Tuesday, March 30, 2010
EMANCIPATION OF A WOMAN
WOMEN should regard suffrage as a means, not as an end. A means of release from legal restraints which consider her as less than a human being--of enforcing the principle "no taxation without representation" --of protecting property--of receiving a fair equivalent for labor--of social elevation--of mental and moral enlightenment--of awakening to effort--in short a means of emancipation.
Ignorant, indifferent men and women view the result of the suffrage movement as merely an increased number of votes polled at the regular elections. "Parties and politics will not be changed," they say, there will be nothing gained, only so many more votes to count." They see nothing of the grand consequences enfranchisement involves, the revolutionizing of woman's social position and individual character.
The world needs strong, self-reliant, self-sacrificing, conscientious women for its regeneration. High physical, mental and moral development is what women need. But to this, as a class, they will never attain, while they are treated as inferiors, are deprived of their inherent rights, and are dependent on masculine bounty.
Suppose a mother teaches her son in this manner: "My dear, you must not engage in out-door exercises, for they develop the muscular system, and it is desirable that you should preserve a delicate appearance; and you must not expose your complexion to the rays of the sun. You must submit to tight lacing in order to obtain an improved figure. Yon must conform to all the dictates of fashion, however absurd, unsuitable and uncomfortable; and your attire must claim the most of your time and thoughts. An education is but time and money wasted; a slight knowledge of a few prominent branches together with the fashionable accomplishments is all sufficient. You will never have any use for more, besides learned gentlemen are quite ridiculous.
"The only aim of your life is to marry. Do not trouble yourself about becoming fitted for its responsibilities, nor think of its various duties; you will learn them when you are obliged to. You can labor a little about home if you choose, but to have a regular occupation, trade or profession is very vulgar. Your sisters and myself will support you till you are grown, and then you must marry a rich wife. Remember that while your sisters are free to follow the inclinations of their minds and choose occupations, you must remain with your mother till you have a wife to provide for you. The property you inherit from me will go into her possession, and you will, at all times, be dependent upon her, but that is as it should be. A woman and her husband should be one.
You must not interest yourself in politics; you have no voice in the government. If the laws are oppressive, if your wife becomes dissipated, squanders all your inherited property in gambling and drinking, takes away the money starvation has compelled you to earn, and then beats you for more, you must submit in silence, for you can obtain no redress and if you clamor for reform, you will be termed that horror of horrors 'a strong-minded man.'"
Thus taught and trained what sort of a man would he make ? If possessed of any spirit would he not fret and beat against his chains? Then if parental authority and society sneeringly smiled at any higher aspirations, ridiculed his attempts to escape, and forcibly held him in his "sphere," (so-called), would he not become an idling, inane, silly, dandified puppy.
Yet the majority of girls are thus taught and trained. From this false system of teaching and practice, energetic reformers are endeavoring to emancipate women. If freedom, education, labor, business, responsibility, franchise, and aims are needed to fully develop men, are they not also needed to fully develop women? Let women feel that they are "free and equal," that an occupation is honorable, and that their acts, opinions and influence are of some importance, and they will desert the ranks of ignorance, idleness and folly.
Suffrage is the gate to fields beyond. Fields of labor, of education, of development. Merely the privilege of voting the Republican or Democratic ticket is not our aim, but to make "perfect women, nobly planned."
Croakers prate of evils which will follow the legal and political equality of woman. Every great change is accompanied by temporary evils. But this fact still remains--right is right. And further, liberty does not mean license; nor does the right of ballot annul woman's peculiar duties and responsibilities.
With woman's enfranchisement will come elevation and thorough education. With thorough education will come a just appreciation and a better performance of her duties. In the marriage relation she will take her true position as a help-meet--a woman, not merely as a female.
"But women do not use the privileges they have, why give them more?" ask the oppositionists. True, women as a class do neglect their privileges, they are yet sleeping in a chrysalis state, but there is a promise of what they can be, of what they may be. In the old slavery days, men said: "The slaves will not work without a driver, they cannot support themselves, they are incapable of self-government, and they must remain dependent." But the emancipation has shown how unfounded, how empty their assertions. In the same manner the emancipation of women will reveal stamina, powers and resources among them yet unimagined.
Dr. Vishwanath Bite