WOMAN AND WOMANHOOD
BY DR. C. W. SALEEBY
WOMAN AND WOMANHOOD HEALTH, STRENGTH AND HAPPINESS THE CYCLE OF LIFE EVOLUTION: THE MASTER KEY WORRY: THE DISEASE OF THE AGE THE CONQUEST OF CANCER: A PLAN OF CAMPAIGN PARENTHOOD AND RACE CULTURE
WOMAN AND WOMANHOOD
A SEARCH FOR PRINCIPLES
by C. W. SALEEBY M.D., F.R.S.E., Ch.B., F.Z.S.
Fellow of the Obstetrical Society of Edinburgh and formerly Resident Physician Edinburgh Maternity Hospital; Vice-President Divorce Law Reform Union; Member of the Royal Institution and of Council of the Sociological Society.
MITCHELL KENNERLEY NEW YORK AND LONDON MCMXI
Copyright 1911 by Mitchell Kennerley
Press of J. J. Little & Ives Co. East Twenty-fourth Street New York
PAGE I. FIRST PRINCIPLES 1 II. THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME 34 III. THE PURPOSE OF WOMANHOOD 52 IV. THE LAW OF CONSERVATION 64 V. THE DETERMINATION OF SEX 72 VI. MENDELISM AND WOMANHOOD 81 VII. BEFORE WOMANHOOD 92 VIII. THE PHYSICAL TRAINING OF GIRLS 99 IX. THE HIGHER EDUCATION OF WOMEN 128 X. THE PRICE OF PRUDERY 132 XI. EDUCATION FOR MOTHERHOOD 151 XII. THE MATERNAL INSTINCT 163 XIII. CHOOSING THE FATHERS OF THE FUTURE 193 XIV. THE MARRIAGE AGE FOR GIRLS 197 XV. THE FIRST NECESSITY 219 XVI. ON CHOOSING A HUSBAND 234 XVII. THE CONDITIONS OF MARRIAGE 258 XVIII. THE CONDITIONS OF DIVORCE 291 XIX. THE RIGHTS OF MOTHERS 296 XX. WOMEN AND ECONOMICS 327 XXI. THE CHIEF ENEMY OF WOMEN 348 XXII. CONCLUSION 386
We are often and rightly reminded that woman is half the human race. It is truer even than it appears. Not only is woman half of the present generation, but present woman is half of all the generations of men and women to come. The argument of this book, which will be regarded as reactionary by many women called "advanced"—presumably as doctors say that a case of consumption is "advanced"—involves nothing other than adequate recognition of the importance of woman in the most important of all matters. It is true that my primary concern has been to furnish, for the individual woman and for those in charge of girlhood, a guide of life based upon the known physiology of sex. But it is a poor guide of life which considers only the transient individual, and poorest of all in this very case.
If it were true that woman is merely the vessel and custodian of the future lives of men and women, entrusted to her ante-natal care by their fathers, as many creeds have supposed, then indeed it would be a question of relatively small moment how the mothers of the future were chosen. Our ingenious devices for ensuring the supremacy of man lend colour to this idea. We name children after their fathers, and the fact that they are also to some extent of the maternal stock is obscured.
But when we ask to what extent they are also of maternal stock, we find that there is a rigorous equality between the sexes in this matter. It is a fact which has been ignored or inadequately recognized by every feminist and by every eugenist from Plato until the present time. Salient qualities, whether good or ill, are more commonly displayed by men than by women. Great strength or physical courage or endurance, great ability or genius, together with a variety of abnormalities, are much more commonly found in men than in women, and the eugenic emphasis has therefore always been laid upon the choice of fathers rather than of mothers. Not so long ago, the scion of a noble race must marry, not at all necessarily the daughter of another noble race, but rather any young healthy woman who promised to be able to bear children easily and suckle them long. But directly we observe, under the microscope, the facts of development, we discover that each parent contributes an exactly equal share to the making of the new individual, and all the ancient and modern ideas of the superior value of well-selected fatherhood fall to the ground. Woman is indeed half the race. In virtue of expectant motherhood and her ante-natal nurture of us all, she might well claim to be more, but she is half at least.
And thus it matters for the future at least as much how the mothers are chosen as how the fathers are. This remains true, notwithstanding that the differences between men, commending them for selection or rejection, seem so much more conspicuous and important than in the case of women.
For, in the first place, the differences between women are much greater than appear when, for instance, we read history as history is at present understood, or when we observe and compare the world and his wife. Uniformity or comparative uniformity of environment is a factor of obvious importance in tending to repress the natural differences between women. Reverse the occupations and surroundings of the sexes, and it might be found that men were "much of a muchness," and women various and individualized, to a surprising extent.
But, even allowing for this, it is difficult to question that men as individuals do differ, for good and for evil, more than women as individuals. Such a malady as haemophilia, for instance, sharply distinguishes a certain number of men from the rest of their sex, whereas women, not subject to the disease, are not thus distinguished, as individuals.
But the very case here cited serves to illustrate the fallacy of studying the individual as an individual only, and teaches that there is a second reason why the selection of women for motherhood is more important than is so commonly supposed. In the matter of, for instance, haemophilia, men appear sharply contrasted among themselves and women all similar. Yet the truth is that men and women differ equally in this very respect. Women do not suffer from haemophilia, but they convey it. Just as definitely as one man is haemophilic and another is not, so one woman will convey haemophilia and another will not. The abnormality is present in her, but it is latent; or, as we shall see the Mendelians would say, "recessive" instead of "dominant."
Now I am well assured that if we could study not only the patencies but also the latencies of individuals of both sexes, we should find that they vary equally. Women, as individuals, appear more similar than men, but as individuals conveying latent or "recessive" characters which will appear in their children, especially their male children, they are just as various as men are. The instance of haemophilia is conclusive, for two women, each equally free from it, will respectively bear normal and haemophilic children; but this is probably only one among many far more important cases. I incline to believe that certain nervous qualities, many of great value to humanity, tend to be latent in women, just as haemophilia does. Two women may appear very similar in mind and capacity, but one may come of a distinguished stock, and the other of an undistinguished. In the first woman, herself unremarkable, high ability may be latent, and her sons may demonstrate it. It is therefore every whit as important that the daughters of able and distinguished stock shall marry as that the sons shall. It remains true even though the sons may themselves be obviously distinguished and the daughters may not.
The conclusion of this matter is that scientific inquiry completely demonstrates the equal importance of the selection of fathers and of mothers. If our modern knowledge of heredity is to be admitted at all, it follows that the choice of women for motherhood is of the utmost moment for the future of mankind. Woman is half the race; and the leaders of the woman's movement must recognize the importance of their sex in this fundamental question of eugenics. At present they do not do so; indeed, no one does. But the fact remains. As before all things a Eugenist, and responsible, indeed, for that name, I cannot ignore it in the following pages. There is not only to-day to think of, but to-morrow. The eugenics which ignores the natural differences between women as individuals, and their still greater natural differences as potential parents, is only half eugenics; the leading women who in any way countenance such measures as deprive the blood of the future of its due contribution from the best women of the present, are leading not only one sex but the race as a whole to ruin.
If women were not so important as Nature has made them, none of this would matter. To insist upon it is only to insist upon the importance of the sex. The remarkable fact, which seems to me to make this protest and the forthcoming pages so necessary, is that the leading feminists do not recognize the all-importance of their sex in this regard. They must be accused of neglecting it and of not knowing how important they are. They consider the present only, and not the composition of the future. Like the rest of the world, I read their papers and manifestoes, their speeches and books, and have done so, and have subscribed to them, for years; but no one can refer me to a single passage in any of these where any feminist or suffragist, in Great Britain, at least, militant or non-militant, has set forth the principle, beside which all others are trivial, that the best women must be the mothers of the future.
Yet this which is thus ignored matters so much that other things matter only in so far as they affect it. As I have elsewhere maintained, the eugenic criterion is the first and last of every measure of reform or reaction that can be proposed or imagined. Will it make a better race? Will the consequence be that more of the better stocks, of both sexes, contribute to the composition of future generations? In other words, the very first thing that the feminist movement must prove is that it is eugenic. If it be so, its claims are unchallengeable; if it be what may contrariwise be called dysgenic, no arguments in its favour are of any avail. Yet the present champions of the woman's cause are apparently unaware that this question exists. They do not know how important their sex is.
Thinkers in the past have known, and many critics in the present, though unaware of the eugenic idea, do perceive, that woman can scarcely be better employed than in the home. Herbert Spencer, notably, argued that we must not include, in the estimate of a nation's assets, those activities of woman the development of which is incompatible with motherhood. To-day, the natural differences between individuals of both sexes, and the importance of their right selection for the transmission of their characters to the future, are clearly before the minds of those who think at all on these subjects. On various occasions I have raised this issue between Feminism and Eugenics, suggesting that there are varieties of feminism, making various demands for women which are utterly to be condemned because they not merely ignore eugenics, but are opposed to it, and would, if successful, be therefore ruinous to the race.
