Mitchell Carroll.

Woman: in all ages and in all countries online

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against the Royal Academy, certain it is that the last
half of the nineteenth century has been notable for the
progress of women in art. It was in the galleries of
the Society of Lady Artists, which came into existence in
1859, that Lady Butler first exhibited and pictures by
Rosa Bonheur were displayed. With the multiplicity of art
schools and every facility for obtaining instructions under
the most favorable conditions, women have been brought
into prominence as artists. Landscape, portrait painting,
oil, water-colors, pastel — the whole range of subjects and
styles of painting includes pictures of merit by women.

In many of the lesser branches of art, hundreds of women
have found congenial vocations. They have shown excel-
lent taste and aptitude in china painting and other forms
of decorative work — in book illustration, as designers of
carpet and wall-paper patterns, as preparers of advertise-
ments, designers of calendars, and a host of other minor
art industries.

Women as musical composers had appeared in the last
half of the eighteenth century. Mrs. Beardman, who made



364 WOMAN

her debut as a singer at the Gloucester festival in 1790,
was equally gifted as composer, singer, and pianist. Ann
Mounsey displayed early talent, and her precocity brought
her into notice when she was but nine years of age. In
her maturity, her compositions gave her high rank among
female composers, and in 1855 her oratorio The Nativity
was produced in London. She was a member of the Phil-
harmonic Society and also of the Royal Society of Musi-
cians. Another gifted woman, whose talents brought her
early into notice and who was a member of the Royal
Academy of Music, was Kate Fanny Loder. She had been
instructed in piano-forte by Mrs. Lucy Anderson, teacher
to Queen Victoria when she was princess and afterward to
the children of her majesty. Miss Loder was a king's
scholar at the Royal Academy, and when but eighteen
years of age was appointed professor of harmony at her
alma mater. Eliza Flower — whose sister, Mrs. Adams,
wrote the words of the hymn Nearer, my God, to Thee —
was another of the gifted composers of the century, and
her name appears as the author of many hymn tunes.

To give the names of all the women composers of hymn
tunes would be to give a history of hymnology in modern
times, for there is no sacred song collection but embraces
the compositions of many women gifted in music. To
give the names of those who have figured in opera would
involve a history which includes a great many more for-
eign artists than English; but without seeking to do more
than mention a few of those whose names have figured in
popular favor as operatic prima donnas, and omitting par-
ticular mention of their individual capabilities, there are
some names which suggest themselves to the patrons of
the opera as worthy of first mention in the list of Eng-
land's great singers. Catherine Tofts, Anastasia Robin-
son, Lavinia Fenton, — afterward Duchess of Bolton,-



THE WOMEN OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 365

achieved celebrity in the opera during the first thirty
years of the century. Lavinia Fenton was the heroine of
The Beggars' Opera, which took London by storm. The
names of Catherine Hayes and Louisa Pyne are still
treasured by those whose recollections go back to the
forties.

The general ill repute under which the stage rested in the
seventeenth century continued to hang about it throughout
the eighteenth. There was still a great deal of license
allowed spectators, and it was not unusual for them to
pass on the stage and behind the scenes. The rude and
boisterous conduct of the patrons of the theatre made it
extremely unpleasant for persons of refinement to attend
it. The city streets had not yet become well protected,
and the degree of security which is now afforded to pedes-
trians was lacking in the eighteenth century. It was out
of the question for any gentlewoman to attend the theatre
unaccompanied by male escort. There were always loi-
terers about the streets, and any man of rank whose char-
acter was bad enough to permit him to do so felt at liberty
to salute a woman with insults — which, when they came
from such a source, were then styled as gallantries; and
women who adopted the stage as a profession, being looked
upon as having forfeited their claims to gentility, were
regarded as fair game by the rakes of the day. Notwith-
standing the attempts of Queen Anne to reform the man-
ners of theatre-goers by the passage of edicts looking to
that end, the evils which made it so unpleasant to a
respectable person to attend the theatre and which brought
the playhouse under odium continued to be flagrant.

