Sex in Primitive Industry
LABOR represents the expenditure of energy in securing food, and in making the food process constant and sure; and we may well expect to find that the somatological differences shown to exist between man and woman' will be found reflected in the labors of primitive society. An examination of the ethnological facts shows that among the primitive races men are engaged in activities requiring strength, violence, speed, and the craft and foresight which follow from the contacts and strains of their more motor life; and the slow, unspasmodic, routine, stationary occupations are the part of woman. Animal life is itself motor, elusive, and violent, and both by disposition and of necessity man's attention and activities are devoted first of all to the animal process. It is the most stimulating and dangerous portion of his environment, and affords the most immediate and concrete reward. And contrasted with this violent and intermittent activity of man we find with equal uniformity that the attention of woman is directed principally to the vegetable environment. Man's attention to hunting and fighting, and woman's attention to agriculture and attendant stationary industries, is so generally a practice of primitive society that we may well infer that the habit is based on a physiological difference. An explanation of exceptions to the rule, and the departure from it in the later life of the race, we shall have to seek in changes in the social habits of the race.
The labors of woman in early society were exacting, incessant, varied, and hard. The remark of Letourneau that woman was first a beast of burden, then a domestic animal, then a slave, then a servant, and last of all a minor, is a fair conclusion from the reports of early missionaries and travelers. And, indeed, there is not doubt that if a catalogue of primitive forms of labor
(475) were made, woman would be found doing five things while man does one. An Australian of the Kurnai tribe once said to Fison: "A man hunts, spears fish, fights, and sits about ; " and this is a very good general statement of the male activities of primitive society the world over, if we add one other activity -- the manufacture of weapons. On the other hand, Bonwick's statement of the labors of Tasmanian women is a typical one:
" In addition to the necessary duty of looking after the children, they had to provide all the food for the household, excepting that derived from the chase of the kangaroo. They climbed up trees for the opossum, delved in the ground with their sticks for yams, native bread, and nutritive roots, groped about the rocks for shellfish, dived beneath the sea surface for oysters, and fished for the tinny tribe. In addition to this, they carried, on their frequent tramps, the household stuff in native baskets of their own manufacture. Their affectionate partners would even pile upon their burdens sundry spears and waddles not required for present service, and would command their help to rear the breakwind, and to raise the fire. They acted, moreover, as cooks to the establishment, and were occasionally regaled, at the termination of a feast, with the leavings of their gorged masters." Among the Andamanese, while the men go into the jungle to hunt pigs, the women fetch drinking water and firewood, catch shellfish, make fishing nets and baskets, spin thread, and cook the food ready for the return of the men. In New Caledonia "girls work in the plantations, boys learn to fight."  In Africa the case is similar. Among the Bushmen (to take only one example from this continent) the woman " weaves the frail mats and rushes under which her family finds a little shelter from the wind and from the heat of the sun," constructs a fireplace of three round stones, fashions and bakes a few earthenware pots. When her household labors are done, she gathers roots, locusts, etc., from the fields. On the march she frequently carries a child, a mat, an earthen pot, some ostrich eggshells, and ``a few ragged
(476) skins bundled on her head or shoulder," while the man carries only his spear, bow, and quiver. The conditions among the American Indians were practically the same. Cotten Mather said of the Indians of Massachusetts: " The men are most abominably slothful, making their poor squaws or wives to plant, and dress, and barn, and beat their corn, and build their wigwams for them; " and Jones, referring to the women of southern tribes, says: "Doomed to perpetual drudgery and to that subordinate position to which woman is always consigned where civilization and religion are not, she was little less than a beast of burden, busy with cooking, the manufacture of pottery, mats, baskets, moccasins, etc., a tiller of the ground, a nurse for her own children, and et all times a servant to the commands and passions of the stronger sex."
