means a recognition of the immediate relation between prostitution and the economic dependence of women and a realization that, in some way, for the sake of women, marriage, and the home, the economically independent woman must be made compatible with a form of home and of marriage which is also approved of by society.[11]

(e) Prostitution is influenced in some degree also by a number of factors which tend to make marriage later or more difficult, such as hard economic conditions, the greater effort required to support a comparatively nonproductive family, as well as the increasing inclination of women for education, economic independence, and specialized work with the accompanying disinclination to take on the restrictions of matrimony. Life without marriage and children has been rendered more tolerable to women, thus enabling them to hold out against their own normal desires, by their discovery that home and companionship are still possible for them. Everywhere we find the unmarried woman turning to other women, building up with them a real home, finding in them the sympathy and understanding, the bond of similar standards and values, as well as the same esthetic and intellectual interests, that are often difficult of realization in a husband, especially here in America, where business so frequently crowds out culture. The man who comes within her circle of possibilities is too often a man who has no form of self expression beyond his business and who, therefore, fails to meet her ideal

( 11) of companionship in marriage. Thus prostitution is strengthened by the ease with which women are able to satisfy in part their needs for love and home while still retaining independence and to feel that a full life is to be lived even without marriage. One has only to know professional women, teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, and librarians to realize how common and how satisfactory is this substitute for marriage. They have worked out a partial solution to their problem in that they have contrived to combine a real home based on love and community of interests with work in the world, but they have solved it at the expense of men and children.[12]

(f) Another aid to prostitution results from trying to combine in marriage two people, one of whom has been brought up on the principle of absolute suppression of sex and horror of the physical; the other of whom has been accustomed from childhood to take sex and the right to its physical expression as a matter of course.[13] To the man of such a marriage, where he is incapable of bringing the woman to his attitude or of working out a new one acceptable to both, the prostitute will offer real temptation or a natural solution of the problem.[14]

Bound up with the problem of prostitution, as well as with every other phase of the woman problem, is the question of divorce,[15] which is being agitated from one end of the country to the other. Law makers are urged to place fresh restrictions on the dissolution of marriage, with utter disregard of the complexity of the influences bringing about the increase of divorce. All the strains and tensions which meet in marriage today are part of the divorce problem.[16] All the stirrings and awakenings of the feminine mind, all the difficulties of adjusting the new order to the old, all the economic problems in which women are involved, the revolt against a double standard in morals, the growth of a finer, higher standard for married life on the part of both men and women, the feeling of the need for nicer adaptations, greater unity of interest, occupation, view of life, ethical theory—all these growing demands on marriage render divorce an inevitable phenomenon symptomatic of other conflicts and struggles for development.

( 12)


The mere bulk of the difficulties here presented, the fact that they are social as well as personal, indicates the presence of real problems. If all, these signs failed, the voluminous literature on the subject would be sufficient proof.

The older method of attacking the question was that of determining from an a priori consideration of the nature of woman, the activities, mental and physical, for which she is particularly fitted. This was often found to differentiate women from men along lines which seemed to the progressive woman to leave all the best things in the masculine division. The refutation, therefore, has been an effort to show that all these traits which were thought to indicate inferiority had been acquired in the course of ages of social inheritance. It has been quite thoroughly explained that the majority of the undesirable feminine qualities are as easily accounted for by environmental factors as by physical heredity, so that modern controversialists usually take for granted the possibility of almost any kind of development on the part of the individual woman, but they shift the point of emphasis from the question of woman's capacity to that of her inevitable function.

One of the more recent attempts to deal with the woman question in an entirely open-minded way throws around its conclusions the atmosphere of scientific experiment by the use of a mass of empirical data on which with evident sincerity on the part of the writer, they are sup-posed to rest, but in reality it adopts the form of the older methods of attack in that it seeks to give the traditional limitations of women an a priori psychological basis. G. Heymans in his Psychologie der Frauen presents a theory of the difference between the sexes and the consequent type of activity for which each is fitted that is supported by his general psychological position and its supposed agreement with a mass of data which he has collected chiefly by questionnaires sent to coeducational schools and to physicians.

