List Of Contents | Contents of Female Suffrage, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
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the opinion of New Jersey in former days. Great will be the
consumption of cheap ribbons, and laces, and artificial flowers, and
feathers, and tinsel jewelry, in every town and village about election
time, after emancipation is achieved. We are compelled to believe
so, judging from our knowledge of human nature, and of the use
already made of bribery at many elections. The demagogues will be
more powerful than ever. Their work will be made easy for them. It
seems, indeed, probable that under the new era our great elections
shall become a sort of grand national gift concerns, of which the
most active demagogues of all parties will be the managers. Not
that women are more mercenary, or more unprincipled than men. God
forbid! That would be saying too much. We entirely believe the
reverse to be true. But the great mass of women can never be made
to take a deep, a sincere, a discriminating, a lasting interest in the
thousand political questions ever arising to be settled by the vote.
They very soon weary of such questions. On great occasions they can
work themselves up to a state of frenzied excitement over some one
political question. At such times they can parade a degree of
unreasoning prejudice, of passionate hatred, of blind fury, even
beyond what man can boast of. But, in their natural condition, in
everyday life, they do not take instinctively to politics as men do.
Men are born politicians; just as they are born masons, and
carpenters, and soldiers, and sailors. Not so women. Their thoughts
and feelings are given to other matters. The current of their chosen
avocations runs in another channel than that of politics--a channel
generally quite out of sight of politics; it is an effort for them to turn
from one to the other. With men, on the contrary, politics, either
directly or indirectly, are closely, palpably, inevitably blended with
their regular work in life. They give their attention unconsciously,
spontaneously; to politics. Look at a family of children, half boys,
half girls; the boys take instinctively to whips and guns and balls
and bats and horses, to fighting and wrestling and riding; the girls
fondle their dolls, beg for a needle and thread, play at housekeeping,
at giving tea-parties, at nursing the sick baby, at teaching school.
That difference lasts through life. Give your son, as he grows up, a
gun and a vote; he will delight in both. Give your daughter, as she
grows up, a gun and a vote, and, unless she be an exceptional
woman, she will make a really good use of neither. Your son may be
dull; but he will make a good soldier, and a very tolerable voter.
Your daughter may be very clever; but she would certainly run away
on the battle-held, and very probably draw a caricature on the
election ticket. There is the making of an admirable wife and mother,
and a valuable member of society, in that clever young woman. She
is highly intelligent, thoroughly well educated, reads Greek and
Latin, and has a wider range of knowledge and thought than ninety-
nine in a hundred of the voters in the same district; but there is
nothing of the
politician in her nature. She would rather any day read a fine poem
than the best political speech of the hour. What she does know of
politics reaches her through that dull but worthy brother of hers. It is
only occasionally that we meet women with an inherent bias for
politics; and those are not, as a rule, the highest type of the sex--it
is only occasionally that they are so. The interest most women feel
in politics is secondary, factitious, engrafted on them by the men
nearest to them. Women are not abortive men; they are a distinct
creation. The eye and the ear, though both belonging to the same
body, are each, in a certain sense, a distinct creation. A body
endowed with four ears might hear remarkably well; but without eyes
it would be of little use in the world. A body with four eyes would
have a fourfold power of vision, and would consequently become
nearly as sharp-sighted as a spider; but without hearing its powers
of sight would avail little. In both cases, half the functions of the
human being, whether physical or mental, would be very imperfectly
performed. Thus it is with men and women; each has a distinct
position to fill in the great social body, and is especially qualified for
it. These distinct positions are each highly important. And it is
reasonable to believe that, by filling their own peculiar position
thoroughly well, women can best serve their Creator, their fellow-
creatures, and themselves. No doubt you may, if you choose, by
especial education from childhood upward, make your girls very
respectable politicians, as much so as the majority of your sons. But
in that case you must give up your womanly daughters--you must be
content with manly daughters. This essential difference between the
sexes is a very striking fact; yet the advocates of female suffrage
constantly lose sight of it; they talk and write as if it had no
existence. It is not lack of intellect on the part of women, but
difference of intellect, or rather a difference of organization and
affinities giving a different bias to the intellect, which is the cause of
their distinct mental character as a sex. And, owing to this essential
difference, the great majority of women are naturally disinclined to
politics, and partially unfitted for action in that field.

Part II.

