John W. (John Wesley) DeKay.

Women and the new social state online

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fied by nature and from which the large interests of human-
ity can sustain only great and increasing injury. I am
not opposed to women having votes or entering into all
inlelleclual pursuits, but they must not hope to obtain
their economic and social rights except through organi-
zation to vote with the men of their own class. They must
not do as those men have done, namely to divide their votes
among parties controlled by plutocrats and exploiters.

There is a general feeling among women that they
are under economic and social subjection to men. To an
extent this is quite true and it is in the highest interest of
humanity that no members of society should feel that
there is any sort of personal or collective tyranny over
them, which can in the least repress the complete expression
of their powers. So far as such tyranny exists it should
be discouraged and as soon as possible destroyed. The
division of labour in founding and maintaining a home
imphes that the man shall produce the means of family
support and the woman shall spend it. In this relation
the woman should be made to feel that she has earned an
income in her toil for husband and children and in senti-
ment as in fact they are spending what both have earned,
each in his most natural sphere. If this were the attitude
of men in general, a great part of woman's feeling of sub-
jection would disappear because in an intellectual sense
the supremacy of one over the other is not subject, to regu-


latioiis or controlled by seiitinient. Mow far, then, are
women under a recognized and avoidable subjection to
men ?

As this is a matter of first importance to millions of
women it should be examined with an impartial desire
to ascertain in what ways the subjection of their sex is
most unbearable and how it may be abolished. In the first
instance it cannot be said that women are in any sense
under legal disability arising from their sex. No man has
any legal advantage over a woman solely upon the ground
of sex in any tribunal where they appear as litigants with
respect only to property. Unless there are relations other
than those ordinarily existing between litigants, the woman
suffers no legal disability. On the contrary, when she is
before a jury of men she has a distinct advantage over a man.
* If, on the other hand, there is litigation between hus-
band and wife involving an annulment of marriage and if
the woman establishes grounds for divorce, she obtains
not only the children but a decree which compels the
man to support her and the children. He has the alternative
of leaving the country or going to prison. If on the other
hand the man obtains a decree upon similar grounds he
may have the children and support them, while the woman
is free to contract other relations relieved of all responsi-
bility. The penalty of losing one's children through a
divorce court is severe enough — but it is one which falls
with equal weight upon the man and the woman. It will
be contended that the legal disability consists in the dif-
ference of the grounds upon which divorce may be obtained
by men and women. This difference is not so great as it
appears. In some countries incompatibility of temper is
a mutual ground, in others the desire of both parties is
sufficient, but if we take the position as it exists in one
of the most advanced, as well as one of the greatest civili-


— 290 —

zations, namely in England, we find the laws best suited to
sustain the contention made by those who hold that women
are under legal disabilities in all phases of their relations
with men. The grounds of divorce in England are in effect
that the man must be proven to have committed adultery
and in addition desertion or cruelty must be established,
while as regards women it is sufficient if they commit

There appears in this distinction a greater difference
than in fact exists for the fundamental reason that men
are naturally polygamists. A man may have an intimate
relation with m.ore than one woman without in any way
altering his sentiments for either the women or children
and without giving occasion for the least discord between
them so far as he is concerned. Women, on the contrary
are so unlike men in matters of temperament, and such
relations have for them a meaning so different from what
they can have for the average man, that when a woman
becomes polyandrous her attitude towards the association
previously in existence is such that it usually cannot

If the fascination for a man outside his home is suffi-
cient and he is quite independent of the opinion of his neigh -
hours and of public sentiment in general — which few men
ever are — he will add desertion to adultery, although a
gentleman will never add cruelty to it.

If the grounds for divorce do not exist and the basis
of mutual happiness has disappeared, the home is no
longer a home in any beautiful or noble sense and its
reason for existence has ceased, at least so far as
concerns the relations of the man and the woman towards
each other.

What may be the value of such a home to the children,
will depend upon a variety of circumstances which are too


special ill llieir applicatioji and loo transitory to admit
of generalization.

As matters now stand the associations a man may
form outside his home impose no obligations which can
be enforced and the relations may be commenced and
terminated upon such slight considerations that instead
of desertion (in case the wife objects) the man may ap-
parently accede to her whims by terminating the outside
association known to her and almost immediately forming
another which he vainly hopes may remain unknown.
The extent to which this sort of deception and discord
are experienced will depend more upon the economic
independence of the man and the size of the city in which
he lives, than upon all influences of education, religion and
social pretences combined. It is reduced to the minimum
in rural communities, towns and small cities, not because
the people concerned are in any essentials different from
those in the larger cities, but because they do not have
the opportunity to conceal what they do not have the
courage openly to avow.

