Note: The following two pieces are replies to an article in the “Spectator”, about the education of women. An excerpt:
“What are the habits, feelings and education of our females at the present time. Why, a great majority never think of preparing their minds for anything only to get a husband to maintain and wait upon them. She knows as little as the wild Arab, and has far less simplicity and gentleness of disposition, totally unfit to take charge of the household affairs that belong to her. The females who work in our mills can lay up more money, with some economy than our young men who get employment in the same place, and why should they expect the young men whom they may marry to not only buy the farm and furnish it, but also to furnish her with things with which to keep house? No wonder the more prudent of our young men choose to live single; for single blessedness with competence is far better than poverty and a peevish, fretful wife, whose bad disposition increases in proportion to the misery she has brought upon all around and depending on her.”
In the last Voice I noticed an article signed “Spectator,” which I perused with some degree of indignation. Your own comments I highly approve but trust you will permit me to review his statements still farther, and return upon his own head the guilt he has charged upon females; for there, in my humble opinion, the guilt rests.
I leave his first position, respecting the law, for those who frame laws and put them in force, and pass to notice that part relating to us females. He says, “resolve to be independent,” i.e., to be rich; me “to effect which it is not necessary to be mean and niggardly, only to form habits of industry and economy.” Now let me ask what such a resolution would effect, in our present situation? If we have not resolved to be industrious, are we not compelled to be so? Is not fourteen hours of constant, unceasing toil sufficient to satisfy the gentleman's idea of industry, and all that he thinks necessary to make us independent? Or would he have us drilled still longer in order to claim the title of industrious. And then let us economise according to the method he has marked out for us, such as adopting a uniform method of dress &c. and in five years, he says, we shall accomplish our ends, “be free from oppression, able to go to the far West and purchase farms for ourselves, without asking Government to give them to us.” In my opinion, the man that could thus calculate, must either be an isolated bachelor, who knows nothing of expense, or grossly deficient in the organ of calculation; and I hope he will permit some of us who make no pretensions to a knowledge of Mathematics, just to reckon the account for him.
In the first place our average amount of wages is two dollars per week; then allowing for every day's labor, without sickness, and without rest, we have, at the close of the year, one hundred and four dollars. Out of this sum, for the “preservation of health,” we must be supplied with comfortable clothing, suitable for toil with constant wear and tear; not put on to merely loll upon sofas. No small amount is paid out for the mere article of shoes; for this running six times a day back and forth from the mill to our boarding houses, over stone sidewalks, takes off our soles. Then come rubbers, umbrellas, shawls, bonnets, &c., for every day use; and this is not all;—we are required by our corporation rules to attend church regularly, and if we comply a pew rent is added to our expenditures, of about five or six dollars. And what church is there in the city that would receive us upon their velvet cushions in our mill attire? Not one, I believe, could be found. Then comes the expense of a better suit, a Sunday garb, to appear decent in the eyes of community. And to follow it out and really not to be niggardly or mean, we must contribute to the various professedly charitable objects of the day.
Now, Mr. Spectator, how long do you think it would take us to become independent at this rate, go out west and buy us farms? Five years, think ye?
With the next position of Spectator, I perfectly accord; i.e., that a change is necessary in female education, and a great change too. For if “as the twig is bent the tree's inclined,” and if woman is the author of all the wickedness there is on the earth—if woman makes all the warriors, murderers, pirates, slaveholders, drunkards, hypocrites, debauchees and monsters there are in the community, surely it is time for a change. I will not attempt to deny this charge, for I am well aware that early impressions are of the utmost permanent kind, and truly believe that if a right tone were given to the youthful mind, if love was inculcated by precept and example, to both friend and foe—if children were taught to regard as equal all persons, of whatever grade—to do good to all, of whatever nation or color, or situation in life—if they were taught that their own existence was for some great and wise and noble purpose—a very perceptible change would be wrought in society. And if woman is the cause of all this ignorance and wretchedness and misery and corruption, it is time for a change.
But is woman the first cause of all this? I know she has been called the great transgressor, since the time of our poor old mother Eve, when Adam fell asleep and left her to fight the adversary alone; but methinks if we look behind the screen, we shall find the wire-pullers that make woman what she is, and prevents her being what her own energy of character would enable her to be. Our laws are framed for us, and we are required to yield obedience—and woman is just what man makes her, or rather allows her to be. Compare, for a moment, our opportunities of acquiring knowledge with those of the other sex, commencing at adult age, to say nothing of the neglect of our physical education before this period. Throw each upon their own resources— go out into the country, where for school teaching a female receives the small pittance of four or five dollars a month, for three, perhaps four months—amounting to twelve, sixteen or twenty dollars for a whole summer's labor; and when for teaching the same school, the same scholars, &c., a male teacher receives sixteen, eighteen or twenty dollars per month, amounting to forty-eight, fifty-four or sixty dollars.