The argument on which Mr. Heymans bases his conclusion of pronounced difference in mental traits of men and women runs as follows: emotion affects profoundly and undesirably the other mental processes; the average woman is more emotional than the average man, therefore the average woman exhibits to a much greater degree the undesirable effects of emotion. Emotion tends to narrow the field of consciousness and subconsciousness in that it gives undue weight to the emotionally toned ideas and shuts out the neutral or less emotionally toned ideas that ought to be considered if thinking and willing are to give sound and

( 13) well balanced results. The constant presence of emotional complexes in the feminine consciousness and subconsciousness as well as an inherent tendency to narrowed consciousness vitiates to a large extent all her mental processes. Because of her hyperemotionality she is inferior to men in the scientific realm where the required analysis and abstraction are too neutral in character to hold her interest; in every field of art her achievement is less than that of men, because of her limitation to the merely personal. Reason, any detailed logical process, is also quite impossible for the average woman because her emotions are hostile to its dry, patient analysis. Women excel only in morality and in the use of intuition, which they substitute for logic, and their activities should be limited to the home, the church, the sick-bed, and practical philanthropy. In theory of any kind, women may not meddle because their emotions give too strong a bias to their thought.

Mr. Heymans' conclusions are so extreme that it would hardly be worth our while to criticize them, if it were not that his use of emotion and intuition is so typical of a common method of approaching the woman question. The point is, are the problems in which women find themselves involved today, due merely or chiefly to certain peculiar mental characteristics such as emotionality and irrationality, or is it possible that they are rather the result of the general social situation and that, in the light of more modern psychology, the difficulties raised by Mr. Heymans' conception of emotion and intuition would disappear? A more careful examination and criticism of the two may serve to clear the matter.

In the first place, Mr. Heymans is not clear in his use of the term intuition. First he identifies intuition in woman with sensitivity to fine shades of reality and the ability to adapt herself to varied and complex conditions. He also compares it to the flash of insight which is characteristic of genius. Then he likens it to the judgments or rather the unconscious estimates we make in the space world and to the weather predictions of old sailors. There seems to be a confusion here of two views: the first regards intuition as that which suggests the novel idea, the solution, the happy thought; the second treats it as a habit formed unconsciously by trial and error through a long series of similar experiences and applied without reflection. Heymans seems finally to adopt the second interpretation; at least, his statement of the disadvantages of intuition as a mode of thought indicates as much, for its great draw-back is that it does not fit the new situation, the real problem. This would, of course, be true of space perceptions and weather predictions.

( 14) If unfamiliar conditions were introduced, such as mountain regions for plains, the old habits would break down entirely or partially. But if he makes of intuition a habit formed and used unconsciously, he can hardly allow it to account for real insight, fine adjustments, and the appreciation of the subtleties in life. The former is, at any rate, not the intuition of genius, nor the intuition for which women are so often complimented and it is just the new situation, the unaccustomed complication, that calls for this flash of inspiration. The difference between this latter form of intuition and logic would be that intuition gives the clue and logic carries it out consciously, tests the soundness of the idea.

It may be then that women incline to fail in the patient, logical testing of their ideas and prefer a blind trial and error method, but in neither use of intuition is there to be found a substitute for the painful and laborious process of thinking, without which nothing dependable can be accomplished and for the loss of which no amount of insidious flattery can compensate. Women may as well face the truth, that, if reason is a sex limited character, all the intuition in the world will never help them. They are doomed. Even the limited field which Mr. Hey-mans assigns to women ought not to be left to the mercy of intuition. There is no sound reason why the family, the home, the sick, and the poor should not be handled with as much rationality as possible. Like-wise the supremacy in morality which is so freely granted to women, can refer only to a primitive type of morality, for woman in her dislike of principles, laws, and abstractions clings to the concrete act and never comes to the point of realizing its meaning. Her morality is not conscious morality and she is, therefore, on Mr. Heymans' premises, never moral in the full sense of the word [17]

Emotion is as ambiguously treated as intuition. There is no definite statement as to what is meant by emotion, but one is led to infer that Mr. Heymans adopts a position similar to Wundt's and considers emotion a compound of elementary feelings. He makes no attempt to analyze any of the emotions or to show how the simple feelings are combined in them, nor does he indicate that emotion has any fundamental connection with the rest of consciousness. It is a sort of hanger-on of ideas, of no value in particular and often a great hindrance. Some-times it seems to be located in the object and he speaks of women as being interested only in emotionally colored objects; sometimes it seems to be located in the subject and, as they are in a perpetual state of emotion, women are said to throw a feeling tone about any object they

( 15) consider. By greater emotionality, he means not greater irritability, as Lombroso insists, but the fact that women do react with real emotion to weaker stimuli than does the average man and react with more intense emotion to the same stimuli. He makes no difference, then, in the quality of the emotion felt by men or women but seems to be maintaining that women actually possess greater emotional capacity, which exhibits itself in a feeling response to comparatively insignificant stimuli as well as in a more intense appreciation of the more important ones. He gives no basis in his theory for regarding the emotion of women, qua emotion, as inferior to that of men; there is merely more of it. However, he does limit the emotions of women in that he finds women peculiarly susceptible to certain kinds of emotion. But this he attributes in turn to their greater emotionality which favors certain feelings and reduces sensitivity to others such as the more intellectual and, therefore, less intense emotions. This vicious circle merely goes to show his own confused conception of emotion.