Pious people who have their heads in the sand, will
strongly object to this as not fairly representing man's
attitude towards women and unfortunately married wo-
men are the ones who will most strongly object. It is
nevertheless the attitude of men in general. The extent
to which they put these sentiments into effect will
depend, primarily, upon the relations existing between
them and their wives. It will be determined apart
from this influence, solely by age, climate, surroundings
and temperament. We must take men and women as we
find them. They do not change greatly from one century
to another in what concerns their most pronounced and
fundamental tendencies and their nature never changes.

It is far from my thought to suggest that the

- 292 —

unethical ajiimal savagery in man's nature cannot be
overcome. It can be and is constantly overcome through
the supremacy of the spirit over matter. The progress
is, however, so slow and so personal that when humanity
is viewed as a whole, it has not in thousands of years
recorded anything which establishes a fundamental
change in man's nature, as distinguished from changes
in his habits, his mode of life and his philosophy.

The most important alterations of sentiment and mode
of life may be traced to. altered personal environment,
arising through general or special changes in the economic
and social surroundings, or through the sacred influence
of a love which creates its own and special world.

The relations men and women establish can be ideal
only in so far as the ones who establish them are ideal and
it is for this reason that ideal relations rarely exist. Life
for humanity is unfortunately and unnecessarily a compro-
mise at all points and in all relations. The more stupid
and the meaner people are, the more readily they accept
this compromise and all that it implies, and the more
difficult it is for them to realize that any compromise is
involved. For most people the moral compromise is of
much less importance than any compromise which con-
cerns their comfort or passing pleasures.

Quite apart from the direct harm which results to
individuals and to particular associations through any
form of hypocrisy, its detrimental effects upon society
as a whole are almost incalculable. Only children in the
first few years of life are like flowers and show us the high
possibilities of our nature, not from an ethical or social
point of view, because they are usually deficient in both, but
from the point of view of candour and instinctive naturalness.

There might be something beautiful in man's pretence
to think, feel and live upon a higher basis than he has

actually attained, if it arose from a longing really to find
within himself and constantly to express those qualities
which are regarded as an honour to mankind, ^flie moral
value that might arise from such a sentiment is not
attained because the individual does not seek to
exemplify ideals but only pretends to do so.

If we examine the relations of men and women who
axe associated in marriage, and consider what are in prac-
tice the broad outlines of such associations, we will be
obliged to attach less and less importance to the actual
or supposed difference in the legal position of the two, as
compared to what are in fact their actual relations in the
general concerns of life.

It will be conceded as one of the most elemental of
all propositions that where radical difference of opinion
may arise the final power of decision must somewhere
be vested. This is true as regards not only the creation
of governments but as to the discharge of all their func-
tions. The same applies to all tribunals which are to pass
decisions upon the inevitable differences arising among
men. It is a principle which must be applied to the home
and it also holds true in the general activities of society.
The most independent and enlightened individuals ac-
cept the principle that they may properly be compelled
to abide by decisions with which they are not in accord
and which may in their view be unjust and an infringe-
ment upon their most personal rights. That such decisions
are constantly made and enforced does not admit of dis-
cussion and they arise, not from any defect in the principle
involved, but rather in the errors of a pph cation which
are inseparable from all human decisions. If, therefore,
in certain circumstances the law seems to place the woman
under disabilities as regards her ultimate rights, when her
opinions are in conflict with those entertained by her

— 294 —

husband, there is no other relation in Ufe in which this
apparent advantage is of so Httle practical importance
to a man. It is never resorted to except in the most
extreme cases and then only when the basis upon which
home life may properly continue has been destroyed.

The home is the one place in which the average man
is disposed to say "yes" and the last place in which he
always desires to say "no** to the wishes of others. It
is the one place where he is the most reluctant to display
those critical and cold judgments, which the stern
necessities of life — not tempered by love and tenderness — ■
are constantly imposing upon him in the great and varied
concerns of the world.

The point of my contention may perhaps be more
clearly illustrated by examining the practice of partner-
ship among men in business and in the experiences 'of a
board of directors in the management of important
undertakings. A partnership between supposed equals in
business, where the interests and responsibilities are
taken as equal, is covered by a formal contract of associ-
ation, in many respects not unlike that which is expressed
or implied in the marriage contract. The duties of each
in a business partnership are rarely precisely defined, as
is also the case in marriage, although they are usually
understood in a manner which implies an agreement —
even if it does not in fact constitute one. The differences
which may arise in the working of such a partnership
are the result of the manner in which the work of the
partners is performed, rather than as to what work should
be alloted to the several partners. These differences result
from events which may be small or great, from defects
which may be real or imaginary, but which could not be
foreseen and hence could not be provided for, either in
the business partnership or in the marriage agreement.