Primitive woman was certainly very busy, but I have seen no reason to believe that she considered her condition unfortunate. Our great-grandmothers were also very busy, but they were apparently not discontented. There was no reason why woman should not labor in primitive society. The forces which with drew her from labor were expressions of later social conditions. Speaking largely, these considerations were the desire of men to preserve the beauty of women, and their desire to withdraw them from association with other men. It is the connection in thought and fact between idle and beautiful women and wealth, indeed, which has frequently led to the keeping of a superfluous number of such women as a sign of wealth. The exemption of women from labor, in short, implied an economic surplus which early society did not possess. The lower classes of modern society do not possess it either, and there the women are still drudges," if we went to use that word about a situation which is normal, in view of the economic condition of the men and women concerned It was necessary that primitive society, in the absence of elaborate machinery for doing things, in unstable and precari-
(477) ous food conditions, and without resources accumulated from preceding generations, should utilize all its forces. The struggle for existences in its harshest sense, was but little mitigated, and no group could have spared at all the industry of women The best returns from activity will of course follow when each individual is doing something he is specially well fitted to do, and natural selection seems to have seen to it that primitive society should so divide the labor as best to utilize social energy by assigning to men the tasks requiring violent exertion, and to women those requiring constant attention.
But was not primitive man very lazy, and did he not do fewer things than he reasonably could have done ? If we mean by lazy an aversion to certain types of action, primitive man was doubtless lazy; but if we mean an aversion to all kinds of exertion, he certainly was not lazy. He was so thoroughly aroused by certain kinds of stimuli, and so exhausted by the expenditure of energy in reacting to these stimuli, that periods of recuperation or "sitting about," were necessary. Heckenwelder's remarks on the labor of men and women among the Indians of Pennsylvania are very instructive, although they relate to tribes which had come under white influences to some extent: "The work of the e women is not hard or difficult. They are both able and willing to do it, and always perform it with cheerfulness. Mothers teach their daughters those duties which common sense would otherwise point out to them when grown up. Within doors their labor is very trifling; there is seldom more than one pot or kettle to attend to. There is no scrubbing of the house, and but little to wash, and that not often. Their principal occupations are to cut and fetch in the firewood, till the ground, sow and reap the grain, and pound the corn in mortars for their pottage, and to make bread which they bake in the ashes. When going on a journey or to hunting camps with their husbands, if they have no horses, they carry a pack on their backs which often appears heavier than it really is; it generally consists of a blanket, a dressed deer skin for moccasins, a few articles of kitchen furniture, as a kettle, bowl, or dish, with spoons, and some bread, corn, salt, etc., for their nourishment. I have never
(478) known an Indian woman complain of the hardship of carrying this burden, which serves for their own comfort and support as well as of their husbands. The tilling of the ground at home, getting of firewood, and pounding of corn in mortars, is frequently done by female parties, much in the manner of those husking, quilting, and other frolics (as they are called) in some parts of the United States .... [When accompanying her husband on the hunt the woman] takes pains to dry as much meat as she can, that none may be lost; she carefully puts the tallow up, assists in drying the skins, gathers as much wild hemp as possible for the purpose of making strings, carrying bands, bags, and other necessary articles; collects roots for dyeing; in short, does everything in her power to leave no care to her husband but the important one of providing meat for the family. After all, the fatigue of the women is by no means to be compared to that of the men. Their hard and difficult employments are periodical and of short duration, while their husbands' labors are constant and severe in the extreme. Were a man do take upon himself a part of his wife's duty, in addition to his own, he must necessarily sink under the load, and of course his family must suffer with him. On his exertions as a hunter their existence depends; in order to be able to follow that rough employment with success, he must keep his limbs as supple as he can, he must avoid hard labor as much as possible, that his joints may not become stiffened, and that he may preserve the necessary strength and agility of body to enable him to pursue the chase, and bear the unavoidable hardships attendant on it; for the fatigues of hunting wear out the body and constitution far more than manual labor. Neither creeks nor rivers, whether shallow or deep, frozen or free from ice, must be an obstacle to the hunter when in pursuit of a wounded deer, bear, or other animal, as is often the case. Nor has he then leisure to think on the state of his body, and to consider whether his blood is not too much heated to plunge without danger into the cold stream, since the game he is in pursuit of is running off from him with full speed. Many dangerous accidents often befall him both as a hunter and a warrior (for he is both), and are seldom
(479) unattended with painful consequences, such as rheumatism or consumption of the lungs, for which the sweat-house, on which they so much depend, and to which they often resort for relief, especially after a fatiguing hunt or warlike excursion, is not always a sure preservative or effectual remedy."