In the nineteenth century came a great uplift of the
status of the stage and workers upon it, and, in contrast to
the opinions which prevailed in the eighteenth century,
an actress suffered no disparagement and had the same



3fi6 WOMAN

opportunity for cherishing her reputation as any others of
the sex. The stage no longer brought its followers into
disrepute, for it rested with the actress herself to preserve
or to tarnish her character. She was no longer, by virtue
of being an actress, regarded as a Bohemian, and it was
not considered a regrettable thing for a girl of character to
enter upon a histrionic career. It was her course and
conduct after she had entered the profession, and the
nature of the plays in which she appeared and the parts
which she allowed herself to present, that determined
the public verdict with regard to her. As a result of the
changed character of the theatre, — although it was by no
means cleared of all the odium that had so long attached to
it, — a larger number of men and women attended dramatic
performances than ever before.

The introduction of women into commercial life was
followed by the opening up of civil service appointments
and a change of sentiment with regard to women engaging
in trade. In 1870, when the government bought the inter-
ests of the telegraph company, the officials were brought
under the existing civil service rules. Some of them hap-
pened to be women, and thus, inadvertently, women were
admitted to civil service appointments under the govern-
ment. In 1871 the postmaster-general bore striking testi-
mony to the efficiency of the women employed in his
department. When commenting upon the transfer of the
telegraphs from private control to post office direction, he
said: "There had been no reason to regret the experi'
ment. On the contrary, it has afforded much ground
for believing that, where large numbers of persons are
employed with full work and fair supervision, the admix-
ture of the sexes involves no risk, but is highly benefi-
cial." Then, remarking upon the better tone of the male
staff by reason of their association with women as fellow



THE WOMEN OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 367

employes, he added: " Further, it is a matter of experience
^hat the male clerks are more willing to help the female
"tlerks with their work than to help one another; and
on many occasions pressure of business is met and diffi-
("ulties are overcome through this willingness and cordial
cooperation."

The experience of employing women in the post office
"vas duplicated in other departments of the public service,
iintil it has become a recognized fact that women can be em-
p/oyed in connection with men without any of the results
which it was apprehended would follow the departure. In
Ihe country districts, postmistresses and female carriers
9/e not a novelty. It was the post office which first
Opened up to women employment under the government,
i'^nd its various departments now utilize them extensively.
Although other of the public services have received women
as clerks, their position is still in a measure tentative, but
it can hardly be said that the employment of them by the
government is any longer an experiment. In addition to
the large numbers of young women who have found em-
ployment in the government service, there is no railroad
company, insurance company, or any other large semi-
public or private business firm or company, which has not
found women to be of peculiar serviceability. The great
number of women who, during the latter part of the nine-
teenth century, fitted themselves for business careers in-
dicates not only a change of ideal, with a realization of their
self-sufficiency, but the increased adaptability of women
to the peculiar conditions of modern society.

It is no longer a curious phenomenon to see the name
of a woman upon a business letterhead, or on the sign
over some large commercial establishment, for frequently,
when their husbands die, women themselves now take in
hand the business interests of the deceased and conduct



368 WOMAN

them with marked success, and with no question from
their business competitors as to the propriety of their so
doing. Nor do such women forfeit the esteem of society.
Society as such is no longer concerned chiefly with matters
of pedigree, but more largely with the question of pros-
perity. While it would be asserting too much to say that
the nineteenth century witnessed the iconoclastic shatter-
ing of the old aristocratic ideals, nevertheless, while the
woman of blood maintains her rightful place in the select
circles of society, the door stands ajar for women who
have no other claim for recognition than that they have
amassed fortunes, or inherited them, or are the wives of
wealthy men. However, they must not have clinging to
them the odor of their humble beginnings, if they rose
from lowly walks of life. The real test applied to them is
not the test of breeding, which relates to the past, but of
gentility, which is the measure of the present life.