As in school teaching, so in all other business, there is an equal diversity of wages. Take these individuals to literary seminaries, and how is it there? Are expenses proportionate? No, by no means. A female pays for her board, her tuition, her books, as much as the gentleman. Then how far will her sixteen dollars carry her? let us see—for one term, board one dollar and fifty cents per week; tuition, four; books six—amount, twenty-eight dollars; then we must write her minus eight, twelve, or sixteen dollars. Now for the chances on the other side. Expenses at school, the same; leaving a balance in the gentleman's pocket of twenty, twenty-six or thirty-two dollars. Now, under these circumstances, will any man pretend to tell us we never think of preparing for anything only to get a husband, and that we know as little as the wild Arab? How does he know we never think of anything else; for if any one chances to think, does she not at the first glance behold interminable barriers in her way? Mr. Spectator says, a female can lay up more money in the mill than males. If this is true, I should like to have him show it; for while we are earning fifty cents per day, males are commanding from one dollar to two dollars and fifty cents; and why must they expend so much more than we? And then he recommends us to devote all our leisure to the cultivation of our minds. Shall we take a newspaper? then we must work from three days to two weeks to pay for it. A man can pay for the same in one day. Shall we buy ourselves books?—then we must pay as much as men. Shall we read them?—then after fourteen hours of toil, take a seat with twenty or thirty others, and your mind knows just about as much of the subject as you would if you we re in a vast whirlpool, know of the depth of the current. These are some of the advantages for obtaining knowledge. And now let me ask what man or what woman does not strive for the attainment of the highest honor set before them? Is not man stimulated to action by honors held up before him, both classical and political? Are not the most important subjects brought before their minds for consideration and reflection? Now what are the honors placed before females? Why just this one, and this alone—to get married! to make good industrious, social, smiling, obedient wives! Then why does any wonder that every method is adopted to accomplish the end, and just such means as suit the opposite sex? And so long as man uses her as a plaything, a toy, and talks nothing but mere nonsense and trifling in her presence, and pays his attentions and requests to those who appear out most gaily dressed—just so long will woman strive to please his fancy, bedeck herself with gewgaws, bedaub her face with paints, cover her fingers with rings, and spend her leisure time at the toilet.
Now I say, place some other attainable object before us. Give us an opportunity, time and means to cultivate our minds. Treat us as equals, and we will show you that we are not naturally more peevish, more fretful and idiotic than the other sex. In short, restore to us our rights, and we will prove ourselves intelligent, virtuous and reasonable beings. This we should accomplish ourselves, without the benefit of being remembered in the wills of the rich . But I fully accord with the gentleman in the practicability of thus using their wealth, instead of giving it those they denominate heathen, in foreign lands.
I trust Mr. Spectator will pardon me for these remarks, and receive them as coming from one who wishes to "retrieve her lost condition"—that has long felt it, and wishes to see her sex raised to the high position it was destined to occupy.
An Operative, Lowell, Jan. 17, 1847
A Reply to Spectator (Continued)
Will you again permit me to speak through your Voice, to our friend the Spectator, he seemed to think I may again censure him for some remarks; but as in his whether he derived this conclusion from all his other ideas of communication female excellencies, “that woman will always have the last word,” or whether he believes himself really deserving, I am unable to tell; be that as it may, I have thought best again to speak, and endeavor to convince him and some others, that the “power behind the throne” is utterly powerless, while the throne itself is but an opaque body, between the power and the great sun of light and knowledge, and also so much of an adamantine nature as to be immovable.
I have no contention with Spectator in regard to his views of education, as I truly believe a knowledge of all he has mentioned as desirable and necessary for man's perfectibility. True education is of three kinds, physical, mental and moral; and without this we are imperfect beings, and to a want of it we must plead guilty. Now will the gentleman please inform us, how we shall teach what we ourselves do not know? how we shall know without a teacher? how we can have a teacher without the means—the want of which I think I showed in my last? I speak of those who toil—those that give, in part, a practical education to their system, and suffer it not to be- come enervated by luxury and indolence, or to rust out for want of action, and whose minds of course partake of the health of the body. Drones will always be found in every hive, but 'tis working bees which repair the waste places, cull the sweets from every flower, and lead the young into honeyed fields.
Look at the millions of toiling females in America, whose hands are ever busy from ten, twelve, fourteen to sixteen hours even, of the day, and realize what time there is for them to cultivate their mental organs?
