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CHAPTER II THE UNBORN RACE AND WOMAN'S WORK
There are few factors in the life of the present in which the dualism between theory and practice is greater and more unconscious than in questions concerning woman. The protagonists of the feminist movement are in many cases sturdily Christian. They protest with vigour against the idea that they could have any share in the sort of emancipation of personality that includes freedom for all the powers and activities of the personality. Individualism, and the assertion of self are for them degrading words with a sinful significance. That the emancipation of women is practically the greatest egoistic movement of the nineteenth century, and the most intense affirmation of the right of the self that history has yet seen, they have no suspicion. Freedom for the powers and the personality of woman have never appeared to them except as an ideal struggle for justice, as a noble victory to be won. In its deepest meaning[Pg 64] this is as true of every other effort at self-affirmation, the end of which is the recognition of the right of human personality to the full development of capacities in a sphere of freedom, where responsibility belongs to the self alone. But just as every other such affirmation of the individual self, of a class, of a race, easily falls into an unjustifiable egoism, so with the emancipation of woman.

This great, deep, serious movement for woman's emancipation has in the course of time received a new name, the "Woman Question." The change in terminology signifies a change in the attitude of thought. From a real emancipation movement, that is, a movement to free the restricted powers of woman and her restricted personality, the movement has become a question, a social institution with officers, a church system with dogmas. Certainly we still hear in books and speeches that the woman question is being discussed and urged, in its relation to the happiness and development of the whole of humanity. But in reality the woman question, since it became a fact, a cause with an end of its own, since its champions have lost more and more their appreciation of its connection with other great questions of the day, is tending[Pg 65] to increase the civil rights and the fields of woman's labour. In both cases people really have the women of the upper classes in view. This has been the end, and it is thoroughly justified and justifiable. But, in striving for this end, those who are aiming at it have come more and more into opposition to the first and highest of all rights, the rights of the individual woman to think her own thoughts, to go her own ways, even when these thoughts and these ways follow other courses than those of the advocates of woman's rights. While this group is, on one hand, very far from conceding to the individual woman the freedom which belongs to her, it is, on the other hand, blind to the results of the self-assertion of the whole female sex. In taking up work more and more external in character, they are blind to the profound and revolutionary effects of this movement, on the conditions of labour in the present day, on the existence of man and the family, on society as a whole.

Doing away with an unjust paragraph in a law which concerns woman, turning a hundred women into a field of work where only ten were occupied before, giving one woman work where formerly not one was employed,—these[Pg 66] are the mile-stones in the line of progress of the woman's rights movement. It is a line pursued without consideration of feminine capacities, nature, and environment.

The exclamation of a woman's rights champion when another woman had become a butcher, "Go thou and do likewise," and an American young lady working as an executioner, are, in this connection, characteristic phenomena.

The emancipation of woman has practically ceased to be the freedom which enlarges soul and heart. It is conducted quite officially, like a business, and dogmatically, too, without feeling for the pulsating manifoldness of life, and has become an egoistic self-concentrated campaign. On this account I, and many others of my generation, with many more of the younger generation, stand outside of the movement, although we actively wished, and still wish, for the freedom of woman. The champions of woman's rights, like the champions of other movements for rights, illustrate the truth of the old Swedish saying, that "what we are pursuing is really only a runaway horse attached to our waggon." How blindly the fanatics of woman's rights have rushed by the other needs of the time[Pg 67] can be best measured by considering their attitude towards the greatest question of the day—I mean the social question.

The old advocates of woman's rights maintain that the adult woman must have the same right as the adult man to "protect" herself, and they ask why the woman is hindered from working because she is married, or because she has children. Protective legislation drives woman from the factories and workshops; and this legislation is very far, they tell us, from meriting the support of women. Women, on the contrary, they say, should demand the same protective legislation for women as for men. They ask for technical instruction and an extended field of work for women.

This whole argument is quite logical from the point of view that limitation of woman's labour is opposed to one of the foremost principles of our time,—the self-determination of the individual. This implies the right of the adult woman, as well as the adult man, to choose her own work. Privileges on the ground of sex only hinder the woman from being put on an equality with man before the law.

But all these arguments are based on the[Pg 68] sophistical notion which perverts the whole feminist movement. The idea is to free woman from the limitations of nature. It involves, too, the other sophistical notion with which capitalistic society meets every demand of protective legislation for men, women, or children. Such legislation is said to be an interference with the individual's right of choice.