Besides the women who managed large business inter-
ests in their own names, the nineteenth century witnessed
the advent of the business woman in numerous lines of
small trade. To name the various kinds of business in
which women are found making for themselves a sus-
tenance would be to give a list of the many lines of retail
trade; but the shopwoman of the earlier part of the nine-
teenth century is quite a different person from the trades-
woman of the latter half. Instead of a small, obscure
shop, conducted in a hesitating, apologetic manner, to-day
women are as aggressive advertisers, make as fine dis-
plays in their shops, and sustain the same business rela-
tions with the wholesale dealers, as do the retail dealers
of the other sex. Beyond any peradventure, women have
become a part of the business organism of England, and
are competing upon terms of equality with men for the
patronage of the public; and they have before them just



THE WOMEN OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 369

as hopeful prospects of amassing a competence for an easy
and independent old age.

Great as is the army of women who enrolled themselves
in the ranks of commerce and clerkship during the nine-
teenth century, they are in a minority as compared with
the greater host of industry, — the women who are found
in the factories, working upon the raw materials of human
comforts and luxuries, toiling unremittingly and often under
hard conditions for a mere pittance as compared with the
value of their products. In 1895 there were one hundred
thousand women in England holding membership in the
various trade unions, and, besides these, a far larger num-
ber who were without such enrolment, such as fifty-two
thousand shirtmakers and seamstresses and four hun-
dred thousand dressmakers and milliners; and these were
but a mere fraction of the immense host of women who,
outside of the home, found themselves earning their own
bread by their personal labor. With the growth of manu-
factures, women were drawn from the rural districts. It
became an uncommon thing, where formerly it was the
usual practice, for women to perform the work of field
laborers, or to depend chiefly for support upon butter and
cheese making, or service at the inns or in the shops of
the neighboring towns. It is now only the women of the
lowest rank who devote themselves for a livelihood to
berry picking, hop picking, garden weeding, and like
menial outdoor services.

The competition of women with men in manufactures
was greeted at first with the sullen resentment and open
opposition with which machinery was viewed when first in-
troduced; but as women have been drawn into manufac-
tures, men have absorbed many of the outdoor duties which
formerly fell to woman's lot in the country districts. The
"bakeresses," "brewsters," and the " regrateresses " —



370 WOMAN

retailers of bread — are now known simply in the history
of industry; their names have become archaic and their
offices obsolete. As machinery took the place of the
individual intelligence of the handworker of other days,
leaving only a monotonous series of mechanical manipu'
lations for the men, aside from the superior skill called
into play by the complexity of the machinery, which de-
manded expert and intelligent direction, women found rele-
gated to them the simplest parts of factory work and those
which did not require any large degree of mentality. As
a result, the women of the factories have not developed
coordinately in intelligence with their sisters in other lines
of active work. This has unfortunately led them to be
looked down upon as inferior to girls who work in stores
or in offices. As the factory laws came to be framed with
regard to greater investigation and regulation of the con-
ditions of women's work in factories, many of the abuses
were to a degree corrected. It is not now commonly the
case that a self-respecting operative is without redress
if subjected to the coarse insults of brutalized foremen,
nor are women now permitted to work as formerly under
conditions so harmful to their peculiar constitutions. Better
sanitation, fewer hours of employment, and greater regard
for their comfort, have done much to brighten what was in
the early part of the nineteenth century the dreariest life
to which any woman could be chained.