Ignored though it be by the feminist leaders, this is the first of questions; and in so far as any clear opinion on it is emerging from the welter of prejudices, that opinion is hitherto inimical to the feminist claims. Most notably is this the case in America, where the dysgenic consequences of the so-called higher education of women have been clearly demonstrated.
The mark of the following pages is that they assume the principle of what we may call Eugenic Feminism, and that they endeavour to formulate its working-out. It is my business to acquaint myself with the literature of both eugenics and feminism, and I know that hitherto the eugenists have inclined to oppose the claims of feminism, Sir Francis Galton, for instance, having lent his name to the anti-suffrage side; whilst the feminists, one and all, so far as Anglo-Saxondom is concerned—for Ellen Key must be excepted—are either unaware of the meaning of eugenics at all, or are up in arms at once when the eugenist—or at any rate this eugenist, who is a male person—mildly inquires: But what about motherhood? and to what sort of women are you relegating it by default?
I claim, therefore, that there is immediate need for the presentation of a case which is, from first to last, and at whatever cost, eugenic; but which also—or, rather, therefore—makes the highest claims on behalf of woman and womanhood, so that indeed, in striving to demonstrate the vast importance of the woman question for the composition of the coming race, I may claim to be much more feminist than the feminists.
The problem is not easily to be solved; otherwise we should not have paired off into insane parties, as on my view we have done. Nor will the solution please the feminists without reserve, whilst it will grossly offend that abnormal section of the feminists who are distinguished by being so much less than feminine, and who little realize what a poor substitute feminism is for feminity.
There is possible no Eugenic Feminism which shall satisfy those whose simple argument is that woman must have what she wants, just as man must. I do not for a moment admit that either men or women or children of a smaller growth are entitled to everything they want. "The divine right of kings," said Carlyle, "is the right to be kingly men"; and I would add that the divine right of women is the right to be queenly women. Until this present time, it was never yet alleged as a final principle of justice that whatever people wanted they were entitled to, yet that is the simple feminist demand in a very large number of cases. It is a demand to be denied, whilst at the same time we grant the right of every man and of every woman to opportunities for the best development of the self; whatever that self may be—including even the aberrant and epicene self of those imperfectly constituted women whose adherence to the woman's cause so seriously handicaps it.
But it is one thing to say people should have what is best for them, and another that whatever they want is best for them. If it is not best for them it is not right, any more than if they were children asking for more green apples. Women have great needs of which they are at present unjustly deprived; and they are fully entitled to ask for everything which is needed for the satisfaction of those needs; but nothing is more certain than that, at present, many of them do not know what they should ask for. Not to know what is good for us is a common human failing; to have it pointed out is always tiresome, and to have this pointed out to women by any man is intolerable. But the question is not whether a man points it out, presuming to tell women what is good for them, but whether in this matter he is right—in common with the overwhelming multitude of the dead of both sexes.
As has been hinted, the issue is much more momentous than any could have realized even so late as fifty years ago. It is only in our own time that we are learning the measure of the natural differences between individuals, it is only lately that we have come to see that races cannot rise by the transmission of acquired characters from parents to offspring, since such transmission does not occur, and it is only within the last few years that the relative potency of heredity over education, of nature over nurture, has been demonstrated. Not one in thousands knows how cogent this demonstration is, nor how absolutely conclusive is the case for the eugenic principle in the light of our modern knowledge. At whatever cost, we see, who have ascertained the facts, that we must be eugenic.
This argument was set forth in full in the predecessors of this book, which in its turn is devoted to the interests of women as individuals. But before we proceed, it is plainly necessary to answer the critic who might urge that the separate questions of the individual and the race cannot be discussed in this mixed fashion. The argument may be that if we are to discuss the character and development and rights of women as individuals, we must stick to our last. Any woman may question the eugenic criterion or say that it has nothing to do with her case. She claims certain rights and has certain needs; she is not so sure, perhaps, about the facts of heredity, and in any case she is sure that individuals—such as herself, for instance—are ends in themselves. She neither desires to be sacrificed to the race, nor does she admit that any individual should be so sacrificed. She is tired of hearing that women must make sacrifices for the sake of the community and its future; and the statement of this proposition in its new eugenic form, which asserts that, at all costs, the finest women must be mothers, and the mothers must be the finest women, is no more satisfactory to her than the crude creed of the Kaiser that children, cooking and church are the proper concerns of women. She claims to be an individual, as much as any man is, as much as any individual of either sex whom we hope to produce in the future by our eugenics, and she has the same personal claim to be an end in and for herself as they will have whom we seek to create. Her sex has always been sacrificed to the present or to the immediate needs of the future as represented by infancy and childhood; and there is no special attractiveness in the prospect of exchanging a military tyranny for a eugenic tyranny: "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose."
One cannot say whether this will be accepted as a fair statement of the woman's case at the present time, but I have endeavoured to state it fairly and would reply to it that its claims are unquestionable and that we must grant unreservedly the equal right of every woman to the same consideration and recognition and opportunity as an individual, an end in and for herself, whatever the future may ask for, as we grant to men.
But I seek to show in the following pages that, in reality, there is no antagonism between the claims of the future and the present, the race and the individual. On philosophic analysis we must see that, indeed, no living race could come into being, much less endure, in which the interests of individuals as individuals, and the interest of the race, were opposed. If we imagine any such race we must imagine its disappearance in one generation, or in a few generations if the clash of interests were less than complete. Living Nature is not so fiendishly contrived as has sometimes appeared to the casual eye. On the contrary, the natural rule which we see illustrated in all species, animal or vegetable, high or low, throughout the living world, is that the individual is so constructed that his or her personal fulfilment of his or her natural destiny as an individual, is precisely that which best serves the race. Once we learn that individuals were all evolved by Nature for the sake of the race, we shall understand why they have been so evolved in their personal characteristics that in living their own lives and fulfilling themselves they best fulfil Nature's remoter purpose.
To this universal and necessary law, without which life could not persist anywhere in any of its forms, woman is no exception; and therein is the reply to those who fear a statement in new terms of the old proposition that women must give themselves up for the sake of the community and its future. Here it is true that whosoever will give her life shall save it. Women must indeed give themselves up for the community and the future; and so must men. Since women differ from men, their sacrifice takes a somewhat different form, but in their case, as in men's, the right fulfilment of Nature's purpose is one with the right fulfilment of their own destiny. There is no antinomy. On the contrary, the following pages are written in the belief and the fear that women are threatening to injure themselves as individuals—and therefore the race, of course—just because they wrongly suppose that a monstrous antinomy exists where none could possibly exist. "No," they say, "we have endured this too long; henceforth we must be free to be ourselves and live our own lives." And then, forsooth, they proceed to try to be other than themselves and live other than the lives for which their real selves, in nine cases out of ten, were constructed. It works for a time, and even for life in the case of incomplete and aberrant women. For the others, it often spells liberty and interest and heightened consciousness of self for some years; but the time comes when outraged Nature exacts her vengeance, when middle age abbreviates the youth that was really misspent, and is itself as prematurely followed by a period of decadence grateful neither to its victim nor to anyone else. Meanwhile the women who have chosen to be and to remain women realize the promise of Wordsworth to the girl who preferred walks in the country to algebra and symbolic logic:—
Thou, while thy babes around thee cling, Shalt show us how divine a thing A woman may be made. Thy thoughts and feelings shall not die, Nor leave thee, when grey hairs are nigh, A melancholy slave; But an old age serene and bright And lovely as a Lapland night, Shall lead thee to thy grave.
Where is the woman, recognizable as such, who will question that the brother of Dorothy Wordsworth was right?
In the following pages, it is sought to show that, women being constructed by Nature, as individuals, for her racial ends, they best realize themselves, are happier and more beautiful, live longer and more useful lives, when they follow, as mothers or foster-mothers in the wide and scarcely metaphorical sense of that word, the career suggested in Wordsworth's lovely lines.
It remains to state the most valuable end which this book might possibly achieve—an end which, by one means or another, must be achieved. It is that the best women, those favoured by Nature in physique and intelligence, in character and their emotional nature, the women who are increasingly to be found enlisted in the ranks of Feminism, and fighting the great fight for the Women's Cause, shall be convinced by the unchangeable and beneficent facts of biology, seen in the bodies and minds of women, and shall direct their efforts accordingly; so that they and those of their sisters who are of the same natural rank, instead of increasingly deserting the ranks of motherhood and leaving the blood of inferior women to constitute half of all future generations, shall on the contrary furnish an ever-increasing proportion of our wives and mothers, to the great gain of themselves, and of men, and of the future.
For in some of its forms to-day the Woman's Cause is not man's, nor the future's, nor even, as I shall try to show, woman's. But a Eugenic Feminism, for which I try to show the warrant in the study of woman's nature, would indeed be the cause of man, and should enlist the whole heart and head of every man who has them to offer. For here is a principle which benefits men to the whole immeasurable extent involved in decreeing that the best women must be the wives. "The best women for our wives!" is not a bad demand from men's point of view, and it is assuredly the best possible for the sake of the future.