The male and female come together by sexual attraction, and the chances of life are increased through association which permits each to do that class of things which by reason of its somatic habit it can do most effectively. Man's exploits were, however, of a more striking and sensational character, appealed to the emotions more, and secured the attention and the admiration of the public more, than the " drudgery " of the woman. The unusual esteem given by society to the destructive activities of the male can be very well understood in connection with a reference to the emotions. The emotions of anger, fear, and joy, to take only these examples, represent a physiological change in the organism in the presence of dangerous situations. Anger is a physiological preparation to resist, to crush a dangerous object; fear is an organic expression of inadequacy to avert the danger; and joy, in one of its aspects, is an organic revulsion answering to the recognition of the fact that the danger is safely passed. The same type of situation incessantly recurring in the life of the race, and constantly met by the same organic changes, has resulted in a fixed relation of certain types of situation to certain types of emotion. The forms of activity recognized first of all in the consciousness of the race as virtuous are simply those which successfully avert danger and secure safety. Courage, intrepidity, endurance, skill, sagacity, an indomitable spirit, and a willingness to die in fight, are virtues of the first importance, vitally indispensable to the society in conflict with man and beast, and they are virtues of which man is by his organic constitution, by the very fact of his capacity for the rapid destruction of energy, particularly capable. Man's exploits, therefore, first of all had social attention. Even if primitive life had been as hard as
(480) Hobbes would have it, " solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short," mere negative, habitual hardness, and miserableness of condition, did not get the attention of primitive society particularly. Their life wee hard, as we look at it, not as they looked at it. They could not compare themselves with the future, and comparisons with the past were doubtless in their favor. The occupations of women were not of an emotional type, and, apart from sexual life, they got their excitements as spectators and approvers of the motor activities of the men. The Hebrew girls who went out with harps and timbrils to meet' a victorious army, and sang that Saul had slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands, represent the relation between mighty deeds and social attention and approval. Thus the attention which the organism gives to situations of danger, through violent physiological readjustments fitted to meet the situation, has a parallel in the attention given by society to social means of meeting situations dangerous to the common life and welfare. We have a very plain continuance of the primitive appreciation of the virtues of violence in the worship of military men nowadays, and it is significant, also, that the appreciation of the fighting quality still reaches its most animated expression in women -- the sex constitutionally most in need of social protection. It can hardly be denied, therefore, that man both enjoyed this exciting kind of performance more than the labors which women were connected with, and that the women justified him (if we assume that they passed any judgment on his conduct at all) in refraining from doing many things which he could have done perfectly well without constitutional hurt.
The abundance of the labors of primitive woman seems to be accounted for further by the fact that a stationary life is the condition of a greater variety of industrial expressions than a life inclined to motor expressions. It is notorious that a wandering life is not favorable to the development of industries. Industries, in their very nature, handle and shape stationary stuffs, for the most part, and woman developed the constructive or industrial activities as a simple consequence of her more stationary condition of life. The formation of habit is largely
(481) a matter of attention, and the attention of woman being limited by her bodily habit and the presence of children to objects lying closer at hand, her energies found expression in connection with these objects. First of all, the house was identified with woman. The home was, in its simplest terms, the place where the wandering male rejoined the female. It was a cave, or a hollow tree, or a frail structure. It was sought or made with reference to safety and comfort, particularly with reference to the comfort of the young. Recognizing the greater interest of the woman in the child, it is evident that shelter was a more important consideration to her than to the man. The house is, indeed, a very fit accompaniment of the stationary habit of woman, and usually we find the most primitive tribes recognizing her greater interest in it. Even when the houses are built by men, they are generally owned by the women. Man as a solitary animal might, of course, make himself a shelter, but he had a particular interest in being about the shelter of woman, and it was under her shelter, after all, that children were born and that society accumulated numbers. This resulted, as I have shown, in the maternal system  or the recognition of woman as the head of the household, and implicitly the recognition of woman as the owner of the house. So, when the Indian squaw carries the wigwam on the march, she is carrying her private property and one of her own particular appurtenances. Contrary to the witty phrase of Letourneau which I have quoted above, man is rather, in the sense in which I am now speaking, the domesticated animal. He has been inducted into the family. The estufas of the Pueblo Indians and the men's club houses in Africa represent the failure of men to assimilate completely in a society which was essentially female in its genius, and the club still stands for a difference in interest between the male and the female.
