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Woman: Man's Equal by Thomas Webster

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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873,


In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


The publishers of "WOMAN MAN'S EQUAL" conscientiously feel that they are
placing before the public the discussion of one of the most important
topics of the day; and they indulge the strong conviction that the
author of this little volume presents this important topic in a manner
at once attractive and convincing. The teachings of nature, history, and
the Word of God are freely drafted, and skillfully arranged to show what
nature designed, what God has taught, and what woman has proved herself
capable of being and doing in the world. The abuses to which the sex has
been subject from the physically stronger "lords of creation," in
heathen nations and in brute ages, are ably and fully set forth.

The lessons of the past are the teachings of the future. Christianity
has enlarged woman's area, and multiplied her duties and
responsibilities. America is ahead of all other nations in
opportunities offered to woman. Public sentiment is in favor of
enlarging her sphere, and woman is venturing into hitherto untried
avenues of employment and usefulness. This is an age of experiment. An
ounce of experiment is worth a pound of theory. Woman's capacity will
first be tested; and, if found equal to the opportunity, no door will be
closed against her. She may preach, orate, lecture, teach, practice
medicine or law or politics; may vote, marshal armies, navigate ships,
and go sailoring or soldiering to her heart's content, and at her own
good-will and pleasure, if she only proves to the age that she has
ability to do and dare in all these directions. This is an age of
discovery, as well as of experiment; and man is daily waking up,
applying, and marshaling new forces for the benefit of the race. Steam,
light, electricity, magnetism, mechanics, have all contributed of their
boundless capacities to human welfare. Man is gradually coming to be
aware that, in the latent powers of woman, only just now on the eve of
development, half the capacities of the human race, like the powers of
steam and lightning, have slumbered, until now, from the beginning of
the creation. A new era is dawning upon the world. This little volume is
one of the rays that herald the coming sun.




Equals in the Beginning--Apparent Mental Inferiority result to be
expected when Means of Mental Culture are denied--Natural
Rights--Flattery not an Equivalent for Justice--Dawning



Women of Antiquity--Their Condition in Heathen and Mohammedan
Countries--Marriage, Divorce, etc.



Estimation in which Women were held later--Cause and Effect--Mental
Attainments despite of Oppression and Prohibition--Equal Men in
Government, etc.--Frivolity, Literature, and Home Duties--Muscle not
Mind--Marriage Ceremonies



Created Equal--Genesis iii, 16, considered--Monogamy--Lapse into
Heathenism--Polygamy--The Patriarchs--The Law of Maid-servants and
Bondwomen--Divorce; Christ recognized the Equality of Right
therein--Eminent Women of Israel--Virtue and Vice of no Sex



The New Testament Scriptures--How they Define the Position of Women



Equally amenable to Laws, Human and Divine--To rear and govern a Family
rightly, requires Sound Judgment--Relative Mental Capacity of the Sexes
not yet fairly tested--Comparisons--Christianity has done much, yet much
remains to be done--Right in Each Other's Property--Men juster than the
Laws--Query--Justice should be even-handed--A United Head--Women trained
to perpetuate the Wrongs of their Sex



Taxation without Representation--One-sided Legislation--Similar
Objections urged against the Extensions of Franchise--Domestic
Discord--Present Causes--Citizenship not Inconsistent with Home
Duties--The State has been benefited at the Risk of her Life through all
Ages--Assertions confuted--Modern Churches have departed from Primitive
Usages--The Friends--Women as Philanthropists, Public Speakers, Artists,
Physicians--Educated Women during the Late War--The Universities



Dido, Queen of Carthage--Cleopatra--Lucretia--Zenobia--Hypatia--Other
Famous Names



The Countess of Montfort--Anna Askew--Esther Inglis--Lady
Pakington--Mrs. Mary Washington--Mrs. Wesley--Mrs. Fletcher--Miss
Crosby--Ann Hasseltine--Sarah H.B. Judson--The Misses Chandler--Other
Eminent Characters of Modern Times


Christianity is the special friend of woman. Christian civilization has
exalted her almost infinitely above the position to which either
paganism or Mohammedanism assigned her. This elevation is the natural
outgrowth of the example and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Unlike other
ancient great instructors, he did not repel women from discipleship, but
cordially welcomed her presence wherever he taught. His lessons of
wisdom, and his precious promises of life everlasting, were in all their
fullness addressed to her as freely as to the most honored of men. His
illustrations of sweeping the house to find the lost piece of silver,
and of the leaven hid in three measures of meal, were drawn from her
employments, and were probably suggested by her presence. To the cry of
the poor Syro-Phenician woman, no less than to that of the centurion or
nobleman, did he give his attention and sympathy, and with equal speed
did he answer the agonizing prayer. Rising far above the trammels of
Jewish prejudice, while he sat weary at the mouth of Jacob's well, he
taught the beauty of spiritual worship to the astonished woman of
Samaria. She became his first missionary to the people of her city, to
whom she told the story of his wonderful wisdom, and said, "Is not this
the Christ?" How kind must have been his spirit, how tender his words,
to the sisters at Bethany, to cause the exclamation, "If thou hadst been
here, my brother had not died!" How consoling must have been his
accents, which drew the fair penitent to his feet, and which led her, in
loving adoration, to wash them with her tears and to wipe them with the
hairs of her head! How wonderful the manifestation of that Divine
condescension and love which elicited that gratitude which still lingers
in the rich perfumes of the alabaster-box of precious ointment! No
marvel that women "followed him from Galilee," stood sorrowfully
beholding his crucifixion, and when he was taken from the cross,
"followed after and beheld the sepulcher, and how his body was laid."
Their devotion was rewarded, on the morning of his resurrection, by
their being made the first messengers of his glorious triumph. On such
perfect equality were men and women placed by the blessed Savior as to
terms of salvation and Gospel privileges, that the apostle exclaims, "In
Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female." All are members of his
body, and in him all become one.

As Christian influences more fully control society, and as the spirit of
Christ permeates the masses, the position of woman becomes more
elevated. She is no longer considered as a slave, and compelled to bear
every burden, as in savage life; nor is she a mere attendant, or
minister to sensual pleasure, as among the Mohammedans. The bars are
removed from the doors of the harem, and the veil is taken from her
face. She sits with the family at the table, entertains her guests, and
enjoys their society. She studies with her brothers in the same school,
recites to the same teachers, and reads the same books. With her
friends, she joins in the service and song and worship of, the
sanctuary, converses in the social assembly, and listens to
distinguished speakers as they discuss topics of literature, art,
science, or statesmanship. The cry of suffering humanity touches her
heart, and she is deeply interested in the great movements toward the
elevation of the race. In this ascent, every step she has taken has been
in opposition to the protest of the spirit of other civilizations, which
yet lurks in many a breast. To be seen by strangers, to have her face
unveiled, to sit in public assemblies, to study sciences and arts, is
contrary to nature, is an offense against purity, and tends to destroy
her loveliness,--said these inveterate croakers. Yet society recognized
her influence and power, and believed she had both rights and duties.
Step by step, odious laws have been repealed, her right to her own
property has been in great measure secured, doors of usefulness have
been opened before her, her voice is welcomed from the platform, and her
writings from the press. She visits the sick and the prisoner, and
pleads for the suffering, until hospitals and asylums are founded in
their behalf. She soothes the sorrows of the aged, takes the hand of the
orphan to lead him in paths of safety, and in the tumult of war
ministers to the wounded and dying.

Amidst her general activity, many questions arise as to what further
avenues of usefulness may properly open. How far may she engage in
business, and in what branches? what is her proper work in the Church,
and to what extent may she perform public religious services? is she
properly a citizen, and what privileges or rights should she enjoy?--are
inquiries which are considered and discussed. The greatest interest is
at present excited by the question, "Should women have the ballot?" and
both in this country and in England it has able advocates and strong

It can not be denied that the answer of the large majority is in the
negative, and that in many instances this answer comes in the form of
the laugh of ridicule or in the sneer of contempt. Such is the fate of
all incipient efforts for reformation; but where a cause is
intrinsically just, it can survive and triumph.

Without entering into the general discussion, two points may be briefly
noted. First, this question is considered only in Christian lands. It is
not even heard of elsewhere. It is mooted only in countries where the
Bible is placed in the hands of the common people. It is strong only
where free institutions have been established, and where liberal ideas
have prevailed. It is the outgrowth of Bible freedom. Secondly, many of
its opponents are persons of strong intellect, of broad views, of great
benevolence, and of unquestioned piety. Yet in the opposition we find
also all, or nearly all, of the most ignorant classes of society. We
find also in the opposition, with very few exceptions, the entire class
of venders of intoxicating drinks, drunkards, gamblers, and other
notoriously vicious characters. Is there any reason for such an
aggregation? On the other hand, the friends of the measure, though fewer
in number, are generally found among the intelligent and religious
members of the community. It is true that a few of those who desired to
be recognized as leaders of the movement are known as free-thinkers or
infidels; and a still smaller number have been advocates of free-love
and other loathsome vagaries. The opponents of the cause have skillfully
presented their names as representatives of the idea, and have thus cast
such odium upon it that many timid persons, dreading even an apparent
association with them, have feared to express their own convictions.
These odious parties, however, are very few in number, and their
influence is constantly diminishing. There can be no question that
four-fifths of the friends of female suffrage are to-day active members
of various Christian Churches; and of them no small number are ministers
distinguished for their learning, benevolence, and piety.

The signs of the times indicate a determined struggle between temperance
and intemperance. The use of intoxicating liquors is the source of
nine-tenths of all the dark and terrible crimes that disgrace humanity.
It whets the assassin's dagger, and pours poison into the cup of the
suicide. It beggars the laborer, breaks the heart of the anguished wife,
and starves the helpless children. It fills jails and penitentiaries
with victims, and hospitals and asylums with the injured and hopelessly
wrecked. It fastens on society an army of police to be supported, and it
oppresses the land with taxes. The money amassed by the venders buys our
legislators, corrupts our judges and governors, and controls our
political parties. Who shall stay its ravages, or curtail its power?

My conviction is, and for years has been, that the only hope is in
giving the ballot to women. True, some women love strong drink, and some
are vile; yet the vast majority are utterly opposed to intemperance.
None so well as the drunkard's wife knows the terrible evil, or so
keenly feels its pangs. Could the mother, who bows her head in sorrow as
she beholds her loved boy hastening to ruin; the wife, whose once
affectionate husband has been transformed into a demon; the daughter,
whose cheek has been mantled with shame at her father's fall, and who
has suffered the bitterness of blasted hopes and of dismal
poverty,--could they have the ballot, how quickly would the rum-shops be
closed, and our youth be preserved from multi-fold temptations! What
other triumph could compare with this?

With this conviction, I hail with pleasure this volume from the pen of
Dr. Webster. It discusses an important question calmly, clearly,
forcibly. I may not agree with all of his positions, or with some of his
Biblical criticisms, yet I believe the work possesses much merit, will
lead to serious thoughtfulness, and be productive of good.