Every human being who is socially alive is aware that this right to control one's life is the emptiest phrase to describe reality in a society built up on a capitalistic basis. It is doubly empty where woman is concerned. I have never heard a woman desire that woman should fulfil military duties as an equivalent for having civil rights like man. But this would be the consequence of the argument that woman should have no privileges on the ground of her sex. The greatest privilege that can be thought of in modern society is to be spared the discomforts and loss of time that come from military training, to be exempt from the dangers and the terrors of war. That women are not absolutely incapable of service in warfare, women have shown on many occasions, especially in the Boer War. So when the advocates of women's rights hesitate before this extreme consequence of their principle, and[Pg 69] introduce the functions of motherhood as a cogent ground for the privilege of being freed from military service in time of war (even if women at some time should receive the same civil rights now enjoyed by man), they are in the highest degree illogical. Other women with more logic declare that on another battle-field, a still more destructive one, that of the factory system, the same maternal functions require certain privileges for woman, and these same functions must result in subjecting her to certain limitations of her individual right to control her life. That is, she cannot pass beyond the limits drawn by nature, without interfering with the rights of another, the potential child.

It lies in the individual sphere of woman's choice as of man's choice not to choose marriage, or to desire it without parenthood; and for exemption from the latter, real altruistic as well as real egoistic reasons can be urged. It lies in the individual choice of the woman, as well as of the man, to isolate herself from what may be regarded as an obstacle to her individual development, or to her freedom of movement. She can do without love or motherhood, if the one or both of these are regarded from this point of view. Woman[Pg 70] has the full right to allow herself to be turned into a third sex, the sex of the working bees, or the sexless ant, provided she finds in this her highest happiness.

A good while ago I was ingenuous enough to maintain that motherhood was the central factor of existence for most women. In the discussion of this question I considered several facts: woman's work imposed by necessity, woman's ambition stimulated by the freedom of her power, woman's intellectual life modified by many other influences of contemporary thought,—all these have forced the maternal instinct into the background for the time being. Here was a danger which, it seemed, was not too late to expose. There are women in whom the feeling of love is really and absolutely stunted; there are others who do not find in modern man the soulful and profound harmony in love that they quite rightly demand; there are others, more numerous, who wish for love but do not wish for motherhood. They absolutely fear it. The famous German authoress Gabrielle Reuter has spoken of this fear, this alarm of motherhood continually vigilant, active, placing woman in an attitude of self-defence,—a fear which to-day has taken possession of so many strenuous and creative[Pg 71] women. The alarm, the aversion, becomes so strong, so dominant in them that one might almost believe it a dark perverse instinct, which, like all unnatural instincts, has been conceived and born through cruel necessities, and through these necessities has become overmastering. It is as if a secret voice in the depths of their nature was telling these women that, by paying their tribute to their sex, they would lose that power, brilliancy, and sharpness of intellect by which they have elevated themselves above their sex; and perhaps certain kinds of women are right in having this fear.

I am convinced, just as the German writer is, that every actual phenomenon of disease and of health alike is a necessary result from given causes; and I am more convinced than the advocates of women's rights ever were, that it is in the sphere of human freedom to choose one's own type of development, happiness, or ruin. I am not inclined to say anything further to the women who do not desire motherhood.

It would be very disastrous if these women, who have never been moved by tenderness when they felt a soft childish hand in their own, who have never longed to surrender themselves[Pg 72] entirely to another being, were to become mothers. Their children would be more unfortunate than they themselves.

Many women like these are to be found to-day, and if things remain as they are, they are bound to increase in numbers. In some of them, however, the maternal instinct is not dead, but only dormant. Modern women with their capacity for psychic analysis, with their physical and psychical refinement, are often repelled by the crudeness, the ignorance, or the importunities of man's nature. The whole factor of love in the being of these women is shrivelled up as a bud that has never blossomed, and in enthusiasm for a duty, or for a woman friend, they find an expression for that sacrifice whose real aim they deny or overlook, a something which ends often by avenging itself in a tragic way.

I am simply insisting that every woman, who has not yet ceased to desire motherhood, has duties as a girl, and still more as a woman, to the unborn generation from which she cannot free herself without absolute selfishness. This selfishness is often disguised under a great impulse, an impulse which, like that of the preservation of the species, masters existence. I mean the impulse of self-protection. But it[Pg 73] is just this that should make the "obligatory" egoism of the modern working woman appear so terrible to those who are busied with the emancipation of woman.

To talk of the freedom of woman, of her individual right to control her actions, when she works like a beast of burden to reach a minimum of existence, to keep from dying of starvation, to talk of the freedom of women where conditions are such that the free choice of work, for man as well as for woman, is an empty phrase—to put it mildly, it is senseless. I will throw some light on the results of freedom by the following illustration:

When women in England worked in white lead factories, seventy-seven women were examined in one factory. It appeared in the time covered by the investigation that there were among this number ninety miscarriages, twenty-seven cases of still-born children; beside, forty young children died of convulsions produced by the poisoning of their mothers. The effects of this occupation were most harmful in the case of women from eighteen to twenty-three years of age. Lameness, blindness, and other infirmities resulted from this kind of work.

