The Truth About Woman
by C. Gasquoine Hartley
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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -

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In writing at last this book on Woman, which for so many years has had a place in my thoughts, one truth has forced itself upon me: the predominant position of Woman in her natural relation to the race. The mother is the main stream of the racial life. All the hope of the future rests upon this faith in motherhood.

To whom, then, but to you, my little son, can I dedicate my book? You came to me when I was still seeking out a way in the futility of Individual ends; you reconciled my warring motives and desires; you brought me a new guiding principle. You taught me that the Individual Life is but as a bubble or cluster of foam on the great tide of humanity. I knew that the redemption of Woman rests in the growing knowledge and consciousness of her responsibility to the race.

"The social revolution which is impending in Europe is chiefly concerned with the future of the workers and the women. It is for this that I hope and wait, and for this I will work with all my powers."—IBSEN.


It is very difficult to write a preface to a work which is expressly intended as a revelation of the faith of the writer. The successive stages of thought and emotion that have been passed through are still too near, and one feels too deeply. I have made several futile attempts to concentrate into a short note the Truths about Woman that I have tried to convey in my book. I find it impossible to do this. The explanation of one's own book would really require the writing of another book, as Mr. Bernard Shaw has proved to us in his delightful prefaces. But to do this one must be freed altogether from the limits of length and time. The fragments of what I wish to say would be of no service to any one.

I then tried to place myself, as it were, outside the book, and to look at it as a stranger might. But the difficulties here were even greater. I grew so interested in criticising my own opinions that my notes soon outran the possibilities of a preface. In this spirit of genuine discrimination, I became aware how easy it would be for any one who does not share my faith to find apparent contradictions of statement and errors in thought—much that is feeble here, extravagant there; to notice some salient fault and to take it as decisive of the writer's incompetence. I am tempted to point these out myself to guide and protect the reader.

Now that my book is done I feel that I have touched only the veriest fringe of a vast subject. But one thing I may say, I have tried to express the truth as I have come to see it. The conception I have of Woman is not new; it is very old. And for that reason it will be rejected by many women to-day. At present the inspiration towards freedom in the Woman's Movement has involved a tendency to follow individual paths, without waiting to consider to what end they lead. There has arisen a sort of glamour about freedom. No one of us can be free, for no one of us stands alone; we are all members one of another. And woman's destiny is rooted in the race. This, rightly considered, is the most vital of all vital facts. I appeal to women to realise more clearly their true place and gifts, as representing that original racial motherhood, out of which the masculine and feminine characters have arisen.

My book is a statement of my faith in Woman as the predominant and responsible partner in the relations of the sexes. To such a belief my opinion was driven, as it were, not deliberately set from the beginning. The time when the resolve to write a book upon Woman first took a place in my thoughts goes back for many years. The child of a Puritan father, who died for the faith in which he believed, the desire to teach was born in my blood. Our character is forged in the past, we cannot escape our inheritance. I began my work as the head-mistress of a school for girls. I was young in experience and very ignorant of life. In my enthusiasm I was quite unconscious of my own limitations, I believed that I was able to train up a new type of free woman. Of course I failed. Looking back now I wonder if I ever taught my pupils one-hundredth part of what they taught me. Perhaps if any of them, separated from me by time and circumstances, chance to read my book, they may be glad to know that it was largely due to them and what I learnt from them that it has come to be written. Certainly it was in those days, when saddened by my own failures, that the purpose came to me, dimly but insistently, to seek out the Truth about Woman and the relations of the sexes. I began to read and to collect material at first for my own guidance and instruction, and as a necessary preparation for my work. I needed it: I must have been slow to learn. For a long time I wandered in the wrong path. My desire was to find proofs that would enable me to ignore all those facts of woman's organic constitution which makes her unlike man. I stumbled blindly into the fatal error of following masculine ideals. I desired freedom for women to enable them to live the same lives that men live and to do the same work that men do. I did not understand that this was a wastage of the force of womanhood; that no freedom can be of service to a woman unless it is a freedom to follow her own nature. I am very glad that the book that is now finished was not written in that period of my belief. I have waited and I have lived.

Five years ago I took up definitely the task of writing the book. At that time the plan of the work was made and the first Introductory chapter written. Circumstances into which I need not enter caused the work again to be put aside. I am glad: I have learnt much in these last years.

There is little more that I need to say.

The book is divided into three parts—the first biological, the second historical. These two parts are preliminary to the third part, which deals with the present-day aspects of the Woman Problem, the differences between woman and man, and the relations of the sexes.

This arrangement of my inquiry into three parts was necessary. It may seem to some that I should have done better to confine my investigations to the present. But the claim of woman for freedom is rooted deep in the past. This fact had to be established. I have tried to give the earlier sections such lighter qualities and interest as would commend them to my readers. It is hardly necessary for me to say I can make no claim to personal scientific knowledge. Probably I have made many mistakes.

It is perhaps foolish to make apologies for work that one has done. But the inclusion of so wide a field has had a disadvantage. My investigations may be objected to as in certain points not being supported by sufficient proof. I know this. My stacks of unused notes remind me of how much I have had to leave out. This is especially the case in the final part. The subject of every chapter treated here could easily form a volume in itself. I hope that at least I have opened up suggestions of many questions on which I could not dwell at length.

Some remarks may be necessary as to the nature of my material. It has been drawn from a variety of sources. I have tried to acknowledge in footnotes the great amount of help I have received. But my notes have been taken during many years, and if any acknowledgment has been forgotten, it is my memory that is at fault, and not my gratitude. The Bibliography (which has been drawn up chiefly from the works I have consulted, and is merely representative) will show how many fields there are from which the student may glean. In particular I am indebted to the works of Havelock Ellis, of Iwan Bloch and Ellen Key. To these writers I would express my warmest thanks for the help and guidance I have gained from their work.

The opinions expressed are in all cases my own. I say this without any apology of modesty. I hold that the one justification of writing a book at all is to state those truths one has learnt from one's own experience of life. For we can give to others only what we have received ourselves; the vision rising in our own eyes, the passion born in our own hearts.


7, Carlton Terrace, Child's Hill, N.W. March, 1913.


N.B.—A complete synopsis of contents will be found at the beginning of each chapter





III GROWTH AND REPRODUCTION 45 I The Early Position of the Sexes. II Two Examples—The Beehive and the Spider.


V COURTSHIP, MARRIAGE, AND THE FAMILY 85 I Among the Birds and Mammals. II Further Examples of Courtship, Marriage, and the Family among Birds.


VI THE MOTHER-AGE CIVILISATION 117 I Progress from Lower to Higher Forms of the Family Relationship. II The Matriarchal Family in America. III Further Examples of the Matriarchal Family in Australia, India, and other Countries. IV The Transition in Father-right.




IX APPLICATION OF THE FOREGOING CHAPTER WITH SOME FURTHER REMARKS ON SEX DIFFERENCE 271 I Women and Labour. II Sexual Differences in Mind and the Artistic Impulse in Women. III The Affectability of Woman—Its Connection with the Religious Impulse.





The twentieth century the age of hurrying progress—The change in the position of women—Reasons for the revolution—First efforts towards emancipation—Outlook of the Woman Movement—Its fundamental error—Possibilities of future development—Motherhood and the Woman Movement—Schopenhauer's view of woman—He asserts an absurdity—The predominance of man over woman not to be regarded as a natural and inviolable law—An examination of the mastery of the male—Can we look forward to a remedy?—Our own time a turning-point in the history of women—Assumed inferiority of the female sex—Necessity for biological knowledge in forming an estimate of the present sex-relationship—Two kinds of influences to be considered—Nature and Nurture—The different play of the environmental forces, or Nurture, upon women and upon men—The importance of Nature—Galton's Law of Inheritance—Woman's responsibility as race-bearer—Sexual differences between the female and the male—Primitive woman and her position in early civilisations—Remarks and conclusion—The immense importance of motherhood.



"The method of investigating truth commonly pursued at this time, therefore, is to be held erroneous and almost foolish, in which so many inquire what others have said, and omit to ask whether the things themselves be actually so or not."—WILLIAM HARVEY.

The twentieth century will, we may well believe, be stamped in the records of the future as "the age of hurrying change." In certain directions this change has resulted in a profounder transformation of thought than has been effected by all the preceding centuries. Never, probably, in the history of the world were the meanings and ambitions of progress so prevalent as they are to-day. An energy of inquiry and an endless curiosity is sweeping away the complacent Victorian attitude, which in its secure faith and tranquil self-confidence accepted the conditions of living without question and without emotion. Stripped of its masks, this phase of individual egoism was perhaps the most villainous page of recorded human history; yet, with strange confidence, it regarded itself as the very summit of civilisation. It may be that such a phase was necessary before the awakening of a social conscience could arise. Old conceptions have become foolish in a New Age. A great motive, an enlarging dream, a quickening understanding of social responsibility, these are what we have gained.