I also rejoice that the enterprising publishers whose names appear on
the imprint have added this volume to their catalogue, and have thus
given the influence of their names, and their widely extended means of
circulation, to a cause so intimately connected with the interests of
humanity. The Church, in its various denominations, and by its varied
agencies, must ever be, as it ever has been, the leader and the guide in
great moral movements.




Natural Rights.

In the discussion of the question of woman's equality with man, I
purpose to prove from the Bible, as I believe I can, that at the
creation there was neither superiority nor inferiority ordained between
Adam and Eve; and that the partial distinctions which have for ages
existed, and which still exist, are of man's invention; and may,
therefore with propriety, be examined, and, where found unfair or
oppressive, may be justly condemned.

I hope also to be able to establish the fact, from history, that in
every age, whenever an opportunity has afforded itself, women have
proved themselves to be fully men's equals in intellectual capacity, in
morality, industry, and religion; and that, in matters of government,
they have proved themselves to be as wise and judicious rulers as any of
the opposite sex, under the same, or similar, circumstances. That the
instances in which women have been called to places of power and
responsibility in the State are comparatively rare, is not to be
attributed to natural incapacity or mental inferiority, but to the fact
of the persistent efforts made by men to keep them as much as possible
in the background; that in many instances women have broken the fetters
of oppression and prejudice by which they were bound, and have ascended
the hill of fame in advance of their male opponents. If, then, women
have in other and darker ages over-leaped the formidable barriers placed
in their way, and thus benefited their respective nations, and sometimes
the world, by their intrepidity, why should obstructions be placed in
their path now, in this day of professed light and progress? Freedom,
improvement, and righteousness ought to be the watchwords of the

After enduring years of ridicule and contempt, the advocates of women's
rights begin to see some slight indications that their labors have not
been altogether futile. Both in England and America the movement is now
making considerable progress. Persons of wealth, of high position in the
social scale, and of sound education, have become its warm friends and
advocates; but, so hard is it to remove old-time prejudice, it is
probable that many years may yet elapse before women will be allowed to
enjoy equal rights and privileges with men.

All great reforms, whether European or American, are of slow growth,
and are usually denounced as running counter to Scripture and common
sense; as witness the discussions on the disestablishment of the Irish
Church in Britain, and on the abolition of slavery in the United States;
both of which reforms were fiercely assailed as contrary to the Word of
God and reason, and declared to be in fact the offspring of infidelity.
But, like these two great reforms, when movements of vital importance
are once inaugurated, their arriving at perfection is but a matter of
time. Right is almost always sure to prevail in the end.

The claiming for women equality with men, not only in mental capacity,
but in civil and ecclesiastical rights, may shock the preconceived
opinions of many persons, and will probably subject the individual
advancing such views to the charge of fanaticism and false teaching; yet
we conceive the claim to be consistent with reason, justice, and the
Word of God; and its full recognition to be of vital importance to the
entire race of mankind. In the discussion of this question, the object
will not be to flatter women, or to give offense to men; but simply to
present the requirements of impartial justice with regard to a portion
of the human race, who, because of their sex, have for centuries been
held in a position little, if any, better than that of slaves; and who,
up to the present time, are deprived of their natural rights and
privileges by the laws of our own and other countries, professedly
civilized, enlightened, and Christian. While, therefore, the injustice
suffered, both in the past and the present, by women, will be briefly
presented in the following pages, there is still no wish to deprive the
"lords of creation" of any really God-appointed privilege. But should we
happen to come in contact with the selfishness and the usurped
prerogatives of men, we will not hesitate to expose what we conceive to
be grievous wrongs, because of their antiquity.

There is no human tie so sacred as that of marriage; and yet there is
no covenant so generally violated in some way or other by many of the
contracting parties. The alliance, it is true, may be continued, and
even observed, so far as the letter is concerned. But what of the
spirit? When once true confidence is lost, the sublime and exalted
character of the relation is destroyed. There is no longer any genuine
affection, or real union of heart, between the parties. Nothing will
destroy mutual confidence between two parties sooner than an arrogant
assumption by one of them of fancied superiority over the other.
Self-respect is an inherent principle in human nature. The mind of
prince and peasant is alike actuated by it, and by an instinctive desire
for freedom and independence of action, for the advantages of civil and
religious liberty, and for the exercise of individual rights; and this
instinctive desire is no less strong in the hearts of women than of
men. It is impossible for a woman of proper discernment, and of refined
taste and liberal education, to consider herself, simply because of her
sex, inferior to her own male relatives, or indeed to any one of the
opposite sex, of the same intellectual powers, literary attainments, and
position in society. Nothing but the influence of a misdirected or
perverted education, or the most extreme degradation and ignorance, can
in any one induce the belief that woman is the inferior of man, merely
_because she is a woman_.

No business firm could remain together in harmony for a single day, if
it were understood that one of the partners assumed the position that he
was superior to the other, who, prior to entering into the partnership,
had been received in the same social circles, and who had brought into
the business an equal proportion of funds and of business talent. And
doubly preposterous would the assumption be, if it were based on the
fact that the assumer was the larger or physically stronger man; and,
because possessed of more of the animal nature than his partner, it
therefore became his right to dictate to and control the other.

Such an assumption as this is no more absurd, nor is the reasoning upon
which it is based more illogical, than that which asserts that woman,
because she is a woman, is therefore an inferior, to be ruled at the
discretion of her husband or sons in her own home; and that she ought to
be contented to be considered such, and to be so treated by her own
nation and in her own family. The carrying out of such an idea is more
than absurd. It is monstrous. It is an imposition that has only been
tolerated because the exactions are not in every case so bad as the
system is capable of enforcing; and it is one from which every advocate
of Christian liberty, to be consistent with his profession, should
withdraw both countenance and toleration.

The history of woman's wrongs has for ages been written in tears, often
with her life-blood; and yet the volume has, in most instances, been
concealed in her own bosom, notwithstanding its fearful weight. But if,
at any time, as sometimes happens, unable to keep it hidden longer, she
unfolds the pages of her grief to others, what an outcry is raised
against her! The oppressed Italian peasant, the Russian serf, the
Spanish or American black, all, if they are only of the male sex, may
make their wrongs public, may even resist oppression to the death, and
be applauded for so doing. But let a woman speak so that she can be
heard, no matter how great the outrages from which she has suffered, let
her couch her timid complaint in ever such delicate language, and what a
storm of invective is hurled at her! The very act of complaining is
declared--by the advocates of her inferiority--to be in itself unwifely,
_indecent_. "A woman's voice has no business to be heard outside of her
own house; nor _there_, if her lord decrees otherwise," say they. It is
asserted that she has been induced to give publicity to her
sorrows--indeed, has _occasioned them_--by peevishness or imprudence, or
by something worse; and thus, by an, unfair, sometimes an altogether
_false_, issue being raised, the unhappy victim not merely of
oppression, but of downright brutality, is shut off from justly merited
sympathy. And women, too, who are more fortunately situated, in
possessing somewhat kinder husbands, or in being possessed by them,
shaping their views according to those entertained by the sterner sex,
unite with them in the condemnation of a sorrow-stricken sister; and,
instead of making her burden lighter, contribute to increasing its
weight. Such women having never felt the iron pierce their own souls,
can not realize the woes of those in whose bosoms the barb is rankling
at every pulsation, and they weakly fancy that the sorrows of those
suffering ones are but the inventions of an ill-ordered mind, or, at
most, that the picture has been overdrawn.

Unkind men are not the only class, however, who assert the inferiority
of the gentler sex. If they were, they might be disposed of in a very
summary manner. There is another class not less dangerous, not less
tyrannical or less arrogant, though somewhat more plausible. These
speak, when occasion suits, quite eloquently, often with indecorous
flippancy, of the "great influence which the _ladies_ are capable of
exerting upon society;" and for the qualified good which the orators
graciously concede that women have accomplished, or may be capable of
accomplishing, they bespatter them with a sort of sneering praise that
is absolutely insulting to a woman of common sense. This style of
fulsome flattery, with some degree of soft attention, graciously
bestowed upon women, these men deem adequate compensation for all the
indignities put upon their so-called inferiors. With what supreme
contempt, therefore, must every right-minded woman listen to such
harangues, or read them when in print!

Learned orators and divines and grave professors may, indeed sometimes
do, soar away almost to the seventh heaven while recounting the heroic
or generous actions of women in past ages. Admiring audiences are told
that "gentle women are the ministering angels, sent by the wisdom of God
to be the comforters of mankind upon earth, as the beloved of our
hearths and homes; that the world, without the gentle hand of woman to
alleviate our sorrows, would be a dark and dreary solitude swept by the
whirlwinds of despair." The delighted listeners are borne away on the
wings of fancy--alas! it is only fancy--till, in imagination, it would
appear that woman had escaped from her worse than Egyptian bondage, had
crossed, without trouble, the Red Sea, passed the dreadful wilderness,
moved out from the plains of Moab, and, by some peculiar magic of her
own, had been deftly wafted over Jordan into the promised land; that
already she had gloried in the tumbling-down of the walls of Jericho,
and had enjoyed the triumph of having the delegation of Gibeonites
coming, in their old garments, to seek an alliance with her as the
chosen of the Lord.

But let a woman allured by such an oration ask a _right_, and how soon
the strain is changed! Let her ask to be placed on an equality with man
in regard to the holding of property, or to civil or ecclesiastical
rights, or authority or position; let the daughters ask equal rights and
privileges with sons; let them request admission into the same colleges
and universities with their brothers, so that they may compete with them
for the honors and degrees conferred in such institutions,--and what
then? The flowery oratory is all gone. The "angels," the "heroic, brave,
and virtuous women," have suddenly become agitators whose conduct is
unseemly. They "are ambitious, indelicate, not to say immodest,
bold-faced females"--whether of the human or some other race we are not

Forgetting, apparently, that the Creator's universal law is liberty of
thought and freedom of action, coupled with a strict responsibility for
the use of both, those who are opposed to women exercising or enjoying
equal rights with men, contend, as an excuse for their opposition, that
some of the women engaged in the present reform movement are extravagant
in their demands, and abuse the privileges they already possess.
Precisely the same thing was said of the slaves in the South. Indeed,
the same argument, variously worded, has been used by oppressors in all
ages. "Ye are idle, ye are idle," is a very old cry.

But, admitting that some women are injudicious and occasionally one is
irreverent, are not men, in advocating their peculiar views on politics,
the same, only in much larger proportion? Are they, therefore, deprived
of the franchise or other privileges? If men were obliged to come to
such a standard as they lay down for women, they would consider the
measure meted out to them a very hard one. Still, if it is a just and
fair way of dealing with woman's suffrage and other questions of
importance, it is an equally just and fair way to deal with men
concerning their right to exercise the franchise.

But, though deprived of the civil and ecclesiastical privileges accorded
to their sons and brothers, women are yet held equally accountable with
them for any infraction of these same civil and ecclesiastical laws. Not
supposed to have sufficient mental capacity to understand what a law
really means, she is yet, if she violates that law, punished for such
violation. And, in the face of all this, it is sneeringly asked, "What
can reasonable women want more than they already have?" The answer is
simple: Equal rights and privileges with men.