Lowell, alone has about eight thousand factory girls, that are destined, perhaps, to go out into the “far West,” and give a tone to the system of education and morals there. What will they teach? Physiology? What do they themselves know of the laws of health, or what advantages have they of knowing or practising them. Can a person, with only thirty minutes' time, put on her bonnet and shawl, and go out to her meals and back to her work, think much of mastication, deglutition and digestion? Can another, with hundreds in the mill, and in her sleeping apartment from six to twelve, study respiration, circulation of the blood, and the necessity of its purifications? Can another attend to the perspiratory organs, the functions of the skin, acc., surrounded by cotton dust and oil? Can any one cultivate their auditory organs, where thousands of shuttles are flying at their utmost speed, and the clatter is as if ten thousand wind mills were set in motion by a hurricane? Can they learn optics by lamp light, both morning and evening?—and with all these advantages combined, study the convolutions of their own brains or the brains of others?—improve upon their organs of benevolence, reverence, causality, comparison, order, adhesiveness and calculation, to say nothing of combativeness? And then ideality-- what a fine opportunity for its cultivation, and bringing out noble and high sentiments, ennobling to every faculty, to watch the flying shuttle and the whirl of spindles!
There appears just about as much reason in casting all the blame for the wickedness there is in the world upon woman, as there would be for the slaveholder at the south to gravely tell his slaves that “he is just what the slave has made him, and that he, the slave, must realize that if he suffers from the bad acts of his master, that himself alone, is the cause of it.” And in this free, civilized, enlightened, christianized America, where woman is acknowledged by all to occupy more nearly the station designed for her than in and other, but where she happens not to be yet so elevated but she is taunted as “knowing no more than wild Arabs,” and more “resembling pea-cocks” than reasonable beings, &c., it should become the inquiry of every true and philanthropic mind, what shall be done to educate and elevate her. Will “Spectator” be kind enough to inform us how to remedy the evils he charges upon us, under our present embarrassments—when we shall look for a change—when the world will be renovated and become what it should be, by the instructions of those who have been educated in the seminaries, such as he has described? If he fails to point out to us the remedy, as well as the evils, he has done but half his duty; and we must make the same request of the male portion of community, as did Diogenes of the conqueror, when asked what he could do to benefit him, he replied, “just stand out of my sunshine.”
I trust “Spectator” will realize that a war of words is not dangerous, and that all pains occasioned from such wounds, are easily healed, by an application of the balsam of truth acknowledged.
April 16, 1847
A Reply to Spectator (Concluded)
Spectator may have tho't from my long silence, that I had no more to say, but the subject of female duty and responsibility is quite too important to be readily passed over, and the charges he has brought against us, of too serious a nature to be hastily canvassed. He must have been aware of the commencement, that a smouldering volcano is more manageable and less dangerous than after the rubbish and smoking lava has been disturbed and given vent to latent fires to burst forth; and, if he becomes wearied in hearing woman's defence he must realise that he first roused the latent fires within her. Be sure he has nothing to fear from rocks of argument that may be hurled at him, but at least I hope to cast some small dust into the balance of justice.
His last communication was written with so much candor, and with all, so much reason and trust manifested that I almost began to think he believed us possessed of higher, nobler natures than formerly, and if he had not imposed upon us a task far above the reach of human attainment, it would have appeared more like sincerity. But I would like to review the whole matter, slightly, and see what our chances are.
First, he says, “A great majority of females know as little as wild Arabs, having far less simplicity and gentleness of disposition.”—“Doing as others do, perfectly heedless of consequences, and too ignorant to comprehend them when explained.” “More resembling peacocks than reasonable beings,” and then very gravely tells us to educate ourselves. Now if this is logical reasoning, then I do not know when the premises are correct and how to reason correctly from those premises. For how could any one under these circumstances throw off the miasma that has settled around them or soar above it? Would it not rather require some mighty power to lift them up? And then, to the operatives, one day in seven is allotted them, one day, after six long, tedious days of toil, to educate themselves in, and this too, where churches and corporations combine their united efforts to insure their attendance upon public worship regularly, which if they—young, inexperienced girls, away from home and friends, surrounded by strangers, relying solely upon their good names and reputation for a passport through society; if they, have moral courage enough to withstand popular usages and customs, willing to hear the odium, that may be heaped upon them, and making themselves liable, at any time, for what would be considered, an open and disgraceful discharge from employment, their names blacked at every counting-room in the city, with all the disadvantages attending a quiet study, in a boarding house, I say, with all this; if there is one that can endure this, and boldly claim the seventh day, for self-improvement—then she can educate herself—This truly “would be climbing the hill alone,” and the man that imposes it upon us, in good faith, must certainly believe us “angels” and not wild animals.