— 295 —

In a business partnership one partner will by common
assent be accorded a superior position wliich in effect
amounts to the possession of arl)itrary and final power.

ITiis may be so unconsciously exercised in business as to
cause no friction among supposed equals, or it may cause
constant friction, which ends in a dissolution of the contract.

In the affairs of a great corporation the principle is
the same. A board of directors is chosen, consisting per-
haps of nine members. In law and in the theory of corpo-
ration control, each of these directors has the same powers,
each has a vote and all are equally answerable to the
shareholders and public. One of the first acts of these
directors sitting upon equal terms, is to select a chairman
who in theory has no other or additional rights than his
colleagues, but in practice — if he is qualified for the position
— he will become the actual head of the concern. The
policy of the board will be his poHcy, its decisions his de-
cisions and its mistakes will consist in the board having
been parties to or having approved the mistakes of their

Both in the partnership and in the board there will be
consultation, discussion and perhaps differences of opinion
as to policy and detail, but in the actual working of the
partnership and company the decisions of the strongest
man will be final and may in fact be so tactfully put for-
ward that they do not appear to emanate from their real
source, but come rather as suggestions from those upon
whom the superior will is being unconsciously imposed.

That this is one of the essential requisites to all adminis-
trative success, the most powerful and experienced
men of business will everywhere agree. Tlie advice of
associates may to a degree alter the policy of a leader, but
in proportion as he is successful, he follows his own policy,
llie most conspicuous achievements among men of action

— 296 —

in all spheres confirm this principle, whether in war, diplo-
macy, government, parliamentary leadership or finance.

This is in practice the policy in the best regulated homes
and it is in the home where man is supposed to have the
most absolute and arbitrary powers that he exercises them
the least, or that the occasion for their exercise most
seldom arises. There is no other phase of man's activity
where he shows so great a regard for advice which he may
not highly value as in the home, and there is no other
place in which he is so easily persuaded to forego his
opinions upon matters in which he has no doubt as to
what his opinions should be. This arises from the feeling
which man entertains for those who are weaker than him -
seK and who place an undue importance upon what in
fact may be trifles. In the home, the same as in the
partnership, the company and all other relations, the
one who has the right to power and whose decisions are
respected is superior to those surrounding him — at least in
those natural or acquired powers upon which all intellectual
and moral authority must rest. It is only upon that basis
that men of attainments and character are interested
in the acquisition or exercise of authority and it is
only by such men that great powers can be secured
and maintained for any considerable time.

Instead of women being excluded upon the ground of
sex from the activities of men, so far as history and ex-
perience may be consulted, we know that the greatest
and most humble men have made women their principal
or only confidants, with whom they have discussed their
hopes, their achievements, their ambitions, their failures
and their glory.

The influence which women exercise over men through
their teachings in childhood is great and important,
but it leaves the most lasting impressions upon the


scnliiiienl raLlicr than the reason of men. Nearly all
mothers cause their children to believe in relif^ion for a
httle while, but it is a sentiment which may not extend
beyond childhood because it is accepted without reason
and may therefore be set aside if it is ever brought under
the scrutiny of reason.

The teaching which men and women receive in child-
hood is nevertheless of the highest importance and exer-
cises a great and permanent influence over their most
consequential acts. This is especially true with reference
to man's relations to the opposite sex. It also applies
generally to all concerns in which sentiment is an
important or decisive factor and it is difficult to
disassociate sentiment from the smallest or the greatest
affairs of life.

If a particular sentiment which does not subsequently do
violence to reason is strongly impressed upon a man in his
infancy and is associated with one who was the object of
his devotion and his affections, it is rarely ever obliterated
and it may — in its own sphere — become a governing
principle during the whole course of his life.

It is therefore of the highest importance that children
should not be taught to hold as true in childhood what
they may be compelled to abandon as false when they
attain an age of intelligent discretion.

They must not be taught that there should be any
escape from the consequences of their own acts, that there
is any paternahsm in nature or any mercy shown to a
fool. They should be taught that it is natural and just
to be prepared to respond to all that may result from
their own conduct and that they should so regard life, and
so act, that they would not object if all men thought and
acted in the same way.

Howsoever sound and thorough any instruction may

— 298 —

be there are some respects in which society will never
change in so far as it reflects the natural acts of men
because the nature of men does not change. Only such
changes are possible as may be realized through altered
economic environment, affording time for self-improve-
ment and freeing women and children from drudgery,
also the lessening and final destruction of superstition
through science and the increase of useful instruction
in the principles and application of a sound and compre-
hensive social and spiritual education.

One of the reforms most essential involves the complete
alteration in the education now given to girls in the middle
and lower classes. They are destined to work either at
home or in industry. At present they are not trained
for either. If they are children of the underpaid toilers
they are forced to enter the ranks of the wage-slaves
at an early age in spite of all compulsory education laws.
So long as the earnings of children must supplement
those of the father in order to maintain the family, all
compulsory education laws are a farce. The average young
woman in the industrial classes, especially in England,
has no idea as to cooking or the management of a home
and children. She has no trade or useful training for any
pursuit outside a home and she enters maturity upon the
lowest possible basis of usefulness to society, .either as a
prospective mother or as a productive unit of industrialism.

The responsibility for this shocking waste of woman-
hood rests chiefly upon those who dominate industrialism
and those who guide the church and the educational insti-
tutions and upon the small and vain politicians who are
too blind to the welfare of their country, to do anything
useful for the millions upon whom all national greatness
must rest.

Among the daughters of highly skilled artisans we

find a class wliicli is not forced to seek paid eini)loyinc]il
at an early a^e and through the instruction acquired from
their mothers they are trained to care for children and the
home. 'Hiey and the daughters of small farmers are the
most efficiently trained for the positions they are destined
to occupy.

In the more prosperous classes of society, where the
daughters do not work in the home but attend school
until maturity they have no useful education of any sort,
lliey know nothing about the management of a home
or the care of children, nothing about the great and
important problem of working girls and yet they hope
to have a home which they will not know how to
regulate or care for. They have learned a little about
many things, mostly useless — but they have learned
hothing of importance about anything. They learn a
little music which they forget immediately after marriage.
They read the novels read by everybody else in order that
they may find common ground for conversation with
people whose heads are as empty as their own, or filled
with intellectual rubbish which it is useless to gather and
impossible to cast aside.

Tliey are blind to the realities of life outside their own
circle and are the most reactionary class of society. They
are even a stronger force in the maintenance of pluto-
cracy, than the men of their own class. This is partly be-
cause of their instinctive conservatism as women and also
because they are less in contact with our submerged,
struggling and aspiring humanit3^

Some of the results of this fallacious system are
exhibited in the mismanaged homes, the uneatable food and
the negligence and sloth which fill the public houses as
they stand with open doors on the toilers' road to despair.
The happiness of mankind is in the keeping of women.

— 300 —

They are the fountain to which the toiler and the dreamer
must go to fill the pitchers of their earthly joy. Women
are in their natural and rightful place only when they are
in a home which they know how to manage and to make
attractive even in the most simple and humble ways.
In countries like England where among the middle classes,
snobbishness is exalted to the level of a religion, in all
instances where circumstances permit, the girls are taught
that the care of the home and children are to be confided
to servants with the result that neither are cared for.

It will require a long time, more economic indepen-
dence and truer notions as to education and ethics to
remedy these grave evils. They are only some of the
inevitable results of the deep-seated wrongs which underlie
the modern brigandage of exploitation and the slavish
respect for authority whether it be good or bad; also the
undue regard bestowed upon institutions and prejudices
which could never have obtained a shadow of existence
among free and enlightened men.

I look to the year 2500 and onward into a future too
remote and too dim in its outlines to be discernible to
our age and I see even at that distant time humanity still
struggling towards the realization of some of its most
natural and important ideals. I believe these are to be
brought within the reach of future generations through
the measures I have put forward and which appear
adapted to the well-ordered life of mankind and to its
freedom and happiness.

There is no short or easy road which humanity can
follow to the attainment of high ends. That nature of
which we are the children is never in a hurry. It has an
abundance of time. It takes sure steps and moves only in ways
which it need not retrace. It finishes one task before it be-
gins another and it never compromises. Its measures are

j^eneral, inllcxiblc and i'inal. We witness this upon every
hand and yet it is lost upon us. It has a lanf^uagc which we
have not had the patience to understand or the courage
to use and there is httle indication that either to-morrow
or a thousand years after to-morrow we will follow the
principles upon which alone humanity may hope to take
definite and constantly progressive steps towards the
high destiny of which it is capable.

The way which lies mimediately before us is beset
with difficulties more grave than any which have marked
the history of man. It is hedged about by superstitions,
prejudices and hypocrisy which must be surmounted for
the attainment of freedom and economic independence,
from which alone may come security, enlightenment and
peace to mankind.

It is a fundamental necessity that men shall be emanci-

Online LibraryJohn W. (John Wesley) DeKayWomen and the new social state → online text (page 24 of 29)