Pierce Butler.

Woman: in all ages and in all countries (Volume 9) online

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Brigham Young University


Relief Society-
General Board


Lorena Chipraan




StJEomen of ISnglanlr




2Cf)is IBliition






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After the painting by W. P. Frith, R. A.

Pepys, in his Diary, says : ''Mr. Pierce, the surgeon, tells
me that, tJioiigh the king and my Lady Castlemaine are
friends again, she is not at White Hall, Imt at Sir D.
Harvey's, zvhither the king goes to her ; but she says she
made hiin ask her forgiveness upon his knees, and promise
to offend her no more so, and that indeed she hath nearly
hectored him out of his wits!'

jL^ I . ^ / ^



Moman : in all ages anlr in all countries



barium et mutabile semper Fcmina



Entered at Stationers' Hall, London




It is no slight task to follow out the windings of a single
thread in the infinite weave of society and by loosing it
from the general mesh to show how dependent is the pat-
tern of life and custom upon its presence. Such a task
was presented in the endeavor to trace along from remotest
times to the present day the influence of woman upon the
life and character, the efforts and ideals, of that race which
has come to be known as English, although this name may
not properly be used until time has spun into the vista of
the past peoples as vigorous, if not influential, as the one
that stands, the inheritor of their virility, at the apex of
modern civilization, whose women, clasping hands through-
out the British Empire, form a splendid chain of hope for
womankind in all the world.

Whether or not continuity and sequence, relation and
effect, have been maintained in the retraversing of the
footsteps of woman in all ages of the history of those isles
where femininity has flowered in the most gracious blos-
soms, it remains for the reader to say. Certain it is that
unaffected pleasure has been afforded the writer in his
attempt to draw aside the curtain that the muse of history
jealously employs to shut from view the inner sanctuary
in which she preserves those vital relics, the destruction
of which by some inconceivable iconoclast would bring
death to the world for lack of materials for reflection and


viii WOMAN

inspiration. In treating of the prehistoric periods, although
the brush necessarily has been Maid broadly upon the
canvas, fancy has been kept in the leash of fact, and
imagination given no more play than its legitimate func-
tion. Still, the results of inquiry into the status of woman
at this far remote period furnish a fulcrum upon which to
rest the lever of investigation, in order to lift into view
the strata of undoubted history of the periods immediately

As fast as the widening of social interest afforded the
materials for use, the writer sought to employ them, until,
like a mountain rivulet, ever widening until it reaches the
plain, he found himself embarrassed by the wealth of fact
that told the marvellous story of the most notable eman-
cipation in the history of mankind, — the complete separa-
tion of English woman from the trammels, inherent and
environmental, imposed upon the sex. If the successive
chapters disclose the philosophical relations of woman in
society, it will be because the reader has not failed to
grasp the fact that in any such theme as the one treated
mere continuity of subject matter would constitute a
chronicle and not a history; and that the writer, while
seeking not to make obtrusive the connective tissue, has
nevertheless given ample scope for the reflective mind to
see that which has ever been present to his own.

As to the actual materials employed in constructing the
book, it is sufficient to say that no important writer upon
any period of the history of the British Isles or their
people has been overlooked, and that the passing over of
the political and constitutional phases in order to select the
purely social has been an endeavor much furthered by
the writers to whom reference is made in the body of the
work, and many others who could not be mentioned with-
out burdening the text. Each fibre of the thread of interest


has been taken hold of at the point of its appearance, and
then not lost sight of until the end. So that if one is
interested in the subject of costume, he may find a full
and accurate description of dress from the time when tat-
tooing was deemed largely sufficient up to the period of
the present, when the variety of feminine attire baffles
description. But more serious subjects, such as woman^s
rights, from the recognition of primal rights in her person
to the setting forth of the modern programme under that
description, are consecutively treated through the chapters.
A debt of gratitude cannot be discharged, but some rec-
ognition may be made of the author's sense of the service
rendered him in the writing of this work by Dr. John
Martin Vincent, associate professor of history in Johns Hop-
kins University, whose courses in the social history of
England furnished the first incentive to range in that field
and a guide through the labyrinth of manners and customs
of the English people. Thanks are due to Mr. J. A. Bur-
gan, whose close and careful reading of the proof is not
the least factor in the presentation of the book free, as the
writer believes, of the errors that only eternal vigilance
may exclude.