LET us now look for a moment at the actual condition of women in
America, in connection with the predicted elevation. We are told they
are to be elevated by the suffrage--and that by hanging on to the
election tickets in the hands of their wives, the men are to be
elevated with them. What, therefore, is the ground women now
occupy, and from whence they are to soar upward on the paper wings
of the ballot? The principal facts connected with that position are
self-evident; there is nothing vague or uncertain here; we have but
to look about us and the question is answered. We already know, for
instance, from daily observation and actual experience, that, as a
general rule, the kindness and consideration of American men have
been great, both in public and in private life. We know that in
American society women have been respected, they have been
favored, they have been protected, they have been beloved. There
has been a readiness to listen to their requests, to redress
grievances, to make changes whenever these have become necessary
or advisable. Such, until very recently, has been the general current
of public feeling, the general tendency of public action, in America. If
there appear to-day occasional symptoms of a change in the tone of
men on this point, it is to be attributed to the agitation of the very
question we are now discussing. Whenever women make ill-judged,
unnatural, extravagant demands, they must prepare to lose ground.
Yes, even where the particular points in dispute are conceded to
their reiterated importunity, they must still eventually lower their
general standing and consideration by every false step. There are
occasions where victory is more really perilous than a timely defeat;
a temporary triumph may lead to ground which the victors can not
permanently hold to their own true and lasting advantage. On the
other hand, every just and judicious demand women may now make
with the certainty of successful results. This is, indeed, the great
fact which especially contributes to render the birthright of American
women a favorable one.  If the men of the country are already
disposed to redress existing grievances, where women are
concerned, as we know them to be, and if they are also ready, as we
know them to be, to forward all needful future development of true
womanly action, what more, pray, can we reasonably ask of them?
Where lies this dim necessity of thrusting upon women the burdens
of the suffrage? And why should the entire nation be thrown into the
perilous convulsions of a revolution more truly formidable than any
yet attempted on earth? Bear in mind that this is a revolution which,
if successful in all its aims, can scarcely fail to sunder the family
roof-tree, and to uproot the family hearth-stone. It is the avowed
determination of many of its champions that it shall do so; while
with another class of its leaders, to weaken and undermine the
authority of the Christian faith in the household is an object if not
frankly avowed yet scarcely concealed. The great majority of the
women enlisted in this movement--many of them, it is needless to
say, very worthy persons as individuals--are little aware of all the
perils into which some of their most zealous male allies would lead
them. Degradation for the sex, and not true and lasting elevation,
appear to most of us likely to be the end to which this movement
must necessarily tend, unless it be checked by the latent good
sense, the true wisdom, and the religious principle of women
themselves, aroused, at length, to protest, to resist. If we are called
upon for proof of the assertion, that American men are already
prepared to redress actual grievances, we find that proof in their
course at the present moment. Observe the patience with which our
legislative bodies are now considering the petitions of a clamorous
minority demanding the redress of a fictitious grievance--a minority
demanding a political position which the majority of their sex still
utterly reject--a position repugnant to the habits, the feelings, the
tastes, and the principles of that majority. If men are willing to give
their attention to these querulous demands of a small minority of our
sex, how much more surely may we rely on their sympathy, and their
efficient support, when
some measure in which the interests of the whole sex are clearly
involved shall be brought before them by all their wives and

And again: they are not only already prepared to redress grievances,
but also to forward all needed development of true womanly action.
Take, in proof of this, assertion, the subject of education. This is,
beyond all doubt the vital question of the age, embracing within its
limits all others. Education is of far more importance than the
suffrage, which is eventually subject to it, controlled by it. This is,
indeed, a question altogether too grave, too comprehensive, and too
complicated in some of its bearings to be more than briefly alluded
to here. But let us consider education for a moment as the mere
acquirement of intellectual knowledge. This is but one of its phases,
and that one not the most important; but such is the popular,
though very inadequate, idea of the subject in America. Observe how
much has already been done in this sense for the instruction of the
woman of our country. In the common district schools, and even in
the high schools of the larger towns, the same facilities are generally
offered to both sexes; in the public schools brother and sister have,
as a rule, the same books and the same teachers. And we may go
much further and say that every woman in the country may already--
IF SHE IS DETERMINED TO DO SO--obtain very much the same
intellectual instruction which her own brother receives. If that
education is a highly advanced one she will, no doubt, have some
special difficulties to contend against; but those difficulties are not
insurmountable. The doors of most colleges and universities are
closed, it is true, against women, and we can not doubt that this
course is taken for sound reasons, pointed out by good sense and
true sagacity. It is impossible not to believe that between the ages
of fifteen and five-and-twenty young men and young women will
carry on their intellectual training far more thoroughly and
successfully apart than thrown into the same classes. At that age of
vivid impressions and awakening passions, the two sexes are
sufficiently thrown together in family life and in general society for
all purposes of mutual influence and improvement. Let them chat,
walk, sing, dance together, at that period of their lives; but if you
wish to make them good scholars, let them study apart. Let their
loves and jealousies be carried on elsewhere than in the college
halls. But already female colleges, exclusively adapted to young
women, are talked of--nay, here and there one or two such colleges
now exist. There is nothing in which American men more delight,
nothing more congenial to their usual modes of thought and action,
than to advance the intellectual instruction of the whole nation,
daughters as well as sons. We may rest assured that they will not
fail to grant all needful development in this direction. One female
college, of the very highest intellectual standard, would probably be
found sufficient for a population of some millions. The number of
women desiring a full college education will always, for many
different reasons, be much smaller than the number of male
students. But there is no good reason why such colleges, when found
desirable, should not enter into our future American civilization.
Individual American women may yet, by these means, make high
progress in science, and render good service to the country and the
race. Every branch of study which may be carried on thoroughly and
successfully, without impairing womanly modesty of mind and
manner, should be so far opened to the sex as to allow those
individuals to whom Providence has given the ability for deep
research to carry them to the farthest point needed. But as regards
those studies which are intended to open the way to professions
essentially bold and masculine in character, we do not see how it is
within the bounds of possibility for young women to move onward in
that direction without losing some of their most precious womanly
prerogatives--without, in short, unsexing themselves.

The really critical point with regard to the present position of women
in America is the question of work and wages. Here the pocket of
man is touched. And the pocket is the most sensitive point with
many men, not only in America, but all the world over. There can be
no doubt whatever that women are now driven away from certain
occupations, to which they are well adapted, by the selfishness of
some men. And in many departments where they are day-laborers for
commercial firms they are inadequately paid, and compelled to
provide food, lodging, fuel, and light out of scanty wages. Yes, we
have here one of the few real grievances of which American women
have a just right to complain. But even here--even where the pocket
is directly touched, we still believe that women may obtain full
justice in the end, by pursuing the right course. Only let the reality
of the grievance be clearly proved, and redress will follow, ere long.
Providence has the power of bringing good out of evil; and therefore
we believe that the movement now going on will here, at least, show
some lasting results for good. The "Song of the Shirt" shall, we trust,
ere long become an obsolete lay in our country. Our women, twenty
years hence, shall be better paid in some of their old fields of labor;
and new openings, appropriate to their abilities, mental and

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