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In all ages and in all countries





Professor of Classical Philology in the George Washington University




Entered at Stationers' Hall, London

^General Introduction



The history of woman is the history of the world. Strait
orthodoxy may remind us that man preceded woman in the
scheme of creation and that therefore history does not begin
with woman; but this is a specious plea. The first historical
information that we gain regarding Adam is concerned with
the creation of woman, and there is nothing to show us that
prior to that time Adam was more active in mind or even in
body than a mollusc. It was not until the coming of woman
that history began to exist; and if the first recorded act of
the woman was disastrous in its consequences, at least it
possesses the distinction of making history. So that it may
well be said that all that we are we owe to woman. Whether
or not the story of the Garden of Eden is to be implicitly ac-
cepted, there can be no doubt that from the moment of the
first appearance of mankind on the scene woman has been
the ruling cause of all effect.

The record of woman is one of extremes. There is an
average woman, but she has not been found except in
theory. The typical woman, as she is seen in the pages of
history, is either very good or very bad. We find women
saints and we find women demons; but we rarely find a.
mean. Herein is a cardinal distinction between the sexes.
The man of history is rarely altogether good or evil; he has a
distinct middle ground, in which we are most apt to find him



in his truest aspect. There are exceptions, and many; but
this may be taken as a rule. Even in the instances of the
best and noblest men of whom we have record this rule will
hold. Saint Peter was bold and cautious, brave and cow-
ardly, loving and a traitor; Saint Paul was boastful and
meek, tender and severe; Saint John cognised beyond all
others the power of love, and wished to call down fire from
heaven upon a village which refused to hear the Gospel; and
it is most probable that the true Peter and Paul and John lived
between these extremes. Not so with the women of the same
story. They were throughout consistent with themselves; they
were utterly pure and holy, as Mary Magdalene, to whose
character great wrong has been done in the past by careless
commentary, or utterly vile, as Herodias. Extremism is
a chief feminine characteristic. Extremist though she be,
woman is always consistent in her extremes; hence her
power for good and for evil.

It is a mistaken idea which places the "emancipation " of
woman at a late date in the -world's history. From time
immemorial, woman has been actively engaged in guiding the
destinies of mankind. It is true that the advent of Chris-
tianity undoubtedly broadened the sphere of woman and that
she was then given her true place as the companion and helper
rather than the toy of man; but long before this period woman
had asserted her right to be heard in the councils of the wise,
and the right seems to have been conceded in the cases where
the demand was made. Those who look upon the present
as the emancipation period in the history of woman have
surely forgotten Deborah, whose chant of triumph was sung
in the congregation of the people and was considered worthy
of preservation for all future ages to read; Semiramis, who
led her armies to battle when the Great King, Ninus, had let
fall the sceptre from his weary hand, and who ruled her people
with wisdom and justice; and others whose fame, even if


legendary in its details, has come down to us. Through all the
ages there was opportunity for woman, when she chose to seiqe
it; and in many cases it was thus seized. Rarely indeed do
we find the history of any age unconcerned with its women.
Though their part may at times seem but minor, yet do they
stand out to the observant eye as the prime causes of many
of the great events which make or mark epochs. When we
think of the Trojan War, it is Agamemnon and Priam,
Achilles and Hector, who rise up before our mental -vision
as the protagonists in that great struggle; but if there had
been no Helen, there would have been no war, and therefore
no Iliad or Odyssey. We read Macaulay's stirring ballad
of Horatius at the Bridge, and we thrill at the recital of
strength and daring; but if it had not been for the virtue
of Lucretia, there would have been no combat for the bridge,
and the Tarquins might have ended their days in peace in the
Eternal City. And, in later times, though Mirabeau and
Robespierre and Danton and Marat fill the eye of the student
of the cataclysmic events of the French Revolution, it was the
folly of Marie Antoinette that gave these men their oppor-
tunity and even paved the way for the rise and meteoric
career of a greater than them all.

These are instances of mediate influence upon great events;
but there have been many women who have exerted immediate
influence upon the story of mankind. That which is usually
mistermed weakness is generally held to be a feminine attri-
bute; and if we replace the term by the truer word, gentle-
ness, the statement may be conceded. But there have been
many women who have been strong in the general sense; and
these have usually been terribly strong. Look at Catherine
of Russia, vicious to the core, but powerful in intellect and
will above the standard of masculine rulers. Look at Eli^a-
beth of England, crafty and false, full of a ridiculous vanity,
yet strong with a strength before which even such men as


Burleigh and Essex and Leicester were compelled to bow.
Look at Margaret of Lancaster, fighting in her husband's
stead for the crown of England and by her undaunted spirit
plucking victory again and again from the jaws of defeat,
and yielding at last only when deserted by every adherent.
Look at Clytemnestra and Lady Macbeth, creatures of the
poet's fancy if you will, yet true types of a class of femi-
ninity. They have had prototypes and antitypes, and many.