Since emotion is practically the same in character for both sexes and feminine emotion need not be treated under a special heading, the simplest way to avoid the unpleasant consequences of Mr. Heymans' position is to adopt another, and, as it seems to the writer, a much more satisfactory view of emotion. If one takes the standpoint of functional psychology and views mind as the best device for the adaptation of the organism to the environment that evolution has secured, then it is possible to organize consciousness around the act as the center, and emotion, no less than perception and reason, falls into its own place and be-comes functional instead of remaining the extraneous, useless, semi-pathological phenomenon which the older psychologists tended to make of it. In habitual action there is no emotion, but whenever consciousness is involved, there is some degree of it present as a necessary stage in the act. Functional psychology explains emotion as the expression in consciousness of the organic reverberations that occur whenever two or more impulses clash.[18] Emotion is the danger signal, the reporter of some kind of tension in what has been a smooth-going process. The sadden rush of feeling indicates the value to the self of the various imperiled ends, and measures the importance of making some kind of adjustment and the relative weight which is to be given to the conflicting impulses. Reason comes in after emotion has died down to t work out in cold blood the means whereby the ends indicated by emotion may yet be obtained and action made possible. This removes

( 16) the stigma from emotion as such, for if it is a factor in every conscious act, lack of rationality detected in the act cannot be laid at the door of emotion. Emotion is not rational and it has to subside before reason can operate effectively, but for instrumental psychology, the two are not opposed; they are rather different stages with different and equally necessary functions in all conscious action.[19]

Emotion which is not followed by reflection is likely to end in a futile hit-or-miss response, but reason which is not preceded by the emotional evaluation of all the elements involved in a problematic situation, is equally likely to overlook results that ought to be part of the consciously sought end. Failure to be emotionally sensitive and responsive means failure to see some of the real values at stake or to take account of them in our plan of action. The great reformer, the man who stirs society to the point of doing something, is not necessarily a person of greater rational powers than many a contemporary. He only feels more, that is, he is more finely tuned emotionally; he responds more sensitively and detects values to which other people are blind.

Such a conception of emotion clears up the confusion which one feels in Mr. Heymans' use of the term. At one moment the impression is given that emotion is a mental state which persists in women unconditionally, ready to attach itself equally to every object. If this were so, there seems to be no reason why it might not as well attach itself to analysis and abstraction as to anything else. At another time, emotion is a quality of objects and women are susceptible only to the emotionally colored stimulus. If that were the case, there is no a priori reason why the concrete and the personal should in themselves be more emotional than the abstract and the general. He has no means of fixing emotion and he runs into this kind of a circle: women are not scientific because they feel no emotion for analysis and abstractions because of their emotionality. Part of the difficulty, too, is in considering analysis and generalizations as ends in themselves. Men may enjoy the process, but they are working for some particular end to which analysis and abstraction are a means. If a woman has a strong impulse in any given direction, towards any end, and that impulse is obstructed, she will feel emotion. The fact that the removal of the obstacle involves analysis will not prevent her from evaluating the end emotionally, although it may prevent her from obtaining it.

Analysis and abstraction may appear in any field whatsoever, where difficulties in action arise, and with reference to any sort of end or interest.

( 17) Emotion likewise appears in any field when there is an obstructed interest, and when it functions properly, far from being a hindrance, it is a stimulus to the analyzing and abstracting that follows. The charge that fairly might be made is that women have failed to develop the reflective process and that emotion with them seems too often to be just emotion which does not lead to any rationalized expression. Certain ends are emotionally evaluated and the thought of them as already obtained is set up in a vague, abstract way as something highly desirable and some-thing which may come to pass somewhere, somehow, but there is no actual attempt to work out concrete means for obtaining the ends in question. With men, on the contrary, the emotion is much more frequently counterbalanced by the attempt to do something. The rational part of the process is given its innings. The whole matter might be put this way: emotion appears to be functioning more normally in men than in women. The history of women offers reason enough for this condition so that there is no need to assume an inherent abnormality in women with regard to the ordinary course of mental process. An y theory, like that of Mr. Heymans, which is based on sex differentiation so drastic as to forbid women ever to become complete human beings and thereby to render their work in any sphere of action ineffective, is not likely to be received as a solution until it is forced upon us by facts that are unalterable.