And it is to be hoped, for the honor of Christianity and civilization,
that these will soon be accorded.

Very much has been accomplished in several of the States of the
Republic, in regard to giving women a proper position in civil and
educational matters, but much still remains to be done; and just now it
would seem doubtful which country will first accord the suffrage to
them--England or the United States. Eminent statesmen in both of these
countries are moving in the matter.


Woman in Antiquity.

In the preceding chapter it is mentioned that the intention is to
present to the reader, in as condensed a form as possible, some of the
indignities put upon women, both in the past and the present, so that
the reader may be able to form a candid judgment on the subject of
woman's rights and woman's wrongs. We will, therefore, first consider
the condition of the women of antiquity, and of those in heathen and
Mohammedan lands; and, afterward, her position in professedly civilized
and Christian countries.

After the dispersion of mankind at Babel, we behold, through the mists
of the surrounding gloom, the various tribes into which the race had by
that event become divided, subsisting at first by the spontaneous fruits
of the earth, and by the chase. Then they became herdsmen, tillers of
the soil, and traffickers, varying these occupations by predatory
warfare. They are all astir, passing to and fro through the wide extent
of the regions as yet inhabited. History, so far as it deals with the
earlier portion of this period, necessarily derives its material from
traditionary legends, more or less credible, as the case may be. These
recount the marvelous exploits--not unfrequently manifestly fabulous--of
their rude heroes; their deeds of might, their noble enterprises, their
indomitable courage, their persistent activity, and often their deeds of
most revolting cruelty.

Of the women of this period we obtain but slight glimpses, but
sufficient to show that, in their domestic arrangements, the ancients
early acted upon the principle, that "might makes right." Muscle
appears to have been at a premium during these eras.

Later, the nations are found still engaged in war, as if each esteemed
the slaughtering of its neighbors the grandest and noblest of human
achievements; but their equipments indicate that, meanwhile,
manufactures have been making some advancement. Warriors present a more
formidable appearance than did those of former ages. They are clad in
armor, and guard themselves with breastplates and with shields. Their
glittering swords and spears, their battle-axes and their bows, are
grasped in hands only too eager to use them; and the combatants press
proudly on toward the scene of conflict; while others, equally intrepid,
but less military in their tastes, still employ themselves in the chase;
and the more indolent pursue pleasures of a less exciting character.

But where, meanwhile, are the counterparts of these--the wives, sisters,
and daughters of these grim warriors and sturdy huntsmen, or of these
dreaming idlers? In existence they certainly are; but they exist only to
drudge and suffer. While their masters are employing or non-employing
themselves, according to the bent of their inclination, they are
cultivating the fields or watering and herding the flocks, bearing heavy
burdens, carrying the luggage of their husbands to facilitate progress
on the war-path; or at home rearing up children, who rarely rise up to
call them blessed; or they are waiting, in submissive obedience, at the
feet of their reclining lords, to be petted and caressed or cursed and
kicked, as passion or caprice may dictate--subjected alike to neglect,
contempt, and abuse. Exceptions to this general rule doubtless occurred
occasionally; for irresponsible power does not of necessity convert
every man into an unfeeling tyrant, just as under other systems of
slavery, some were fortunate enough to fall into the hands of kind,
considerate owners, whose hearts they inspired with love and
tenderness; but neither bound wife nor bond slave was treated with
kindness, respect, or common justice, because their inherent right to be
so treated was recognized. It mattered little to the women of this
period whether they were held as wives or concubines; their actual
condition was that of slavery.

In none of the countries of antiquity had women more liberty than in
Egypt; and yet what was her real condition there? Alexander remarked, it
is true, that though "the women promised obedience, men often yielded
it;" and, in many instances, it is equally true that the laws respecting
women were immeasurably in advance of those of neighboring nations; as,
for instance: Each wife had entire control of her own house. Among the
princes nearest the throne, women might take their places, and even
reign as sovereigns (a regency was frequently committed to their care);
or they might rule as joint sovereigns with another party; and as Isis
took rank above Osiris, so in such a case the woman might take rank
above the man.[A]

But notwithstanding this advance beyond other nations, they were still
spoken of, and in many instances not only treated as inferiors, but held
in hopeless bondage.

Among the Greeks, the wife was at times permitted to take part in public
assemblies, but never as the equal of her husband. She neither went with
him to dinner, when he dined out, nor sat at table with those whom he
invited to his house. Aristotle held that "the relation of men to women
is that of governor to a subject." Plato says: "A woman's virtue may be
summed up in a few words: for she has only to manage the house well,
keeping what there is in it, and obeying her husband." Again, in further
proof of the low estimation in which he held women, he says: "Of the men
that were born, such as are timid and have passed through life unjustly
are, we suppose, changed into women in their second generation."
Plutarch tells us that women "were compelled to go barefoot, in order to
induce them to keep at home."

The Spartan women were better off than their neighbors; and, in
consequence, we get glimpses of a higher type of womanhood. The Spartan
mother has furnished a theme for the pen of every ancient Greek
historian. Under the Lycurgean system, women were considered "as a part
of the State," and not simply household articles belonging to their
husbands--chattels to be disposed of according to the supreme pleasure
of their masters. Free women were trained for the service of the State
with scarcely less severity than men. Lycurgus remarks: "Female slaves
are good enough to sit at home, weaving and spinning; but who can expect
a splendid offspring--the appropriate mission and duty of free Spartan
women toward their country--from mothers brought up in such
occupations?" But though, like the Egyptian women, and indeed in advance
of them, the Spartan women were treated with, for the times, a marked
degree of attention and respect, still, even in Sparta, there were laws
in force by which women suffered grievous injustice. With all the
apparent freedom accorded to them, fathers claimed and exercised the
right of disposing of their daughters in marriage to suit their own
views or interests. Though free-born, a girl had no choice, if her
father willed it so, in the selection of her husband; and husbands
might, if they wished, dispose of their wives by will, at death, as they
would of any other piece of property. Though in a measure free, because
she was a woman, she was still a slave.

Among the other infringements of the rights of women, and one of the
most barbarous, common to the heathen, both ancient and modern, and to
the Mohammedans, is early betrothal. In fact, the system of betrothal
prevailed to a very great extent among the very earliest nations of
which history furnishes any account, the laws affecting it being only
slightly modified to suit the circumstances of the various tribes by
which it was adopted. The main feature was still the same--the girl had
no choice; there was nothing for her but submission.

The lot of woman in China has, from time immemorial, been a hard one.
Says a writer in the _Westminster Review_ for October, 1855: "Of all
nations, the Chinese carry out the system of early betrothal most
completely; parents in China not only bargain for the marriage of their
children during their infancy, but while they are yet unborn. If, when a
daughter is betrothed during infancy, the contract should not assume the
form of actual sale, it is nevertheless usual for the bridegroom, at the
time he acquires possession of the bride, to pay into the hands of her
father a sum considered equivalent to the current value of a wife."
Immortality is denied to woman by them. A Christian, intent on the
evangelization of the Chinese, spoke to one regarding the salvation of
their women. "Women," replied the Chinaman; "women have no souls. You
can't make Christians of them." Few persons born in civilized lands,
unless brought into immediate contact with the heathen, can have any
idea of the wretched condition of their women, even at this day. Kept in
a state of abject bondage, they are compelled to serve with rigor.
Controlled as though they were possessed of less intelligence than male
children of tender years, it might yet be supposed, from the burdens
laid upon them, that they were possessed of far superior strength,
physically, than men. In some countries--not all of them heathen or
Mohammedan either--the amount of labor imposed upon women of the lower
orders in society would task the strength of beasts of burden. The only
exercise of reason allowed among such, is a sort of instinct which will
enable them to perform all kinds of drudgery, and to act with
scrupulous fidelity to their unkind, very often brutal and _faithless_,
husbands--task-masters would be the better name. Of women under such
rule, it may truly be said, the grave is their best, their only friend.

Among the Arabs, prior to Mohammed, the women were in a wretchedly
debased condition, which has been but slightly improved by the rules of
the Koran. By its sanction, wives were bought by their husbands, though
it was asserted that it was not lawful for men to exchange their wives.
The price paid by Mohammed for his wives, of which he had nine, varied,
according to their rank and beauty, from one to one hundred dollars
each. The common people procured theirs at a cheaper rate. Specific
directions are given, too, for the proper government of women. "Those
wives," says Mohammed, "whose perverseness ye may be apprehensive of,
rebuke, and remove them into separate apartments, and chastise
them."[B] When such precepts as these were laid down in the Koran,
which was considered a direct revelation from God, it is not surprising
that the severest punishment was inflicted on women who attempted to
exercise any control over themselves or their households. The will of
the proud, insolent Arab was supreme, whether his demands were
reasonable or otherwise; having bought his wives cheap, he might
maltreat or divorce them at pleasure. Like the Chinese, the Mohammedan
women are denied the hope of immortality. "Earthly women, when they die,
cease to have any existence; but men, if faithful to Mohammed, are to
enter paradise, and be associated with a _new_ race of transcendently
beautiful female beings." "The glories of eternity," says the Koran,
"will be eclipsed by the resplendent 'women of paradise,' created 'not
of clay, as mortal women are, but of pure musk, and free from all
natural impurities, defects, and inconveniencies incident to the sex;
... secluded from public view in pavilions of hollow pearl.'"[C]

A distinguished European writer observes: "The Hindoos seem to have
legislated with the greatest care and detail concerning women. Yet by no
people, legally speaking, is her individuality more entirely ignored;
and in no country is the slavery in which she lives, at once so
systematic, refined, and complete as it is in India, where the lawgiver
and the priest are one. The oppressive custom of life-long guardianship
is expressly ordained. By a girl, or by a woman advanced in years,
nothing must be done, even in her own dwelling-place, according to her
mere pleasure. In childhood must a female be dependent on her father, in
youth on her husband; her lord being dead, on her sons; if she have no
sons, on the near kinsman of her husband; if he left no kinsman, on
those of her father; if she have no parental kinsman, on the sovereign.
A woman must never seek independence."[D] Not permitted to have any
discretionary power over her own actions at any period of her life, but
held in every respect subject to the will of her husband, or some other
male guardian, she is nevertheless to be unswervingly faithful to her
lord while he lives; and no matter how cruelly he may have treated her,
she is loaded with contumely, reproach, and scorn, if she refuses to lay
herself upon the funeral pile, and in the flames pass into another state
of being, to do honor to him who through life had been an unrelenting
tyrant. Knowing the obloquy which attaches itself to the widow who
recoils from such a fearful death-bed, and ignorant, too, of the "better
way," the unfortunate creature generally yields to the pressure brought
to bear upon her, and terminates a miserable life by an awful death; her
horrid shrieks, while burning, mingling with the clamor of sounds
raised to drown them by the heartless throng of spectators, and yet
sometimes rising with distressing distinctness above them. When the wife
of a Hindoo dies, does he sacrifice himself upon a funeral pile, in
order to honor her in another state of existence? By no means. His
precious body can not be committed to the flames; they are too hot for
his manly courage. He burns her corpse with what are termed appropriate
offerings; and, if so disposed, adds a new wife to his household, thus
soothing his sorrow.