Above all, this common Faith of Progress has brought a new birth to women. Many are feeling this force. There are two, says Professor Karl Pearson,[1] and it might almost be said only two great problems of modern social life—they are the problem of woman and the problem of labour. Regarded with fear by many, they are for the younger generation the sole motors in life, and the only party cries which in the present can arouse enthusiasm, self-sacrifice, and a genuine freemasonry of class and sex.

There is something almost staggering in the range and greatness of the changes in belief and feeling, in intellectual conclusions and social habits, which are now disturbing the female part of humankind. How complete is the divorce between the attitude of the woman of this generation towards society and herself, and that of the generation that has passed—yes, passed as completely as if hundreds and not units represent the years that separate it from the present.

It is instructive to note in passing what was written about woman at the time immediately preceding the present revolt of the sex. The virtue upon which most stress was laid was that of "delicacy," a word which occurs with nauseous frequency in the books written both by women and men in the two last centuries.[2] "Propriety," wrote Mrs. Hannah More, "is to a woman what the great Roman citizen said action is to an orator: it is the first, the second, and the third requisite."[3]

"This delicacy or propriety," it has been well said,[4] "implied not only modesty, but ignorance; and not only decency of conduct, but false decency of mind. Nothing was to be thoroughly known, nothing to be frankly expressed. The vicious concealment was not confined to physical facts, but pervaded all forms of knowledge. Not only must the girl be kept ignorant of the principles of physiology, but she must also abstain from penetrating thoroughly into the mysteries of history, of politics, of science, and of philosophy. Even her special province of religion must be lightly surveyed. She was not required to think for herself, therefore she was deprived of all training which would enable her to think at all. The girl must appear to be dependent upon the mental strength of a man, as well as upon his physical strength."

It is necessary to remember this attitude if we are to understand the direction that woman's emancipation has largely—and, as some of us think, mistakenly—taken in this country. It explains the demand for equality of opportunity with men, which has become the watch-cry of so many women, thinking that here was the way to solve the problem. A cry good and right in itself, but one which is a starting-point only for woman's freedom, and can never be its end.

Little more than fifty years have passed since Miss Jex-Blake undertook her memorable fight to obtain medical training for herself and her colleagues at the University of Edinburgh.[5] At about the same time arose women's demand for the right of higher education, and colleges for women were opened at Oxford and Cambridge. These were the practical results which followed the revolt of Mary Wollstonecraft, and later, the great revival due to the publication of John Stuart Mill's epoch-marking book, the Subjection of Women.

During the first period of the woman's movement the centre of restlessness was amongst unmarried women, who rebelled at the old restrictions, eager for self-development and a more intellectually active life. These women undertook their own cause, insisting that their humanity came before their sex. They were picked women, much above the average woman, and to a certain extent abnormal in so far as they denied the important factor of sex. To them the average male was not a subject of overwhelming interest, and marriage and motherhood were not of prominent importance in their thought. For them "equality of opportunity for women with men" seemed to solve the problem of woman's emancipation. The constructive result of their campaign was the winning of the higher education of woman, the right to work, and the rush of women into the professions. Much, indeed, was gained, though it may be said with equal truth that much was lost. With this solution—the increased power of self-realisation in a narrow class of picked women, chiefly unmarried women of the middle-class—the woman's movement might well begin, but in this alone it can never end. The movement was incomplete as far as woman's emancipation went, because it was won by ignoring sex. In spite of the great advance in freedom and in scope of activity of life, the stigma attached to woman was not removed. To-day we have arrived at a point where instead of ignoring sex we must affirm it, and claim emancipation on the ground of our sex alone. Our mothers taught acceptance, and asked for privileges; the pioneers of revolt raised the cry "acceptance is a sin and all privilege evil"; we, the blood in our veins beating more strongly and understanding at last the true inwardness of our power, found our claim for complete emancipation upon that special work in the world and for the State which our differentiation from men imposes upon us. This differentiation is our potentiality for motherhood, and is the endowment of every woman, whether realised or not. We claim as our glory what our mothers accepted as their burden of shame.

No sudden causeless changes ever happen, or ever have happened. And the question, Why? arises. What is this dynamic force which has been, and is still sweeping in a great wave of emancipation across the civilised world, joining women in one common purpose? On the outside the revolutionary character of women's modern thought and modern practice means nothing more than that they claim the rights of adult human beings—political enfranchisement, the right of education and freedom to work. But the facts are far too complex to enable us thus to rush hastily to an answer. There is a pitiful monotony in much that is written and spoken about women's emancipation. The real causes are deep to seek, and not infrequently they have been missed even by those who have been most instrumental in bringing a new hope to women. The most advanced women champions, the martyrs of revolt, show no greater sense of the meanings and issues of the struggle in which they are engaged than the complaisant supporters of the worn-out customs they combat. They exhibit only the energies of an admirable impulse, without the control of a guiding law. Speculation, which should be carried to a comprehension of general facts, is concentrated upon the immediate gain of the hour. The tendency is to trifle with truth, and to disguise its reach and consequences. We have read, and spoken, and thought so much about the special character of woman that we have become almost wearied of the subject. Like Narcissus, we stand in some danger of falling in love with our own image. Perhaps the truth is we speculate too much instead of trying to find out the facts. The woman question is as old as sex itself and as young as mankind.

The future position of woman in society is a question that carries with it biological and psychological, as well as social and practical, issues of the widest significance, and further, it is bound up intimately with the profoundest riddles of existence. The problems remain to a great extent unsolved. But the conviction forces itself that the emancipation of woman will ultimately involve a revolution in many of our social institutions. It is this that brings fear to many. Yet we must remember that woman's emancipation is no new movement, but has always been with us, although with varying prominence at different times in history. In the past, civilisations have fallen, in part at least, because they failed to develop in equal freedom their women with their men. It is also certain that no civilisation in the future can remain the highest if another civilisation adds to the intelligence of its male population the intelligence of its women. This in itself is enough to condemn all ideas of sex inequality.

The struggle for the Suffrage has intensified many problems which it will take all the intellectual and emotional energy of both men and women to solve. Up till now there has been little more than a fight for mere rights against male monopolies. In the near future this struggle must lead to a realisation of the duties of woman, founded on a level-headed facing of the physiological realities of her nature. It is a complete disregard of sexualogical difficulties which renders so superficial and unconvincing much of the talk which proceeds from the "Woman's Rights" platform. All efforts made to understand the sex problem, which is the woman question, must be based on the full knowledge of the physical capacity of woman and the effect that her emancipation will have on her function of race production. All effort ought to be directed towards the future welfare and happiness of the children who are to follow us. This is the goal of woman's struggle for progress, it is the sole end worthy of it.

To assume as Schopenhauer and so many others have done, down to Sir Almroth Wright's recent hysterical wail in The Times, that woman, on account of her womanhood is incapable of intellectual or social development, paying her sole debt of Nature in bearing and caring for children, is really to state a belief in decay for humankind. Any stigma attached to women is really a stigma attached to their potentiality as mothers, and we can only remove it by beginning with the emancipation of the actual mother. No sharp cleavage can be made between qualities that are good and masculine on the one side, and all that is feminine on the other. The view is entirely erroneous. How, for instance, can ignorance and weakness constitute at once the perfection of womankind, and the imperfection of mankind? The matter is not so simple. Man must fall with woman, and rise with her.

My first purpose is to make this clear.

To-day we are faced with the question whether the predominance of man over woman is to be regarded as a natural, and therefore inviolable, law of the male and female. Some will deny this mastery of the male. It may be said that woman sways man more than he rules her. This is true. The influence of woman is important—fearfully important. Yet the fitting answer to such glossing—if it be necessary really to point out that sexual privilege is not personal power—is that such government is exercised in one direction alone, and arises not from woman's strength, but out of her subjection. Women have rendered back to men the ill that this long sex domination has wrought upon them. None the less have we to reckon with the despotism of the male side of life. "The softening influence of woman!" ... It is a pretty phrase; but all the same women and men have been doing their best to degrade each other to a pitiful mediocrity. It is not the purifying influence of women—the theory of chivalrous moralists—but an unguided and therefore deteriorating sexual tyranny that regulates society. Let us have done with this absurd catch-phrase of "Woman's Influence." No influence worth naming as such can be exercised but by an independent mind. Women need better fields for the exercise of their love of power. The sexual sphere, which has shaped an impalpable prison around them, has barred them from that part of life which is social and broadly human; the falsely feminine has been developed to the loss of the womanhood in them. It is only in obedience to man that woman has gained her power of life. She has borne children at his will and for his pleasure. She has received her very consciousness from man: this has been her womanhood, to feel herself under another's will. There is no possible hiding of the truth; if women influence men, men command life.