Along with the improvements in the condition of
women's labor have gone improvements in the housing
of factory people. The industrial evils that brought out
such chivalrous champions of the poor as the younger
Lord Shaftesbury and his associates no longer generally
prevail in factory life. There yet remains much to be
done for the congregated women and girls of the factories.
It was inevitable that by the bringing of them together in



THE WOMEN OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 371

great numbers, many from homes of abject poverty where
they had none of the benefits of careful training, and
by the herding of them together in factories where the
nature of their work did not furnish employment for their
minds, the moral tone of the young women of daily toil
should have been lower than that of their sister workers
in other lines. But the dictum of Lord Shaftesbury has
been sinking into the social consciousness, and has borne
splendid fruit in the improvement of the conditions of fac-
tory work for women. "In the male," says he, "the
moral effects of the system are very bad; but in the female
they are infinitely worse, not alone upon themselves, but
4pon their families, upon society, and, I may add, upon
the country itself. It is bad enough if you corrupt the
man; but if you corrupt the woman, you poison the waters
of life at the very fountain." In the first half of the nine-
teenth century, the actual number of women employed in
factories appears to have been larger than that of men.

The existence of the factory, drawing out from the
Tiomes so many women and making their home life only a
secondary consideration and an additional burden, presents
one of the gravest problems of modern times — a problem
that must be approached harmoniously by the philanthro-
pists and the legislators if it is to be satisfactorily solved.
Habit begets contentment, so that it is not the employes
of the factory who feel most keenly the unfortunate cir-
cumstances of their existence. It is the social reformer,
whose one aim is not the uplifting of the individual as such,
but the betterment of the individual as the unit of the
social fabric, who is most concerned for the betterment of
the town life of England. As to the women themselves,
when they are compensated by extra wage they have
no complaint to make about the long hours; indeed, they
sometimes even prefer the factory and the excitement



372 WOMAN

of their surroundings to the dreary and forbidding proS'
pect of their desolate tenements. One unnatural result
of women's work in factories is the reversal of the posi-
tions respectively of husband and wife in the home. It is
not an extraordinary occurrence for women to go out to
the factories and earn the bread of the family, while the
men remain at home to mind the babies and care for the
house. This begetting of shiftlessness in men, who are
buoyed up to the point of self-supporting labor only by
the dependence of their families upon them, is an inci-
dental but a significant result of factory life upon women.
It is seriously to be doubted that, in the aggregate earn-
ings of the family, there is any real compensation for the
binding of wives and children to the wheel of toil. It has
been observed by careful students of industrial conditions
that, for one reason or another, the maximum wage of a
family and the degree of comfort in their living are not,
ordinarily, greater than that of the family whose sole wage
earner is the husband.

There is not a concurrence of views as to the wisdom
of special legislation with regard to the industrial place of
women. Some see in the various acts passed to regulate
the circumstances of their employment a distinct gain,
while others view all such enactments as a regrettable
interference of the state in a matter where it is not capa-
ble of taking cognizance of all the circumstances involved
and of displaying the broadest wisdom in dealing with the
subject. Then, too, it is objected on the part of some
that sex legislation is unwise of itself. The women them-
selves have not always looked with favor upon the pas-
sage of acts for the regulation of their labor, and often
complain of such as an infringement of their personal
privileges as adults. They complain that the competition
of labor is already severe, and that by imposing upon



THE WOMEN OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 373

them the limitations of certain acts the difificulty of making
a subsistence is increased. They complain against the
association of female with child labor, and assert that
the conditions are dissimilar and the abuses to be corrected
cannot be classed under the same legislative conditions.
Industrial legislation was first directed to the correction of
offences against women on account of their sex, but the
later enactments, and those most complained of, were re-
sented because of their making the securing of a livelihood
more precarious. The Times in 1895 pointed out that
there were eight hundred and eighty thousand women
affected by the Factories and Workshops Bill, introduced
into Parliament in that year. The lack of flexibility of the
measure, failing to take account of the different natures
and conditions of the various employments affected, made
it obviously unjust to the women employed in certain
trades. Some industries have their seasons of activity
and of dulness, while others fluctuate without regard to
periods; and to class all such under legislation regulating
the hours of labor at the same number for them all could
but work injury to the women employed in such trades
and disproportionate advantage to other women employed
in industries pursued evenly throughout the year.