Women have achieved their most decisive and remark-
able effects upon the history of mankind by reaching and
clinging to extremes. Extremism is always a mark of en-
thusiasm, and enthusiasm accomplishes effects which must
have been left forever unattained by mere regulated and con-
scientious effort. The stories of the Christian martyrs show
in golden letters the devotion of women to a cause; and I
have no doubt whatever that it was in the deaths of young
maidens, in their hideous sufferings borne with resignation
and even joy, that there came the conviction of truth which
is known as the seed which was sown in the blood of the
martyrs. The high enthusiasm which supported a Catherine
and a Cecilia in their hours of trial was strong to persuade,
where the death of a man for his convictions would have
been looked upon as a matter of course. It is from this
enthusiasm and extremism that there sounds one of the key-
notes of woman's nature her loyalty. Loyalty is one of
the blending traits of the sexes; yet, if I were compelled
to attribute it distinctively to one sex, I should class it as
feminine in its nature.

Loyalty to one idea, to one ideal, has been a predominant
characteristic of woman from time immemorial. Sometimes
this loyalty takes the form of patriotism, sometimes of altru-
ism, sometimes of piety in true sense; but always it has its
origin and life in love. The love may be diffused or concen-
trated, general or particular, but it is always the soul of the


true woman, and without it she cannot live. Love for her
God, love for her race, love for her country, love for the man
whom she delights to honor these may exist separately or
as one, but exist for her they must, or her life is barren
and her soul but a dead thing. Love, in the true sense of
the word, is the essence of the woman-soul; it is the soul
itself. She must love, or she is dead, however she may seem
to live. That she does not always ask whether the object
of her love, be it abstract or concrete, be worthy of her devo-
tion is not to be attributed to her as a fault, but rather as a
virtue, since the love itself expands and vivifies her soul if
itself be worthy. It is at once the expression and the ex-
penditure of the unsounded depths of her soul; it is through
its power over her that she recognises her own nature, that
she knows herself for what she is. The woman who has not
loved, even in the ordinary human and limited meaning of
the word, has no conception of her own soul.

Thus far I have spoken of love in its broad sense, as the
highest impulse of the human soul. But there is another and
a lower aspect of love, and this is the one most usually meant
when we use the word, the attraction of sex. Even thus,
though in this aspect love becomes a far lesser thing, it pos-
sesses no less power. The passion of man for woman has
been the underlying cause of all history in its phenomenal
aspects. The favorite example of this power has always been
that of Cleopatra and Mark Antony; but history is full of
equally convincing instances.

To love and to be loved; such is the ultimate lot of woman.
It matters not what accessories of existence fate may have to
offer; this is the supreme meaning of life to woman, and it
is here that she finds her true value in the world. She may
read that meaning in divers manners; she may make of her
place in life a curse or a blessing to mankind. It matters
not; all returns to the same cause, the same source of power.


The strongest woman is weak if she be not loved, for she lacks
her chief weapon with which to conquer; the weakest is strong
if she truly have won love, for through this she can work
miracles. Her strength is more than doubled; heart and
brain and hand are in equal measure, for that with which
the heart inspires the brain will be transmitted by the latter
to the hand, and the message will be too imperative to find

It is a strange thing though not inexplicable that your
ambitious woman is far more ruthless, far more unscrupu-
lous, far more determined to win at any cost, than is the most
ambitious of men. Again comes the law of extreme to show
cause that this should be; but the fact is so sure that cause
is of less interest. Not Machiavelli was so false, not Calig-
ula was so cruel, not Caesar was so careless of right, as the
woman whose political ambition has taken form and strength.
That which bars her path must be swept aside, be it man or
notion or principle. She sees but the one object, her goal,
looming large before her; and she moves on with her eyes
fixed, crushing beneath her feet all that would turn her steps.

I have spoken of the cruelty of an ambitious woman; and
it is worth while to pause a moment to consider this trait as
displayed in women not as a means, but as an end. There
have been men who loved cruelty for its own sake; but they
are few, and their methods crude, compared with the women
who have felt this strange passion. In the days of human
sacrifices, it was the women who most thronged to the specta-
cles, who most eagerly fastened their eyes upon the expiring
victims. In the gladiatorial combats, it was the women who
greeted each mortal thrust with applause, and whose reversed
thumbs won the majority for the signal of death to the van-
quished. In the days of terror in France, it was the women
who led the mob that threatened the king and queen, and
hanged Foulard to a lamp post after almost tearing him to


pieces; it was the women who sat in rows around the guillo-
tine, day after day, and placidly knit their terrible records
of death; it was the women who cried for more victims, even
after the legal murderers of the tribunals grew weary of their
hideous task of condemnation.