It is claimed, then, for the teaching of this book that, being based upon the evident and unquestionable indications of Nature, it is calculated to serve her end, which is the welfare of the race as a whole, including both sexes. No one will question that the position and happiness and self-realization of women in the modern world would be vastly enhanced by the reforms for which I plead, though some men will not think that game worth the candle. But I have argued that men also will profit; nor can there be any question as to the advantage for children. It is just because our scheme and our objects are natural that they require no support from and lend no warrant to that accursed spirit of sex-antagonism which many well-meaning women now display—doubtless by a natural reflex, because it is the spirit of the worst men everywhere. It is primarily men's desire for sex-dominance that engenders a sex-resentment in women; but the spirit is lamentable, whatever its origin and wherever it be found. It is most lamentable in the bully, the drunkard, the cad, the Mammonist, the satyr, who are everywhere to be found opposing woman and her claims. There is no variety of male blackguardism and bestiality, of vileness and selfishness, of lust and greed, whose representatives' names should not be added to those of the illustrious pro-consuls and elegant peeresses and their following who form Anti-Suffrage Societies. Before we criticise sex-antagonism in women, let us be honest about it in men; and before we sneer at the type of women who most display it, let us realize fully the worthlessness of the types of men who display it. But if this be granted—and I have never heard it granted by the men who deplore sex-antagonism as if only women displayed it—we must none the less recognize that this spirit injures both sexes, and that it is necessarily false, since none can question that Nature devised the sexes for mutual aid to her end. By this first principle sex-antagonism is therefore condemned. This book, written by a man in behalf of womanhood—and therefore in behalf of manhood and childhood—is consistently opposed to all notions of sex-antagonism, or sex-dominance, male or female, or of competing claims between the sexes. Man and woman are complementary halves of the highest thing we know, and just as the men who seek to maintain male dominance are the enemies of mankind, so the women who preach enmity to men, and refusal of wise and humane legislation in their interests because men have framed it, are the enemies of womankind. At the beginning of the "Suffragette" movement in England, I had the pleasure of taking luncheon with the brilliant young lady whose name has been so prominent in this connection; and my lifelong enthusiasm for the "Vote" has been chastened ever since by the recollection of the resentment which she exhibited at every suggestion of or allusion to any legislation in favour of women—notably with reference to infant mortality and to alcoholism—whilst the suffrage was withheld. Substitute "destroyed" or "reversed" for "chastened," and you have a more typical result in quite well-meaning men of sex-antagonism as many "advanced" women now display it.
Further, this book may be regarded as an appeal to those women who are responsible for forming the ideals of girls. The idea of womanhood here set forth on natural grounds is not always represented in the ideals which are now set before the youthful aspirant for work in the woman's cause. It is not argued that the principles of eugenics are to be expounded to the beginner, nor that she is to be re-directed to the nursery. It is not necessarily argued, by any means, that marriage and motherhood are to be set forth as the goal at which every girl is to aim; such a woman as Miss Florence Nightingale was a Foster-Mother of countless thousands, and was only the greatest exemplar in our time of a function which is essentially womanly, but does not involve marriage. I desire nothing less than that girls should be taught that they must marry—any man better than none. I want no more men chosen for fatherhood than are fit for it, and if the standard is to be raised, selection must be more rigorous and exclusive, as it could not be if every girl were taught that, unmarried, she fails of her destiny. The higher the standard which, on eugenic principles, natural or acquired, women exact of the men they marry, the more certainly will many women remain unmarried.
But I believe that the principles here set forth are able to show us how such women may remain feminine, and may discharge characteristically feminine functions in society, even though physical motherhood be denied them. The racial importance of physical motherhood cannot be exaggerated, because it determines, as we have seen, not less than half the natural composition of future generations. But its individual importance can easily be over-estimated, and that is an error which I have specially sought to avoid in this book, which is certainly an attempt to call or recall women to motherhood. It is not as if physical motherhood were the whole of human motherhood. Racially, it is the substantial whole; individually, it is but a part of the whole, and a smaller fraction in our species than in any humbler form of life. Everyone knows maiden aunts who are better, more valuable, completer mothers in every non-physical way than the actual mothers of their nephews and nieces. This is woman's wonderful prerogative, that, in virtue of her psyche, she can realize herself, and serve others, on feminine lines, and without a pang of regret or a hint anywhere of failure, even though she forego physical motherhood. This book, therefore, is a plea not only for Motherhood but for Foster-Motherhood—that is, Motherhood all-but-physical. In time to come the great professions of nursing and teaching will more and more engage and satisfy the lives and the powers of Virgin-Mothers without number. Let no woman prove herself so ignorant or contemptuous of great things as to suggest that these are functions beneath the dignity of her complete womanhood.
But many a young girl, passing from her finishing-school—which has perhaps not quite succeeded, despite its best efforts, in finishing her womanhood—and coming under the influence of some of our modern champions of womanhood, might well be excused for throwing such a book as this from her, scorning to admit the glorious conditions which declare that woman is more for the Future than for the Present, and that if the Future is to be safeguarded, or even to be, they must not be transgressed. I have watched young girls, wearing the beautiful colours which have been captured by one section of the suffrage movement, asking their way to headquarters for instructions as to procedure, and I have wondered whether, in twenty years, they will look back wholly with content at the consequences. Some time ago the illustrated papers provided us with photographs of a person, originally female, "born to be love visible," as Ruskin says, who had mastered jiu-jitsu for suffragette purposes, and was to be seen throwing various hapless men about a room. And only the day before I write, the papers have given us a realistic account of a demonstration by an ardent advocate of woman, the chief item of which was that, on the approach of a burly policeman to seize her, she—if the pronouns be not too definite in their sex—fell upon her back and adroitly received the constabulary "wind" upon her upraised foot, thereby working much havoc. No one would assert that the woman's movement is responsible for the production of such people; no reasonable person would assert that their adherence condemns it; but we are rightly entitled to be concerned lest the rising generation of womanhood be misled by such disgusting examples.
Nothing will be said which militates for a moment against the possibility that a woman may be womanly and yet in her later years, when so many women combine their best health and vigour with experience and wisdom, might replace many hundredweight of male legislators upon the benches of the House of Commons, to the immense advantage of the nation. If our present purpose were medical in the ordinary sense, the reader would come to a chapter on the climacteric, dealing with the nervous and other risks and disabilities of that period, and notably including a warning as to the importance of attending promptly to certain local symptoms which may possibly herald grave disease. An abundance of books on such subjects is to be had, and my purpose is not to add to their number. Yet the climacteric has a special interest for us because the special case of those women who have passed it is constantly ignored in our discussions of the woman question—which is not exclusively concerned with the destiny of girls and the claims of feminine adolescence to the vote. The work of Lord Lister, and the advances of obstetrics and gynecology, largely dependent thereon, are increasing the naturally large number of women at these later ages—naturally large because women live longer than men. At this stage the whole case is changed. The eugenic criterion no longer applies. But though the woman is past motherhood, she is still a woman, and by no means past foster-motherhood. Though her psychological characters are somewhat modified, it is recorded by my old friend and teacher, Dr. Clouston, that never yet has he found the climacteric to damage a woman's natural love for children: the maternal instinct will not be destroyed. See, then, what a valuable being we have here; none the less so because, as has been said, she now begins to enjoy, in many cases, the best health of her life. Whatever activities she adopts, there is now no question of depriving the race of her qualities: if they are good qualities, it is to be hoped they are already represented in members of the rising generation. The scope of womanhood is now extended. The principles to be laid down later still apply, but they are entirely compatible with, for instance, the discharge of legislative functions. The nation does not yet value its old or elderly women aright. We use as a term of contempt that which should be a term of respect. Savage peoples are wiser. We need the wisdom of our older women. It would be well for us to have Mrs. Fawcett and Mrs. Humphry Ward in Parliament. The distinguished lady who approves of woman's vote in municipal affairs, and fights hard for her son's candidature in Parliament, but objects to woman suffrage on the ground that women should not interfere in politics, could doubtless find a good reason why women should sit in Parliament; and though she would scarcely be heeded on matters of political theory, her splendid championship of Vacation Schools and Play Centres would be more effective than ever in the House, and might instruct some of her male confreres as to what politics really is.
The prefatory point here made is, in a word, that the following doctrines are perhaps less reactionary than the ardent suffragette might suppose, compatible as they are with an earnest belief in the fitness and the urgent desirability of women of later ages even as Members of Parliament. It may be added that, on this very point, there is a ridiculous argument against woman suffrage—that it is the precursor of a demand to enter Parliament, which would mean (it is assumed), women being numerically in the majority, that the House would be filled with girls of twenty-two and three. Men of a sort would be likelier than women, it could be argued, to vote for such girls; but the wise of both sexes might well vote for the elderly women whose existence is somehow forgotten in this connection.