In Australia, the practice of early betrothal is nearly universal among
the natives; men of distinction having several wives at the same time,
and these varying in age from the little child to the woman of mature
years. But while polygamy prevails to a fearful extent among the men of
the wealthier class, many of the men of the humbler ranks remain
unmarried, because they are unable to raise the purchase-money which
secures them their domestic drudge. In the western part of Australia,
especially before the benefits of civilization began to be felt in the
island, it was the practice to betroth the daughters to some individual,
immediately upon their birth; and should the man, or male child to whom
the infant girl was betrothed, die before she arrived at maturity, she
became the property of the heirs of her betrothed husband, though she
might never have seen either this reputed husband, or the person who, as
his representative, claimed her as his wife by virtue of the betrothal.
In New Zealand, if the spouse of a female child dies before she is taken
to his home, she is never allowed to marry any one else. By this custom
young children become the widows of little boys or old men, according to
the whims of their fathers. Another horrible practice of the Australians
is, the exchange of daughters by their fathers. This is very common
among the chiefs, the exchange being made with as little concern as
jockeys exchange their horses. It is stated that the poorer men
sometimes supplied themselves with wives after the manner of the Romans
in the case of the Sabine Rape; and that when victorious in war, the
women and girls captured were taken as wives, while the male prisoners
were put to death. But where they were able to afford it, they preferred
the betrothal system, as giving them more consequence. Not only in
Australia, but in the other countries where early betrothal was
practiced, if, when a boy grew up, he formed a dislike to his betrothed,
or for some other whim desired to cast her off, he was at liberty to do
so, but no such privilege was granted the girl. Then, as now in
civilized nations, those making the laws were careful to make them all
to their own advantage.

In the foundation of some of the nations of antiquity, men were
frequently gathered, from almost every quarter of the then known globe,
to the particular spot that seemed best suited for the purposes of
self-aggrandizement; and, in the rude horde thus congregated together,
there was necessarily an undue preponderance of the male element. In
some instances, not one woman was to be found in such a community. The
tribes more immediately contiguous to these settlements, if such they
might be called, were not inclined to enter into friendly relations with
them, and therefore they were unable to supply themselves with wives in
the usual manner; consequently, they had recourse to other means.
Sometimes women were procured by stratagem; sometimes bands of marauders
sallied forth, and stole, or in some other equally exceptionable way
took possession of, the women of the neighboring or of hostile tribes.

Ordinarily, the poor victims submitted to their fate with the best grace
they might; but if one thus taken by force attempted to make her escape
from him who claimed her as his wife, and was unfortunate enough to be
retaken, a spear, or some similar weapon, was thrust through the fleshy
portion of one of her limbs, effectually disabling her from making
another attempt of the kind; and not unfrequently the combined bodily
pain and mental anguish terminated in death--a happy release.

In process of time, however, the various tribes began to regard each
other with less aversion than formerly; and it became safer and more
profitable to purchase women, on the same principle that any other kind
of merchandise was bought. Prices were regulated according to the supply
in the market and the beauty or the muscular strength of the hapless
creatures exposed for sale. Fathers sold or exchanged their daughters,
brothers their sisters, without the slightest shame or remorse. Among
the Tambanks, in exchanging the women for stock, a woman, full-grown and
of ordinary strength, was considered equal in value to two cows or one

As the settlements became more permanent, assuming by degrees the
character of established nations, and the centers of enterprise grew
into populous cities, the barter and exchange traffic naturally
declined; but in its place were established regular markets for the sale
of female slaves. Civilization was beginning to make some slight
progress; and fathers began to entertain doubts regarding the propriety
of _selling_ their own flesh and blood, though they did not hesitate to
_buy_ their wives.

The slaves who were exposed in the marketplaces, therefore, were
generally the overplus not desired in the harems of those who had
captured them in war; and as the most beautiful brought the highest
market-price, the public exhibitions of the poor unfortunates drew
thither crowds of gaping people--some merely curious, some intent on
business. Even in more modern days, the slave-markets of the East, and
in the Southern States of the American Republic, have attracted crowds
of spectators--some to condemn the horrible practice, some to
compassionate the unhappy victims, but most to engage in the monstrous

It is not necessary to review further, in detail, the condition of women
in the various nations as they sprang into existence, or through the
successive periods of their history to the commencement of the Christian
era. Various causes brought about a partial liberty for women, in both
the Jewish and Roman nations, prior to the birth of Christ; but for
those of other lands the blackness of darkness still remained. It was
but a partial liberty, it is true, even for the Hebrew or Roman women,
but their condition was much improved. Concessions had been made slowly.
They had come in shreds, and had not amounted to much in ameliorating
their situation when they came; but slight as were the privileges
yielded, they were yet indications of the dawning of a brighter day for
Eve's poor daughters.

The reformations effected were like wresting prey from the mighty. And
how could it be otherwise, with selfishness and love of power, sustained
by unjust and one-sided laws, arrayed against merely natural rights--not
demanded, scarcely even asserted--and those to whom these rights
belonged excluded from every position where they might hope to do either
the one or the other successfully? The law of divorce was still common;
and, like every thing else where the sexes were concerned, all the
advantages were on the side of the oppressor, man.

The laws of the Romans, though according a greater degree of freedom to
woman than had hitherto been granted, were still not only imperfect, but
were not properly carried out, in many instances, where it suited venal
judges to side with wealthy libertines who might have it in their power
to bestow a favor. Professedly, each Roman had but one wife; but
divorces, on most frivolous pretexts, were of frequent occurrence,
granted in favor of one who wished to gratify his licentious passions
without rebuke. Slavery was yet in force; and it gave ample opportunity
for the practice of this injustice, even upon the free-born Roman woman.
Every true Roman held his wife's or his daughter's honor sacred, and
would resent to the death any attempt to violate it; but, by the
connivance of corrupt officials, the protection of an upright father was
rendered of no avail, by a perjurer being found who would appear before
the proper tribunal and swear the maid or woman in question to be his
slave. The decision once given in the libertine's favor, there was no
longer hope for her--she was lost forever.

Not always, however, would Roman freemen tamely brook open injustice,
much less shame, without revenging it, though they died in doing so. The
case of Appius--who was himself both the libertine and judge--is in
point. Having set his licentious eyes upon the beautiful
Virginia--daughter of Virginius, a centurion of the army--and having in
vain sought to obtain possession of her person by tampering with the
matron who conveyed her to and from her school, he induced an equally
licentious individual, one Claudius, to claim her as his slave, and
bring the matter before himself for decision. In vain the anguished
father asserted that Virginia was his child. With an air of apparent
impartiality, Appius decreed that she belonged to Claudius, who
thereupon proceeded to remove her. The father begged that they might at
least be allowed to take leave of each other, which request was granted,
on condition of their doing so in the presence of the oppressor. Drawing
the girl, now nearly dead from fright, toward himself, and also toward
the shambles, adjoining which they were, he snatched thence a knife,
and, before any suspected his intention, stabbed her to the heart,
crying, "This alone can preserve your honor and your freedom."[E]

The fearful deed of the centurion is appalling; but remember his ideas
of right and wrong were veiled in pagan darkness. He took the life of
his child to save her from a fate incomparably worse than that of death;
and made his name historic by doing so. Thousands of fathers have found
their efforts to protect the innocence of their daughters as unavailing
as did the unhappy Virginius, unless, like him, they shortened life. The
victims, too, are as little free-will agents in the matter as Virginia
would have been; and many thousands of daughters have fallen, not by
their father's hand to save their honor, but by cruel deception, and
died to all that was beautiful or pure on earth, and to every hope of

And while the woman who has sinned, and fallen through that sin, is
pitied by few, despised by nearly all, and but little effort made to win
her back to the path of purity, how is the companion of her sin treated?
He, the seducer--often the grossest of deceivers, the instigator of the
crime--because he is a man, is countenanced by the many, his conduct
palliated, and himself received as an honored guest, even in the highest
circles of society. The law of God makes no distinction between the male
violator of His holy law and the female violator of the same; but man,
arrogating to himself superior wisdom, makes a very marked one.

No wonder, then, that women groan because of their bondage.


[Footnote A: Sharpe's "History of Egypt."]

[Footnote B: Koran, chap. iv.]

[Footnote C: Sale's "Preliminary Discourses on the Koran," sec. 4.]

[Footnote D: "Laws of Menu."]

[Footnote E: Bloss, page 334.]


Later Estimate of Woman.

In the discussion of the position occupied by women as wives, those only
have been spoken of who were betrothed in infancy, or were captured,
stolen, or bought. These latter were, without further ceremony, merely
_taken_ home to the abode of their future husband and lord. In the later
periods of antiquity, betrothal terminated in a marriage ceremony, the
rite varying according to the prevailing customs of each nation.

Opinions with regard to the qualifications which ought to be possessed
by a woman to fit her for marriage--which were, in fact, considered
indispensable--were as various as the nations or the rites; and, truth
to tell, are about as conflicting now as they were centuries ago. In all
the ages, and in every country, one thing seemed to be agreed upon,
however, and sedulously kept in view; namely, _woman's inferiority_. Let
her be free-born or a slave, to be married or bought, she must still be
a bondwoman--a creature subject to guardianship.

After men began to desire wives who were not altogether drudges, women
began to be esteemed in proportion to their beauty, not their wisdom or
good judgment. A fine figure, delicate hands, and handsome face, with
fascinating manners, a graceful carriage, and such accomplishments as
were the fashion, quite regardless of the accomplishments of head or
heart, were all that were required by the class of men who could afford
to keep such dainty wares. But love, inspired by such attractions as
these and nothing else, is ever fickle as the wind. When health declined
and beauty faded, the fire of passion, misnamed love, died out; and the
hapless wife frequently found herself deserted--if not openly, none the
less shamefully--for a younger rival, whose eye was brighter and whose
cheek more plump. Then shrewd women began to study artifice. Deception
is wrong, without doubt; but before we too severely censure these women,
let us remember how deeply they were wronged, how great their
temptations, how much they had at stake. In order to retain any thing
like a comfortable or respectable position in their husband's houses,
the waning beauties resorted to flattery and to the invention and
skillful use of various articles which would conceal the declension of
beauty or artfully counterfeit it. The ways and means by which
attractiveness of face and figure might be enhanced, preserved, or
simulated, became the subject of serious study--something neither to be
sneered at nor laughed at. The happiness of a life-time often depended
upon it. The sex, taught by a bitter experience, learned that men, as a
rule, were more easily influenced by blandishment and show than by good
sense and genuine worth, and, with a few exceptions, strove somewhat to
better their condition by practicing the lesson so learned. If, in the
long run, women became frivolous, brainless, and heartless, why was it?