But is it possible, looking forward to new conditions of society, now approaching like a long-delayed spring, to foresee a remedy? Can the woman of the future belong to herself? What are her natural disabilities, and to what extent are they modifiable by new arrangements of social and domestic life? Must she be content for the future with that dependence on the individual man which has been her fate in the past; or, on the other hand, can she take up her economic and social position in society and work therein for her own maintenance as free from considerations of her sex as a man can? These are the questions which must be faced when united womanhood begins to formulate their wants and to realise their power. It is almost idle in the present transition to speculate as to what women should or should not be, or the work they should or should not do. Women do not yet know what they want. All that can be done is to note the changes that are taking place, for we cannot, even do we wish, now change the revolutionary forces. We must seek to understand their causes, so that we may be able to direct them in the future in such ways as will tend to the greater solidarity and happiness of women and men.

In the everlasting controversy as to woman's place in Nature the majority of arguments have been based on an assumed inferiority of the female sex. Appeal has been made to anatomy to establish the difference between the natural endowment of men and women in the hope of fixing by means of anatomical measurements and tests those characters of males and females that are unalterable, because inborn, and those that are acquired, and therefore modifiable. But the obstacles in the way of anatomical investigations are very great, if only on account of the complexity of the material. Often and often it has happened that old conclusions have been overthrown by new knowledge. Indeed, it may be said that such appeal has resulted in uncertainty, and in many instances in confusion. The chief source of error has been the careless acceptance of female inferiority, which has maimed most investigations and seriously retarded the attainment of useful results. And though it is very far from my purpose to wish to deny the fundamentally different nature of the masculine and feminine character, it is still true that a blank separation of human qualities into male qualities and female qualities is no longer possible. In no instance have the anatomists succeeded in determining with absolute distinction between the characters that belong separately to the sexes. Moreover, it has been shown that there is no such thing as a fixed woman character, but that women differ according to the circumstances under which they live, just as men differ. This brings us directly against the old problem, inferiority cannot be accepted as the sole reason of woman's present restricted position in society. Other causes must be sought for.

Many features of the social and psychic as well as the physical phenomena of human life have what we may call an organismal mainspring, and become more intelligible when traced back to these. No one, for instance, can appreciate the social significance of sex, or account for the existing sexual relationships in human societies, who does not know something of their biological antecedents. Take again the sex differences, which attain to such complexity and importance in the human civilised races, these can be explained only if their origin is recognisable. To comprehend the higher forms of life we must gain an acquaintance with the lower and more formative types. In this way we shall begin to see something of that continual upward change under the action of love's-selection that has developed the female and the male. Many problems that have brought sorrow and perplexity to us to-day will become recognisable as we ascertain their causes, and then we can do much to remove them. Thus the problem of woman must first be considered from a biological point of view. Explorations must be made into the remote and obscure beginnings of sex. We must carry our investigations back beyond the cycle of man, and trace the growth and uses of the differentiation of the sexes from the lowest forms of life.

Biology, a science hardly more than a century old, is still in the descriptive and comparative stage; it is the scientific study of the present and past history of animal life for the purpose of understanding its future history. It is of vital importance to human welfare in the future that we should learn by this comparative study of origins and of the potent past what are the lines along which progress is to be expected.

This, then, will be the first path of our discovery. We shall have to traverse many past ages of life and to consider certain humble organisms, before we shall be able really to understand woman in her true position in the sexual relationship as we find it to-day.

But the possibility of applying biological results to sociology with any hope of enlightenment depends on an understanding of the questions, How? and Why? It is important to know what the phenomena are, but it is yet more important to know how? and for what reason? they have come about. Thus we are led forward always from facts to their efficient causes. Women are found to differ from men in this or that respect. But this in itself decides nothing. As soon as we are informed as to any one difference, we must seek out its cause; and this we must do over and over again. Hundreds of women must be interrogated, observed and reported upon—and then what? Shall we know the answer to our problem? Certainly not. In each case we must ask: Is this difference we have found between the sexes a natural inborn quality of woman, whether it be physical or psychical, that must be regarded as a right and unalterable part of her woman character, or is it an acquired, and therefore changeable, modification that has been superimposed upon her through the artificial sexual, social and economic circumstances of her environment? The mere asking of this question will give many new discoveries.

Life is a relation between two forces: on the one hand the organism and on the other the external conditions that form the environment. These two processes are known as Nature and Nurture, they are complementary and inseparable, and they act together. Thus the organism modifies its surroundings, and is in turn modified by them. But every life possesses in great degree the power of self-adaptation, and, broadly speaking, it is true that no matter under what conditions it may be compelled to live, it will mould its own life into harmony with those conditions and thus continue its existence, and this whether it is compelled to adopt a more perfect or a less perfect character. It becomes evident that an appropriate environment is necessary if the Nature is to be expressed, or expressed fully; otherwise life cannot realise development. The environment is constantly checking and modifying the inheritance. Nurture supplies the liberating stimulus to the inheritance, and growth is limited, in exact measurement by the Nurture stimuli available. Human advancement is, of course, widely different from the slow progress in the lower forms of life, but it is fundamentally the same. Experience is continually spreading over new fields and bringing about a more wide and exact relation between the individual and the external world. It follows that any change in the environment will cause a change in the individual. To live differently from what one had been living is to be different from what one has been. These are simple biological facts.

Now, how does woman stand in this respect? No one can deny the difference of environment that in the past has acted on women and on men. Speaking from a biological standpoint, it would seem that any present inferiority of woman is mainly social, due to her adaptation to an arbitrary environment. It has been truly said[6] that "man, in supporting woman, has become her economic environment." By her position of economic dependence in the sex relation, sex distinction has become with her "not only a means of attracting a mate, as with all creatures, but a means of gaining her livelihood, as is the case with no other creature under heaven." Can we wonder that the differences between the sexes assume such great and, in certain directions, such unnatural importance? Woman to a far greater extent than man is in process of evolution; her powers dormant for want of liberating Nurture stimuli. We know that Alpine plants brought from their natural soil change their character and become hardly recognisable, and these marked modifications will reappear in many generations of plants, but as soon as the plants are taken back to grow in their natural environment they are transformed to their original Alpine forms. May we not then entertain as a possibility that woman's modern character, with all its acknowledged faults—all its separation from the human qualities of man—is a veneer imposed by an unnatural environment on succeeding generations of women? If the larger social virtues are wanting in her, may it not be because they have not been called for in a parasitic life? How splendid a hope for women rests here! There is a biological truth, not usually suspected by those who quote it, in the popular saying: "Man is the creature of circumstance." And this is even more true of women, who are less emancipated from their surroundings than are men—more saturated with the influences and prejudices of their narrowed environment.

It would seem, then, that Nurture is more important than Nature in seeking to explain the character of woman to-day. Yet, let me not be mistaken, nor let it be thought for one moment that I do not realise the importance of Nature. The first right of every human being is the right of being well-born. This is the goal of all our struggles for progress—it is the sole end worthy of them.

Let me try to make this clearer.

Reproduction carries life beyond the individual. Haeckel has said that the process is nothing more than the growth of the organism beyond its individual mass. But this process in the higher forms of life has become exceedingly complex. All living beings are individual in one respect and composite in another, for the inheritance of each individual is a mosaic of ancestral contributions. Galton's Law of Inheritance makes this abundantly clear. Briefly stated, the law is as follows: The two parents of each living being contribute on the average one-half of each inherited quality, each of them contributing one-quarter of it. The four grand-parents furnish between them one-quarter, or each of them one-sixteenth; and so on backwards through past generations of ancestors. Now, though, of course, these numbers are purely arbitrary, applying only to averages, and rarely true exactly of individual cases, where the prepotency of any one ancestor may, and often does, upset the balance of the contributions made by the other ancestors, it may certainly be accepted as the most probable theory that biology has given us to explain the difficult problem of Nature—that is the inheritance we receive from our ancestors.