No chapter will be found devoted to the question of the vote. The omission is not due to reasons of space, nor to my ever having heard a good argument against the vote—even the argument that women do not want it. That women did not want the vote would only show—if it were the case—how much they needed it. Nor is the omission due to any lukewarmness in a cause for which I am constantly speaking and writing. My faith in the justice and political expediency of woman suffrage has survived the worst follies, in speech and deed, of its injudicious advocates: I would as soon allow the vagaries of Mrs. Carrie Nation to make me an advocate of free whiskey. Causes must be judged by their merits, not by their worst advocates, or where are the chances of religion or patriotism or decency?
The omission is due to the belief that votes for women or anybody else are far less important than their advocates or their opponents assume. The biologist cannot escape the habit of thinking of political matters in vital terms; and if these lead him to regard such questions as the vote with an interest which is only secondary and conditional, it is by no means certain that the verdict of history would not justify him. The present concentration of feminism in England upon the vote, sometimes involving the refusal of a good end—such as wise legislation—because it was not attained by the means they desire, and arousing all manner of enmity between the sexes, may be an unhappy necessity so long as men refuse to grant what they will assuredly grant before long. But now, and then, the vital matters are the nature of womanhood; the extent of our compliance with Nature's laws in the care of girlhood, whether or not women share in making the transitory laws of man; and the extent to which womanhood discharges its great functions of dedicating and preparing its best for the mothers, and choosing and preparing the best of men for the fathers, of the future. The vote, or any other thing, is good or bad in so far as it serves or hurts these great and everlasting needs. I believe in the vote because I believe it will be eugenic, will reform the conditions of marriage and divorce in the eugenic sense, and will serve the cause of what I have elsewhere called "preventive eugenics," which strives to protect healthy stocks from the "racial poisons," such as venereal disease, alcohol, and, in a relatively infinitesimal degree, lead. These are ends good and necessary in themselves, whether attained by a special dispensation from on high, or by decree of an earthly autocrat or a democracy of either sex or both. For these ends we must work, and for all the means whereby to attain them; but never for the means in despite of the ends.
This first chapter is perhaps unduly long, but it is necessary to state my eugenic faith, since there is neither room nor need for me to reiterate the principles of eugenics in later chapters, and since it was necessary to show that, though this book is written in the interests of individual womanhood, it is consistent with the principles of the divine cause of race-culture, to which, for me, all others are subordinate, and by which, I know, all others will in the last resort be judged.
* * * * *
The whole teaching of this book, from social generalizations to the details of the wise management of girlhood, is based upon a single and simple principle, often referred to and always assumed in former writings from this pen, and in public speaking from many and various platforms. If this principle be invalid, the whole of the practice which is sought to be based upon it falls to the ground; but if it be valid, it is of supreme importance as the sole foundation upon which can be erected any structure of truth regarding woman and womanhood. Our first concern, therefore, must be to state this principle, and the evidence therefor. This will occupy not a small space: and the remainder will be amply filled with the details of its application to woman as girl and mother and grandmother, as wife and widow, as individual and citizen.
Woman is Nature's supreme organ of the future, and it is as such that she will here be regarded. The purpose of adding yet another to the many books on various aspects of womanhood is to propound and, if possible, establish this conception of womanhood, and to find in it a never-failing guide to the right living of the individual life, an infallible criterion of right and wrong in all proposals for the future of womanhood, whether economic, political, educational, whether regarding marriage or divorce, or any other subject that concerns womanhood. A principle for which so much is claimed demands clear definition and inexpugnable foundation in the "solid ground of Nature." Cogent in some measure though the argument would be, we must appeal in the first place neither to the poets, nor to our own naturally implanted preferences in womanhood, nor to any teaching that claims extra-natural authority. Our first question must be—Do Nature and Life, the facts and laws of the continuance and maintenance of living creatures, lend countenance to this idea; can it be translated from general terms, essentially poetic and therefore suspect by many, into precise, hard, scientific language; is it a fact, like the atomic weight of oxygen or the laws of motion, that woman is Nature's supreme instrument of the future? If the answer to these questions be affirmative, the evidence of the poets, of our own preferences, of religions ancient and modern, is of merely secondary concern as corroborative, and as serving curiosity to observe how far the teachings of passionless science have been divined or denied by past ages and by other modes of perception and inquiry. Therefore this is to be in its basis none other than a biological treatise; for the laws of reproduction, the newly gained knowledge regarding the nature of sex, and the facts of physiology, afford the evidence of the essentially biological truth which has been so often expressed by the present writer in the quasi-poetic terms already set forth. Let us, then, first remind ourselves how the individual, whether male or female, is to be looked upon in the light of the work of Weismann in especial, and how this great truth, discovered by modern biology and especially by the students of heredity, affects our understanding of the difference between man and woman. Setting forth these earlier pages in the year of the Darwin centenary, and the jubilee of the "Origin of Species," a writer would have some courage who proposed to discuss man and woman as if they were unique, rather than the highest and latest examples of male and female: their nature to be rightly understood only by due study of their ancestral forms, ancient and modern. The biological problem of sex is our concern, and we may have to traverse many past ages of "aeonian evolution," and even to consider certain quite humble organisms, before we rightly see woman as an evolutionary product of the laws of life.
But, first, as to the individual, of whatever sex. Observing the familiar facts of our own lives and of the higher forms of life, both animal and vegetable, with which we are acquainted, we must naturally at first incline to regard as worse than paradoxical the modern biological concept of the individual as existing for the race, of the body as merely a transient host or trustee of the immortal germ-plasm. Since life has its worth and value only in individuals, and since, therefore, the race exists for the production of individuals, in any sense that we human beings, at any rate, can accept, we must be reasonable in expressing the apparently contrary but not less true view that the individual exists for the race. After all, that does not mean that individuals exist and are worth Nature's while merely in order to see the germ-plasm on its way. To say that the individual exists for the race is to say that he, and, as we shall see, pre-eminently she, exist for future individuals; and that is not a destiny to be despised of any. Let us attempt to state simply but accurately what biologists mean in regarding the individual as primarily the host and servant of something called the germ-plasm.
When the processes of development and of reproduction are closely scrutinized, we find evidence which, together with the conclusions based thereon, was first effectively stated by August Weismann, of Freiburg, in his famous little book, "The Germ-Plasm." The marvellous cells from which new individuals are formed must no longer be regarded, at any rate in the higher animals and plants, as formerly parts of the parent individuals. On the contrary, we have to accept, at least in general and as substantially revealing to us the true nature of the individual, the doctrine of the "continuity of the germ-plasm," which teaches that the race proper is a potentially immortal sequence of living germ-cells, from which at intervals there are developed bodies or individuals, the business and raison d'etre of which, whatever such individuals as ourselves may come to suppose, is primarily to provide a shelter for the germ-plasm, and nourishment and air, until such time as it shall produce another individual for itself, to serve the same function. This is another way of saying what will often be said in the following pages—that the individual is meant by Nature to be a parent.
We shall later see that this great truth by no means involves the condemnation of spinsterhood, but since it determines not only the physiology, but also the psychology, of the individual, and especially of woman, it will guide us to a right appreciation of the dangers and the right direction of spinsterhood, and the means whereby it may be made a blessing to self and to others. This must be said lest the reader should be deterred by the unquestionably true assertion that the individual is meant by Nature to be a parent, and has no excuse for existence in Nature's eyes except as a parent. If we are to regard the body as a trustee of the germ-plasm, it is evident that the body which carries the germ-plasm with itself to the grave—the "immortality of the germ-plasm" being only conditional and at the mercy of the acts of individuals—has stultified Nature's end; and it will be a serious concern of ours in the present work to show how, amongst human beings, at any rate, this stultification may be averted, many childless persons of both sexes having served the race for evermore in the highest degree. We must ask in what directions especially may woman, most profitably for herself or for others, seek to express herself apart from motherhood. It will appear, if our leading principle be valid, that it affords us a sure guide in the welter of controversy and baseless assertion of every kind, in which this vastly important question is at present involved.
This conception of the individual as something meant to be a parent will not be questioned by anyone who will do himself or herself the justice to look at it soberly and reverently, without a trace of that tendency to levity or to something worse which here invariably betrays the vulgar mind, whether in a princess or a prostitute. For it needs little reflection to perceive that the most familiar facts of our experience and observation never fail to confirm the doctrine based by Weismann upon the revelations of the microscope when applied to the developmental processes of certain simple animal and vegetable forms. The doctrine that the individual body was evolved by the forces of life, acted on and directed by natural selection, as guardian and transmitter of the germ-plasm, assumes a less paradoxical character when we perceive with what unfailing art Nature has constructed and devised the body and the mind for their function. We flatter ourselves hugely if we suppose that even our most enjoyable and apparently most personal attributes and appetites were designed by Nature for us. Not at all. It is the race for which she is concerned. It is not the individual as individual, but the individual as potential parent, that is her concern, nor does she hesitate to leave very much to the mercy of time and chance the individual from whom the possibility of parenthood has passed away, or the individual in whom it has never appeared. Our appetites for food and drink, well devised by Nature to be pleasant in their satisfaction—lest otherwise we should fail to satisfy them and a possible parent should be lost to her purposes—are immediately rendered of no account when there stirs within us, whether in its crude or transmuted forms, the appetite for the exercise of which these others, and we ourselves, exist, since in Nature's eyes and scheme we are but vessels of the future. In later chapters we shall have much occasion, because of their great practical importance in the conduct of woman's life from girlhood onwards, to discuss the physiological and psychological facts which demonstrate overwhelmingly the truth of the view that the individual was evolved by Nature for the care of the germ-plasm, or, in other words, was and is constructed primarily and ultimately for parenthood.