An English doctor has shown from exact[Pg 74] investigations conducted during a number of years, that the enormous mortality among young children in factory districts arises chiefly because the child is deprived of a mother's care a few weeks after birth. A child needs its mother's milk at least six months, and the mother's milk cannot be substituted by artificial means, least of all when the substitutes are used with carelessness. In certain textile factory districts, in Nottingham, for example, where lace is produced, and where people have complained of the law limiting women's work, out of each thousand children, two hundred die annually. Mortality in factory districts is four to five times greater than in country districts; and yet the death of children is, relatively speaking, a lesser evil. More unfortunate still is it that those who survive always suffer partial weakness from the lack of a mother's care at a tender age.

In Silesia, where children and quite young girls are employed in the glass industry, the work has so distorted their bodily structure that when they bear children, their sufferings are intense. Such unique material do they offer for the study of obstetrics, that doctors make pilgrimages to Silesia to learn from their cases.[Pg 75]

Before women have reached maturity, when they can, according to the advocates of women's rights, protect themselves, they are ruined physically. If it is said that the facts mentioned above belong to the question of the protection of children, not to that of the protection of women, the answer lies close at hand. The physical and moral interest of children and of women are so mutually related, that they cannot be separated. Crippled women have children who are stunted at the time of their birth. The burden of toil they take up with weakened power of resistance and they transmit this weakness to their offspring. Cause and effect are so intimately associated here, that they cannot be accurately apportioned between the work of women and the work of children.

Even the advocates of women's rights must, allow that the limit of their claims to right is to be found where the right of another begins. They cannot suppose that the individual right of the woman to control her life should go so far that a woman could take a piece of a neighbour's property to lay out a garden, or use for an industrial scheme a part of the water power belonging to some one else.

Can they not see that woman's individ[Pg 76]ual freedom is limited by the rights of another, by the rights of the potential child? The potential child has its own proper rights, its own vital power. This property, the woman has not the right to encroach upon in advance.

A woman, who from one motive or another, great or small, permanently keeps outside of the marriage relation, has complete right to ruin herself by work, provided she does not, as a result of so doing, become a burden to others through incapacity.

But the woman who looks forward to motherhood as a possibility for herself, or the woman who is expecting to become a mother, should not, through an unlimited amount of voluntary work or of work forced upon her contrary to her will, sacrifice the capacities for life and work of an unborn generation, in such a way that she will bring into the world weak, invalid, or physically incapable children, who will later on be neglected.

It does not occur to the dogmatic advocates of women's rights that their talk about the individual freedom of the woman to control her career, their contention that no limitation need restrict woman's power of deciding her own vocation, because they are married or are[Pg 77] mothers, mean the most crying injury, not only to children, but to women themselves. For the demand of equality, where nature has made inequality, brings about the injury of the weaker factor. Equality is not justice. Often it is just the opposite, the most absolute injustice.

The strongest reasoning will not convince those advocates of women's rights who discuss woman's labour from the old-fashioned level of individualism, unaffected by the social feeling of solidarity, which is the solution offered by our age. But fortunately protective legislation does not depend on the women who advocate the rights of women. The workingmen's movement, aided by women and men of all classes who are active in it, will carry through this legislation. The movement for the normal working day is steadily gaining ground.

Experience has shown that, because of the greater intensity of the work done, just as much can be accomplished in a shorter as in a longer time. The first concern has been the work of children and of younger adults. The effect of factory life on the health of women themselves, as well as on their children, has excited general attention. In England first,[Pg 78] then in other European countries, it has become recognised as necessary that a normal period of work should be laid down for women as well. The programme was and continues to be threefold:—a maximum working time for women's work; limitation, or, better still, the cessation of night work on the part of women; the prevention, too, of the work of women in mines and in certain other industries dangerous to health; finally the protection of women who are about to become mothers. In most European countries there is now a maximum working time fixed at eight to eleven hours. Night work, work in mines, and extra work, is either forbidden or considerably limited, and a rest period of three to eight weeks is established for women at childbirth.

From all points of view, an eight-hour working day should be the highest limit for woman's work. There are more reasons for it in her case than for man's work. The eight-hour day means not only for the woman as for the man the possibility of enjoying her life in permanent health; it secures time for improving recreation. For the married woman it is an indispensable requirement. Without it her home cannot be kept in order and comfort, her children cannot be physically cared[Pg 79] for; without it she is not able to co-operate in their education. The normal working day is, therefore, more necessary for the woman than for the man, because on her, rather than on him, comes the burden of household work. The dangers of night work, as of work in mines, are from the standpoint of health and morality so plain, that no further reason need be urged to defend protective legislation in this case.