There were, however, in all ages, exceptions. Women, yielding to the
God-given yearning after higher and better things than idle frivolities,
and longing just as ardently for love and happiness in their married
homes, sought to work out life's problem differently, and went to work
as rational creatures. Breaking through or over the obstacles which
debarred them from enjoying or making use of the sources of information
open to the opposite sex, they strove to cultivate their minds and store
them with useful knowledge, that they might indeed be helpmeets for
their husbands, and so not only win, but by true worth retain, their

Then those who had hitherto sneered at woman's incapacity for
intellectual attainments, or lectured her roundly for frivolity,
heartlessness, and deception, sneered all the more at her presumption in
fancying her heart, or head either, required any other cultivation than
man, in his wisdom, saw fitting. Any thing at all likely to elevate
woman to her proper place of equality with her husband, must be put down
at once and forever, if possible. But, notwithstanding all the pains
taken to place women in an inferior position, and keep them there, they
have, in many instances, despite the sneers and _persecutions_ of the
opposite sex, proved their aptitude in acquiring knowledge; and, when
placed in positions to call forth such powers, have manifested a
judicious tact in the government of nations or generalship of armies,
quite equal to men, with all their vaunted superiority. Nor did those
women who thus distinguished themselves, or those who in private life
became proficients in the various branches of science or in music,
poetry or the languages, _necessarily_ neglect their homes and families
in consequence. Experience, in our own times, proves exactly the
reverse. Dereliction of duty with regard to home duties results much
more frequently from devotion to fashionable pleasures--considered quite
allowable and _womanly_--than from the pursuit of literature.

That marriage was designed by the Creator for the mutual benefit, help,
and happiness of those entering into that relation, there can be no
doubt; but, through the selfishness of man--helped on by the fact that,
like the partner referred to previously, he was physically the stronger
of the two--the gracious purposes of the Creator were lost sight of, or
_ignored._ And God suffered it so to be, for the time, just as he did
other forms of slavery and outcrying sins of various kinds.

It has been said that the marriage ceremonies and festivals were as
various as the several nations in which they were performed. A
description of a few of these may not be uninteresting.

Among the Jews, the period of betrothal having expired, the marriage was
celebrated by a feast, the bride being arrayed as magnificently as her
circumstances would allow. If the contracting parties were distinguished
personages, the ceremony was frequently celebrated at night, the bridal
party, carrying their lamps or torches with them, going forth in
procession to meet and do honor to the bridegroom.

With the Romans, the consent of the father or guardian of the maiden
having been obtained, a sacrifice was prepared. "The gall was carefully
removed," and the propitiatory offering made to the gods. To have been
emblematical, the gall should have been presented to the bride. In most
cases, it fell to her lot. On the wedding-day the bridegroom, with his
attendants, presented himself at the place designated for the
performance of the ceremony, where he was met by the bride, gorgeously
appareled, and her maids. Then, in presence of her father or guardian
and proper witnesses, the pair went through a formula of words as given
them by the officiating priest. On the completion of this part of the
ceremony, the company partook of a cake made of flour, salt, and water.
This was the original "bride-cake." After night, the bride, accompanied
by her relatives and maids of honor, was escorted with due pomp to the
residence of the bridegroom, the door of which she found bound with
strings, over which she was obliged to step. Having effected an
entrance, she received the keys of the house, and the bridegroom and
herself again repeated, after the priest, the formula which had been
gone over earlier in the day. Then, having touched fire and water, and
sacrificed to the domestic gods, which were placed on the table, the
wedding festivities commenced, and were continued till midnight, when
the guests dispersed.

In India, the magnificence of the marriage-feast can scarcely be
imagined, especially when celebrated by torch-light procession.

In almost all the nations of antiquity, who had any marriage ceremony at
all, a woman's wedding-day was one of splendor and apparent honor, the
only day in which any of her wishes were deferred to during her whole
lifetime. Light was soon lost in darkness--anticipated pleasure in
disappointment, degradation, and despair. The day of her death was the
first day of her freedom.


The Sexes Equal at Creation.

From the arguments brought forward by the advocates of woman's
inferiority, it might be inferred that she was designed, from the very
dawn of creation, for man's servant, not for his companion; and, indeed,
it is not only inferred by the great mass of mankind, but broadly
asserted to be the fact by very many who, from their knowledge of the
history of creation, ought to know better.

Those who have striven to establish this doctrine have contrived to
bring the Scriptures to their aid by wresting them to suit their own
particular view of the question, and in this manner have endeavored to
silence any controversy respecting their dogma. The result has been--and
it is the legitimate result of such a pernicious course--that this
wresting of the Scriptures, and its having been allowed for a length of
time to go unchallenged by the Christian world, has produced scores of
infidels, who, not having examined the Word of God critically for
themselves, have accepted as true expositions of the doctrines contained
therein the statements of men, apparently supported by isolated texts,
separated from their contexts; and thus, having been led to believe that
the Scriptures sanctioned, if they did not enforce, manifest injustice,
they have repudiated the whole as unworthy of belief. A deplorable
conclusion, truly! Then, though responsible for this infidelity through
their perversion of Scripture, these same writers, or those of a kindred
spirit, denounce every argument or movement in favor of the equal rights
and privileges of women as evil, and only evil, and necessarily evil,
because among the advocates of measures according these rights there are
found some men and women who are skeptics.

But what say the Scriptures upon the subject? In the history of the
creation, there given, we search in vain for any evidence of the Divine
appointment, at that time, of masculine domination.

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the
air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every
creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he
him; male and female created he them.

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over
the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every
living thing that moveth upon the earth."[F]

This dominion of the human race over the inferior creation seems to have
been the only dominion instituted at the time of the creation; nor is
there any indication that it was to be confined to the male portion of
the race. As between the human pair, there is not here the slightest
intimation given of the subjection of the one to the other. The Great
Infinite in wisdom, who created "them," and who could not be mistaken in
their capacities, appears to have placed "_them_" on a perfect equality,
committing to them conjointly the dominion over the earth and all that
it contained.

In the second chapter of Genesis we find a brief recapitulation of the
events narrated in the first, the sacred historian entering more fully
into the creation of the woman. God, in his wisdom, saw that Adam was
not sufficient alone to sway the mighty scepter over the vast domain
about to be intrusted to him; therefore he created for him "an
helpmeet," and gave "_them_" a joint authority over the rest of
creation. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that man should be
alone; I will make him an helpmeet for him.... And the Lord God caused a
deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs,
and closed up the flesh thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had
taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man."[G]

"This implies," says a distinguished commentator upon Holy Writ, "that
the woman was a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither
inferiority nor superiority, but being in all things like and equal to

Thus it was in the beginning. But, in process of time, men, glorying in
the physical strength in which they excelled women, refused to recognize
as its equivalent the peculiar qualities and faculties possessed by
women which were lacking in themselves. And overlooking the importance
of the duties which the mothers of mankind were discharging, they plumed
themselves upon their own prowess, and concluded that women and all else
were made only to minister to their pleasures. Reason and justice were
obliged to succumb to the strong arm, and women were forced into a
subordinate position.

If the Creator, in the arrangements of his plans, designed that women
should be inferior to men in intellect and freedom of action, then, in
regard to one-half of the human family, God worked by the law of
retrogression, producing Eve, an inferior, from Adam, a superior being;
which is clearly contrary to the law of progression, and contrary to the
general plan of his creation; and, if this be true, the laws of
progression and retrogression were to alternate perpetually. Is this
supposition of inferiority in the case of woman consistent with what we
know of God's method of working, as given in the history of the
creation? Let us recapitulate the whole briefly, and see.

1. He created inanimate matter. 2. He brought vegetable life into
existence. 3. The inhabitants of the waters were created. 4. "The cattle
after their kind." Still ascending, God said: "Let us make man in our
image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the
image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Here,
then, we see that God created man from a portion of inanimate earth; but
that he produced the woman from a perfect portion of the perfect man,
plainly appears from the twenty-first and twenty-second verses of the
second chapter of Genesis, which, though quoted recently, necessarily
come in, in this place. "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall
upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the
flesh thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the man,
made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is
now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman,
because she was taken out of man."[H]

Prior to the fall, then, it is quite evident that woman was equal to man
in every respect. Did Eve, then, because she was first in the
transgression, forfeit her right of equality with Adam, who just as
flagrantly transgressed the Divine command; or was the penalty inflicted
in consequence of her disobedience another matter altogether?

Genesis iii, 16, is usually brought forward to prove that, if woman was
not inferior before the fall, she became so absolutely and
unconditionally then. A disinterested reader--could such be found--would
scarcely so render it. "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply
thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth
children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over
thee." Upon the latter clause of this verse, separating it from all
connection with the former part of the sentence, with which, however, it
is connected in the Sacred Word, is based the dogma of the continued,
unchangeable curse of inferiority of all the daughters of Eve, and their
obligation to serve and implicitly obey their husbands. And yet if a
wife, in obedience to the command of her husband, violates the law,
either of God or man, she is the party held responsible. If she is not
possessed of sufficient mental capacity to judge for herself in all
things, how can she know when she should obey or when disobey? If
implicit obedience is her duty, is there any justice, then, in punishing
her for obeying the order of him whom she is bound to obey? Those who
construe this and other portions of the Word of God to suit themselves,
would protest loudly enough against the "manifest injustice" if it were
meted out to them. But we know there is no unrighteousness with God. The
Bible expressly declares that "God is no respecter of persons," and that
"his ways are true and righteous altogether."

If then we examine this text (Gen. iii, 16) candidly, even taking the
generally accepted translation, and construe it with the same fairness
with which we would construe a sentence the meaning of which was not in
dispute, the conclusion arrived at would be very different from what it
usually is; and it would be apparent that the words, "And thy desire
shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee," has reference to
the subject of generation, of which the entire passage treats. There
are, however, some commentators who incline to the opinion that the
words "and he shall rule over thee," might with equal propriety be
rendered, "He shall _have power with thee_." We know that at this very
time the promise of the Messiah--the seed that was to bruise the
serpent's head--was given to the woman. "He," thy husband, "shall have
power with thee," would not then be an inappropriate termination to the
sentence relating to generation. Raschi, a celebrated Hebrew writer and
rabbi, who flourished in the twelfth century, supports this reading, "He
shall have power with thee;" but the majority of commentators and the
Talmud are against such a rendering. It is to be borne in mind, however,
that the Talmud is not the Pentateuch, and that learned and sincerely
pious commentators have differed, and do so still, as widely as the
poles, upon passages quite as easily understood as the one now under
discussion. There is no more proof in this verse that a woman is bound
to serve and obey her husband, in the common acceptation of the term,
than that a man is obligated to serve and obey his wife, or worship her
with his body--whatever that may mean--as he solemnly vows to do in
certain marriage services. The endowment with worldly goods and the
worship promised, were perhaps put in as an offset to the pledge of
service and obedience. Certainly the man's vow to worship his wife is no
more inconsistent than is the woman's to obey implicitly; and her
obedience, if it is not implicit, is not obedience at all, but is merely
acceding to the wishes of her husband when they accord with her own