Again Spectator says, “If our ministers would preach practical moral lessons Sec.”—And if said the farmer, I find the question might have been settled without an if, and if ministers and people and systems and society had always been, and were now what they ought to be, then women would not have thus been degraded and ignorant, as at present represented, but have occupied a higher station; she would have been a bright lamp, beside the “throne,” casting a lively hue upon all surrounding subjects and the throne instead of being an opaque body would have been a sun of itself, shedding its benign rays upon the world.
But I cannot pass unnoticed the circumstance he has quoted to prove women's power at present; as manifested in the Baltimore mob, which I think, ought to convince every candid mind, that such burning lights were obtained to stand upon a candlestick and not forever to be hid under a bushel. It proves to my mind, most clearly that the lady who thus quelled a tumultuous mob, was more highly endowed by the great author of the universe with those immutable weapons that were intended to govern mankind, viz., wisdom, prudence and love, and this is by no means a solitary instance t of the kind the circumstances were the same ever where man is h exasperated beyond endurance, officers, law and bayonets, are i equally disregarded; but let a person step forward armed with moral courage, truth, and love, and hostility ceases at once. Who quelled the mob of Philadelphia a few years since when the city hall, had been demolished and vengeance was breathed out against all o friends of the slave? Mary Needles, a quakeress, who loved her enemies, and said if any must die, let me die. This love overcomes thousands, and no doubt is just as efficient when wielded by man as by woman. Man was destined to overcome evil with good. To conquer enemy by reason, argument and love, and not by the sword.
But I wish to show how entirely dependent woman is, upon man, for all she is permitted to be, in our present state of society, and how unjust is the charge of the guilt of the world upon us. Man forms our customs, our laws, our opinions for us. He forms our customs, by raising a cry against us, if he thinks we overstep our prescribed limits. Woman is never thought to be out of her sphere, at home; in the nursery, in the kitchen, over a hot stove cooking from morning till evening—over a wash-tub, or toiling in a cotton factory 14 hours per day. But let her for once step out, plead the cause of right and humanity, plead the wrongs of her slave sister of the South or of the operative of the North, or even attempt to teach the science of Physiology, and a cry is raised against her, “of out of her sphere.” Not so with man, he can fill the chair of State, stand as the mediator between God and Men. Soar to the highest point in the scientific world, and military glory—and he can as readily descend to me assuring off ribbons and tape by the yard, selling pins by the cents worth , and peddling out candy by the ounce, all alike is taken with in the range of man's sphere.
Man forms our laws, and by them we must abide, although we have no voice in making them. Does he say, we must pay a tax, (in the form of duties,) to support an unholy and unrighteous war, then we must obey. Does he say for a certain offence our lives must pay the forfeit, then woman is swung from the scaffold and her neck broken; and she would be out of her sphere in saying aught against it! Does he say she shall be tried as a witch, then she must be placed in the scales with a Bible, or in some other way found guilty and robbed of life—as there were at one time thirty thousand under man 's judicious laws! Does man say she may be set upon the auction stand and sold to the highest bidder, then what female ought to say she is not the property of her master?
Man forms our opinions, for he has the keys of knowledge in his own possession. Our colleges of education are founded expressly for him—and all offices, scientific, as well as political, military and ecclesiastical, man fills. He directs our education—he permits us to pursue plain, practical science, for which we may, by dint of economy, chance to obtain the means; and while he retains all honors to himself, selects the highest offices and gravely comes forward and points us to the object of making man what he ought to be! Would man , stimulated by no other motive, do any better than we do?
But if woman is well adapted to teach, so beautifully calculated and gifted by the author of her existence, to instruct the youthful mind, as has been represented—qualified to impress the great lessons of truth and morality, and give a right tone to sentiments—in short, capable of making man a noble being, but a little below the angels, I wish to inquire why in the name of common sense she is not permitted to finish the work she may have begun? Why are all the offices in public institutions of learning filled by men? Why is the child taken from under the maternal care and placed under the teachings of man? Why is every professorship usurped by man? Why not confer them upon woman, and permit her to go on with the good work? Why not bestow upon her the honors of the D.D.s, and Alas, and Ails, and stimulate her to go forward, and permit her to look upon the glorious motto of “excelsior?” Will Spectator tell?
I think I have proved that the “power behind the throne” is powerless; and I only think of a case now which I wish to relate to the contrary; it is of Mark Anthony. When once angling, and being unsuccessful, he commanded his attendants to dive and attach to his hook some large fish that they had previously caught, that he might gain the applause of Cleopatra; but she, understanding the trick, commanded her own attendants to go down and attach a large dried, salt fish, which he drew up, to his own shame and consternation, and the amusement of the company. This was a power behind the throne with a witness.
I would sincerely thank “Spectator” for marking out for us a course of study, and would be happy to pursue it, if I had the books and time to peruse them—but my excuse must be that I am still an Operative
Voice of Industry, April 16, 1847