You are on page 1of 5

University of Northern Iowa

Progress of the American Woman


Author(s): Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Source: The North American Review, Vol. 171, No. 529 (Dec., 1900), pp. 904-907
Published by: University of Northern Iowa
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25105100
Accessed: 11-08-2014 00:18 UTC

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content
in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship.
For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

University of Northern Iowa is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The North American
Review.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 128.172.35.9 on Mon, 11 Aug 2014 00:18:00 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROGRESS
OF THEAMERICAN
WOMAN.
BY

ELIZABETH

OADY

STANTON.

An

entitled "Betro
article, by Flora McDonald
Thompson,
was
in the
of
the
American
which
gression
Woman,"
published
November number of the Eeview,
contains many startling asser
The
tions, which, if true, would be the despair of philosophers.
title itself contradicts the facts of the last half century.
When machinery
entered the home, to relieve woman's hands
of the multiplicity
of her labors, a new walk in life became in
evitable for her. When our grandmothers made butter and cheese,
spun
dipped candles, dried and preserved fruits and vegetables,
yarn, knit stockings, wove the family clothing, did all the mend
the laundry work, cooking, patchwork and quilt
ing of garments,
ing, planting and weeding of gardens, and all the house-cleaning,
But when, in course of time, all this
they were fully occupied.
was done by machinery,
their hands were empty, and they were
If every woman had
driven outside the home for occupation.
been sure of a strong right arm on which to lean until safe "on
the other

side of Jordan," she might have rested, content to do


but
bask in the smiles of her husband, and recite Mother
nothing
to her children.
Goose melodies
On that theory of woman's position, men gradually
took pos
now
are
on ocean
session of all her employments.
the
cooks
They
on
in
in
all
and
homes
fashionable
steamers,
railroads,
hotels,
places of resort; they are at the head of laundries, bakeries and
mercantile
where tailor-made
suits and hats are
establishments,
women
for women.
manufactured
have
been compelled to
Thus,
enter the factories, trades and professions,
to provide their own
for the
food and shelter;
and, to prepare themselves
clothes,
of life, they have made their way into the schools
emergencies
and colleges, the hospitals,
editorial chairs, and
courts, pulpits,

This content downloaded from 128.172.35.9 on Mon, 11 Aug 2014 00:18:00 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

PROGRESS

OF THE AMERICAN

WOMAN.

905

the whole field of literature,


art,
they are at work throughout
We should hardly say that the condi
science and government.
in teaching
tion of an intelligent human being was retrogressive,
others
in instructing
mathematics
instead of making marmalade;
in philosophy,
instead of making pumpkin pie; in studying art,
instead of drying apples. When hundreds of girls are graduating
from our colleges with high honors every year, when they are in
terested in all the reforms of. their day and generation,
superin
schools, laboring to secure more merciful
tending kindergarten
for criminals in all our jails and prisons, better sani
the
for our homes, streets and public buildings,
conditions
tary
the settlement of all
abolition of the gallows and whipping-post,
instead of war, we must admit
national
disputes by arbitration
that woman's moral influence is greater than it has ever been be
Her
fore at any time in the course of human development.
treatment

side by side with man, is greatly to the


power, in working
as
of
the
co-education of the sexes has abundant
both,
advantage
sexes
reach a perfect equilibrium we shall
ly proved. When the
have higher conditions in the state, the church, and the home.
Matthew
Arnold
says: "The first desire of every cultivated
That
mind
is to take part in the great work of government."

moral

evidence of her
demand is a crowning
and
the masculine
For a true civilization,
higher development.
feminine elements in humanity must be in exact equilibrium,
just
as the centripetal and centrifugal forces are in the material world.

woman

now makes

this

If it were possible to suspend either of these great forces for five


what we have in
chaos,?just
minutes, we should have material
the moral world to-day, because of the undue depression of the
feminine

element.

Tennyson,
between man

Two
Two
Two
Of

with prophetic vision, forecasts the true relations


and woman in all the walks of life. He says:
"Everywhere
the hearth,
two beside
in council,
business
of the world.
tangled
the
for one to sound
dropped
plummets

heads
in the
science

and

the

secrets

of

abyss

the mind."

The first step to be taken in the effort to elevate home life is


to make provision for the broadest possible education of woman.
the increasing number of divorces to
attributes
Mrs. Thompson
of
the moral degeneracy
woman; whereas it is the result of higher

This content downloaded from 128.172.35.9 on Mon, 11 Aug 2014 00:18:00 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

THE NORTH

906

AMERICAN

REVIEW.

as to the mother's
to the race.
perceptions
responsibilities
Woman has not heard in vain the warning voice of the prophets,
"The sins of the fathers
ringing down through the centuries:
shall be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth gen
moral

erations."