But not only the theoretical principles of women's rights are urged against this legislation. Socialists as well as the advocates of women's rights are responsible for different objections of a more solid character. It is urged that legislation will increase the number of unemployed women who, in order to live, will be forced into prostitution, but it is forgotten that the same result comes from low wages in many occupations, and that these low wages are caused by an over-supply of working women. It is said, also, that if protective legislation hinders or prevents women from working, they will not be able to care for their children and the children will be employed in the factory in their stead. The way out of the last difficulty is absolutely plain: the complete prohibition of all[Pg 80] work by children under fifteen years of age.

It is urged also that if women are hindered by legislation from fulfilling the demands of their occupation, the result will be, not that they are protected in their occupation, but that the occupation is protected against them. The remedy in this case is certainly difficult, but not impossible to find. Let only the tenth part of the energy now used in agitation for the free right of women to labour be employed in preparing women for such labour as they are suited to undertake. But even when this cannot be done protective legislation carries with it its own corrective. It is always urged that the occupation will be destroyed by protective legislation. Then new methods and new machines will be invented to replace cheap labour power. Those who are protected often themselves complain that they suffer economically under protective legislation, but a long experience will show them how, through the reciprocal effects of all factors in production, the temporary failures will be balanced. A potent remedy for this effect of protective legislation may be looked for in the assertion, found in the programmes of all labour parties, of the right of the unemployed[Pg 81] to have work, and a fixed minimum wage. These demands along with that for a normal working day, in which is included rest at night and rest on Sunday, and other measures for the protection of workingmen against accident and old age, are the chief methods by which the labour question, both for men and women, will be solved. Until these aims are realised Ruskin's judgment on modern industrialism which kills the real humanity in man holds good both for men and for women. We make, he says, everything except real men; we bleach cotton; we harden and improve steel; we refine sugar; we make porcelain and print books; but to refine a single living soul, to reform it, to improve it never enters into our reckoning of profit.

The women of the working classes must continue to endure the suffering, to bear the dangers, to subject themselves to the forces which solidarity in this great struggle implies. Only under these conditions can men as well as women elevate themselves, partly by their own combination, partly by the extension of the principle, more and more coming to be recognised, that society, through its legislation, can determine the conditions under which its members work. So will be produced conditions of[Pg 82] life and of work worthy of mankind,—a healthier, stronger, and more beautiful race. In this ever continuing progress every part is related to every other part.

Unorganised, ordinary and therefore badly paid work, done by woman, diminishes the wages of man and his opportunity of work. Work in a factory unfits the woman for the conduct of the household, for her duties as a mother. In the turmoil, heat, and rush of the factory her nerves are destroyed and with them her finer emotions. The woman loses not only the right hand, but also the right heart for family life. Badly conditioned women make marriage more difficult for the man; through celibacy, his mortality is increased. Low wages, or times of lack of employment, cause bad dwellings, bad clothes, and bad nourishment. The tortured or ill-conditioned woman is not able to prepare anything good with the small amount of money which the man may earn. From all of this come intemperance and disease. Through these causes, combined with those already noted, the population of factory districts degenerates, in republican Switzerland, not less than in absolutistic Russia.

It is true that such limitations of work in[Pg 83] many cases are felt, as well by the single woman as by the family. The restriction of child labour may bring immediate discomfort. But all this is a passing evil. It can be corrected, as soon as it is clearly seen in what direction the advance along all the line is being made. This kind of progress moves in zigzag fashion. What decides whether temporary limitation of freedom makes for progress or not is whether one finds, in turning from the individual, or small groups, to the great whole, that the last is gaining, that in the future, freedom and happiness for all will be increased by this temporary limitation of freedom.

In other relations of life it is a just law that he who goes into a game must abide by its rules. But this rule cannot be applied to that very cruel game which we call life. We do not go into it of our own will. Children have the right not to be obliged to suffer for the mistakes and errors of their parents. How this suffering can be best avoided in case of an inharmonious marriage must be decided by the different individuals, as a question belonging to them alone. As I have already shown, change of custom in relation to the time, age, and motives for marriage is the surest protection for the children, a protection that will[Pg 84] gradually be extended. Under a serious conviction of woman's duty as a member of her sex, it will be regarded as a crime for a young wife voluntarily to ill-treat her person, either by excessive study, or excessive attention to sports, by tight-lacing, or consumption of sweets, by smoking or the use of stimulants, by sitting up at night, excessive work, or by all the thousand other ways by which these attractive simpletons sin against nature, until nature finally loses all patience with them.