Nor is this argument, as I see it and will present it, invalidated in any degree by the case of such individuals as the sterile worker-bee; any more than the argument, rightly considered, is invalidated by any instance of a worthy, valuable, happy life, eminently a success in the highest and in the lower senses, lived amongst mankind by a non-parent of either sex. On the contrary, it is in such cases as that of the worker-bee that we find the warrant—in apparent contradiction—for our notion of the meaning of the individual, and also the key to the problem placed before us amongst ourselves by the case of inevitable spinsterhood. Here, it must be granted, is an individual of a very high and definite and individually complete type, no accident or sport, but, in fact, essential for the type and continuance of the species to which she belongs, and yet, though highly individualized and worthy to represent individuality at its best and highest, the worker-bee, so far from being designed for parenthood, is sterile, and her distinctive characters and utilities are conditional upon her sterility. But when we come to ask what are her distinctive characters and utilities we find that they are all designed for the future of the race. She is, in fact, the ideal foster-mother, made for that service, complete in her incompleteness, satisfied with the vicarious fulfilment of the whole of motherhood except its merely physical part. The doctrine, therefore, that the individual is designed by Nature for parenthood, the individual being primarily devised for the race, finds no exception, but rather a striking and immensely significant illustration in the case of the worker-bee, nor will it find itself in difficulties with the case of any forms of individual, however sterile, that can be quoted from either the animal or the vegetable world. Natural selection, of which the continuance of the race is the first and never neglected concern, invariably sees to it that no individuals are allowed to be produced by any species unless they have survival-value, a phrase which always means, in the upshot, value for the survival of the race—whether as parents, or foster-parents, protectors of the parents, feeders or slaves thereof. Our primary purpose throughout being practical, it is impossible to devote unlimited time and space to proceeding formally through the known forms of life in order to marshal all the proofs or a tithe of them, that all individuals are invented and tolerated by Nature for parenthood or its service.
We shall in due course consider the peculiar significance of this proposition for the case of woman—a significance so radical for our present argument, even to its minutiae of practical living, that it cannot be too early or too thoroughly insisted upon. But before we proceed to the special case of woman it is well that we should clearly perceive as a general guiding truth, which will never fail us, either in interpretation, prediction, or instruction, the unfailing gaze of Nature, as manifested in the world of life, towards the future. There is no truth more significant for our interpretation of the meaning of the Universe, or at least of our planetary life: there is none more relevant to the fate of empires, and therefore to the interests of the enlightened patriot: there is none more worthy to be taken to heart by the individual of either sex and of any age, adolescent or centenarian, as the secret of life's happiness, endurance, and worth. It may be permitted, then, briefly to survey the main truths, and, therefore, the main teachings of the past, as they may be read by those who seek in the facts of life the key to its meaning and its use.
THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME
When we survey the past of the earth as science has revealed it to us, we gain some conceptions which will help us in our judgments as to what this phenomenon of human life may signify in the future. We are accustomed to look upon the earth as aged, but these terms are only relative; and if we compare our own planet with its neighbours in the solar system, we shall have good reason to suppose that, though the past of the earth is very prolonged, its future will probably be far more so. As for life—and we must think not only of human life, but of life as a planetary phenomenon—that is necessarily much more recent than the formation even of the earth's crust, the existence of water in the liquid state being necessary for life in any of its forms. And human life itself, though the extent of its past duration is seen to be greater the more deeply we study the records, is yet a relatively recent thing. The utmost, it appears, that we can assign to our past would be perhaps six million years, taking our species back to mid-Miocene times. Doubtless this is a mighty age as compared with the few thousand years allotted to us in bygone chronologies; but, looked at sub specie aeternitatis, and with an eye which is prepared to look forward also, and especially with relation to what we know and can predict regarding the sun, these past six million years may reasonably be held to comprise only the infantine period of man's life.
It is very true that on such estimates as those of Lord Kelvin, and according to what astronomers and geologists believed not more than twelve or even eight years ago, regarding the secular cooling of earth and sun—that, according to these, the time is by no means "unending long," and we may foresee, not so remotely, the end of the solar heat and light of which we are the beneficiaries. But the discovery of radium and the phenomena of radio-activity have profoundly modified these estimates, justifying, indeed, the acumen of Lord Kelvin, who always left the way open for reconsideration should a new source of heat and energy in general be discovered. We know now that, to consider the earth first, its crust is not self-cooling, or at any rate not self-cooling only, for it is certainly self-heating. There is an almost embarrassing amount of radium in the earth's crust, so far as we have examined it; a quantity, that is to say, so great that if the same proportion were maintained at deeper levels as at those which we can investigate, the earth would have to be far hotter than it is. Similar reasoning applies to the sun. Definite, immediate proof of the presence of radium there is not forthcoming yet, but that presence is far more than probable, especially since the existence of solar uranium, the known ancestor of radium, has been demonstrated. The reckonings of Helmholtz and others, based upon the supposition that the solar energy is entirely derived from its gravitational contraction, must be superseded. It would require but a very small proportion of radium in the solar constitution to account for all the energy which the centre of our system produces; and, as we have already seen, the earth is to no small extent its own sun—its own source of heat. The prospect thus opened out by modern physical inquiry supports more strongly than ever the conviction that the life of this world to come will be very prolonged. It is true that there is always the possibility of accident. Encountering another globe, our sun would doubtless produce so much heat as to incinerate all planetary life. But the excessive remoteness of the sun from the nearest fixed star suggests that the constitution of the stellar universe is such that an accident of this kind is extremely improbable. As for comets, the earth's atmosphere has already encountered a comet, even during the brief period of astronomical observation. This thick overcoat of ours protects us from the danger of such chances.
What, then, is the record? We are told that the belief in progress is a malady of youth, which experience and the riper mind will dissipate. Some such argument from the lips of the disillusioned or the disidealized has been possible, perhaps, with some measure of probability, until within our own times. They must now forever hold their peace. We know as surely as we know the elementary phenomena of physics or chemistry, that the record of life upon our planet, though not only a record of progress by any means, has nevertheless included that to which the name of progress cannot be denied in any possible definition of the word. For myself, I understand by progress the emergence of mind, and its increasing dominance over matter. Such categories are, no doubt, unphilosophical in the ultimate sense, but they are proximately convenient and significant. Now, if progress be thus defined, we can see for ourselves that life has truly advanced, not merely in terms of anatomical or physiological—i. e. mechanical or chemical—complexity, but in terms of mind. The facts of nutrition teach us that the first life upon the earth was vegetable; and though the vegetable world displays great complexity, and that which, on some definitions, would be called progress, yet we cannot say that there is any more mind, any greater differentiation or development of sentience, in the oak than in the alga. When we turn, however, to the animal world—which is parasitic, indeed, upon the vegetable world—we find that in what we may call the main line of ascent there has been, along with increasing anatomical complexity, the far greater emergence of mind. In its earliest manifestations, sentience, consciousness, the psychical in general, and the capacity for it, must be regarded merely as phenomena of the physical organism; the capacity to feel, as no more than a property of the living body; and such mind as there is exists for the body. But, as we may see it, there has been a gradual but infinitely real turning of the tables, so that, even in a dog, as the lover of that dog would grant, the loss of limbs and tail, or, indeed, of any portion of the body not necessary to life, does not mean the loss of the essential dog—not the loss of that which the lover of the dog loves. Already, that which is not to be seen or handled has become the more real. In ourselves, it is a capital truth, which asceticism, old or new, perverted or sane, has always recognized, that the mind is the man, and must be master, and the body the servant. Yet, historically, this creature, who by the self means not the body, but, as he thinks, its inhabitant, is historically and lineally developed—is also, indeed, developed as an individual—from an organism in which anything to be called psychical is but an apparently accidental attribute, to be discerned only on close examination. This emergence of mind is progress; and this, notwithstanding the sneers of those who do not love the word or the light, has occurred. Its history is written indelibly in the rocks. And, as we shall argue, this is the supreme lesson of evolution—that progress is possible, because progress has occurred.