We see that the heredity relation is an extremely complex affair. It is not merely dual from the parents; but it is multiple, through them reaching back to the grand-parents, great-grand-parents, great-great-grand-parents, and so on backwards indefinitely. It is, indeed, a mosaic of many, yes, of uncountable, contributions. The Life Force gathering within itself these multiple sets of heredity contributions is like capital ever growing at compound interest. The importance of this is abundantly clear. For as we come to understand the continuity of our inheritance from generation to generation we realise more vividly how the past has a living hand on and in the present, and how that present will be carried on to the future. We are all links in the one mighty Chain of Life, and on us, and upon women especially, rests a high responsibility. We must hand on our past inheritance unimpaired, so that the new link forged by us may strengthen and not weaken the chain. It is the duty of every woman as a potential mother of men to choose a fitting father for her children, having first educated herself for a freer and more capable maternity. In the past she has done this blindly, following the Life Force without understanding, or hindered from her purpose by the artificial conditions of society. In the future such blindness and such failure of her powers will alike be regarded as sin. With full knowledge, woman will fulfil her great central purpose of breeding the race—ay, breeding it to heights now deemed impossible, not dreamt of even by those of us who look forward through the darkness to the clear sunlight of that time when the sex relation shall be freed from economic pressure and from all coercion of a false morality, and the universal creative energy, no longer finding gratification alone in personal ends, shall at last reach its goal and give birth to a race of new women and new men.

But to come back from this dream of the future.

Certain facts now become evident. In the inheritance of each individual are many latent qualities that do not find expression. It is as if in every life the separate heredity qualities, or groups of qualities, wait in competition, and those that succeed and find an expression in each life owe their success to an incalculable number of small and mostly unknown circumstances. One is tempted to speculate as to a possible direction in the future of women that may arise from the liberating of these unknown forces; but as yet we have not a sufficient basis of facts. But one truth must not be lost sight of; the unsuccessful qualities that do not find their expression in an individual life may remain to be handed on for new competition to a new generation. No one of the forces of our inheritance, be it for good or for evil, is dead; rather it sleeps till that time when the liberating powers of Nurture call it into active expression. There is real biological truth in the saying, "Every man is a potential criminal"; but it is equally true that every one is a possible saint. And there is one point further; we know that those qualities which do succeed in the competition of the inheritance, and which form at birth the character of the individual, are very different from their actual expression in the development of life, where perforce such qualities are modified to the environment. What we are is no certain criterion of what we are capable of becoming. For every item of our inheritance requires an appropriate growth-soil if it is actively to live. Each life is an adjustment of internal character to external conditions. A garden that has been choked with weeds may remain flowerless for many succeeding years, but dig that garden, and sleeping flowers, not known to live within the memory of man, may spring to life. May it not be that in the garden of woman's inheritance there are buried seeds, lying dormant, which at the liberating touch of opportunity may reawaken and assert themselves as forgotten flowers? Yes, to-day this seems a practical fact that already is being accomplished, and not a futile speculation. The re-birth of woman is no dream. At last she is realising the arrest in her development that has followed the acceptance of a position which forces her to be a parasite and a prostitute.

Every one admits the differences of function that separate the female from the male half of humankind. But to assume that the physical, mental, and moral disabilities of women, of which we hear so much, are a necessary part of their inheritance—the debt they pay for being the mothers of the race—is an absurdity it would be difficult to explain except for that strange sex bias, which seems always to colour all opinions as to women, their character and their place in society. Havelock Ellis, who in his admirable work Man and Woman has made an exhaustive examination of all the known facts with regard to the real and supposed secondary sexual differences between women and men, comes to this conclusion in his final summary—

"We have not succeeded," he says, "in determining the radical and essential character of men and women uninfluenced by external modifying conditions. We have to recognise that our present knowledge cannot tell us what they might be, but what they actually are, under the conditions of civilisation.... The facts are so numerous that even when we have ascertained the precise significance of some one fact, we cannot be sure that it is not contradicted by other facts. And so many of the facts are modifiable under a changing environment that in the absence of experience we cannot pronounce definitely regarding the behaviour of either the male or female organism under different conditions."

Only a knowledge of the multifarious and complex environmental forces, which in the past have moulded women into what to-day they are, will lead us to our goal. We may examine woman's present character, both physical and mental, with every precision of detail, but the knowledge gained will not settle her inborn Nature. We shall discover what she is, not what she might be. No, rather to do this we must go back through many generations to primitive woman. We must study, in particular, that period known as the Mother-Age, when we find an early civilisation largely built up by woman's activity and developed by her skill. We must find out every fact that we can of woman's physical and mental life in this first period of social growth; we must examine the causes which led to the change from this Mother-rule to that of the Father-rule, or the patriarchate, which succeeded it. Insight into the civilisations of the past is of special value to us in trying to solve our problems of woman's true place in the social life. For one thing, we shall learn that morality and sexual customs and institutions are not fixed, but are peculiar to each age, and are good only in so far as they fulfil the needs of any special period of a people's growth. We must note, in particular, the contributions made by woman to early civilisation, and then seek the reasons why she has lost her former position of power. The savage woman is nearer to Nature than we ourselves are, and in learning of her life we shall come to an understanding of many of the problems of our lives.

This, then, must be the second path of our discovery, and, following it, we shall gain further knowledge of what is artificial and what is real in the character of woman and in the present relations of the sexes.

We find that the external surroundings that influence life are referable to one of two classes: those which tend to increase destructive processes, and find their active expression in expenditure of energy, and those which tend to increase constructive processes, and are passive instead of active, storing energy, not expending it. These two classes of external forces, disruptive and constructive, are called katabolic and anabolic. Looking back on the early natural lives of men and women, we find there has been a very sharp separation in the play of these opposite sets of influences. A hasty survey of the facts suffices to prove that the work of the world was divided into two great parts, the men had the share of killing life, whether that of man or of animals, their attention was given to fighting and hunting; while the women's share was the continuing and nourishing life, their attention being given to the domestic arts—to agriculture and the attendant stationary industries. Woman's position during the matriarchate was largely the result of the need in primitive society of woman's constructive energy, and her power arose from an unfettered use of her special functions. But this divergence of the paths of women from the paths of men continued, and during the patriarchal period became arbitrary with the withdrawal of women from initiative labour, an unnatural arrangement which arose out of later social conditions. The militant side of social activities has belonged to men, the passive to women; and men have been goaded into growth by the conditions and struggles of their lives. They have gathered around themselves a special man-formed environment of institutions and laws, of activities and inventions, of art and literature, of male sentiments, and male systems of opinions, to which they are connected in subtle and numerous relations, and this complex heritage of influences has been reimposed on men generation by generation. In this social working-life women have not had an equal part—and a drag in their development has arisen as the result of this passivity. At a certain period in civilisation women became an inferior class because men with their greater range of opportunities, which brought them within a wider and more variable circle of influences, developed a superior fitness on the motor side. Another contrast is very evident, men's work being performed under more striking circumstances and with more apparent effort and danger, drew to itself prestige, which women's work did not receive; their work, on the contrary, was held in contempt.[7]

Yet, in this connection, it is necessary to say emphatically that, in its origin, there was nothing arbitrary in this division between the sexes. It was, in itself, a natural outcome of natural causes, arising out of the needs of primitive societies. There is nothing derogatory to woman in accepting the passive or, more truly, the constructive power of her nature; rather it is her chief claim for the regaining of her true position in society. I wish at once to say how far it is from my desire to judge woman from a male standpoint. The power and nature that are woman's are not secondary to man's; they are equal, but different, being co-existent and complementary—in fact, just the completion of his.

There is another point that must be made clear.

The separation in the social activities of women and men was not brought about, as is stated so frequently, by men's injustice to women. There is an unfortunate tendency to regard the subjection of woman as wholly due to male selfishness and tyranny. Many leaders of woman's freedom hold to this view as their broad exposition of principle. Such belief is illogical and untrue. It cannot be too often repeated that sex-hatred means retrogression and not progress. I do not mean to say that women have not suffered at men's hands. They have, but not more than men have suffered at their hands. No woman who faces facts can deny this truth. Neither sex can afford to bring railing accusations against the other. The old doctrine of blame is insufficient. Women's disabilities are not, in their origin at least, due to any form of male tyranny. I believe, moreover, that any solution of the woman problem, and of woman's rights, is of ridiculous impotence that attempts to see in man woman's perpetual oppressor. The enemy, if enemy there is, of woman's emancipation, is woman herself.

But, on the other side, it is certain that the long-held opinion—what we may call "the male view of women"—which believes that the position woman occupies in society and the duties she performs are, in the main, what they should be, she being what she is, is equally false. Such theorists throw upon Nature the responsibility of the evils consequent on the deviations from equality of opportunity in the past lives of women. Truly we credit Nature with an absurd blunder do we accept this inferiority of the female half of life. Woman is what she is because she has lived as she has. And no estimate of her character, no effort to fix the limit of her activities, can carry weight that ignores the totally different relations towards society that have artificially grown up, dividing so sharply the life of woman from that of man.