It must be demanded of the laws of society that they hinder involuntary crimes of unprotected women against their feminine nature.

This is the great work of woman's emancipation; everything else compared with it is non-essential. Through their failure to see this the present representatives of women's rights are working against progress, though they themselves apply the word reactionary to all who assert that the only way by which the woman question as a whole can be solved is through the social revolution. In this revolution protective legislation is an important factor.

According to my method of thinking, and that of many others, not woman but the mother is the most precious possession of the[Pg 85] nation, so precious that society advances its own highest well-being when it protects the functions of the mother. These functions are not limited to birth nor to the nourishment of the child; but they go on during the whole time of its training. I believe that in the new society where all women and men alike will be compelled to work (not children, not invalids, and not the aged) people will regard the maternal function as so important for the whole social order, that every mother under fixed conditions, subject to certain control, during a certain period, and for a certain number of children, will obtain from society an allowance for education. She will receive this during the time in which her children require all her care, while she herself is freed from work outside the home. Naturally this does not exclude the case of mothers who from one or another reason cannot devote themselves to the care and training of their children; they can by their own productive work secure a substitute. But for the majority of women, the proposal made above would undoubtedly be the real solution of many problems which now seem insoluble. I do not believe that social development will maintain the old ideal of the father as the one who takes care of the[Pg 86] family. I hope, rather, that the new conception of having every individual look after himself will gain more ground. The father will then be, in the real sense of the word, the educator, when the care for the maintenance of the family does not press him down to the ground. A woman will then, as mother of the family, not be in dependence on the man,—a position she feels as humiliating, if as a girl she earned her own living. People are bound to return to this new form of matriarchy, when they begin to consider care of the new generation, as the great business the mother takes over for society. During its progress society must guarantee her existence. In many cases, the answer of the married woman who works outside the home would be as follows: That her happiness would consist in quietly looking after her children, and in being able to keep house, but that she must have an income that would make her independent of her husband. A Swedish evening paper, the special organ of the feminist movement, two years ago started an investigation on the productive work of married women. The answers, contrary to the expectations of the paper, were nearly unanimous in showing what dangers for children, and what interference with household[Pg 87] comfort, were caused by the woman working outside the home. An impartial investigation of the causes of the increasing brutality of the young would show certainly that the rapid increase in crime in several countries among the young is caused partly by their prematurely taking up productive work, and partly by early lack of home life, the result of the mother working outside the home.

If the world is agreed that children must still continue to be born and that a home furnishes generally the best means for training them during the first years of their life, the present consequences of woman's work done outside the home must cause pessimism; such work must be stopped. After we have thought over the matter, it is plain that nothing is now more needed than such plans of social order, such programmes of education, as will give the mother back to her children and to her home.

Everything that philanthropy now does to heal the injurious and disintegrating effects of the capitalistic industrial system is on the whole wasted power. Children's crèches, kindergartens, providing meals for children, hospitals, vacation homes, cannot with all their noble efforts replace a hundredth part of[Pg 88] the life energy, taken directly or indirectly from the new generation by women working outside the home.

There are some people who expect the problem of domestic life to be solved by collective institutions which will take care of the children, and give them meals. Just as brewing, baking, slaughtering, making candles and clothes, have more and more ceased to be done in the home, much of the work which now absorbs the greatest part of household activity, cooking, washing, mending and cleaning clothes, will, I firmly believe, finally be done by collective effort, by the help of electricity and machines. But I hope the tendency of man towards individualisation will overcome the tendency towards impersonal, uniform application of power en masse, in everything by which the innermost relations of life and private habits are deeply affected. A strong family life will, I hope, be regarded as the basis for true happiness and for the development of personality. When women are free from the barbarous relics of present methods of housekeeping,—the market basket, the kitchen utensils, the scrubbing brush gone from every house, electricity everywhere spreading warmth and life,—they will still be forced to do a cer[Pg 89]tain amount of work. This cannot be avoided even by the help of the most perfect apparatus and by co-operative methods, provided the house is not to be replaced by the barrack. And since the custom of keeping servants will soon cease because, probably, there will be no servants to keep, all women will be forced to do housework, or find the remedy already discovered in America where bureaus supply domestic help for a fixed time for a fixed price. In London, too, there is at present a guild for general houseworkers who are trained for occupation and work under regularly established conditions. In the country, not only wives but daughters will be needed for agricultural labour, when there are no more hired labourers to be had. This will be a natural corrective against that pressure towards outside fields of labour, that has taken the daughters in multitudes away from home, and has crowded and overflowed the cities with them.