Assuredly we should never use this word "progress" without reminding ourselves of the cardinal distinction that exists between two forms that it may manifest. There is a progress which consists in and depends upon an advance in the constitution of the living individual; and, so far as we are more mental and less physical than the men who have left us such relics as the Neanderthal skull, in so far we exemplify this kind of progress. But, on the other hand, we can claim progress as compared with even the Greeks in some respects, though there is no evidence whatever that, so far as the individual is concerned, there is any natural, inherent, organic progress. But we know more. Our school-boys know more than Aristotle. We stand upon Greek shoulders. This is traditional progress—something outside the germ-plasm; a thing dependent upon our great human faculty of speech.
That, surely, is why the word infantine was rightly used in our first paragraph. For we may ask why, if man be millions of years old, any record of progress should be a matter of only a few thousand years—perhaps not more than fifteen or twenty. The answer, I believe, is that traditional progress depends upon the possibility of tradition. Now speech, apart from writing, involves the possibility of tradition from generation to generation, and I am very sure that "Man before speech" is a myth; the more we learn of the anthropoid apes the surer we may be of that. But, after all, the possibilities of progress dependent upon aural memory are sadly limited; not only because it is easy to forget, but because it is also conspicuously easy to distort, as a familiar round-game testifies. The greatest of all the epochs in human history was that which saw the genesis of written speech. I believe that hundreds of thousands, nay millions, of preceding years were substantially sterile just because the educational acquirements of individuals could be transmitted to their children neither in the germ-plasm (for we know such transmission to be impossible), nor outside the germ-plasm, by means of writing. The invention of written language accounts, then, we may suppose, for the otherwise incomprehensible disparity between the blank record of long ages, and the great achievement of recent history—an achievement none the less striking if we remember that the historical epoch includes a thousand years of darkness. Thus, as was said at the Royal Institution in 1907, when discussing the nature of progress, we may argue in a new sense that the historians have made history: it is the possibility of recording that has given us something to record.
Now, it is in terms of this latter kind of progress that our duty to the past, as we conceive it, may be defined. And in its terms also must we define the grounds of our veneration for the past. None of us invented language, spoken or written; nor yet numbers, nor the wheel, nor much else. We see further than our ancestors because we stand upon their shoulders, and, as Coleridge hinted, this may be so even though we be dwarfs and they were giants. Some of us see this. How can we fail to do so? And the past becomes in our eyes a very real thing, to which we are so greatly indebted that we should even live for it. But there is a great danger, dependent upon a great error, here. Let us consider what is our right attitude towards the past. We are its children and its heirs. We are infinitely indebted to it. We must love and venerate that which was lovable and venerable in it. But are we to live for it?
If we could imagine ourselves coming from afar and contemplating the sequence of universal phenomena now for the first time, we should realize that the past, though real, because it was once real, is yet a fleeting aspect of change, and, in a very real sense also, is not. Nor, indeed, is the future; but it will be. We cannot alter, we cannot benefit, we cannot serve the past, because it is not and will not be. Our besetting tendency as individuals is to live for our own pasts, more especially as we grow old; to become retrospective, to cease to look forward, even to dedicate what remains to us of life to the service of what is not at all. In this respect, as in so many others, we are less wise than children. We will not let the dead bury its dead. This is also the tendency of all institutions. Even if there were founded an Institute of the Future, dedicated to the life of this world to come, after only one generation its administrators would be consulting the interests of the past, turning to the service of the name and the memory of their founder, though it was for the future that he lived. Throughout all our social institutions we can perceive this same worship of what no longer is at the cost of the most real of all real things, which is the life of the generation that is and the generations that are to be.
Everywhere the price for this idolatry is exacted. The perpetual image of it is Lot's wife, who, looking backwards upon that from which she had escaped, was turned into a pillar of salt. Nature may or may not have a purpose, and exhibit designs for that purpose; she may or may not, in philosophical language, be teleological. Man is and must be teleological. We must live for the morrow, for what will be, whether as individuals or as a nation, or our ways are the ways of death. This is looked upon as a human failing—that man never is, but always to be blest; that man is never satisfied, that he will not rest content with present achievement.
Well, it is stated of our first cousin, once removed, the orang-outang, that in the adult state he is aroused only for the snatching of food, and then "relapses into repose." His reach does not exceed his grasp, and one need not preach contentment to him. But we, the latest and highest products of the struggle for existence, we are strugglers by constitution; and when we relapse into repose we degenerate. Only on condition of living for the morrow can we remain human. Put a sound limb on crutches and you paralyze it; wear smoked glasses and your eyes become intolerant of light, or wear glasses that make the muscle of accommodation superfluous and it atrophies; take pepsin and hydrochloric acid and the stomach will become incapable of producing them; cease to chew and your teeth decay; let the newspaper prepare your mental food as the cook cuts up your physical food, and you will become incapable of thought—that is, of mental mastication and digestion. It is above all things imperative to strive, to have a goal, to seek it on our own legs, to cry for the moon rather than for nothing at all. And Nature teaches us unequivocally that our purpose is ever onward—
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until we die.
It is to go, and not to get, that is the glory. To be content is to have no ideal beyond the real; we were better dead and nourishing grass. It is part of the whole structure of life, as we can read it, whether in the animal or in the vegetable world, but pre-eminently in ourselves, that the very body of the individual is constructed as for purpose; nay more, as for the purposes of the future. Every little baby girl that is born into the world bears upon her soft surface signs and portents—not merely promise, but the promise of provision—for the life of the world to come. At her very birth she teaches us that she is not created for self alone, but for what will be. Running through the whole body—and this the more markedly the higher the type of life—we find organs, tissues, functions, co-ordinations existing not for the present, but for the life of the world to come. When, some day, the social organism is as rightly constructed as the body of any woman, or even, in some measure, of any man, when it is similarly dedicated to the real future, and as resolutely turned away from any worship of what no longer is, then heaven will be nearer to earth.
It is quite clear that the supreme choice for any individual or institution or nation is between unborn to-morrow and dead yesterday. No one who concerns himself in the current political controversies, as, for instance, that thing of unspeakable shame which is called the "education question," will doubt that the present and the future are constantly being sacrificed to the past. It may be that the spirit of a trust is being grossly violated; but, rather than infringe the letter of it, the life of to-day and to-morrow must suffer: thus do the worshippers of dead yesterday—the most lethal idol before which fond humanity ever prostrated itself.
If it be our duty to do—not "as though to breathe were life"—and if nature indicates the future as that which we are to serve, what evidence have we, or what likelihood, that such service is worth our while? Of course, such a question as this may be answered in some such terms as those of the further question, What has posterity done for us? And it is interesting, perhaps, to consider that, so far as we can judge the attitude of our ancestors towards ourselves, their chief interest in us seems to have been as to what we should think of them—"What will posterity say?" They left their records, as we leave our records, for posterity to discover. With singular lack of judgment, as I think, we bury examples of our newspapers for posterity to discover: these are amongst the things which I should rather not have posterity discover. But this is no right outlook upon the future. It is not a question of what posterity can do for us. Posterity is here within us. The life of the world to come is in our keeping. We carry it about with us in all our goings and comings. It is at the mercy of what we eat and drink, at the mercy of the diseases we contract. Its fate is involved when we fall in love with each other, or out of love with each other; it is we ourselves. Just as the father who perhaps is losing his own hair may like to see how pleasantly his children's hair is growing, and finds consolation therein; just as, indeed, all the hopes of the parent become gradually transferred from self to that further self, those further selves, which his children are, so we are to look upon the future as our continuing self. To ask, What has posterity done for us? should be looked upon as if one should say, What have my children done for me? The parallel is indeed a very close one: and it is pointed out by the fine sentence from Herbert Spencer, which should be known to all of us—"A transfigured sentiment of parenthood regards with solicitude not child and grandchild only, but the generations to come hereafter—fathers of the future, creating and providing for their remote children."
We may grant that there is no money in posterity. The germ-plasm has infinite possibilities; but, so long as it remains germ-plasm, it can write no cheques in our favour. If you serve the present, the present will pay; posterity does not pay. If you write a "Merry Widow," the present will pay; if you write an "Unfinished Symphony," you will be dust ere it is performed. If you create that which will last forever, but which makes no appeal to the transient tastes of the moment, you may starve and die and rot, because the future, for which you work, cannot reward you. Life is so constructed that only in our own day, and not always now, is the mother—even Nature's own supreme organ of the future—rewarded for her maternal sacrifice. Nature does not trouble about the fate of the present, because she is always pressing on and pressing on towards something more, higher, better. The present, the individual, are but the organs of her purpose. We are to look upon ourselves as ends in ourselves; but we are also means towards ends which we can only dimly conceive, but towards which we may rightly work, and the service of which, though by no means freedom in the ordinary sense, is yet of that higher kind, that perfect freedom, which consists in the development of all the higher attributes of our nature. For it is in our nature to work and to feel and to live for the life that will be. That, as I say, is because living creatures are so constructed.