Bartlett Burleigh James.

itti)apter i
^fit Wiomtn of ^ref)fetoric iSritain


It is to the unpremeditated contributions of savage and
barbarous conditions of existence that we must look for
those primal elements of social order which became funda-
mental in English life and character. Insomuch as those
contributions are intimately connected with woman^s life
and work, they must be sought out and set in order if we
are to trace the development of the status of the women
of Britain. In doing this, the confines of history proper
must be disregarded and the inquiry commenced at the
earliest period at which the student of the geology of
Britain has been able to discover evidences of human occu-
pancy of the country. If a consecutive account of the
history of woman in Britain were intended, we should be
content to begin the story with the woman of the Neolithic
or Polished Stone Age, for to such remote times may be
traced the stream of life and institutions in England; but,
as we shall aim not solely at consecutiveness, but at com-
pleteness as well in our record of woman's life in the British
Isles, it will be necessary to go back even further into the
geologic ages, when Britain was still a part of the main-
land and its inhabitants the same roving savage tribes that
wandered over all central Europe.

From those barren ages of the Pleistocene era, which
were cut off from the Neolithic by great stretches of time



that cannot be certainly calculated, and during which there
was a lapse in the human occupancy of the country, little
of value can be derived. Their chief worth for our pur-
pose is the picture which they present of the initial stage
of human organization, the study they afford of woman in
her relations to a thoroughly savage stage of society, an
era of hunting — that of the Paleolithic or Rough Stone Age,
when there was fixity neither of residence nor of relations,
and when man's contest with savage nature about him
was dependent in its issues upon the slight advantage
furnished him by the rude weapons that he fashioned from
flint flakes. During the Polished Stone era, when in-
habitants are next met with in Britain, the social organi-
zation presented is that of the pastoral stage, which marks
a great advance over the hunting.

In all the progressions of uncivilized life, woman is but
a part of the phenomena of her times, but in the history
of English civilization she appears as one of its most active
forces. These, then, are the two correlated views of
woman in the history of English life that will be constantly
held in mind during our whole study, — woman as a social
fact, and woman as a social factor; showing her as a
product, as affected by the customs, laws, or manners of
a given time, and again as an influencing factor in the
institutions or the manners of those times. Had her life
been as circumscribed as that of the women of a cultured
people, English civilization would not owe to woman the
recognition which is her due as a creative force in the arts,
in science, in literature, in religion, and in all the ever-
widening circle of human interests. An understanding
and estimate of her influence in these more conspicuous
relations will depend upon a proper appreciation of the Eng-
lish home as the principal source of the English woman's
dignity and power. Much that has entered into the ideals


of the English race can be fully accounted for only in the
light of home ideals. By such considerations, then, as
have been thus far set forth, we shall be guided in our
endeavor to tell the story of woman's life in the ages of
Britain's history.

The people of the earliest part of the Pleistocene age
had no real home life, nor was there any social organization
excepting that into which men were forced by the neces-
sity for mutual aid in the struggle with the forces of savage
nature. This element of self-protection was the only factor
that entered into the organized life of those earliest in-
habitants of Britain, — the people of the river-drift and the
caves. In this combat between savage man and savage
beast were produced the first instruments pointing to
civilization, — weapons for defence and offence.

The life of woman among the men of the river-drift was
of the most debased order. The only employment of the
men was hunting the gigantic savage beasts that ranged
through the forests. While the males were in pursuit
of the rhinoceros, the lion, the. hippopotamus, and the
great antlered deer that were a part of the fauna of the
whole of that section of the continent of Europe of which
Britain in those remote times formed a part, the females
roamed through the densely wooded forests whose only
clearings were those made by the ravages of fire. Clad
in the skins of beasts but little lower in the scale of
being than themselves, and with their naked offspring
about them, they wandered about in search of berries or,
with no better aids than sharpened sticks, dug up the roots
which they dried and stored for the days when the results
of the chase fell short of the needs of the people. On the
home-coming of the hunters to the place where, in their
nomadic wanderings, they had erected temporary shelters,
the women prepared the miserable meal. By skilfully


rubbing together pieces of hard wood, a fire was soon
obtained; if fortune had attended the chase, the hastily
skinned animals were cut up with flint flakes, and the
meat was thrown upon the stones placed in the fire for
that purpose. There were no niceties of taste to be con-
sidered, so the half-cooked and badly smoked flesh was
snatched from the fire and eaten with no more decorum
than might be found in the meals of the cave-hyena that,
under the shadows of night, skulked through the under-
brush and noisily devoured the remnants of the hunters*

On the day following the hunt, the women undertook
the arduous work of curing the skins of the slain animals.
In the initial stage of the process they used stone scrapers,
sharp of edge and probably set in bone handles. Hun-
dreds of these implements have been found. The women
acquired great dexterity in this, one of their customary
employments; and while the men lounged about, resting
from the fatigue of the hunt, or occupied themselves with
painting their bodies with ochre, or tracing, with a splinter
of stone, rude devices on pieces of polished reindeer antler,
the work of the women went industriously on.