Infidels, in seeking to disparage the Word of God, quote this passage
and kindred ones, and, accepting the commonly received idea of their
meaning, endeavor to subvert the faith of the masses. With those who do
not carefully examine the matter for themselves, they often succeed. It
has been asserted, too, by those who would wish the teachings of the
Koran to take precedence over those of the Bible, that the position
accorded to women by the Mosaic law was quite as degrading as that
accorded to them by Mohammed; but a careful reading of the Scripture
warrants no such conclusion. Many matters are spoken of, both in the law
and the prophets, as having been practised and tolerated, and even rules
given for their regulation, which were by no means of Divine
appointment. This distinction should always be carefully marked in
regard to the sacred text; and in addition to this it should be
remembered that the Word of God is not responsible for the erroneous
opinions of mankind. When the Almighty placed human beings upon the
earth, he created _one_ man and _one_ woman, destining them to be the
progenitors of the entire race, thereby indicating that monogamy was of
Divine appointment. But original purity was soon departed from; lawless
passion was allowed to mar the beautiful completeness and concord of the
marriage relation as instituted by God; and, in time, many even of those
who were nominal worshipers of the true God, fell into polygamy. The
true idea and design of marriage, and the rights of woman, with the
respect due to her, was lost sight of, and the requirements of the
Divine law set at nought. Men became the slaves of their own lusts. God
was not in all their thoughts. Iniquity prevailed to such a frightful
extent that "it repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth,
and it grieved him at his heart."[I]

At this time of general apostasy, Noah--and, it would seem, he
alone--was seen righteous before God. Him, therefore, with his family,
the Almighty preserved in the ark, when in his fierce wrath he caused
the deluge to sweep away the corrupt inhabitants from the face of the
earth they had polluted. Notwithstanding the wide-spread corruption of
the times, it does not appear that either Noah or his sons were
polygamists. Certainly, if any one of them had been such prior to the
building of the ark, he was not permitted to bring his harem into it for
protection from the fearful storm. Only "eight persons," we are
informed, were preserved alive; namely, Noah and his wife, with his
three sons and their wives. Then, at what may be termed the second
starting-point of the human race, there was again an equal number of men
and women upon the earth; clearly pointing out that the design of the
Almighty in this matter was the marriage of _one_ man with _one_ woman.
God made no provision for the marriage of either man or woman after the
obtaining of a divorce.

It might have been supposed that so fearful a display of the wrath of
God would have made a lasting impression upon the descendants of Noah;
but as is the case with perverse mankind now, so it was then; the
lessons of the past were lost upon them. No very great period of time
elapses till we find the posterity of this good man, Noah, impiously and
daringly conceiving the idea of measuring strength with the Almighty by
attempting to build a tower so high that it could not possibly be
overflowed should a subsequent deluge occur. The dispersion of mankind,
and the consequent division into tribes, or races, was the result of
such presumption. The desperately wicked heart of man began to devise
new mischiefs, and revive old ones. Monogamy, the great conservator of
moral purity, was disregarded, and one corruption viler than another
followed in rapid succession. Before the calling of Abraham, mankind, as
a whole, appear to have lapsed, if not into absolute heathenism, at
least into something very near it. The knowledge and worship of the true
God seems to have been retained only in isolated families, and even
there to have been but partially observed, being marred and dishonored
by human inventions and substitutions.

That Abraham might be delivered from the pernicious example of his
neighbors, and that his mind might be prepared for the reception of the
grand manifestations of the Divine character which God designed to
impart to him, he was commanded to break off all association with them;
and, the more completely to effect this, he was desired to leave his
kindred and his country, and become a stranger in a strange land. Yet
somewhat of the contamination of early association seems to have clung
both to him and Sarah, as is evidenced in the matter of Hagar. In
something very like doubt of God's power to fulfill his own promise,
Abraham yielded to Sarah's suggestion, and thus was partially drawn into
the evil current, though he does not appear to have been a willful
polygamist. It is asserted by Jonathan Ben Uzziel, the Jerusalem Targum,
and other learned authorities, that Hagar and Keturah are the same
person; but if this be a mistake, there is still no evidence that
Abraham took Keturah till after the death of Sarah. Polygamists, both in
the Jewish nation and elsewhere, have not failed to plead Abraham's
example in defense of their conduct. Early association had somewhat
obscured his moral perceptions of right and wrong. Had he waited for the
Divine command before carrying out Sarah's suggestion, no incident in
his life would have given countenance to the demoralizing practice.
Isaac was a monogamist, though Jacob, through the artifice of Laban,
became a polygamist. That Laban's family were tinctured with idolatry is
unquestionable; and with idolatry came many other vices. When Jacob with
his household took his departure from Laban, Rachel stole certain images
which were her father's, the character of which was unmistakably
indicated by Laban when he demanded, "Wherefore have ye stolen my gods?"
Yet such was the general apostasy of the times, that this family was so
much in advance of any other, that it was to it that Abraham was obliged
to send, a generation previous, for a suitable wife for the amiable and
meditative Isaac. What wonder then that many practices prevailed among
the descendants of Jacob that were not in accordance with either the
will or the word of God!

Though plurality of wives was customary both before and after the giving
of the Law, it was by no means ordained by it. A man had no more right,
in carrying out the designs of the Almighty, to have two or more wives
living at the same time, than a woman had to have two or more husbands
living at the same time. Wherever the Bible speaks of the duty of
husbands to wives, or of wives to husbands, the singular form is
invariably used, as husband and wife. For instance, when God brought the
woman he had made to Adam, he (Adam) says: "Therefore shall a man leave
his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife"--not
wives--"and they shall be one flesh." And again, "They twain shall be
one flesh." What God has directly commanded, and what he merely suffers
men to do without imposing insuperable restraints upon them, are two
very different things.

It is asserted that the Mosaic Law makes a very great and decidedly
partial distinction between men-servants and maid-servants, greatly to
the disadvantage of the latter, particularly in their release from
servitude. These same texts--some of them, at least--have been quoted in
defense of African slavery. The term, selling a Jewish servant, in the
Scripture, is simply the same as binding out a child under English law.
A Jewish father could only "sell," or in other words bind out, his
daughter for six years, and that before she was of a suitable age to be
married.[J] At the expiration of six years her apprenticeship ceased,
and the maid-servant was free, unless she voluntarily perpetuated her
own servitude.

There were two classes of servants among the Jews. The first, those who
were taken from among themselves; the second, those obtained of the
strange nations by which they were surrounded, or who were taken captive
in battle. This second class of servants were called bondmen and
bondwomen. The former class were denominated servants. The practice
authorized by law, regarding those who were the lineal descendants of
Abraham, placed men and women in the very same relation to the master,
who was bound to reward them alike when the period of service should
terminate. This is evident from Deuteronomy xv, 12-17: "And if thy
brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve
thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from
thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let
him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock,
and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath
blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. ... And it shall be, if he say
unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and
thine house, because he is well with thee; then thou shalt take an awl,
and thrust it through his ear into the door, and he shall be thy servant
forever. And also unto thy maid-servant thou shalt do likewise."

Those who declare that the law of Moses makes a distinction in the
matter of release from servitude, between men-servants and
maid-servants, to the disadvantage of the latter, in confirmation of
their assertion quote Exodus xxi, 7; but if they read also, in
connection with it, the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh verses of the
same chapter, a careful consideration of the entire passage will, we
think, clearly show that the reference therein contained is not to the
ordinary maid-servant, but to one whose master had betrothed her to
himself, or to his son. In the case of betrothal to himself, if the girl
failed to please her master, he was not to return her to her former
position of a servant, but to let her be redeemed. He must not sell her,
or otherwise dispose of her services during the unexpired period of her
servitude, because "he had dealt deceitfully with her." In case of
betrothal to his son, as in the other, she was not to be reduced to her
former rank as a menial, but to be treated in every respect as a
daughter. Even when the affection of the man to whom she was betrothed
waned, he was to yield to her all the rights and privileges which
belonged to her as his wife; and, if any of these were withheld, she was
at liberty to go forth a free woman.

The circumstance of Jacob serving Laban fourteen years for Rachel, is by
some deemed a parallel case with the prevailing custom of purchasing
wives among the people of the East; but the cases are not at all
similar. Jacob and Rachel had met at the well where she usually watered
her father's flock. He had introduced himself to the maiden, and won
her regard, before he proposed to her father for her, having spent a
whole month in the house of Laban prior to his doing so. There is no
reason whatever to doubt that he had Rachel's full consent to the
arrangement. It was not Jacob's fault that, through the stratagem of
Laban, he became the husband of Leah. The plurality of wives in this
instance was not so much the choice of Jacob as the fault of the wily,
semi-idolatrous Laban.

Shechem offered dowry to Jacob and his sons if they would consent to his
taking Dinah to wife; but it is evident he did so in order to conciliate
the outraged brothers of the girl whom he had so basely humbled, and
whom he really desired to retain.

It is very clear, from the testimony of sacred history, that women, in
the families of the patriarchs, and in the Hebrew nation generally, for
several generations after the delivery of the Mosaic Law, occupied a
position very much superior to those of the neighboring nations. A
woman taken captive in war, whom a Jew chose to marry, could not be sold
by her husband, should he afterward take a dislike to her so great that
he might put her away. Even though a heathen, she was permitted to go
out free.

Boaz is said to have bought Ruth when he purchased the possession of
Naomi; and this circumstance is referred to by those who would bring the
Bible into contempt, to prove that Ruth was bought according to Jewish
law, as though she were a chattel. The facts, as given in the sacred
narrative, do not, however, warrant any such interpretation.

Elimelech, with his wife and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, left
Bethlehem-Judah in consequence of a severe famine, and removed to Moab.
At the time of their emigration, they were obliged to leave all their
possessions, not portable, behind them; and were in consequence in
straitened circumstances. While in Moab, both his sons married
Moabitish women; and, in process of time, Elimelech and his sons all
three died, leaving their respective widows destitute. Under these
circumstances, the famine being now over in Judah, Naomi determined to
return thither, and advised her daughters-in-law to return each to the
house of her father. After some persuasion, the widow of Chilion did so;
but Ruth, Mahlon's widow, expressed her determination to cling to the
fortunes of her mother-in-law in the following touching strain:

"Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee;
for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge;
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest will
I die, and there will I be buried."

Naomi, having such proof of her attachment to her, expostulated with her
no further; and, disconsolate and weary, the poor women made their way
to Naomi's old home. During the absence of the family, the parcel of
land which had been possessed by Elimelech had passed into the hands of
strangers. Naomi naturally desired that it might be redeemed, as both
herself and Ruth would be greatly benefited if it were. Boaz, though not
the nearest kinsman, on being made acquainted with the circumstances of
the case by Ruth, generously took up the cause; and the nearest of kin
having relinquished his claim, he redeemed the property with it; and,
with Ruth's own free consent, took her to be his wife. Her individual
concurrence is apparent throughout the whole transaction. No one had any
right to sell at all, or otherwise to dispose of her, except by her own

The rape of the Benjamites is sometimes referred to in terms expressive
of the desire to cast opprobium upon the teachings of the Bible.
Unfortunate as was the condition of the Benjamites on this occasion,
they had no more sanction for what they did from the law of Moses, than
had Ahab for destroying the prophets of the Lord. Neither was the order
of the Jewish elders for the massacre of men and elderly women, and the
saving of the four hundred young women to make up the deficiency of
wives still existing in this tribe, in any sense chargeable to the
Divine law.