I am brought back to the object of this book.

What are the conditions that have brought woman to her position of dependence upon man? How far is her state of physical and mental inferiority the result of this position? To what extent is she justified in her present revolt? What result will her freedom have on the sexual relationships? Will the change be likely to work for the benefit of the future? In a word, how far are the new claims woman is making consistent with race permanence? It is not one, but a whole group of questions that have to be answered when once the ideal of the right of the present position of the sexes is shaken. The subject is so entangled that a straightforward step-by-step inquiry will not always be possible. Dogmatic conclusions, and the bringing forward of too hasty remedies must alike be avoided. The past must lead us to the present, and thence we must look to the future. The first need is to find out every fact that we can that will help us in our search for the truth. Most writers on the subject, in their desire to fix on a cause of the evil, have selected one factor, or group of factors, and largely neglected all others. Otto Weininger, for instance, the brilliant modern denouncer of woman, refers the whole great difference between women and men to one cause—the bondage of sexuality. Mrs. Stetson, in Woman and Economics, finds a different answer to the same question, and assumes that the whole evil is of economic origin. Both explanations are in part true, but neither is the truth.

To institute reform successfully needs a wider spirit. We must face sex problems with biological and historical knowledge. Before we can understand women's present position in society, or even suggest a future, we must examine the place she has filled in the civilisations of the past; we must fix, too, the part the female half of life has played in the evolution of the sexes. Yet an inquiry into facts is only the first stage, and not the final. When we can go on from these facts to their results, and learn the reasons of what we have discovered, we shall become to some extent, at least, prepared. Then, and then only, can we venture to look forward and intelligently suggest whither the present revolution is leading us.

It is to reach this goal that this book is written. It is an attempt to place the woman question in a wider and more decisive light. It is not an investigation of facts alone, but of causes. The gospel it would preach is a gospel of liberation. And that from which woman must be freed is herself—the unsocial self that has been created by a restricted environment. We have seen that woman's social inferiority in the past has been to a great extent a legitimate thing. To all appearances history would have been impossible without it, just as it would have been impossible without an epoch of slavery and war. Physical strength has ruled in the past, and woman was the weaker. The truth is that woman's time had not come, but now her unconscious evolution must give place to a conscious development. Happiness for women! That must imply wholly independent activities, and complete freedom for the exercise of her work of race production. Woman's duty to society is paramount, she is the guardian of the Race-body and Race-soul. But woman must be responsible to herself; no longer must she follow men. The natural growth force needs to be liberated. Woman must be freed as woman; she must die to arise from death a full human being. There is no other solution to the woman question, and there can be no other.


[1] "Woman and Labour," The Chances of Death, Vol. I. p. 226.

[2] Quoted from The Emancipation of English Women, by W. Lyon Blease, a book which gives an unbiased, and in many respects excellent, account of the struggle of English women to gain freedom from the seventeenth century to the present day.

[3] Strictures, I. 6, Gregory.

[4] The Emancipation of English Women.

[5] For an account of this struggle see Sketch of the Foundation and Development of the London School of Medicine for Women, by Isabel Thorne; also The Emancipation of English Women.

[6] Woman and Economics, Mrs. Stetson, p. 38.

[7] See Thomas, Sex and Society, chapter on "Sex and Primitive Industry," pp. 123-146; and Ellis, Man and Woman, pp. 1-17.





Biology the starting-point of sociology—The irresistible force of Love—The true place of woman and man in the animal kingdom—Analogy between animal love-matings and our own—The Life-force—Reproduction a process of nutrition—Different modes of Reproduction—Cell-division—Successive stages of growth—Theory of sex—Its nature and origin—Incipient sex among the early forms of life—The true office of sex—The principle of fertilisation—Its use to the species in progressive development—Nutrition as a factor determining sex—Illustration of the volvox—The dependence of the male-cell upon the female-cell—The well-nourished female—The hungry male—Relation between food supply and the sexes—Illustrations—Lessons to be learnt—All species are invented and tolerated by Nature for parenthood and its service—The part played by the female—The demand laid upon her heavier than that laid upon the male—The female is mainly responsible for the race—The female led and the male followed in the evolution of life.



"Before studying the sexual relations, and their more or less regulated form in human societies, it will not be out of place to say a few words on reproduction in general, to sketch briefly its physiology in so far as this is fundamental, and, to show how tyrannical are the instincts whose formation has been determined by physiological causes."—LETOURNEAU.

Let us now, as the first path of our inquiry, turn our attention to that biological point of view which is indispensable and fundamental if we are to understand those primary emotions, impulses and differences of the sexes, of deep organic origin, which were rooted long ago in the lowest forms of life, and hence were passed on to man from his pre-human ancestors. No apology is needed for this inquiry; for in these uncounted ancestral forces, dating back to the remote beginnings of life, we shall find hints, at least, of many things which lead up to and explain those problems which must be solved, before we can determine the true position of woman in the complex sexual relations of our social life. We cannot deny our lineage. The force which drove life onwards from the start drives it still to-day. The reproductive impulse is the chief motor of humanity; our seed is eternal. And the point of view that I wish to make clear is that the sex-impulses, which are, as few will deny, the base of the present unrest among women, have an inconceivably long history, and thus spring up within us with a tremendous organic momentum. To deny this force is futile, to suppress it impossible; all that can be done is to so regulate its expression that it may serve life instead of waste it. Implanted in every normal life is an instinctive desire to function in two ways: to grow and to reproduce, from the simple cell to the highest type of life, including man and woman, these two desires are essential and imperative. The irresistible Force of Life has been inherited by us from millions of ancestral lovers. Only when furnished with a re-interpretative clue to the origin of sex and its functioning can we come to realise its strength and its beauty, far stronger, far subtler, than we suspected before. It is the shirking of these life-facts that has resulted so often in error.

And let no one resent or think useless such an analogy between animal love-matings and our own. In tracing the evolution of our love-passions from the sexual relations of other mammals, and back to those of their ancestors, and to the humbler, though scarcely less beautiful, ancestors of these, we shall discover what must be considered as essential and should be lasting, and what is false in the conditions and character of the sexes to-day; and thereby we shall gain at once warning in what directions to pause, and new hope to send us forward. We shall learn that there are factors in our sex-impulses that require to be lived down as out-of-date and no longer beneficial to the social needs of life. But encouragement will come as, looking backwards, we learn how the mighty dynamic of sex-love has evolved in fineness, without losing its intensity, how it is tending to become more mutual, more beautiful, more lasting. And this gives us new hope to press forward on that path which woman even now is travelling, wherein she will be free from the risk of clinging to conditions of the past, which for so long have dragged her evolution in the mire.

The same force that pushed life into existence tends to increase and perpetuate it. For when the great Force of Life has once started, the same movements which constitute that life continue, and give rise to nutrition, the first of the great faculties, or powers, of life. Then, after this growth has been carried to a certain point, the organism from the superabundance of nutrition is furnished with a surplus growing energy, by means of which it reproduces itself, whence arises the second of the great life faculties. We thus have the two essential forces of life—the preservative force and the reproductive force, arising alike from nutrition. Food to assure life and growth for the individual; reproduction, an extension of the same process, to ensure the continuance of the species. We thus see the truth of Haeckel's definition that "reproduction is a nutrition and growth of the organism beyond its individual mass," or in biological formula, "a discontinuous growth."[8]

It is well to grasp at once this first conception of reproduction as simply an extension of nutrition, if we are to free our minds from misconception. It is a common belief that the original purpose of sex is to ensure reproduction, whereas fundamentally it is not necessary to propagation at all. It is perfectly true, of course, that in the majority of animals, and also in many plants, an individual life begins in the union of two minute elements, the mother egg-cell and the sperm father-cell. But this is not the earliest stage, and below these higher forms we find a great world of life reproducing without this sex-process by simple separation and growth. In these unicellular organisms reproduction is known as asexual, because there are no special germ-cells, nor is there anything corresponding to fertilisation. The most common forms are (1) by division into two; (2) by budding, a modified form of division; (3) by sporulation, a division into many units.[9]

It is worth while to wait to learn something of this first stage in the development of life, for in this way we shall gain a clue as to the origin of sex and the real purpose it fulfils in the service of reproduction. In the very simplest forms of unicellular organisms propagation is effected at what is known as "the limit of growth"; when the cell has attained as much volume as its surface can adequately supply with food, a simple division of the cell takes place into two halves or daughter cells, each exactly like the other, which then become independent and themselves repeat the same rupture process. But in some slightly more complex cases differences occur between the two cells into which the organism divides, as in the slipper animacule, where one-half goes off with the mouth, while the other has none. In a short time, however, the mouthless half forms a mouth, and each half grows into a replica of the original. We have here one of the earliest examples of differentiation. That injured multicellular organisms should be able by regrowth to repair their loss in an analogous phenomenon; thus an earth-worm cut by a spade does not necessarily suffer loss, but the head part grows a tail and the decapitated portion produces a head; sponges, which do not normally propagate by division, may be cut in pieces and bedded out successfully; the arms of a star-fish, torn asunder by a fisherman, will almost always result in several perfect star-fish. Similarly among plants a cut-off portion may readily give rise to new plants—a potato-tuber is one of hundreds of instances. This ability to effect complete repair is one of the powers that life has lost; it persists as high in the scale as reptiles, and a lizard is able to regrow an amputated leg.