Huxley said that if the present level of human life were to show no rising in the future, he should welcome the kindly comet that should sweep the whole thing away. None of us is content with things as they are. If we are, better were it for us to be nourishing the grass and serving the things that will be in that way, if we cannot in any other. What promise, then, have we that things as they will be are worth working for? We live now in an age to which there has been revealed the fact of organic evolution. From the fire-mist, from the mud, from the merely brutal, there have been evolved—such is the worth of Nature's womb—there have been evolved intelligence and love, sacrifice, ideals; splendours which no splendour to come can utterly dim. These things are in the power of Nature. This is what "dead matter" can mother. So much the worse for our contemptible conceptions of matter, and That of which matter is the manifestation. But if it be that from the slime, by natural processes, there can grow a St. Francis, surely our dim notions of the potencies of Nature must be exalted. The forces that have erected us from the worm, are they necessarily exhausted or exhaustible? Who will dare to set limits to the promise of Nature's womb? I mean, in a word, that the history of evolution is a warrant for the idea that we ourselves, even erected men and women, are but stages to what may be higher. We look with contempt upon the apes, but time must have been when "simian" would have been as proud an adjective as "human" is to-day: and human may become superhuman.
Many passages might be quoted to show that our expectation of future progress is well based, and I will content myself with a single excerpt from the final page of the masterpiece of which all the civilized world was lately celebrating the jubilee. Says Darwin: "Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of great length. And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection."
The quotation will suffice to remind us that, if we are to serve the life of the world to come in the surest way, we must become Eugenists, accepting and applying to human life Nature's great principle of the selection of worth for parenthood and the rejection of unworth. We must modify and adapt our conceptions of education thereto. We must make parenthood the most responsible thing in life. We must teach the girl—aye, and the boy too—that the body is holy, for it is the temple of life to come. We must perceive in our most imperious instincts Nature's care for the future, and must humanize and sanctify them by conscious recognition of their purpose, and by provident co-operation with Nature towards her supreme end. We could spare from education, perhaps, those fictions concerning the past which are sometimes called history, were they replaced by a knowledge of our own nature and constitution as instruments of the future.
Let us grant even, for the argument, that nothing more is possible than mankind has yet achieved. There remains the hope that that which human nature at its best has been capable of may be realized by human nature at large. In their great moments the great men have seen this. That last sentence is, indeed, a paraphrase from a remark at the end of Herbert Spencer's "Ethics." Ruskin—to choose the polar antithesis of the Spencerian mind—declares that "there are no known limits to the nobleness of person or mind which the human creature may attain if we wisely attend to the laws of its birth and training." Wordsworth asks whether Nature throws any bars across the hope that what one is millions may be. Take it, then, that nothing more is conceivable in the way of mathematics than a Newton, or of drama than an AEschylus or a Shakespeare, or of sacrifice than a Christ. These, then, are types of what will be. They demonstrate what human nature is capable of. What one is, why may not millions be? Here is an ideal to work for. Here is something real to worship, to dedicate a life to. It is not merely that we can make smoother the paths of future generations—which George Meredith declared to be the great purpose and duty of our lives—but that, as Ruskin suggests in the foregoing quotation, we may raise the inherent quality of those future generations, so that they can make their own ways smooth and straight and high. It is our business, I repeat, to conceive of parenthood as the most responsible and sacred thing in life. True, it now follows, according to physiological law, upon the satisfaction of certain tendencies of our nature, which in themselves may be gratified, and even worthily gratified, without reference to anything but the present; yet these tendencies, commonly reviled and regarded with contempt—at least overt contempt—exist, like most of our attributes, for the life of the world to come. And that in which they may result, the bringing of new human life into the world, is the most tremendous, as it is the most mysterious, of our possibilities.
The laws of life are such that at any given moment the entire future is absolutely at the mercy of the present. The laws of life, indeed; one might have said the law of universal causation. But so it is. There is no conceivable limit to our responsibility. We act for the moment, we act for self; but there will be no end to the consequences. When the stuff of which our bodies are made has passed through a thousand cycles, the consequences of our brief moments will still be felt. This dependence of the future upon the present in the world of life is an almost unrealizable thing. Life could not have persisted upon such conditions had not Nature from the first, and increasingly up to our own day (for it is the human infant that is the most helpless, and the longest helpless), had not Nature, I say, persistently constructed the individual, in all his or her attributes, as a being whose warrant and purpose lay yet beyond. We are organs of the race, whether we will or no. We are made for the future, whether we will, whether we care, or no. We are only obeying Nature, and therefore in a position to command her, in dedicating ourselves and our purposes, our customs, our social structures, to the life of the world to come. We shall be there. Our purposes and hopes, the flesh and blood of many of us, will be there. Posterity will be what we make it, as we, alas! are what our ancestors have made us.
To this increasing purpose there will come, I suppose, an end—an inscrutable end. Yearly the evidence makes it more probable that in a sister world we are gazing upon the splendid efforts of purposeful, intelligent, co-ordinated life to battle against planetary conditions which threaten it with death by thirst. How long intelligence has existed upon Mars, if intelligence there be, no one can say; nor yet what its future will be. It would seem probable that our own fate must be similar, but it is far removed. And though the Whole may seem wanton, purposeless, stupid, we are very little folk; we see very dimly; we see only what we have the capacity to see; and there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the philosophy of the wisest of us. So also there are many events in the womb of time which will be delivered. We are the shapers, the creators, the parents of those events. The still, small voice of the unborn declares our responsibility. There may be no reward. What does reward mean? Who rewards the sun, or the rain, or the oak, or the tigress? But there is the doing of one's work in the world, the serving of the highest and most real purpose that may be revealed to us. That is to be oneself, to fulfil one's destiny, to be a part of the universe, and worthy to be such a part. And though it be even unworthy for us to suggest that at least posterity will be grateful to us, such a thought may perhaps console us a little. At any rate, to those who worship and live for the past, we may offer this alternative: let them work for what will be. Perhaps the reward will be as real as any that the worship of what is not can offer. And, reward or no reward, it is something to have an ideal, something to believe that earth may become heavenly, and that, in some real sense which we can dimly perceive, we may be part—must be part, indeed—of that great day which is in our keeping, and which it is our privilege to have some share in shaping. Thus we may repeat, and thrill to repeat, with new meaning, the old but still living words, Expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi saeculi—"I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come."
THE PURPOSE OF WOMANHOOD
In due course we shall have to discuss the little that is yet known and to discuss the much that is asserted by both sides, for this or that end, regarding the differences between men and women. By this we mean, of course, the natural as distinguished from the nurtural differences—to use the antithetic terms so usefully adapted by Sir Francis Galton from Shakespeare. Our task, we shall soon discover, is not an easy one: because it is rarely easy to disentangle the effects of nature from those of nurture, all the phenomena, physical and psychical, of all living creatures being not the sum but the product of these two factors. The sharp allotment of this or that feature to nature or to nurture alone is therefore always wholly wrong: and the nice estimation of the relative importance of the natural as compared with the nurtural factors must necessarily be difficult, especially for the case of mankind, where critical observation, on a large scale, and with due control, of the effects of environment upon natural potentialities is still lacking.
But here, at least, we may unhesitatingly declare and insist upon, and shall hereafter invariably argue from, the one indisputable and all-important distinction between man and woman. We must not commit the error of regarding this distinction as qualitative so much as quantitative: by which is meant that it really is neither more nor less than a difference in the proportions of two kinds of vital expenditure. Nor must we commit the still graver error of asserting, without qualification, that such and such, and that only, is the ideal of womanhood, and that all women who do not conform to this type are morbid, or, at least, abnormal. It takes all sorts to make a world, we must remember. Further, the more we learn, especially thanks to the modern experimental study of heredity, regarding the constitution of the individual of either sex, the more we perceive how immensely complex and how infinitely variable that constitution is. Nay more, the evidence regarding both the higher animals and the higher plants inclines us to the view, not unsupported by the belief of ages, that woman is even more complex in constitution than man, and therefore no less liable to vary within wide limits. On what one may term organic analysis, comparable to the chemist's analysis of a compound, woman may be found to be more complex, composed of even more numerous and more various elementary atoms, so to say, than man.