Men of such undisciplined natures as those of the people
of the river-drift could not exist together harmoniously;
very little, indeed, was necessary to embroil them in bitter
strife. Their women were a frequent cause of bloody en-
counters, a circumstance which was due to the fact that
there was no permanence in the relations of the sexes;
such rights — seldom individual — to the women as were
vested in the men were always those acquired by brute
force, and held good only so long as the fancy or strength
of the men permitted. In such a promiscuous society
there was nothing to suggest the home of civilization.
To men, women simply represented their chief possession


and were held by them in common, like other forms of

Such an age was almost as barren of material utilities as
of moral conceptions; so that one looks in vain for evidence
of the knowledge of such arts as are commonly associated
with the life of women in savage societies. Basket work,
weaving, and spinning were occupations of which, it is
thought, the women of those times knew nothing. Pot-
tery was unknown; gourds served for drinking cups and
for the holding of liquids, and were used also for cooking.
Among the memorials of woman of these remote times
appears no trace of the charms and fetiches which usually
accompany the performance of domestic duties among
primitive races. Nothing lower in the scale of human
existence could be imagined than the lives of these women
of the river-drift, to whom nature made no appeal save
that of fear of its furious moods, to whom sex meant not
the possibilities of pure wifehood and motherhood, but
servitude to the demands of passion. When children were
not vigorous, or when for any reason their nurture became
irksome, they were ruthlessly slain, even by the mothers
themselves; and every woman knew that the lot of aban-
donment was reserved for her when she could no longer
fulfil the hard conditions of her existence.

In some respects, the life of the women of the cave-
dwellers of the later Pleistocene period was of a higher
order than that which we have just described — not that
there was any essential difference in the social grade of
the two peoples, but that the cave-dwellers had learned to
make better implements of the chase and to fashion more
effectively all their weapons and tools. The greater
security to life afforded by these improvements and the
greater assurance of subsistence led to more settled living,
and thereby afforded an opportunity to develop a social


organization that should have for its basis something of
greater permanence than a temporary need. While it
would be hazardous, then, to assume too much in the way
of improvement in the life of the women of the cave-
dwellers over that of the women of the river-drift, yet it
should be borne in mind that in states of society such as
those represented by these remote inhabitants of Britain,
even a slight advance in the scale of living marks an epoch
of progress.

The cave-dwellers succeeded the people of the river-
drift as inhabitants of Britain, and the combined occupancy
of the country by these peoples covered a vast stretch of
time. It is very probable that their periods overlapped,
and that the later people were in part contemporary with
the former. Though the people of the river-drift and the
dwellers in caves may have avoided intermixture, as have
the Esquimaux and the American hidians, yet there is
nothing absolutely to preclude the idea that such race dis-
tinction was observed during great periods of time. So
that all we have to say of the women of the cave-dwellers
may be equally applied to the women of the later times of
the river-drift.

The cave-dwellers, like their predecessors, were hunters.
For their dwellings they chose the caves from which they
had driven out the bear and the lion. These rude homes
the women hung about with the skins of the horse or the
wolf, and spread on the floor for couches the hides of these
or of other beasts that had fallen by the arrows of the
hunters or had been ensnared in their pitfalls. Here the
tribe remained until the scarcity of game or the assault of
enemies impelled it to migrate. Where there were no
caves, huts were constructed. These were framed with
the branches and trunks of trees and covered with skins
and hides.


The woman of the cave-dwellers was a sturdy specimen
of her sex, and the long and arduous migrations in which
the burden of the work fell upon her shoulders were prob-
ably borne with little sense of hardship. We can imagine
a tribe, travelling afoot, for as yet neither the horse nor
any other animal had been domesticated: the men with
their long fish spears across their backs, their stone
arrows hanging at their sides, and their bows in hand,
always alert for the wild beasts with which they waged a
relentless warfare; the women laden with all the para-
phernalia of their simple existence, many with a babe
slung at the back, and their naked, uncouth progeny fol-
lowing or gambolling about them. The strange personal
appearance of both men and women would add to the
oddity of the scene in modern eyes, for their bodies were
painted in grotesque patterns, and, if the rigors of the
season made any covering necessary, a simple skin, laced
about them with reindeer sinews, sufficed for clothing.
On coming to a fresh hunting region, near to some body
of water or flowing stream, where the game would natu-
rally come to slake their thirst, — perhaps upon the grassy
plains that still extended over what is now the English
Channel and formed a part of the original land connection
with the continent, — they paused for another term of set-
tled residence. Again the caves were resorted to, or rudely
thatched huts were erected. If the wild beasts pressed
the wanderers too hard, they sometimes had recourse to
huts erected upon rough stone heaps in the midst of an
oozy swamp.