From the house, or shelter, as a base woman got such connections with food as she might. For it is an error to suppose that she was in the most primitive times entirely dependent on man for food. She appears to have been quite as active in developing food surroundings in her way as man was in his.
(482) The plant world gave her the best returns for the effort which she could make. She beat out the seeds of plants, digged out the roots and tubers which the monkeys and pigs were seen to grub for most eagerly, "trained the poisonous juices from the cassava and made bread of the residue, and it was under her attention that a southern grass was developed into what we know as Indian corn. Looking back on this process we call it the domestication of plants, and we are likely to regard it as a more conscious process than it really was. It was the result of her conversion to her own uses of the most available portion of her environment. In view of her physiological habit, the animal environment was, for the most part, out of the question, and her attention was of necessity directed to the plant side. While less remunerative in its beginnings than the animal side of the process, it was, perhaps, at all times less precarious and uncertain, and we find in consequence that the economic dependence of man on woman is as evident as her dependence on him. A dinner of herbs is a humbler resort than a roast of antelope, but there was less doubt that it would be forthcoming, and primitive man was often, when in hard luck, dependent on the activities of his wife, or the females of the group. The domestication of animals appears similarly to be the following up by man of his connections with animal life, when this life began to be less abundant. It is probable that the practice originated in the habit of taking the young of animals home as pets, and there is apparently a point of difference between the attention of the men and the women given to animals once taken into the household. The men were interested in these animals as reviving in memory the emotional situations of hunting life, and also in the clever and imitable accuracy of coordination and superhuman development of sense-perceptions, while there was always in the attitude of woman toward these animals a touch of maternal feeling, such as is still expended on the " harmless, necessary cat." And, in a small way, woman also contributed to the domestication of animals by giving them suck, partly from a physiological pleasure in having
(483) the breasts drawn, and partly as an economic investment. In Tahiti and New Britain, for example, the women suckle the pigs, and the old women feed them. Aside from this' the connections which primitive woman has with animal life is very slight. Worms and insects, shellfish, and even fish she may capture, but after this her relation to animal life is in caring for the flesh and skins turned over to her by the man.
It was a very general early practice that, when man had killed his game and brought it home, he was not concerned in the further handling of it. He did not, indeed, in all cases bring it home, but sent his wife after it. The Indians killed buffalo only as fast as the squaws could cut them up and care for the meat, and the men of the Eskimos would not draw the seal from the water after spearing it. Exhausted by extraordinary efforts, the man may well have left the dressing of the animal upon occasion to his wife, and, exhausted or not, he soon fell into the habit of doing so. It thus turns out that all labors relating to the preparation of food, and to the utilizations of the side products of food stuffs, are apt to be found in the hands of the women. Vessels are necessary in cooking, both to carry and hold water, and to store the surplus of food, both vegetable and animal, and the woman, feeling the need of these in connection with what she has set about doing, weaves baskets and makes pottery. Fetching wood, grinding corn, tanning the hides, and in the main the preparation of clothing, follow rather necessarily from her relation to the raw products. Spinning and weaving and dyeing are related closely to the vegetable world to begin with, and it is to be expected that they would be developed by the women. But man is very deeply interested m clothing on the ornamental side, and the farther back we go m society, the more this holds, and sometimes, particularly in Africa, since the domestication of oxen there, the men prepare the leather and do the sewing, even for the women. There is, indeed, nothing in the nature of sewing to make it a woman's occupation. It involves a relation of the hand to the eye -- similar to that which the man is always practicing and using
(483) i. e., reaching a given point, perhaps with mechanical aids, through the mediation of these two organs. It is a motor matter, therefore, and one of the first industries undertaken by men. There are many exceptions to the general statement that early manufacture (weapons excepted) was in the hands of women, but the exceptions may be regarded as variation. due to the fixation of habit through single and peculiar incidents, or they are the beginning of the later period when man begins to practice woman's activities.