We might with as much propriety hold the Gospel responsible for the
Massacre of St. Bartholomew, as to hold the law of Moses responsible for
the acts of the Israelites. The Mosaic precepts concerning adultery and
divorce might at first sight appear to give more latitude to men than to
women, and therefore to be partial; but when we accept the
interpretation given by our Lord, the apparent partiality vanishes. The
Savior's testimony on the subject is very explicit. Matthew xix, 3-10,
we read: "The Pharisees also came to him, tempting him, and saying unto
him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And
he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made
them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this
cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife:
and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but
one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put
asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing
of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because
of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but
from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall
put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry
another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away
doth commit adultery."

That in this matter of divorce Christ recognized the right of women to
be equal to that of men, is apparent from Mark x, 2-12, the eleventh
and twelfth verses of which we here quote:

"And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry
another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away
her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." It is
manifest that the design of God was, that there should be an equal
fidelity on the part of both man and wife.

But, as ages rolled on, the depraved appetites of sinful mankind desired
a different ordering of the affairs of life. In the Jewish Commonwealth,
the rabbis became less and less favorable to the just rights of women,
especially after their people began to intermix more freely with their
idolatrous neighbors; their precepts were assimilated more fully to
those of the heathen; and for doctrines, the commandments of men were
taught instead of the pure law of God.

History proves that woman sometimes took a very prominent part in the
public affairs of the Jewish nation. But, while not attempting to
disprove the statements which are therein recorded, there are many who
make light of any mention of the public labors of these women.
Sometimes, indeed, the talents and usefulness of these women, and of the
earnest women of our own day, are admitted after a fashion; but it is
done in such a way as, in reality, to belittle the sex as much as
possible. They are considered as occupying the same relation to men that
the moon does to the sun, and all that is desired of them is to reflect
a borrowed light. If she be unable to reflect a light when there is none
to borrow, what then? Even in religious matters, she is judged to be
incapable of taking any public part, though she may be ever so well
informed and pious, and those of the opposite sex in her vicinity ever
so deplorably ignorant and wicked. A few distinguished writers will,
however, allow her--as a favor, it may be supposed--to go out in public
to collect money for charitable or Church purposes. What a wonder the
funds so collected are not defiled by passing through "female" fingers!
Some of the religious denominations who gladly accept of the fruit of
women's labor, either in collecting from others or in giving themselves,
would yet not suffer a woman to pray or speak in public, though God has
endowed her with more than ordinary talent. She may not even give advice
as to how the money she has collected or given is to be expended. In the
choir, women may sing of salvation; but it is fearful presumption for
her to speak of it in the body of the Church, or let her voice be heard
there imploring salvation for herself or others. This might defile the
sanctuary or tempt her to "usurp authority over the man." Occasionally
there is to be found a denomination which will allow a woman to pray in
public, or to relate her Christian experience; but even in some of
these the practice does not receive a very large amount of
encouragement, and her right to exhort or teach publicly is seriously
questioned, most frequently denied.

What was Scripture usage? From Exodus xv, 20, we learn that Miriam was a
prophetess, and, in the verse following, it appears that not only she,
but the women of her company, took a prominent part in the celebration
of Israel's triumphant passage of the Red Sea. Not only was Miriam a
prophetess, but a joint leader with Moses and Aaron of that great host
which went up to possess the promised land, as is seen by reference to
Micah vi, 4: "For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and
redeemed thee out of the land of servants, and I sent before thee Moses,
Aaron, and Miriam." Thus did God, in the very beginning of the Jewish
Church and nation, associate a woman with men, giving her an equally
responsible position with her brothers. Moses was the lawgiver, Aaron
the priest, and Miriam the seer. This threefold office was fulfilled in
Christ; and therefore Miriam, as well as Moses and Aaron, was a type of
the Messiah.

If the Almighty had not designed women to occupy prominent positions,
both civilly and ecclesiastically, he certainly would not have qualified
them to fill such places with honor; and history proves that he did both
qualify and employ them. Deborah was both a prophetess and a judge, and
at one time was the chief ruler in Israel, even leading on the hosts of
the living God; for timorous Barak would not go without her. Huldah,
wife of Shallum, a prophetess who flourished in the reign of Josiah, was
consulted by him on matters of vital importance to his kingdom, although
both Jeremiah and Zephaniah were then alive. Josiah evidently considered
her fully equal to either of them, or he would not have consulted her,
or at her dictation set about reforming the abuses which were prevalent
at the time. He could not have set to work more earnestly in this good
cause if Jeremiah had spoken to him. There have been learned men--and
there are those still--who think it exceedingly strange that Josiah
should have condescended to send the messengers to Huldah to inquire of
the Lord, when he might have consulted either Jeremiah or one of the
brother prophets. Is it not equally strange that the Lord should have
answered him by her mouth? or rather should not his having done so,
forever silence such questioning?

Other women have been emphatically the "called," according to "God's
purpose," to combat evil in countries even where women were treated with
greater indignities than in Israel. We do not make any distinction
between prophets and prophetesses. Men and women were alike called to
the prophetic office, as God pleased, and kings and princes
acknowledged their authority. Many women became noted for their active
service rendered to the Jewish Church and nation.

Women have proved themselves to be skillful diplomatists, and to be
possessed of an equal amount of courage and perseverance with men; but
these capabilities have not always been employed aright. There have been
distinguished statesmen who have been frightfully wicked men; and,
unhappily, there have been clever women who have been fully their equals
in wickedness. In nothing is the mental equality of women with men more
clearly indicated than in the manner in which both pursue a career of

Jezebel appears to have been a stronger-minded person than Ahab, and to
have excelled him in subtlety and wickedness. She was as active as he in
pushing the persecution against the people of God; indeed, more active
and determined than her weak and wicked husband. At the time the life of
Elijah was threatened, she would seem not only to have been the more
determined of the two, but to have exercised greater authority over the
realm. Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel, was no whit behind her mother
in atrocious wickedness. Indeed, where women are brought up in
wickedness, they differ nothing in the depth of their depravity from men
educated in like manner.

The more frequently the Hebrews relapsed into idolatry, the less
inclined were they to allow women their legitimate privileges. The
administrators of the laws constantly curtailed female liberty,
tenaciously exacting from them the service and obedience of slaves. A
woman, even among the Jews, must have had no small amount of both
courage and wisdom, to have surmounted the difficulties which hedged up
the path to fame and honor, and risen to the distinction which some of
them reached. "The rabbins"--not Moses--"taught that a woman should know
nothing but the use of her distaff." Their idea of the education
fitting for a woman was, that she should understand merely how to manage
the work of a house; in other words, know nothing but how to minister to
the appetites or whims of her husband, regarding him as her lord, her
irresponsible master. Rabbi Eliezer said, "Let the words of the law be
burned rather than that they should be delivered to a woman." Why, we
wonder? Because they might, if they read it, learn what privileges it
accorded them, and perhaps claim them--a state of things to be prevented
by any means, no matter how unscrupulous.

Notwithstanding the teachings of the rabbins, however, and dark as was
the day just prior to the coming of the Messiah, we find a woman who was
prophesying in the temple even then. The prediction of Anna the
prophetess is mentioned in the New Testament without a word of censure
on the unwomanliness of her conduct, or her profanation of the temple
by it. Modern writers would perhaps have been wiser, and treated her
with what they considered deserved contempt.


[Footnote F: Gen. i, 26, 27, 28.]

[Footnote G: Gen. ii, 18, 20, 21, 22.]

[Footnote H: For the original meaning of the word _woman_ see Dr. Clarke
on Genesis ii, 23.]

[Footnote I: Gen. vi, 6.]

[Footnote J: Clarke on Exodus xxi, 7.]


New Testament Teachings.

In this enlightened age, the sentiment of the Rabbi Eliezer, that the
law should be burned rather than delivered to women, would be execrated
by the right-minded of every Christian country. But was such a sentiment
any farther from right, either in theory or practice, than are those
held and openly avowed by some of the advocates of the theory of the
inferiority of women; who, while asserting that these inferior creatures
are, by the constitution of their minds, incapable of comprehending the
meaning of a law, yet hold them equally accountable with men--who are
supposed to understand all about it--for any violation of that law? If,
indeed, there is any difference made in the punishment of delinquents,
the greater severity is most frequently meted out to the woman.

Those who insist on the absolute, unqualified subjection of women to the
opposite sex, and place them in a subordinate place in the Christian
Church, persistently quote the writings of St. Paul as authority for the
position which they take. We apprehend that the great apostle to the
Gentiles is as wrongfully misapprehended and misrepresented by certain
classes of believers now, as he was by the Jews at the memorable time
when he was brought before Felix. Paul, therefore, must "answer for
himself in the things whereof he is accused."

In I Cor. xi, 3-5, he says to the Church at Corinth: "But I would have
you know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman
is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or
prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. But every
woman that prayeth or _prophesieth_ with her head uncovered, dishonoreth
her head." Here is a positive direction given to a _woman_, as to the
manner of her procedure when she either prayed or prophesied in public,
and not a prohibition of either act, as we might expect from the
rendering given by many divines.

Christ is the head of the man, because he is the first-born from the
dead--the Redeemer of mankind--and because "he was before all things,
and by him all things consist." Having made provision for the life of
the world, he is therefore entitled to the love, devotion, and fidelity
of man. Christ is also mentioned under the figure of the vine, of which
his people are the branches.

Man is the head of the woman, because he was before her; and because,
being physically stronger, he has been constituted her protector. A man,
therefore, is to love his wife ever as himself, with an unselfish
intensity, only to be compared with the love which Christ bears to his
Church; and the wife is bound by the same sacred law to be, in heart and
practice, undeviating in her love and fidelity to her husband.