Finally if we weigh the economic loss occasioned by the fact that women after five or ten years' preparation have to give up work or study as a result of marriage, it is easy to see that the modern work of women has had results which must soon lead to earnest thought, in balancing up the accounts for or[Pg 90] against the system. From the point of view of the woman herself, from the children's point of view, from the man's point of view, and finally, from the productive point of view, it has become pretty plain that society must either change the conditions of woman's labour or see a progressive disintegration in home life. Society must either transform the conditions of life and work, or it will witness the degeneration of the sexes.

All philanthropy—no age has seen more of it than our own—is only a savoury fumigation burning at the mouth of a sewer. This incense offering makes the air more endurable for passers-by, but it does not hinder the infection in the sewer from spreading.

Selfishness, the instinct of self-preservation, will perhaps end by forcing the leaders of society to direct their actions from the social point of view. Then the woman question will become a question of humanity; then will its champions perhaps come to see that there can be no enduring good for the woman, if she works under conditions injurious to men and to children. It will be seen that the old axiom can be justly applied to the demands made in the name of woman's individuality; supreme right becomes supreme injustice. Justice is[Pg 91] not to be reached by having the woman work under conditions which ruin both her and the whole generation physically. In other respects she must be able to use her free choice, and be educated enough to make good use of it. Justice consists in protecting innumerable women, who are not able as yet to protect themselves, against the abuses of which capital is guilty in employing their labour power.

It is an instructive feature in the history of class conflict, and of the movement for women's progress, that as women began by driving men out of certain fields of labour, so now unmarried women try to force married women from the labour market. In America, where everything goes at full speed, an association has been founded among unmarried women with this intention. These and similar phenomena belong to the system of free competition, the creation of the "leading thought of our time, the right of the individual to determine his own vocation." Perhaps when the war of women against women becomes the rule, the women's rights women will see that the problem of woman's work is more complicated than they imagine. They have continued to look at it till now only from the point of view of a woman's right to take care[Pg 92] of herself. Perhaps they will then understand that individualism, apart from the feeling of solidarity, leads to social conflict, class against class, sex against sex, unmarried against married, young against old. So it will be seen that only in the transformation of the whole of society can woman attain her full rights without impairing, through her advance, the rights of others.

The sooner the women's rights party understands this, the better. Instead of fighting protective legislation, they should advocate it; instead of regarding unions and strikes with disfavour, they should help labouring women to organise unions, and support strikes where strikes are justified.

Our century, which has opened up to women new fields of labour, has made life very hard for her by forcing her in the competitive struggle. As wives, as married or unmarried mothers, as divorced women, as widows, women often not only have the burden of their own support to bear, but they have frequently the r?le of guardian of a family, working for an invalid or intemperate husband; for children, or sisters, or aged parents. These women, whether they belong to those who labour with the brain or with the hand, are worn out, partly[Pg 93] by earning their own living, partly by household tasks. While the man goes from home to his work, refreshed by rest, the woman often goes already tired out, and she comes back to the house perhaps to work at night. It is as clear as day that by so doing she loses her bodily health and mental equanimity, both needed by her children. It is astonishing how many working women despite all this have enough energy for intellectual effort in reading and thinking. They soon see, women like these, that an occupation is not emancipation. The best that can be said is that it is only a means to emancipation. Those who work with their hands are not the worst off in this respect. Bookkeepers, telephone and telegraph operators, post-office employees, shop girls, waiters in public establishments, and servants in private houses, who must often serve the public standing, and who are often deprived of rest at night and on Sunday, are practically labour's worst slaves. Who can wonder if the possible income obtained by an immoral life is reckoned by the employer, when he secures for his establishment, at low wages, the services of attractive young girls? Small wonder it is that such employees, worried to death in shops, telephone bureaus, post and[Pg 94] telegraph offices, should often be driven to hysteria, insanity, and suicide.

The advocates of women's rights are not blind to all these incongruities. They ask equal salaries for men and women, and claim, often with justice, and often without, that women's work is too inadequately compensated. But they do not see that they have contributed to the evil by constantly urging women to work in all possible occupations, and that a low rate of wages and an overcrowding of all fields of labour is the result. It is far more necessary to pay attention to these things than to open up new fields of labour to women, if their vital energy is not to be dried up, if they are not to lose their youthful freshness and attractiveness prematurely, and their possibilities for development and happiness as human beings, wives, and mothers.

A loss of freedom accomplished gradually, this is, on the whole, the sad result of the so-called emancipation of women in our century, if the subject is looked at broadly, apart from the few thousand women of the upper classes in good paying positions. For several decades, I have felt strongly against the importance given by the advocates of women's rights to the work of women outside of the home, for[Pg 95] the reasons I have given above. I have applied to such work the objection formulated by Feuerbach in these words: "Mediocrity always weighs correctly, only its weight is false."