The primitive division of labor among the sexes was not in any sense an arrangement dictated by the men, but a habit into which both men and women fell, to begin with, through their difference of organization -- a socially useful habit whose rightness no one questioned and whose origin no one thought of looking into. There is, moreover, a tendency in habits to become more fixed than is inherently necessary. The man who does any woman's work is held in contempt not only by men, but by women. " As to the Indian women, they are far from complaining of their lot. On the contrary, they would despise their husbands could they stoop to any menial office, and would think it conveyed an imputation upon their own conduct. It is the worst insult one virago can cast upon another in a moment of altercation. 'Infamous woman,' will she cry, I have seen your husband carrying wood into the lodge to make the fire. Where was his squaw, that he should be obliged to make a woman of himself ! ' "  That men are similarly prejudiced against women's taking up male occupations we know from modern industrial history, without looking to ethnological evidence. Habit was, however, in another regard favorable to woman, since what she was constantly associated with and expended her activities upon was looked upon as hers. Through her identification with the industrial process she became, in fact, a property) owner. This result did not spring from the maternal system; but both this and the maternal system were the results of her bodily habit, and the social habits flowing from this. "When the woman as cultivator was almost the sole creator of property in land, she
(485) held in respect of this also a position of advantage. In the transactions of North American tribes with the colonial governments many deeds of assignment bear female signatures, which doubtless must also be related to inheritance through the mother."  Among the Spokanes " all household goods are considered as the wife's property." The stores of roots and berries laid up by the Salish women for a time of scarcity ``are looked upon as belonging to them personally, and their husbands will not touch them without having previously obtained their permission." Among the Menomini a woman in good circumstances would possess as many as from 1,200 to 1,500 birchbark vessels, and all of these would be in use during the season of sugar-making. In the New Mexican pueblo, '' what comes from outside the house, as soon as it is inside is put under the immediate control of the woman. My host at Cochiti, New Mexico, could not sell an ear of corn or a string of chile without the consent of his thirteen-year-old daughter, Ignacia, who kept house for her widowed father. In Cholula district (and probably all over Mexico) the man has acquired more power, and the storehouse is no longer controlled by the wife. But the kitchen remains her domain; and its aboriginal designation, tezcalli (place, or house, of her who grinds), is still perfectly justified."  " A plurality of wives is required by a good hunter, since in the labors of the chase women are of great service to their husbands. An Indian with one wife cannot amass property, as she is constantly occupied in household labors, and has not time for preparing skins for trading." The outcome of this closer attention of the woman to the industrial life is well seen among the ancient Hebrews: ''A virtuous woman . . . . seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is
(486) like the merchant ships: she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and their task to her maidens. She considereth a field and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. .... She perceiveth that her merchandise is profitable her lamp goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She spreadeth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh for herself carpets of tapestry; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh linen garments and selleth them; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant."