Turning to some of the presentations of the woman question offered by women themselves, we find them agreeing usually on the welfare of the child as the determining factor but differing widely as to the limitations this puts upon the mother. Four rather typical attitudes are represented in the positions taken by Olive Schreiner, an English woman, Ellen Key, a Swedish woman, and two American leaders, Ida Tarbell and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Olive Schreiner presents the question from the standpoint of useful labor as essential to healthy life. She insists that there must be compensation for the contraction in the traditional field of feminine labor; that, in addition to childbearing, which also tends to decrease as an occupation, every woman ought to have work that is useful to society, not only because men are overburdened, but because women degenerate without it and become unfit mothers of the race. No restrictions should be put upon the work of women, since there is no scientific basis as yet for correlating sex with peculiar aptitudes, and since, if such sex differences do exist, they will adjust themselves in time. People do not

( 18) persist for any length of time in doing that for which they are not fitted and which others do better. The only evident sex differentiation is in connection with the reproductive process. From the part the woman plays in reproduction she does have a different set of experiences, a different attitude, and a peculiar interest in certain sets of values. From this fact it follows that, while she will probably have no special contribution to make in the fields of abstract and impersonal labor, she will bring to bear a decidedly different point of view in the handling of certain social questions. For her own development, she must have her share in the common labor of humanity; for the sake of the race, humanity must have the benefit of her peculiar contribution. Mrs. Schreiner does not show how in the concrete case our present form of marriage and the home is to be adjusted to the present industrial system, although she implies that the woman who is bearing and rearing children should not have other work to do during that period.

Miss Tarbell tries to combine a reactionary with a progressive solution and deals with the concrete rather than with theory. She takes the home and the industrial world as they are and finds that the difficulty lies in the fact that women have failed to grasp the possibilities of their situation. The form of their work has changed: they have become consumers instead of producers, but consuming is just as much a business, just as important to society and affords as much development as other work which takes women beyond the home. The problems which are agitating women are largely illusory; they arise from the fact that women, having failed to see or develop their own field, have gone over to the men's and find it impossible to combine men's work successfully with their feminine temperaments and maternal functions. But personal ambition and the joys of individual freedom and independence have too often overcome their sense of duty to the nation and they have not infrequently decided for the men's field against marriage and mother-hood.

Miss Tarbell is on dangerous ground when she admits that mother-hood and the present form of marriage do involve sacrifice of freedom, independence, and attractive work. The question always arises whether there is not something wrong with marriage, if it does mean actual sacrifice of the woman. The increasing individualism of the age is not likely to recognize as a duty an office or function which is admitted to be a check on the development of the individual.

The particular work to which women are limited, according to Miss Tarbell, is assigned by nature; that is, the bearing and the rearing of

( 19) children and the making of a home. Nature does not apparently object to the work's changing from production to consumption, so long as it is carried on in the home. Nature does not really limit the work then, but only the place where it may be done. Miss Tarbell finds a natural sex limit, however, in the emotional nature of women which is suppressed or killed in the hard and complex dealings of business and industry. The superior gift of women lies in their emotional capacity; therefore, if this is crushed, they show no peculiar genius but are usually mediocre when compared with men. This amounts to saying that our present social organization outside of the home does not afford an environment favorable to the best development of women—does not get the best they have to give. There would be room here for the question as to the eternal fitness and rightness of such a system, the possibilities of altering it to suit women, and the doubt as to its being especially well adapted to men, if it has such a deadening effect on the emotional life.

From Miss Tarbell's point of view, the woman's business is to make a dollar go as far as possible, to understand the markets, to be a scientific housekeeper, to solve her own labor problem—domestic service—to bear children and train them into good citizens, or if she has no children or has sent them into the world, to be responsible for the homeless child and his environment. There is no lack of occupation in this program, but it leaves unsolved the question as to the work for which the unmarried woman shall be prepared. Certainly training will be required for the tasks indicated above and certainly the unmarried woman will have to work, as long as she remains unmarried, at the ordinary work of the outside world, while many a woman will be forced to combine bread-winning with her maternal duties. The fact that the childless woman ought to care for the homeless child will not provide her with means to do this unless she too works at a man's job. Miss Tarbell hints at the desirability of keeping the daughter in the home so far as possible by training her in scientific consuming so that she saves enough in her wise expenditure to pay her way. This, of course, would hardly work after all the mothers are so thoroughly trained that they are already saving every possible cent and it would never prevent the appearance of the homeless class who must depend entirely on themselves.