While the men gave themselves wholly to hunting, the
women went about their domestic pursuits. To them was
assigned the making of such scanty clothing as was impera-
tively required in the cold season; for though the crude
carvings of the time invariably represent the hunters as


naked, it cannot be concluded from such evidence that
clothing was not worn at all. The extremely serviceable
reindeer sinews served the women for thread, and a thin
reindeer prong, pierced through at the thick end, made a
satisfactory needle. The skins were simply sewed together
at the edges, without shaping, but with apertures through
which to pass the head and arms. The women devised
many ornaments; these consisted of amulets and necklaces
made of bone, ivory, and shells, which, shaped and pol-
ished, they painstakingly punctured and fastened together
in long strings for the decoration of their necks and arms.
Apparently, it was not customary to wear foot covering of
any kind, as the feet of such skeletons of this period as
have been found are so symmetrical as to preclude the
probability of constraint during growth. The men may
have worn some form of foot covering when engaged in
such exposed work as spearing the seal in the winter
season; but the women, who remained in shelter during
the severities of the winter, did not avail themselves of
any such protection. The fact that gloves were worn by
men seems to be established by some of the rude etch-
ings of the period, for in them such articles appear to be

The sanitary condition of the homes of these hunting
tribes was of the worst description; the offal and refuse
were thrown at the very doors of the cave, there to decay
and poison the air. The caves themselves were smoke-
begrimed and foul, for house cleaning had not yet entered
into the economy of woman. While, by reason of their
simple, open-air life, they were a vigorous race, the ills to
which the cave-dwellers fell a prey, the injuries they suf-
fered in warfare or from the attacks of wild beasts, or the
diseases contracted through unsanitary living, must have
been sources of great dread to them, as they were without


any medical knowledge of which we have trace. When
the women, particularly, became too sick to perform their
allotted tasks, they were carried out to die or to become
the victims of savage beasts; but this was only one of the
inevitable phases of an existence that was replete with

From the evidence afforded by the great abundance of
arrow heads and spear points surviving from this period,
there is no doubt that the cave men were much given to
warfare. Aside from the natural pugnacity and ferocity
of savage races, which lead them to fight upon very little
provocation, there was with the cave-dwellers another
source of constant hostility. As has been stated with
reference to the river-drift people, the women were not
permanently attached to the men. It is just as true that
they were not permanently attached to their tribes, for
when, through disease or the ravages of wild beasts, the
women of any horde became greatly diminished in number,
their ranks were recruited by forays upon other tribes.
These attacks for the purpose of stealing the women of
their enemies were especially provocative of fierce con-
flicts, as the depletion of its stock of women often seriously
crippled a tribe and sometimes even threatened its extinc-
tion. Such forcible transfers of ownership must have
added greatly to the hardness of the woman's lot, for by
such means many mothers were permanently separated
from their offspring.

The weight of probability and of evidence seems to
leave little room for doubt that the early inhabitants of
Britain were cannibals. While there was no scarcity of
game as a rule, it is quite likely that these savage peoples,
as those of the same grade of culture in all times, when
experiencing the delirium of a victory over their enemies,
put to death by cruel tortures the unhappy captives that


fell into their hands, and then, to complete their triumph,
roasted and ate the flesh of the slain. Aside from the
deductive probability of the case, human bones dating
back to this period have been found along with the re-
mains of weapons and in association with the ashes of
camp fires; and in such cases the bones have invariably
been broken, in order to extract from them their marrow.
The story of the battle, the tortures, and the feast is elo-
quently suggested by the silent memorials that have been
preserved through the lapse of ages. As we picture the
far-off scene of human savagery, the figure of woman flits
through the lights and shadows of the horrid orgy: for
she it was who prepared the gruesome repast; it was in
defence of her, perhaps, that the fierce battle was fought;
some of her own near of kin, it may be, she has been
forced to prepare for the unnatural appetites of her ene-
mies. Possibilities! but read in the light of the times,
they become probabilities, and probabilities furnish much
of the data of history.

The tragedy of woman's life is again brought before us
with startling vividness when we look upon the skull of a
woman of this remote race, as it lies in a cave, with a little
stone hatchet beside it, where it was ruthlessly cast after
the commission of a bloody crime; for in that skull is a
jagged hole into which fits the blade of the hatchet. The
scene, sketched from a remote past, might have been an
occurrence of yesterday, so close to us is it brought by the
silent witnesses; these and similar relics disclose the sad
lot of woman in that savage society.

There are fuller evidences of the state of domestic re-
sources among the women of the cave-dwellers than with
those of the river-drift. The remains show, too, a greater
variety and adaptation; for while there is no clear proof

Online LibraryPierce ButlerWoman: in all ages and in all countries (Volume 9) → online text (page 1 of 30)