The Woman Movement
by Lucinda B.
The woman movement is a world-wide fact. An agitation which has
gathered impetus and strength during more than forty years is a
significant phenomenon in the realm of mind and of social progress.
Since, in 1848, the rebellion of Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady
Stanton, at the humiliating position accorded them as delegates to an
international convention in London, England, led them to inaugurate
the “woman’s rights” movement in this country, at Seneca Falls, New
York, the growth of this “mustard seed” of truth has become a “great
tree” whose branches overshadow continents, and the thought and active
moral forces of nations “dwell in the branches thereof.”
If not from “Greenland’s icy mountains,” at least from the boundaries
of the United States and British America to “India’s coral strand,”
the onsweeping wave of woman’s elevation is steadily advancing.
Ramabai in India seeking the deliverance of the child widow, who has
no earthly existence, nor any hope of one beyond mortal life except as
a wife, and who, as a widow, is but an outcast, this woman missionary
from the opposite side of the globe has clasped hands and is in
heart-fellowship with her American sisters who are still seeking the
enlargement of woman’s freedom and opportunities in this favored
It was a logical position that besieged the ballot as the first agency
of deliverance in our land. The suffrage is, under our form of
government and constitutional rights, the badge of equality.
Everywhere, in Church and State, woman was discriminated against, and
the distinguishing disability imposed upon her by law and custom was
her suppressed opinion and will in the administration of affairs.
In the church she might contribute her labor, carry forward
enterprises to pay the minister’s salary, furnish the edifice, support
social movements that would tend to increase membership, and sustain
the religious services; but, were she a machine, minus brains, choice,
or will, she could be no more completely a nonentity when the pastor
was to be chosen, the amount of his salary fixed, or any matters of
finance or administration decided upon.
The acceptance of her work for its support was the only recognition of
her individuality, or her common share in the institution. She was
cudgelled with Paul in the Church and with her inability to fight by
Muscular force having been, and still widely held to be, the bulwark
of civilization, and submission to the authority of man socially and
ecclesiastically the measure of her religious excellence, at least of
the excellence of the wifely portion of womanhood, woman has been a
cipher at the left-hand side of the unit man in both civil and
But the evolution of brains, which is nature’s method of human
development, has unsettled this standard of civilization and the
relation of the sexes. The woman who thinks has come, and the struggle
is no longer one of muscle, nor can it ever again become so.
The woman of the future can no more be remanded to the merely patient
plodder in kitchen and nursery, with no horizon but the cook-stove and
cradle illuminated by the weekly church service, than the lightning
printing-press of to-day can be remanded to the clumsy instrument of a
century ago, or the electric light to the tallow dip.
If the demand of woman for equal opportunity to win all the prizes of
life, and to control her special function, involving the most serious
and sacred responsibilities to the race, and the necessity of her own
growth and advancement,—if this new demand is one that is not worthy
the consent and co-operation of men and institutions, the mistake was
fatal which permitted her to learn the alphabet.
This mistake, if mistake it was, has extended its mighty influence in
widening circles through the past three centuries. Francois Saintonge,
a young widow of France, toward the close of the sixteenth century,
obtained the consent of her father to teach some girls to read if she
would give her lessons at five o’clock in the morning. Without bed,
bread, or fire, she and her five pupils stayed the first night in the
house for which the only fifty pounds she possessed were paid.
Simultaneously a young girl in Italy made an effort to set in motion
the brain cells of the girls of her country by giving them a chance to
learn the alphabet.
The heroic courage of women in striving to attain the weapons of
intelligence affords evidence of the invincible proceeding of
evolution inherent in the constitution of humanity.
The woman movement is demonstration of the power of thought beyond the
power of muscle; it is evidence that the intangible forces of mind are
superior to the external material powers of muscle, and sword, and
bullet. It is reassuring to forecast that, spite of the present
inefficacy, or but very limited success of woman’s protest against
barbarous laws and usages, and the destructive errors and vices of the
degree of civilization we have reached, the protest is a prophecy that
the moral elevation of the race is to be the result of woman’s
increased intelligence and equipment, and of her ascent to the full
proportions of womanhood.
As a builder of material structures and enterprises, man is a superb
success. The bridge, the triumphs of architecture, the steam engine,
the almost intelligent machine are marvellous manifestations of
inventive genius, and of the uses of muscle.