Economic dependence, says Miss Tarbell, is one of the illusions agitated by the uneasy woman. The woman who takes up her task in marriage is performing work just as useful and necessary to society as that for which her husband is paid. She is an economic dependent only when she voluntarily assumes that relationship and lets slip her

( 20) end of the business partnership. Miss Tarbell ignores the question of how much economic independence is constituted by the value of the work actually done and how much by the recognition of that value on the part of society in money payment. She resents the attitude of women like Mrs. Gilman who think that the world's progress up to the present is chiefly the work of men, and that women need to take up their share in life, She insists that there has never been any serious inequality in the sexes in actual practice and that women have suffered from no graver injustices than men. "There has never been any country, at any time, whatever may have been their social limitations or political disbarments, that women have not ranked with the men in actual capacity and achievement."[20] Aside from the fact that such a statement needs detailed exposition, it is rather incongruous in connection with her arraignment of the modern woman in the United States as having failed not only in the man's field but in her own. The modern woman, at any rate, is inferior to the man, for, through her ignorance of the economic questions involved in consumption, she has helped on the high price of living, the trusts, graft, adulterated food, and the like; through her neglect of her children, she has raised up a generation of dishonest politicians, unscrupulous business men, unpatriotic citizens; through her narrowness and false training she has made dress a moral, economic, and æsthetic problem for the nation, and her handling of domestic service has been injurious to home and servant. If the modern woman is really guilty of all these sins, descendant though she be of the noble woman of the past, a possible explanation might be that she has on her hands an insoluble problem and consequently has been unsuccessful all around.

Ellen Key, while she agrees with Mrs. Gilman in many respects, differs on what has come to be the center of the conflict. They are at one on the necessity of economic independence at all times; they coincide in regarding the child as the supreme end of all social activities, but they differ fundamentally in what they regard as the essential relation of effective maternity to the occupations of the mother and in their general attitude towards the meaning of sex for life. Mrs. Gilman tends to minimize sex, to limit it to the bare field of reproduction, and to leave all the rest of life to that which is common, social, higher than sex. She also maintains that if domestic work is to be put on a modern business basis, the system which allows each woman to manage all the various forms of it for her own individual household will have to be replaced by

( 21) cooperation and specialization. This would mean that each woman, if she worked at all, must have a specialty; regular work which she would be obliged to combine with motherhood in place of the heterogeneous household labors which she used to combine with it. Ellen Key, on the contrary, with a broad philosophic attitude, a lack of dogmatism and sex-antagonism which gives her a decided advantage over the more hostile Mrs. Gilman, insists on the final worth and importance of sex in its highly developed forms and on the necessity of maintaining sex distinction. While she still believes that the mother should retain economic independence through the state, she also thinks that the greatest opportunity for a woman to develop all the possibilities of her personality, especially those qualities which are peculiarly hers, lies in her work within the home; that if she is to function most effectively she must not try to combine any profession or outside occupation with motherhood. She seems to be influenced to this view by several considerations : one, the tendency of the modern industrial and business world to crush out the emotional life and make a sexless creature out of a sensitive woman; another, which is the positive side of the same point, is her feeling that the spaciousness of home life, the absence of rules and system, the room it affords to grow and live as well as to work, the greater meaning given to its work through the personal relations involved, all of these promise a finer, better rounded self for the woman who casts her lot there; and, last and most important consideration of all, is the need of the child for the education and training that a mother is best fitted to give and which in the giving enriches her more than any other work she could possibly do.

Mrs. Gilman's reply to this is that a home is still a home even though it be separated from the business of cooking and serving food, cleaning, laundry work, and the like. The atmosphere of the home could be maintained as well by a mother who had one particular kind of work which kept her away from the home certain hours in the day, as by one who worked for the same number of hours at cooking or cleaning within it. There seems to be truth on both sides. Ellen Key emphasizes the tendency of the modem world to crush its workers, to take out of them the joy of life and to deprive them of the leisure in which to cultivate ideal interests. But this condition, if it means ruin of womanhood, is . surely not the best environment for men. There must be something wrong with work that unsexes the worker. Mrs. Gilman on the other hand emphasizes the unprogressiveness of domestic economy; the waste involved in maintaining a separate cleaning, cooking, and washing

( 22) plant for every individual family; the folly of perpetuating what must necessarily involve amateur service in any department so important as food and sanitation; the wisdom of training each woman for some kind of expert service to be exercised for many families instead of half training her for amateur service in one family.