Not only thus not only under the influence of excitement
and passion but in cold blood, there are instances among
women of such ghastly cruelty that men recoil from the con-
templation of such deeds. There is record of a Slavonic
countess whose favorite amusement was to sit in the garden
of her country palace, in the rigors of a Russian winter,
while young girls were stripped by her attendants and water
poured slowly over their bodies, thus giving them a death of
enduring agony and providing the countess with new, though
unsubstantial, statues for her grounds. This not more than
two centuries ago, and in the atmosphere of so-termed Chris-
tianity. The annals of the Spanish Inquisition would be
ransacked in vain for such ingenuity of torture; and though
the Inquisitors may have grown to love cruelty for its own
sake, they at least alleged reason for their deeds; the Russian
countess frankly sought amusement alone.

Yet in these things there is to be found no general accusa-
tion of women. That cruelty should be carried by them to
its extreme, that they should love it for its own sake, is but
the development of extremism, and is isolated in examples,
at least by periods. The Russian countess was not cruel
because she was a woman, but, being cruel of nature, she
was the more so because of her sex. The ladies of imperial
Rome did not love the sight of flowing blood because they were
women, but, being women, they carried their acquired taste to
bounds unknown to the less impulsive and less ardent nature
of men.

Yet there comes a question. Is this lust for blood, this
love of cruelty, latent in every woman and but restrained by


the gentler teachings and promptings of her more developed
nature in its highest presentation? So some psychists would
have us believe; but they have only slight ground for their
sweeping assertion. That civilisation is but restrained sav-
agery may perhaps be conceded; but if the restraint has grown
to be the ever-dominant impulse, then has the savage been
slain. It is not, as some teach, that such isolated idiosyn-
crasies as we have considered are glimpses of the tiger that
sleeps in every human heart and sometimes breaks its chain
and runs riot. As a rule, these things are matters of atmos-
phere. Setting aside such pure isolations as that of the
Russian countess, it will almost invariably be found that
the display of feminine cruelty, or of any vice, is of a time
and place. There has never been a universal rule of feminine
depravity in any age. Babylon, Carthage, Greece, Rome, and
all the olden civilisations have had their periods when female
virtue was a matter of laughter, when women outvied men in
their moral degradation, when evil seemed triumphant every-
where; but there always remained a few to "redeem the
time," and salvation always came from those few. More-
over, the sphere of immorality and crime was always limited.
The Roman world, when it was the world indeed, might be
given up to vice and sin, displayed in their most atrocious
forms by the women of the Empire; but there still stood the
North, calm, virtuous, patient, awaiting its opportunity to
"root out the evil thing" and to give the world once more a
standard of purity and righteousness. The leaven of Chris-
tianity was effective in its work upon the moral degradation
of the Roman Empire; but it was not until the scourge of the
Northmen was sent to the aid of the principle that success
was fully won. So the North was not of the same day with
Rome in civilised vice, and the reign of evil in the Latin
Empire was but the effect of conditions, not the instincts of
humanity. Rome was taught evil by long and steadfast


evolution; it did not spring up in a day with its deadly
blight, but was the result of progressive causation.

It may be doubted if the feminine intelkct has increased
since the dawn of civilisation. To-day woman stands on a
different plane of recognition, but by reason of assertiveness,
not because of increased mental ability. As with that of
man, the possibilities of woman's intelkct were long latent;
but they existed, and the result is development, not creation
of fibre. I repeat that I do not believe that the feminine intel-
lect has grown in power. / doubt if tlie present age can show
a mind superior in natural strength to that of Sappho; I do
not believe that the present Empress of China, strong woman
as she is, is greater than Semiramis, or that even Elizabeth
of England was the equal of the warrior-queen of Babylon.
But there can be no doubt that there exists a broader culture
to-day than ever before and that thus the intellectual sum of
women is always growing, though there comes no increase in
the mental powers of the individual. It has been so with
man. We boast of the mighty achievements of our age; but
we have not yet built such a structure as that of the Temple
of the Sun at Baalbec, or the Pyramid of Cheops at Ghi^eh.
We pride ourselves upon our letters; but the grandest poem
ever written by man was also the first of which we have
record the Book of Job, and we do not even know the name
of the poet who thus set a standard which has never since been
reached. We may claim Shakespeare as the equal of Homer
in expression; but it requires true hero worship among his ad-
mirers to place the Elizabethan singer upon an equality with
the old Greek in any other respect. There has been no growth
of individual intellect in either sex since the days of which
we first find record; but there has been an increase of average
and a definition of tendency which are productive of higher
general result. And the natural consequence of this state of
things is found in the fact that even a Sappho in the world


of letters would not stand out so prominently, would not be
considered such a prodigy, were she to come in these days.
We should admire her genius and her powers without feeling
the sensation of wonder that these should be possessed by a
woman. It is in the recognition of this fact that we are better
enabled to understand the changing aspect in the relations
of women to men during these latter years. There has been
no alteration in the possibilities within the grasp of the indi-
vidual, but great change within those which can be claimed by
the sex at large. Women can do no more now than in the olden
days when they were considered as almost inferior to animals;
but woman has profited by the opportunities of her time, and
is every day developing powers until now unsuspected.