But the statistics of social progress in morals do not bear testimony
to masculine superiority as builder of the higher humanity. A man has
elaborated “The New Education,” but he allowed, without stint, that
the moral elevation aimed at cannot be achieved except by the equal
opportunity and co-operation of woman.
In the administration of affairs and the institution of government man
is not a success. His first resort and last reliance is upon force.
Harmony, and justice, and fraternity, and purity, and honesty cannot
be brought into human society by fighting, nor evolved by the methods
of force. Neither the ballot nor the bullet, the legislature nor the
policeman, can make people honest or morally upright and sound.
The promotion of individual integrity, honesty, benevolence, and
purity are the great requirements of humanity and of civilization.
The infusion of the gentler, more persuasive influences and methods of
feminine nature, and the higher quality and freedom of motherhood, are
the only possible means of advancing the race to the altitude which
the best specimens prefigure as the possibility of all.
The laws of Christendom and the usages of all civilizations are based
upon the idea of the superiority and supremacy of masculine quality
and of force. Upon the supposition that the husband is the bread
winner and provider, he is virtually in law and actually in fact as
effectually the owner of his wife and children as though he had bought
them for a sum, as is still the custom among some primitive peoples on
In the Orient the idea that woman possesses a soul is rejected with
contempt. But in the more spiritualized Occident where she is
considered to be the possessor of a soul, she is by law, and
oftentimes by usage, not allowed to be possessor of her body.
Christianity in its inception and in its primitive purity accomplished
for woman the dignity of being possessor of a soul. She is still, even
in the most degenerate churchianity, counted responsible as a soul,
and accorded equal hope of redemption and of future equal standing in
another stage of existence.
But this fact, too, has bred in woman rebellion against the estimate
of her inferiority still held in the Church by many of the priestly
order, and actualized in the majority of Protestant denominations, and
universally in the Roman Catholic Church, by her exclusion from equal
powers and opportunities in its administration and equal positions of
honor and influence.
Having learned the alphabet woman has also learned to interpret
Scripture, and having read the New Testament, she knows that her
adorable Saviour left no theological system, creed, nor sanction of
the supremacy and dominion of male over female.
The woman movement is setting the perception of mind feminine over
against the conceptions and speculations, the theological systems and
interpretations, of the mind masculine, in the realm of the religious
quality of human nature.
It is on this ground that a higher standpoint for human progress is to
be achieved. Woman is becoming the possessor of her brains and of an
equipment that will facilitate her use of them. When through
generations of experience she has fully learned her true position in
the order of the universe and of human unfoldment, a new created world
of humanity will blossom on this old earth.
Man is normally the builder in the material realm. It is his to press
the more tangible elements and forces into the service of man’s
material and intellectual needs, and to master and subdue the earth.
It is woman’s to become builder in the spiritual realm of the higher
nature. It is woman’s first’ to give bias to the brain cells and soul
impulses of ante-natal and post-natal infantile life. It is woman’s,
the normal mother and teacher, to look, and feel, and speak into
impressible child life, the fine ennobling sentiments, the solid
truths of social relations, the sterling principles of rightness, and
honor, and honesty, and fraternal love.
This trained experience and exercise of motherhood is a precious
wealth that the race needs to carry it on and up toward its
All that was pronounced “good,” in man, in “the beginning” is innate
in human nature. Social life and social relations are the life school
in which this “good”-ness can be educed, strengthened, matured, in the
Woman is not only the creative agency for building bodies, but the
perfecting agency to build character, and to gestate and bring to
birth the higher nature in humanity. Woman is man’s mother spiritually
as well as physically. He is to be born into his spiritual life
through the divine feminine, as he has been born into the physical
life through the natural (or physical) feminine.
It is to this end that evolution is in every direction placing woman
to-day in the foreground and quickening her to make new demands upon
the resources of intelligence and moral power.
Having furnished to the child the “three R’s,” manual training,
industrial habits, and quickening the higher sentiments with a solid
foundation of principles of right conduct and pure habits, are more
important to the advancement of the human race than literary
researches, languages, or higher mathematics. To know the
physiological and psychological processes of embryotic growth, and the
possible influences of motherhood over the coming child, and how to
neutralize poor heredity, would achieve more for race elevation than
the combined wisdom of schools and pulpits minus these.