As to the training of the child by the mother, it is a question that could be settled only by experiment and to which many exceptions might be found. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Gilman is not making a very startling proposal when she advocates partial care of the child by trained nurses even in his babyhood. Our present educational system takes the child from his mother for several hours a day at least, beginning with his fifth year. The children of the wealthy are cared for a large part of the time by trained nurses. Unless the mother devoted her entire time to the baby, leaving all her duties of consumer and housekeeper to hired help, he might very well receive more time and attention from a nurse whose entire business it was to give babies scientific care. If the mother is to be an expert in child culture, is to undertake all the education and training of her child, she will have occupation enough without attempting to be an expert housekeeper and buyer. The question narrows itself then to the advisability of child training by a few specialists or of attempting to make specialists of all mothers. Is it better to put the child under the supervision of the expert from babyhood for a part of the working day and leave to the mother the general influence which she is able to bring to bear through her personality as a whole, the training that is given through love and daily association, as is the case now after the child enters the school; or, is the mother love and under-, standing of the child so superior in itself as to compensate for lack of special skill or natural fitness? Experience must give the answer to questions like these.

Every position here noted indicates a conviction either of a lack in woman's personality or a lack of harmony between the nature of woman and the modern world, which is unfavorable to the development of her personality. Mr. Heymans unintentionally tries to prove that the woman is quite unfit for any share in a civilization that has reached the stage of reflective consciousness. Miss Tarbell emphasizes the difference between the greater unity and restfulness of the personality of the woman of the past as compared with the uneasy split-up consciousness of the modern woman. Both Miss Tarbell and Ellen Key point out the tendency of the world outside the home to crush the essential womanliness of the woman, yet admit a certain amount of sacrifice of personal

( 23) development as necessary to the woman in the home. Ellen Key recognizes this so keenly that she advocates minimizing the sacrifice by such means as the vote, economic independence through motherhood pensions, and work at the end of the childbearing period. Mrs. Gilman lays greatest stress on the individualistic narrowness of the woman who is confined to isolated home life and the bad effects on society of the unscientific methods of feeding, clothing, training a family and keeping a house clean under the régime of the woman who is not on a par with modern society intellectually, while Olive Schreiner gives a general picture of the dwarfing of the woman's personality in terms of her diminishing usefulness as a worker.


  1. Havelock Ellis, Sex in Relation to Society, II, p. 77.
  2. Ida Tarbell, The Business of Being a Woman, chap. III.
  3. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics, p. 192.
  4. David Snedden, The Problem of Vocational Education.
  5. C. P. Gilman, Women and Economics, p. 245.
  6. Louis Brandeis, Women in Industry.
  7. H. Ellis, Sex in Relation to Society, I, p. 21.
  8. Ibid., p. 27.
  9. Adams and Sumner, Labor Problems, Bk. I, 11; Louise Bosworth, The Living Wage of Women Workers, pp. 4-7.
  10. W. I. Thomas, Sex and Society, pp. 223-234.
  11. Havelock Ellis, Sex in Relation to Society, VII, p. 254-Pt. III, p. 316; IV, pp. 363, 409, 410; W. I. Thomas, Sex and Society, p. 245; Edward Carpenter, Love's Coming of Age, p. 8; Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Politics, chap. iv.
  12. Edward Carpenter, The Intermediate Sex.
  13. M. R. Coolidge, Why Women Are So, pp. 31, 329, 330.
  14. Havelock Ellis, Sex in Relation to Society, VII, pp. 295, 296, 299, 300; May Sinclair, The Helpmate.
  15. Special Reports of the Census Office: 1867-1906, Marriage and Divorce, Part I, pp. 11 ff.
  16. Havelock Ellis, Sex in Relation to Society, X, pp. 461, 462, 464; C. D. Wright, Increase of Divorce in the United States; Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, chap. XXVI, 6; 2. p. 603.
  17. Dewey and Tufts, Ethics, p. 179.
  18. William James, Psychology, Vol. II, chap. xxv.
  19. James R. Angell, Psychology.
  20. Ida Tarbell, The Business of Being a Woman, p. 225.

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