There must come a time in the history of every group when wild game becomes scarce. This time is put off by successive migrations to wilder regions; but the rapid increase of population makes any continent inadequate to the supply of food through the chase indefinitely. Morgan estimates that the state of New York, with its 47,000 square miles, never contained at any one time more than 25,000 Indians. Sooner or later the man must either fall back on the process represented by the woman, taking up and developing her industries, or he must change his attitude toward animal life. In fact, he generally does both. He enters into a sort of alliance with animal life, or with certain of its forms, feeding them, and tending them, and breeding them; and he applies his catabolic energies to the pursuits of woman, organizing and advancing them. Whether the animal or the plant life receives in the end more attention is a matter turning on environment and other circumstances. When the destructive male propensities have exhausted or diminished the food stores on the animal side, and man is forced to fall back on the constructive female process, we find that he brings greater and better organizing force to bear on the industries. Hale enterprises have demanded concerted action. In order to surround a buffalo herd, or to make a successful assault, or even to row a large boat, organization and leadership are necessary. To attack under
(487) leaders, give signal cries, station sentinels, punish offenders, is, indeed, a part of the discipline even of animal groups. The organizing capacity developed by the male in human society in connection with violent ways of life is transferred to labor. The preparation of land for agriculture was undertaken by the men on a large scale. The jungle was cleared, water courses were diverted, and highways prepared for the transportation of the products of labor. But more than this, perhaps, man brought with him to the industrial occupations all the skill in fashioning force- appliances acquired through his intense, constant, and long-continued attention to the devising and manufacture of weapons. ''Unaccommodated man" is a very feeble thing in nature, but he made various and ingenious cutting, jabbing, and bruising appliances. His life was a life of strains, both giving and taking, and under the stress he developed offensive and defensive weapons. But there is no radical difference, simply a difference in object and intensity of stimulus, between handling and making weapons and handling and making tools. So, when man was obliged to turn his attention to the agriculture and industries practiced by primitive woman, he brought all his technological skill and a part of his technological -- interest to bear on the new problems. Women had been able to thrust a stick into the earth and drop the seed and await a meager harvest. When man turned his attention to this matter, his ingenuity eventually worked out a remarkable combination of the animal, mineral, and vegetable kingdoms: with the iron plow, drawn by the ox, he upturned the face of the earth, and produced food stuffs in excess of immediate demands, thus creating the condition of culture. The destructive habits of the Catabolic nature were thus converted under the stress of diminishing nutrition to the constructive habits represented primarily by the anabolic nature, and the inventive faculty developed through attention to destructive mechanical aids was now applied equally to the invention of constructive mechanical aids.
Primitive life was rich in emotional incidents and interests, and types of pleasure and pain became fixed in connection with activities vitally good and vitally bad. When society is compelled to substitute more and more the routine, dead, mechan-
(488)-ical, recurrent, and re-recurrent performances which we call labor for the uncertain, perilous, and vicissitudinous relations and activities of primitive life, the ends become less fascinating, the stimuli less intense, the reactions less pleasurable and painful. The organism functions without interest, and the performance is irksome. This principle applies to both sexes, for the females participate socially in the activities of the males; and exhibit, indeed, more vivid emotion than the men. In social and sexual rivalry, also, the women participate without hindrance. The root of the irksomeness of labor is, therefore, the facts that the race was used to habitually more exciting performances, and got its type of pleasurable reactions fixed by these. Play reproduces in principle and often in very faithful detail-the situations and the movements which meant life or death to primitive man: and we are not so completely weaned from the old ways but that in intervals of the routine of a work-a-day world we turn for pleasure and recreation to hide and seek, football, golf, or cards, seeking reinstatement of the situations with which emotional reactions have been historically associated, or an imitation of such situations. Or we resort to the theater, where others imitate and reproduce emotional situations in imagination instead of action. Mr. Veblen has traced the irksomeness of labor to the recognition by the laboring classes that the non-laboring classes do not work, the distastefulness lying in the comparison. No doubt the comparison may make the labor more disagreeable, but there is an aversion to routine performances in children before they recognize that labor has any caste meaning. If you take children from their animal play and propose some form of work as a new game, they will enter it eagerly, but very shortly they are pitiably bored, unless an element of rivalry is skillfully introduced. Different forms of labor retain in varying degrees the conflict element, and where doubt, rivalry, risk, judgment, reward, or disaster is involved, the labor is still as fascinating as a fight or a game.
W. I. THOMAS.
THE UNIVERSITY of CHICAGO.