There would be no need of laws for the suppression of vicious
literature, were all mothers faithful and capable of pre-empting the
plastic mind and imagination of childhood by intelligent explanations
and true statements concerning the origin of life, and the vital
purities and sanctities that can save every child from demoralization
and debauchery. The boy who has been blest with a wise conscientious
motherhood is not the boy to dwell in secret on lascivious thoughts
and vile communications, nor will he be led away by vicious
The true place of woman in the order of all things, is a link between
the material and spiritual, especially in her creative function.
Woman is more intuitive. She sees, seizes upon, grasps, where man
toils to question, investigate, prove, demonstrate. She is touched by
the secret springs of life, and vibrates in response, like the Æolian
“When men are as good as their obituaries, and when women are as good
as men think they are, the recording angel in heaven can take his long
The woman movement indicates that women ought to have an opportunity
to become “as good as men think they are.” It is impossible that men
shall hold a higher ideal of woman than it is possible for woman to
become. But first she must be free. Free to think, act, live, study,
experiment, exercise judgment, assume and be held to responsibilities.
She does not need man’s protection except that he shall protect her
from himself, i. e., protect her from the invasion and intrusion of his
wishes, opinion, and will, his dictation and demand.
Equality before the law is a right principle and therefore should
obtain, especially under our Constitution. But what woman needs is
personal freedom to be the most womanly woman.
Under legal disability, marital subjection, and ecclesiastically
assigned inferiority, woman has been bred to servility in mind and
morals. She does not need training in the tricks of caucus and
wire-pulling politics, but she does need freedom and choice of action
that will give her the powers of her own mind and nature in full
possession, as a woman.
She does not need that men shall instruct her what a woman ought to
be, but she needs to be let alone to find out for herself this
precious and important knowledge.
It is not an incident or an accident that the agitation of woman’s
advancement and the agitation of industrial reform are simultaneous
movements. The priority of woman’s demand for equal rights before the
law in this country, has placed woman in literature, on the platform,
in the press, and even in the political field of action, in the
position of co-worker with man to achieve the highest outcome and
greatest blessing of civilization, the right of every person to an
opportunity to achieve subsistence, and the right of every worker to
the full reward of his labor.
Already in Kaweah Colony in California, woman is an equal participator
in the administration of affairs. She has equal opportunity to achieve
subsistence and equal pay for her labor.
The star of equity, justice, and fraternity, is shining in the west.
When the fraternal order of society is established, woman as mother
will be, in her training and her conception of her high office, and in
the position and advantage provided for her, exalted as the artist of
She will be so furnished mentally, and so provided for materially,
that she can furnish to her babes what no textbooks, or Scripture, or
statutes can convey to them. The mother who can recite to her children
the songs of the American poets, the character of Dickens, and Eliot,
and Scott, who can portray the noble characters of Lincoln and
Lucretia Mott, who is able to devote the time required to entertain
her children, will become the most effective moral educator.
The woman of the good time coming will not hold lightly the moral
education of labor, for she will learn that many solid virtues are
carved into the beautiful character by the blessed exercise that
manual industry and regular duties alone can furnish.
But she will have leisure also to cultivate the finer sentiments, and
paint for the admiration of her babes the grand ideals of noble
manhood and womanhood.
Two problems belong to the woman question in the not remote future.
First, the industrial and financial independence of woman.
She must have this to acquire the dignity and moral strength of
self-support, and that wifehood and motherhood shall be assumed by her
solely according to the dictates of her heart, and the sanction of her
best judgment. Second, the financial independence of motherhood,
without a bread-winning occupation, that her time, energies, and
talents may be devoted to the careful training and moral and religious
education of her children.
The opportunities for single women to achieve subsistence in the realm
of intellectual and sedentary occupations especially, are increasing.
But co-operative housekeeping of some kind is the only hope for
mothers to be saved from overwork and worry, and to have leisure for
the proper training and entertaining of their children.
The provision in Kaweah Colony for the maintenance and education of
orphan children, or of children whose parents are disabled by sickness
or calamity, is another feature that is commendable in its wisdom and
The paternal and maternal community of voluntary co-operators is the
brightest dream of human association we can imagine.
If woman is to become the wise, sensible, self-helpful, cultured
mother, with proper opportunity to exercise maternal function for the
highest good of the future child, and without being herself dragged
into a spiritless machine, we must have her fortified, not only by a
“higher education,” but a better home environment.
The woman question involves and forecasts a higher social order,
industrial evolution, economic adjustment, moral advancement, and the
adoption of the “New Education,” which will develop and cultivate in
harmony all the powers and talents belonging to the threefold nature