The whole value of history is in teaching us to understand
our own time and to prognosticate the future with some de-
gree of correctness. More especially is this true of all class
history, and the story of sex development may be so rated. It
is to find the reason of what is and the nature of what is to
come that we turn to the records of the past and ask them
concerning their message to us of these things. In our retro-
spective view of woman, we shall, if we are alive to suggestion,
find steadfast tendencies of development. It is true that these
tendencies do not always remain in the light; like rivers, they
sometimes plunge underground and for a time find their paths
in subterranean channels where they are lost to sight; but they
always reemerge, and at last they find their way to the cen-
tral sea of the present. Future ages will doubtless mark the
course of those tendencies not only up to but through our own
age; for though I have spoken of a central sea, the simile is
hardly correct, inasmuch as the true ocean which is the goal
of these rivers is not yet in the sight of humanity. But we at
least find promise of that ocean in the steadfast and deter-
mined course of the streams which flow toward it; progress
has always a goal, though it may be one long undiscerned


by the abettors of that progress. So it is with the story of
woman. We know what she has been; we see what she is;
and it is possible dimly to forecast what she will be. Yet I
dare to assert that there will be no radical change; there may
be new direction for effort, new lines of development, but the
essential nature will remain unaltered. It is not, however,
with this informing spirit that we have to do in such a work
as this. There have been many misconceptions regarding
woman; I would not venture to claim that none now exist.
Yet there is a general consensus of agreement concerning her
dominating and effective characteristics, and the probability is
that in these general laws so laid down the common opinion
is of truth.

Of course, I would not dare to make such an absurd claim
that there exists, or has ever existed, a man who could truth-
fully say that he knew woman in the abstract; but that does
not necessarily mean that knowledge of the tendencies and
characteristics of the sex is impossible. The reason of the
dense ignorance which prevails among men concerning women
is that the men attempt to apply general laws to particular
cases; and that is fatal. It is absolutely necessary, if we
are to gather wisdom and not merely knowledge from our
researches in history, that we should take into account the
result of combination of traits. Otherwise we should not only
find nothing but inconsistency as a consequence of our study,
but we should utterly fail to understand the tendencies of
that which we learn. We must be broad in our judgments,
if we are to judge truly. When we read of the Spartan
women sending forth their sons to die for their country, we
must not believe that they were lacking in the depth of
maternal affection which is one of the most beautiful char-
acteristics of the feminine nature. Doubtless they suffered as
keenly as does the modern mother at the death of her son; but
they were trained to subordinate their feelings in this wise t

xviii WOMAN

and their training stood them in stead of stoicism. Nay, even
when we read of the profligacy of the women of imperial Rome,
we must not look upon these women as by nature imbruted
and degraded, but we must understand that they but yielded
to the spirit of their environment and their schooling. They
were not different at heart, those reckless Mcenads and vota-
ries of Venus, from the chaste Lucretias or holy Catherines
of another day; they simply lacked direction of impulse in
right method, and so missed the culmination of their highest

There is an old saying which tells us that women are what
men make them. Thus generally stated, the saying may be
summed up as a slander; but it has an application in his-
tory. There can be no doubt that for millenniums of the
world 's adolescence women were controlled and their bearing
and place in society modified by the thought of their times,
which thought was of masculine origin and formation. This
state of affairs has long since passed away, and it may be
said that for at least a thousand years, in adaptation of the
saying which I have quoted, the times have been what women
have made them. It was the influence of women which
brought about the outgrowths of civilisation in the dawn of
Christianity that have survived until now. It was the influ-
ence, if not the actual activity, of women that was responsible
for the birth of chivalry and the rise of the spirit of purity.
It was the influence of women that made possible such char-
acters as those of Bayard and Sir Philip Sydney. It was the
influence of women that softened the roughness and licentious-
ness of a past day into the refinement and virtue which are
the possessions of the present age.

There has always, in the worst days, been an undercur-
rent of good, and its source and strength are to be found in
the eternal feminine spirit, which in its true aspects always
makes for righteousness.


The world's statues have, with few exceptions, been raised
to men, the world's elegies have been sung of men, the world's
acclamations have been given to men. This is world justice,
blind as well as with bandaged eyes. Were true justice done
were the best results, the results which live, commemorated

Online LibraryMitchell CarrollWoman in all ages and in all countries (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 28)