And if these new observations upon the nature of femaleness were not enough to warn the writer who should rashly propose, after the fashion of the unwise, who on every hand lay down the law on this matter, to state once and for all exactly what, and what only, every woman should be, we find that another long-held belief as to the relative variety of men and women has lately been found baseless. It was long held, and is still generally believed—in consequence of that universal confusion between the effects of nature and of nurture to which we have already referred—that women are less variable than men, that they vary within much narrower limits, and that the bias towards the typical, or mean, or average, is markedly greater in the case of women than of men. A vast amount of idle evidence is quoted in favour of a proposition which seems to have some a priori plausibility. It is said—of course, without any allusion to nurture, education, environment, opportunity—that such extreme variations as we call genius are much commoner amongst men than women: and then that the male sex also furnishes an undue proportion of the insane—as if there were no unequal incidence of alcohol and syphilis, the great factors of insanity, upon the two sexes. Nevertheless, observant members of either sex will either contradict one another on this point according to their particular opportunities, or will, on further inquiry, agree that women vary surely no less generally than men, at any rate within considerable limits, whatever may be the facts of colossal genius. Indeed, we begin to perceive that differences in external appearance, which no one supposes to be less general among women than among men, merely reflect internal differences; and that, as our faces differ, so do ourselves, every individual of either sex being, in fact, not merely a peculiar variety, but the solitary example of that variety—in short, unique. The analysis of the individual now being made by experimental biology lends abundant support to this view of the higher forms of life—the more abundant, the higher the form. So vast, as yet quite incalculably vast, is the number of factors of the individual, and such are the laws of their transmission in the germ-cells, that the mere mathematical chances of a second identical throw, so to speak, resulting in a second individual like any other, are practically infinitely small. The greater physiological complexity of woman, as compared with man, lends especial force to the argument in her case. The remarkable phenomena of "identical twins," who alone of human beings are substantially identical, lend great support to this proposition of the uniqueness of every individual: for we find that this unexampled identity depends upon the fact that the single cell from which every individual is developed, having divided into two, was at that stage actually separated into two independent cells, thus producing two complete individuals of absolutely identical germinal constitution. In no other case can this be asserted; and thus this unique identity confirms the doctrine that otherwise all individuals are indeed unique.
It is necessary to state this point clearly in the forefront of our argument, both lest the reader should suppose that some foolish ideal of feminine uniformity is to be argued for, and also in the interests of the argument as it proceeds, lest we should be ourselves tempted to forget the inevitable necessity—and, as will appear, the eminent desirability—of feminine, no less than of masculine, variety.
Nevertheless, there remains the fact that, in the variety which is normally included within the female sex, there is yet a certain character, or combination of characters, upon which, indeed, distinctive femaleness depends. It may in due course be our business to discuss the subordinate and relatively trivial differences between the sexes, whether native or acquired; but we shall encounter nothing of any moment compared with the distinction now to be insisted upon.
One may well suggest that insistence is necessary, for never, it may be supposed, in the history of civilization was there so widespread or so effective a tendency to declare that, in point of fact, there are no differences between men and women except that, as Plato declared, woman is in all respects simply a weaker and inferior kind of man. Great writer though Plato was, what he did not know of biology was eminently worth knowing, and his teaching regarding womanhood and the conditions of motherhood in the ideal city is more fantastically and ludicrously absurd than anything that can be quoted, I verily believe, from any writer of equal eminence. If, indeed, the teaching of Plato were correct, there would be no purpose in this book. If a girl is practically a boy, we are right in bringing up our girls to be boys. If a woman is only a weaker and inferior kind of man, those women—themselves, as a rule, the nearest approach to any evidence for this view—who deny the weakness and inferiority and insist upon the identity, are justified. Their error and that of their supporters is twofold.
In the first place, they err because, being themselves, as we shall afterwards have reason to see, of an aberrant type, they judge women and womanhood by themselves, and especially by their abnormal psychological tendencies—notably the tendency to look upon motherhood much as the lower type of man looks upon fatherhood. It requires closer and more intimate study of this type than we can spare space for—more, even, than the state of our knowledge yet permits—in order to demonstrate how absurd is the claim of women thus peculiarly constituted to speak for their sex as a whole.
But, secondly, those women and men who assert the doctrine of the identity of the sexes are led to err, not because it can really be hidden from the most casual observer that there is a profound distinction between the sexes, apart from the case of the defeminized woman—but because, by a surprising fallacy, they confuse the doctrine of sex-equality with that of sex-identity; or, rather, they believe that only by demonstrating the doctrine that the sexes are substantially identical, can they make good their plea that the sexes should be regarded as equal. The fallacy is evident, and would not need to detain us but for the fact that, as has been said, the whole tendency of the time is towards accepting it—the recent biological proof of the fundamental and absolute difference between the sexes being unknown as yet to the laity. Yet surely, even were the facts less salient, or even were they other than they are, it is a pitiable failure of logic to suppose, as is daily supposed, that in order to prove woman man's equal one must prove her to be really identical in all essentials, given, of course, equal conditions. Controversialists on both sides, and even some of the first rank, are content to accept this absurd position.
The one party seeks to prove that woman is man's equal because Rosa Bonheur and Lady Butler have painted, Sappho and George Eliot have written, and so forth; in other words, that woman is man's equal because she can do what he can do: any capacities of hers which he does not share being tacitly regarded as beside the point or insubstantial.
The other party has little difficulty in showing that, in point of fact, men do things admittedly worth doing of which women are on the whole incapable; and then triumphantly, but with logic of the order which this party would probably call "feminine," it is assumed that woman is not man's equal because she cannot do the things he does. That she does things vastly better and infinitely more important which he cannot do at all, is not a point to be considered; the baseless basis of the whole silly controversy being the exquisite assumption, to which the women's party have the folly to assent, that only the things which are common in some degree to both sexes shall be taken into account, and those peculiar to one shall be ignored.
It is my most solemn conviction that the cause of woman, which is the cause of man, and the cause of the unborn, is by nothing more gravely and unnecessarily prejudiced and delayed than by this doctrine of sex-identity. It might serve some turn for a time, as many another error has done, were it not so palpably and egregiously false. Advocated as it is mainly by either masculine women or unmanly men, its advocates, though in their own persons offering some sort of evidence for it, are of a kind which is highly repugnant to less abnormal individuals of both sexes. Hosts of women of the highest type, who are doing the silent work of the world, which is nothing less than the creation of the life of the world to come, are not merely dissuaded from any support of the women's cause by the spectacle of these palpably aberrant and unfeminine women, but are further dissuaded by the profound conviction arising out of their woman's nature, that the doctrine of sex-identity is absurd. Many of them would rather accept their existing status of social inferiority, with its thousand disabilities and injustices, than have anything to do with women who preach "Rouse yourselves, women, and be men!" and who themselves illustrate only too fearsomely the consequences of this doctrine.
Certainly not less disastrous, as a consequence of this most unfortunate error of fact and of logic, is the alienation from the woman's cause of not a few men whose support is exceptionally worth having. There are men who desire nothing in the world so much as the exaltation of womanhood, and who would devote their lives to this cause, but would vastly rather have things as they are than aid the movement of "Woman in Transition"—if it be transition from womanhood to something which is certainly not womanhood and at best a very poor parody of manhood except in cases almost infinitely rare. I have in my mind a case of a well-known writer, a man of the highest type in every respect, well worth enlisting in the army that fights for womanhood to-day, whose organic repugnance to the defeminized woman is so intense, and whose perception of the distinctive characters of real womanhood and of their supreme excellence is so acute that, so far from aiding the cause of, for instance, woman's suffrage, he is one of its most bitter and unremitting enemies. There must be many such—to whom the doctrine of sex-identity, involving the repudiation of the excellences, distinctive and precious, of women, is an offence which they can never forgive.
One may be permitted a little longer to delay the discussion of the distinctive purpose and character of womanhood, because the foregoing has already stated in outline the teaching which biology and physiology so abundantly warrant. For here we must briefly refer to the work of a very remarkable woman, scarcely known at all to the reading public, either in Great Britain or in America, and never alluded to by the feminist leaders in those countries, though her works are very widely known on the Continent of Europe, and, with the whole weight of biological fact behind them, are bound to become more widely known and more effective as the years go on. I refer to the Swedish writer, Ellen Key, one of whose works, though by no means her best, has at last been translated into English. All her books are translated into German from the Swedish, and are very widely read and deeply influential in determining the course of the woman's movement in Germany. At this early stage in our argument I earnestly commend the reader of any age or sex to study Ellen Key's "Century of the Child." It is necessary and right to draw particular attention to the teaching of this woman since it is urgently needed in Anglo-Saxon countries at this very time, and almost wholly unknown, but for this minor work of hers and an occasional allusion—as in an article contributed by Dr. Havelock Ellis to the Fortnightly Review some few years ago. Especial importance attaches to such teaching as hers when it proceeds from a woman whose fidelity to the highest interests, even to the unchallenged autonomy, of her sex cannot be questioned, attested as it is by a lifetime of splendid work. The present controversy in Great Britain would be profoundly modified in its course and in its character if either party were aware of Ellen Key's work. The most questionable doctrines of the English feminists would be already abandoned by themselves if either the wisest among them, or their opponents, were able to cite the evidence of this great Swedish feminist, who is certainly at this moment the most powerful and the wisest living protagonist of her sex. From a single chapter of the book, to which it may be hoped that the reader will refer, there may be quoted a few sentences which will suffice to indicate the reasons why Ellen Key dissociated herself some ten years ago from the general feminist movement, and will also serve as an introduction from the practical and instinctive point of view to the scientific argument regarding the nature and purpose of womanhood, which must next concern us. Hear Ellen Key:—