It is certainly not the least interest in studying these early forms that one is able to trace the analogy they bear with the higher forms. No rigid line can be drawn between the successive stages of growth. And it should be borne in mind that, simple as is the life-process in these single-celled organisms, many of them are highly differentiated and show great complexity of structure within the narrow limits of their size. Thus among the protozoa, the basis of all animal life, we find very definite and interesting modes of behaviour, such as seeking light and avoiding it, swimming in a spiral, approaching certain substances and retreating from others; the organisms often, indeed, trying one behaviour after another.[10] If we realise this it becomes easier to understand how the higher types of life have developed from these primitive types. Indeed, all the bodies of the most complex animals—including ourselves—originate as simple cells, and in the individual history of each of us divide and multiply just as do the cells which exist independently; only in multicellular organisms each cell must be regarded as an individual, modified to serve a special purpose, one cell differentiated to start a lineage of nerve cells, another a lineage of digestive cells, yet another for the reproduction of the species, and so on, each group of cells taking on its special use, but the power of division remaining with the modified cell. Thus a new life is built up—a child becomes an adult, by multiplication of these differentiated cells, repeating the original single-cell development.

Budding, the second, and perhaps the most usual mode of asexual propagation, may be said to mark a further step in the development of the reproductive process. Here the mother-cell, instead of dividing into two equal parts and at once rupturing, protrudes a small portion of its substance, which is separated by a constriction that grows deeper and deeper until the bulk becomes wholly detached. This small bud then grows until it attains the size of the parent, when it, in turn, repeats the same process. This mode of reproduction is common to the great majority of plants. In animal life it is not confined to single-celled organism, but takes place in certain multicellulars, such as worms, bryozoans, and ascidians; one very interesting example being the sea-worm (myrianida) which buds off a whole chain of individuals.

Nearly allied with budding is the third stage, in which the division is multiple and rapid within the limited space of the mother-cell. This is known as spore formation. The cells become detached, and do not further develop until they have escaped from the parent. They then increase by division and growth to form independent individuals. This spore reproduction is found among certain types of vegetation; it also occurs in the protozoa.

It is probable that these three stages of asexual reproduction are not all the steps actually taken by Nature in the development of the early life-process. There must have been intermediate steps, perhaps many such, but the forms in which they occur either have not persisted, or have not yet been studied.[11] The feature common to all ordinary forms of asexual multiplication is that the reproductive process is independent of sex; what starts the new life is the half, or a liberated portion of the single parent cell. It will be readily seen that by this process the offspring are identical with the parent. Life continues, but it continues unchanged. Thus the power of growth is restricted within extremely narrow limits. Any further development required a new process. With the life-force pushing in all directions every possible process would be tried. We are often met with striking phenomena of adjustments to new conditions, which in some cases, when found to be advantageous to the organism, persist. There is, in fact, abundant evidence that Nature in these early days of life was making experiments. In pursuance of this policy it naturally came about that any process by which the organism gained increased power of growth had the greater likelihood of survival. The number of devices in the way of modification of form and habit to secure advantage is practically infinite; but there was one principle that was eagerly seized upon at a very early stage, and, persisting by this law of advantage, was utilised by all progressive types as an accessory of success. This was the principle of fertilisation, which arose in this way from what would almost seem the chance union of two cells, at first alike, but afterwards more and more highly differentiated, and from whose primordial mating have proceeded by a natural series of ascending steps all the developed forms of sex.

The ways in which this was brought about we have now to see. But even at this point it becomes evident that the true office of sex was not the first need of securing reproduction—that had been done already—rather it was the improving and perfecting of the single-cell process by introducing variation through the commingling of the ancestral hereditary elements of two parents, and, by means of such variations, the production of new and higher forms of life—in fact, progress by the mighty dynamic of sex.[12]

As we should expect, the passing from the sexless mode of reproduction to the definite male and female types is not sharply defined or abrupt. Even among many unicellular organisms the process becomes more elaborate with distinct specialisation of reproductive elements. In some cases conjugation is observed, when two individuals coalesce, and each cell and each nucleus divides into two, and each half unites with the half of the other to form a new cell. This is asexual, since the uniting cells are exactly similar, but the effect would seem to be the strengthening of the cells by, as it were, introducing new blood. In somewhat more complex cases these cells do not part company when they divide, but remain attached to one another, and form a kind of commonwealth. Here one can see at once that some cells in a little group will be less advantageously placed for the absorption of nourishment than others. By degrees this differentiation of function brings about differentiation of form, and cells become modified, in some cases, to a surprising extent, to serve special purposes. The next advance is when the uniting cells become somewhat different in themselves. In the early stages this difference appears as one of size; a small weakly cell, though sometimes propagating by union with a similar cell, in other cases seeks out a larger and more developed cell, and by uniting with it in mutual nourishment becomes strong. This may be seen among the protozoa where we can trace the distinct beginnings of the male and female elements. A very instructive example is furnished by the case of volvox, a multicellular vegative organism of very curious habits. The cells at first are all alike; they are united by protoplasmic bridges and form a colony. In favourable environmental conditions of abundant nutrition this state of affairs continues, and the colony increases only by multiplication and without fertilisation. But when the supply of food is exhausted, or by any cause is checked, sexual reproduction is resorted to, and this in a way that illustrates most instructively the differentiation of the female and male cells. Some of the cells are seen accumulating nourishment at the expense of the others and grow larger, and if this continues, cells which must be regarded as ova, or female cells, result; while other cells, less advantageously placed with more competitors struggling to obtain food, grow smaller and gradually change their character, becoming, in fact, males. In some cases distinct colonies may in this way arise, some composed entirely of the large well-nourished cells, and others of small hungry cells, and may be recognised as completely female or male colonies.[13]

We are now in a position to gain a clue to the difficult problem of the origin of the sexes. It would be easy as well as instructive to accumulate examples.[14] I am tempted to linger over the life-histories of these early organisms that are so full of suggestion; but the case I have selected—the volvox—really answers the question. Sex here is dependent on, and would seem to have arisen through, differences in environmental conditions. We find the well-nourished, larger, and usually more quiescent cell is the female, the hungrier and more mobile cell the male; the one concerned with storing energy, the other with consuming it, the one building up, the other breaking down; or expressed in biological formula, the female cell is predominantly anabolic, that of the male predominantly katabolic. Thus we find that the male, through a want of nutrition, was carried developmentally away from the well-fed female cell, which it was bound to seek and unite with to continue life. This relation between the food supply and the sexes is found persisting in higher forms, and, in this connection, the well-known experiments of Young on tadpoles and of Siebald on wasps may be cited. By increasing the nutrition of tadpoles the percentage of females was raised from the normal of about fifty per cent. to ninety, while similarly among wasps the number of females was found to depend on warmth and food supply, and to decrease as these diminished. Mention also may be made of the plant-lice, or aphides, which infest our rose-bushes and other plants, which, during the summer months, when conditions are favourable, produce generation after generation of females, but on the advent of autumn, with its cold and scarcity of food, males appear and sexual reproduction takes place. Similarly brine-shrimps when living under favourable conditions produce females, but when the environment is less favourable males as well are found. Another significant fact is the simple and well-known one that within the first eight days of larval life the additions of food will determine the striking and functional differences between the workers and queen-bee.[15] Among the higher animals the difficulties of proving the influence of environment upon sex are, of course, much greater. There are, however, many facts which point to a persistence of this fundamental differentiation. Among these it is sufficient to mention the experiments of stock-breeders, which show that good conditions tend to produce females; and the testimony of furriers that rich regions yield more furs from females, and poor regions more from males. Even when we reach the human species facts are not wanting to suggest a similar condition. It is usual in times of war and famine for more boys to be born; also more boys are born in the country than in cities, possibly because the city diet is richer, especially in meat. Similarly among poor families the percentage of boys is higher than in well-to-do families. And although such evidence is not conclusive and must be accepted with great caution, it seems safe to say that the facts—of which I have given a few only of the most common—are sufficient to suggest that the relation among the lower forms of life persists up to the human species, and that the female is the result of surplus nutrition and the male of scarcity.