The

more

woman

appreciates

the

influences

in

prena

tal life, her power in moulding


the race, and the necessity for a
the more divorces we shall have, until
pure, exalted fatherhood,
When
girls enter this relation with greater care and wisdom.
bill passed the French Chamber of Deputies,
thousand divorces asked for the first year, and
most of the applicants were women.
of divorces in
The majority
this country are also applied for by women.
With higher intelli
gence woman has learned the causes that produce idiots, lunatics,
of all kinds and degrees, and she is no
criminals,
degenerates
a
to the perpetuation
of disgrace
and
longer
willing
partner
divorce
Naquet's
there were three

misery.

The writer of the article on the "Betrogression


of the Ameri
can Woman" makes
one very puzzling
assertion, that the pres
ent superiority of the sex immortalizes woman, but demoralizes
man.
Does she mean that a liberal education can only be acquired
at the expense of one's morals ? "The American woman to-day,"
says the writer, "appears to be the fatal symptom of a mortally
sick nation."
view to take of our Ee
This is a very pessimistic
public, with its government,
religion, and social life, and its people
in the full enjoyment of a degree of liberty never known in any
nation before!
In spite of this alleged wholesale demoralization
of man, we have great statesmen, bishops, judges, philosophers,
scientists,

artists,

authors,

orators

and

inventors,

who

surprise

us

with new discoveries day by day, giving the mothers of the Repub
lic abundant reason to be proud of their sons.
seem to be synony
Virtue
and subjection, with this writer,
mous terms. Did our grandmother
at the spinning wheel occupy
a higher position in the scale of being than Maria Mitchell,
Pro
at Vassar College?
fessor of Astronomy
Did the farmer's wife
at the washtub do a greater work for our country than the Widow
who

invented

the cotton-gin?
Could Margaret
Fuller,
E.
Frances
Stowe,
Willard,
Mary Lyon, Clara
have done a better work churning butter or weeding their
onion beds on their respective farms than the grand work they
did in literature, education and reform ? Could Fannie Kemble,
Ellen Tree, Charlotte Cushman or Ellen Terry (if we may men

Green,
Harriet
Barton

Beecher

This content downloaded from 128.172.35.9 on Mon, 11 Aug 2014 00:18:00 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

OF THE AMERICAN

PROGRESS
as well

WOMAN.

907

as American

have contributed
tion English
women)
more to the pleasure of their day and generation had they spent
their lives at the spinning-wheel
? No!
Progress is the law, and
the higher development
of woman is one of the important steps
that have been achieved.
There are great moral laws as fixed and universal as the laws
of the material world, and there is a moral as well as material
the nations
going on all along the line, bringing
development
of the earth to a higher point of civilization.
True, as the na
tions rise and fall, their great works seem scattered to the winds.
For example, Greek art, it is said, has never been equalled, but we
would not change our ideas of human liberty, our comforts and
in life, our wonderful
inventions and scientific dis
our
the
modes
of travel by sea,
coveries,
telegraph,
telephone,
land and in the air, the general education and demand for better
conditions and higher wages by the laboring masses, the abolition
of slavery, rapid improvement
in woman's condition, the emanci
of
from
of the
the religious
large classes
pation
superstitions
of beauty at the very
past, for all the wonderful
productions
In place of witchcraft,
highest period of Greek art.
astrology
conveniences

and

we

fortune-telling,

now

have

astronomy

phrenology,

and

instead of famine,
physiology;
leprosy and plague, we owe to
medical
of sanitary
science a knowledge
laws; instead of an
angry God, punishing us for our sins, we know that the evils that
surround us are the result of our own ignorance of Nature's
laws.
He who denies that progress is the law, in both the moral and
material world, must be blind to the facts of history, and to what
is passing before his eyes in his own day and generation.
status of woman depends op her personal
The moral
inde
and capacity for self-support.
"Give a man a right
pendence
over my subsistence,"
Alexander
"and he holds a
says
Hamilton,
power

over

my

whole

moral

being."

be impressed into the service of the


even
as saying that the
writer,
quoted,
inferentially,
woman
moral status of the American
in 1848, owing to certain
causes at work, was higher than it would be in 1900.
is
Progress
the law, and woman, the greatest factor in civilization, must lead
the van. Whatever
degrades man of necessity degrades woman;
De

whatever

Tocqueville
nor fairly

elevates

cannot

woman

of necessity

elevates

Elizabeth

man.

Cady

Stanton.

This content downloaded from 128.172.35.9 on Mon, 11 Aug 2014 00:18:00 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions