Mitchell Carroll.

Woman: in all ages and in all countries online

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which Miss Nightingale brought back from the Crimea
profoundly moved English society; and a large sum of
money was presented to her, with which she founded the
Nurses' Training Institution at St. Thomas's Hospital. At
about the same time, the Anglican sisterhood founded
training schools of a similar kind. From these sources
arose the sentiment for trained service for the sick which
has led to the wide respect with which modern society
regards the nurse who has been thoroughly trained for her
profession. This feeling toward nurses is in striking con-
trast to the one which prevailed before the days of special
training: that which was once considered a degrading
occupation has come to be thought of as an ennobling
ministry. In 1870, the date of the founding of the Metro-
politan and National Nursing Association by the Duke of
Westminster, James Hinton, in a paper in the Cornhill
Magazine on "Nursing as a Profession," called attention


to this new activity as a trained service for women: "It
is considered, tliough an excellent and most respectable
vocation, not one for a lady to follow as a means of liveli-
hood, unless she is content to sink a little in the social
scale. . . . Can any one think it is, in its own nature,
more menial than surgery? Could any occupation what-
ever call more emphatically for the qualities characteris-
tically termed professional, or better known as those of
the gentleman and the lady? . . . Here is a profession,
^ruly a profession, equal to the highest in dignity, open to
woman in which she does not compete with man."

Nursing no longer has to be defended as a suitable occu-
pation for the sex, for in its ranks can be found women of
all grades of society; it is one of the levelling influences
of modern times, as well as one of the most elevating of
callings. No other sphere of public activity has opened
up to woman in which she has not met the opposition of
men. Nursing is a striking instance of the modern trend
toward specialization, which is but another term for pro-
fessionalism. Consonant with the whole spirit of the
times, the amateur nurse was relegated to the background
by the modern trained nurse.

Society, however, has not taken so kindly to women's
departure in another direction: women as physicians are
still regarded as a novelty and a doubtful expedient. Nurs-
ing created a profession, and so conservative sentiment
did not have to be met; but the old faculties of law, medi-
cine, and theology had been so long intrenched in their
privileged places in relation to society that any attempt to
widen their confines or to enlist their hospitality toward
innovations is met with the resistance which custom and
precedent always present to novelty. Although their
progress into the medical profession has been slow, yet
the nineteenth century records the opening of this calling


to women. During the last quarter of the century women
were admitted to the ranks of accredited practitioners.
Yet, the vocation is not a novel one for the sex, for in the
remote past they have been looked upon as possessing
knowledge and skill in the treatment of diseases; but, as
we have seen, the woman who followed the art of healing
as a profession was often regarded as in league with the
powers of evil. Down to the nineteenth century, women
never held any recognized place as practitioners, excepting
in the capacity of midwives.

In the eighteenth century there were, outside of the
recognized profession, a number of women who practised
medicine with considerable success; but, although skilful,
they would be regarded to-day as mere quacks. Mrs. Jo-
anna Stephens, who proclaimed that she had found a re-
markable cure for a painful disease, appears to have been
so successful in her treatment of cases as to enlist genuine
respect for her attainments. Parliament voted her a grant
of five thousand pounds sterling. Mrs. Mapp, commonly
termed "Crazy Sally," who had repute as a bonesetter,
received from the town of Epsom the offer of an annuity
of one hundred pounds sterling if she would remain in that
neighborhood. She was such a popular character that the
managers of Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre sent her a special
request to attend a performance at which they desired to
have a large audience. She complied, and the attendance
was satisfactory.

Early in the century there was a renewal of attempts
which had formerly been made to require women who
practised obstetrics to come under some form of registra-
tion; but when the matter came before Parliament, in
the form of an enactment prepared by the Society of
Apothecaries, a committee of the House of Commons re-
ported that "It would not allow any mention of female


midwives." Although women were not received into the
regular profession as qualified practitioners until after
the middle of the century, they were under no legal prohi-
bition to practise medicine; but in 1858 the passage of the
Medical Act, which required a doctor to qualify by passing
the examination of one of the existing medical boards, set
up a barrier to women, as it placed them subject to the
discretion of the boards, which unanimously refused to
admit them. The only exceptions to this rule were made in
favor of those persons who had received a medical degree
abroad and had been practising before the passage of the
act. It was in this way that Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell be-
came registered. Miss Elizabeth Garret, whose studies
did not begin till two years after the compulsory registra-
tion law, was also enrolled under exceptional conditions.

At last matters came to an issue, and a notable struggle
occurred which marked an era in the medical profession of
England in its attitude toward female practitioners. The
case of Miss Sophia Jex-Blake brought on the contest.
She applied to the London University for admission, and
was informed that the charter of that institution had been
purposely framed to exclude women who sought medical
degrees. Returning to Edinburgh, she exhausted every
legal resource in a combat with the authorities, and was
signally worsted. The plucky fight she made won the
admiration of Sir James Simpson, the dean of the medical
faculty, and others, but Professor Laycock observed to
her that he "could not imagine any decent woman wish-
ing to study medicine; as for any lady, that was out of the
question." Success finally crowned persistent endeavor,
and, the University Court having passed a resolution that
" Women shall be admitted to the study of medicine in the
university," Miss Jex-Blake and four other ladies passed
the preliminary examinations for entrance. Other women


soon entered the open door; but the contest was not yet
ended, for, after these ladies had pursued their studies for
three years and paid the fees, they were informed by the
University Court that no arrangement could be effected
by which they could continue their studies with a view to
a degree, instead of which they were offered certificates
of proficiency; the latter, however, would not be recog-
nized by the Medical Act. They then took legal measures
to secure redress, and followed the matter up by a bill in
Parliament, which was lost. In 1876 another bill was
introduced to enable all British examining bodies to extend
their examinations and qualifications to women, and this
became a law. A number of colleges availed themselves
of the privilege and opened their doors to women, until at
the present time there are medical schools for women in a
number of the principal cities in England, Scotland, and

The advance of women in the professions was in line
with the general widening of the educational horizon of
the sex. Partly as the result of her broader education,
and partly as a cause of it, there was a juster apprecia-
tion of the relative position of the sexes, and into this
there entered as well the new economic measure of value.
Society was no longer regarded as a congeries of indi-
viduals, but as an organism, and an organism whose func-
tion was chiefly the creation of wealth. This broader
economic estimate of society could but be favorable to
women, whose valuation as a part of the commonwealth
was largely regulated by their utility. The ideal of polit-
ical economy is that everyone shall be employed, and
employed at that for which he is best adapted, under the
condition of freedom of self-development. The prevalence
of such truer theories of society aided in dispelling the
mists of error which had surrounded the popular notions


as to women. Buckle observes, in his Influence of Women
on the Progress of Knowledge, that women are quicker in
thought than men, and he says: "Nothing could prevent
its being universally admitted except the fact that the
remarkable rapidity with which women think is obscured
by that miserable, that contemptible, that preposterous
system called their education, in which valuable things
are carefully kept from them, and trifling things carefully
taught to them, until their fine and nimble minds are too
often irretrievably injured."

The close of the nineteenth century witnessed a com-
plete revolution in the constituents of girls' education.
French, dancing, flower painting, and music no longer
comprised a young lady's accomplishments. The fear of
singularity, which was a social bugbear to the young
women of other generations, no longer served to prevent
them from studying classics and mathematics and science.
To-day, they are expected to add their quota to the con-
tribution of the times, in thought as well as in the graces
of deportment. The latter can no longer atone for the
absence of the former. It is no more the case among
the middle classes that only the girl who intends fitting
herself to take the position of governess needs an educa-
tion above the rudiments and the embellishments. Not
the least of the departures in the educational scheme for
women is the notable change of attitude which has taken
place with regard to the development of their bodies. It
is but recently that physical training has entered into the
curriculum of colleges, but it is even more recently that
an opinion has prevailed favorable to the physical culture
of women.

Before the educational revolution occurred, women were
making their mark in intellectual spheres. In 1835 the
names of two women, Mary Somerville and Caroline


Herschell, were enrolled as members of the Astronomical
Society. In its report containing the recommendation of
the election of these ladies, the council of the society
observed: "Your Council has no small pleasure in recom-
mending that the names of two ladies distinguished in
astronomy be placed on the list of honorary members.
On the propriety of such a step from an astronomical point
of view, there can be but one voice: and your Council is
of opinion that the time is gone by when either feeling or
prejudice, by whichever name it may be proper to call it,
should be allowed to interfere with the payment of a well-
earned tribute of respect. Your Council has hitherto felt
that, whatever might be its own sentiment on the subject,
or however able and willing it might be to defend such a
measure, it had no right to place the name of a lady in
a position the propriety of which might be contested,
though upon what it might consider narrow grounds and
false principles. But your Council has no fear that such
a difference could now take place between any men whose
opinion would avail to guide that of society at large,
and, abandoning compliments on the one hand, and false
delicacy on the other, submits that while the tests of
astronomical merit should in no case be applied to the
works of a woman less severely than to those of man,
the sex of the former should no longer be an obstacle to
her receiving any acknowledgment which might be held
due the latter. And your Council, therefore, recommends
this meeting to add to the list of honorary members the
names of Miss Caroline Herschell and Mrs. Somerville, of
whose astronomical knowledge, and of the utility of the
ends to which it has been applied, it is not necessary to
recount the proofs."

Mrs. Somerville suffered from the educational limita-
tions ot her day, and when she desired to learn Latin, in


order that she might study the Principia, she referred to
Professor Playfair with regard to the propriety of her
doing so, and was assured by him that there was no im-
propriety involved for the purpose she had in mind. At
that time there were many women with the best of edu-
cation, acquired outside of university halls, but such were
usually brought up by scholarly parents possessed of well-
stocked libraries. To-day, the position of Ruskin is a com-
monplace of experience. In his lecture on the Queen's
Gardens, he advised that women have free access to books,
and asserted that they would find out for themselves the
wholesome and avoid the pernicious with an instinct as
unerring as that which directs the browsing of sheep in
pasture lands. It has been sufficiently demonstrated that
wholesome-minded girls are ever less in danger of con-
tamination from literature than are their brothers.

The opening of Queen's College in 1848 marked the be-
ginning of an attempt to give a wider education to women.
This college grew out of the Governesses' Benevolent
Institution. It was a training school for teachers, a normal
institute; but, besides this, it was open to all who cared
to enter. The name of that leader in modern educational
movements, Frederick Denison Maurice, was identified
with this departure. In the face of hostile comment, he
defended the system which was adopted by himself and
his brother professors, all of whom had come from King's
College. The educational opportunities offered by this
college were exceptional; the fees were low, and many
students hastened to avail themselves of the new privilege.

It was twenty years later, however, before there was
fought out the issue through which women came to be ad-
mitted to the universities. In 1856, Miss Jessie Merriton
White was applying vainly for admittance to the matricu-
lation examination of the University of London. In 1869,


Girton College, the building of which cost fourteen thou,
sand seven hundred pounds sterling, was established largely
through the efforts of women. It was intended to afford
training for women along university lines, and the plan of
study was modelled on that of Cambridge University; the
idea in the adoption of this parallel course was to estab-
lish beyond doubt women's fitness for pursuing the same
studies as men. Other colleges of the same nature were
founded soon after.

In the last century, the old theory that women were not
capable of higher education on account of the "moisture
of their brains " was not one of the pleas upon which was
based the opposition to the higher education of women.
The more plausible ground was taken that women ought
to avoid certain lines of study which are a part of a uni-
versity course. But it is coming to be realized that the
proprieties of knowledge do not reside in the subject or
in the sex of the student — that whatever is important for
higher investigation is worthy of the pursuit of women a?
well as men, and can be pursued by them at the poiri
of ripened discretion to which they have arrived when
capable of meeting the requirements for entrance inf) a

The high-school system that has developed in England
during the last quarter of a century has done much /or the
education of the middle classes, affording sound instruction
and mental discipline for all. At the present day, poor
girls, who, if they were dependent upon their p";rsonal re-
sources, would never acquire an education, have wider
facilities than were enjoyed by the women of the aris-
tocracy a century earlier.

Of those who promoted the secondary education for
girls, perhaps no name among female educj^tors in England
stands higher than that of Frances Mary Buss. Her


splendid powers of organization and administration raised
to such a degree of efficiency the private school which she
had established in the north of London, that, when the
Brewers Company desired to invest a sum of money for
the education of girls, it entered into negotiations with
Miss Buss and acquired her establishment, retaining her as
head mistress.

Voluminous as are the works of women in the realm of
fiction, it is nevertheless a field little exploited by them
until recent years. In the eighteenth century the sex
had produced few historians, poets, or essayists who could
be compared with the group of romance writers which in-
cluded such names as Catherine Macauley, Eliza Haywood,
Elizabeth Carter, Fanny Burney, Mrs. Inchbald, and Mrs.
Radcliffe; but when we pass to the nineteenth century,
while women as romanticists are more prominent than
women as authors in any other field, there is no limit upon
the versatility which they exhibit, and all branches of
literature have felt their moulding impress. To take the
names of women out of the list of authors of the nineteenth
century would be to diminish the glory of the literary
skies by blotting out the lustre of some of its brightest

Beginning with Jane Austin and continuing to Mrs.
Humphry Ward, the line of literary descent in the realm
of fiction is a roll of honor for womankind; but it is a far
cry from these to that earliest of women novelists, Mrs.
Aphra Behn, who, at the direction of Charles II., wrote
her novel Oronooko, the purpose of which was not dis-
similar to the social end which Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe
had in mind in her Uncle Tom's Cabin. Thus, the six-
teenth century is brought into touch with the nineteenth,
although the connecting links were few and slight until
the middle of the latter. The number of women novelists


indicates that women have found in fiction the line of
literary pursuit which is most agreeable to their tastes
and adapted to their natures. There seems to be abso-
lutely no limit to the range of subjects which women are
capable of working up in romance; whether in novels of
incident or novels of character, treating historical or social
subjects, didactic or imaginative themes, with the plot in
any period of time, among any people or set of conditions,
women writers appear to be equally at home.

While the vast majority of literary women have been
writers of fiction, every branch of literature numbers in
its promoters the names of eminent females. In poetry
and in dramatic literature women have not achieved the
fame of men. Lord Byron gave as the reason for women's
apparent lack of imaginative and creative power that they
had not seen and felt enough of life. As translators,
editors, compilers, as writers on social topics and current
questions, as well as on educational subjects, memoirs,
travels, literary studies, they have been prolific and ex-
cellent workers. Besides which, they have given to
journalistic and magazine work their special capabilities.

Women no longer fear to write under their own names,
and do not resort to pseudonyms as did Charlotte Bronte,
and Mary Ann Evans — George Eliot. It was at one time
thought that the demands of research and study outside of
the range of ordinary feminine acquaintance precluded the
sex from doing many forms of intellectual work which
were open to men. Fiction did not present special diffi-
culties; and as the line of least resistance, as well as that
of especial adaptation, women took to this form of writing.

At the present day, however, there is no question as
to woman's faithfulness, accuracy, and ability to attend to
detail; and so there are no lines of research or of author-
ship in which women are not engaged. This is in part


due to the similar lines upon which women and men are
now educated. Their broad acquaintance with the whole
range of intellectual subjects eminently fits the sex for
special work in any department. To distinguish by their
method of treatmeivt tlie writings of women is no longer
possible. Their petis liave the same grace and vigor ct
style as those of nien, while there is no fineness or
daintiness of touch in their writings which does not find
counterpart in those of men.

The fiction of the century reveals woman intrepidly dis-
cussing political, economic, and labor questions with a
large degree of assurance, and others with a great deal of
acuteness and insight. Although there is intense competi-
tion in the realm of literature, yet the complexity of
modern society, the universality of education, the oppor-
tunities of leisure for reading, the social demands for
acquaintance with standard and recent works, and the in-
citement to reading given through the newspapers, maga-
zines, book reviews, and lectures of the times, furnish
unlimited opportunities for gifted women to exercise their
talents in writing.

It was not until i86i that women were admitted to all
the privileges and opportunities of art education which
centred in the Royal Academy schools. In that year
these were opened to women students. It is interesting
to notice how in almost an accidental manner the limita-
tions placed upon women were removed. At the annual
dinner of the Academy in 1859, Lord Lyndhurst felicitated
those present on the benefits which were conferred upon
all her majesty's subjects by the Academy schools. JVliss
Laura Herford, an artist, wrote to Lord Lyndhurst and
pointed out the fact that half of her majesty's subjects
were excluded. This made the discussion of the pro-
priety of admitting women a kindly one, and a memorial was


prepared and signed by thirty-eight women artists, copies
of which were sent to every member of the Academy, pray-
ing the admission of women and pointing out the benefit it
would be to them to study, under qualified teachers, from
the antique and from life. It was regarded as imprac-
ticable that women and men should study life subjects
together, and the request was refused. There was nothing
in the constitution of the Academy either for or against
the admission of women. A drawing with the signature
"L. Herford" was then sent in by Miss Herford, and it
was admitted by a letter addressed to " L. Herford, Esq."
The question then arose whether a woman who had been
accepted as a man should be allowed to enter. Miss Herford
had her way.

No women had been admitted into the Academy since
the days of Angelica Kaufmann and Mary Moser. The
reason for their non-reception, as assigned by Sanby in
his History of the Royal Academy of Arts, and quoted by
Georgiana Hill in her Women in English Life, is as follows:
" One or two ladies, if elected members, could scarcely be
expected to take part in the government or in the work of
the society; and as the practice even of giving votes by
proxy has long since been abolished, the effect of their
election as Royal Academicians would be, virtually, to re'
duce the number of those who manage the affairs of tht
institution and the schools in proportion as ladies were
admitted to that rank: and as long as the number of
Associates is limited, a difficulty would arise in the fact
that the higher rank has to be recruited from that body."
Miss Hill regards this as a grievance, because it virtually
makes the matter of sex a disqualification, and quotes
with endorsement Miss Ellen Clayton, as follows: " The
Academy has studiously ignored the existence of women
artists, leaving them to work in the cold shade of utter


neglect. Not even once has a helping hand been extended,
not once has the most trifling reward been given for
highest merit and industry. Accidents made two women
Academicians — the accident of circumstances and the acci-
dent of birth. Accident opened the door to girl students —
accident, aided by courage and talent. In other countries,
they have the prize fairly earned quietly placed in their
hands, and can receive it with dignity. In free, unpreju-
diced, chivalric England, where the race is given to the
swift, the battle to the strong, without fear or favour, it is
only by slow, laborious degrees that women are winning
the right to enter the list at all, and are then received with
half-contemptuous indulgence."

Whether or not women artists have a real grievance

Online LibraryMitchell CarrollWoman: in all ages and in all countries → online text (page 25 of 30)