Wherever we look, in Europe or America, we find new and injurious results from the new conditions, from the free activity of women's work through the development of industry on a large scale, through the transformation of home work, and the growing conviction on the part of women that "celibacy is the aristocracy of the future," to quote the words of a distinguished supporter of woman's rights.

Yet it would be foolish to wish a change in these unhappy results through a reaction that would again rob the woman of her essential freedom in relation to her choice of work, and the control of her life.

The line of progress is tending towards a new society, where all will be compelled to work and all will find work; where all will work moderately under healthy conditions for an adequate wage. Then neither the unmarried nor the married woman will lose her strength by exhausting work done to earn a living, or impair the powers she needs for motherhood. If she becomes a mother, in[Pg 96] most cases she will really rejoice at the possibility offered to her by society of working for society, as a mother and an educator.

We are yet very far from such a society, but every social regulation should, as we have said, be tested as to whether it brings us nearer this ideal or leads us farther away from it. The question should be asked whether the direction of thought is encouraged or restricted, that will in the end transform everything, the conviction I mean that economic production is here in the world for the sake of men, not, as now, men for the sake of production; that work is to be done for the sake of freedom, not, as now, freedom created for the sake of work.

When I tried in my book called The Misuse of the Power of Woman to urge women to test the consequences of this process, my thesis was as follows: In our programme of civilisation, we must start out with the conviction that motherhood is something essential to the nature of woman and the way in which she carries out this profession is of value for society. On this basis we must alter the conditions which more and more are robbing woman of the happiness of motherhood and are robbing children of the care of a mother. Or, we must begin with the assumption that mother[Pg 97]hood is not essential: then everything must continue to go on as it is going on now, and work directed towards external spheres with its satisfaction in the joy of creation, of ambition, of gain, of enjoyment, of independence, will be more and more the end towards which women will arrange their plan of life. For this end they will modify their fundamental habits and remould their feelings. The na?ve belief that every woman, who has the liberty to do so, is following her own nature, shows a complete ignorance of psychology and history. Some ideal considered worth striving for, the prevailing view of a period, will obtain supremacy over nature. This is shown best in the stunted feeling of motherhood peculiar to the eighteenth century, by the plain results of medi?val asceticism. By a new ideal innumerable women are now driven from a life directed inwards to a life directed outwards.

I am in favour of real freedom for woman; that is, I wish her to follow her own nature, whether she be an exceptional or an ordinary woman. But the opinion held by the feminine advocates of woman's emancipation, in regard to the nature and the aims of the everyday woman, does violence to the real nature of most women. It is one of the most remarkable[Pg 98] manifestations of the times that, while women preach about the rights of woman and her will to work and to act unrestrained by family ties, men like Ibsen, for example, in When We Dead People Awake, show that the real Fall of Man in life is transgression of the law of love, meaning that man through this transgression not only diminishes his personality, but lessens his creative capacity.

It would appear as though men were approaching the conception of love once held by women, while women were beginning to regard love as a petty episode in life compared with what are really its true concerns, an episode which gives life the colour of a sensual, sentimental, psychological, or sportsmanlike adventure, an episode which she treats as a game which she can get into, and just as easily get out of. From this new position in which extremes meet, suffering, previously undreamed of, must arise. Such results coming to the emancipated woman will I hope reveal to her the eternal laws of her own being, laws from which she cannot be freed without destroying herself.

I would not put the slightest hindrance, however, in the way of a single isolated woman pursuing her own path freely, if it leads her[Pg 99] even to the most unusual forms of labour and attempts to make a living. But for the sake of women themselves, for the sake of children, for the sake of society, I wish men as well as women to think earnestly over the present position of things. They will see that in the near future, one of two things must be chosen. Either there must be such a transformation of the way in which modern society thinks and works that the majority of women will be restored to motherhood, or the disintegration of the home and the substitution of general institutions will inevitably result. There is no alternative.

Undoubtedly it required the whole egoistic self-assertion of woman, all her efforts towards individuality, her temporary separation from home and from family, her independent efforts to make a living to convince man and society of the following truths: that woman is not solely a sexual being, not solely dependent on man, the home and the family, no matter in what form these may exist. Only in this way could woman fulfil her destiny as wife and mother with really free choice. Only in this way could she secure the right of being regarded as man's intellectual equal in the field of the home and the family, the recognition[Pg 100] that in her way she was just as complete a being as he.