"And the head of Christ is God." Is Christ therefore not equal with God?
Is there superiority and inferiority between the Father and the Son? If
because the apostle declares that the man is the head of the woman, the
proposition is to be taken for granted that, in consequence, she is not
his equal but an inferior, we may, with equal propriety and fairness,
quote the same text to prove, and prove as conclusively, that the Son is
not equal with, but is inferior to, the Father. God may be understood to
be the head of Christ in regard to his manhood, and that only. The
Scriptures amply testify that he is not only co-eternal with the Father,
but coequal with him as well. There is neither inferiority nor
superiority in the Divine nature between the Father and the Son; and so
also, since man and woman are derived from one nature, being both human,
there is neither superiority nor inferiority between them. They are

Is there, then, no distinction made between the sexes in the text?
Certainly there is. Men were directed to remove their caps or turbans
when they prayed or prophesied in public, while women, on the contrary,
were to remain with their heads covered; that is, to keep veiled when
they prayed or prophesied in public. The latter, it is evident, was
simply a prudential or local arrangement. Throughout the East, and more
especially in heathen countries, it was the custom for women to be
veiled when they made their appearance in public; but immodest women not
unfrequently violated the usage, appearing in public unveiled. In the
state of society then in Corinth, for a Christian woman to have appeared
in public, or to have taken any prominent part in an assembly with her
head uncovered, would have placed her in a false position before
unbelievers, both Jews and Gentiles. That their liberty under the
Gospel, then, might not be made occasion of offense by gainsayers,
against the cause of Christ, that their good should not be evil spoken
of by the profane multitude, the apostle counseled them to submit to the
usages and restraints which the customs of the times and place imposed
on women, wherever the usages or restraints so imposed were not in
themselves sinful. In the same spirit he returned Onesimus to his
master; not that he thereby gave his sanction to slavery, but in this,
as other directions regarding civil affairs, advising submission to the
existing state of things, "that the Gospel be not blamed." The effecting
of civil or political reforms, however much they might be needed, was
not the immediate object of Paul's preaching or writing. His grand,
all-absorbing business was to proclaim the Gospel in all its fullness,
trusting to its benign influence to right every wrong. There is no
doubt Paul clearly understood and did not intend to controvert the
declaration of the prophet Joel (ii, 28), which was quoted by Peter as
being one evidence of the ushering in of the Christian dispensation
(Acts ii, 17, 18): "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith
God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your
daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your
old men shall dream dreams. And on my servants and on my handmaidens I
will pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy." "The
last days" evidently means the Gospel dispensation; and this text alone,
twice given by inspiration, even if there were no other, would establish
the right of women to all the immunities and ordinances of the Christian

I Cor. xiv, 34, 35, is always presented by the opponents of women's
privileges as positive proof that women should not take a public part
in religious worship: "Let your women keep silence in the churches, for
it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be
under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any
thing, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for a
woman to speak in the Church."

In the passage first quoted in this chapter, Paul gives explicit
directions for the manner in which women should be arrayed while
speaking in the Church. Since, then, there can be no contradiction in
the Word of God, and we have positive proof that women did speak in
public assemblies by permission of the apostles, nothing remains but to
reconcile the two texts so apparently contradictory, by ascertaining to
what kind of a public assembly the apostle had reference in the text
last quoted. By reference to the verses preceding this text in the
fourteenth chapter of First Corinthians, it will be seen that the
apostle is pointing out the impropriety and unprofitableness of
speaking in unknown tongues; and of the contention and disorder that
then existed at Corinth. False teachers had caused dissension and
tumults in the Church; and, besides, the whole system of Christianity
was violently assailed by both the Jews and the pagans. The disciples at
Corinth were in the midst of a great controversy. According to Eastern
ideas, it was an outrage upon propriety and decency, not only for a
woman to take part by publicly asking questions, or teaching in any such
disorderly assembly, but even for her to be present therein. To avoid
the very appearance of evil, they were to absent themselves from these
contentious meetings because it was a shame for a woman to speak or
contend in such riotous assemblies. It is more than probable that
Christian women had done so prior to this; and therefore Paul warns them
against such improprieties; not, however, forbidding them to pray or
prophesy in the Church, providing they "covered their heads." The
Gospel proclaims an equal freedom to all; Paul earnestly asserting (Gal.
in, 28), that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor
free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ
Jesus." Nevertheless, lest the cause of God should be hindered by women
asserting their Christian liberty, by speech or action, he desired them
to comply with the common usages of the society in which they lived,
where those usages were not in themselves immoral or contrary to the
Word of God. Kindred to I Cor. xiv, 34, 35, and referring to the same
thing, is I Tim. ii, 11, 12: "Let the women learn in silence with all
subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor usurp authority over
the man, but to be in silence." For a woman to attempt any thing either
in public or private that man claimed as his peculiar function, was
strictly prohibited by Roman law; and Christian women, as well as men,
were to be submissive to the "powers that be." Those who contend, from
their rendering of these texts, that women are prohibited by them from
taking part in the public worship of God, to be consistent, should also
insist that they must not enter the house of God at all; because they
are as strictly charged by Paul to remain at home and learn in silence
from their husbands, as to refrain from speaking.

Now, if women are to be silent in the Church; that is, if they are
neither to pray, speak, nor sing in public--for singing is certainly one
method of conveying instruction to those who hear, and is therefore
teaching them how to ascribe praise to God--if they are, upon Scriptural
authority, to know nothing but what they may learn from their husbands
at home,--then our whole system of civilized education with regard to
women is out of place; we had better borrow a leaf from the Turks or
Chinese. Girls here are sent to school, and encouraged to exert their
mental energies to the utmost in acquiring knowledge. Both mothers and
daughters are taken to church, and if they have tuneful voices they are
expected to sing; all of which is manifestly improper and unchristian,
if women are to receive all religious instruction from their "husbands
at home" only, and in silence. The taking of women to church, or indeed
out of the house, therefore, is exposing them to the temptation of
hearing and receiving instruction from unauthorized lips; for--fearfully
depraved though it may be in the sight of some--women are quite as prone
as men to listen to what is told them and to remember what they hear,
and--worse still--to reason out difficult problems for themselves.

And what is to be done for widows, or poor women who have never been
blessed with husbands? Are they to go down to death in heathenish
darkness, because the genial light of a husband's countenance has ceased
to shine upon them, or, perhaps, has never done so? Must unmarried
women forever continue in ignorance of the glorious Gospel of Christ,
because they have no husbands to teach them? As girls, according to such
a rendering, they ought not to have learned any thing; for a father's
teaching--if it were proper for him to give it--and a husband's might
differ widely. Besides, what is to be done for those women who are
blessed with husbands incapable of teaching them; or, as is notoriously
so frequently the case, who choose rather to spend their time in places
of disreputable character than at their homes with their families!

Such a rendering of these texts as is frequently given, and the homilies
derived therefrom, are an outrage upon common sense. They are at
variance with the direct teachings of St. Paul, and contrary to what the
Scriptures prove to have been his practice. Surely, none will dare to
accuse the apostle of inconsistency; and yet we have his own testimony
that Phoebe was a "servant of the Church at Cenchrea;" that is, she was
a deaconess, having a charge at Cenchrea. Priscilla, quite as much as
Aquila, was Paul's helper in "Christ Jesus," acknowledged by him as
such. Priscilla was associated with Aquila in "expounding the way of God
more perfectly to Apollos." (Acts xvii, 62.) Strange that the great
Apollos should receive religious instruction from a woman; stranger
still, if it were contrary to the will of God, that she was permitted to
give it! Why was she not severely rebuked for her presumption, and put
in her place, and taught to keep silence, as becometh a woman? On the
contrary, creditable mention is made of the fact that she did instruct
him, and that through that instruction he was made useful to the world;
and all this upon the authority of inspiration, without one word of
censure as to her unwomanliness. Over and over again, Paul names her in
his salutations.

In Philippians iv, 3, he entreats help for certain women, counting them
as fellow-laborers. "Help," says he, "those women which labored with me
in the Gospel." Honorable mention, too, is made by name of Tryphena,
Tryphosa, and of the beloved Persis, who "labored much in the Lord."
Philip had four daughters which "did prophesy" (Acts xxi, 19); and we
nowhere hear of their being forbidden to do so. If Paul, influenced as
he was by the Holy Spirit, had designed to prevent women from attending
religious meetings, or taking a public part therein, when there would he
have allowed all this laboring and prophesying and instructing to go on?
Instead of stopping it, however, he at different times commends Phoebe
and her sister-laborers to the kind regards of other Churches. Let the
utterances of Paul be properly and fairly interpreted, and it will be
manifest that men and women are one in Christ Jesus. Decidedly, it is
wrong for a woman to usurp authority over the man; and just as decidedly
wrong is it for a man to usurp authority over the woman. According to
history, the office of deaconess continued until between the eleventh
and twelfth centuries, when, the midnight of the Dark-Ages having come,
it was abolished in both the Greek and Latin Churches. Which sex usurped
authority in that case?

The next point coming under consideration is Paul's direction to the
Ephesian Church: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as
unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ
is the head of the Church: and he is the Savior of the body. Therefore
as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own
husbands in every thing." (Eph. v, 22-24.)

From the verses preceding this quotation, and those following, it is
evident the apostle had reference to the marriage covenant, and not to
the inferiority of woman or superiority of man. Fidelity of wives to
their husbands was the thing being enjoined; hence the comparison
between the marriage state and the Church of Christ. As the Church was
to be pure from idolatry, acknowledging but one God, even the Father,
and Jesus Christ his Son, so the wife was to be pure, submitting herself
only to her husband. It is not surprising that, in planting the
Christian Church, such directions should be given to its members,
gathered in as they were from a dark, immoral pagan world, where the
marriage tie was so lightly regarded. The husband should be to his wife
the earthly "munition of rocks." It is in this sense that the man is the
head of the woman and the Savior of her body. The apostle continues: "So
ought men to love their wives as their own bodies." "Let every one of
you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see
that she reverence her husband." Not worship him; but treat him with
marked and becoming respect, making his interest her own, loving him
above every earthly object, and seeking his happiness in every possible
manner. It is in this mutual sense that a wife is to be subject to her
husband in every thing. Even the greatest sticklers for the absolute
subjection of women explain the latter clause of the text by adding the
word _lawful_. If a woman's husband is to be her irresponsible lord, to
whom she is to go for instruction, who is the qualified judge of what is
lawful? But the reasoning of the entire question as given in the
chapter, portions of which have been quoted, does not bear out the
assertion that the wife is mentally inferior to her husband, or that he
has any right to treat her as such. She is neither his servant nor his
slave, so far as God's law is concerned. The wife has the same right to
expect fidelity from her husband that he has to expect it from her. The
covenant of marriage is a mutual one, equally binding on both.

The injunction to the Ephesians concerning the relations in the married
state is also given to the Colossians, very evidently relating to the
same thing: love and unwavering fidelity between man and wife. Peter
also enjoins the subjection of wives in his First Epistle, third
chapter, first and second verses; but he also explains that this
subjection is chastity, mild and gentle conversation, that their
husbands, if not Christians, might be won over by them. In this very
injunction there is a supposition by the apostle that the husband and
wife might be of different faith, that she might have learned something
not taught by him, and have been in a position to instruct him; and by
her chastity, her love and gentleness, and her instructions--coupled
with fear for his state out of Christ--might succeed in winning him to
the truth.

Though Christianity greatly purified the moral atmosphere of the world,
and caused those embracing it to renounce polygamy, yet even those who
had become Christian clung to the false assumptions and arbitrary
prerogatives claimed by men while yet in heathen darkness. To reconcile
women to the injustice done them, or to overawe them into submission, it
was sought to make them believe that the disabilities of their condition
were by Divine appointment, though this doctrine the apostles took pains
to correct.

A lamentable amount of infidelity has been engendered by the manner in
which the Scriptures have been distorted to make them seem to sanction
almost every social and civil wrong. They have been quoted as authority
for the absolute subjection of woman; and, with equal fairness, for
servile submission to despotic monarchs, for the use of intoxicating
drinks, for the burning of heretics, and for the justification of
slavery. Within a very few years past, these very Epistles have been
brought forward to prove the "sum of all villainies" a God-given boon to
man, the slave included--Colossians iii, 22, being deemed unanswerable.

Those who advocated the cause of human freedom, who desired the
privilege of worshiping God according to the dictates of their own

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