The crux of such contentions lies in the paternal attitude
of the state to the female sex. The expediency of depriv-
ing women of the same amount of liberty to regulate their
own affairs as is accorded to men is a matter of doubt.
Women feel that they can decide better for their own
needs than can the legislators who have as their guide
only industrial statistics, the petitions of well-meaning
social reformers, and the views of those who claim expert
knowledge from the outside. Just what will be the out-
come of the attempt to resolve woman into a normal rela-
tionship to modern industry without violation of the rights



374 WOMAN

of self-direction and protection, which she claims as her
prerogative, and at the same time to preserve society from
the social blight of the reduction of considerable numbers
of workingwomen to prostitution and abandoned living,
remains to be determined by the wisdom and experience
of the twentieth century.

One of the most curious of the industrial problems at
the front in the nineteenth century was the servant ques-
tion. While the wheels of work were set to moving with
more or less smoothness in all other ways, this important
wheel in the domestic machinery has never run without
friction, jarring to the nerves of housewives. Such women
find a common bond of sympathy in the incompetence and
dereliction of their domestics; domestics find a common sub-
ject of interest in their grievances against their mistresses.
The whole matter is almost ludicrous, because it is one
simply of adjustment. After the sex has asserted for
itself a position in the realm of industry not inconsistent
with the self-respect which it has sought to maintain, the
women who work in the kitchens and the chambers of
other women sullenly resent the imputation of their menial
status in so doing. Just why the modern servants should
be looked upon as inferior to other women workers is a
difiicult question, for their close relation to their mistresses
would appear to give them an individuality which the
" hands " in a factory do not possess. The line of demar-
cation between the domestic employers and employes is
not always a clearly pronounced one, for it not uncom-
monly occurs that those who themselves employ a maid
send out their own daughters to similar service. The low
regard in which servants are held, and the application to
them of this very term, which carries with it an implica-
tion of ignominy, is responsible for the poor grade of effi-
ciency, intelligence, and character found among domestics



THE WOMEN OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY 375

as a class. There is no reason, in the nature of the case,
why a young girl with intelligence and fair education
should not self-respectingly take domestic service, and
rank above factory hands and many of her sister workers
in inferior clerical positions.

In earlier times domestic work fell largely to men. The
kitchen work which now is performed by scullery maids
was done by boys and youths; and before the office of
housemaid had been established, that of chamberlain sig-
nified the service of men for the work which maids are
now employed to do. The very titles of those who are
connected with the person of majesty signify the lowly
household functions which were ordinarily performed by
those to whom now fall the honors, but none of the duties,
of those offices. In ecclesiastical households there were
no women employed at all in former times, excepting
"brewsters." The personal relationship which used to
endear the tie between servant and mistress no more ex-
ists than it does between other working people and their
employers. Instead of the idea of personal attachment,
the monetary consideration is the only one that enters
into the relationship. The maid is but a part of the
machinery of the household, and must deport herself in a
deferential and often an abject manner, assuming a mask
of propriety which is thrown off as soon as she is among
her companions, when the pent-up animosity and resent-
ment find expression. How different the modern condition
from that which obtained in other times, when a lady con-
sidered no one fitting to attend upon her excepting those
who were of gentle blood and between whom and her-
self were ties of endearment and a measure of equality!
Gentle maidens performed many household duties which
to-day are disdained by young ladies of lesser position.
The real "servants" did only the coarse and rough work



3/6 WOMAN

of the household. They had no particular place to sleep,
and, even down to the time of Elizabeth, it was not
thought important to provide regular beds for "menials"
in the great houses — "As for servants, if they had any
shete above them it was well, for seldom had they any
under their bodies to keep them from the pricking strawes
that ranne off thorow the canvas and raxed their hardened



Online LibraryMitchell CarrollWoman: in all ages and in all countries → online text (page 26 of 30)