This is sufficient for our present purpose; all other questions and theories brought forward regarding the determination and conditions of the sexes are outside our purpose. Those who will survey the evidence in detail will find ample confirmation of the point of view I wish to make clear. (1) All species are invented and tolerated by Nature for parenthood and its service; (2) the demands laid upon the female by the part required from her are heavier than those needed for the part fulfilled by the male. The female it is who is mainly responsible to the race. And for this reason the progress of the world of life has always rested upon and been determined by the female half of life. What I wish to establish now is that the male developed after and, as it were, from the female. The female led, and the male followed her in the evolution of life.


[8] Haeckel, Generelle Morphologie der Organismen, Vol. II. p. 16.

[9] Thomson, J. Arthur, Heredity, p. 29.

[10] Thomson, J. Arthur, Heredity, p. 33.

[11] Ward, Pure Sociology, p. 307.

[12] See Ward, op. cit., pp. 304-314, from whose chapter on this subject I have taken these facts.

[13] Evolution of Sex, pp. 137-138, 161.

[14] Geddes and Thomson, in The Evolution of Sex, pp. 117-123, 135-140, give many interesting and corroborative examples.

[15] Geddes and Thomson, The Evolution of Sex, pp. 40-52, 249-250; give a complete exposition of this theory with many examples. See also Thomas, Sex and Society, pp. 4-43.



I.—The Early Position of the Sexes

A further examination into the opinion of the superiority of the male—Contradictions to the accepted view of female inferiority—A new way of stating the problem—The female as the creator of the male—Examples of the simplest types of the sexes—Predominance of the female in the animal kingdom below the invertebrates—Superiority of the female in size and often in power of function—Complemental male husbands—Illustrations of male parasites—Corroborative evidence from the sex-elements—The primary service of the male to assist the female in the race-work—Sex-parasitism among females—This explained by the conditions under which the species live—The lessons to be drawn from sex-parasitism—Structural modifications acquired for adapting the sexes to different modes of life—Care of offspring not always confined to the female—Among fishes it is the father who gives any attention to the young—The superiority of the female persists among higher forms—Examples—Sex-equality among birds—Conclusion—The sexual relationship may assume almost any form to suit the varying conditions of life.

II.—Two Examples—The Beehive and the Spider

The case of the beehive—The drones—The queen-mother—The sterile-workers—The sacrifice of the sexes to the Life-Force—The maternal instinct among the workers—This has persisted after the atrophy of the sexual needs—Maternal love has expanded out into social affection—Application of the lessons of the beehive—Analogy with modern society—The Intellectuals among women—Do they understand what they really want—The organic necessity of love—The price of sterility—The courtship of the Spider—Mr. Bernard Shaw's Ann—The part played by woman in courtship—Her passivity only apparent—Female superiority with which sexuality began remains in every courtship—The fierce hunger of the male—His absorption by the female—Nothing can, or should, alter this—The importance of woman's activity in love in connection with her claim for emancipation—General observations and conclusion.



"Sexually Woman is Nature's contrivance for perpetuating its highest achievement. Sexually Man is Woman's contrivance for fulfilling Nature's behest in the most economical way. She knows by instinct that far back in the evolution process she invented him, differentiated him, created him in order to produce something better than the single-cell process can produce."—Don Juan in Hell—Man and Superman.

I.—The Early Position of the Sexes

The opinion of the superiority of the male sex has been so widely, and without question, accepted that it is necessary to emphasise the exact opposite view which was brought forward in the last chapter. From the earliest times it has been contended that woman is undeveloped man.[16] This opinion is at the root of the common estimation of woman's character to-day. Huxley, who was in favour of the emancipation of women, seems to have held this opinion. He says that "in every excellent character the average woman is inferior to the average man in the sense of having that character less in quantity or lower in quality;" and that "the female type of character is neither better nor worse than the male, only weaker." Few have maintained that the sexes are equal, still fewer that women excel.[17] The general bias of opinion has always been in favour of men. Woman almost invariably has been accorded a secondary place, the male has been held to be the primary and essential half of life, all things, as it were, centering around him, while the female, though necessary to the continuance of the race, has been regarded as otherwise unimportant—in fact, a mere accessory to the male.

The causes that have given rise to such an opinion are not far to seek. The question has been approached from the wrong end; we have looked from above downwards—from the latest stages of life back to the beginning, instead of from the beginning on to the end. We find among the higher forms of life—the animals with which we are all familiar—that the males are as a rule larger and stronger, more varied in structure, and more highly ornamented and adorned than the females. And when we rise to the human species these sex differences persist and are even emphasised, though finding their expression in a greater number of less strongly marked characters, not on the physical side alone, but on the mental and psychical. It is difficult to divest the mind of facts with which it is most familiar. Thus it is easy to understand the widely-held opinion of the superiority of the male half of life, and that the female is the sex sacrificed to the reproductive process.

Now, were this true, the question of woman's place in life would indeed be settled. There can be no upward change which is not in accord with the laws of Nature. If the female really started and had always remained secondary to the male, necessary to continue life, but otherwise unimportant, in such position she must be content to stay. Her struggles for advancement may be heroic, yet would they be doomed to failure, for no individual growth can persist which injures the growth of the race-life. Well it is for women that there need be no such fear, even among the most timid-hearted; woman's position and advancement is sure because it is founded with deepest roots in the organic scheme of life.

As once more we search backwards, tracing the differences of sex function to their earliest appearance in the humblest types of life, we find the exact opposite of this theory of the inferiority of the female to be true. The female is of more importance than the male from Nature's point of view. We have seen that life must be regarded as essentially female, since there is no choice but to look upon asexual reproduction as a female process; the single-cell being the mother-cell with the fertilising element of the father or male-cell wanting. We know further that a similar process, but much more highly developed, is possible in what is called parthenogenesis, or virgin-birth, which can only be explained as a survival of the early form. For long life continued without the assistance of the male-cell, which, when it did arise, was dependent on the ova, or female-cell, and was driven by hunger to unite with it in fatigue to continue life. We are thus forced to regard the male-cell as an auxiliary development of the female, or as Lester Ward ingenuously puts it, "an after-thought of Nature devised for the advantage of having a second sex."

Now, if we examine the simplest types of the sexes in the lower reaches of the animal kingdom,[18] below the vertebrates we find the same conditions prevailing. The male is frequently inconspicuous in size, of use only to fertilise the female, and in some cases incapable of any other function; the female, on the other hand, remains unchanged and carries on the life of the species. So marked is this difference among some species that the male must be regarded as a fallen representative of the female, having not only greatly diminished in size, but undergone thorough degeneration in structure.[19] In certain extreme cases what have been well called "pigmy males" illustrate this contrast in an almost ridiculous degree. This is well seen among the common rotifers, where the males are much smaller than the females and very degenerate. Sometimes they seem to have dwindled out of existence altogether, as only females are to be seen; in other cases, though present they fail even to accomplish their proper function of fertilisation, and as reproduction is carried on by the females, they are not only minute but useless. Nor are such cases of male degeneration confined to this group. The whole family of the Abdominalia (cirripedes) have the sexes separate; and the males, comparatively very small, are attached to the body of each female, and are entirely passive and dependent upon her.[20] Some of these male parasites are so far degenerated as to have lost their digestive organs and are incapable of any function except fertilisation: the male Sygami (menatodes), for instance, being so far effaced that it is nothing but a testicle living on the female.[21] A yet more striking instance is furnished by the curious green worm Bonellia, where the male appears like a remote ancestor of the female, on whom it lives parasitically. Somewhat similar is the cocus insect, among whom the males are very degenerate, small, blind and wingless.

This phenomenon of minute parasitic male fertilisers in connection with normally developed females was noticed by Darwin, and his observations have been confirmed by Van Beneden, by Huxley, Haeckel, Milne Edwards, Fabre, Patrick Geddes, and many other eminent entomologists.[22] A full study of these early forms of sexuality should be made by all who wish to understand the problem of woman; their life-histories furnish prophecies of many large facts. I wish it were possible for me to bring forward further examples. It is the difficulty of treating so wide a subject within narrow limits that so many things that are of interest have to be hurried over and left out. But there is one delightful case that I cannot refrain from mentioning. The facts are given in a letter from Darwin to Sir Charles Lyell, dated September 14, 1849. It is quoted by Professor Lester Ward. This instance of the sexual relationship among the cirripedes illustrates very vividly the early superiority of the female.