But it is clear that this fragment of feminine egoism must have a further consequence. With the rights of sex the feeling of solidarity must be awakened. The woman must see that her emancipated and developed human personality will lead to this solidarity by the realisation of her especial vocation as woman. Women in parliament and in journalism, their representation in the local and general government, in peace congress and in workingmen's meetings, science and literature, all this will produce small results until women realise that the transformation of society begins with the unborn child, with the conditions for its coming into existence, its physical and psychical training. It must be the general conviction that the new instincts, the new feelings, the new thoughts, the new ideas, which mothers and fathers pass on into the flesh and blood of their children, will transform existence. When, after many successive generations, the new spiritual kingdom of this world has arisen, there will come into being these greater ideas through which life may be renewed.

Until that time secular misdeeds, political injustice, economic struggles,—all these so[Pg 101]cially destructive abuses will go on from generation to generation. Mankind remains the same though its acts may take different shapes. Thinkers will always find new ideas, scholars new methods and systems, artists new ?sthetic creations, but on the whole everything must remain the same. Only when woman heeds the message which life proclaims to her, that, through her, salvation must come—will the face of the earth be renewed. Oratorical talk of the high task of mothers and of the great profession of education are empty phrases, until we see that the possibility of humanity and civilisation winning some day the victory over savagery depends on the physiological and psychological transformation of man's nature. This transformation requires an entirely new conception of the vocation of mother, a tremendous effort of will, continuous inspiration. Those who believe they can fulfil their duties as mothers and at the same time can accomplish other valuable work have never made the experiment of education. The long continued habit of alternately caressing and striking one's children is not education. It needs tremendous power to do one's duty to a single child. This by no means signifies giving up to the child every hour of one's time, but it[Pg 102] does mean that our soul is to be filled by the child, just as the man of science is possessed by his investigations and the artist by his work. The child should be in one's thoughts when one is sitting at home or walking along the road, when one is lying down or when one is standing up. This devotion, much more than the hours immediately given to one's children, is the absorbing thing; the occupation which makes an earnest mother always go to any external activity with divided soul and dissipated energy. Therefore the mother, if she gives her children the share they need, can devote to social activities only her occasional attention. And for the same reason she should be entirely free from working to earn her living during the most critical years of the children's training.

Neither in the upper nor in the lower classes, have I ever heard of any mother forced to do work of this kind or one engaged in artistic productions through the stimulus of her talents, who was able to satisfy her children in the period when they were growing up.

Adele Gerhard and Helen Simon under the title of Motherhood and Intellectual Work published a very interesting investigation in which I found my own observations substan[Pg 103]tiated. The book showed that a mother who wished to train her children and at the same time engage in an occupation, or take part in some public activity, could give to neither her whole personality. The result is a mediocre education for the children and for herself; mediocre work done with a divided soul. This is allowed to be true by all of those really conscientious mothers who have maintained a high aim in their work and in the bringing up of their children. They are dilettantes in both directions; what they do is half done owing to the effort to unite two separate fields of work.

From the point of view of women's rights, it is said, in reply to these opinions of mine, that motherhood can be made infinitely easier by a natural method of life, that work can be very well combined with it. It is said that children soon grow out of needing the protection of their mother, that the mothers can then devote themselves entirely to their work. They contend besides that motherhood is no unconditional obligation; that people are fully justified in making different individual arrangements; one woman wishes to become a mother, another not. The one gets married with the hope of becoming a mother; the other with the[Pg 104] resolution of avoiding maternity. The third does not marry at all. Attempts to generalise on this matter in which individual freedom has every right to be recognised, they consider reactionary. Full freedom for the woman, married or unmarried, to choose her work and to continue it; full freedom to choose motherhood or to do without it, this they say is the way to free woman, this is the line of progress. Here woman is subject to that economic law which has made it necessary for her to work for her own living. Just as woman's household work has been superseded by factory work, so too, they say, will the maternal obligations of woman be fulfilled collectively, and the difficulties on which the so-called reactionary members of the women's rights movement base their arguments, will in the future only arise in exceptional cases. As regards these arguments, I have already shown that I recognise fully the right of the feminine individual to go her own way, to choose her own fortune or misfortune. I have always spoken of women collectively and of society collectively.

From this general, not from the individual standpoint, I am trying to convince women that vengeance is being exacted on the individual, on the race, when woman gradually de[Pg 105]stroys the deepest vital source of her physical and psychical being, the power of motherhood.

But present-day woman is not adapted to motherhood; she will only be fitted for it when she has trained herself for motherhood and man is trained for fatherhood. Then man and woman can begin together to bring up the new generation out of which some day society will be formed. In it, the completed man—the Superman—will be bathed in that sunshine whose distant rays but colour the horizon of to-day.



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