The letter runs thus—

"The other day I got a curious case of a unisexual, instead of hermaphrodite cirripede, in which the female had the common cirripedial character, and in two valves of her shell had two little pockets, in each of which she kept a little husband; I do not know of any other case in which the female invariably has two husbands. I have still one other fact, common to several species, namely, that though they are hermaphrodite, they have small additional, or shall I call them, complemental males, one specimen, itself hermaphrodite, had no less than seven of these complemental males attached to it. Truly the schemes and wonders of Nature are illimitable,"[23]

Here, indeed, is a knock-down blow to the theory of the natural superiority of the male. These cases we have examined are certainly extreme, the difference between the sexes is, as we shall see, less marked in many early types. But the existence of these helpless little husbands serves to show the true origin of the male. How often he lived parasitically on the female, his work to aid her in the reproductive process, useful to secure greater variation than could be had by the single-celled process. In other words, the male is of use to the life-scheme in assisting the female to produce progressively fitter forms. She, indeed, created him, his sole function being her impregnation.

Corroborative evidence appears in the contrast which persists in all the higher forms between the relatively large female-cell or germ and the microscopical male-cell or sperm, as also in the absorption of the male cellule by the female cellule. In the sexual cells there is no character in which differentiation goes so far as that of size.[24] The female cell is always much larger than the male; where the former is swollen with the reserve food, the spermatozoa may be less than a millionth of its volume. In the human species an ovum is about 3000 times as large as spermatozoa.[25] The male cellule, differentiated to enable it to reach the female, impregnates and becomes fused within her cellule, which, unlike hers, preserves its individuality and continues as the main source of life.

It is true that exceptions occur, sex-parasitism appearing in both sex forms, and in some cases it is the female who degenerates and becomes wholly passive and dependent, but this is usually under conditions which afford in themselves an explanation. Thus, in the troublesome thread-worm (Heterodera schachtii), which infests the turnip plant, the sexes are at first alike, then both become parasitic, but the adult male recovers himself, is agile and like other thread-worms, while the female remains a parasitic victim without power of function—a mere passive, distended bag of eggs. Another extreme but well-known example is that of the cochineal insect, where the female, laden with reserve products in the form of the well-known pigment, spends much of its life like a mere quiescent gall on the cactus plant; the male, on the other hand, is active, though short-lived. Among other insects—such, for example, as certain ticks—a very complete form of female parasitism prevails; and while the male remains a complex, highly active, winged creature, the female, fastening itself into the flesh of some living animal and sucking its blood, has lost wings and all activity and power of locomotion, having become a mere distended bladder, which, when filled with eggs, bursts and ends a parasitic existence that has hardly been life.[26] In many crustaceans, again, the females are parasitic, but this also is explained by their habit of seeking shelter for egg-laying purposes.[27]

The whole question of sex-parasitism as it appears in these first pages of the life-histories of sexes is one of deep suggestion; and one, moreover, that casts forward sharp side-lights on modern sex problems. In some early forms, where the conditions of life are similar for the two sexes, the male and the female are often like one another. Thus it is very difficult to distinguish a male starfish from a female starfish, or a male sea-urchin from a female sea-urchin. It becomes abundantly clear that degeneration in active function, whether it be that of the male or the female, is the inevitable nemesis of parasitism. The males and females in the cases we have examined may be said to be martyrs to their respective sexes.

A further truth of the utmost importance becomes manifest. Many differences between the relative position of the sexes, which we are apt to suppose are inherent in the female or male, are not inherent, in light of these early and varying types. We see that the sex-relationship and the character of the female and male assume different forms, changing as the conditions of life vary. Again and again when we come to examine the position of women in different periods of civilisation, we shall find that whenever the conditions of life have tended to withdraw them from the social activities of labour, restricting them, like these early sex-victims, to the passive exercise of their reproductive functions alone, that such parasitism has resulted invariably in the degeneration of woman, and through her passing on such deterioration to her sons, there has followed, after a longer or shorter period, the degeneration of society. But these questions belong to the later part of our inquiry, and cannot be entered on here. Yet it were well to fix in our minds at once the dangers, without escape, that follow sex-parasitism.

It may be thought that these cases of sex-victims are exceptions, and that, therefore, it is unsafe to draw conclusions from them. The truth would rather seem to be that they are extreme examples of conditions that were common at one stage of life. There is no doubt that up to the level of the amphibians female superiority in size, and often in power of function, prevails.[28] If, for example, we look at insects generally, the males are smaller than the females, especially in the imago state. There are many species, belonging to different orders—as, for instance, certain moths and butterflies—in which this superiority is very marked. The males are either not provided with any functional organs for eating, or have these imperfectly developed. It seems evident that their sole function is to fertilise the female. A familiar and interesting example is furnished by the common mosquitoes, among whom the female alone, with its harmful sting, is known to the unscientific world. The males, frail and weaponless little creatures, swarm with the females in the early summer, and then pass away, their work being done.

Dr. Howard, writing of the mosquito in America, says—

"It is a well-known fact that the adult male mosquito does not necessarily take nourishment, and that the adult female does not necessarily rely on the blood of warm-blooded animals. The mouth parts of the male are so different from those of the female that it is probable that, if it feeds at all, it obtains its food in quite a different manner from the female. They are often observed sipping at drops of water, and in one instance a fondness for molasses has been recorded."[29]

We find many examples of such structural modifications acquired for the purpose of adapting the sexes to different modes of life. Darwin notes that the females of certain flies are blood-suckers, whilst the males, living on flowers, have mouths destitute of mandibles.[30] The females are carnivorous, the males herbivorous. It would be easy to bring forward many further examples among the invertebrates in which the differences between the sexes indicates very clearly the persistence of female superiority. But for these I must refer the reader to the works of Darwin and other entomologists, and to the many interesting cases given by Professor Lester Ward. There are, it is true, exceptions, but these may be explained by the conditions under which the species live.

Even when we ascend the scale to back-boned animals, cases are not wanting in which the early superiority in size of the female remains unaltered. The smallest known vertebrate, Heterandria formosa, has females very considerably larger than the males.[31] Among fishes the males are commonly smaller than the females, who are also, as a rule, considerably more numerous.[32] This is a fact that fishermen are well aware of. I may mention, as an example, that on one occasion when my husband and I caught twenty-five trout in a mountain lake in Wales there were only two males among them. It is curious to find that any care of offspring that is evident among fishes is usually paternal. This furnishes another instance of the truth so necessary to learn that the sex-relationships may assume almost any form to suit the varying conditions of life.

There are some mammals among whom the sexes do not differ appreciably in size and strength, and very little or not at all, in coloration and ornament. Such is the case with nearly all the great family of rodents. It is also the case with the Erinaceidae, or at least with its typical sub-family of hedgehogs.[33] Even among birds, where the sex instincts have attained to their highest and most aesthetic expression, we find some large families—as, for example, the hawks—in which the female is usually the larger and finer bird.[34] Thus the adult male of the common sparrow-hawk is much smaller than the female, the length of the male being 13 ins., wing 7.7 ins., and that of the female 15.4 ins., wing 9 ins. The male peregrine, known to hawkers as the tiercel, is greatly inferior in size to his mate. The merlin, the osprey, the falcon, the spotted eagle, the golden eagle, the gos-hawk, the harrier, the buzzard, the eagle-owl, and other species of owls are further examples where the female bird is larger than the male. Among many of these families the female birds very closely resemble the males, and where differences in colour and ornament do occur, they are slight.

A further point of the greatest importance to us requires to be made. Wherever amongst the birds the sexes are alike the habits of their lives are also alike. The female as well as the male obtains food, the nest is built together, and the young are cared for by both parents. These beautiful examples of sex equality among the birds cannot be regarded as exceptions that have arisen by chance—a reversal of the usual rule of the sexes; rather they show the persistence of the earlier relations between the female and the male carried to a finer development under conditions of life favourable to the female. I will not here say more upon this subject, as I shall have to refer to it in greater detail when we come to consider the sexual and familial habits of birds. I will only add that in their delicacy and devotion to each other and to their offspring, birds in their unions have advanced to a much further stage than we have in our marriages. These associations of our ancestral lovers claim our attentive study.

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